Its eight a.m. in Angel Grove, and the students of Angel Grove High School are abuzz with gossip. According to rumor, there is a new student arriving from a foreign land. Her family moved to Angel Grove because her father, a world-renowned physician, just received an offer to work at Angel Grove University, and join a study on the human heart. Now, for the first time since Tanya Sloan moved to California, Angel Grove is getting a new student. And the student body is excited.
Presently, Kimberly Anne Hart is busy rummaging through her locker, searching for something. She doesn't notice when her friends Billy Mitchell and Adam Park walk up behind her.
"What're your looking for, Kim?" asked Adam with a smile.
"My Scientific Founders report," she moaned, leafing through one pearly yellow folder, "Its on Darwin's theory of Natural Selection, and its due in like ten minutes! I just can't remember which folder I put it in..."
"I guess you're starting to pick up some of Tommy's characteristics," laughed Billy, "Of course, you'd pick up his singular serious flaw--"
Kimberly looked up and glared at her long time friend. She then began to giggle.
"I guess you're right," she sighed, "What're you doing here anyway, Billy? Didn't Mr. Caplan already graduate you?"
"Yes, but Mr. Caplan invited me here to assist Mr. Madly with the Sophomore Biology class dissections. Usually, the laboratory classes have a teaching assistant, but due to cut-backs, the school system couldn't afford one. I volunteered."
"Did you hear about the new student?" asked Adam.
"New student?" asked Billy, "What new student?"
"Well," said Kimberly, "rumor has it that she's the only child of this famous physician, and he's been invited to do research at AGU on the heart. She's gonna be a... Junior, if I remember correctly. Mr. Caplan asked me to show her around, and get her acquainted with the school."
"Why you?" asked Adam, "I mean, you're not even the class president anymore."
"Mr. Caplan said that he had the feeling we'd get along," Kim said with a shrug, "Okay, I found my report! I have to got to Mr. Caplan's office now, and meet the new student. I'll see ya at Ernie's for lunch, right?"
"You got it," said Adam, waving.
"Affirmative," called Billy on his way down the hall.
"Okay," said Mr. Caplan, reading off a sheet of paper, "everything seems to be in order. Here's your schedule, and a class representative will be here shortly to show you around. If you need any assistance, or if you decide to change your schedule a bit, please contact me."
"Thanks, Mr. Caplan," said the young, dark girl with short black hair. She took the schedule from him and looked it over.
"I still have reservations about placing you in some of these classes," Mr. Caplan admitted, "After all, you haven't had any formal schooling for a while, not with your family living out in the savanna since you were twelve."
"I think I can manage," she said with a smile, "May I go now?"
"Just a minute, young lady," said Mr. Caplan, "I asked a student to show you around. She should've been here by now..."
Just then, there was a knock at the principal's door. Mr. Caplan rose to his feet, and let in the visiter.
"I'm here," she said, slightly panting. Mr. Caplan glanced at his watch.
"So you are, Miss Hart," he said, "Although you are a few minutes late."
Kimberly blushed, thinking about what Billy had just said about Tommy's bad habits rubbing off. She then glanced at the young lady sitting at Mr. Caplan's desk. Her dark hair was shorter than Kim remembered it, cropped at about chin-length, but other than that, she looked exactly the same as she did when Kimberly saw her last, over the summer. Kimberly stared at her in shock, and the girl smiled and began to giggle at Kimberly's reaction.
"Kimberly Hart," said Mr. Caplan, "I'd like to introduce you to Aisha Campbell. She shall be finishing school here at Angel Grove High."
Aisha rose to her feet and extended her hand towards Kim.
"Pleased to meet you, Kimberly," she said politely, winking to her.
"Uh, welcome to Angel Grove," Kim said quietly.
"Okay, Miss Hart," said Mr. Caplan, once again taking his seat, "show Miss Campbell to her classes, and introduce her to some nice students. Get her acquainted with the school."
"No problem," said Kimberly honestly. The two girls stepped out of the office, and closed the door. Once they were alone, Kim excitedly squealed, and hugged her friend tightly.
"Aisha!" she cried, "I haven't seen you in months! How've you been?"
"Fine," said Aisha with a giggle, "My parents and I have been living with the tribe with Ishala since the Zeo Quest. We helped cure the disease that was plaguing the animals. Then, my dad continued his studies on the heart in Africa, especially with heart attacks caused by extreme stress. Then, he was offered a position here in Angel Grove, working with a team of specialists on the intricacies of the human heart. I was so excited to hear we were moving to good ole' Angel Grove!"
By now the halls were deserted, and the first period classes have begun.
"What class do you have?" Kim asked.
"Scientific Founders. How about you?"
"The same! Great, we'll go together!"
As the two girls walked down the corridor, Kimberly couldn't stop chatting about what's happened since Aisha left--the destruction of the Command Center, the Terra powers, Zordon and Alpha's departure to the Alpha Centauri system, as well as Billy's graduation and reassignment as the Terran Rangers' mentor. She also told Aisha about Zack and Jason's return from Switzerland, the recent Power Ranger Day parade, and even Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa's disappearance. This last part caught Aisha's attention much more than the rest.
"What do you mean 'disappearance'?" she asked Kimberly.
"Well, about a week ago, Zedd sent a message to the Central Access Complex--that's the new Command Center--saying that he and Rita were moving onto greener pastures, or something. Nobody believed his story, but he hasn't attacked since. He may really be gone."
"Wow," said Aisha, "things have changed since I left!"
"Speaking of which," said Kimberly, "what exactly did happen when you left? I mean, Mr. Caplan acted like he didn't know you! But you attended Angel Grove High for over a year!"
"Well, the Zeo Quest kinda changed history. I'll tell ya what, I'll explain to all of you at lunch, okay? That way, I'll only have to explain it once."
"Sounds good to me," said Kimberly, and the two girls stepped into their classroom.
Meanwhile, inside the throne room of Lord Zedd's palace, the golden armored warrior Goldar sits on the throne, polishing his golden sword.
"Well?" said Rito Revolto impatiently, "What are we waiting for? Let's go clobber those Power Rangers!"
"Not yet," said Goldar, "Its only been a few days since Zedd and Rita vanished. No doubt the rangers are still wary. We'll wait... and strike when they least suspect..."
"I don't agree!" cried Rito, "I'm bored! I want to attack now!!"
"Stop whining, Idiot!" Goldar roared, leaning towards the skeletal creature, "I'm in charge here, so I make the decisions!"
"Well then, Tough Guy," scoffed Rito, folding his arms, "Who died and made you king?"
Suddenly, the wind picked up in the throne room, and both Rito and Goldar took cover. At the ceiling, a black portal opened, and two forms fell to the ground--Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa. They stood up, and brushed the dust from their clothes.
"See?" said Rita, "I told you it would work! Our palace is in one piece!"
"Fine," said Zedd, "but that trip through the Multiverse took ages! Goldar! Rito! Stop cowering and tell me the date!"
Goldar blinked, and then stood up from behind the throne. He walked over to Zedd and bowed humbly.
"Welcome home, Master!" he declared, "I believe its December 9, 1996."
"December 9th!" bellowed Zedd, "You mean we were in the Multiverse for a whole week!"
"Well, its better than being stranded in that awful future forever!" screeched Rita.
"Perhaps," said Zedd, walking to his balcony, "but the ramifications of that kind of manipulative spell on such a fragile construct as the Multiverse can be devastating. I have yet to figure out exactly what kind of Multiversal damage you've caused, Rita!"
"Oh, stop talking like such a boy-scout!" Rita muttered, "After all, we're villains! We're supposed to destroy things!"
Not all that exists, Zedd thought to himself, "I shall keep an eye on the Power Rangers," he said out loud, "I'm curious to see what they've been up to the past week. Perhaps they truly believe we left."
"Yeah," said Rita, starting to laugh, "RIGHT!"
Zedd muttered angrily and watched the Earth below twirl on its axis. Much to his surprise, he saw a flash of black energy right outside the palace. He stared in shock as the energy formed a black portal, and began sucking in the matter around it like a vacuum. Seconds after it appeared, it vanished into nothingness. Zedd stared for a few more moments at the spot where the portal had been.
Rita DID do damage the Multiverse! That was a random Multiversal portal, like the one that sent Kimberly to the 1800's. But I didn't create it, nor can I control it! If someone falls through, there will be no way to find him! I hope Rita gets sucked into a portal, and ends up in Utopia! Now, that would be a laugh!
Its noon in Angel Grove, and Adam, Billy, and their friend Zack Taylor sit at a booth at Ernie's Gym and Juice Bar, waiting for the usual group of friends to meet and have lunch.
"So," said Billy, "Where are the others?"
"Jason, Tommy, and Rocky are at a martial arts competition in Los Angeles," said Adam, "They should be back tomorrow afternoon. Katherine is at try-outs for a school ballet, and Tanya went with her."
Zack didn't say anything. He was too busy frowning and staring at his menu. Billy studied his friend's grim expression curiously.
"Is something bothering you?" he asked. Zack grunted.
"Angela and I were supposed to go to the Blackstreet concert next month," he said bitterly, "but today, she told me she couldn't make it. She's ready to 'see other people', or something like that."
"That's tough," said Adam, "but you'll get over her."
"Will I?" he asked glumly.
"Hey gang," said a cheery female voice, "I'm here! And look what I found!"
All three young men looked up, and they all stared in surprise. They all stood up, and greeted their old friend with warm hugs.
"Aisha!" said Adam excitedly, "What're you doing here? Are you visiting?"
"No," she said, taking a seat, "we moved to Angel Grove permanently."
"Yeah," chimed Kimberly, "She's the new student the school's talking about!"
"Really?" asked Billy, "I didn't know your father was a heart surgeon."
"Well, as it turns out, he went back to school in Cairo when we lived in Africa. Our entire lives have changed. Basically, I have lived in Africa since I was twelve years old, when my family moved their from Stone Canyon to help with the plague and stuff. So, I had an entire life in Africa for five years."
"But, if that's the case, then you've never lived in Angel Grove!" said Zack.
"Exactly. I haven't lived in Angel Grove before. That's why most of the student body at school today didn't recognize me."
"Then, now come we remember you?" asked Kimberly.
"Ishala once told me that my true friends were 'protected by the Power, and so their memories shall not fade'. That's why I knew you guys would recognize me. I'm so glad to be back in Angel Grove! I really liked Africa, but nobody can replace you guys!"
"We're glad to have you back, Aisha," said Adam, "We've been friends since grade school! It was hard watching you leave."
After a bit more conversation and lunch, the group of friends headed out the door back towards the high school. They walked along the wall of the building, until suddenly, a piece of the wall in front of them vanished, leaving a mysterious black hole. All the teens stopped in their tracks.
"What is that?" asked Kimberly.
"I have no idea," admitted Billy, "but I doubt its a good thing."
"C'mon," said Zack, "We'd better check this out."
"Right," said Aisha. Adam looked at her.
"You and Billy stay back," he said, "You don't have the Power to protect you in case something bad happens."
Aisha was about to disagree, but Billy grabbed her wrist gently. Kimberly, Adam, and Zack walked cautiously over to the mysterious hole in the wall. Zack and Kimberly were soon only inches from the strange black hole, and Adam lingered a bit behind them.
"Don't get too close," Adam cautioned, "We have no idea what this thing is."
"It doesn't look like its anything," said Zack, "Nothing's happening."
As if on cue, the portal opened, creating a vacuum of power, sucking everything near it. Both Kimberly and Zack were instantly sucked in, but since Adam was a bit behind, he was being pulled towards the hole. Then, just as suddenly as it opened, the portal closed, and vanished from view. Adam suddenly gasped, and fell to the ground, convulsing madly. Both Aisha and Billy, who witnessed the whole thing, ran over to Adam urgently. Billy checked his pulse, and tried frantically to keep Adam calm.
"Billy?" asked Aisha in panic, "What's wrong with him?!"
"I... I don't know," he said, "Adam's going into shock! We have to get him to the CAC immediately!"
"But, what about Kim and Zack?"
"There's nothing we can do from here!" Billy said, activating his wrist device. In flashes of white light, all three vanished from the scene.
In seconds, Billy and Aisha materialized in the Central Access Complex. Adam was transported directly to the med-unit, and Billy immediately got to work, scanning Adam from head to toe. During the scan, Adam lost consciousness completely, and his pulse stopped. Billy's eyes widened as his friend also stopped breathing.
"Billy?" said Aisha, "He's not breathing!!"
"I know," said Billy tensely, "My only chance is to place Adam in stasis, before he dies!"
Billy began madly pressing buttons, and then a clear force field surrounded Adam's body, about a quarter of an inch away from his flesh. Through the field, Billy was able to continue studying Adam's internal systems. Billy gasped audibly, and stared at the computer screen in utter shock.
"What?!" cried Aisha in panic.
"I... I don't believe it," Billy whispered, "Adam's Zeo Shard has materialized... inside his body!"
"What do you mean?" asked Aisha.
"When the Terran Rangers accepted their powers, they absorbed the physical Zeo crystals into their hearts. But the crystals become intangible when inside the body, and exude their energies directly into the heart, which then pumps the energy into their systems. For some reason, Adam's shard became tangible while inside his heart! Its like having a knife in the heart! It may have something to do with the portal that nearly trapped him..."
"What... what can we do?" she asked, starting to cry.
"I haven't a clue," said Billy, "He'll die in seconds if I take down the stasis field, but I can't conduct any kind of med-unit function on Adam while he's in stasis. The energy exuding from the Zeo crystal is throwing off the med-unit's more precise functions. And, I am by no means capable of open-heart surgery!"
"You're not saying he's--"
"I don't know what I'm saying!" Billy snapped, "I'm sorry, I'm just tense right now."
Billy stepped away from the med-unit, and began pacing around the darkened CAC. He then walked over to the communicator, and began pressing buttons.
"I must contact the other rangers," he said finally, "They need to know what's going on."
"What about Kim and Zack?"
"They were sucked through a portal. It could easily be a Multiversal portal, but I have no idea how we can track it. Once the others get here, we can start coming up with ideas."
Aisha nodded, and touched the force field surrounding Adam, right over where his hand is. You've gotta get well, she thought, silent tears streaming down her cheeks, You just can't die...
On the Moon, Lord Zedd's laugh echoes throughout the palace. Rita returns to the throne room angrily, and frowns at Zedd.
"Oh, what is it now?!"
"You aren't going to believe the luck we've come across! When you created that spell, you managed to send a ripple through the Multiverse! In order to regain balance, random time-holes have appeared throughout space!"
"So, one of them has just captured Kimberly and Zack!"
"You're kidding!" she squealed, "Oh this is fantastic! They're probably in the middle of nowhere now! There's no way the rangers can ever find them!"
"Oh, wait Rita, it gets better!" said Zedd, trying to calm himself, "The portal also disrupted the Zeo shard in Adam's body! He apparently flashed in and out of the portal, and the Zeo shard became tangible! Now, its stuck in his heart! He can't survive that kind of strain! He's as good as dead!"
"I don't believe it!" Rita squealed, "The rangers are down to half-power. Permanently!!"
"We must take advantage of this," said Zedd excitedly, "The Power Rangers can never deal with a monster now!"
"I do not believe I'm doing this!" yelled the blonde man in black armor angrily, "I am a Prelate! I should be in Apocalypse's palace, making laws and commanding the forces! But no, I'm stuck in this dirt pile! I will never become one of the Horsemen if I keep on looking for dead bodies!"
"Please stop complaining Havok," said his pale skinned, ebony haired companion, "You're just lucky Apocalypse didn't kill you for trying to murder your brother the other day! He is your superior officer, you know."
"Don't remind me," said Alex, running the scanning device over a pile of crushed wood, "I just can never understand why the High Lord is so fond of Scott! I know he is a traitor to Apocalypse, as well as all homo-superior! That is the only explanation for the disappearance of seven of Sinister's 'lab rats' in the past month! He's helping the humans escape, and that is treason, punishable by death!!"
"But you can't prove it," said Domino, her one eye twinkling, "and there's no way Apocalypse will believe your word against that of Cyclops. He's been a faithful warrior and trusted advisor for years!"
"Domino," said Alex staring at his hand-held computer device, "I'm picking up life signs! And they're very strong!"
"Really?" asked Domino, standing beside Alex and glancing at the computer screen, "But that's impossible! The Hounds came through, and they actually can smell life! They were sent to kill everyone! Who could possibly survive the culling, without being on his last limbs?"
"Let's find out," said Havok, climbing over the pile of wood and looking out, "There it is!"
Domino and Havok raced down the hill of rubble and found a young woman, neatly dressed in black bootleg pants and a silk yellow blouse, with caramel brown hair. She seemed unharmed, only unconscious.
"I don't understand," said Havok, "No human could possibly be dressed in anything but the standard green rags! What strange uniform is this? And, how could she survive the culling without so much as a scratch?!"
"Maybe she's not human," said Domino, "Here, I'll use my analyzer to determine whether or not she has mutant powers."
Domino pressed a few buttons, and waited for the results. She then stared at the screen, and her chin dropped. Havok frowned and glanced over Domino's shoulder.
"What?" he asked impatiently, "What is it?"
"She's not a mutant," Domino announced finally, "but she's not quite human, either."
"Is she an alien?"
"Then, what in the name of the High Lord is she?!"
"I... I can't tell," Domino admitted, "She has a strange power exuding from her, but her DNA shows no trace of the X-Factor, the gene that all mutants have." "So, she has powers, but she's not a mutant," said Havok, "This is big!"
"What do you mean?"
"What if she's part of a human project, to give normal humans super powers, so they can defend themselves against us? If I can discover this secret organization, and report my findings to Apocalypse, he will make me a Horseman by tomorrow!"
"Alex," Domino said, facing in the opposite direction, "I'm detecting another life form. Just like this one, but over there."
"Investigate," said Havok, picking up the unconscious young woman, "I'm bringing her to the High Lord. He'll be most interested to learn of this new breed of human."
"Whatever you say," said Domino, running towards the other life form. She found, lying atop a heap of rubble, a young African American man, also dressed in neat, untattered clothing, with no visible injuries.
"We might as well bring them both," said Havok, lying the girl down inside an energy cage on the back of a hovercraft, "Put him in."
Domino lifted the unconscious young man, and placed him inside the cage. The bars began to glow with a yellow energy, signalling that powerful electricity was running through the metal. Then, Domino and Havok boarded the hovercraft, and vanished over the horizon.
"What do you mean his Zeo shard materialized inside his heart?!" yelled Jason Lee angrily.
"Exactly what it sounds like," said Billy, maintaining his calm and standing over Adam's still form, "I don't understand why, but when the Multiversal portal closed, Adam went into cardiac arrest. His heart has been punctured, and its serious."
"How serious?" asked Katherine quietly.
"As serious as it can be," said Billy, turning on a small computer screen. The image of Adam's heart appeared.
"Do you see that shadow, occupying about a quarter of the volume? Well, that's the green Zeo shard. It became tangible while inside Adam's heart, and is now piercing his left ventricle, in the same manner a precise knife thrust would."
"So," said Tommy, "how is he still... alive?"
"I've placed him in stasis, but unfortunately, the radiation emitted from the Zeo shard is interfering with the med-unit's equipment. Usually, one would de-morph prior to using the med-unit, but the crystal is in its active state. I can't turn it off, and I can't make it intangible again."
"Then," said Aisha, stepping towards the others, "it has to come out the old fashioned way."
"As in surgery?" asked Jason, "Can you do it, Billy?"
"I have never operated on anything before," said Billy, "and although I may be capable of doing such a delicate operation, I would certainly need expert assistance."
"Then, we need to get an expert," said Aisha, taking Adam's communicator, which was on Billy's desk, "I'll be right back."
"Aisha?" said Katherine, walking over to her, "Where are you going?"
"Angel Grove University," she said matter-of-factly, "There's only one man I know who can save Adam's life. I don't care whether or not I break our vow of secrecy. Its not worth losing one of my best friends."
With that, Aisha walked over to the teleporter, and tried to figure out how it works. Billy walked next to her, and turned it on.
"Good luck," he said, as Aisha vanished in a streak of white light.
"What do we do in the meantime?" asked Tommy, turning to Billy, "Have you managed to figure out what happened to Kimberly and Zack?"
"Negative," Billy said, walking back to his desk, "I did try to access the Multiversal Scanner, like we have done in the past when dealing with the Spectrum Force, but for some reason, the entire Multiversal plane is in chaos. I don't know what happened, but something disturbed the Multiverse from within, sending a shockwave throughout the passageway."
"So, we can't find Kim and Zack?" asked Jason.
"Not yet, at least. I can't even begin scanning until the Multiverse 'calms down' so to speak. All we can do is wait."
"Right," said Jason bitterly, "and in the meantime, we're down to half-power."
Meanwhile, Alexander Summers, the mutant known as Havok, and the mysterious mutant Domino march into the throne room of the mighty High Lord Apocalypse himself. Apocalypse sits upon his throne, awaiting Havok's report, while to his right is his son, Holocaust. To his left is his Horseman Mister Sinister, accompanied by his adopted son Scott Summers, also known as Prelate Cyclops. Behind Havok and Domino are two beds, hovering about three feet off the ground, and upon each is a human teenager, who would look completely normal by our standards. But, normalcy is all relative, and in this dark existence, these teenagers couldn't stand out more.
"So," said Apocalypse, glancing down at the two unconscious teenagers, "these are the 'special humans' you were speaking of, Prelate?"
"Yes, My Lord," Havok said, bowing, "All my scans show that they have great power, but they do not have the X-Factor. They register completely human, with the exception of this strange power."
"What is your point, Prelate?" asked Holocaust, his red skull glowing with impatience, "They may have some kind of power, but surely two humans such as these pose no threat to anyone. Just kill them."
"But, they can be members of a group of humans, planning on increasing their chances of surviving the war against mutants! Since they weren't granted power by nature, they use technology to save their hides!"
"Alex," said Scott, shaking his head, "you sound a little paranoid to me."
"Don't talk down to me!!" Havok roared, "Who knows what powers they possess, or how many of them could exist, hiding right under our noses?"
"Apocalypse," said Sinister, "Havok did bring up an interesting point. We do not know what kind of power they possess. It could be used to our advantage. Allow me to run some tests, and determine exactly what they are capable of. Then, after we study them, and make sure we can gain no more knowledge from them, have them killed. Of course, this is assuming they survive my testing."
"Fine," said Apocalypse, standing up and tossing his navy blue cape behind him, "You may use them as your guinea pigs, Sinister. But I caution you. Many times, your genetic tampering has created some extremely powerful, out of control beings. It shall not happen again."
Mister Sinister bowed once to the High Lord, who left the throne room, closely followed by Holocaust. Sinister then turned to his own sons.
"Scott," he ordered, "Please go tell McCoy to prepare two cages, as well as some drugs to keep my new subjects calm. Alex, you and Domino can escort them to my laboratory. Make sure they're 'comfortable', and I'll begin my experimentation in the morning."
Both Summers men nodded, and left the throne room. But while Scott was supposed to go to the communications room to contact McCoy, Sinister's lab assistant, he placed a secret call, to an ally of his. He has worked with this young man for over a year, trying to save as many humans from Sinister's slave pens as possible. Scott has a terrible feeling that these two strangers do possess great power, and in the hands of Sinister and Apocalypse, the entire world may suffer.
"Shadow," Cyclops whispered into the microphone, quickly checking to make sure no one is watching, "Shadow, do you read?"
^Cyclops?^ came the response, ^Yes, I read. What has occurred?^
"My brother has just found two young humans, with strange and unusual powers. I don't like the look of this, so I think you should come pick them up immediately. Sinister said he will begin experimentation in the morning, so come tonight."
^I shall leave momentarily.^
"Fine. I'll meet you at the sewer entrance in an hour. Don't be late."
"Have I ever been late?" said a young man with shoulder length light brown hair. He stood up from his communicator, and quickly covered his black spandex costume with pieces of dark armor, made of a Vibranium/Omnium alloy. He placed a multi-purpose tool kit, flash-bangs, and several pounds of high explosive into pouches on his dark metallic belt, and snapped that on as well. He covered his head and long hair with a helmet, but didn't place anything over his sky-blue eyes. He then picked up two modified .50 AE Desert Eagle handguns and placed them in his belt.
Shadow stepped out of his tent, and gazed out at the dark, empty plains that used to be Angel Grove. He sighed, and then leapt out of the tent, being wary not to attract any attention. His allies were only yards away, performing scenes from William Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for the dozen or so humans watching these rogue mutants perform. But even though this band, dubbed the Outcasts, appear to be harmless travelling actors, they in fact are a group of mutant rebels, doing what they can to keep human kind alive in the United States. Shadow sneaks past the crowd, his dark uniform easily hiding him from the view of the humans. He waits for a few seconds, allowing his keen eyes to adapt to the nearly pitch blackness of the night. He is soon on his way, running through the night at superhuman speed, heading towards a cave not far away. Once he reached the cave, he warily stepped inside, and pressed a button on his belt. Then, a hovercraft appeared from nowhere, and Shadow leapt on, and activated the engine. He was about to pull out of the cave, when the silhouette of a man appeared at the mouth of the cave. Shadow sighed again as he instantly recognized the form of his best friend.
"Where are you going, Ace?" asked the young man.
"I told you never to call me that, Nate," said Shadow, somewhat irritated, "I just got a message from Scott. He has two more humans for me to save, but they're not quite human, nor are they mutants. They're anomalies, and so I'm going to figure out exactly what's going on."
"I'll come," said Nate, leaping on the hovercraft behind his friend, with a twinkle of yellow energy in his blue eyes, "You may run into trouble."
"I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself!" Shadow barked, "After all, who is the one that taught you in the use of your telepathic powers?"
"Well, who is the one with the 'near-infinite telepathic potential'?" asked Nate with a grin, "Now let's go! We don't want to keep this Scott guy waiting."
Shadow sighed and pressed down on the accelerator. He silently envies Nate's youthful spirit. Even though both young men are the same age, Shadow has seen a great deal too much suffering and devastation in his short life to be anything but cold and cynical. He's seen his entire life fall apart, all his friends and family die in the cause of genetic cleansing. He himself underwent years of suffering in Sinister's lab, being used and abused, seen as nothing more than a lab rat. Fortunately for Shadow, he was one of Sinister's few experiments that worked.
"Wake up!" came a stern voice, "Wake UP!"
Kimberly Hart weakly opened her eyes, and glanced at the person talking to her. He had long, dark brown hair that covered his left eye, and a golden visor with red lens covered his right eye. He was rather tall and well built, wearing a blue spandex uniform with pieces of golden armor. Kimberly blinked a few times, trying to get this man in focus.
"Tommy?" she whispered quietly, "Where am I?"
"You are in Sinister's pen," said the man, quickly unlocking the manacles chaining the young woman to the stone wall, "and I am not 'Tommy', though I am a friend."
Kimberly shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts, but it didn't work. Cyclops bent down, and balanced Kimberly on his shoulders. He then walked across the room, and unchained another strange teenager--Zack Taylor.
"No, Ma," Zack muttered, "I don't wanna go to school today..."
"Listen to me," said Cyclops, losing his patience, "both of you are still under the influence of a sedative. I tried to get McCoy to administer as little as possible, but you won't be completely aware for another hour or so. We don't have that kind of time, so you're just gonna have to fight to stay conscious."
Both Zack and Kimberly nodded, trying their best to comprehend their situation. Cyclops took each of them by the hand, and moved as quickly as possible through the slave pens, towards the sewer grating. He lifted the cover, and led both teenagers through the maze of underground tunnels.
Just outside the vast complex of Apocalypse, no one sees the invisible hovercraft flying over the fences, and landing near the sewer opening on the north end. Also, no one can detect the ship, or its two passengers, by any type of telepathic or radar scan. The ship is cloaked, and so are the two young men aboard. Both are telepaths, capable of masking their psi-print, making their presence a mystery. Now, the two men step away from the ship, and the one cloaked in black presses a button on his belt, making the ship once again invisible.
"Where are we going?" whispered Nate.
"The sewer entrance," answered Shadow, peering at the entrance from behind the rock, "They're almost here."
"I don't see anything," Nate said.
"Well, I can 'see' the heat that warm-blooded animals exude with my infrared vision. There are three of them, and they are almost at the gate. Let's go."
Shadow quickly ran towards the grate, with Nate right behind him. The two young men waited at the entrance, and quickly dodged inside, after taking a quick look around. Once they were inside, they saw three forms in the darkness.
"Scott," said Shadow, "are these them?"
"Yes," said Cyclops, "They are both still under the influence of a sedative, but they should be recovering soon. You'd better get going, kids, we'd both be in trouble if anyone were to find out about our partnership."
"Yeah," said Nate, "we'd better be back before Forge finds out we left. You know how he gets when we go off alone."
"No," said Shadow, "He gets mad when I take you with me. You're the one Sinister's been searching for, ever since you escaped his laboratory. You were his prized living weapon, I was just a science project to occupy his time."
"You'd better carry them," said Cyclops, "They're barely conscious."
"I'll take the man," said Nate, his eye glowing with yellow energy, "I'll carry him telekinetically. You take the woman."
Shadow nodded, and glanced over at the young woman, whom Cyclops was still holding steady. Shadow's blue eyes shot open in shock, for even though the lighting was minimal, his acute night vision allowed him to see the features of this young woman as clearly as he could with daylight.
"K-Kimberly?" he stammered, staring at her, "It.. its not... possible..."
"Do you know her?" asked Nate, turning around.
"Let's go," said Shadow, scooping Kimberly into his arms, "We don't have much time."
Shadow and Nate hurried out of the tunnel, and quickly made their way to the invisible hovercraft. Shadow deactivated the cloak long enough for the four passengers to board, and then activated it again, masking both the ship and the passengers from view. In seconds, they were on their way back to Angel Grove.
"Who is she?" asked Nate, staring curiously at the young woman, "Is she a friend of yours?"
"I... I don't know," said Shadow quietly, "She looks like this girl I knew before the destruction of Angel Grove. It was six years ago, when Apocalypse came to California, and destroyed everything. Then, I was taken to Mister Sinister, because the hounds detected that I was a 'human prime', which means I was on the verge of genetic mutation. I was Sinister's lab rat for three years, until Scott rescued me. I eventually joined the X-Men, and then later that year, we learned that there were survivors in what was left of Angel Grove. Kimberly was one of them, but she was ill, with a horrible disease. We couldn't save her. She was one of my dearest friends, back when we lived free."
"What about him?" asked Nate, pointing to Zack, "Who's he?"
"I don't recognize him," said Shadow with a shrug.
In a short while, the hovercraft returned to its station inside a cave in Angel Grove. The two young men quietly left, carrying the two still unconscious teenagers. Once they reached Shadow's tent, which doubled as a computer and technology hub of the Outcasts, they saw a middle aged Native American man, wearing a brown cloak. He turned around, his bionic eye staring at the two young men in disappointment.
"Where have you two been?" he asked calmly, standing up, "Toad, Soaron, Mastermind, and I have been searching for you for over an hour."
"We were on a mission," said Shadow matter-of-factly, "and as you can see, I have two humans to attend to."
Forge sighed, and glanced at the two unconscious teens curiously.
"Who are they?" he asked finally, watching as Nate and Shadow lay them down on two cots, "They aren't dressed like normal slaves."
"They're not normal," said Shadow, "My ally told me that they aren't quite human, nor are they mutants. I'm going to run a scan on them, to determine what they are exactly."
"Yes," said Forge, "I'll do the DNA scan, while you do the energy reading. Together, we'll see what they are."
"There's more," said Nate, "Ace here recognizes the girl."
"I'm probably wrong," Shadow said, taking off his helmet and running his hand through his light brown hair, "I saw Kimberly die! She's probably just some girl who happens to look like her."
"Let's get to work," said Forge, holding a needle with his bionic hand, "I'll get the blood samples."
Aisha Campbell steps out of a group of bushes just outside the Dorothy Robinson Laboratories, inside the Angel Grove University complex. She climbs out, making sure no one witnessed her rather unusual arrival.
Good, she thought silently, there's no one here. Now, to find him.
Aisha walked over to the entrance to the lab, where a security guard was sitting inside a booth, reading a magazine. Aisha waited for a moment, and then cleared her throat to gain his attention.
"Yes?" he asked, glancing at her.
"I'd like to get in."
"Student ID?" he asked, not looking up from his magazine, "Only AGU students with ID can get into the school facilities."
"I'm not a student," Aisha explained, "but I really need to get in--"
"Who are you?" he asked with a sigh.
"Aisha Campbell, Doctor Benjamin Campbell's daughter. Its an emergency, and I need to see my father."
"Got any kind of photo ID? Driver's license, passport? Sorry, but I can't be too careful, what with all the expensive equipment in the DRL."
Aisha rolled her eyes, and searched her wallet for her new Angel Grove High student identification. She handed it to the security officer, who studied it carefully, and then gave it back to her.
"Go ahead," he said, "Dr. Campbell is in room B-7, which is on the second floor. Take the stairs, then hang a right. Its the big laboratory at the end of the hall. You can't miss it."
"Thanks," said Aisha, taking back her ID and running through the halls of the DRL. In a few minutes, she was at the door of laboratory B-7. She knocked on the door, and waited for someone to answer her.
"Come in," called a voice. Aisha opened the door, and walked over to the computer, where a solitary scientist studied some computer images of a cross section of a human heart.
"Daddy?" she said, glancing over his shoulder. Doctor Campbell turned around in surprise at the voice of his only child.
"Aisha?! What are you doing here?"
"Daddy," she said, wringing her fingers nervously, "uh, a friend of mine's in trouble. He has, well.... something stuck in his heart."
Doctor Campbell rose to his feet, and stared at Aisha.
"What do you mean?"
"Daddy, you're gonna have to trust me on this. I'm gonna show you something no one is supposed to know about, so you have to promise me you won't tell a soul. Not even Mom. Okay?"
Doctor Campbell saw the seriousness is Aisha's dark eyes, and nodded his consent. Aisha took her father's hand, and rose her wrist communicator to her lips.
"Billy," she said, "Teleport us in."
Before Doctor Campbell could verbalize his surprise, both he and his daughter vanished.
"Okay, Shadow," said Forge, reading off a computer screen, "I have the results of the blood scan. These two aren't mutants. They have no trace of the X-Factor. But, they do emit a strange energy. I think I've found the location of the energy emissions. They are coming from... their hearts."
"But from what?" asked Nate, glancing over Forge's shoulder.
"The X-Rays show a foreign object inside their hearts, but it has no volume. It doesn't take up any space. Its physically impossible."
"In this world, old friend, nothing is impossible."
Nate turned around, and saw his other friend, the Shadow, standing above the unconscious young woman, gazing at her delicate features intently. Nate walked over and put his hand on Shadow's shoulder.
"I don't understand, Nate," Shadow said quietly, "What have I done to deserve this? Now, that I've finally come to accept all my friends are gone forever, I'm suddenly haunted by this ghost, of one of my dearest friends from my youth. All I can think of is how she died, withering away with some horrible disease, created by Apocalypse to eliminate 'the weak'. Watching Kim die was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced. The worst was when Trini--"
"Don't think about that, Ace," said Nate, "You're the Rock. You don't let anything get to you."
"Yes, I guess I am a Rock," said Shadow, "I refuse to let anything penetrate my psychological shields. I'm too afraid of loss that I don't let anyone come close. What kind of life is that?"
Nate shrugged, not knowing how to console his long time friend.
Both young men looked down when they heard a moan coming from the young woman. She slowly opened her eyes, and rose to a sitting position, stretching her arms.
"What... what happened?" she asked weakly, "Where am I?"
"You're with friends," said Nate, bending down to meet her at eye level, "I'm Nate, and this is Forge and Shadow."
The girl studied Nate's face, as well as the cloaked cyborg he called Forge. She then glanced at the Shadow, and her doe-eyes widened with surprise.
"Billy?!" she shrieked in shock.
Kimberly studied her old friend from head to toe. His hair was a good deal longer, nearly reaching his shoulders, and it was also a few shades lighter. His face was stoic, and his usually warm blue eyes seemed as cold as ice. Kim also noticed he was more muscular, as his tone muscles showed quite well through his black spandex uniform. He looked meaner, and older, than when she last saw him a few hours ago, but there was no doubt in Kimberly Hart's mind that this was indeed Billy Mitchell, her close friend since grade school.
"No one calls me that anymore," he grunted, "Now, who, pray tell, are you?"
"What do you mean 'who am I'?" she asked in surprise, "It's me, Kimberly! You know, the girl that lives a few blocks from your house? We've been friends forever!"
"That's impossible," Billy said, folding his arms and staring at her suspiciously, "Kimberly Anne Hart died three years ago! I know this for a fact, because I was at her bedside when she died."
Kimberly gasped, and rose to her feet. She supported herself on the side of the cot. "Okay, Billy," she said in a voice full of determination, "If I'm not Kim, then who am I?"
"Well," said Billy, "you could easily be a clone of Kimberly. Sinister could've found some of her DNA, and created you in order to eliminate me, one of his best experiments."
Kimberly arched one eyebrow, and folded her arms also, "Well, a clone wouldn't know you like I do. For example, you have a little sister named Stephanie. Your mother Rebecca died when you were only four years old."
"Anyone could've read about my personal history," said Billy, unconvinced.
"Fine," said Kim, looking up at his cold eyes, "you're the shiest young man ever born! You always feel alienated, because of your unbelievably high IQ. You always felt awkward. You didn't feel you knew how to express love, because your father was never affectionate, and your mother died when you were only a kid. But, the day you met Trini Kwan, you knew there was something there. Something you've never really felt before. True, strong, love. A bond that can never be broken."
Billy's cold eyes widened, and a single tear formed in his eye. It slowly streaked down his pale cheek, and dripped off his chin. He wiped his cheek with his hand, and stared at the moisture curiously. This was the first time he'd shed a tear in years.
"But... its not possible," Billy muttered to himself, "I... I saw you die..."
"If you're still not convinced," said Kimberly, rolling up the sleeve of her yellow blouse, "Take a blood sample. Test my DNA, or whatever it is you do."
Billy smiled at her. "Clones have identical DNA as the original, Kim."
"Oh yeah," she said, pulling down her sleeve, "that's right."
Billy leaned over and hugged Kimberly tightly. Kimberly was at first surprised by this display of emotion, because Billy rarely showed his feelings. She then returned the hug.
"God, you don't know how much I've missed you," he said quietly, "All of you..."
"Hey, Ace!" called Nate Grey from across the room, "The guy's waking up."
"Ace?" asked Kim, letting go of Billy and smiling. Billy rolled his eyes.
"Its a ridiculous nickname, I know," he sighed, "But, Nate refuses to let me live it down. Basically, when I take aim, I never miss a shot."
Billy and Kimberly walk over to the other cot, where Zack was just now regaining consciousness.
"So," said Nate, "if Kim here is a friend of yours, who's he?"
"I've never laid eyes on him," said Billy honestly, "And you know I never forget a face."
"Are you kidding?!" said Kim in astonishment, "It's Zack!"
"Zack?" asked Billy, as if trying out the name.
"Present," Zack said weakly, sitting up, "Whoa, Billy! What the heck happened to you?!"
Billy looked from Zack to Kim, and then back to Zack. "I'm sorry, but am I supposed to know you?"
Kim and Zack traded confused looks. "I'm Zack Taylor," Zack said finally, turning around to let his legs dangle off the cot, "I'm your friend and classmate at Angel Grove High. Well, I was, at least, until you graduated."
Billy shook his head. "That's not right. I never made it to high school. Angel Grove was destroyed by Apocalypse's forces in 1990. I was only eleven years old."
Kim and Zack gasped. "Who's Apocalypse?" they both asked in unison. Now it was Billy and Nate's turn to be astonished.
"Apocalypse is only the self-proclaimed ruler of North America!" said Nate, "He's taken over the continent, and he rules it with an iron fist. Only the Homo-Superior that accept him as absolute ruler live with even a small measure of freedom. Those who disobey are hounded like dogs."
"How can this be?" asked Kim, "When we left, everything was fine--"
"Left?" asked Billy.
"Well," said Zack, "we didn't actually leave. We were kinda sucked through a portal, and we ended up here. Wait a minute! Couldn't the portal have been a Multiversal portal?!"
"That explains it!" said Kimberly, "We must be in an alternate dimension!"
Billy blinked in confusion, and Nate just stared at the two young strangers.
"Excuse me," said a cloaked figure, with half of his tan face covered with bionic parts, "but did you say 'alternate dimension'?"
Kim and Zack turned around, and gasped when they beheld the cyborg. Billy smiled.
"Sorry," he said, "I should've introduced everyone. Kim and Zack, this is Forge, the leader of the Outcasts. Forge, this is Kimberly Hart, a friend of mine, and her friend Zack Taylor."
Forge shook their hands in greeting.
"What are the Outcasts?" asked Zack.
"The Outcasts are a team of rebels, dedicated to do whatever possible to undermine Apocalypse, and free the slaves," said Nate. Kim and Zack looked at him.
"Oh, yeah," said Billy, "Uh, Kim and Zack, this is Nate Grey. He and I were both 'experiments' of Mister Sinister, one of Apocalypse's Horsemen."
"So," said Forge, "now that we've been properly introduced, tell me more about this 'Multiverse'."
"Well," said Kimberly, "I'm by no means an expert, but the Multiverse is basically a collection of different universes. Different realities. Each one is different--some are completely different, and some are mostly the same, except for small changes in history, which cause greater changes as time passes."
"People can travel either cross time or through time," said Zack, "But its really complicated. The Power Rangers haven't been able to figure out exactly how to navigate through."
"Power Rangers?" asked Billy.
"Yeah," said Kimberly, "Y'see, an interdimensional being called Zordon chose a group of teenagers to wield the power of the Morphin Grid, in order to fight this alien being bent on conquering Earth. The first five were you, me, Zack, Jason, and Trini."
Billy visibly shuddered when Trini's name was mentioned. Zack didn't pay attention, but Kimberly noticed this reaction with interest.
"What powers do you 'Power Rangers' possess?" asked Forge.
"Well, over time, we gained new powers," said Zack, "At first, we used these Power Coins to become the Power Rangers, but now we each own a fragment of the Zeo Crystal, which gives us command over elemental energy. I control Light, and Kim here controls Lightning."
"And are these crystals inside your bodies?" asked Forge, nodding his head with understanding.
"Yes," said Kim, "how did you know?"
"We picked up some strange energy readings," said Forge, taking a seat at the computer, "We did a scan, and determined that the energy isn't your own. Its coming from objects inside your bodies."
"The world you are from," said Billy, "its nothing like this?"
"Well, the circumstances are completely different," said Zack, "America is still America, for one thing. No mutant dictator took over."
"This is most interesting," said Forge, "I received a message from Magneto, an ally of mine from years past, a few days ago. He mentioned something about restoring a missing fragment of some powerful gem called the M'Kraan Crystal, in order to repair the timestream. He said that the M'Kraan Crystal is the nexus of all reality, and that the possibilities are infinite."
"Does Magneto have the M'Kraan Crystal?" asked Kimberly.
"I'm not certain," admitted Forge, "I haven't spoken to him for some time now. I'll try to contact his headquarters in what was formerly New York."
Forge activated the communicators, and first made sure the frequency was secure. He tried to send a message, but he received no answer. Forge frowned. "What's happening?" asked Nate.
"Static," said Forge.
"Something's wrong," said Billy, walking over to the table and picking up his helmet, "Erik always leaves at least one of his X-Men to monitor communications and watch over the orphans they care for. We'd better get over to the mansion and see what happened to the X-Men."
"It'll take hours to get to the East Coast!" said Zack.
"Not if we take NightWolf."
"Who?" asked Kimberly.
"The NightWolf is a jet plane Billy and I 'borrowed' from one of Apocalypse's storage depots in what was once San Francisco explained Nate, "Billy's been playing around with its controls the past few months, and for some reason he called it NightWolf."
"NightWolf can get us to New York in under thirty minutes," said Billy, strapping on his helmet, "Its also equipped with all types of tracking devices, the most advanced communications system I could create, and finally cloaks to hide us from all types of scans. Let's go."
Doctor Benjamin Campbell has seen much in his life. He had lived here in California, as well as the wild savanna in Africa. He even attended school in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Doctor Campbell is a learned man, with access to some of the most advanced medical technology on the face of the planet. But even he is speechless at the sight of the Central Access Complex.
"Salutations, Doctor Campbell," said Billy, stepping forward, "Welcome to the Central Access Complex."
Doctor Campbell nodded in reply to Billy's welcome, and continued to survey the room with the utmost curiosity and confusion. He saw the main computer, with a dwarfing screen and innumerable amount of keys and buttons. He also saw various computer panels that were completely foreign to him. Finally, Doctor Campbell fixed his eyes to a group of young men and women, all lined up beside what appeared to be a cot, with a number of computers attached to it, and a young man lying unconscious upon it. Doctor Campbell walked to the group of teenagers, and stared at them all intently.
"Its funny," he said, "You all seem so... familiar somehow. Do you live in Stone Canyon?"
"Actually, we're from Angel Grove," said Tommy, "Hi, I'm Tommy, and this is Jason, Katherine, and Adam."
Tommy pointed out his friends, as well as Adam, who was still in a coma. Doctor Campbell stood beside the cot, and looked at the boy curiously. He then glanced at the computer screen, and gasped when he noticed a rather large shadow occupying the young man's heart.
"What happened to him?" he asked, turning towards the teenagers, "He has some...thing penetrating his heart!"
"I'll try to explain," said Billy, "You see, that young man there is a Power Ranger. The Power Rangers possess crystal shards, that actually inhabit their hearts, and empower them from within. Under normal circumstances, the shards are intangible, and therefore don't interrupt the normal functioning of the muscle. But, this afternoon, Adam's crystal materialized, while still inside his body. As a result, its stuck there, piercing his heart, and damaging it severely."
"But, with such an enormous wound, he should've been dead minutes after the initial penetration."
"Yes," said Tommy, "but Billy placed him in stasis. He's still alive, but we have to get the shard out of his body."
"... and that's why I went to get you," said Aisha, "We don't know what to do. But we can't let Adam die!"
"Honey," said Doctor Campbell, cleaning his eyeglasses with a tissue from his shirt pocket, "we're talking about an extremely complicated, unprecedented heart surgery! I have never even attempted such an operation on a living person before. And I have no idea about the power emissions of the crystal in his heart. I am not qualified for this."
"But Sir, you are the most skilled heart surgeon in the nation," said Billy, "If you can't help us, who can?"
"You said he's in stasis?" said Doctor Campbell, once again glancing down at the unconscious boy.
"What kind of equipment do you have here?"
"Whatever you may need," said Billy, opening a drawer of medical supplies from beside the med-unit, "They may appear unfamiliar to you, but I guarantee, they perform the same tasks your equipment does, but more efficiently."
Doctor Campbell began searching through the tools, and studied each one closely. "Is there any way we can operate on Adam while he's still in stasis?"
"I believe so," said Billy, "We can penetrate the force field encasing Adam. Its primary purpose is to stop all his bodily functions, so he won't die."
"Then let's get cleaned up, Billy. We have a Power Ranger to save."
With that, Billy lead Doctor Campbell into the back, so they can prepare for the operation. Meanwhile, the rest of the Power Rangers, as well as Aisha, joined in a circle near the Viewing Globe, out of the way of the operation.
"So," said Jason, "do you think he can do it?"
"My father can do whatever he sets his mind to," said Aisha firmly, "and so can Billy. If there's any chance at all Adam can be saved, these two men are the ones to make it happen."
"Even if he does survive," said Katherine quietly, "he certainly won't be able to re-absorb the Zeo crystal any time soon. The strain on his heart will be enormous. And now, without Kimberly and Zack, we will never be able to defeat a monster."
"Zedd and Rita must know what's happened," said Jason, "They probably created that Multiversal hole in the first place! You can count on them sending down a monster sooner or later. They'd never miss a chance like this."
"Okay," said Billy, re-entering the CAC's main room, "We're ready."
Both he and Doctor Campbell wore green smocks, Latex gloves, hair nets, and masks over their faces. They both moved over to the med-unit, and prepared the equipment.
"Okay, Billy," said the doctor, "I've never used these tools before, so I'll tell you what kind of instrument I'll need, and you give me the one that corresponds with the typical surgical tool. Are you familiar enough with them to handle it?"
"Affirmative," said Billy, "Shall we begin?"
Doctor Campbell nodded his consent, and the two brilliant men began the delicate operation. No sooner had the first incision been made, the alarms sounded, startling everyone in the Central Access Complex.
"What was that?" asked Doctor Campbell, looking up from his work. "There's a monster at the park!" said Jason, turning on the Viewing Globe, "I knew it!"
The four teenagers circled the globe, and witnessed a large creature that resembled a woolly mammoth on two legs, rampaging through the glade.
"Let's get going," said Tommy, "Hopefully, we can take him out without the others. Its Morphin Time! TERRA FIRE POWER!!"
"TERRA EARTH POWER!!" yelled Jason, raising his fists to the sky.
"TERRA WATER POWER!!" cried Katherine.
Instantly, the three teens transformed into the Red, Black, and Blue Terran Rangers, with golden shields, white boots and gloves with gold bands, and a colored helmet with golden trim. Doctor Campbell couldn't help but watch in awe as the three young heroes vanished in streaks of colored light.
"Amazing," he whispered, "The Power Rangers... are children."
"Doctor Campbell?" asked Billy, getting the older man's attention. Doctor Campbell turned back to the med-unit, and continued with the operation. Aisha stood vigil beside the Viewing Globe, watching as the monster continued to march around pointlessly. In seconds, the three Power Rangers arrived at the scene. She sighed, and silently prayed that they'd be able to save Angel Grove yet again, despite the odds stacked against them.
Kimberly, Zack, and Nate sit in the back of the NightWolf jet plane while Shadow and Forge pilot the advanced ship towards New York, where the secret base of the Astonishing X-Men is located. Kimberly stares out the window at the murky brown clouds below, immersed in thought.
"Nate," she said quietly, "why are the clouds brown?"
"Well, there were tons of battles fought between humans and mutants here," said Nate, "Sometimes, the humans tried using atomic bombs, to obliterate their enemy. It only managed to completely destroy the ecology of the Mid-West. Its now a deserted wasteland, with enough radiation to make you glow if you stay too long."
"Creepy," said Zack, "That's the only way to describe this world. Creepy."
"And hopeless," said Kimberly, shaking her head, "Its horrible how you're forced to live, without the least measure of peace or security."
"We're managing," said Nate, "That's the best we can do, given the circumstances. I've lived my entire life on the run, so I really don't know what to compare it to."
"Nate," Kim asked, turning to face the young telepath, "What happened to Billy?"
"How do you mean?"
"The Billy I know is kind, considerate, and shy. But this Billy is all business. He's cold, brash, and... obsessed. I don't know, its only a first impression. But something must've happened to turn sweet, quiet Billy into Rambo!"
"Billy? Quiet?!" Nate almost had to fight back laughter. "Billy Mitchell? Ace? The Rock? The Shadow? He's the man without emotion!"
"That's not how he should be!" said Zack, "Kim's right, man! Something's up with Billy, but we don't know what."
"Well, I've only known Billy for less than a year. That's when he and Forge found me, after I somehow escaped Sinister's laboratory. I don't know what he used to be like. But I do know he lost everything that was important to him: his friends, his family, his home, his wife--"
"Did you say wife?" asked Zack in surprise, "Billy is married?"
"Was married," corrected Nate, "She died before I met him."
"But, Billy's only seventeen years old! Isn't he a little... young?"
"When you live in a war zone," said Forge, just coming out of the cockpit into the larger compartment, "When any day can be your last, and everything you every have loved can vanish in a blink of the eye, you mature quickly. There's no time for stalling when you live as a rebel in North America."
"I guess..." said Zack.
"You come from a different world," continued Forge, "Billy has suffered more than anyone I've ever met. He's changed from his younger days, because in the Age of Apocalypse, only the strong survive."
Forge pressed a button, and a small computer screen lowered from the ceiling, hovering a few feet in front of Zack, Nate, and Kimberly.
"The only way for the two of you to understand William Mitchell is to know what he's lived through," Forge explained, "So, since we're still about twenty minutes from Westchester, I'm going to give you a little lesson about the history of this dimension, and I'll use Billy as an example. Computer, please play the bio on William James Mitchell."
Processing, said the computer, and as the words appeared on the screen, the female voice of the computer read them off.
Name: William Mitchell
Date of Birth: March 15, 1979
Place of Birth: Angel Grove, California
Marital Status: Widower
Group Affiliation: Former Member of the X-Men, Present Affiliation: Outcasts
Base of Operation: Mobile
History: William Mitchell was born with no mutant skills, but with an almost inhuman intelligence and skill with all forms of technology. Angel Grove, the town of his birth, was a place of relative peace until the year 1990, when Apocalypse, the self- proclaimed High Lord, set his sights on conquering the entire United States, and broke an agreement with the Eurasian group of human leaders to stop his militant conquering of North America at the Ohio River Valley. Apocalypse destroyed the West Coast in the year 1990, and killed as many of the humans as possible. Only a small group of humans survived: those who were able to take refuge in the cliffs outside Angel Grove. One young boy, eleven years of age, was found among the dead, and was brought to Mister Sinister, one of Apocalypse's Horsemen, because of his mental capacities. For years, Sinister conducted experiments on the young boy, because, in the view of the amoral mutant scientist:
"The subject William Mitchell is the closest Homo-Sapien I've encountered to the next level of evolution. He is on the very brink of evolution, and I would surmise that, if he had offspring, they would be of the species Homo-Sapien Superior. My research is to determine whether or not I can stimulate the dormant X-Factor gene in his DNA, helping him reach his potential. From my examination of the subject's brain patterns, his heightened intelligence is the for-runner of a keen telepathic mind. He is presently able to utilize over 14% of his brain mass, as opposed to the mere 9% that most humans are capable of. If I can stimulate his brain further, awakening a total of about 32% of the brain, he should exhibit some form of psionic abilities. What his potential limits are, I do not know. But I am most curious to find out..."
William Mitchell was finally released from captivity in 1993 by an unknown traitor to Apocalypse, and was recruited by the X-Men, a group of mutant rebels, who strive to promote a peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. The X-Men helped train William in his abilities, and eventually William became a skilled telepath. Later that year, the X-Men overheard a report by one of Apocalypse's captains that a group of humans were found living in the remains of the city Angel Grove. The X-Men hurried to the small town, and managed to stop Apocalypse's forces from carrying out on of their "cullings". Among those saved from Apocalypse was Trini Kwan, a young woman who was a friend of William's for years. Magneto gave Trini permission to live with the X-Men, and help care for the dozens of young children the X-Men have saved over the years. In the year 1994, William and Trini were married.
Early the following year, the X-Men's home base was attacked by Apocalypse's son, Nemesis. Nemesis attacked while most of the X-Men were on a mission, and managed to kill Trini Mitchell, as well as Magneto's only daughter, the Scarlet Witch, who were both charged with caring for the young mutants living with the X-Men.
William was so angry for losing Trini that he left the X-Men, and worked alone. It was during his journeys alone that he encountered the group of mutant actors called the Outcasts, who were in reality a team of mutant freedom fighters disguised as actors. William met the group's leader Forge, a skilled mutant scientist, and they immediately bonded. William also met and befriended the young man Nate Grey, who was about the same age as William, and who was blessed and cursed with astounding telepathic and telekinetic powers. William helps Nate learn how to control his powers.
Known Superhuman Powers: Shadow is a mutate with the powers of telepathy, enhanced physical senses (can see into the infra-red spectrum, three times normal hearing, enhanced sense of touch), thought projection, psionic bolts, and memory tampering.
Abilities: Shadow is almost inhumanly skilled in the physical sciences, computers, electronics, medicine and the military sciences (strategy, tactics, logisitics).
Kimberly and Zack were utterly speechless.
"It can't be..." Kimberly whispered, "No one can survive a life like that."
"Its all true," said Forge, "I wrote the biography myself. William Mitchell is one of the few who've earned my utmost respect."
"And Trini was killed--?" asked Zack. Forge nodded sadly.
"Trini was Billy's last tie to humanity. Once she died, there was nothing for him. He felt he was a failure, because with all his abilities, he couldn't save his loved ones. He often spoke of people named Kimberly, Stephanie, Jason, and Trini. He lost them all."
"I guess in this dimension, my family never moved to Angel Grove from DC," said Zack.
"Washington DC was blown off the map in 1984," said Forge, "That was Apocalypse's first target, being the capital of the United States."
"That explains why Billy didn't know you," said Kimberly, "But, how did Billy cope with so much loss?"
"He cut himself off from his emotions," said Forge, "He lives for the day, without regard to the future or the past. He lives for his work, whether it be his science or his solo quests to free Apocalypse's slaves. He even has a friend in Apocalypse's army, who helps Billy save some of the victims. But no matter how much good Billy does, he doesn't feel like he's made amends for what he couldn't do when all his loved ones perished."
"Are you guys through talking about me?" barked Billy from the cockpit.
"He heard us?!" whispered Kimberly.
"Yes, I did," said Billy, "I have enhanced hearing, as well as sight, touch, taste, ecetera. One of the affects of having my brain stimulated by Sinister is having a greater amount of cortical space devoted to perception, through all five senses."
"I'm sorry, Billy," said Forge, standing up and rejoining Shadow in the cockpit, "but they needed to know. They're your friends. They care about you."
"No," said Billy, almost wistfully, "They're not my friends. They're friends of another William James Mitchell. We're approaching New York State."
Suddenly, the entire ship shook violently. Forge grasped the back of his co-pilot's seat, and hurriedly sat down and buckled up.
"What happened?" he demanded.
"We've been found!" said Billy, "Somehow, Apocalypse's forces have penetrated the cloaking device! Our right wing's been torn right off!"
"Evacuate!" ordered Forge, "There's no way we can land this thing in one piece!"
"I can!" called Nate from inside the cabin. His eyes began to glow with yellow energy, and soon his entire body was encased in a field of yellow light. Forge took both Zack and Kimberly by the hand, and led them into the cockpit. He then closed and sealed the door.
"What is he gonna do?" asked Zack.
"Fly out there and land the plane," said Billy, looking out the windshield, "There he is."
Kim and Zack turned, and saw Nate flying in front of the ship, grinning and waving. Billy sighed.
*Will you just hurry up and land the damn ship!* he hollered telepathically.
Nate nodded, and immersed the entire ship with yellow light. Billy then looked out into the horizon.
"Fish," he muttered, standing up from his seat and peering out into the brown clouds.
"What?" asked Zack.
"Apocalypse has sent some of Sinister's mutates! They're in that ship over the horizon!"
"What ship?" asked Kim.
"The ship that isn't within your visual field yet. As soon as we land, we'll have to fight."
"No problem," said Zack with a grin, "We can take whatever Apocalypse can throw at us!"
"I hope your right," said Billy, *Nate, there's a ship approaching. Get us to the ground ASAP.*
The NightWolf jet plane was landed rather gently on the barren wasteland that used to be New York. Nate landed beside the ship, and telekinetically pried open the hatch, allowing Kimberly, Zack, Forge, and Shadow to escape the ship. Both Forge and Shadow were holding weapons. Forge held a large energy rifle, and Shadow carried two modified .50 AE Desert Eagle handguns. Kim looked at Billy's choice of weaponry questioningly.
"You use guns?" she asked, "With real bullets?"
"Yep," he answered, checking the remaining ammunition, "The adamantium bullets will slice through just about anything. Sometimes lasers just don't cut it."
"We'll need to take cover," said Forge, we're basically standing out in the middle of nowhere."
"We still have the NightWolf," said Shadow, "We can stay behind it, to protect ourselves from laser fire. But it won't do much against the ground troops."
Just then, the first wave of energy missiles was launched. Hundreds of pulsing blasts of plasmic energy landed in the general area. All five heroes took cover behind the fallen ship. Shadow watched as the bottom hatch of the overhead ship opened, releasing ten huge, mishapen creatures.
"What... what are those?" asked Zack.
"Mutates," said Forge, holding his rifle at the ready, "They are the ones not fortunate enough to die in the cullings. Sinister, and his aide the Dark Beast, altered them, and performed cruel, torturous experiments on them, to turn them into the ultimate fighting machines."
"They have no conscience, no compassion, no respect, and no souls," said Billy, taking the safety off, "We do them a favor by ending their tortured lives."
With that, the Shadow took aim at the ground troops that were quickly approaching the downed ship. Forge also began his attack, mercilessly plowing down the vicious mutates with his rifle. Nate focused his telekinetic energy into powerful beams of force, and showered the oncoming creatures with energy. Kim and Zack stood in awe at the show of power.
"If you're going to do something," said Shadow without turning around, "do it now!"
"Right," said Zack, raising his arms to the sky, "Its Morphin Time! TERRA LIGHT POWER!!"
"TERRA LIGHTNING POWER!!"
Both teenagers were expecting to be engulfed in an impressive display of blinding energy, and be transformed into the nearly invincible White and Yellow Terran Power Rangers. However, much to their surprise, nothing happened.
"We... we can't morph!" wailed Kimberly.
"We're... helpless?" whispered Zack incredulously.
"Damn!" cursed the Shadow angrily, searching through the compartments on his belt, "That was my last round! Maybe a shot of explosive will take care of them..."
"William," said Forge, not looking up from plowing down the mutates with his energy rifle, "no amount of ammunition will help us now! There are simply too many mutates for the three of us to destroy!"
"I can handle this," said Nate, rising off the ground, "Just give me five seconds-"
"Don't you dare!" yelled Forge, "You'll short out again, and you may not recover! You haven't mastered your powers to the extent that you can try attacking on such a grand scale! Will, go to the mansion, and find the X-Men! You know their hideout better than any of us! The X-Men can help us!"
"Fine," said Shadow, putting away his guns. He then turned around to face the two other teenagers, Kimberly Hart and Zack Taylor, who were smart enough to stay out of the way, since they couldn't help the fight without morphing.
"You two, take care," Shadow said, "I'll be back shortly."
Shadow then activated the cloak on his uniform, obscuring his image so as to make him difficult to detect. He bolted into a sprint that Michael Johnson couldn't match on his best day, and soon was completely out of sight. Kim and Zack watched him go, and then lay back on the ground on their stomachs, behind the downed jet plane NightWolf, for cover.
"Man," said Zack, "I can't believe this is happening!"
"You got that right," said Kimberly, "For some reason, our Zeo shards won't work! If we can't call on the power of Terra, then how are we supposed to fight these mutates?"
"One things for sure-- they are a whole lot more dangerous than Putties!"
"Kim!" called Forge, "Zack! Do you know how to use energy rifles?"
"Say what?" asked Zack.
"Here," said Forge, tossing Zack his rifle. He then dug into his robe pocket, and pulled out a shorter blaster. He gave that one to Kimberly.
"Every time we blast one, two more show up and take its place! Without Shadow, there's no way we can keep them back. I have a case of high-tech weapons inside the ship, so I'll go see what I can find. You two, help Nate keep the mutates at bay."
"You wouldn't by any chance have a archer's bow, would you?" asked Kim, looking down at the pistol she was holding with a frown, "I'm not all that good with guns."
"Well," said Forge, "learn quickly. Bows and arrows probably wouldn't even penetrate the first layer of skin."
With that, Forge disappeared into the cabin of the ship. Kim and Zack peeked out of the left side of the ship, and saw the energy blasts Nate was firing from the right. The blasts were effective in pushing back the monsters, but that didn't slow their advance. Zack held the large rifle with both hands, and pointed it at the head of one of the monsters.
"Well," he said finally, "When in Rome, do as the Romans! Ready... aim... FIRE!"
Zack squeezed the trigger, and a stream of white hot plasma shot forth from the barrel of the weapon. The beam sliced through the intended target, but the sheer force of the blast knocked Zack clear off his feet, and a few yards back. He slammed into the dry dirt, and dropped the gun. Kimberly, who was preparing to fire her own weapon, immediately rushed over to help him.
"What was that?" she asked, helping Zack sit up. She held her hand in front of his eyes. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
"I'm okay, Kim," Zack said finally, shaking his head, "Yow, that rifle packs a punch! I'll be sure to brace myself next time."
"Are you okay?" called Nate, not turning around, "You really have to put your weight into it, Zack. When Forge builds a gun, he builds a lean, mean, killing machine!"
"Thanks for the warning," said Zack with a smirk, rising to his feet. He picked up his weapon, and grinned down at Kim.
"Okay, Kimberly," he said, running back to his position, "Let's fry some scales!"
"Right behind you!" called Kim, following Zack. Together, they unleashed the fury of the energy weapons, and they both quickly became comfortable with the foreign weaponry.
"Nice job," said Forge, walking out with a large barrel weapon, about four feet long with a barrel of a foot in diameter, "Now, watch this!"
Forge stepped out from behind the NightWolf, and aimed his weapon carefully. He then fired the weapon, sending a mighty sphere of pulsing energy into the army. The sphere exploded, kicking up dust and debris, and obliterating a few dozen mutates right then and there.
"Now, the tables are turning," Forge said with a smile.
Across the continent, atop a cliff overlooking the barren ruins of what was once Angel Grove Calfornia, an impregnable fortress stands proudly. When Apocalypse first conquered the west coast, he had ordered the fortress destroyed. But some invisible field protected the fortress from intruders. Also, there were no signs of life near the fortress, and no one was ever seen coming into or leaving it. Eventually, Apocalypse decided not to waste his time trying to raze this fortress. It posed no threat to his dominion of the planet. But it does now.
Within this fortress reside two alien beings. One is a small android constructed by an alien ruler who lives light years away. The other is in fact a powerful wizard, whose body was lost to him centuries ago in a battle with another powerful being. His only connection to the physical world is through the advanced machinery inside this complex, called the Command Center. This Command Center was constructed by the wizard about a millenium ago, when he first came to this solar system. He came here with an awesomely powerful shard of crystal, that he named Zeo, which is the Eltarian word for "infinite". He buried the crystal in a cave within Earth's only natural satellite, and used it to create the mighty web of power known as the Morphin Grid. It was placed there for safe keeping. Zordon remained on Earth to protect the planet from the evil of invading forces, that he knew were destined to try to conquer this blue gem floating in space, and try to capture the Zeo Crystal. Zordon prepared for this possibility by asking an ally of his named Ninjor to forge coins that can tap into the power of the Morphin Grid, enabling six human beings to transform into super-powered beings. What Zordon didn't realize at this time was that eventually, the human race would develop powers of their own, and that their greatest enemy wasn't an invasion from outside-- but from within.
Zordon was stunned to learn that a mutant dictator named Apocalypse had destroyed Washington DC in 1984. From there, Apocalypse and his band of powerful mutants crossed the entire nation, killing millions of innocents, and razing the proud nation to the ground. This planet will never know peace so long as a villain such as Apocalypse lived, but Zordon didn't know what to do. So, he decided to sit and wait before taking action against Apocalypse. It is a decision he will live to regret.
As the months passed, Apocalypse had increased in power exponentially. His forces were multiplied by genetic experiments, and so he was a match for any nation's army. Actually, the nations of the world couldn't stop Apocalypse from completely destroying the planet, try as they might. Zordon saw his chance to intervene vanish, and from then on he constantly thought of a way to save Earth. He waited for a sign of some sort, to show him the way. For once, Zordon did not know what to do.
The sign he had waited for for over a decade finally came, when Zordon sensed a faint ripple in the Morphin Grid.
"ALPHA," said the old sage, "WHAT WAS THAT?"
"What was what?" asked the android, looking up to the head floating in the column of green light.
"I SENSED A FLICKER IN THE MORPHIN GRID. SOMEONE IS TRYING TO ACCESS THE POWER OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL."
"Aye yi yi!" shrieked Alpha Five in surprise, "Are you sure? Who even has the necessary link to the Morphin Grid to access its powers? We still have the Power Coins!"
"LOCATE THE SOURCE OF THE FLICKER. THERE MUST BE A DISTURBANCE SOMEWHERE. WE MUST FIND IT. THE FATE OF THE UNIVERSE DEPENDS ON IT."
"What do I do when I find it?"
"BRING IT HERE. I MUST LEARN HOW IT ACHIEVED A DIRECT LINK TO THE MORPHIN GRID."
Already miles away, Shadow stealthily makes his way to the entrance of a lone mansion, situated inside a small grassy plain in Westchester County. The mansion would attract unwanted attention, being the only intact building in the entire Tri-State Area, but thanks to a web of electromagnetic cloaking, the mansion isn't even noticed by the forces of Apocalypse. In fact, only a handfull of people know of this rebel hidden base. Shadow knows this base all too well.
Shadow pressed a few buttons on his belt, and his personal cloaking force field was adjusted to the same frequency as the one protecting the mansion, allowing the young scientist easy passage through the force field and onto the mansion's grounds. As he walks towards the mansion itself, he passes by a small plot of grassy land, with headstones standing tall. Shadow forced himself to look away when his eyes accidentally read the headstone of Trini Kwan, his wife. He was soon at the entrance to the mansion, and he activated the intercom system.
^Who's there?^ asked a voice with a strong British accent. Shadow couldn't help but smile.
"Its William, Nanny," he said into the speaker, "William Mitchell?"
^I remember you, Poppet,^ she answered, ^Come in! Its open.^
"Are any of the X-Men around? Why are you answering the door?"
^Magneto is in. The rest are gone. Come in, though. I'll let Erik explain matters to you.^
Billy pushed open the large wooden door, and was greeted by a short silver robotic nanny, with a large wheel instead of legs. She smiled up at Shadow, and wrapped him in a metallic embrace. Billy returned the hug fondly.
"How've you been, Poppet?" she asked him, "Its been months since I've seen you!"
"I'm well," he answered, "I see you are functioning optimally. How are the children?"
"I've been taking care of them all well. Come in, come in! Magneto is in his study. I know you're not here on a social call."
"I never am," said Billy, as he followed the robot into the mansion. He stopped in front of a closed door, and knocked once. When he received no answer, he gingerly opened the door. The room was mostly dark, but Billy's enhanced vision could easily make out a lone figure standing near the corner. The figure didn't move, but suddenly the lights came on. Billy could see the man more clearly now. He had shoulder-length white hair, pulled back into a ponytail, and he wore red and purple armor, with a long purple cape draped over his shoulders. He had a red helmet with purple trim under his arm.
"William," said the figure, turning around, "Its good to see you again."
"Hello, Erik," said William. He looked past the leader of the X-Men, and saw that he was standing beside a marble pedestal. Atop the pedestal was a stone bust of a bald man. Billy recognized the face, and he looked at Magneto questioningly.
"I know I told you about Charles Xavier before," said Magneto, touching the head. Billy nodded. "He saved my life twenty years ago. In doing so, he gave up his own. I learned not too long ago that this was never supposed to happen."
Billy raised his eyebrow at that statement. "What are you talking about, Erik? I thought you knew better than to believe in fate."
"Do I?" asked Erik, "What if I told you there is an infinity of alternate universes? But this universe was never meant to exist in the way it does now? It was ruined when a time-traveler went back in time, and changed the delicate flow of time by killing a major figure in the progression of human-mutant relations?"
"How did you learn of this?" asked Billy in surprise. Magneto smiled sadly.
"We encountered a mutant wanderer named Bishop," he explained, "Bishop claims he knows of another world, where Apocalypse doesn't reign over the populated Earth, and where humans and mutants aren't at war. He said that because Charles Xavier died, this world of promise was replaced by the horror we live in now. Its my fault, Will. If Charles hadn't tried to save me--"
"If there is one thing you taught me, Erik, its that you can't always place blame," said Billy, "You can't blame yourself for all the wrong done in the world. No man can take that kind of responsibility."
"Perhaps. But, you still blame me for the death of your wife, do you not? That is why you resigned from my X-Men, right?"
"No," said Billy quietly, "I never really blamed you specifically, Erik. I knew you couldn't have saved Trini, and you lost your daughter in that fight too. I blamed the whole world for that. It always seems like the innocent and pure must suffer the most. I've managed to finally forgive myself for not being there when Nemesis attacked. I took your advice to heart."
Magneto smiled at this. "I'm glad you've learned to live again, William. Why did you come?"
Billy then remembered why he came to New York in the first place. "Erik, two humans from another reality have arrived!"
"What?" asked Magneto in surprise, "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely," said Billy, "but while we were coming here, NightWolf was shot out of the sky. My friends are now fighting off a horde of vicious mutates!"
"Then, let's go," said Magneto, putting on his red helmet, "A handful of rebels can't survive Apocalypse's mutates for long. Whom did you bring?"
"Forge, the two travellers, and Nate Grey."
"Ah, the mysterious X-Man. Quickly, Shadow, we don't have much time."
With that, Magneto lifted his body off the ground. He flew through the halls, and out the front door. Shadow followed as quickly as he could on foot.
On the battle field, the armies of mutates relentlessly continue towards the four rebel warriors. Kimberly and Zack continue to fire their energy weapons, while Nate Grey showers the enemy with telekinetic bolts of energy, and Forge mounts his bazooka for another powerful shot. What the four heroes don't realize is that a group of five mutates teleport behind their backs. The mutates approach the unwary rebels cautiously. Fortunately, Nate's telepathic sense warns him of the danger.
"Guys!" he called, "Behind you!"
Forge spun around just in time to see the large lizard-like mutate leap at him like a lion pounces on a wounded antelope. Forge struggled against the superior strength of the monster, holding his bazooka against the mutate as a shield. Kimberly and Zack quickly came to help, leaving Nate alone to fend off the approaching army.
"I've got to keep them back!" he declared, "Maybe a TK shield will do the trick!"
The few yards of dead land surrounding the four heroes and the five attacking mutates was surrounded by a translucent bubble of blue light. Try as they might, the creatures outside couldn't break the barrier of telekinetic energy that the X-Man had erected. Nate struggled in agony as the hordes of monsters pounded on the force field in rage, leaving Forge, Kimberly, and Zack to deal with the intruding mutates.
"I'll get Forge!" said Zack, running towards Forge, who was still struggling against the mutate, "Cover me!"
"You got it!" said Kimberly, aiming her pistol at the remaining four mutates. They did not seem to fear Kimberly's weapon, and continued their approach. Kimberly opened fire, but these mutates were more durable than the armies outside, and managed to take the hits without sustaining much damage.
Zack pounded the mutate atop Forge with his energy rifle, causing it to turn its attention away from its original prey. It growled, and swatted Zack away like a gnat. It then leapt at Zack angrily, but Zack managed to strike it with a burst of energy from his rifle. Because of the close proximity, the energy fired was enough to kill the mutate. Forge rose to his feet, and turned around when he heard Kimberly shriek. He saw two mutates attacking her from two sides. He aimed his bazooka carefully, but he couldn't keep a good aim with Kimberly being so close to them.
"Zack," he said, "keep the other two mutates back. Kim! Move!"
Both teenagers obeyed, and Kimberly proceeded to confuse the two mutates by performing a series of hand-springs. She managed to get far enough away from them for Forge to open fire, obliterating the two mutates with a sphere of pulsing energy. Kimberly jogged over to Forge, who prepared to fire his weapon at the two mutates Zack was barely managing to hold back with the energy rays of his rifle. With another powerful shot, the two remaining mutates were reduced to dust, leaving the four heroes inside the telekinetic bubble.
"Guys," said Nate in a strained voice, "I... I can't keep this up much longer!"
"What do we do?" asked Zack, "We can't fight these things forever!"
Then, everyone heard a powerful explosion from outside the force field. The energy release temporarily blinded them, stopping them from seeing what was occuring outside the field. Once the dust settled from the explosion, there was an eerie silence. Then, everyone heard a knock on the TK bubble.
"Billy!" Kim cried, "Where did you go?"
Nate dropped his telekinetic shield, and Shadow approached them, smiling. He pointed up to the sky, where a lone figure with red and purple armor floated overhead. "I got reinforcements. Kim and Zack, this is Erik Lehnsherr, also known as Magneto, the leader of the X-Men. He destroyed the ship overhead, and the explosion was enough to wipe out the remaining mutates on the ground. That, and a little additional explosives of my own design--"
Before Billy could finish his sentence, the six heroes vanished from their position in streaks of light-- white, yellow, blue, brown, black and red.
Within the towering fortress that serves as the castle to the emperor of North America, Apocalypse sits inside his private chambers, contemplating the gemstone that sits across the chamber from him. It is about as large as a person, but it is missing a fragment. There is a rather large hole in it, and Apocalypse believes he has finally figured out what it is. He has called his most trusted Horseman to his side-- his son Holocaust. The large and powerful creature obeyed his father's call, and entered the chambers.
"You summoned me, Father?"
"Yes," said Apocalypse, "Do you recall when my forces found this crystal?"
"Of course, Father. It was years ago, when the state of California was destroyed. It was buried deep under the ground, right in the heart of a small city. Why do you ask?"
"Have you ever heard of the legend of the M'Kraan Crystal?"
"Well, I have. I first heard it millenia ago, when I was still an ignorant Egyptian slave, not knowing the powers I possessed. It is said that when the crystal is united, the world will change."
"In what way?"
"It doesn't matter!" said Apocalypse, standing up, "My empire is thriving quite nicely. I am already all-powerful, and there are none who can stand up to me! I do not want my empire compromised by this gemstone."
"What shall I do, then?"
"Destroy it," said Apocalypse, sitting back down, "Immediately."
Holocaust nodded, and snapped his fingers. Two human slaves dressed in rags entered the room, bowed before both Holocaust and his father, and lifted the large gem. They slowly carried the crystal out of the chambers.
Magneto, Shadow, the X-Man, and Forge look around in absolute puzzlement. They are inside a darkened chamber, with a series of advanced computer stations set up in a circle. Within that circle is a short gold and red robot with a golden head that looked most like two cymbals clasped together. What was even more peculiar was the large bodyless head, floating within a glass cylinder with a greenish tint.
What was perhaps the most startling thing was that their two young companions, Kimberly Hart and Zack Taylor, weren't surprised by their sudden teleport, nor their unordinary surroundings.
"GREETINGS," said the head, "I AM ZORDON OF ELTAR, AND THIS IS MY ASSISTANT, ALPHA FIVE. YOU HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO MY COMMAND CENTER BY MEANS OF TELEPORTATION."
"Zordon!" said Kim excitedly, "I haven't seen you in ages!"
"Do you know how to send us back home?" asked Zack.
"Aye yi yi!" shrieked Alpha, "Do you know us?"
"Of course we do!" said Kimberly, "In our reality, you two banded the Power Rangers together over two years ago. I was the Pink Ranger, and Zack was the Black Ranger."
"Eventually, the Power Coins were destroyed, along with the entire Morphin Grid," continued Zack, "so you told us to use the Zeo Crystal to fight evil with. Now we're the Yellow and White Terran Rangers, powered by nature's elements."
"THAT EXPLAINS THE DISTORTION I SENSED IN THE MORPHIN GRID."
"Distortion?" asked Zack.
"YES. I FELT SOMEONE TRY TO ACCESS THE POWER OF THE GRID EARLIER. DID YOU ATTEMPT TO MORPH?"
"Yes!" said Kimberly, "Do you know why it didn't work?"
"IT IS POSSIBLE THAT YOUR ATTEMPT TO ACCESS THE POWER OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL WAS BLOCKED, BECAUSE THERE ALREADY IS A ZEO CRYSTAL IN THIS DIMENSION. SO YOUR CRYSTAL'S ENERGIES ARE NULL AND VOID HERE. THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE ZEO CRYSTAL IN A DIMENSION. TOO MUCH OF ITS ENERGIES COULD CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE TO THE MULTIVERSE."
"So you do know about the Multiverse!" said Zack, "Can you send us home?"
"THERE IS NO WAY FOR ME TO BE ABLE TO DETECT YOUR HOME DIMENSION."
"Excuse me," said Magneto, stepping forward and looking up at Zordon, "If you know so much about this 'Multiverse', perhaps you also know of the M'Kraan Crystal?"
Zordon remained quiet for a few moments. "INDEED. BUT HOW DID YOU LEARN OF IT?"
"The legend of the M'Kraan Crystal is as ancient as the legend of the lost city of Atlantis, or the Fountain of Youth. But it was never anything more than a legend to me until a traveler of the Multiverse named Bishop told me that Apocalypse's empire was never to have existed, that a critical figure in history was killed before his time. That single event caused the domino effect that led to this desolate world in which we live. He told me that the only way to repair the damage done is to unite the M'Kraan Crystal with its long missing shard. It has the power to heal this dead world."
"THE M'KRAAN CRYSTAL HAS INFINITE POWER, MAGNETO. IT IS THE NEXUS OF REALITY, AND IT IS CAPABLE OF UNDOING ALL THE DAMAGE DONE BY MULTIVERSAL TRANSIT. HE WHO OWNS THE ENTIRE CRYSTAL IS MASTER OVER THE IMPOSSIBLE. WHAT IS REALITY AND WHAT IS NOT IS SOLELY UP TO HIM."
"So, what happens if we unite the M'Kraan Crystal?" asked Shadow.
"I DO NOT KNOW EXACTLY, BUT I DO KNOW THAT THE UNIVERSE WILL CHANGE. WHATEVER AFFECTS MULTIVERSAL TRANSIT HAD WOULD BE ERASED. FOR EXAMPLE, ANY TRAVELLERS EITHER FROM THE FUTURE, THE PAST, OR ANOTHER DIMENSION WOULD NOT BE REMEMBERED, AND THEIR DEEDS WILL HAVE NEVER HAPPENED."
"If rejoining the crystal is the only way to repair the damage done, then so be it," said Magneto.
"But we have no idea what the ramifications are!" protested Forge, "History would have turned out completely different! We don't even know what changes will be made!"
"No matter what changes this new world will bring, it must be better than living here," said Shadow solemnly, "We must go get the Zeo Crystal, and bring the two pieces together. Perhaps it really can undo all the evil Apocalypse has done."
"YOU CANNOT TOUCH THE ZEO CRYSTAL," announced Zordon, "ONLY ONES PROTECTED BY THE POWER CAN WIELD THE POWER OF THE CRYSTAL. THAT IS WHY I CREATED THE MORPHIN GRID-- SO WHEN THE CHOSEN ONES ARE READY, THEY CAN GRADUALLY BE INTRODUCED TO THE POWER. BUT I NEVER SELECTED MY TEAM OF MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, BECAUSE APOCALYPSE'S ATTACK WAS TOO QUICK AND UNEXPECTED."
"But, Kimberly and I are two Terran Rangers!" said Zack, "We are already habituated to the powers of the Zeo Crystal! Maybe we were sent here to retrieve the Zeo Crystal, and combine it with the rest of this M'Kraan Crystal."
"That makes sense," said Alpha. Zordon remained silent.
"VERY WELL. YOU DO NOT HAVE YOUR POWERS, BUT THERE SHOULD BE NOTHING TO ATTACK YOU IN THE CAVES. YOU MUST REMEMBER THAT YOU BOTH WILL HAVE TO FACE YOUR WORST FEARS, TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE WORTHY. ALPHA, SEND KIMBERLY AND ZACHARY TO THE CAVES OF DECEPTION, WHERE THE ZEO CRYSTAL IS HIDDEN. MAY THE POWER PROTECT YOU BOTH."
Alpha nodded, and the two rangers vanished in streaks of light, leaving Nate, Magneto, Forge, and the Shadow in the Command Center.
Kimberly and Zack found themselves inside a dense fog, within a dank cave. They could look outside the mouth of the cave to see the barren surface of the moon.
"Its funny," said Kimberly, "I kinda expected to see Rita and Zedd's palace up here."
"In this dimension, they never attacked Earth," said Zack, "and I can see why. This planet is really a mess."
"I'm certainly glad our Earth isn't like this," said Kimberly.
"And its up to us to make sure it never does. Let's go."
The first few minutes were rather uneventfull. Kimberly and Zack walked cautiously, side by side, through the tunnels. Then, there was a fork in the road.
"Which way?" asked Zack. Kim frowned.
"I guess we'll have to split up," she said, "I'll go left, you go right. Good luck!"
"You too," called Zack, as she disappeared in the fog. He continued in his path, until he saw a dark shadow approaching. He stared at the shadow curiously, and his eyes widened when the form that cast the shadow peeked out from around the corner. Zack yelped as his eyes fell upon a huge, hairy spider creature, with eight legs each about six feet long. Zack turned to run away, but he noticed that the path he just walked down was no longer there. He was trapped in a small square room with a huge spider monster.
"I HATE spiders!" he moaned, leaning up against a wall. He tried his best not to scream in panic as the monster came closer, its fangs dripping with venom. Zack closed his eyes, and remembered what Zordon had told him:
YOU DO NOT HAVE YOUR POWERS, BUT THERE SHOULD BE NOTHING TO ATTACK YOU IN THE CAVES. YOU MUST REMEMBER THAT YOU BOTH WILL HAVE TO FACE YOUR WORST FEARS, TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE WORTHY...
This must all be a test! he reasoned, trying to see whether or not I can face my fears! Well, I'm one step ahead of ya, Slimey!
Zack opened his eyes, and walked towards the apparition confindently.
"I'm not afraid of you!" he declared to the monster, "The only spiders that size are Rita and Zedd's monsters, and I've trashed enough of them not to worry!"
The shade vanished, and a pathway appeared for Zack to advance.
Not too far away, Kimberly reached a step in her path. But it was about five feet up, and she couldn't hop over it easily. She tried to climb up, but she couldn't get a grip on the slick surface.
"Need a hand, Beautiful?" came a voice from behind. Kimberly turned around in surprise, and saw Tommy Oliver leaning against the stone wall with a smirk on his face.
"Tommy?" she asked warily, "You can't be here!"
"Oh, can't I?" he said, walking up to her, "Why not? After all, someone needs to be here to help you out! Without me to save your tail, you would have been dead years ago!"
Kim frowned angrily at that statement. "I know you're not Tommy," she snapped, "He'd never talk to me, or anyone else, like that!"
"Are you sure?" he asked her, "Maybe I'm just tired of you! Always getting into trouble! I was glad to see you leave last summer! I was tired of always having to check twice, making sure you didn't need help!"
Kimberly's fury knew no bounds, but she tried to calm herself before she flew off the handle-- and before her foot flew into her tormentor's face.
Easy, Kim, you know that's not Tommy. Zordon said we'd be tested, and that's all this is! Tommy would never say that anyway, and you know you're not a liability! You're not the toughest fighter, but you do well enough, and you've saved the guys every now and then!
"Go away!" Kim yelled, "You're not shattering my self-esteem, buddy! I can get past this obstacle without you!"
With that, Kimberly stepped back, preparing to leap up to the higher plane with a running start. But when she began to run, she noticed the step wasn't as high as she had first thought. Rather, it was only about a foot off the ground, and Kim passed over it without breaking her stride. She looked back, and saw that the Tommy apparition had vanished.
"That wasn't as hard as I thought it would be!" she said as she continued. As she walked, she saw another form, clad mostly in white, standing in front of a large stone wall. Kim approached him slowly, and tried to wave away the smog that occluded her vision.
"Zack!" she said, "Is that you?"
"Yup," he said with a smile, "I guess both pathways lead to the same place."
"How do we get by?"
"I was hoping you'd have a suggestion."
"Well," said Kimberly, "the monsters are fake, and even some of the walls are fake. Maybe this one is too?"
"Couldn't hurt to try," said Zack, holding up his hand. His hand passed through the wall effortlessly. Zack smiled and stepped through, with Kim right on his heels. They emerged in a large chamber, where a shining gem that looked like a large, jagged diamond stood upon a pedestal of pure white marble. They both approached it cautiously.
"Is this the Zeo Crystal?" asked Kimberly. Zack shrugged.
"I never saw the whole thing," he said, "but what else can it be?"
"Can we touch it?" asked Kim.
"Only one way to find out. On the count of three. One. Two. Three!"
Both teens laid their hands upon the crystal, and as soon as their skin made contact, they vanished.
"How long can it possibly take them to retrieve the Zeo Crystal?" asked Nate impatiently, "I'm getting stir-crazy in here!"
"KIMBERLY AND ZACHARY MUST PASS THE TEST OF THE CAVES OF DECEPTION," said Zordon, the wise alien wizard and owner of the Command Center, "THEY MUST BE TRUE-HEARTED, AND CONFIDENT. NOT JUST ANYONE CAN PASS THE TEST, AND EARN THE ZEO CRYSTAL. YOU MUST BE PATIENT."
"Stay calm, Nate," said Shadow, "This isn't our fight. Its Kim and Zack's."
Magneto couldn't help but smile when he heard those words of wisdom coming from Billy. Magneto had uttered them to the young man many times before, back when Billy was a member of the X-Men. Billy lacked discipline, most likely because of all that he had to endure during his young life. All his friends had died, and he was alone in the world. Magneto decided to take it upon himself to train the young man to harness his bitterness and anger that he felt towards the world, and use it to make said world a better place. Billy did indeed learn from Magneto, and the leader of the X-Men grew very proud of Billy. Billy had succeeded in earning Magneto's respect, a thing which is not easy to do. He didn't let the horrors that happened to him in youth prevent him from taking a stand against evil.
Suddenly, in a flash of light, both Magneto and Nate Grey vanished. Shadow and Forge looked around in confusion.
"Erik?" said Shadow, "Nate?"
"What happened to them?" Forge asked Zordon.
"I AM NOT CERTAIN. ALPHA FIVE, CAN YOU LOCATE THE TWO MISSING PERSONS?"
"I'll try," said Alpha, turning to the computers.
"Here, Alpha," said Shadow, standing beside the small robot, "Let me give you a hand. The basic layout of these systems seems simple enough..."
Kimberly, Zack, Nate, and Magneto stand in a room that is completely white. The floor tiles were as white as newly fallen snow, and so was the ceiling and the walls. The curtains were also white, and where soft as silk. The only thing not white was the view from outside the large window that took up an entire wall. Outside, the sky was pitch black, but for small streaks of colored light that spotted the blackness much like stars illuminate the night sky on Earth. Obviously, the four heroes were not on Earth.
"What happened?" asked Nate, "Where are we?"
"I don't know," said Kim, "We just got here."
"We found the Zeo Crystal," said Zack, "and I guess it sent us here."
"Then why are Nate and I here?" asked Magneto, "We were in the Command Center moments ago."
"You are all here because I sent for you," said a voice in their heads. It was like telepathy, but on a grander level. The voice was soft and gentle, but at the same time authoritative and a little intimidating. The silken curtains parted, and a tall, slender woman wearing white robes and golden jewels stepped out. She glided across the room, and stood before her visitors. Her skin was olive, and her dark almond eyes seemed to exude an intelligence and wisdom far beyond that of any human. Her long black hair was tied back in a tight ponytail held by a golden clasp, and her pointed ears perked slightly.
"I am Roma, the Guardian of the Multiverse," she said, "I brought the four of you to my palace in the dimension Otherworld, the center of the Multiverse. From here, one can go anywhere in the Multiverse."
"Why are we here?" asked Kimberly.
"You, Kimberly Hart, and your companion Zachary Taylor are here because you were destined to come. As you know, Apocalypse now has the M'Kraan Crystal. He means to destroy it before it can be united. He learned of the legend of the crystal, and has taken it seriously."
"What is the legend?" asked Zack.
"Eons ago, there was no travel between universes. There should not be, because Multiversal travel is often quite damaging to the timestream. Each dimension has an M'Kraan Crystal, which is the doorway from that dimension to the Multiverse. When the M'Kraan Crystal is whole, there is no travel from one dimension to another, with the exception of the gateway from Otherworld. However, many of the M'Kraan Crystals splintered, because of a great war that took place in one particular dimension-- the dimension Kimberly and Zack originate from.
"A greatly powerful villain sought the power of the M'Kraan Crystal from his dimension, in the hopes that he could gain ultimate power. He managed to steal it from the race granted permission to keep it safe-- the Eltarians. In his battle with the Eltarians, the villain cast a spell, breaking off a piece of it, which is in your dimension called the Zeo Crystal. By doing so, he created a ripple in space-time, and so each and every M'Kraan Crystal in the Multiverse splintered. This created chaos, because for the first time, there was passage from one reality to another without regulation from Otherworld. Since I am the Guardian of the Multiverse, it was my responsibility to restore the various subcrystals to the whole, so unrestricted Multiversal transit could not occur. This occupation obviously took me centuries, since you cannot even imagine how many universes there are. I didn't have the opportunity to punish the vile creature who managed to wreak such havoc upon the Multiverse, but I did manage to track down the crystal and its shard in that one universe, where this mess all began. The evil villain stole the M'Kraan Crystal, and only he knows of its whereabouts. But he certainly searches for the shard, because that is all that stands between him and absolute power. The M'Kraan Crystal is a very potent weapon, and if he should obtain the entire crystal, none will be able to destroy him. Even without the entire crystal, though, he is a mighty foe, and I decided to help the Eltarians find a way to combat him by giving the fragment crystal, now called Zeo, to an Eltarian wizard. I chose Zordon."
"Wait," said Zack, "back up for a sec. I thought by reuniting the two crystals, all the damage done would be undone. If that's the case, then why would anyone be trying to get the whole crystal? Wouldn't that undo this world as we know it?"
"In order to repair the damage done by Multiversal transit, the crystal must be returned to Otherworld. All universes must unite the crystal as quickly as possible, to prevent the entire Multiverse from collapsing. The Multiverse is an extremely fragile web of complex worlds, and a few reckless travellers can easily do extreme damage. Take your appearance here for example, Kimberly and Zachary. When Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd traveled through the Multiverse, they created a shockwave throughout. That is what created the random hole that brought you here. Multiversal transit must be limited because the majority of the beings in existence aren't capable of using the passage responsibly. Changing the timeline creates alternate worlds, and the more worlds that exist, the more fragile the Multiverse becomes."
"Okay," said Nate, "So, you want us to recombine the Zeo Crystal with the M'Kraan Crystal, and return the completed gem to you here?"
"Precisely. Once the gemstone is returned to me, then all the damage done to the timestream because of Multiversal transit will be null and void. In order to do so, however, you shall need power. You four, along with Forge and Shadow, will not be able to defeat Apocalypse unless you are aided."
"My X-Men will be able to help--"
"Only those protected by the Power can wield the Zeo Crystal safely,"interrupted Roma, "That is why Kimberly and Zachary are here now. The only problem is that they cannot access their Terra powers in this dimension, because there already is a Zeo Crystal here."
"So, we're powerless?" asked Zack.
"Not if I alter the Zeo shards inside your body, to harness a different kind of power. That is why I have sent for the X-Man and Magneto. Magneto, please take Zachary's hand. X-Man, please take Kimberly's hand."
Everyone looked at each other questioningly, but none dared to question the command of the Multiversal Guardian. Magneto held Zack's hand, while Nate held Kimberly's hand. Roma then pointed one index finger at Nate, and one at Magneto. Ribbons of energy poured out from her fingers, and into the two mutants. The energy passed through them painlessly, and passed into Kimberly and Zack through their tactile connection with Nate and Magneto. When the energy reached Kim and Zack, they both cried out in agony, and fell to the ground, clutching their chests above their hearts. Roma stopped the flow of energy, and turned away. Nate and Magneto watched helplessly as Kim and Zack continued to writhe in pain.
"What did you do to them?!" shouted Nate angrily. Roma picked up the Zeo Crystal, and then turned back to the four humans.
"They are merely habituating to their new powers," said Roma, "So long as these two are in this dimension, they will not be able to call upon the power of Terra. So, they must be given a new power, that is independent of the Zeo Crystal. This new power is bonding with their Zeo shards as we speak."
"And what will the consequence of this transformation be?" asked Magneto.
"Watch and see."
Kimberly and Zack both quieted down, and soon they were completely motionless upon the white marble floor of Roma's palace. Then, Zack floated off the ground, and was planted on his feet. He stood straight and tall, with no expression at all on his face. He opened his eyes, and a silver light shot forth from them. The silver light immersed his entire body, and when the light faded, he was wearing silver armor, with a black stripe going down the middle of his chest. He had arm bands that stretched from his wrist to his shoulder, as well as a large belt. He also had a metal collar, connected to two pieces of armor at his shoulders. The, arm bands, collar, belt, and shoulderpads were of a highly-reflectant black metal. His helmet was black and silver, and his boots, which reached his knees, were black with bands of silver.
Then, Kimberly floated off the ground, and stood beside Zack. When her eyes opened, a flash of golden light shot forth, and bathed her in blinding light. The light transformed her clothing, dressing her in a shimmery gold form-fitting armor, with a black stripe going down the center of her chest, from the black-metallic collar down to the black belt she wore. She also had black armbands, shoulderpads, and knee-length boots, with stripes of gold. Her helmet was gold and black.
The two rangers stood side by side, neither one moving, until Roma nodded her head once. Then, they suddenly woke up, and stared at each other in surprise.
"What... what happened to you?" asked Kimberly, staring at Zack.
"Me? Look at YOU!"
Both teens removed their helmets slowly, and examined their costumes with the utmost curiosity. Then, they simultaneously turned towards Roma.
"You are no longer the Yellow and White Terran Rangers," she declared, "I have altered your Zeo crystals at a molecular level. This transformation will only wear off once the six shards are re-combined to form the Zeo Crystal. You will still be able to use your Terra Zords as well as weapons, even though you will not be able to control the force of the elements. From this day forward, you are the X-Rangers."
"X-Rangers?" repeated Zack.
"Yes. I have channeled the mutant powers of your companions into your Zeo shards, as if you possessed the X-Factor yourselves. Therefore, you are X-Rangers."
"So, we're mutants?" asked Kimberly.
"No, for in order to be a mutant, you must be born with these powers. However, you do have access to your new powers when not morphed, but only in a limited sense. When you morph, your abilities are magnified tremendously. Zachary Taylor, formerly the Black Power Ranger and White Terran Ranger, you are X-Ranger One, in command of magnetism."
"Whoa," said Zack, clenching his fist. It began to glow with silver light, and pulled the metal in all the others' costumes towards him. Zack relaxed his hand, and the magnetic pull ceased. "Cool."
"Kimberly Hart," continued Roma, "formerly the Pink Power Ranger and the Yellow Terran Ranger, you are X-Ranger Two, in command of telepathy and telekinesis."
Kimberly smiled enthusiastically. "Thank you, Roma."
Roma smiled at all four, and held out the Zeo Crystal to Kimberly. "Here. Go back to Earth, and combine this crystal with the larger M'Kraan Crystal. Once this is done, simply hold onto the completed crystal, and envision the throne room you see now. The crystal will bring you here."
Kimberly strapped her helmet back on, and held the Zeo Crystal with both hands. Zack put his helmet back on as well. Roma turned to Magneto and Nate.
"You two, along with Forge and Shadow, are to make sure the X-Rangers reach the M'Kraan Crystal. Your powers will not be weakened in the least from the power transfer. I merely used your powers as the templates to create theirs."
"It shall be done," said Magneto, "Apocalypse's reign of terror is over at last!"
Roma waved her hand, and a black portal appeared against the wall. The Gold and Silver X-Rangers, Nate Grey, and Magneto all leapt in one at a time.
"I... I just don't understand!" said Shadow angrily, "They're gone! There's no trace of Nate, nor Erik, anywhere! What is the limit of these scanners, Alpha?
"These scanners are capable of reaching every corner of the Earth!" he answered.
"Then, its safe to say they aren't on Earth," said Forge.
Just then, a black portal appeared in the center of the room, and four beings stepped through. Two of them were Magneto and the X-Man, but the other two were unfamiliar.
"Who are they?" asked Forge. The Gold Ranger placed the Zeo Crystal on a consol, and together, she and the Silver Ranger removed their helmets.
"I SEE YOU HAVE RETRIEVED THE ZEO CRYSTAL," said Zordon, "BUT HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO RECEIVE NEW POWERS?"
"Roma gave them to us," said Zack.
"Aye yi yi!" shrieked Alpha Five, "You actually saw the Multiversal Guardian?!"
"Yeah," said Kimberly, "She teleported us to Otherworld as soon as we found the Zeo Crystal. She gave us these new powers, and told us how to fix everything! Once we place the Zeo Crystal inside the M'Kraan Crystal, we can teleport it to Otherworld, and then, Roma will send us home!"
"AND WHAT ARE THESE NEW POWERS ROMA GAVE YOU?"
"I control magnetism," said Zack.
"And I'm a telepath and telekinetic," said Kimberly.
"INTERESTING. ROMA RE-CREATED THE POWERS OF MAGNETO AND NATE GREY IN YOU?"
"I guess," said Zack.
"So," said Shadow, "Now that we have the Zeo Crystal, can we get going? Apocalypse keeps the M'Kraan Crystal inside his headquarters. We'd better get moving."
"Let's go!" said Kimberly, putting her helmet back on. She then picked up the Zeo Crystal. "Zordon, could you teleport us as close to Apocalypse's palace as you can?"
"CERTAINLY. ALPHA, PREPARE THE TELEPORTER."
"Yes, Zordon," said Alpha, pressing buttons, "teleporting now."
Kimberly, Zack, Nate, Magneto, Shadow, and Forge all vanished in streaks of colored light. The Zeo Crystal itself vanished in a rainbow colored flash of light.
In Angel Grove Park, a rather large, powerful-looking creature amused himself by terrorizing the people who took advantage of the beautiful winter afternoon by relaxing by the lake. Presently, its not doing anything important, basically because it was sent to Earth by Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa for one purpose-- to destroy the Terran Power Rangers. The two evil alien rulers who presently reside upon the moon are well aware that Kimberly and Zack vanished, and that Adam is incapacitated. To put it simply, no villain in his right mind would pass up this golden opportunity, and vanquish the three remaining rangers. So, a large creature, vaguely resembling a wooly mammoth, was sent to Earth to do the job. This creature was about eight feet when it stood upright, and it was covered in thick dark fur. On its face was a powerful trunk, and two long, sharp tusks, each about as thick as a person's leg, and about that length. This physical feature is what dubbed him Tusk.
In a bright flash of multicolored light, the Blue, Black, and Red Terran Rangers appeared in the park. It didn't take them long to find the creature, simply by following the screams of the innocent civilian who were in the wrong place as the wrong time. The Red Ranger stepped forward, and hereby took command.
"Blue Ranger," he ordered, being wary of the dozen or so people nearby, "make sure these people get clear from the area! I don't want anyone hurt! Black Ranger, you're with me."
"Right," said the Blue Ranger, her voice revealing a subtle but clear Australian accent. She tried to calm the panicking populace, and led them as far away from the lake as possible, where the creature seemed to be waiting. The Red and Black Rangers quickly caught up to the monster.
"Ah," said the monster in a deep rumble, "The Power Rangers have finally decided to grace me with their esteemed presence."
"We're here to send you back to Zedd and Rita!" threatened the Black Ranger, "In pieces."
Both rangers simultaneously held their right hands to the sky, and at their silent command, their Terra Weapons appeared in their hands. Jason brandished his Earth Sword, while Tommy firmly gripped his Flame Saber. The Red Ranger nodded, and the two young men rushed the large monster, holding their weapons high. But Tusk was surprisingly fast for a creature of his size, and dodged the Red Ranger's low strike, and at the same time hindered the Black Ranger's high attack by catching the ranger with its powerful trunk, and tossing him into the lake. Now, Tusk focused his attention on the Red Ranger, and blocked all Tommy's sword strikes with his razor sharp tusks. While the two fenced, the Blue Ranger appeared nearby, and saw that Tommy was at a serious disadvantage. She ran towards them, and pointed at Tusk with her hand. In answer to her command, a stream of water from the river leapt forth, and plowed into Tusk with all the fury of nature. The stream was so accurate that Tommy wasn't even sprayed.
"Tommy," said Kat, running to him, "are you okay?"
"Yeah," he answered, "Perfect timing."
"Where's Jason?" she asked, looking around for the Black Ranger. Tommy looked towards the lake, and saw a dark form on the shore not too far from them.
"Over there!" Tommy said, "C'mon, he may be hur--"
Before Tommy could finish his statement, he felt a sharp object pierce his back. His uniform protected him, though, and prevented the object from slicing right through him and coming out the other side. Katherine shrieked as she saw Tusk lift Tommy by the tusk, and toss him into a group of bushes opposite the lake. Tusk laughed, as red blood dripped from his ivory tusk.
"Those uniforms are certainly tough to penetrate," he said in a deep, earth-rattling voice, "but I'm sure I can cut deep enough."
Tusk trust his tusks at Kat, but she nimbly back-flipped out of harm's way. She ducked low, to avoid Tusk's next attack, and stretched up to kick him in the chin. He wasn't hurt, but he was stunned just long enough for Katherine to summon her Ice Daggers. Tusk quickly reached out with his trunk, and wrapped it around Kat's waist in a powerful squeeze. Kat gasped as she felt the oxygen forced out of her lungs.
"Now I've got you right where I want you!" Tusk declared, as he raised the Blue Ranger as high as he could, and slammed her against the hard ground with all his might. He lifted her again, and once again slammed her into the dirt. Unbeknownst to him, the Black Ranger was regaining consciousness from nearly drowning minutes before.
"Kat..." he whispered, shaking his head to focus his thoughts, "Gotta act fast!"
The Black Ranger stood up, and pointed his Earth Sword at Tusk. Invisible waves of seismic energy pulsed forth across the water, and slammed into Tusk's back. Tusk was shaken by the attack, and accidentally dropped Kat. Suddenly, the ground itself came to life, and four walls of dirt and rock stretched forth from the earth and enclosed Tusk within them. Jason collected his bearings and ran to Katherine, who was lying unconscious on the ground. He checked her pulse, and breathed a little easier when he determined she was alive, although the wind was knocked out of her. Jason then looked towards the bushes, and saw the Red Ranger step toward him slowly.
"What happened, Bro?" asked Jason, leaving Kat to help Tommy. Tommy leaned on Jason's broad shoulder, and Jason saw the blood drip from the wound. "Tommy, you're hurt!"
"I'll be okay," said Tommy, "Its just a flesh wound. I'm a little dizzy is all. We need a minute to get it together."
"I don't think we'll have a minute," said Jason, glancing towards the earthen prison that temporarily held their enemy. It wasn't long before a long crack appeared on the face of one of the walls.
Aisha Campbell is biting her nails nervously as her total attention is monopolized by the events occurring on the Viewing Globe. She witnessed in horror as Jason plunged into the lake, Tommy was stabbed in the back, and Katherine was slammed against the shore. Aisha's face contorted into a determined frown when she saw her friends push past the pain of their injuries to continue the fight. She turned around, and saw Billy and her father Doctor Benjamin Campbell wash their gloves from the Adam's blood. It was easy to tell that the operation was over.
"Is he okay?" she asked, walking towards them.
"He should be," said Doctor Campbell, taking off his face mask and looking down at his daughter, "We managed to take out the Zeo crystal shard as delicately as possible, and with minimal incisions. Then, Billy used some kind of device to close the wound. It left a sizeable scar, as you can see."
Aisha looked down at her friend, and cringed at the scar that ran along Adam's bare chest.
"The scar will fade," said Billy, who was washing off the Zeo crystal in a basin of water, "Now that the crystal is out of the way, I have programmed the Med-unit to repair all of Adam's internal tissue damage, as well as the external scarring. He should be good as new in less than an hour."
"That's good," said Aisha, "Too bad I can't say the same for the others."
"What do you mean?" asked Doctor Campbell, "The fight isn't going well?"
"That's an understatement," Aisha said with a sigh, "Kat, Jason, and Tommy have all been injured, and Tusk is as powerful as ever! They're not used to fighting such a vicious monster without help!"
"Now that Adam has been taken care of," said Billy, hurrying over to his desk, "perhaps I can try the Multiversal Scanner. Hopefully, the Multiversal passageway had calmed down enough for us to get a clear reading. If so, we may be able to locate Kimberly and Zack."
"Somehow, I doubt we'll be so lucky," Aisha muttered, turning back to the Viewing Globe. She watched silently as the monster broke out of its earthen prison, and began its attack again in earnest. But Katherine was still unconscious, and Tommy and Jason were still a bit disoriented. They didn't have a good chance of coming out of this battle alive.
"Oh, I can't stand this!" Aisha suddenly yelled, frustration evident in her voice, "I feel so... helpless! I can't just sit here and watch this."
"Aisha," said Doctor Campbell, placing his arm around her shoulders, "The best thing you can do is be here for your friend Adam. The battlefield isn't your place anymore."
"Maybe it is," she said quietly, a sudden glimmer of inspiration in her dark eyes. She stepped away from her father, and looked intently at the green Zeo shard. Billy looked up from his computer, and jumped up immediately.
"Aisha!" he called, "What are you doing?!"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" she replied, turning to face Billy, "Tommy, Jason, and Katherine need help. We still have no idea how we can reach Kim and Zack, provided we even can reach them, and Adam sure isn't morphin anytime soon. That leaves one candidate... me."
"But, its not that simple!" Billy protested, hurrying to Aisha's side, "When the Terran Rangers were first formed, Zordon told us it was the destiny of the six rangers to receive the Power. Not just anyone can be a Terran Ranger."
"So I've heard. But, I have been a Power Ranger before. I should have the necessary bio-chemical alterations to let be absorb a crystal."
"But, each shard was destined for each ranger. I have no idea what the consequences of your absorbing the green shard will be."
"Then," she said, turning back to the gemstone, "there's only one way to find out."
Aisha reached out, and quickly grabbed the green gem. She cried out in pain as green energy pulsed from the gem, and into her hand and body. Suddenly, the wind in the Central Access Complex picked up, creating a cyclone around Aisha and preventing Doctor Campbell or Billy from getting near her. The wind continued to increase in intensity, and glowed with bright green light, until the entire chamber was filled with blinding green light. When it faded, and the wind slowly died down, both Doctor Campbell and Billy were surprised to see Aisha, still standing, and apparently in perfect health.
"Aisha!" said Doctor Campbell, visibly relieved, "Are you alright?"
"I feel... amazing," she said with a wide grin, "Like... I'm so invigorated! Its an even stronger feeling than I had when I first became the Yellow Power Ranger!"
"Wait a moment," said Billy, taking out a medical scanner, "If you don't mind, I'd like to run a few tests, and make sure there aren't any hidden side-effects to your absorbing Adam's crystal."
Billy collected some information with his scanner for a few minutes, while Aisha waited impatiently and Doctor Campbell watched worriedly. Finally, Billy turned off the scanner.
"Well, there aren't any obvious side-effects," he announced, "but I do want to run some more tests, to make sure I haven't missed anything."
"Maybe later," said Aisha, "Now, I have a tail to kick! TERRA WIND POWER!!" Aisha raised her hands to the sky, and a small green energy cyclone formed at her feet. The energy continued to build, until the cyclone bathed her entire body in bright green light. Then, when the cyclone reached its peak, it flashed a blinding shade of neon green, and then slowly died out. Where Aisha Campbell was standing, stood the new Green Ranger. She was wearing the form-fitting pure green uniform of her predecessor, with solid gold shield, white and green helmet, and white and gold boots and gloves. But, there were obvious differences. For instance, her boots reached her thighs, as opposed to the knee-high boots Adam wore. Also, she had a small skirt over the green spandex tights. In short, her uniform was a green version of Yellow and Blue Terra uniforms.
"Its time for the Green Terran Ranger to leap back into action!" she declared, as she vanished from the Central Access Complex in a streak of bright green light.
"Zordon managed to get us this close," whispered Nate, "Now, we have to do the rest."
"Where exactly are we going?" asked Magneto, "We know for certain that Apocalypse has possession of the M'Kraan Crystal, but we do not know where he is keeping it, and how many guards have been placed to protect it."
"The Zeo Crystal will guide us to the M'Kraan Crystal," said Kimberly, tightly holding the powerful gemstone, "But, we have to get inside..."
"We'll go through the sewer," said Shadow, peeking out from behind the boulder that hid them, and staring out into the darkness, "Fortunately, Zordon teleported us to the east wing, where the sewer entrance leading to the laboratory is. That is how Cyclops managed to sneak you and Zack out of the fortress."
"Then its settled," said Forge, "We'll enter the palace through the lab. Most likely there will be computers with vital information about the layout of the palace there."
"Then, there will also most likely be guards there," said Zack, "We'd better be really careful."
"How do we get all the way to the sewer, though?" asked Kimberly, "Without being seen, I mean."
"I could telepathically mask us," suggested Nate, "No one will be able to see or telepathically sense us."
"But that won't help much against the scanners," said Shadow with a frown.
"True," said Magneto, "but a magnetic pulse surrounding us will in essence cloak us from all kinds of mechanical scanning."
"Unfortunately, the magnetic distortion itself may be detected," said Forge, "But its our only option. We'll have to move quickly, and take down the magnetic shielding immediately."
"If we have two smaller magnetic shields, that may be harder to detect," said Zack, "How about me, Billy, and Kimberly go together, and you three follow? Kim can telepathically cloak us, and I can create the magnetic shield."
"Very well," said Magneto, "Be cautious. Are you sure you two know how to use your respective abilities effectively? You've only had them for less than an hour."
"The Power tells us how to use it," said Kimberly, "We can manage."
"Then, let's get going," said Nate.
The two groups of heroes stealthily and expertly snuck past Apocalypse's toops, and ducked into the large sewer opening, on their way to the lab of Apocalypse's head scientist Mister Sinister.
"I cannot BELIEVE you let them escape!!" roared the pale man with a red diamond upon his brow, "What kind of incompetent fool are you, McCoy?!"
"I apologize, Sinister," said the grey beast, "But I wasn't in the lab--"
"First of all, Hairball, its Mister Sinister to you," snarled Sinister, "Second, don't ever use that excuse! If you weren't in the lab, where were you?!"
"Prelate Summers asked me to check on our adamantium supply, to make sure we have enough for your new project, to bond a human skeleton with adamantium. The process was successfully downloaded from the depot in Canada, and we need a certain amount of the rare metal to insure success."
"Wait," said Sinister, stroking his ebony beard thoughtfully, "Scott told you to check the adamantium?"
"Hmm. I had asked him to check the adamantium supply personally. Why would he send you? Unless..."
Mister Sinister turned and briskly walked towards the door to the lab. "McCoy, if you see Cyclops, tell him to come to me in my study. Immediately."
"Yes, Sir," said the Dark Beast Henry McCoy, as his master leaves the lab. Once Sinister is out of earshot, McCoy growls vindictively, and turns to the computers.
"I'm tired of listening to that arrogant pest throw orders at me! I'm the true genius behind Apocalypse's armies! I spend hours in this laboratory, insuring that the mutate process runs smoothly. And now, he had the gaul to blame his son's betrayal on me?!"
"Whom are you talking to?" came a voice from just outside. McCoy turned swiftly, and saw Prelate Scott Summers enter the chamber.
"Just thinking out loud, Prelate," said McCoy with a fake smile, "So, where have you been?"
"Helping Holocaust with the disposal of that large crystal," he said, "Apocalypse wants it destroyed, but all the weapons at our disposal didn't even scratch it. Holocaust sent me here to retrieve a weapon that packs a bigger punch. Do you have anything?"
"Check in the weapons closet," said McCoy, pointing a sharp talon towards the other end of the laboratory, "I'm sure you'll find a nice energy rifle."
Cyclops nodded and headed into the closet. McCoy turned to return to his research, but his enhanced sense of hearing detected sounds nearby.
Strange, he thought, That sounded like it came... from beneath the laboratory. In the sewer?
McCoy activated the internal sensors, and soon detected six persons in the sewers just beneath the lab. A chilling grin crossed his monstrous face, and he pulled out a small energy weapon from beneath the lab table. It was kept there just in case.
"Here it is," whispered Shadow, "This is the laboratory."
"Well, let's go then!" said Zack, the Silver Ranger, "We don't have much time!"
"Wait," said Nate, "At least let me check, and make sure I can't detect anyone present in the lab. We may blow our cover."
"It won't work, Nate," said Shadow, "The lab is protected by psionic barriers. They were first installed to limit your powers when Sinister first created you. You won't be able to telepathically sense anything up there."
"Very well, William," said Magneto, "I shall go first."
Everyone stepped back as Magneto erected a tight force field around his body, and opened the grating. He quietly stepped through, into the laboratory. As soon as his entire body was through the opening, a tight blast of white energy struck him in the side, and flung the leader of the X-Men clear across the laboratory. He smashed into the wall right beside the weapons closet.
"Well," said McCoy, lowering the weapon and walking towards him, "What do we have here? What, pray tell, is the leader of the infamous X-Men doing crawling underneath the High Lord's stronghold like a worm?"
As McCoy passed the open grate, he was struck by a powerful kick to the face, and was thrown over a few lab tables, dropping his weapon. McCoy groaned and rose to stand, but a dark form drew two modified .50 AE Desert Eagle handguns and grinned at the Dark Beast. While he held McCoy with the weapons, Kimberly, Nate, Forge, and Zack hurried to where Magneto was lying.
"Hello McCoy," he said, "What's a slimey slob like you doing in a immaculate laboratory like this?"
"Taking care of a little pest problem," McCoy snarled, He raised his clawed hands to the air, and leaned against a computer consol. He grinned.
"I got you just where I wanted you," he laughed, slamming his fist on a large green button. Green gas began pouring through the vents, quickly blanketing the room with the knock-out gas. Nate, Forge, and Billy were soon on their knees coughing, but Kimberly and Zack were protected by their helmets, and were impervious to the gas' affects.
"I got this one," said Zack, pointing a finger at the metal grating that had blocked the entrance they came through. He magnetically bent the grating into a pole, and launched it through the thick smoke. It wrapped itself around the surprised Dark Beast, who nearly managed to escape the laboratory via the emergency route.
"How do we turn off this gas?" asked Kimberly, waving her hand in front of her face, "I can barely see a thing!"
Suddenly, the fan came on, and dispersed the thick fog within seconds. Billy, Forge, and Nate all soon recovered from their coughing fits, while Magneto still lay unconscious. "How did that happen?" asked Zack in surprise.
"Simple," said Cyclops, stepping out of the weapons closet, "There's a control for the ventilation system inside the closet."
"Why would you help us?" asked Kimberly suspiciously. Cyclops smiled.
"Because I helped save your lives not too long ago."
"I knew it!" cried McCoy, struggling against the band imprisoning him, "I knew you were a traitor! The High Lord will have your HEAD!!"
"Then, let him claim it," said Cyclops, holding up a large energy rifle, "But who will tell him of my betrayal? Dead men don't talk."
Dark Beast's eyes widened as they peered down the barrel of the large weapon. Kimberly gasped audibly.
"You're not going to kill him," she said, "Are you?"
"Well, either we kill him now, or he alerts Apocalypse of our presence," said Billy, "McCoy here is a slippery one. He'll find a way to escape any prison, and sound the alarm. We can't afford to take that kind of chance!"
Kimberly turned around, so she didn't have to watch as the lab assistant was killed with a swift shot in the forehead. Kimberly shuddered when she heard Dark Beast's now lifeless body fall limp to the ground. Zack gently lay a hand on her shoulder.
"Hey," he whispered, "You okay?"
"I... I'm fine," she breathed, "But I'm not comfortable with this cut-throat kind of fighting. I mean, I didn't like killing the Mutates, but they were pretty much already dead. Beast was evil, but he was a human being!"
"I know," Zack agreed, "I feel the same way. But the stakes are higher in the Age of Apocalypse."
Forge then walked over, supporting the weakened Magneto on his shoulder. "Now that we are inside the complex, where do we go now?"
"That's a good question," said Nate, turning to Cyclops, "Do you know where we can find the M'Kraan Crystal?"
Cyclops looked surprised. "Yes, its in a containment chamber in the west wing. I just came from there to get a weapon."
"For what purpose?" asked Forge.
"Apocalypse commanded that the M'Kraan Crystal be destroyed," Cyclops explained, "We weren't able to do it with conventional weapons, so Holocaust, the son of the High Lord, sent me to get a more potent weapon from the laboratory."
"How many children does Apocalypse have?" asked Zack, "I mean, according to that computer file Forge showed us, Apocalypse's only son was called Nemesis, or something like that."
"Holocaust is Nemesis," said Billy grimly, "Nemesis was severely injured not long after he murdered my wife in battle against me and the other X-Men. But he survived, and his father conducted experiments on him to save his life. Those experiments have left Nemesis completely dependent on an exo armor, which serves as an inpenetrable protection against any weapon. He changed his name to Holocaust, because the power given to him by his father is enough to complete the work Adolf Hitler started earlier this century-- to destroy the genetically 'impure'. Magneto refused to allow me to hunt down Holocaust, which is one reason why I subsequently left the X-Men."
"If Holocaust is truly that powerful, we'd better get to the M'Kraan Crystal before he succeeds in destroying it!" said Kimberly.
"Can you lead us to the containment chamber?" asked Forge.
"Yes," said Cyclops.
"Then let's go!" said Nate, starting towards the doorway.
"You had best leave me behind," said Magneto, who was still leaning on Forge, "The energy blast Dark Beast hit me with wasn't enough to fully penetrate my magnetic force field, but it was enough to weaken me. I will only slow you down."
"We can't just leave you here!" said Shadow.
"Once I am strong enough, I will follow you," said Magneto, "Now hurry!"
"He's right," said Cyclops, "we must leave. Magneto can take care of himself."
With that, Cyclops lead Nate, Kim, Zack, Forge, and Shadow through the mostly empty halls of the lower levels of the palace.
Katherine's eyes slowly opened, and the first thing she noticed was a throbbing pain on her head. Fortunately for her, her skull wasn't shattered, thanks to her protective helmet. Nonetheless, being repeatedly slammed into the ground is a painful experience.
"Why won't the ground stop moving?" he moaned, sitting up. She was near the shore of Angel Grove Lake, at the heart of the large park. Not too far away, the Black and Red Terran Rangers were battling the fiersome Tusk, Zedd's latest creation. Even though she still couldn't see straight, Kat could tell her teammates were losing this battle.
"Hey Kat!" called a familiar voice from behind, "Are you okay?"
"Aisha?!" said Kat in surprise, turning around. The Green Terran Ranger bent down, and helped her to her feet. "Why are you wearing Adam's costume?"
"You guys needed backup," Aisha explained, "and Adam's not going anywhere anytime soon. So, until he's back on his feet, I'm the Green Ranger."
"But, I thought only the six of us could use the Terra powers."
"Billy's looking for any side-effects," said Aisha, "but since I served as the Yellow Power Ranger, my body has sustained the necessary biochemical alterations for me to be able to support a Zeo shard. So far, so good. Can you stand, Kat?"
"I can do more than stand," she said, determination in her voice, "Let's break up this little testosterone party!"
"You got it!" said Aisha, a confident grin on her face, "Wind Shield!"
The silver and green shield with a spiral design on its face appeared in her hands. Aisha pointed the shield towards the fight, and the spiral began to turn. The faster it turned, the stronger the wind current that it created, until a powerful cyclone streamed forth, Both Jason and Tommy felt the wind pick up, and looked past the monster to see the Blue and Green Rangers. They both knew it was time to move.
"We'll be right back," said Tommy, flipping over the monster's head. Jason followed, and they both jogged out of harm's way. Before Tusk could figure out what was happening, he was trapped in the center of the powerful cyclone. The winds lifted him off the ground, and spun him at merciless speeds a few feet into the air.
"Boy," said Tommy, "am I glad to see a Green Ranger."
"You sure have a sense of timing, Aisha," said Jason, "Now, let's finish this!"
Jason and Tommy both lifted their Terra weapons into the air.
"But we can't build the Terran Tempest without the Thunderbow and Lance of Light!" said Katherine.
"Hopefully, we don't need that much raw power," said Tommy, "Double wammy?"
"You got it," said Jason. The two young men crossed their swords, forming an X. At the point where the two swords touched, a stream of red hot flames, mixed with a concussive blast of seismic energy, shot forth. It flew straight into Aisha's cyclone, and a pained scream indicated they hit their target. Aisha let down the cyclone, and the monster fell limp to the shore. It groaned, and slowly rose to its feet.
"Now that you boys hit him with heat," said Katherine, "I'll hit him with cold! Ice Daggers!"
Twin silver blades appeared in Kat's hands, and she pointed the tips at Tusk. Small pieces of hail bombarded the monster, and he continued to step back towards the lake. While he angrily swatted at the hail, Aisha held her shield with one hand, and aimed carefully.
"Just call me Warrior Princess," she said, throwing the shield like a frisbee. The shield soared through the air, and sliced through both of the monsters razor sharp tusks. It roared in pain, and fell to its knees. Then, it exploded in a ball of flames.
"Haven't lost my touch," Aisha said with a smile, "Great job, gang!"
"Nice move," said Jason, "I guess you get Xena on television in Africa?"
"We have a satellite," Aisha giggled, holding out her hand. The shield picked itself off the ground, and flew into Aisha's grip.
"We'd better get back to the CAC," said Tommy, "Hopefully, Billy will have some news for us."
"Right!" said the others in unison, and all four Terran Rangers vanished in streaks of bright light.
"Okay," whispered Cyclops, "here we are. This is the containment chamber. Hopefully, only Holocaust himself will be inside. I'll stay out here, and make sure no one gets inside to back him up. Can you five take him alone?"
"In a heartbeat," said Shadow coolly, "Let's go."
"You'd better be careful, Billy," warned Nate, "You ran out of bullets when we were fighting the Mutates. Dark Beast may have believed you were armed, but Holocaust is another story."
"Here," said Cyclops, handing Shadow his energy rifle, "you can use this. I always have my optic blasts. Besides, you'll need heavy artillery when dealing with the likes of Holocaust."
Shadow took the weapon, and nodded his thanks to Cyclops. Cyclops then turned to the wall, and typed in a seven digit code, to unlock the chamber door. It parted, revealing a huge room, with a large crystal, about the size of a human being, against the wall on the far end. A tall creature, encased in translucent yellow armor, turned around when he heard the gate open.
"Summers?" he called, "Is that you?"
"Not quite!" said Nate, flying into the chamber, his body surrounded with an aura of yellow telekinetic energy. He hovered over the door, as the rest of his allies followed him inside. The chamber door sealed itself behind them.
"How did you get in here?!" Holocaust roared, "It matters not. You won't be leaving."
With that, Holocaust pointed his arm cannon at the intruders. The five heroes split up, and avoided the stream of hot plasma. It crashed full force into the wall behind them, leaving a large dent in the metal.
"Ouch," winced Kimberly, gazing at the dent, "Holocaust's arm blaster packs a punch!"
"Stay back, Kimberly," said Zack, "And whatever you do, don't let anything happen to the Zeo Crystal!"
Kim nodded as Zack leapt into the air towards Holocaust, and prepared to deliver a powerful kick. But, Holocaust's reflexes were even quicker than the Silver Ranger, and he swatted Zack out of the sky with his arm cannon. Zack sailed towards the hard metallic wall, but right before impact, he suddenly slowed down and gently landed on the ground. He looked up, and saw Kimberly wave to him.
"Good thing she was watching my back!" he said.
Holocaust ran to where Zack had landed, preparing to deliver a final blow, but he was intercepted by a powerful blast of energy. He pushed against the energy to approach its source-- Forge and his energy rifle. Forge scowled as he realized his weapon wasn't powerful enough to harm Holocaust.
"Are you ready to die, old man?" Holocaust threatened, still approaching. But before he could take another step, another, more potent burst of energy plowed into his back, and flung the villain into the wall across the way. He looked up, and grinned as he saw Shadow, snarling angrily and holding a smoking barrel weapon with Apocalypse's seal upon it.
"So," Holocaust laughed, standing up, "its you again. The little X-Man who just couldn't live without killing me. Still so desperate to avenge the death of your wife?"
Holocaust fired his own energy, which Billy intercepted with the weapon. The two were at a standstill, with flaming plasma burning between them. While they fired at each other, Nate flew over to Kimberly, who was still standing by the door.
"I'll help hold Holocaust off," he said, "Do you think you can make it to the M'Kraan Crystal?"
"You bet," she said, holding the crystal against her chest. She ran across the chamber, and Holocaust caught her movement in the corner of his eye.
"The crystal shard!" he said in surprise, "You found it!"
"You got it," said Nate, "And now, we're gonna put an end to your father's empire!"
"We'll see about that," muttered Holocaust. While still firing against Shadow's weapon, Holocaust opened his other palm, to reveal a small circular device. He threw it at Kimberly, who quickly deflected it with her telekinetic power. The plasma grenade exploded in mid air, throwing everyone off their feet. Kimberly, who was the closest one to the bomb, was knocked unconscious, and the Zeo Crystal fell to the ground not far from her. The first to stand up was Holocaust, who quickly approached the Zeo Crystal. He laughed triumphantly as he stood above it.
"Now, this great power source belongs to the High Lord Apocalypse!" he declared, bending over to take his prize. But as soon as his hand touched the crystal's surface, a bolt of hot energy shot through his arm. Holocaust shrieked in surprise and pain, and pulled his arm away from the crystal.
Zordon was right, thought Nate, only someone protected by the Power can safely wield the Zeo Crystal. Now's my chance to finally take Holocaust down!
Nate soared through the air, and launched an innumerable amount of small telekinetic discs, which struck Holocaust like large hail. Holocaust growled, and leapt into the air. Nate was surprised by how quick Holocaust was, and wasn't able to move before he was struck on the head by Holocaust's arm cannon. Nate fell to the ground, fighting to stay conscious. Holocaust smiled as he charged his arm cannon for the final blow.
"No!" Forge cried, scrambling to his feet, "Nate must not die!"
Forge ran into the path of the pulsing energy, blocking its intended target. The hot plasma seared through Forge's brown robes, and penetrated his chest. He grunted as he fell to the ground, completely lifeless. Nate and Shadow witnessed Forge's sacrifice in mute shock.
"No," Nate whispered, his blue eyes filling with tears, "NOOO!!!"
"Forge!" cried Billy, running to where his friend lay. But Forge was already dead, and smoke still poured forth from the terrible wound.
Zack was helping Kimberly to her feet when this occured. They too were shocked into silence.
Holocaust laughed heartily, as his arm cannon once again began to charge. "The old man sacrificed himself for nothing! You will all die this day!"
Nate's bottom lip trembled, and he stared at Forge's still form. Then, he turned towards Holocaust, blinded by bitter tears.
"You're going to pay for that," he whispered, "This game's over!!"
Nate stood up, and telekinetically lifted the Zeo Crystal from the ground across the room. Billy's eyes widened as he realized what his friend was doing.
*NO!* he screamed telepathically, *You have no idea what you're doing!!*
But Nate ignored Billy's telepathic pleas. He glared at Holocaust, and his eyes began to glow yellow. The Zeo Crystal suddenly launched itself through the air, its sharp end ripping through Holocaust's outer armor through the back. Holocaust screamed in pain, as his entire body began to glow blinding white. The bright light also encompassed Shadow, Nate, and Forge's body, since they were all within a two yard radius. Kimberly and Zack, who were still across the chamber, shielded their eyes from the blinding light. When the light faded, the Zeo Crystal fell to the ground with a clatter. Everyone else was gone.
"Oh my God," Kim choked, "The Zeo Crystal must've disintegrated them!"
"No," Zack whispered, "Nate. Billy..."
Zack slowly walked to where his friends were standing moments ago, and fell to his knees. He timidly touched the singed ground with his gloved hand.
"They're gone," he said, "They sacrificed themselves, just to save us."
"That's why they came," said Kimberly glancing to the large M'Kraan Crystal, "Roma asked them to accompany us, to make sure we unite the M'Kraan Crystal. We wouldn't have made it this far without them."
"And now, its up to us to finish what we were sent here to do," Zack said, picking up the Zeo Crystal, "They died in order to make the world a better place... free from Apocalypse's rule."
Both Kim and Zack ran to the M'Kraan Crystal. They both clutched the Zeo shard between them, and plunged it into the hole. It fit perfectly, and the M'Kraan Crystal began to glow brilliantly with white light. The Silver and Gold Rangers each lay a hand on the crystal's surface, and closed their eyes. The entire chamber was flooded with energy, that permeated the entire chamber and instantly blanketed the entire planet with its warmth and blinding light. Then, there was nothing.
First, there was darkness. Then, he slowly opened his eyes. Everything was blurry, so he blinked a couple of times to clear his vision. He could make out a face just above him, but he couldn't quite tell who it was, until he spoke.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, Adam," he said with a warm smile, "We've been pretty worried about you."
"Doctor Campbell?" Adam whispered weakly, still dazed from his experience, "What's going on?"
"For some reason, your Zeo shard materialized inside your body. It was killing you. So, Billy and I had to remove it surgically. How do you feel?"
"Like I could sleep for a century or two," Adam groaned, "And some aspirin would be--"
Suddenly, Adam's eyes opened wide with realization, and he tried to sit up abruptly. But Doctor Campbell restrained him gently.
"You're going to have to take it easy for a few weeks," he cautioned, "You've just undergone extensive surgery. Even this medical unit isn't capable of healing you completely. You need rest, Son."
"How did you get into the CAC?" Adam asked in confusion, "You know about us?!" "Aisha came to get me from my laboratory," Doctor Campbell explained, "The only way to remove the Zeo shard was through surgery, and since I'm a heart surgeon, it made sense to seek my help. Don't worry, though. You're secret's safe with me."
"Where... where are the others?"
"I'll get them. You stay right where you are."
Doctor Campbell walked away from the young man, and went to the main computer across the spacious Central Access Complex, where Blue, Red, Green, and Black Terran Rangers stood, without their helmets, surrounding Billy as he continued to type in commands.
"Any luck?" asked Tommy, his voice laced with anxiety and exhaustion.
"The Multiverse is slowly stabilizing," Billy said, "but its still not quite calm enough for me to be able to perform an effective scan. All we can do is wait."
"Billy, Kim and Zack have been missing for hours," said Aisha, "Is there any way we can determine if they're even alive? We have absolutely no idea where they could have materialized!"
"Negative," said Billy, "all we can do is wait."
"Great," muttered Jason, folding his arms, "What I wouldn't give for some good news."
"Well, I have some," said Doctor Campbell, "The surgery was a complete success, and our patient is conscious and aware."
"Thank goodness," sighed Aisha, as she, Katherine, Jason, Tommy, and Billy hurried across the CAC, and surrounded the cot where Adam lay. He grinned up at them all.
"How're ya doing, Buddy?" asked Jason.
"I feel like I've been run over by a truck, but otherwise, I'm peachy."
"That's good to hear," said Katherine, smiling warmly.
"Where are Kimberly and Zack?"
"They vanished through that portal you went to investigate," said Aisha, "We still haven't found them. But, we're working on it."
Adam looked intently at Aisha, and more specifically her green armor. Aisha looked down at him sympathetically.
"I'm so sorry," she said, "but the others needed some backup, and with Kim and Zack missing--"
"Its okay, Aisha," Adam said with a weak smile, "Its not your fault this had to happen. Besides, I can't think of anyone more worthy to carry on for me. Besides, you look good in green."
Aisha took Adam's hand, and squeezed it gently. She then glanced up at Billy. "When can Adam retake his Zeo shard?"
"I... I don't know," said Billy with a sigh, "Adam's heart has been strained tremendously, with the injury, as well as the intrusive surgery. Only time will tell whether or not he even can sustain the power of a Zeo shard in his body. Right now, he's very fragile, and I don't know how long this will last."
"It's okay," said Adam with a smile that didn't quite reach his dark eyes, "I needed the break anyway."
Suddenly, the alarms sounded throughout the CAC. Everyone groaned audibly, and Billy hurried to the computer.
"What's going on?" asked Katherine, "Did Zedd and Rita send down another monster?"
"I can't tell," he said, "but there are foreign energy patterns being emitted from just outside the Juice Bar!"
"We'd better investigate," said Tommy, strapping on his helmet, "Back to Action!"
"Right!" said the other three Terran Rangers unanimously, as they put their helmets on and vanished in streaks of light. They momentarily arrived just outside the Gym and Juice Bar. The streets were all quiet, since it was past closing time.
"Okay," said Jason, "keep your eyes open. Be ready for anything."
"Split up," said Tommy, "We'll cover more ground that way."
The four heroes went in separate directions, cautiously proceeding through the darkness. Jason drew his Earth Sword when he heard voices in the alleyway. He flattened himself against the wall, and peeked around the corner, to see two figures dressed in highly reflectant form-fitting uniforms, one in silver and one in gold.
"Ow," moaned the gold one, "that hurt even with these suits on!"
"You'd think the Omniversal Guardian can send us home a little more comfortably," groaned the silver one. Jason's eyes widened as he realized he recognized the voices. He stepped into the alley, facing them.
"Zack?" he asked, "Kim? Is that you in there?"
"Jason!" they both exclaimed excitedly.
"What, happened to you?" he asked, putting away his Earth Sword.
"Its a ridiculously long story," said Kimberly, stretching her arms, "We'll tell you all about it later."
Jason turned on his wrist communicator. "Tommy? Aisha? Kat? Do you read me?"
^I hear ya, Bro.^
^Kat here. What's up?^
"You'd better come meet me by the back entrance to the Juice Bar. You aren't gonna believe what I just found..."
Seconds later, the Blue, Green, and Red Rangers ran to Jasons' location, and stared at the mysterious strangers in metallic uniforms.
"Who are you?" asked Aisha.
The Silver and Gold Rangers simultaneously took off their helmets, and the Terran Rangers, with the exception of the Black Ranger, gasped in surprise.
"Kim!" said Tommy, immediately running to embrace his girlfriend, "Where have you been?" "What am I?" asked Zack with a smirk, "Chopped liver?"
The group all laughed as both missing friends were welcomed with warm hugs.
"Man, am I glad to see you!" said Aisha excitedly, "We had no idea what happened to you!"
"What happened to you ?" asked Kimberly, "Oh no... what happened to Adam?"
"Its okay," said Tommy, "Adam was injured, but he's recovering fine. He'll be good as new in a few weeks."
"Now, what happened to you two?" asked Katherine, "Why are you wearing those uniforms?"
"Its a really long story," laughed Zack, "and I for one haven't slept in seventeen hours. Let's say we go over the whole story, in detail, in the morning?"
"Let me get this straight," said Rocky, stirring sugar into his coffee mug, "You two were transported into a parallel universe, that is ruled over by a mutant tyrant Apocalypse. You were captured by Apocalypse's servants, until you were freed by a traitor, who secretly worked with a band of rebels, including an alternate version of Billy. You then went to the Command Center, with both Alpha and Zordon still there. Then, you went to the moon to retrieve the Zeo Crystal, since there never were Terran Rangers in this dimension, and were transported to a pocket dimension called Otherworld, where the Guardian of the Multiverse granted you new powers, so you can fight Apocalypse's forces, and combine the Zeo Crystal with a larger gem called M'Kraan. Is that it?"
"More or less," said Zack, spreading jam onto a slice of toast. Presently, Rocky, Kim, Zack, Tommy, Kat, Aisha, Billy, and Doctor Campbell are sitting at the Campbell family's dining room table, enjoying a nice breakfast together, and sharing stories of the strange occurances of the previous day.
"Just what kind of powers did Roma give you?" asked Aisha.
"I'm X-Ranger One," said Zack, "I wear Silver, and I control magnetism. I can make magnetic pulses, control and detect magnetic fields, and other cool stuff."
"I'm X-Ranger Two," said Kimberly, "I have a Gold uniform, and my powers are telepathy and telekinesis. I can read minds, project my own thoughts, and make things move with my mind, among other things."
"Intriguing," said Doctor Campbell, "So the original powers of your Zeo shards are masked by these new abilities imposed by Roma, who re-created the mutant abilities of two of your companions and gave you a carbon copy? How long will these new powers remain manifest?"
"Uh..." said Zack, frowning.
"He's asking how long you'll be the X-Rangers, instead of Terran Rangers," translated Billy, "Is this permanent?"
"Roma said that when the Zeo Crystal is recombined, the affects will wear off," said Kimberly.
"Does every universe have an M'Kraan Crystal as well?" asked Kat.
"Yes," said Zack, "and the Zeo Crystal is a part of it." "So, when are we supposed to search for the M'Kraan Crystal, to unite both pieces?" asked Tommy.
"Roma didn't tell us," said Zack.
"Where's Adam anyway?" asked Kimberly, "Isn't he going to join us for breakfast?"
"He said he wanted to take a walk," said Billy, "He's not feeling well."
"Poor guy," said Aisha, "I feel so bad about taking his powers. Maybe I should talk to him or something."
"Maybe later," said Tommy with a knowing smile, "I've already asked someone to do just that..."
Adam gazes out at the lake, watching as the early morning's rays reflect off the calm waters. Usually, Adam would be practicing his martial arts, especially when he's depressed. But, due to present circumstances, he barely has enough energy to stand up, much less exert himself.
I can't believe I'm not the Green Ranger anymore! he lamented, sighing deeply, I've worked so hard to be the best defender of Earth I can be, and just like that... *POOF*, I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I was a foot closer to the portal, I would've been sucked in with Kim and Zack. If I had been a foot further, I would've only been knocked down by the energy release. But no, I had to be standing in the exact spot between the two, so my Zeo crystal could flash in and out of reality, and materialize in my heart. It's not easy being Green...
"Adam?" called a gentle voice. Adam was startled, and rose to his feet. He saw Tanya Sloan walk up to him, smiling warmly. Even though he was practically drowning in self-pity, Adam couldn't help but smile back.
"Hi, Tanya." he said.
"Tommy said I'd find you here," Tanya said, "So, how are you?"
"I'm okay, I guess," he said, sitting back down. Tanya sat beside him.
"No you're not," she said quietly, "Look, the guys told both me and Rocky the whole story. I'm so sorry you lost your powers. But it could have been worse. You could have died in the operation, or even before Billy got you to the CAC."
"I know," Adam sighed, "but, that doesn't really help much. It doesn't fill the void. Having the Power is a great rush, and suddenly losing it really hurts. And to top it off, I'm practically an invalid!"
"What do you mean?"
"I have a weak heart now. Doctor Campbell told me to take it easy."
"That just means that you need to recover! Its not forever! If you take care of yourself, you'll be fine."
"Adam, being a Power Ranger isn't the only thing in the world. I know its not easy, but you can deal with the withdrawl. I'm here to help you."
"Really?" he asked, somewhat surprised.
"Of course! We can get through this together!"
With that, Tanya clasped his hand between hers.
"Thanks, Tanya," Adam said with a smile, "That means alot to me."
"Good," she said cheerfully, pulling him to his feet, "Now, come on! If we hurry, we can still grab some breakfast!"
Thousands of miles away, somewhere in the snow-covered Swiss Alps, a ball a fire crashes into the deep snow. Inside the crater lies a young man, with brown hair and a blue and yellow uniform. He lies motionless in the crater, until his right eye slowly opens. It flashes with yellow light.
On the searing hot African plains, a lone figure walks. No animal would go near it, and the native tribes stay away from this large seven-foot demon. Rumors have already begun to spread, about a red skeleton inside a yellow armor. It kills anything in sight.
A young man pulls himself to the shore, panting with exhaustion. The last thing he remembered was a bright white light, when his best friend focussed telekinetic energy through the mysterious Zeo Crystal. The affects were completely unpredictible. This young man had crashed into the ocean. Fortunately, it was deep enough for him not to hit the seafloor, and at the same time close enough to shore for him to swim to land. He couldn't swim much further, with his armor constantly pulling him down.
Where am I? he asked himself, looking up. In the distance, he can see exotically designed buildings, with roofs unique to a particular area of the world.
"Japan?!" he said aloud, standing up. He removed his helmet, and ran his hands through his drenched light brown hair. "Well, its better than being dead."