As soon as Tanya's gaze fell upon the frightful visage of the infamous Giuseppe Coppola, memories long forgotten streamed into her mind, like a raging river just released from the confines of a dam. She saw the horrible night that her psychological defenses had blocked out, when her home in Nairobi burned down, all because she couldn't resist looking at the mysterious figure that visited her father Henry Sloan each year. She saw his monstrous face, and he noticed her presence. Because of her, the Sandman ended up killing her parents in a raging fire. They sacrificed their lives in order to allow Tanya a chance to live without the fear of having the Sandman come and claim her someday. But it now seems they died in vain, because he now stands before her, coming for his slave.
"I knew you would remember me," chuckled Giuseppe, "After all, I believe I have one of those unforgettable faces."
"Stay away from me, Monster!" shrieked Tanya, backing away from the monster. She leaned against the wall, trying her best to calm her overwhelming fear.
"You can't hide from the Sandman," he laughed, "Now come, Tanya. You are a member of the Sloan family, so you are mine by right."
"No she's not!" cried Katherine, standing up, "No one can lay claim to another person!"
"But I'm no ordinary person! I am the Sandman!"
"For all I care, you could be Santa Claus! But you're not taking Tanya without a fight!"
"Really?" asked Sandman, floating towards the tall blonde, "And what will you do? Scream in my ear?"
"Maybe I will! TERRA WATER POWER!!"
Katherine Hillard raised both fists to the sky, and her body was immersed in a wave of aqua-blue light. The light startled Sandman, and gave Tanya a chance to hide in Kat's closet, and stay out of the line of fire. When the light faded, Kat was dressed in the Blue Terran Ranger uniform, with a golden shield, white boots and gloves lined with gold, and a blue and gold helmet. She stood with her hands on her hips, and glared at the monster from underneath her helmet.
"What are you supposed to be?" asked Sandman.
"The Blue Terran Power Ranger!" she answered, leaping into the air. She delivered a powerful kick to Sandman's stomach, throwing him out through the broken window, and out of the bedroom. Kat opened her closet door, and let Tanya out.
"Get your communicator!" she said, breaking down the bolted door, "Call the other rangers, and tell them to come back me up! I have no idea how tough Sandman is!"
"I'm on it!" said Tanya, dashing out of the bedroom. She ran past the master bedroom, and sighed in relief.
"Good thing Kat's parents went away for the long weekend!" she panted, running into her bedroom. She grabbed her communicator, and tried to catch her breath.
The Sandman hit the cold grass at high speed. His body dug into the well-manicured front lawn, and uprooted a good amount of grass. The mud and grass was flung into the air, and Sandman continued sliding until he struck a tree trunk. He groaned silently, and his green eyes flashed angrily as the Blue Ranger leapt gracefully out of the shattered window, and landed on her two feet.
"Had enough?" she challenged.
"I've barely begun, Power Ranger," Sandman replied. But, instead of standing up, he slowly melted, until all that was left was a puddle of yellow sand by the tree. Katherine stared at the puddle in confusion, and approached it warily.
"Gotcha!" called a voice from nowhere, as the puddle lurched out, and slithered under Kat's boots. Kat shrieked in alarm as she began to sink into the sand.
He turned himself into Quicksand! she thought as she struggled frantically to free herself. It only caused her to sink more quickly.
"Oh, no you don't!" she declared aloud, "Ice Daggers!"
Twin daggers with sterling silver blades appeared in Kat's hands. She reached down into the sand, which had already reached her midsection, and plunged the daggers into the sand. She mentally commanded the daggers to turn to ice, and instantly the puddle was frozen solid. She pulled with all her might, and managed to free her arms. She then pushed against her sandy prison, and managed to apply enough pressure to cause the sand to shatter. Kat heaved a sigh of relief as her Terra weapons vanished at her mental command. Just then, the five remaining Power Rangers appeared in streaks of colored light.
"What's happening?" asked Aisha, the Green Ranger, looking around.
"Are you okay, Kat?" asked Jason, the Black Ranger.
"I'm fine," she said, "I think the Sandman has had enough for tonight."
"Where is the Sandman?" asked Tommy.
"All over the place," Kat explained, "I froze him, and he shattered."
"Well, that was easy," said Zack, the Silver Ranger.
The Gold Ranger remained silent. She walked away from her friends, and kneeled on the grass. She touched the grass with her gloved hands, and concentrated. The Red Ranger noticed she was gone, and followed her.
"What's wrong, Kim?" he asked.
"The Sandman's not here," Kim announced, "I can't detect his presence."
"Is he dead?" asked Kat.
"I don't know whether or not he's alive. But, he's not here."
"So, our job is done, then," said Jason, "Let's check up on Tanya."
The Terran Rangers raised their arms to the sky, and in a flash of blinding light, they reverted back into their pajamas. The group of six teenagers hurried back into the Hillard house through the shattered window in Kat's bedroom. Kat shook her head in disgust as she surveyed her ranshacked bedroom.
"I know what I'll be doing tomorrow," she sighed, leading the group out of her room and down the hall, "If my parents saw that mess--"
Kat stopped short when she entered Tanya's bedroom. All the rangers were shocked when they saw Tanya huddled into a fetal position, leaning against the wall in one corner of the bedroom. She was still clutching her yellow wrist communicator, and her entire body was trembling. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and her entire face was pale.
"Tanya?" asked Kat quietly, kneeling beside her best friend. Tanya glanced up at Kat, and hugged her tightly. Kat hugged her back, and looked up at the other rangers helplessly.
"Is Coppola dead?" Tanya whispered.
"Who?" asked Zack as he and the other Terran Rangers entered the room.
"Giuseppe Coppola. The Sandman."
"He's gone, Tanya," said Kat soothingly, "We've dealt with him. He'll never bother you again."
"No," Tanya said, pulling away from Kat and staring up at the other rangers, "He can't be dead! It was too easy! He's gonna come back! He won't give up until he finds me, and takes me away!"
"Okay, Tanya," said Aisha, "Why does the Sandman want to take you away?"
Tanya sighed deeply, and rose to her feet. She wrung her fingers nervously, and kept her eyes focused on her bare feet.
"Ten years ago, in my family's home in Nairobi, a man named Giuseppe Coppola came to visit my father. He had done so every year previously, right at midnight on New Year's Eve. In 1986, I finally let my curiousity get to me. I wanted to know who that stranger was, and I knew my parents were hiding something from me. So, I hid in my father's study, where he and the stranger had their meeting, and waited. When midnight came, he arrived, just as usual. I saw him first then-- that hideous... thing that you fought today. I watched as my father gave him something, but the monster somehow knew I was in the room. He pulled me out of the closet, and then declared that he wanted me to be his slave. He sprinkled some sand into my eyes, and I just couldn't stay awake. When I woke up again, I was at a neighbor's house."
"So, he's come to find you?" asked Kimberly, "He's hunted you down all these years?"
"I... I guess," Tanya said, "I didn't even remember the whole incident until tonight, when I saw Sandman again. His gruesome face awoke memories my subconscious had hidden from me."
"What happened to your parents?" asked Tommy.
"I... I have no idea. The last memory of them was right before I passed out. Both my parents were in the house. Ishala, the woman who took care of me when I lived with the tribe, told me that my parents were lost on an archeological dig, but I doubt it. I think Sandman killed them. And now he's after me."
Tanya turned away from her friends, and stared at the wall gloomily. She hugged herself tightly for warmth, and salty tears streaked down her cheeks.
"He's not gone," she said in a voice just above a whisper, "He's still out there somewhere, just waiting for the opportune time to come back, and take me away. I just know it."
The Terran Rangers stepped away from Tanya, and huddled into a close circle.
"What do we do?" asked Katherine.
"She may be right," said Tommy, "Sandman may still be alive. We have to make sure he doesn't get Tanya."
"How?" asked Jason.
"We can't leave her alone. She said he always visited on New Years Eve. Well, that's today. Maybe there's a reason why he doesn't visit at any other time. If he still is alive, he'll be back before New Years Day."
"Tanya," said Kimberly, "don't worry. We'll make sure he doesn't harm you."
"How do you plan on doing that?" she muttered gloomily.
"By not leaving you alone," said Aisha, "When dawn comes, the six of us will help fix up the house, so when the Hillards come back, everything will be fine. Then, we'll help Ernie set up for his party. We'll be there until past midnight anyway, and I doubt the Sandman will attack with a whole crowd of people there."
Tanya didn't look too convinced, but she nodded nonetheless. "But what if he attacks again tonight? You can't all stay here. Your parents would freak out if you just vanish!"
"I can stay," said Aisha, "My father already knows I'm a Power Ranger. And Kat'll be here too. The three of us can take on that monster, right?"
"You said it!" said Kat, "Everything will be fine."
Tanya smiled, and sat down on her bed. "Thanks, everyone."
"What're friends for?" asked Jason with a smile.
"The rest of us will come in the morning," said Tommy, "as soon as we wake up. See you then."
Then, Tommy, Kimberly, Jason, and Zack vanished in streaks of light, leaving Aisha, Katherine, and Tanya in the latter's bedroom.
"Well," said Kat, "I'd better get some blankets. We'll all be staying in this room tonight."
Kat and Tanya set up blankets on the floor, and the three girls were all tucked in in less than half and hour. But, none of them fell asleep. In fact, Tanya was completely alert. She was reading by the light of a flashlight, and every several minutes she looked up at the window, half expecting to see the horrible face again. But, there was no more thunder or lightning, and soon, the sun rose. Once the sun came up, all three girls were able to fall asleep. They slept soundly until the doorbell rang at about nine in the morning. Kat woke up, and dreamily walked over to the front door. She opened it, and smiled at Tommy and Adam.
"Morning," she said with a small yawn, "Come in."
"Sorry it took so long," said Tommy, "I guess I was more tired than I thought. I couldn't even fall asleep until five or so."
"Same here," Kat said, "I'll brew some coffee."
"Need any help?" offered Tommy. Kat shook her head.
"No, I can handle it. Make yourselves comfortable."
Adam and Tommy sat down on the sofa as Katherine made her way to the kitchen, and began brewing a pot of coffee. Aisha stumbled into the living room, rubbing her eyes.
"Oh, hey, guys," she said, stretching her arms, "Wow, its morning already!"
"Yeah," said Adam, "We figured we should get here as early as possible, so we can fix the damage done to the house before we go to the Youth Center to help Ernie set up."
"How did you find out what happened last night?" asked Aisha, sitting on the sofa beside Adam.
"I called him this morning," said Tommy, "I thought he should know. Besides, we could use his help replacing the broken window. Fortunately, that's all the real damage done. The rest is basically a clean-up job."
"Where is Tanya anyway?" asked Adam, looking towards the hallway expectantly, "She wasn't hurt or anything, was she?"
"No," said Aisha, "but she was really terrified. Whatever that Sandman guy is, he's a genuine monster in her eyes. I've never anyone so scared before."
"Can I go check on her?" asked Adam, standing up. Aisha nodded.
"Go ahead. She's in the second room on the left."
As Adam walked slowly through the Hillard family's hallway, Aisha spoke to Tommy.
"How is Adam taking this whole thing?" she asked him.
"He's really frustrated," said Tommy with a sigh, "He's never missed being a Power Ranger as much as he did this morning. He wants to protect her, but he knows he can't. Its a tough situation to deal with, especially considering Adam is used to saving the lives of strangers. When someone he truly cares about is in trouble, he's completely helpless."
"How serious are Adam and Tanya anyway?"
"They aren't, really. I guess they're both too shy to do anything about it. Tanya did ask Adam to the Crystal Ball last month, but they've never gone on a date by themselves."
"Well," said Aisha with a knowing smile, "I know for a fact that some guys are so insecure, they wait for months before they ask a girl out."
Tommy turned around, and frowned at Aisha. "I guess Kim told you about the time I asked her to a dance by the lake, when I lost my Green Ranger powers."
"You mean the time you finally asked Kim out! Yep, she told me. She tells me just about everything."
"Uh, I think I'll go make sure Kat doesn't need help," said Tommy suddenly, hopping off the couch and hurrying into the kitchen. Aisha just started to giggle.
Just down the hall, Adam stands in the door, gazing at Tanya. She was still sleeping soundly, with a fluffy cream colored blanket over her body. Only her head peeked out from underneath the blanket. She looked so serene while she slept that Adam decided not to disturb her.
After all, she needs all the sleep she can get, he thought, I just don't believe this is happening! Some monster is trying to kidnap Tanya,, and I can't do a thing about it! Its driving me crazy! And I know I shouldn't stress. Doctor Campbell told me to take it easy after that operation. It'll be months before I can safely wield the green Zeo Shard again. And even when that time comes, I don't want to just take the Power from Aisha. She's always been such a great Power Ranger. So spirited, and constantly full of energy. My rangering days may be over forever. I shouldn't take it so badly, though. As long as the Earth is protected, I should be happy. So what if I'm not the one wearing the green uniform? I just wish there was some way I could help Tanya...
A soft yawn from across the room startled Adam out of his reverie. He stood his ground and watched as Tanya opened her eyes dreamily, and sat up slowly. She stretched her arms, and smiled up at him.
"Good morning, Adam," she said, standing up off the floor and straightening her nightgown, "When did you get here?"
"A couple minutes ago. I can with Tommy to help clean up the mess the Sandman made."
"You didn't have to. You shouldn't exert yourself--"
"I won't. I just wanted to help out a bit."
Tanya and Adam stood in an awkward silence for a few moments. Neither one knew what to say next, so neither said anything. Fortunately for the both of them, the doorbell's chime broke the silence.
"I'll get it!" they heard Aisha call from down the hall. Tanya put on her yellow flannel robe, and she and Adam stepped out into the hallway, where they saw Kimberly and Billy coming into the house.
"Don't close the door yet," said Kimberly, "Rocky, Jason, and Zack are right behind us."
Katherine stepped out of the kitchen, carrying a tray full of coffee mugs. "Okay, the coffee's ready, and I have some hot cinnamon rolls in the oven! They'll be done in five minutes."
"Wow," said Rocky, taking a mug of hot coffee, "I should visit you more often, Kat!"
After the group of teenagers enjoyed some coffee and rolls, they began work on the window. In only a few hours, the shattered window was replaced, and the house was cleaned. It actually looked better than it ever had before.
"Terrific job, everyone!" said Kat, "My parents are gonna be pleasantly surprised when they see how clean the house is!"
"No problem," said Jason, "Now that we're done here, let's go to Ernie's for lunch, and then help him set up for the party."
That evening was the New Year's party. The Youth Center was set up nicely, with a refreshment stand, tables set up, and the DJ played a mix of lively dance songs. Everyone was having fun dancing and talking. All but Tanya Sloan. She stayed at the table her friends were sitting at, and remained silent while the others talked about random topics. Aisha and Zack were dancing to Blackstreet's song "No Diggity", and impressing most of the other dancers with their skilled moves. Then, the DJ said goodnight, and the live band took the stage. Everyone cheered excitedly as the lead singer took the microphone.
"Hey there, Angel Grove!" she called, "How's the party?"
Everyone cheered their approval.
"Okay, its time for some slow songs, since its edging on midnight! So everyone, grab your sweetie! Now, we're gonna sing 'Never Forget You' by Mariah Carey."
Kimberly stood up, and grabbed Tommy's hand. She lead him onto the dance floor.
"I won't see your smile
And I won't hear you laugh anymore
I won't see you walk through that door..."
"Oh," said Katherine, closing her eyes, "this is such a beautiful song."
"Would you like to dance?" asked Jason, holding out his hand, "Just for fun, I mean."
"Sure," said Katherine, taking his hand. They walked over to the dance floor, and swayed to the music. Tommy made eye contact with Jason, and gave his best friend a thumbs up behind Kimberly's back. Jason rolled his eyes and shook his head.
" 'Cause time wasn't on your side
It isn't right
I can't say I love you
Its too late to tell you,
But I really need you to know, oh baby,"
"So, what do we wall-flowers want to talk about?" asked Rocky after watching Aisha and Zack, Tommy and Kimberly, and Katherine and Jason dance for a minute.
"I don't know," said Billy with a smile, "how about the weather?"
"Not bad," said Adam, "colder than usual, a little wet, but not bad."
Adam turned towards Tanya, who was staring at the clock anxiously. She was completely oblivious to the conversation at hand.
"Adam," whispered Rocky, "why don't you ask her to dance?"
"Why?" asked Adam.
"Because, dancing is fun! Maybe that'll get her mind off the Sandman. She's really tense."
Adam nodded, and turned back to Tanya.
"No, I'll never forget you,
I'll never let you out of my heart,
You will always be here with me,
I'll hold onto the memories, Baby."
"Uh, Tanya," said Adam timidly, "Would you like to dance?"
Tanya turned and smiled at Adam. "Well, okay."
Tanya and Adam stepped onto the dance floor. Adam wrapped his arm warily around Tanya's waist, and took her hand. She gazed into his dark brown eyes for a few moments, and then turned her focus away from him, slightly embarassed.
"Baby, can you hear me
Wherever you may be tonight?
Are you near me?
I need you to be by my side.
'Cause I never said goodbye
It isn't right.
I should have said I love you
Why didn't I just tell you?
God knows I need you to know."
Tanya and Adam swayed across the dance floor, catching the eye of many surprised teens. But they seemed to be in their own world, enjoying the close proximity, and the warm breath on each other's cheek. Tanya finally rested her cheek on Adam's shoulder. Adam stiffened slightly, but soon relaxed as he lead her across the floor.
"No, I'll never forget you
I'll never let you out of my heart.
You will always be here with me.
I'll hold onto the memories baby."
"Thanks, Adam," Tanya whispered into his ear.
"For being here for me. For trying so hard to make me feel better. I appreciate it."
"Its no big deal," he said modestly, "After all, we're friends, right?"
"Absolutely." And maybe something more?
"Somewhere I know you'll be with me.
Someday, in another time.
But right now you're gone, just vanished away
But I'll never leave you behind..."
"Look at them," said Rocky excitedly, "Man, Adam has all the luck!"
"Cheer up," said Billy with a smile, "You'll find the perfect woman some day."
"In the meantime," said Rocky with a playful smile, "Care to dance? We're the only ones left."
Billy just laughed. "Somehow, Rocko, I don't think you're my type. Besides, who'll lead?"
"No, I'll never forget you,
I'll never let you out of my heart.
You will always be here with me.
I'll hold onto the memories, baby..."
When the singer finished the final note, everyone on the dance floor stopped dancing and cheered. All but Tanya and Adam. They just stood there, in each other's arms, in silence.
"Okay, everyone, get ready! It's just about time to start the one minute countdown to midnight!"
Tanya's head rose from Adam's shoulder, and she glanced at the clock. Sure enough, it was 11:58.
"Where did the time go?" she asked him. He smiled shyly.
"I guess time flies when you're having fun."
"Look, Adam," she said, letting go of him and stepping back, "I'd better get going. Its nearly midnight!"
"And you've suddenly become Cinderella?"
"If only," she said, turning away, "Goodbye."
Tanya hurried out of the Youth Center. Adam stood there, dumbfounded. Zack walked up to him.
"What did you say to her, Man?" he said jokingly. Adam just shrugged. "Maybe you should follow her! Its a little chilly outside, and she's wearing a sleevless dress! The first way to a woman's heart is to be a gentleman."
"And I guess you're the expert?" asked Adam with a good-natured laugh, "I somehow doubt its working with Angela."
"Angela can be impossible," said Zack with a grin, "but Tanya, is an entirely different matter."
Adam looked at Zack, and saw that he was serious. He then hurried out of the Youth Center, and Ernie made an announcement.
"Okay, sixty seconds and counting..."
Tanya Sloan was running up the hill away from the Youth Center, her short yellow dress blowing in the cool breeze. Tears began to streak down her face, but she didn't let that slow her down. On her wrist, her silver and yellow communicator reflected the dim moonlight. For some reason, she wanted to get as far away from the Youth Center as she possibly could.
"Tanya!" called a voice from behind. Tanya recognized it instantly, and stopped in her tracks. But she didn't turn around. Adam caught up with her quickly, and lay his jacket over her shoulders.
"Its a bit cold out here," he said.
"Thanks" she said with a weak smile.
"Why did you run?" he asked, "I... I thought we were having fun."
"Oh, we were," she said, "but, its nearly midnight! If Coppola comes for me in the Youth Center, people could get hurt!"
"You make it sound like you plan on going with him," Adam said quietly. Her bottom lip trembled, and tears began to streak down her dark cheeks.
"I don't want to," she sobbed, "but he won't quit until he has me! I won't be responsible for other people getting hurt because of me. You should get going, Adam. You're not a Power Ranger anymore."
Adam looked away from her, obviously stung by her words. Tanya realized what she had said, and mentally slapped herself for being so harsh. She timidly touched his cheek, and turned his face around so she could look into his dark brown eyes.
"I... I didn't mean it like that," she said, "I just... can't let you get hurt. You don't have to protect me, you know. Its no longer your responsibility."
"Maybe not," he said, cupping her chin with his hand, "Maybe I want to..."
As Adam's and Tanya's faces inched towards each other, they could hear a bell going off from the Youth Center, along with a chorus of happy new years and laughing.
"Happy New Year, Adam Park," whispered Tanya.
"Happy New Year, Tanya Sloan," he answered softly, their lips nearly touching.
"Achem," came a chilling, authoritative voice, "Please step away from Tanya, Human."
Adam and Tanya whirled around in surprise, and Tanya shrieked when she saw the Sandman floating a few inches off the ground, with his hands in the pockets of his full-length trench coat. Adam stepped in front of Tanya protectively.
"I'm not letting you take her!" he yelled. Tanya's eyes widened at the sound of determination in his voice.
"And you will stop me, Human?" Sandman laughed. He quickly pulled one hand out of his pocket, and small grains of sand flew into Adam's face. Tanya screamed as Adam fell lifeless to the cold grass.
"Come, child," said Sandman, grabbing Tanya's wrist, "Its time for us to leave."
"I'm not going ANYWHERE with you!!" she cried angrily, "Someone, HELP!!"
Inside the Youth Center, all the teenagers toasted the new year with sparkling glasses of apple cider. Kimberly shuddered when she telepathically heard a cry for help. She nearly dropped her glass, and she touched her head with her free hand.
"What's wrong, Kim?" asked Tommy, supporting her with his arm. She looked up at him, her eyes wide.
"Where's Tanya? I... I think I heard her scream..."
"Let's get going," said Tommy, taking her hand and leading her through the crowd. They found Jason and Kat, and Zack and Aisha.
"Sandman's struck again," he whispered, "Let's move."
The six teenagers wove their way through the cheering crowd, and out of the Youth Center. They didn't need to go far to see Tanya struggling with the ochre-yellow demon.
"Its Morphin Time!" yelled Tommy, "TERRA FIRE POWER!!"
"TERRA WATER POWER!!" cried Katherine.
"TERRA WIND POWER!!" yelled Aisha.
"TERRA EARTH POWER!!" bellowed Jason.
"X-Ranger One!" shouted Zack.
"X-Ranger Two!" called Kimberly.
The six Power Rangers ran up the hill, and surrounded the Sandman, Tanya, and Adam.
"So," said the Sandman, "you chose to once again interfere?"
"You got it!" said the Red Ranger, "You're not taking Tanya without a fight!"
"But we do not need to fight," he said with a chilling grin, "I have a proposition for the young Miss Sloan."
The Sandman stepped back, and melted into a round puddle. The rangers watched curiously as an image appeared on the sand. Once it cleared, they saw a middle-aged African couple, sitting on a stone floor behind iron bars.
"Who... who are they?" asked Tanya quietly, "Why are you showing me this?"
"You don't recognize them?" he asked her in a mocking voice, rising from the puddle, "They haven't changed much in the ten years since you last saw them. They are your parents, Tanya. Henry and Agatha Sloan."
Everyone gasped, and Tanya continued to stare at the faces of the people in the image.
"How can I be sure you're not lying to me? Trying to trick me?!"
"Because my word is my bond," he answered, "I have never lied to anyone. After you had fainted, your father accidentally set the house on fire, trying to save you. He told his wife to escape with you, while he held me back. Agatha fled, but after you were safe, she returned, hoping to save her husband. We were all trapped within the consuming flames. I saved their lives. Therefore, they belong to me."
"No one can own another human being!" said Jason. Sandman laughed.
"That is a human rule, Black Ranger. And I am not human. I do not heed your laws."
"What do you want?" asked Tanya.
"It is simple, dear Tanya. If you agree to come with me, your parents will live, and can return to the surface and live out the rest of their lives. If you refuse me, I'm afraid I'll have to keep them as my slaves in your stead. Well, what is your decision?"
Tanya trembled, and sank to her knees. Tears streaked down her face, and she turned from the Sandman to the unconscious Adam, and back again to the Sandman.
"I," she stammered, "I... "