Tanya took a deep breath, and shakily rose to her feet. He held her chin up, and stared right into Coppola's murky green eyes. "Yes," she said in a voice barely above a whisper, "so long as you promise to let my parents go, and guarantee Adam's safety."
"Tanya, no!" said the Black Terran Ranger, "You can't trust this creature!"
"Stop your interference!" snapped Sandman angrily, "I agree to your terms, Tanya. The boy is only asleep, and shall awaken shortly. Come."
The Sandman pulled a gloved hand out of his yellow trenchcoat pocket, and held it out to Tanya. She hesitated for a moment, and then touched his hand. As soon as they made contact, they both suddenly disappeared, leaving the six Power Rangers stunned.
"I don't believe she just went with that... thing!" said Aisha, the Green Ranger.
"Her parents' lives are at stake," said Tommy, "What else could she have done?"
"You're not saying we're giving up on this!" said Jason, "We can't leave Tanya in the hands of that monster! We have to free her, and her parents!"
"We will," said Tommy, lifting the unconscious Adam, "Let's go to the Central Access Complex. We'll signal Billy when we get there."
With that, the Power Rangers, and their friend, disappeared from the slope of a hill just outside the Youth Center.
Tanya's eyes shot open in alarm. She half expected to see the ceiling of her bedroom in the Hillard's house, after awaking from a terrifying dream. But, this wasn't a dream. It was her worst nightmare.
Tanya lay upon a large canopy bed, with soft yellow silk drapes surrounding the entire bed. She sat up, and straightened the hem of her yellow party dress. She then peeked out from behind the drapes, preparing herself for the terror that she may be soon seeing. But what she saw illicited no fear whatsoever. Rather, she was awestruck.
The bedroom she was now in was furnished with fine antique furniture, decorated in a fashion most comparable with the Victorian age. The walls and ceiling of the chamber were made of yellow bricks, and there was a large window on one wall, with yellow drapes to match the decor of the rest of the room. It was obviously not the room of a slavegirl. She looked out the window, and saw many stalactites hanging from the cavern's ceiling, as clear as the finest crystal. She was obviously nowhere on the Earth's surface.
"Impressive, is it not?" asked a gentle voice behind her. Tanya gasped and turned around. Her eyes widened when they fell upon a strange young man, with an ochre-yellow complexion. His face and stature was very dignified and handsome, and his long hair, which was exactly the same shade of yellow as his skin, was tied back into a long ponytail. He wore what appeared to be a tuxedo, complete with a long, flowing cape, of matching ochre-yellow. However, what was most surprising was his eyes. Or rather, his lack of eyes. His eye sockets were empty pits of blackness.
"Who are you?" she asked, when her voice finally returned to her. He smiled at her.
"Let me show you," he said, his form melting into a puddle. Tanya gasped as he reformed, this time taking the shape of the hideous beast Giuseppe Coppola, with yellow trenchcoat and wrinkled face.
"Sandman! You're a shape-shifter?!"
"Indeed," he said, reverting into his more pleasant form, "My true form is amorphous, so I can choose whichever shape I prefer. And my name is not Sandman, nor is it Giuseppe Coppola. Those are just aliases I go by when dealing in the world of humankind. I am Coppelius, of Areana."
"Areana is the planet of my birth," he explained, "I was the sole survivor of a space expedition from Areana, a planet circling the star known as Betelgeuse, which crashed here on Earth centuries ago. I had no way to contact my people, nor repair my ship. I was trapped on this strange planet, the only one of my kind. Needless to say, I was feared by mankind, because of my abilities, and appearance. Although I can change my shape, I cannot entirely fit in with human kind. I stood out, and was feared and hated."
"If you're trying to get sympathy from me," said Tanya in a low, nearly growling voice, "you're barking up the wrong tree!"
"I just thought you'd like to get to know me better," Coppelius said, his smile falling, "After all, you'll be spending the rest of your life down here. It can either be a pleasant experience, or it can be a prison for you. I do hope you choose the former option."
"What do you mean 'down here'?" she asked, glancing out of the window again, "Where are we?"
"We are several miles deep into the crust of the Earth. This is my only refuge from mankind. Here is where I constructed my own kingdom, made of crystal, glass, and sand. Here, I am in control. This is my sanctuary, where mankind can never follow."
"I want to see my parents," Tanya said coldly. Coppelius nodded, and turned towards the door.
"Come," he said, opening the door, "I shall take you to see them. I'm sure they will be most surprised to see you again."
Coppelius slowly marched through the spacious hallway, closely followed by Tanya. Tanya studied the artwork along the brick walls with interest. Most of them were of this underground land, with only the light of torches and small fires. The coloring was always of shades of yellow and orange, since the sand was yellow and the illuminating flames orange. At the end of the hall was a rather large portrait of a lady, with flowing curly raven hair, mysterious, large dark eyes, and flawless, chocolate brown skin. She wore a charming, heartwarming smile, revealing pearly white teeth. Tanya marvelled at the portrait she saw. The subject looked very much like herself, except the hair was longer and darker. Tanya turned away, and saw that Coppelius was descending a flight of narrow stone steps, into a consuming blackness. She followed him, cautiously watching her step, into the lower level of the exotic palace, where the dungeons were. Coppelius held a torch that lit the dark chambers with an eerie orange glow, and led Tanya to the last prison cell, which was lit by a small oil lamp. Inside the spacious cell were two middle aged people, dressed in clean, contemporary clothing. Tanya was visibly surprised by the sight of the two prisoners. The only thing that spoke of their captivity were the iron bars on the walls. Otherwise, they lived in the lap of luxury. But, Tanya could tell from their somber expressions that they were not happy with their present situation. She gazed at the two people whose faces were clouded in her memory, while the continued with their business, unaware of her presence. But Tanya knew in her heart that they were indeed her parents. Coppelius had spoken the truth.
"Henry," said Coppelius, "Agatha."
The couple within the cell looked towards the gate, and saw the handsome face of their captor. Henry stepped in front of Agatha, and frowned at his host bitterly.
"What do you want?" he barked, "I already told you, I refuse to tell you were we hid Tanya! So, either kill us or let us be!"
"I no longer need you assistance in determining the whereabouts of the child," said Coppelius coolly, "I have someone who has waited over a decade to meet you."
Coppelius unlatched the door, and Tanya timidly walked into the room. Both her parents gasped, and tears welled in Agatha's dark eyes. Agatha slowly walked towards Tanya, and tightly embraced her daughter with all the affection in her heart. But Henry's reaction was very different. He was mortified.
"No!" he roared, his eyes flashing with ire, "You will not take my daughter!"
"But, I didn't take her," Coppelius replied, "She came willingly, to save your lives. And so, you are free."
"What do you mean?" asked Agatha, releasing her daughter from the welcoming embrace.
"I mean just that," said Coppelius, "All three of you are free to move about the palace at your leisure. I trust you'd like to spend some time with your long-lost daughter before you return to the surface world. So, you have my permission to stay for one day. Then, I shall personally escort you to the surface world."
"You're just going to let us have free access to the palace?" said Tanya in surprise.
"Of course," said Coppelius, "After all, you have given me your life in exchange for your parents. We made a deal, and I trust you will not break it. Also, there is no way you can escape, for there is nowhere to go. You are miles deep within the crust of the planet, and you can never make it to the surface. Now, I shall leave you."
Coppelius disappeared, leaving the small family alone, within the prison cell with an open door. Tanya's eyes were watering, and she smiled as she hugged both parents at once.
"Mom, Dad, you don't know how much I've missed you."
"We've missed you too, Baby," said Agatha, "All these years, we silently wondered what had become of you. But we knew we could trust Ishala to protect and care for you, and we were right. You've grown into a wonderful, beautiful young woman."
Tanya turned to her father, who wore a bitter scowl.
"Dad," she said, "what's wrong?"
"Tanya," she said in a low voice, "I can understand why you did what you did, but you shouldn't have. We're old. We've lived our lives. Now you, in the prime of your life, have thrown your future away!"
"I couldn't just let you live in a prison!" Tanya objected, "Besides, you are two people, and I'm only one. He'll only have one slave."
"He doesn't want you for a slave," said Henry, shaking his head, "He want's your body."
"What... what do you mean by that?" asked Tanya.
"Sit down," said Henry, gesturing to a couch against the stone wall, "I'm going to tell you a story that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is the story of the Sandman..."
In the Central Access Complex, the two X-Rangers and the four Terran Rangers wait in a semi-circle, surrounding Billy as he tends to Adam, who is still unconscious. Billy losens his tie, and examines the computer scan of Adam's body.
"Well," he said finally, "he's only asleep. Whatever this substance Sandman threw at him, its a powerful chemical that induces sleep. It should wear off soon, but I don't think there's anything I can do to speed up the process."
"Don't," said Tommy, "Let the drug work through his system. Meanwhile, we have bigger problems."
"Namely the Sandman," said Zack, "Is there any way we can track the Sandman's teleportation signature?"
"I doubt it," said Billy, "Whatever means Sandman uses to teleport, its not similar enough to Rita and Zedd's magic for the computers to notice it. If it were, alarms would have gone off each time he came to Earth."
"How do we know he left Earth?" asked Aisha, "After all, the Sandman is a legend that's existed for centuries!"
"Do you really think this is _the_ Sandman?" asked Katherine.
"I don't know," said Aisha.
"Well, he couldn't have gotten far," said Kimberly, "Billy, is there any way you can track down Tanya?"
"Not unless she has her communicator with her," said Billy, "But if she had, she would have contacted us."
"Maybe she's out of range?" suggested Jason.
"Perhaps," said Billy, rubbing his chin, "Even if she's out of communication or teleportation range, we can still track her signal, and get coordinates. But, it'll take some time."
"Then, let's get to it," said Tommy.
In the prison cell inside the magnificent palace of Coppelius, Henry takes a deep breath, and begins his strange tale.
"In Falun, there was an ancient mine, that ran hundreds of feet into the earth. Once upon a time, in the year 1759, a miner named Nathaniel Sloan was trapped when the mine caved in. It was the day before his wedding to his love Olympia, and he was found unconscious by the Sandman, who is a mystical creature who lives in the ground below. Nathaniel begged the strange scientist to help him return to the surface, so he could live his life. Sandman agreed, saying that, in return, he would claim Nathaniel and Olympia's eldest child, to serve him until the day he dies. And every 100 years, the Sandman would claim a new servant from the upper world, to assist in his experiments, and perhaps be a part of them. Nathaniel agreed, sine he knew his wife was unable to bear children, and the Sandman brought Nathaniel to the surface through an entrance only he knew of. Nathaniel returned to Olympia, and they married that very evening. About a year later, Olympia became pregnant. Nathaniel knew that the Sandman would lay claim on the child, so he and Olympia fled Sweden, to live in the African colonies. But, twenty years later, the Sandman found them, and took their eldest child, Ligeia, from them. At first, she was his servant, but he grew to love her. But she weakened, and was dying. So, Nathaniel preserved her brain, and created a machine that could place her essence into another's body. But, it would only work if the host body was genetically similar to Ligeia's. So, every century, Sandman returned to the surface, and found another young girl in the Sloan family to place his beloved's essence into. However, he couldn't find a child similar enough to Ligeia for the transferrence to be successful, and to this day, Coppelius has been waiting for the young woman who was enough like her ancestor to bring her back to life."
"So, Coppelius hasn't been collecting slaves," said Tanya, "but companions."
"Yes," said Henry with a deep sigh, "He is a stranger in a strange world, and no one ever accepted him. Except Ligeia. She was pure and good, and grew to care for Coppelius. But she couldn't live forever, as Coppelius can."
"And this Ligeia, she is the woman on the portrait?"
"Yes," said Agatha quietly, "Tanya, you look exactly like her."
"I had struck a deal with Coppelius," continued Henry, "because he visited us on the New Year's Eve after your birth to remind us of the debt that hasn't been fully paid. I promised to pay him annually a tithe of rare chemicals, provided that he leave you alone. He agreed, because as a scientist, he has experiments to conduct, and he has difficulty obtaining the needed chemicals because he lives beneath the earth, away from all civilization. So, this annual tithe continued, until the night he saw you again, when you hid in my closet. Only then did he realize how much you resembled Ligeia, and he assumed that, because you look so much like her, your body would be an adequate vessel from Ligeia's brain. As soon as he saw you, he decided that having you was more important than the chemicals he had been collecting, she he tried to take you to his lair, hoping to raise you himself, and when you were the right age, he would transplant Ligeia's essence into your body. But I refused to let him double-cross me."
"That's when the fire started," recollected Tanya, "That's when I lost you..."
Agatha sighed and hugged her daughter even tighter. Tanya's eyes started to spill over as realization hit her.
"My God," she whispered, "can Coppelius really put another person's soul into my body?"
"He's been trying to perfect the process for some time," said Henry solemnly, "but he is mad. He refuses to accept that Ligeia is gone. He has preserved her brain, but that doesn't mean she is still alive. What was Ligeia is gone now. He cannot re-create a person."
"But that won't stop him from trying..." said Tanya, "He doesn't care if he kills me."
"Tanya, you must escape!" said Agatha. Henry placed a consoling hand on her shoulder.
"Escape is impossible," he said, "We are miles underground! How can we find our way to the surface? And certainly no one will come for us."
"Maybe," said Tanya, glancing at her yellow and silver wrist communicator. Discreetly, she unlatched it from her wrist and hid it on the floor. "In the meantime, let's take a look at this castle of his. Maybe we can find something useful."
Tanya stood up and pushed open the unlocked iron barred gate. Together, the small family ascended the stairs to the palace itself. Tanya frowned when she saw the painting of Ligeia, while Henry and Agatha marvelled at it.
"You... you look even more like Ligeia than I thought!" Henry said in surprise, "Its no wonder he spent so long searching for you."
"Uh oh," said Tanya, looking around on the floor, "I... I dropped my bracelet downstairs. I'd better go find it."
"What?" asked Agatha, "Its not that important."
"Its got... sentimental value. I'll be right back."
"I'll go with you," said Henry.
"No," said Tanya, hurrying down the stairs again, "it'll only take a minute." Tanya went back into the cell, and picked up her communicator, which was right where she left it.
"Billy?" she whispered, "Rangers? Do you read?" But all Tanya could hear was static. She sighed deeply and tried again.
"Hello? Is anyone out there?"
Tanya frowned, and slowly ascended the stairs, out of the dungeon. I must be out of range or something! she thought, Maybe some of the rocks in the caves are deflecting the signal? There must be a way to contact the CAC. Coppelius is a scientist, for Pete's sake! He's got to have some kind of communications device somewhere!
"Come on," Tanya said, closing the door to the stairwell behind her, "let's find Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory."
Adam's eyes slowly opened, but his vision was too blurry for him to recognize anything. When his eyes finally focused, he found himself staring at the ceiling of the CAC. He shuddered, instantly remembering what it was like to awaken after extensive heart surgery, only weeks before. He sat up, and rubbed his eyes. He saw the six Power Rangers standing beside Billy, as he busily worked at the scanning relay.
"Guys," Adam said quietly, "what's going on?"
His dark eyes widened when he remembered what happened just before he passed out.
"Where's Tanya?!" he cried, hopping off the med-unit and onto his feet. He balanced himself against the med-unit, and shook off a wave of dizziness. Aisha hurried to his side, and helped him stand.
"Take it easy Adam," she said, "You shouldn't stress yourself."
"Where's Tanya?" he repeated in a lower voice, "She's not here!"
"She went with the Sandman," said Tommy, as Adam and Aisha joined the others by the computer.
"Sandman has her parents as prisoners," explained Kimberly, "He threatened to kill them if she didn't go with him."
"So, what are you waiting for?" Adam asked, anger and fear prevalent in his weak voice, "Why aren't you following them?!"
"As soon as I locate Tanya, the rangers will rescue her," said Billy, "I'm recalibrating the scanning system, so we can get Tanya's coordinates. I believe I've found where Sandman has taken her. Or at least, where her communicator is."
"Where is she?" asked Katherine, "Are they still on Earth?"
"The coordinates read a latitude and longitude that marks a city called Falun, in Sweden. But..."
"But?" asked Jason.
"But the readings aren't in the city itself. They are... 2.7 miles beneath the city."
"The Sandman took Tanya underground?" asked Zack in surprise.
"That actually makes sense," said Tommy, picking up his helmet, "After all, the Sandman can't live with other people, so he must alienate himself. What better place on Earth to be alone than deep in the crust? Billy, can you teleport us to Tanya's location?"
"I'm having difficulty locking a signal," said Billy in frustration, "and since the signal is coming from underground, I don't want to make an error. You may materialize inside a rock or something."
"Its a chance we'll have to take," said Tommy, "Back to Action!"
The rangers all took their helmets, and strapped them back on in reply. Adam stood back, and watched as they vanished from the Central Access Complex.
"Good luck, gang," he said quietly, "I wish I could be there with you..."
The Terran Rangers and X-Rangers appeared within a dark cave. Large stalagmites and stalactites sprouted from the floor and the ceiling, and pools of molten lava heated and lit the cave from within small wells in the rock.
"Is it just me," said Katherine, "or have we stepped right into Dante's Inferno ?"
"That's the first thing that came to my mind too," commented Jason.
The Silver Ranger climbed up onto a large boulder, giving him a clearer view of the dark chamber."Guys," he called, "check it out!"
"What did you find, Zack?" asked Aisha, the recently instated Green Ranger.
"Would you believe... a humungous sand castle?"
The other rangers stepped onto the boulder, and gasped audibly. Not far away was a large palace of bricks made of sand, with a molten lava moat surrounding it entirely. The Red Ranger leapt off the boulder and began walking towards the castle.
"Come on," he called, "Something tells me this is the place to start looking for Tanya."
The Terran Rangers broke into a run towards the castle, but a wall of sand appeared in their path. They stopped short.
"Where did that come from?" asked Katherine.
"Sandman," Jason answered, looking around. Atop the high wall was a figure, who leapt down to the same level as the rangers. It was the troll-like Coppolla, who snarled at the rangers violently.
"Why have you come?" he asked in a raspy voice.
"Why do you think?" asked the Silver Ranger, "Where's Tanya?"
"She is home," he replied, "She will never leave. We made a deal, and it is not your place to break it."
"Sorry, Sandman," said the Gold Ranger, "but the deal's invalid! You can't bargain with what isn't yours, and you don't own Tanya's parents."
"I promised that no harm would come to Tanya's friends," Sandman growled, "but you have trespassed on land no human being may walk upon and live. Unless, I so grant him his life! And I shall take yours from you!"
With that, Sandman raised his fists, and the wall came crashing down, burying the six rangers beneath tons of yellow sand.
After wandering aimlessly through the vast underground palace of the alien being Coppelius, Tanya, Agatha, and Henry Sloan finally find the spacious laboratory. Agatha and Henry gasp as they gaze upon the machines before them. There is a large, long table, covered with beakers filled with labeled chemicals of all types. Lights flashed from the consoles of many computers, and in the far corner was a large viewscreen, showing the present fight between the Power Rangers and the Sandman. Henry and Agatha were amazed by the technology spread out before them, but Tanya has seen such technology in the Power Chamber. She looks over the consoles carefully, searching for something that resembled the teleporter in the Power Chamber.
"There must be a teleporter here somewhere," she muttered angrily, scanning the many consoles with her eyes. She found a suspicious red button, and looked at it curiously.
"Its always the red button," she decided, as she pressed the button with her index finger. The wall opened, revealing a secret room within. The Sloan family walked into the chamber, and were all awestruck. Inside, was a table just long enough for a person to lie upon. It was connected with various tubes and wires to a control panel. That panel was connected to a large glass cylinder, about seven feet high. Tanya gasped as she noticed there was a body inside. She peered at it intensely, and her eyes widened.
"Its... me?" she gasped.
"Its Ligeia," Agatha whispered, "Coppelius must've placed her in suspended animation!"
"Amazing," said Henry. He then frowned, and glanced at Tanya. "Tanya," he said, "Coppelius plans on using your body to bring Ligeia back to the living. Now is our chance to foil his plans!"
"What do you mean?" asked Tanya.
"We must destroy this machine! Its the only way to stop him from killing you!"
"But," said Tanya, gazing at Ligeia, "if we destroy the machine, we'll kill her !"
"She's already dead," said Agatha solemnly, "Coppelius just can't bring himself to believe it, but there is no science that can bring her back. Even if there was, is it fair to rob Ligeia of peace?"
"No," said Tanya.
"And no matter how powerful Sandman is, he is not God. He has no right to take your life and exchange it for one long dead."
"You're right," said Tanya, taking a look around the dimly lit chamber. She located a wooden table, covered with flasks of various chemicals. She ran over to the table, and kicked it over, spilling all the chemicals onto the stone floor. Her parents watched as she grabbed one of the wooden legs, and held her hand above the leg, aiming carefully.
"My friend Adam taught me this," she said, focussing on the leg. With a mighty chop, she cleanly broke through the wood, effectively creating a wooden staff. She picked up the staff, and carefully eyed the glass tube Ligeia was in.
"I don't think you'll be able to break through this glass," said Agatha, "It looks rather thick."
"Right," said Henry, "but perhaps you can destroy the main console."
"Good idea," said Tanya, hurrying to the computer console connected to the entire machine, "Step back, guys."
Henry and Agatha stepped towards the door to the main laboratory, while Tanya rose the wooden beam high. She slammed the heavy beam on the computer console over and over again, each time seriously damaging the delicate machinery. Sparks flew throughout the chamber, but Tanya paid no heed, focussing all her attention to the destruction of the device. She didn't notice the sparks that flew across the room, and struck the spilled chemicals that fell earlier. The sparks quickly started a chemical fire, with noxious fumes.
"Tanya!" gasped Agatha, covering her mouth, "Get out of there!"
Tanya turned around, and saw the flames spreading through the dark chamber like wildfire. She was soon surrounded by flames, in the far end of the room.
"Tanya, no!" coughed Henry desperately, trying to fight his way through the fire. But there was no way to reach his daughter.
"Dad!" said Tanya urgently, "Mom! Get outta here, now! See if you can get help!"
Henry and Agatha nodded, and hurried through the main laboratory as quickly as they could. Tanya backed away from the powerful flames, and winded up trapped against the yellow wall. She watched as the flames consumed everything in their path, and soon, they reached the device Ligeia was connected to. The bed quickly burned to ash, and the heat slowly melted the cylinder.
Maybe the water in Ligeia's chamber will quench the flames! Tanya thought hopefully. She held her breath as the clear liquid burst through the weakened glass, streaming into the flaming room. But instead of dousing the flames, they only increased in intensity. Tanya shrieked in alarm.
"It wasn't water! That liquid must've been some flammable chemical!"
Tanya ripped a piece of her dress, and covered her nose and mouth with it. She then stepped back from the flames, with her back against the wall.
My only chance is to contact the rangers! I wonder if they can hear me from outside...
Tanya raised the communicator to her mouth, and waved the smoke from her face.
The Sandman stood atop the mountain of yellow sand, beneath which lied the Power Rangers. He chuckled, and put his wrinkled hands in his trench-coat pockets.
"Now my front yard will serve as a tomb for the mighty Power Rangers of Earth," he said, a cold grin on his face, "They must have suffocated by now."
Suddenly, the yellow sand appeared to give off a golden glow. Sandman leapt off the dune and watched in surprise as the sand was thrown in all directions by some faint gold energy. The Power Rangers all rose to their feet, with the Gold Ranger being helped up by the Red Ranger.
"Good job, Kimberly," he said, "Are you gonna be okay?"
"Yeah," she assured, "that telekinetic burst just took alot outta me."
"And now, its time to take alot out of the Sandman!" exclaimed the Silver Ranger, "Light Lance, power up!"
A silver staff with a prism on either side appeared in Zack's hand, and he charged at the Sandman. The Sandman laughed as his hand took the shape of a sword. The other rangers could see Zack needed help.
"Wow," said Katherine, "Sandman's good!"
"Then we need to get involved," said Tommy, "Flame Sab--"
Tommy was surprised when a six tone signal from his communicator interrupted him.
"I'll answer," said Tommy, turning to his friends, "The rest of you, help Zack!"
"Right!" said Aisha, her Wind Shield taking shape in her hand, "Let's rock!"
Katherine, Kimberly, and Jason summoned their weapons-- the Ice Daggers, Thunderbow, and Earth Sword-- and joined the fight against Sandman. Tommy immediately pulled back his glove to reveal his wrist communicator.
"What's up, Billy?"
^Its... not Billy,^ came a weak voice, ^Its... Tanya...^
"Tanya?!" said Tommy in surprise and alarm, "Where are you? You don't sound so good."
^I'm in... Coppelius' lab,^ she gasped, ^The fire--^
Tanya then fell into a fit of coughs. Tommy glanced at the palace, searching for some smoke pouring from a window, to show where the laboratory was. Tommy's dread increased when he realized there wasn't any smoke.
That can only mean one thing-- the laboratory doesn't _have_ a window! Without ventilation, the smoke'll kill Tanya before the flames get to her!
Tommy was subsequently knocked off his feet by a wave of sand, which Sandman created to wash away the Power Rangers. Since Tommy was the furthest away from Sandman when the wave was created, he wasn't buried like his friends were. He rose to his feet, and leapt at Sandman.
There's no way I can find the lab in time Tommy concluded, Tanya's only chance is the Sandman himself!
"So," said Sandman with a cruel chuckle, "You're willing to face me alone, Red Ranger? You'll leave your friends to suffocate under my sand?"
"They won't suffocate," said Tommy confidently, "However, if you don't do something soon, your laboratory will be toast for good."
"What do you mean?" asked Sandman, dropping his fighting stance.
"Tanya paged me. She's trapped inside your lab, and its on fire. Your the only one that can save her... and everything inside your laboratory."
The Sandman's confident grin fell sharply, leaving a visage of fear and horror.
"No!" he cried, vanishing from his spot, "Ligeia!!"
Tommy blinked under his helmet, and watched the creature completely disappear. He then turned around to see all five of his fellow rangers dusting themselves off from the sand.
"What happened to Sandman?" asked Jason.
"And what did Billy say?" added Aisha.
"That wasn't Billy, it was Tanya," explained Tommy, starting to run towards the sand castle, "She's trapped somewhere in this castle, in Sandman's lab. I told Sandman about it, hoping he'd be able to stop the fire and save her. There's no way we'll be able to find the lab before she chokes on all the smoke."
"Did she say anything about her parents?" asked Katherine, "They must be somewhere inside the palace too! Is she with them?"
"I don't know," admitted Tommy, leaping over the moat of lava, "That's why we're going in!" The remaining rangers followed their leader across the moat and into the palace. They found themselves in a long hallway, with paintings along the walls.
"Hello?" called Tommy down the hallway, "Mr and Mrs Sloan!! We're here to save you!"
"This palace is huge," said Aisha frustratedly, "There's no way we'll find them!"
"Maybe we should split up," suggested Jason, "We'd be able to cover more ground that way."
"Good idea," said Tommy, "Kim, Aisha and I will go left, Jason, Zack, and Kat will go right."
The six teens separated, moving as quickly as they could through the empty hallways.
Sandman appeared inside his main laboratory, now in the form of Coppelius. As he feared, he saw smoke pouring out of his smaller laboratory, where his most precious treasure is kept. Coppelius dashed into the flames, being cautious not to let the actual fire touch him. The smoke couldn't harm him, but since he was a creature of sand, direct fire could melt his form, and transform him into glass.
"Tanya?" he yelled into the flames, "What have you done?!"
Tanya cringed when she heard the anger in his voice. She forced herself to her feet, and looked the enraged creature in the eye. At least, where the eyes would be.
"I did what I needed to do to survive," she said in a weak voice, "You were planning to exchange my life for hers!" With that, she pointed to Ligeia, who now lay upon the flaming floor, engulfed in flames. Her glass chamber melted, and the chemicals that preserved her made her flammable. Coppelius' fists tightened, and he turned back to Tanya. He roughly grabbed her shoulders, and held her at arm's length.
"You _killed_ her!" he roared into her face, "You killed the only person that ever mattered to me!"
"She's been dead," Tanya said quietly, "Ligeia died two hundred years ago. There is nothing you could do to bring her back. Let's say you can somehow switch her mind with mine. Then, you would have a woman who looks like Ligeia, and maybe even has her memories, but she wouldn't _be_ Ligeia. Her spirit-- what made her an individual-- is long gone. You can't replace it."
Sandman put Tanya back on the ground. Tanya felt dizzy, and leaned against the wall. The smoke was still surrounding her, and she didn't know how much longer she would last.
"If you loved Ligeia," Tanya whispered, "you'd let her rest in peace. You are being selfish by trying to re-animate her. Let her rest."
"Hello!" Jason yelled at the top of his lungs, "Mr and Mrs Sloan! Tanya! Answer me!!"
The Black, Silver, and Blue Rangers continued up a flight of sandy yellow stairs. Suddenly, the Silver Ranger stopped in his tracks.
"Guys," he said, "I think I smell something!"
He pulled off his helmet, and breathed deeply through his nose.
"Smoke," he said finally, sniffing at the air, "This way."
"Our helmets protect us from fumes," said Katherine, "but at the same time, they limit our sense of smell."
Zack led the rangers to another tunnel, where two human beings were standing against the wall. The man stood protectively in front of his wife, and he wore a threatening scowl.
"Get back!" he yelled, "Whatever you are, don't come _near_ us!"
"Relax!" said Zack, his helmet under his arm, "We're friends of Tanya's!"
Henry peered at the young man in silver in confusion. He did look human, although his uniform was as alien as possible.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"We're the Power Rangers," the Black Ranger answered, "And you're Tanya's parents?"
"Yes. I'm Henry, and this is Agatha."
"You've gotta help Tanya!" cried Agatha, "She's trapped in Coppelius' lab!"
"Where is the lab?" the Blue Ranger asked.
"Down there," said Henry, pointing in the direction from which they came, "Be careful! There are flames everywhere!"
"You two take the Sloans outta here," said Katherine, running down the hall where Henry had pointed, "I'll get Tanya!"
"Are you sure?" asked Jason.
Zack strapped on his helmet, and took Agatha by the hand, who was quaking with fear over the predicament her daughter was in. Jason grabbed Henry's hand, and together they led the reluctant parents safely through the maze of hallways.
"I just hope we can find a way out!" muttered Jason.
"We should let the others know we found the Sloans," said Zack.
"You're right," said Jason, bringing his wrist to his mouth while not slowing down, "Tommy, you read?"
^I'm here, Bro,^ came the response, ^What's up?^
"We've found the parents, and Kat's going after Tanya right now. Get your team outta the palace! We'll meet you outside."
^Got it. See ya soon.^
"Once we get far enough away from the palace, we'll be able to teleport back to our base," Jason told Henry, "You're in good hands."
"I just hope your Blue friend finds my daughter," Henry said quietly.
Katherine followed the strong scent of smoke, and soon found her way into Sandman's main laboratory. She was surprised to see that Tanya was lying unconscious on the stone floor, with no fire around. The smoke still poured from a chamber next to the main lab, and as soon as Kat stepped near Tanya, Coppelius appeared at the doorway to the burning chamber, his hands clasped behind his back.
"Who are you?" she asked. He smiled sadly.
"A lone, broken-hearted soul who has finally seen the light," he answered, "Here is your friend, Blue Ranger. She was right-- I have no right to lay claim on her life. You are my witness-- I hereby release the Sloan family from my curse. I shall no longer interfere with their affairs, nor those of any human beings. You need not fear me any longer."
Katherine watched in confusion as the strange sand-colored man raised his hand above his head.
"I have teleported your friends and Tanya's parents outside the palace," he explained, "I shall also teleport you outside. You can find your way to the surface without my aid, correct?"
Katherine nodded mutely.
"Then farewell," he said, turning back into the flaming lab, "Oh, and I apologize for almost killing you."
"Sandman--?" Katherine whispered, as she and Tanya slowly dematerialized. In the blink of an eye, Katherine found herself outside hte palace, within the vast caverns beneath Switzerland. All of the Power Rangers were there, as well as Tanya, Henry, and Agatha Sloan. Everyone looked around in confusion.
"What happened?" asked the Green Ranger.
"Sandman teleported us out," Katherine answered, "He... apologized for everything he did."
Henry and Agatha quickly knelt beside their daughter, who was still unconscious.
"Will she be okay?" Agatha asked, biting her lower lip.
"I'm sure she will be," the Red Ranger answered, raising his wrist to his mouth, "Billy, do you read?"
^Tommy, is that you?^ said Billy's voice.
^Are you guys okay? Did you get Tanya?^ asked Adam's voice.
"Yes, we're all okay. And we saved Tanya and her parents. Can you teleport us back?"
^You got it.^
The nine people vanished from the dark cavern in beams of gold, silver, red, black, blue, green, and three of white light.
Three days later, in the Hillard family's house, Tanya is busy packing her belongings. Katherine's parents were nice enough to let the Sloans stay with them for a few days, so they could get organized. Now, it was time for them to return to their native Kenya, and Tanya is going with them. While Tanya packs in her bedroom, her parents and Katherine's parents talk in the living room.
"I can't thank you enough for taking care of Tanya these past few months," said Agatha.
"She was a delightful houseguest," said Richard Hillard, "We were glad to have her."
"Its absolutely amazing that after all this time, your expedition was found!" said Marie Hillard.
"Well, it was all thanks to the Power Rangers," said Henry, "Its been a decade since we were trapped on that uncharted Pacific island, and a storm completely destroyed our ship and equipment. We just had to stay strong, and hope someone would find us."
"Remarkable," said Richard, "So, are you going back to Africa permanently?"
"No," said Henry, "Tanya loves Angel Grove, and its not fair to take her away. We just need to go back for a few weeks, and get things organized. We need to settle accounts, and see what belongings we had may still be around, like our savings. Once we're all set, we'll find a house around here."
Just then, there was a knock at the front door. Marie rose and opened it, and a young Korean-American man with a green shirt smiled at her.
"Hello, Adam," she said cheerfully, "Come in."
"Thanks, Mrs Hillard," he said, closing the door behind him, "Hi, Mr Hillard, Mr and Mrs Sloan."
"Good morning Adam," they all said.
"If you're looking for Tanya, she's in her bedroom with Katherine," Agatha said. Adam nodded his thanks, and walked down the hallway. He stood quietly at the door, and watched as Tanya and Katherine taped shut a final cardboard box.
"I guess that's everything," Tanya said, stretching her back, "Thanks for your help."
"Don't mention it," said Kat, "I'm so happy for you! I can't believe you actually got your parents back, after all these years!"
"Yeah," Tanya said with a smile, "I've never been happier--"
Tanya looked up and saw Adam in the doorway, watching her. He blushed slightly. Kat noticed him too, and smiled to herself.
"I think I'll leave you two alone," she said, standing up. She walked past Adam, and winked at him. Adam stepped into the room, and wrung his fingers nervously.
"Do you need any help?" he asked.
"No, I'm all set," Tanya answered, standing up, "How're you feeling?"
"Oh, I'm fine," he said, "Well, as fine as can be expected."
There was a moment of awkward silence. The kind that always shows up whenever Adam and Tanya are alone.
"So," said Adam, "How long are you gonna be in Kenya?"
"I... I don't know. A few weeks, I guess."
"Wow," said Adam, "That's a long time."
"Yeah," said Tanya with a sigh, "I'm really gonna miss you guys. Especially you, Adam."
Adam lifted his head and looked up at her, his eyes wide. Tanya smiled warmly, and approached him.
"I never got a chance to wish you Happy New Year," she said, taking his hand. Adam looked at her questioningly, and blushed when he remembered New Year's Eve, where they were inches from a kiss before Sandman attacked. Suddenly, all his fear faded when he saw her so close to him. He knew she felt the same way as he did, so his shyness melted. Adam gently pulled her closer, and lowered his head to meet her lips in their first kiss. It was sweet and sad, because it said everything these two youths have been trying to say practically from the day they met to today. Including goodbye.
Neither noticed Katherine, who had peeked into the bedroom to check on them. She smiled when she saw her best friend in the arms of the man she loved, completely oblivious to the rest of the world. She turned back to the living room, where her parents and Tanya's parents were.
"Where's Tanya?" Agatha said, "We have to leave. The plane leaves in two hours."
"Give her a minute," said Kat, "She's saying goodbye."