"... The miracle of a new beginning is not in the beginning itself, but in the prospect of its outcomes..."
Tommy looked left, catching the blow on his left thigh, knocking him down. The Zeo Rangers were finished. He couldn't believe it. He'd let them die, suffer horrible, terrible deaths. Each time promising to leave, swearing that he'd never let them go. Promising each one that he'd never let them die, but each time, he stole their power crystals and left their bodies.
He left them for whatever gruesome purpose the Machine Empire could concoct. He finally had run out of friends, and ammo, refusing to let Prince Gasket have the power crystals he held firmly in his hand. However, with his right ankle broken after a massive shock wave threw him some twenty feet, and no ammunition left in his laser, all he was reduced to was known as a suicide.
"Zordon!" he screamed into his communicator, falling into the circle of cogs, "Teleport the crystals now!"
Prince Gasket, eyes blazing with their mechanical light, running after the unmorphed Tommy, his sword raised high above his head. Tommy raised the five crystals skyward; Gasket thrust his sword at Tommy's chest. In a swirl of colored light the crystals were taken, and only an instant later, the blade passed through Tommy's chest, pressing his lung flat to the back of his rib cage.
As the air shrieked from his lungs, a last call came out of Tommy's body, "I'm sorry my friends." And also "See you in hell Gasket." Gasket watched as the lifeless shell slid to the ground as the world showed its final light to Tommy's eyes.
Tommy sat bolt upright in his desk, he had probably missed over half of the movie that his teacher was showing today. He was perspiring heavily, and the breaths that escaped him came out in short, inefficient bursts. He leaned back into his chair trying desperately to get more air.
"Tommy, are you all right?" whispered Tommy's teacher, kneeling down beside him.
"I'm fine...could you...just...open the...window...please?" asked Tommy, between forced gulps of air.
He opened the window next to Tommy and returned; "You're sure you're okay?"
"I'll be fine," replied Tommy with a full breath.
His teacher nodded shortly and moved away. Tommy was incredibly embarrassed, but excessively happy that he no longer was having too great of a difficulty breathing. That was totally weird, thought Tommy, for a moment I thought for sure that I was going to die. He knew his mind had been working overtime lately after being knocked unconscious by Mondo's last metal monster. However, this strange nightmare-strike that-daymare was the perfect compliment to the uneasiness he had been feeling over the last couple of days.
The class bell rang and the entire class rose to exit the room. Tommy followed the moving masses, but stopped by his teacher to express his apologies before leaving for the afternoon.
* * *
"You realize you have no artistic view whatsoever?" said Rocky to the kid seated in the desk across from him in his discussion class.
"Does that matter in the slightest?"
"Of course in matters!" cried Rocky, becoming frustrated, "You realize that the whole purpose for the Heart of Darkness is the experience of which Joseph Conrad partook."
"No, that's not the purpose at all," replied the guy calmly, "its purpose was to serve as one: an expression of a political view in opposition to colonization, and two: an expression of Conrad's racist views."
"You can't be serious?" said Rocky, almost popping out of his chair.
"Do I look like I'm kidding?" he said, pointing toward his piercing blue eyes that stared Rocky down with an unwavering, icy glare, "Read the text again, it's spelled out right before your eyes."
"I've read the text four times, I could quote it for you if you'd like!" said Rocky, this time actually getting up out of his chair.
Rocky's opposition got up and out of his chair, and as he did so the words that would be found exactly on Conrad's pages rolled off of his tongue in an amazing English style. He carefully moved across the room letting his words pound ceaselessly on Rocky's pride. When he finished, the entire room was held in tight rapture, and the guy was no more than inches from Rocky's face.
"Excellent Avery," said Rocky, with a defeated smile spreading across his lips, "Joseph probably couldn't have said it better himself."
"Of course he couldn't Rocky," replied Avery, turning back toward his seat, "Conrad was Polish, and his accent would have been heavier than Arnold Schwarzenegger."
The class gave a resounding round of applause for the pair's excellent argument, one that the Modern Fiction teacher would be unlikely to forget.
* * *
That evening, it was much more difficult than usual for Rocky to concentrate while teaching his Karate class. It was lucky for him, however, that this was a group of more advanced students and he didn't need to really pay attention all too carefully.
The argument at school was still bothering him. Rocky read books all of the time; his family was like a pack of novel groupies. He had just hundreds of books to read at his disposal, and he couldn't think of a single quote to convey a counter point against Avery's. Just the simple thought that he had been out versed made Rocky really upset.
Rocky snapped back to reality, "What? What's going on?"
All of his students were lined up in attention before him. Rocky looked down at his watch, it was ten minutes past the time when class was supposed to end. He hadn't been paying attention to the time.
"Sorry, I was kind of zoned out tonight," said Rocky, leading the group into a unified bow, ending the class.
The students left, and Rocky started to roll up the floor mat by himself. Adam and Tanya joined him from their study spots by the juice bar. "You looked like a zombie out there tonight man, what's bothering you?" asked Adam, as the three of them lifted the mat together and carried it to a corner for storage.
"I was just thinking about an argument I had at school today with that one kid, Avery."
"Avery got into an argument with you?" asked Tanya, looking at him strangely, "I've never heard that guy even talk before."
"Well he can talk extremely well, and he knows his literature even better than I do," replied Rocky, folding his arms, "He just like totally shot me down today."
"Maybe we really don't know the guy all that well, besides it's just a stupid little class argument, don't worry about it," said Adam, slapping Rocky's shoulder reassuringly.
"I suppose it's really not going to get me anywhere worrying about it, is it?"
"Nope," said Tanya, shaking her head.
"Okay, I'm done," said Rocky, following the pair off of the gym floor.
* * *
"Can you remember where you were?" asked Jason, "It might be déjà vu or something."
"It was somewhere metallic, like inside of a base, or a tunnel, or maybe some type of machine," replied Tommy, rubbing his forehead, "All I really know is that after Gasket stuck me, when I woke up, it felt as though I had actually been stabbed."
"That could be rather serious Zordon," said Billy, "I mean, what if Gasket has found a device that can attack us in our dreams. Every time we fell asleep we would be a target."
"Alfa, would you scan the atmosphere around Tommy and see if he is being acted upon by any type of electrical force," said Zordon.
"I will begin it immediately Zordon," replied the little robot.
"I'm not sure I want to fall asleep tonight Zordon," said Tommy, trying not to make eye contact, "I'm afraid that I'll have some other nightmare."
"Alfa and I will monitor you throughout the night Tommy; if we suspect that there is any sort of a threat to you, we will bring you here without delay."
"Thanks, I guess that might help me sleep a little better," replied Tommy with a sigh.
"I suppose I could tranquilize you Tommy," said Alfa, "it would reduce your anxiety to sleep."
"No thanks Alfa, drugs are not the way to go."
"Well come on Tommy, let's get you home," said Jason, laying a hand on Tommy's shoulder.
Tommy nodded, he activated the teleporter on his communicator and the pair vanished in a haze of colored lightning.
* * *
The only light in the room was the hundreds of lit candles that surrounded the huge practice mat. In the center of the mat, focused on a stack of four construction bricks stacked together without spacers, stood Avery. His body was hidden within an old and severely worn black gi, and his hair was stuck to his sweating forehead. His breathing was controlled, and his eyes were locked solidly on the stack of bricks. Avery placed his right hand down on top of the bricks, he raised his arm over his head and with one single motion, he brought his palm down onto the stack. A puff of air escaped his lungs as the blow struck. Neither the stack, nor Avery, moved an inch upon contact.
Avery pulled his hand away from the stack, a smile spreading across his face. With his left hand he reached out and pushed on one corner of the stack. With the single blow he had cut the bricks evenly down the center, leaving him with two piles of equally sized half bricks. Avery brushed the dust off of his hands, bowed to the shattered stack of bricks, and ended his practice for the day.
* * *
"Would you repeat that my son?"
"I said, Gasket has recovered the Magma Tunneling Battle Cruiser!"
Mondo was astonished. The Tunneling Cruiser was an old conquering device that Mondo was certain that he had gotten rid of years ago. Its purpose was to be landed on a planet's surface, then tunnel down underneath the enemy's major strong holds and drill right up under their feet. You make a giant sink hole underneath an enemy base, then set some charges. Fire off those charges from a safe distance and watch as the whole base disappears beneath the surface.
"I never thought of using the Tunneling Cruiser Mondo," said Queen Machina.
"It does have excellent tactics for use against the Rangers," replied Mondo, "I mean, you could prepare a network of tunnels underneath Angel Grove, and once charges are set you could basically hold the entire city for ransom."
"A brilliant thought my dear, but now the Cruiser is in Gasket's hands," pointed out Queen Machina, "how are we going to use that to our advantage?"
"Gasket doesn't have an invasion force father," said Prince Sprocket, his chubby little metallic body waddling towards the telescope, "Once he's gone after the rangers he won't be able to take over the planet without your help."
"Of course, of course, that's just details boy!" shouted Mondo, turning away from Sprocket, "What I need is some thing that I get my hands on to, something where I become an invaluable asset."
"I don't suppose father," said Sprocket, looking around the globe, "that the rangers have some type of seismic detectors in their lair, would they?"
Mondo looked back at Sprocket, "Yes, they would, wouldn't they."
"How is Prince Gasket going to tunnel that huge machine under the Command Center, or the city for that matter, without making the rangers suspicious?"
"He can't!" shouted Machina, "Gasket will need us to coordinate a diversion! That's how you get in on his plans! How can my son be such a genius?"
"Obviously because he takes after his father," replied Mondo, turning towards one of his servant cogs, "Get me in communication with the Magma Tunneling Battle Cruiser, I've got a proposition for my son."
* * *
"Almost four thirty, good grief."
Tommy rolled over onto his other side, fluffed the pillows again, and reached down under the covers to straighten out his riding boxers. He just wouldn't let his eyes stay closed. Every time he heard the smallest sound his eyes would flip open like can lids and his heart would start racing.
Maybe it wouldn't have been such a bad idea to get those tranquilizers from Alfa. Tommy shook his head, closed his eyes, and made his first real effort to fall asleep. How childish, he thought while his whole body began to relax, how childish to be afraid of nightmares. Tommy's comfort and confidence returned and he was finally able to sleep.
The atmosphere around Tommy was beginning to cool. Quickly cool. Past Tommy's level of comfort, he rolled over and reached out to pull up the covers. He felt across his body and could find none. He sat up and noticed that he was no longer in his room or in his bed at all. He was in the middle of Karate mat, with a giant crowd now cheering him on. Must be dreaming again, thought Tommy, but this looks kind of cool.
He stood up and bowed to the crowd, still in his boxer shorts. They started to cheer even more loudly. It was almost deafening. Tommy let a smile shine on his face, and even started to wave back to the crowd like a celebrity. The crowd started to chant, but Tommy couldn't understand what it was they were screaming about. Tommy laughed out loud, until something tapped him on the shoulder.
Tommy spun around and saw a guy standing behind him in an old black Karate gi. He couldn't tell who the guy was, because somehow the light that was blinding Tommy was not shining upon the guy's face at all.
"I don't believe they are cheering for you," said the guy softly.
Tommy was a little confused; "Who are they cheering for?"
"The Champ, me."
"Champ of what?" asked Tommy, his muscles tightening for a quick strike.
"Champion of the ring," he replied, as a circle of fire began rise from the ground around him, "and the champion of fire."
The flames were incredibly hot; pushing Tommy back with their waves of intense radiated heat. Tommy covered his eyes from the glare of fiery tongues. The guy inside of the ring of fire seemed to vanish from sight, engulfed by the flames. Tommy was certain that the guy would be dead, but like a Phoenix, rising from the ashes, the guy sailed out of the fire with a flying sidekick that slammed into Tommy like a battering ram. The blow laid Tommy's body out completely in mid-air, and it felt like an eternity before his flesh hit the ground.
Tommy leapt out of bed, landing on his bedroom floor in a perfect fighting stance. He was perspiring buckets of sweat again, but at least this time he could breath quite normally. His chest ached like he had been struck by that incredible aerial attack. Tommy sat down beside his alarm clock that was going off like siren and covered his head.
"Great," he said, slapping the clock off of his nightstand, "First I get a multiple personality disorder, and now I have dreams that can kick my ass."
* * *
Rocky closed his locker and started making his way toward his discussion class. He still wanted to talk to Avery some more about the novel; something about it was still bothering him. Avery was sitting quietly by himself in the far corner of the room when Rocky first walked in. He made his was over to Avery and sat down beside him. Avery didn't even look up as Rocky greeted him.
"Can I help you?" asked Avery, finally looking up from his book.
"Yeah," said Rocky, "I was still wondering about what you had said the other day."
"What about it?"
"I was wondering because I found this completely contradictory statement on page ninety-two," said Rocky, taking out his book and opening it to the proper page, "I was just wondering if I could have your input on it."
Avery set down his own book and read the section that Rocky was referring to. It was a very contradictory statement to what Avery had spoken the day before. It basically left the pair at a wonderful impasse. Avery snorted at the book, and handed it back to Rocky, returning to his book.
"Well what?" asked Avery, not returning Rocky's stare.
"Well do you agree to what I was saying yesterday?"
Rocky wanted to smile at his victory, but somehow couldn't. His veins were sticking out of his neck knowing that he had worked so hard to find that one set of lines to beat Avery, but now finding out that Avery wasn't going to give him any satisfaction for the effort was annoying him.
Rocky got out of his desk abruptly and turned to go find another seat. A hand grabbed Rocky's backpack. Rocky turned around to see Avery holding on to attract his attention. He stopped walking away to hear what Avery was going to say.
Avery pressed his left index finger to his lips, first shushing Rocky as though to silence him, then very softly, "Control your temper."
Rocky glared at Avery viciously as he returned to his book without giving Rocky the slightest glance. Rocky whipped around and got as far and as quickly away from Avery as he possibly could. The veins in his head were now so protruding that they looked as though they would burst. How dare he, thought Rocky, pulling a pencil out of his bag and snapping it in a single clutch of his hand.
* * *
"That's cute," said Kat, shaking her head.
"Yeah, that guy has got a serious weed up his butt," said Jason, closing his locker.
"It must be a really long weed because I think it's coming out his nose too," said Adam, pointing to Avery as he was walking down the hall with a strange glare and a cocky stride.
"I just got to go talk to that guy about this," said Rocky, starting over toward Avery, "if I don't I'm going to explode."
"Rocky," Tommy grabbed his arm, "Not while you're upset, it'll only make things worse."
Rocky shrugged him off and made his way over to Avery. Avery was a fairly big kid, a hundred fifty or a hundred sixty pounds maybe, over six feet tall. He also looked pretty muscular, but of course Rocky always had his five years of Karate on his side, and five more martial arts experienced friends behind him. Avery was having trouble opening his locker, the latch seemed to be jammed and he pulled and jiggled it without any success.
"Could I give you a hand Avery?" asked Rocky, trying to start the conversation out nicely.
Avery wound up and slammed the locker with a lightning fast forearm smash and the locker swung open, "Nope."
"Look, I wanted to talk to you about how you treated me today in class."
"Go away," replied Avery dryly.
"I mean, it wasn't very nice of you to treat me like some little kid or something, I got really upset," said Rocky, becoming more frustrated.
"I don't care, now go away."
"I think that you owe me an apology, or at least let's make a truce," continued Rocky, ignoring Avery's requests, "come on, let's try to work this out and be friends."
Avery's hand snapped out and snagged Rocky by the shirt collar and drug him right up next to Avery's face, "I said, get the hell out of my face!"
Tommy was ready for this reaction and he grabbed Avery's other arm and tried to lock it behind Avery's back. However, Avery shoved Rocky away and spun around effortlessly breaking Tommy's hold. Tommy went to get another hold and Avery knocked both of Tommy's hands away with a pair of coordinated strikes. Then like a giant sumo, Avery shoved Tommy sending him flying across the hallway. Tommy hit one of the recycling bins and then landed on the floor.
Jason rushed over to help, but Avery turned and met him exactly in the center of the hallway with a scarily piercing glare, Avery's index finger pointing in Jason's face he whispered, "Don't even think about it."
Rocky started to move at Avery, after recovering from the unexpected actions, but Adam stepped out to halt him, "We're done!" he shouted, standing between Rocky and Avery.
"Bring it on Rocky!" taunted Avery, motioning Rocky to come forward with his fingers.
"Get out of here Avery, we're done!" yelled Adam, pressing Rocky back towards the lockers.
Avery turned around making sure that everyone saw him, and then without even one more glance, he strode triumphantly out of sight. Kat helped Tommy back to his feet, and Adam backed away from Rocky. Rocky's veins were pulsing on the sides of his head.
"Are you okay Rocky?" asked Tommy, rubbing the small of his back.
"Yeah, just working down a little of the De Santos temper," he replied, beginning to rub the pulsating flesh on the side of his head.
"That guy must be out of his mind!" said Kat, "He just about started a fight between himself and the four top martial artists in Angel Grove."
"Did you see the way he slipped right out of my submission hold Kat?" asked Tommy, "He's either crazy, immune to pain, or really, really good."
"Why did he blow up like that, I didn't do anything!" said Rocky, "Man, I need some ibuprofen, I've got a serious headache now."
"I guess we'd better leave that loose cannon alone," said Jason in his 'everyone listen' tone, "just so that nobody gets hurt."
* * *
"I'm glad that you wish to aid me on this venture father, but how do I know that I can trust you?"
"Gasket, the only one of us that has a problem with lying is you," replied Mondo, "Now seriously, how else do you plan to land your craft without having my help in doing so?"
"I didn't have a particular plan laid out," said Gasket from his chair in the bridge of the Tunnel Cruiser, "But I'm sure I would have thought of something."
"Do you even have any creatures to attack the earth with, or to defend your craft from the Megazord?"
"No father, I have nothing except my patrol of cogs," replied Gasket, "and at the moment they are busy controlling this vessel's functions."
"Therefore you are vulnerable to Megazord attacks," said Mondo.
"Only until I land father," replied Gasket, "you and I both know that the Megazord won't be able to follow me underground."
"Yes of course, but you are a sitting duck until that time correct? A wide open target for multiple power thrusts and heavy weapon fire?" asked Mondo, with a small metallic chuckle.
"Again father, only until we've landed!"
"Now you know you won't be able to land that thing without my help," said Mondo, "I am offering it to you for one simple pleasure in return."
"What price would that be father?"
"The personal pleasure of informing the rangers that I am holding them and the entire city for ransom," replied Mondo, "that ransom being their power crystals."
"That you will let me take," said Gasket, getting out of his chair.
"Very well boy," said Mondo, "have we got a deal?"
Gasket slowly sat back down into his chair, realizing that he was making a bargain with the dirt devil machine man himself. That if he were betrayed he would be in a seriously dangerous position, but the thought of having the power of the crystals to himself was more than enough of a prize to make this challenge worth the risk.
* * *
Tommy let himself relax on the floor of the gym as Adam and Rocky taught the Karate class of younger students a new technique. Tommy was just hoping that in the presence of friends, that if he fell asleep that they might wake him up if it looked like he was having some troubles. Besides all of that, Tommy was absolutely exhausted, two hours of sleep in the last forty-eight was not kosher.
He would get no chance to sleep because Jason would sit down beside him, "Are you okay bro?"
"I guess so," he said, sitting up on his forearms, "I'm just really tired. These nightmares make it just impossible to sleep at night."
"What about going back to see Lita?"
"I don't want to turn into some type of a head case Jase," replied Tommy, "She's great and all, but I would like to try and deal with this on my own first."
"Cool with me bro," said Jason, getting to his feet, "Rocky's class is over, how about joining us for a shake and some chemistry homework?"
"It's Friday night Jase, why don't we go see a movie or something?" said Tommy, taking Jason's hand and using it to pull himself to his feet.
"It's been almost three weeks since Mondo did anything Tommy," said Jason, leaning up on Tommy's shoulder, "I'm not a betting man, but I have ten bucks that says he's going to try something soon, and I would love to have my homework done rather than having to worry about doing it while recovering from the next battle."
"I'm with that," replied Tommy, following Jason over to the juice bar.
* * *
Billy was finished; he couldn't believe it. He had completed the humongus book of Isaac Asmov Super Quizzes with a near perfect score. It really wasn't all that hard, he thought to himself for a second. Billy closed the book and got up out of the chair to stretch. The guys were all probably at the gym, thought Billy; I could really go for a banana guava shake.
Alfa was standing perfectly still beside the Power Chamber's main control board, and Zordon had shut down to a meditative state hours ago. Billy rested his book on the table and turned to leave. He wouldn't get the chance to go; every light and siren in the Chamber started, making Billy leap around, startled.
Simultaneously, Zordon and Alfa sprung to action, "Alfa, what is happening?" asked Zordon.
Alfa began his rapid assessment of the emergency, "I've got four extremely large power sources making their way through the earth's atmosphere!"
Billy made Alfa's statement more accurate, "Three are moving very quickly, and one seems to be moving at a much slower rate."
"Billy inform the rangers immediately!"
With an experienced stroke he punched in the emergency call code, "Rangers, this is Billy, Zordon needs you at the Chamber ASAP, and I need a banana guava shake on the double!"
Alfa stopped what he was doing to look over at Billy.
Billy shrugged his shoulders sheepishly; "I'm really hungry."
The familiar shades of colored light radiated throughout the Power Chamber and the rangers appeared. Tommy moved to the front and center while Jason went over to Billy to try and assist him with the main computers.
"What's going on Zordon?"
"Here's your shake Billy," said Rocky, quietly moving through the sea of rangers.
"It appears as though King Mondo is sending some sort of attack force down to earth," replied Zordon, "Billy, could you locate the three fast movers for us please."
Billy put down his shake and reexamined the monitors, "Yeah, one is out side of the waterfront, one is in the warehouse district, and one isn't moving at all from a spot near Angel Grove Park. The fourth one is slowly heading towards the western side of the Angels Mountains."
"What's over on the west side?" asked Tanya.
"Nothing but rocks," replied Tommy, "I've passed through there a few times on the way to see some relatives."
"Well, if it's moving slowly we can probably take out the other monsters before moving on to check it out," said Rocky, edgy to get out into battle, especially after what had happened today.
"Ready everyone?" called Tommy, stepping out into the center of the Power Chamber, "It's morphin time!"
* * *
At Tommy's command the super Zeo zords were teleported to exactly where their rangers were located. Tommy and Tanya in Angel Grove Park, Rocky and Adam in the warehouse district, and Kat and Trey at the waterfront, powered up to meet their challenges.
"Okay, I've got a simple plan for you," said Tommy, using his zord to turn the giant metal monster around, "you can take off right now, or we're going to throw you off."
The monster responded by raising the large sledgehammer that it was leaning on and gripping it aggressively. Tommy backed off, watchful of the heavy weapon. The monster itself looked more than experienced in the art of war. It had a body of heavy titanium metal, chiseled to look as though the monster was whacked out on steroids. Eagle like eyes made the creature appear enraged. Their haunting and ceaseless stares held Tommy's attention just long enough so that the creature could maneuver its sledgehammer around and crush Tommy's zord with a single blow.
The entire cockpit shuddered and groaned as the space-age metals bent and warped from the tremendous blow. Tommy, white knuckled, held tight to the controls as the zord smashed to the ground. His head danced around on his shoulders like a doll while the zord slid across the landscape.
Tanya sidestepped quickly using some side thrusters, narrowly avoiding the creature's next swing. She reversed the thrusters and rammed into the creature as it struggled, off balance, with the heavy sledgehammer. The creature stumbled and flopped face down on the ground. Tanya rushed over to Tommy's zord, hoping to find him still able to function.
"Tommy are you okay?" she cried, bending over the zord to check over its damage.
Tommy did not reply and his zord was severely damaged from the sudden strike. Tanya quickly returned to her defensive tactics as the creature finally returned to its feet. She raised her arms, locking the laser cannons on the creature. She took an unaimed snap shot that luckily found its target; the creature fell back a couple of steps from the recoil.
"Billy, Tommy's down!" yelled Tanya, sliding right on another thruster blast and avoiding another crushing swing, "I think he's unconscious, and his zord is badly damaged!"
"I'm starting full repair measures," replied Billy calmly, "His active healing systems should bring him around any second, and the zord will be damaged, but I believe still usable for combat."
Tanya rushed forward, grappling with the creature; she slammed into it with a hard right hand. The creature absorbed the blow well and countered quickly with a wild back slash. Tanya's zord stumbled back and nearly fell, but managed to stay standing thanks to some quick thruster maneuvering.
"Come on Tommy, I can't do this alone!"
* * *
"Adam, I've got a lock on it with my sensors, but I don't see it anywhere!"
"It should be right here Rocky!"
"It's not though," said Rocky, turning his zord side to side trying to make some kind of visual contact, "it's just not here!"
A tiny shadow leapt from one building behind Rocky and landed quietly on Rocky's back. It crawled up the zord like a spider and stopped at the small of his back. It stayed for only a few moments before leaping off and sailing across the district like a flying squirrel. Adam noticed the blip moving away from their location rapidly.
"It's moving away!" shouted Adam; "It's headed south!"
"Let's get over there!"
Rocky didn't quite finish his sentence as the explosive that was properly placed on the small of his back detonated. The massive blast sent whipping shock waves up and down the zord. Placed so carefully, the blasted damaged some key structural area and compromised the zord's ability to function and balance. Rocky reluctantly teleported the super Zeo zord back to the mountain holds before it fell and crushed the district.
"Rocky, what happened?" asked Adam, "Why did the back of your zord explode?"
"Something must have planted a bomb there," replied Rocky, "and it had to have been something on foot!"
"Let's get the cycles and see if we can't find him on the ground," said Adam, teleporting his zord back to the holds and himself to the ground beside Rocky.
Together the pair mounted their sleek Zeo Jet Cycles and motored off to the south in search of the invisible creature.
* * *
For Trey and Kat locating the monster was not a problem, however the monster was made from what looked to be five pieces of ultra thin metal and a ball of metal for the head so hitting the monster with anything was next to impossible. It seemed to just taunt them as they tried futilely to attack it.
Trey rushed in with a set of fast kicks and punches, hoping to drive the monster back towards Kat, who would then mash it with her Zeo Laser Pistol, but Trey could not land a single blow on the slippery creature. It would simply move the tiniest distance and its extremely thin body would be out of Trey's path. Then like it was wielding a whip, it would slap Trey with its appendages, knocking him back.
Kat charged her weapon and fired anyway, but again the beast was too thin and none of the blasts made direct contact. The creature, using incredible accuracy and a loud whip crack, slapped Kat's weapon away. Recovering quickly, Kat drew her Zeo Sword and moved in for a closer battle. The creature taunted her attempts by moving out of the path of the sword at just the last second. It slid back as Kat extended herself completely for a "Hail Mary" swing, then as the blade passed the creature cracked its whip-like arms and knocked her back to the ground.
Trey raised his Golden Power Staff, the jewels within it flashing as he charged himself with golden energy for his trademark Gold Rush attack. He lowered the staff, ready for the fireworks, just as the creature changed its attack. It made another motion as though it were going to snap the staff from Trey's hands so he turned to dive from its path, but instead the creature turned the attack into a lunge thrusting the blade like appendage through Trey. It easily sliced through his suit by his hips and then passed through his flesh, shattering his pelvis before emerging from the other side. Trey let out an ear-piercing scream as he slammed to the ground. Kat rushed over to him, as Trey half sat with his hands clenched on either side of his body.
"Oh God, Trey are you all right?" she asked, resting her hands behind his head.
He stopped screaming through gritted teeth to reply, "That is the dumbest question I have ever heard! Of course I'm not okay!"
Kat pressed the Teleport button on her communicator and the pair were gone, wrapped in a haze of colored lightning.
* * *
Now the Power Chamber was in complete and total chaos. Alfa was more than busy tending to Trey's major injury, Billy was swamped with the task of repairing Tommy's zord and trying to find Rocky and Adam's invisible creature, and even Jason was lending a slow technical hand in tracking Kat and Trey's monster and keeping tabs on the slow moving energy source that seemed to be preparing to land somewhere in the western Angels Mountains.
This was the worst situation that they had faced since the discovery of the Zeo Crystals. The crew was so tightly wound up that one more hit to their tight coil and they would probably snap. Zordon was deffinantly worried, if such a thing were to happen, he wasn't entirely certain that the rangers would be able to protect the entire city. Zordon began to calculate the areas that would be considered to be the most important and which areas could be sacrificed. Then he formulated an emergency plan.
Jason tried as hard as he could to not listen to Trey's terrible screams. He tried to keep his mind focused on the task of keeping tabs on those two energy forms. It was one of the few things that Jason was good at, focusing in. Finding one thing to turn his attention to and not let anything else get inside of his head. Just let everything else disappear into- "Holy crap!" screamed Jason, frantically searching his controls.
Billy stopped what he was doing, "What is it?"
"The largest object is about to crash into the side of the Angels Mountains, and I've got a life form reading within the craft's radiation danger-zone!" screamed Jason, "What should I do?"
"Try and teleport him out of there!" replied Billy, "I'll help you- wait, Tommy just lost his main servos, and without them, he's never going to make it!"
"Zordon help me!" shouted Jason.
"Calm down Jason, now try and establish a lock on him, hurry," said Zordon, focusing on assisting Jason.
"The radiation, it's interfering with the transmission lock!" replied Jason, trying to adjust the computers to locate the life form.
"Try modulating the frequency!" shouted Billy.
"What's that?" asked Jason, staring around his board.
"Blue controls under the transmission frequency gauge!" yelled Billy over another of Trey's deafening screams.
"Right, got it, now turn it to high modulation, or low modulation?" asked Jason, sweat pouring down the sides of his face.
"What is the frequency of the radiation waves?" asked Billy, furiously fighting to maintain Tommy's main servos.
"I don't know!" shouted Jason, "Who ever is out there doesn't have that kind of time!"
"Then guess!" yelled Billy, "Now teleport!"
"Oh God, oh God, he's gonna die!" uttered Jason, turning the dial to high modulation and punching the teleport command.
The tiny blip, fighting against the giant energy force suddenly grew to enormous proportions, blotting out the entire monitor, only to flash and disappear. Jason searched everywhere, every monitor, and every frequency. Then he folded over, laying his head down on the monitor, certain that he had killed the person.
* * *
The rocks of the West side of the Angels Mountains were Avery's favorite place to train. He would take a trail that lead from his house on the East side and cut across a lower section of the mountains that connected with another trail that lead him right to the rocky cliffs. Once at the cliffs he would climb down the slope to a certain ledge that he found only because he fell off of another ledge while rock climbing. The ledge was very large, probably fifty or sixty feet wide, and a hundred or so feet long. Hidden under an outcropping, Avery had never seen it until he had slammed into it, falling off of the out cropping ten or twelve feet above it.
He would settle himself in on the ledge. Take off his backpack and get a drink before getting started with some of his forms. Today he was concentrating mostly on a very difficult Tiger Kung Fu form. It would take him more than three hours to actually get the one part of the form right that he wanted to. A simple twist of the hips was all that he was really working on, but he figured that he'd better do everything before and after just for the sake of being in the context of the form.
Avery lowered himself into the deepest darkest corner of his mind, so that his only focus would be the motions. He brought his hand around in a deliberate Tiger Claw motion. He stopped there, just for an instant, so that his body could feel again exactly what the position should feel like.
That was when the first sonic boom hit him. The wave of sound energy picking him up and carrying him several feet from where he was once standing and letting him drag across the stone to a halt. He sat up to see what had caused the blast, and he noticed the giant craft moving down from the heavens. It was preceded by what looked like enormous boring drills and the craft burned red from the friction of passing through the atmosphere.
Avery had seen enough, he got to his feet without delay and started for the rope he used to climb down onto the ledge with. He pulled with every ounce of strength that he had, getting up a couple of feet, but another shock wave suddenly hit. Avery held on to the rope for all he was worth as the blast tried to tear him off of it. The old rope suddenly snapped, and it and Avery fell back to the ledge.
He rolled over onto his stomach and started to crawl along the ledge as the blasts now started to come faster and faster, each with greater ferocity than the previous one, each wave becoming hotter and hotter until the temperature of the air was stifling. The craft was heading to a spot about two hundred and fifty feet below Avery, but the collision would surely cause a rockslide and Avery would surely be killed.
With the air now becoming more and more difficult to breathe, Avery decided that it probably wouldn't be the collision that killed him. He was probably going to burst into flames long before that happened. Not being one who would let himself die on his belly, Avery got to his feet and fighting the thick air and the pounding shock waves, walked to the very edge of the ledge. With his skin now beginning to tingle rather than burn, Avery smiled, raised a fist into the air and flicked the vessel off.
However, he suddenly saw the inside of a building and people moving around within it. He felt drawn to it, but at the same time another shock wave hit him and the two things seemed to cancel each other out. To Avery it was a high pitched shriek that raised him off of the ground. The world around him became brilliantly white and Avery lost consciousness.
When Avery woke up, a blanket of white snow covered him. He sat stiffly up, shaking violently, but he realized that he wasn't cold. Why? He grabbed a handful, definitely snow, but he wasn't cold. He threw it down and stood up. He looked around, but couldn't tell where he was. He also noticed that he was no longer in any pain. Maybe I'm dead, he thought.
"Hello is--" Avery stopped when he saw it.
On the horizon rose a stone, a floating, mammoth boulder. He looked around again and then above him. It was another boulder right above him, but it didn't fall. It just lazily floated past him like a cloud. Avery was amazed, eyes wide and excited. He looked for the nearest edge of his boulder and ran to it. He stopped there, looking around.
On the center of the nearest boulder was a structure. An altar, Avery was positive. He backed up on his boulder before sprinting and leaping for the next. He sailed through empty space, gravities shifting as he got near to the next boulder. He landed hard, rolling to a stop.
Avery got up and walked up to the altar. On it was a single egg. But this egg was huge, probably a foot tall and eight inches wide. Dark green with black spots, it looked rotten. Like it had been sitting there for months.
"Oh ick," said Avery, reaching out to touch the egg.
As his hands got near a red bolt of lightning leapt off of the egg, shocking Avery badly. He spun around shaking his hand wildly. He stopped when he saw his hand begin to glow. He pointed at a small rock, and a bolt of lighting erupted from his fingertip. The rock was blown away.
Avery stared at his hand strangely, there was no burnt skin like a true lightning shock should have, it was like the power was absorbed by Avery rather than hurting him. He turned back to the egg, a unique idea struck him, and he reached out to touch the egg.
His fingers wrapped around the egg, teeth clenching from the pain of the shocks. He tore the egg from its place upon the altar. Avery raised the egg over his head. The burning intensity of the lighting coursed over his entire body. Waves of power began to radiate from Avery's body; Avery was screaming. The pain was tremendous, but he couldn't let go. All he could do was stare at the mysteriously glowing egg that was bringing him so much torture. Then a crack opened in the egg above his head. A liquid began pouring out over his body. This hurt even more, but still he could not release his grip.
When the liquid stopped, a bright, pure white, glowing ooze fell from the crack and onto his face. It burned with a numbing intensity, like the fires of a volcano were being poured onto his brow. His fingers dug into the sides of the egg and he made two more holes. From them, two small pieces of the ooze sprayed out and then disappeared into reality.
As the last of the ooze poured over Avery's body his fingers relinquished their hold on the egg and it fell to the ground. Avery stepped back, his hands rubbing his face to see if it was still there. It was; the ooze had seemed to be absorbed directly into Avery's being. Avery walked around the altar, the shapes carved onto it. He knew what they meant. He knew the names of all before him. He knew of the powers that he had lost only moments ago, he knew everything.
How was it possible, his thoughts were circling for a source, a direction, a reason. Avery tried to think of anything but how much he hated Mondo and his forces. How much he hated everything that sent him here. But Avery realized something suddenly, that he had an unusual gift, a strange power here in this realm.
"I am thirsty, I want a drink of water," he said to no one.
But somehow a glass of water materialized right before Avery's eyes. He drank the water; it was the perfect taste and temperature that he wanted. Avery drew back his arm, desire to play catch, and when he went to throw, a football sailed into the air. Avery caught the ball, flipped it around in his hands and threw it back to himself, fifty feet away. He smiled to himself, then waved as he decided that he wanted his twin to vanish.
"Paradise," said Avery, smiling. He threw the ball away and started walking towards nowhere, and in his path appeared a pool of water standing up in the air. He stepped into the portal and the pool vibrated like the rings in a still pond; Avery disappeared.
* * *
Before Tommy knew what was going on he was eating more dirt. The creature knocked him over with another fast swing of his sledgehammer. Tommy knew that the servos were going to be down for a while now, and there wasn't anything that he or Billy could do that would change that. The repairs were going to take time. Tommy didn't have enough of the time required though, the creature was determined that the last time Tommy had gotten to his feet would be the last time ever.
It stood over Tommy with its sledgehammer raised, Tommy was ready to evacuate, just as a wave of energy struck the creature from behind. The wave of energy toppled the creature and raked over Tommy's cockpit making it shudder. Tommy looked out of the window to see another zord making its way towards the rising creature, a zord that Tommy had never seen before.
"Tommy are you seeing what I am?" asked Tanya, from where she was laying on the ground.
"I'm seeing it, but I still don't believe it," replied Tommy, as the new zord slammed a mighty right cross into the creature's head, knocking it back further.
The zord looked like a knight wearing some sort of space-age armor that was blood red in color and on its chest was a strange black triangle. The creature wound up with its sledgehammer and tried to take off the knight's head with the swing, but instead the knight reached out and grabbed the hammer in mid-swing and tore it from the creature's grip. The knight wound up like a baseball player and slammed the hammer into the creature's side, knocking it completely off of its feet. It wound up one more time and brought the hammer down on the creature's head, causing the creature to explode. A fire rose into the sky that would surely start Angel Grove Forest ablaze.
The knight then disappeared in the flame; somewhere in the midst of the conflagration of fire walked out a person in a blood red suit, a ranger-like helmet, and a cape flowing behind him. Tommy was certain that it was the operator of the knight zord. It raised its hand skyward and the flames fell to the ground and died.
Tommy's jaw dropped. It crossed its hands across its chest and lowered its head; another wall of flame rose around, engulfing it. When the wall fell to the ground, the strange ranger was gone. Tommy leaned back into his chair while Tanya teleported away, "Dang," he said, rubbing his head.
* * *
Adam and Rocky were having a terrible time trying to fight the invisible creature. They would close in on it time and time again, only to be hit from behind by its phantom strikes. Now they were trying to fall back against the side of one of the warehouses, lowering the number of sides that they could be attacked from.
Something slammed into Adam, knocking him into Rocky. The pair slammed into some drums, sending them to the ground with a loud crash. Adam rolled over onto his back and brought his hand up to block the sun that was blazing into his eyes. He saw a figure pick up a large drum over its head and wind up, when a wall of flame rose from the ground between Adam and Rocky and the flying barrel. The drum slammed into the wall and fell to the ground.
The flames subsided and a strange looking ranger in a blood red suit and long black cape grabbed the figure. He slammed the invisible creature into the wall of the warehouse like a rag doll. He repeatedly pounded the figure into the concrete until the cloaking device it was wearing ceased to function. The figure pointed to the plainly visible cog with the heavy duty cloaking device strapped to its back; "You come with me." He then turned around sharply, flinging the screaming cog into a pool of water that appeared standing vertically. The figure started to make his way toward the portal as Rocky moved next to him, laying his arm on his shoulder.
"Hey thanks," he said, extending his hand.
The figure made no reply, and instead used one arm to shove Rocky away. The guy's power was unbelievable, and Rocky flew several feet through the air before sliding to a stop. He continued into the portal that closed behind him, but not before the rangers could hear the cog screaming bloody murder. No more than a moment later, parts that were once a whole cog came flying out of another portal, within the closing portal, the two could see the figure walking away, the black cape hanging around him.
"What was that?" asked Adam.
"I don't know," replied Rocky, getting up from the ground, "but he don't want to be friends."
* * *
The wire thin creature was making use of its time by slicing steel parts of machines with its blade like arms. It stopped as a strange ranger appeared in its sights. It turned toward him, the ranger didn't flinch, standing a few meters away with his arms folded across his chest. He raised his hand and motioned for the creature to come. Smiling, it complied by winding up and lashing out at the vulnerable ranger. With unerring accuracy the appendage struck its mark, sinking into the ranger's chest and exploding from his back. But the ranger again didn't flinch.
The ranger's blood red fist wrapped around the creature's wire-like neck from behind. His other hand grabbed another part of its wire body and then he started to fold the body up until there was just a large mass of wire and its head sticking up like a giant lollipop with a completely puzzled look on its face. It looked back to the ranger that it had stuck with its blade and the figure faded away like a desert mirage within a pool of vertically standing water.
He wound up, and like he was swinging a mace, slammed the creature's head into the ground over and over again. By now the creature was so disorientated that it couldn't have attacked him when he changed his grip from the folded body to the large head if it had wanted too. He wound up with his blood red fist and punctured the creature's face with a massive punch. He ripped out some of its vital circuitry and dropped the lifeless shell. After crushing its CPU into dust and flinging it into the wind, the blood red ranger walked casually through the water pool portal and vanished from the view of the Power Chamber monitor and its tracking devices.
* * *
"Zordon, you know what I'm gonna ask, so instead of letting me feel like a predictable fool, why don't you just start giving us answers," said Tommy, turning around slowly to face the old man.
"Tommy, I would love to tell you what just happened, and what that thing was, but I cannot," replied Zordon, "His powers are the most unique that I have ever seen, and he doesn't show any sort of affiliation to either us or to the Machine Empire. I am quite baffled."
"He could control fire, create multiples of himself, and he even had his own zord!" said Billy, "If you look here on the data that the system collected, he's got such an intense power that the computers could barely track him because they were almost to over load."
"Man, do you think he's on our side?" asked Tanya, "I mean, he did save our lives you know."
"No way," said Rocky emphatically, "not with the way he looked at me!"
"Rocky's right, that guy is scary," stated Adam, backing Rocky up.
"Who knows what that guy was thinking, did you see the way he used the sledgehammer to destroy that one monster?" said Tommy, "I don't know who you are or what you're doing, striking anything like he did is completely psycho!"
* * *
Jason wrapped his black muscle shirt loosely around his waist. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the foot motions of the kata. So many hours and still so much left to learn. How he wished he knew it all. How he wished he was the one inventing the new forms and new maneuvers. How glad he was that he was the only person on that lonely hill in the main area of Angel Grove State Park.
He slid into his first stance, weight poised, body balanced, mind set on the very next wave of motions. He looked left, backing up right and whipping around a precise round kick. He held the round kick up in the air just a moment, before slowly setting it down. He lowered himself slowly into his front stance, checking his weight and his positioning as he went along.
Yesterday was very strange for Jason. He hadn't fought alongside his friends since the Trey's returned to retake their control over the Gold Ranger's powers, leaving him once again a powerless human. He knew that some day he would have had to give them back, but he almost wished, just for a while, that they wouldn't ever be able to come back. To leave him with those incredible abilities until the universe was safe from the Machine Empire, or Zed and Rita, or whatever else might be lurking in the deepest galaxies.
He twisted right, spinning on his toes, and reversing the front stance in the other direction. It was an old kata, one he had learned so many years ago, but still it held so many values for him. To keep training, and working, and striving to be the absolute best that he could possibly be, but why when the best was such a distance.
Jason lost his train of thought for an instant. Returning to the time he had spent with the rangers. He was a leader, and he was a hero, but no glory, nothing to remind the world of what he had accomplished. He shook his head furiously, how can I think like that, he screamed in his head, "Let's get back to the kata!" he said to himself, attempting to force the thoughts clear from his mind.
A moment later they were back and Jason stopped, turned and sat down heavily on the grass. He leaned back, closing his eyes, letting the glare of the sunshine through his eyelids.
"God damn," he said, getting up and brushing himself off.
"What do you mean?" asked Tommy, walking up from behind Jason.
"I'm just thinking of old stupid stuff," he replied, resting his arms at his side.
"I heard about what happened yesterday," said Tommy quietly, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah I'm fine. You and I both know that it's just part of the risks."
"I know," answered Tommy, trying not to stare Jason down, "but that doesn't mean we don't care."
"Of course I cared!" yelled Jason, whipping around, "Are you insinuating that I didn't care enough to try and get that person out? That there was something else that I would have rather done than try and save them?"
"I didn't think that at all!" said Tommy, raising his hands innocently, "I'm on your side here."
"My side!" shouted Jason, his face turning a bright red, "Now there are sides? Who's against me then?"
"Nobody man!" yelled Tommy, taking a step back, "Everybody is behind you, the whole team!"
"I am not a part of this team!" screamed Jason; "I have not been a part of this team since I left for that freaking youth summit a year ago! Around here I'm like an honorary batboy! I don't have anything for you guys here! You know what that's like more than anyone!"
"Yeah I know exactly what that's like man, and it took me more than two years to recover from it," replied Tommy, "I know the thing that I wanted most was to be with you guys. I know that it hurt more than any sting to watch you take off every time the call to action would come. There were nights where I would just hold my power coin in my hands, and pray that some how, some way, I would morph back into the Green Ranger. Just so that I could be back with you."
"You stayed up at nights praying to morph too?" asked Jason, wiping a tear from his big brown eyes.
"A lot of them," replied Tommy, "and I don't think it helped my condition at all to quit everything cold turkey."
"I do like teleporting to the command center whenever I want to," said Jason, grabbing Tommy's shoulder.
"You know you're more help than we will ever need," said Tommy, "you also know that everything that I've ever learned about leadership, I've learned it from you."
Jason and Tommy wrapped each other up in huge bear hug. Then shoved each other away and started another of their official wrestling matches.
* * *
Avery took his first drink of Ernie's Gym and Juice Bar shakes and smiled. The way that every flavor of fruit blended together was unreal. He nodded towards Ernie with eager appreciation and walked away. He'd just started up a tab at the Juice Bar that morning after his long run from his house in the Angels Mountains. His pace all the way down was incredible; he'd never felt so fast before.
Better than that, Avery was behind on his homework until he took it into Limbo with him. In Limbo time really didn't seem to pass. The four hours of homework he did in Limbo only took about two and a quarter seconds of reality time. It was like he could stop time, and pull out of class when he needed a stretch break and never miss a thing.
He looked around the room carefully. Not bad, he thought, lots of open space for martial arts, or aerobics, or whatever. Lots of tables, good food, good atmosphere, it just wasn't the place Avery would normally go. It's not that he appeared as dark as he was, Avery liked to dress in the latest styles, none of that strange Goth stuff, just casual. Mostly jeans and sweatshirts, he wasn't very comfortable in T-shirts. Avery took a large gulp of the shake; a cold-headache swept over him.
Avery rubbed the top of his head with his hand, improving his messy spike style cut. He found an open table beside the bar and sat down with his back against the wall. Avery was now participating in his second favorite pastime; he loved to watch people. Just sit back in the shadows and let everything roll on by. Avery smiled as Rocky came in wearing his new blue Karate gi and a lovely black belt.
Rocky started his class by leading his students through a difficult Americanized version of one of Avery's favorite classical Shotokan style Katas. Avery winced as Rocky just mangled the beautiful dance-like Kata.
* * *
"That's a unique version of Dhou Minh Rocky."
Rocky stopped rolling up the mat to turn and see who had made the comment. He saw Avery slowly walking up behind him with a shake in hand. Rocky sighed, stood up and rubbed the top of his head, trying to create a positive appearance before replying.
"Really, why's that?"
"Your transitions were awful, you dropped out about four positions, and you need to work on your double round kicks," answered Avery, taking another drink, "besides the fact that you were coarse and slow."
"Look Avery," said Rocky, stepping closer and grabbing onto his belt, "You see this, it's called a black belt. It means that I've mastered this art. Do you understand what that means? I don't see one on you with more stripes, so I guess I don't think that you really know what you're talking about, do you?"
Avery handed Rocky his shake and walked out onto the center of the floor mat. He took two slow breaths before leaping into the kata. He was fluid, fast, and incredibly accurate. His kicks were slow and deliberate, and his punches were sharper than whip cracks. He ended with a very tiny bow in Rocky's direction, no more than a nod of the head.
"A black belt is just a permission slip to stand closer to the front with those that know more about the art than you do," said Avery, taking his shake back from a stunned Rocky, "It's ludicrous that you could think that you've mastered this art. The only person that could possibly say that they have this art mastered is Maso Yama, its creator. You've got more to learn, go back to class."
Rocky glared as Avery walked casually away from him, still sipping on his fruit shake. He just stood there for a few moments contemplating what Avery had said. It irritated Rocky, but Avery was right again, only the inventor could possibly be the master, because when somebody else finally figured out everything, the master could just add something new, and then he'd still be on top.
"Avery!" shouted Rocky, exploding from the Youth Center.
Avery stopped where he was on the sidewalk outside to turn around and see whom it was that had yelled for him. Rocky ran up to Avery, extending his hand.
"Avery, can I talk to you for just a minute? Look I'm sorry that we got into an argument, and I'm sorry for anything else that I might have done to upset you," said Rocky, with his hand still floating in the air, "I just would like to call a truce and try an act a little more adult."
Avery didn't respond for a second, considering the offer. It didn't really matter to him whether or not they stopped fighting. It was just like any other game, some days Avery would win, and some days Rocky would win, but the next day the game was always new. Avery was kind of lonely however.
"I don't know what you're apologizing for Rocky," replied Avery, taking Rocky's hand, "I'm the one who's been a dill weed."
"Dude, let's not worry about that anymore okay," said Rocky, a friendly smile shining through, "I just want us to get along."
"I appreciate that Rocky," Avery nodded shortly, "Most people don't give me that chance."
"Man, you're a wealth of knowledge, people would love to talk to you if you'd just lighten up."
Avery raised his eyebrows with a "yeah right" kind of look; "I'm not much of a people person."
"Don't worry about it man," replied Rocky, motioning for Avery to come back to the Youth Center with him, "just come on back to the Gym and work with me on Dhou Minh."
* * *
"You hung out with who?"
"Avery Conner," answered Rocky to a slack jawed Tommy.
"Wow, you just went out and proposed a truce?" asked Jason, "and he accepted right away?"
"Yeah," replied Rocky, "but it's better than that. After he and I made up, he went back into the Gym with me and taught me how to correctly perform one of my Shotokan katas. And does the name A. Conner sound super familiar to anybody else?"
"Avery showed me how to correctly perform Dhou Minh," repeated Rocky to Tommy's open mouth, "I tell you what guys, Avery is really good at Shotokan Karate. I don't how long he's been studying, but it's been an oftly long time."
"Wow, you just learn something new every day," said Jason, shaking his head, "Really that good?"
"Shoot," replied Jason, walking away.
"What do you mean sound familiar?" asked Tommy, "He's been going to this school for a while now hasn't he?"
"Yeah, but I mean, like I should know him from something else, but I can't think of what," replied Rocky, scratching his head.
"Jason, wait!" shouted a voice from behind the three.
They turned around to see Avery walking up towards them. "I was hoping I could catch you all at once," he said, extending a hand to Tommy and then to Jason, "I wanted to say that I apologize for the scuffle the other day, it was totally unacceptable."
"Well thanks Avery, I accept," replied Tommy; "It was not my intention to harm you in anyway either."
"Don't worry," replied Avery with a smile, "you didn't."
"Rocky says that you're a great martial artist," said Jason, shaking Avery's hand, "How long have you been studying?"
"Too long," replied Avery.
"Is Shotokan Karate the style you're trained in?" asked Tommy, "I've studied in that art myself for a number of years."
"I know a little bit of that," said Avery with a wry smile.
"Do you study others?"
"You know, a little of this, a little of that," replied Avery, now grinning from ear to ear, "It just makes you a more balanced fighter if you know more styles."
"Cool, well, if you ever would like to train you can just come find us anytime," said Jason, "Now I'm really sorry, but I have to walk all the way across the school for class. So I'd better hustle or I'm gonna be late."
"Yeah," said Avery, nodding his head, "Class time."
* * *
It was like a strange heartburn that sizzled in Avery's throat. He was extra happy to be done with his workout for the night. He tore off his red gi top, revealing a defined upper body, and tossed it off the mat. Avery walked over to a wall of his practice room and placed his folded black belt on its own specific mount alongside more than two dozen others from various arts from around the world.
Avery walked back across the mat to blow out the incense on the other side. He rubbed his chest, as the burning intensified. He even had to stop midway to try and take another breath. He felt the burning all the way into his lungs and running down his arms. Avery knew what was happening suddenly; he was having a heart attack and he knew he was going to die.
Instead of losing his breath, as his heart should be going into ventricular fibrillation, Avery's bare chest burst into flames. Avery screamed, pounding on his chest, trying to stop the burning. His arms and his back began to burn, the flames running up over his head and down his throat. The bare skin melting and bubbling like tar; the remains of his eyes dripping out of his sockets. Avery's throat burning from the fire and his vocal chords grinding like stones from his screams.
Avery dropped to his knees, praying that this cruel torment would stop. He fell forward and slammed face down on the practice mat. The fire was gone, his flesh was undamaged, and his eyes filled with terrified tears. Avery slowly looked up and in the darkness around him he could see two glowing eyes staring at him with evil ferocity. Under normal conditions, Avery would have been on his feet in an instant, ready to fight, but now Avery couldn't move his body at all.
* * *
Beneath the soil of the Angels Mountains the Tunneling Cruiser was creeping along toward the Power Chamber at only a few miles per day. The Tunneling Cruiser could tunnel much faster, but Gasket was lucky enough already to even get the cruiser down and cloaked, he was not about to risk having the rangers find him tunneling toward their base.
The crew was programmed for high alert response, just in case the rangers did decide to morph into the cruiser. Pretty unlikely, thought Gasket, it just wouldn't make any sense if the rangers attacked while the cruiser was under ground. The only device on the planet that could destroy the cruiser would be the Megazord, but there wasn't any way that it could follow the cruiser underground.
He was nervous though.
Archerina hadn't spoken more than a few words to him in the past few days. It was a strange silence, which made Gasket consider his own motives for the attack. They couldn't rescind now however, it was just too simple. It was just ... just ... Gasket slumped back into his command chair. He looked around the bridge and the only thing that he could figure out was that he didn't know why they couldn't have just conquered this miserable planet a long time ago. Why didn't his father just stop playing and get the job done?
Gasket stopped what he was doing. "He's afraid," said Gasket.
It was an unbelievable thought. He never had even considered it as a possibility. Though history told the story over and over. The rangers would some how find the powers within themselves to find a way to change their abilities outside of themselves. His father knew the history, and he is afraid to be written down in the books and told across the universe in the stories as another adaptation that the mystical Power Rangers returned from a dark hole only to reign on, triumphant.
To break that record and change all of history, even if that means death, was all Gasket needed to keep his direction. To hell with all of you, thought Gasket, to hell with all of you.
He noticed something strange all at once; he was sitting like a robot should sit. Back erect, legs pulled tightly to the base of the chair, head held high, and arms laid flat on the arms. Just a machine, whose every thought was only the motions of electrons across a thin layer of atomically adjusted silicon, stored on limited space in bulky hard-drives. He was only the creation of a random interface between his father and mother. Just a moment of random collectiveness that spawned a new creation. How was that different from any other being?
Gasket leaned over to the right and swung his feet up around and lay them over the left arm of the chair.
* * *
Billy's head popped up, he looked around bleary eyed around the blurry Power Chamber. He reached out and found his glasses on the floor beside him. Moving slowly, avoiding the head rush, Billy sat up. He scratched his head and tried to remember what he was doing only a couple of hours ago. Oh yeah, he remembered, I was trying to find that energy source that had disappeared during the last battle. Everyone was so busy when the monsters and that strange ranger appeared no body noticed that it had vanished.
He walked over to the control monitors and activated the scanning devices. Too many weird things had been happening recently. That new ranger, the way Rocky was acting, the weird dreams that were hitting Tommy again, and why didn't Mondo attack while his monsters were taking out the rangers. Billy stopped, he thought hard for just a second; it was too easy for that strange ranger.
"Zordon!" said Billy, rousing the meditating wizard, "I just thought of something."
"What is your thought Billy?"
"You said that you had never seen the powers that were controlled by that other ranger right?"
"That is correct Billy," replied Zordon.
"Then I think he's a phony," said Billy, recalling the viewing footage of the stranger, "Look how easily he destroyed those monsters. It's like a fixed boxing match, where the guy who is set up to win throws a phantom punch for the KO!"
"I follow you Billy," said Zordon, "King Mondo may be behind this amazing new ranger, just a decoy for us to get close to before another strike."
"Or better yet," replied Billy, "the largest diversion possible."
"What do you mean?"
"What I mean is this diversion is getting us from every possible aspect of our lives," replied Billy, "in our home life, at school, at work, here in the Power Chamber, everywhere."
"What are you saying?"
"Some how, I don't know how," said Billy, rubbing his head, "we know who the strange ranger is."
* * *
The alarms throughout the Tunnel Cruiser erupted. The Cruiser slammed into something hard; the sudden stop launched Gasket through the air. After only a microsecond body check, Gasket was back on his feet. He sat back down at his command post and ordered a report.
"Sir, we have hit some sort of metallic material," said the Cog nearest to Gasket, "we're slowly grinding through it sir."
"We've hit the Zord Bay," said Gasket, returning to his feet with an icy glare blazing across his face, "Cogs, form five crews of ten, get to the top hatch and overrun the Power Chamber like the rats we are!"
Gasket drew his sword and bolted for the hatch.
* * *
The tones flung Tommy from his chair in the school lounge. He looked around for any other rangers before hastily leaving. The sweat was already beginning to run down the side of his face; he could feel something different in the pit of his stomach. He slowly raised the watch to his lips; Tommy paused just for a moment wondering why he felt so strange this time.
"This is Tommy, what's up?"
"Tommy, it's bad, hurry up and get here!" shouted Billy; the alarms ringing like sirens.
This time, without hesitation, Tommy teleported to the Power Chamber. He rushed over to the main control monitors beside Billy. The rest of the rangers, including Jason and Trey, followed in teleporting to the Chamber.
"What's going on here?" said Tommy in his classical tone.
"Remember that strange energy source we lost during our last battle!" shouted Billy over the sirens; "It just crashed into the Zord holds below us!"
"Have the holds been breached?" asked Tommy, the sweat glistening on his chin.
"Yeah, and a number of cogs are running around inside of the hold and I think they're setting charges on the zords," replied Billy.
"Let's go guys!" shouted Tommy, whipping around.
And a full frontal assault began with those three simple words.
The morphed rangers and Jason following carefully behind made their way down to the darkest depths of the zord holds. Further than any other being had been in years. Tommy slowly lead the team toward the area of the breech, carefully considering every direction they were taking, and carefully noting that the hole in his stomach was becoming more and more unbearably painful.
Finally down the last stairwell, Tommy could see a light. He slowly peeked around the corner, making sure that none of the Cogs could see him. From one section of the wall a large corkscrew looking device was protruding through the wall slightly. On the floor beneath the open hole were about a dozen cogs, attempting to set up some assorted devices.
Tommy led the team around the corner and down the stairs. At the bottom, they drew their weapons and charged. A few shots from each of the rangers and the cogs' work was halted. They flopped over onto the ground like cut trees. The rangers walked carefully over to the deactivated cogs.
"This is the crew that Billy was talking about?" asked Rocky, "Kind of small isn't it for an invasion force?"
"Yeah, but I've got a better question," said Trey, pointing up toward the protruding device, "What's that?"
"It is the very tip of the Magma Tunneling Battle Cruiser," shouted a voice from behind the group, "Won't you come inside?"
The rangers whipped around as the feet of fifty cogs erupted from the shadows around them. Jason scrambled behind the rangers as they opened fire on the legion of cogs that were converging. A few cogs dropped from the rapid firing lasers, but most slammed into the group of rangers, forcefully dividing them.
Rocky slammed a hard right cross into one cog, knocking it flat, but before he could strike another, two more cogs leapt onto his back. Adam was subdued almost as quickly. Tanya and Kat made a valiant effort to keep free by fighting back to back. The massive numbers of cogs were just too overwhelming and they were quickly taken apart and locked down. Trey pulled Tommy and Jason out of a tight corner spot with the help of a quick Gold Rush that sent the cogs flailing through the air. The trio bolted for the staircase, hoping to make it to higher ground for a slightly more advantageous position.
A pair of diving cogs hit Trey from the left. Together they tackled him to the ground, knocking his Gold Staff away. Jason nearly stopped to help him, but his thoughts suddenly overrided his emotions and he continued on for the higher ground. Tommy rushed through three more cogs with a set of nasty slashes from his Zeo sword. Finally reaching the top of the stairs, Tommy was stopped by another set of ten Cogs. He looked desperately for Jason, but several others were pinning him down. A gang of cogs had stopped the Power Rangers.
Tommy fought and struggled with everything he had hoping to break just one grip and start fighting back, but a metallic arm wrapped around his neck and started to crush his throat. Tommy now fought for breath as his oxygen and blood depleted mind started to flash colors before his eyes. He could see through the haze Prince Gasket stepping out into view and he could feel Gasket's sword press down against his chest. Tommy knew he was saying something, but he couldn't make it out, nor could he reply. And for his innocent silence, Gasket pressed the blade of the sword harder and harder into Tommy's chest.
* * *
Avery crumpled to the ground grabbing his throat as multicolored flashes zipped past his eyes. Something was happening to a part of him. He had to stop what was happening. Had to stop them before the knowledge vanishes forever! Avery leapt to his feet, folding his arms across his chest. A fire flashed in his eyes as lightning coursed over the surface. Flames erupted from the ground around him and engulfed his body. As they subsided, Avery was gone, and the blood red ranger appeared in his place.
* * *
"Give me the Zeo crystals!" screamed Gasket, pressing the tip of his sword through the outer layer of Tommy's flesh, "It doesn't matter to me Tommy, I have no problems scavenging from your dead body!"
Tommy's body began to struggle less and less until it seemed as though he was more than willing to give up. Gasket wound up for a final lunge through Tommy's rib cage, to sever both his heart and squeeze his lungs, and to spread Tommy's life force under his feet. Instead of blood pumping from Tommy's body, fire erupted from him knocking the cogs and Gasket back.
An inhuman shriek ripped through the air causing an iron like stillness to lock everything's attention. The flames separated from Tommy, becoming a separate entity. Striding out of the fire was the blood red ranger, black cape hanging behind him. He was met out of the flames by five cogs that tried to restrain him. Each cog grabbed an arm, or a leg, or his torso, but the blood red ranger just giggled before letting another shriek escape him as red lightning coursed over his body shorting out the cogs that were clinging to him.
The blood red ranger strode to where Tanya was being restrained and broke the cogs hold on her. He just casually would grab the cog wherever and twist around, throwing them through the air like stick. When she was freed he moved on to Rocky doing the same. A cog charged the blood red ranger, and he simply blew the cog back with a powerful thrust kick. The metal frame of another cog bent and warped around the blood red ranger's fist as he flipped out a quick backfist. He freed the rest of the rangers before saying another word.
"Get out of here Power Rangers, Gasket is mine," said the blood red ranger, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.
"We can help you, this is our zord bay," said Tommy, who was being aided to stand by Trey and Jason.
"You are in no condition to help me," he replied, blindly snatching another cog by the throat that was charging him from behind, "Besides, do I really look like I need the help."
The blood red ranger's arm charged up with red lightning and his fist closed around the cog's throat with childish ease. The metal let out a terrible whine, as the ranger's fingers seemed to cut through the armor. He released and the severed body dropped uselessly to the ground followed a moment later by its separated head. Tommy nodded toward the frightening glare of the blood red ranger's visor. Together, the Power Rangers evacuated.
* * *
Gasket had left the moment he saw that strange ranger short out the five cogs that tied him up at one time. He ordered the Cruiser to pull out, and dive, dive deeper into the mountains and fast. He sat down in the Command Chair and screamed his orders.
With a jerk the Cruiser lurched backwards and then, like a submarine, it hit the lower rocks of the previous tunnel and with an ear-piercing screech, started to cut its way down beneath the Power Chamber. Gasket glanced around the bridge; it was only a few cogs. Archerina was still nowhere to be seen. Gasket sat back into his chair uncomfortably. What was she doing? What am I doing?
A bright light opened up in front of Gasket in the center of the bridge and stepping out of it was the blood red ranger. Gasket leapt to his feet, drawing his sword. He lunged at the ranger who merely raised his palm and deflected the blow. The ranger made a quick snapping punch with his right and Gasket's head spun around on his torso shattering the motors in his neck. The blood red ranger grabbed both of his arms and lifted Gasket's heavy metal body off of the ground easily. He slammed Gasket into the ceiling over and over, driving his head down into his neck. Then like he was breaking twigs, the blood red ranger snapped Gaskets limbs.
The cogs in the Cruiser moved for an attack to save their battered commander, but the blood red ranger stepped back into the bright light and was gone. The pair appeared in side of a rock cave, but this cave had no openings at all. Like a tiny air bubble beneath the ground. The blood red ranger slammed Gasket's useless body into the side of the wall and held him there with just a single hand.
"Where are we?" asked Gasket with a strange and distorted voice.
"You'll know in a second," replied the ranger, never once moving his vision from Gasket.
"What are you doing?" asked Gasket, the electrical light in his eyes barely flashing, "What do you want?"
"I want you to be as closely connected to the pain that I feel every day," replied the blood red ranger, "I can feel the burning every second, every moment. I can barely sleep, or eat, the fires just burn all of the time, incessantly."
"How will that end if I die?"
"It won't," replied the ranger, "but I'll just feel a little better knowing that you can't hurt anybody else."
The rumbling could suddenly be heard. Through the wall behind the blood red ranger erupted the drill point of the Tunneling Cruiser. It was charging directly for them. The ranger did not flinch. The drill bit neared the ranger's back, but when it struck the ranger's body just vibrated like water in a pool, and the tip of the drill passed right through him without damage.
It ground into Gasket's stomach, beginning to shred every piece of Gasket's being. The blood red ranger released his grip and stepped back completely through the pool of standing water. Gasket watched as he simply disappeared. From his position Gasket could watch as the drill continued to slowly push its way up his body. Once it would reach his head, what was once Prince Gasket of the Machine Empire would be a mineral deposit beneath the Angels Mountains.
* * *
The bright light appeared again in the bridge of the Tunneling Cruiser and the blood red ranger stepped from it. A strange wind suddenly began to flow throughout the bridge and a red lightning flowed over the ranger's body like snakes. The ranger turned and faced the wind, letting his cape snap out straight behind him. His body let out a violent scream that shattered glass and ripped apart a few near by cogs. He began to raise his hands skyward as a red glow began to encompass everything within the vessel.
The blood red hands of the ranger wrapped around the entire ship and tore it in two pieces. Then he tore it apart again, the swirling debris littering the ground within Limbo. The blood red ranger drew all of the pieces together in one mass and shaped it into a single tight ball that fit perfectly into the palms of his hands. He stopped for a moment to look at what he had done, and then he opened the pool portal from Limbo and tossed the ball out into space.
"Tommy," he said, lowering his hands to his side, "You have what I want, I'm coming for it now."
* * *
The ball floated for a short time through space before a light erupted from it that blinded all that were watching. The rangers covered their eyes and stepped back from the video screen. When the light subsided a blue vertical ring of energy was moving away from the site of the explosion. The rangers just stopped for a moment, staring at the ring.
"That was the machine," said Billy from his computer console, "it's no longer in the ground beneath us."
"What do you think happened to the ranger?" asked Jason, nursing a bruised shoulder.
"If he could do that," said Tommy, the sick feeling in his stomach becoming a pain that shot through his spine, "he must still be alive."
"Tommy, are you all right?" asked Kat, noticing that Tommy had become amazingly pale.
I'm coming Tommy, give it back; I will just take it Tommy.
Tommy started breathing heavily, as the sweat poured down around his face. He crumpled over into Kat's arms, she screamed. Tommy hit the ground hard and as his body struck he started to go into intense convulsions. Kat shrieked again as Tommy's body began to flop around like a fish out of water. His eyes were wide open, and horrifying sounds were gurgling from Tommy's opening and closing mouth.
"Oh shit, Tommy!" screamed Jason, rushing over to help.
There was nothing to be done, but watch as Tommy's body arched and writhed on the cold metal floor, while his friends watched in horror.
* * *
Gasket's head was lying undamaged in the middle of a pile of rock and rubble at the end of the tunnel. Archerina bent over, retrieving her husband's head. Carefully she placed him into a small bag before teleporting from the tunnel back to the palace on the moon.
* * *
Tommy was laying on the ground somewhere. He stood up and noticed he was unmorphed. He looked to his communicator, but there was none. He tried to activate his Zeonizers but there were none. He shook his head confused.
Tommy looked around. He was inside of the elevator at school. The cold steel was strangely warm, and rough. He looked to see which floor he was on. It appeared as though the elevator was stopped somewhere in the building. Tommy pressed the buttons, but nothing happened. He opened the door of the emergency telephone hatch, but nothing was inside of it. He shook his head and decided to open the doors manually. Tommy bent over and forced his fingers through the gap in the doors and opened them wide. It deffinantly was the school and he was stuck between two floors. Tommy rolled over onto his back to slide out of the elevator onto the bottom floor.
A hand wrapped around Tommy's collar and pulled him away from the door. The strength of the arm that threw Tommy across the space was tremendous. Tommy slammed heavily against the opposite wall. He looked up to see the blood red ranger staring him down.
The blood red ranger slid his hand in front of his chest and from a white light appeared a sword with a black metal blade. The ranger lowered the weapon to his side before speaking.
"You've got something in your head that I want," he said, Tommy could hear him perfectly for the first time, the blood red ranger's black blade flashed in the light, "and I don't care how I have to get it."
Tommy's blood ran cold; the psycho was going to kill him.