Corry hurried into the Power Core, the doors sliding shut behind her. "Omicron, what's with the alarm?"
The green teleportation booth flashed as Dana arrived. "You beckoned?" Dana asked. A purple flash close behind her heralded Allison's arrival.
"Brace yourselves!" Omicron warned. The entire room suddenly shook violently.
"What was that?!" Allison cried, holding tightly to the neon banister of the stairwell. She continued down to the main floor of the Power Core.
Blue and yellow booms of light in quick succession produced Jeremy and Tara.
"Earthquake?" Corry asked.
"Possibly," Omicron surmised as she turned the alarms off. "Dana-"
"I'm on it," Dana volunteered. She wasn't at the console for more than a few seconds before announcing, "New Madrid fault is perfectly stable."
"I'll scan for any abnormalities in the Cave itself," Tara volunteered.
"Here comes another one," Omicron said, reading the energy display set into the wall.
"I'll track it," Allison said hurriedly, bolting over to a nearby console. Her fingers flew across the memorized console. Just then, the room began to rock.
"If the Power Core's a rockin'," Nadia teased as she shimmered into being.
"Funny, angel girl," Allison smarted. "Did you see anything?"
"There is some rock movement due east," Sigma told them as he appeared.
"Scanning for it, now," Jeremy said.
"Jeremy, follow these coordinates," Allison started. "Eight, ninety-six, twelve, twelve, seven."
"Gotcha," he agreed. "Tara, help me with this."
"I've got a visual, but... it's too dark to see anything," Tara announced.
"Switch to infrared," Corry suggested.
"Switching... now." Tara looked up from the console, brushing her brown hair out of her face.
"Full screen," Omicron ordered. Sections of the wall slid back and formed a much larger video screen. The image was mostly black, with a faint tinge of reddish light right around the perimeter of the screen.
"Sonic testing, now," Dana said.
"Do you think it's an empty room?" Omicron asked.
Dana waited a few seconds for the results to come back before announcing, "I know it's an empty room..."
"This is bizarre," Tara said, reading over Dana's shoulder. "There are four walls, a roof, and a ceiling. No way in, no way out."
"Just like the Power Core," Allison realized.
"Let's go check it out," Corry said.
"It's Morphin Time!" Dana shouted.
"Lion!" Jeremy cried, morphing into the Blue Ranger.
Purple Ranger Allison shouted, "Frog!"
"Sparrow!" Green Ranger Dana yelled.
"Fox!" Tara, Yellow Ranger, bellowed.
"White Ranger Power!" Corry finished. In five streaks of light, the Rangers disappeared.
* * *
By the time the Rangers had completely reformed inside the strange cavern, the light from their teleportation was gone. "This is the darkest I believe I have ever seen," Corry announced.
"Mastodon Power Beams!" Allison cried. The purple Mastodon atop her helmet lifted up slightly, its eyes opening wide. Bright halogen lights shone out, providing a welcome reprieve from the darkness.
"Whoa!" Tara shouted. As Allison swept her light beams past them, a tan colored wall was just a few feet away from them. "What is this?!"
"Oh my goodness," Jeremy sighed.
"What is that thing?" Allison asked, shining the headlights from her helmet around the large cavernous room.
"The Power Chamber," Corry realized.
Both the Blue and Yellow Ranger simultaneously stretched out to touch the wall. "It's solid," Jeremy announced.
"Like granite," Tara agreed.
"Sorta pebbly," Jeremy said, nodding his head.
"Brachiosaurus Power Vision!" Dana shouted. The two tiny eyes in the Brachiosaurus head attached to the neck that stretched down through her visor blinked green. As if alive, the neck raised up into the air, separating itself from the visor. Green-tinged light shone from the dinosaur's eyes, landing on the stone wall. A perfect circle of green light rested there for a moment.
"What-?" Corry started.
Then, the wall that was touched by the green light became transparent. Looking through the circle in the wall, they saw a dimly lit room with silver walls. "It's a building," Dana realized.
"Activating audio enhancers!" Tara cried. The tiny ears on her yellow helmet perked up and pointed forward. She was silent for a moment, before asking, with a smile in her voice, "Does anyone know a Zordon?"
"Zordon?!" Corry cried. She ran up to the wall and reached out to touch it.
"Not yet," Allison said, pulling her back. "It's just a visual."
"Reality alterer!" Dana shouted. A burst of white shot out of the Brachiosaurus head and hit the wall. A crackle of electricity passed through it. "Hurry through," Dana said, ushering Corry to the entrance.
"Zordon!" Corry shouted, jumping through the wall. The other Rangers were close behind. As soon as they entered the silver room, the lights immediately flashed on. "This is the outer room!" Corry cried. She ran up to a pair of blue and silver sliding doors.
"How do we get in?" Allison asked.
Corry removed her helmet, walking up to the sliding doors. "Corriane Cranston, White Ranger. Perform retina scan."
With that, the doors slid open with a whoosh. A frantic "ay-yi-yi" followed. "Alpha!" Corry shouted, darting through the doors.
"Corry?!" Alpha cried, turning to look at her.
"What are you guys doing here?!" Corry cried happily. Running over to the automaton, she threw her arms around him in a big hug.
"It is good to know that you are alive and well, Corriane," Zordon said. "Where, exactly, are we?"
"April, 1998. Totally different dimension," Corry explained. "How did you end up here?"
"I attempted to bring the energy of the Zeo Crystal into my private dimension," Zordon explained. "In doing so, we somehow ended up here."
"Before we completely lost contact with the outside world, I did find readings from another dimension in the energy flux field around the Power Chamber," Alpha said. "I- who are you friends?"
"Oh, come on in, guys. These are four of the Rangers from this dimension."
"This is the most incredible thing ever," Jeremy sighed. "I mean... it's Zordon of Eltare!"
"You're on a television show, here," Corry told him, grinning.
"My name is Tara," Tara said, introducing herself. "Green Ranger is Dana, Purple Ranger is Allison, and that guy is Jeremy. It's very nice to meet you."
"It is nice to meet you as well," Zordon said.
"Do you have a way home?" Corry asked hopefully.
"Unfortunately, we don't," Alpha said.
"Why don't we get you guys in the Power Core?" Allison suggested.
"Yeah," Corry agreed. "That would be wonderful. I mean, we might as well..." Looking to Jeremy and Tara, she tried a new rural saying. "Put all our chickens in one basket."
"Um, Corry," Tara tried not to laugh as Jeremy began to snicker. She elbowed him.
"That's eggs in one basket," Dana supplied with a grin.
"Oops." Corry shrugged and grinned. "Chickens, eggs...." She started giggling with the others. "I was close!"
"Keep trying, " Tara advised with a smile. "For a city kid, you're doing okay."
"Let's go," Jeremy said, still laughing. "We'll work on the sayings. Maybe the accent too."
"What's wrong with my accent?" Corry stopped, and stared at him.
"You don't have one, " Dana told her, putting an arm around her shoulder. "You have to speak slower and draw the words out more."
"If I talk any slower I'll be in tomorrow!" She laughed as Jeremy nodded.
"I'll remember that, Cranston!" Jeremy shook his head at Tara. "She could be an auctioneer the way she rattles stuff off."
Corry stuck her tongue out. "You should hear Chelsea." With that, she teleported out.
"I don't think I want to go to California," Jeremy sighed. "We'll just let all of them come visit us, right?"
"Right." Tara grinned. "Come on."
* * *
"Are you comfortable with this arrangement?" Sigma asked.
"Quite," Zordon boomed. Sigma had used his Sword to create a six-foot tall tube, set against one wall, for Zordon to project his image through. Alpha was currently hobbling about, trying to get the feel of his new temporary home as Omicron showed him the quirks of their new system.
"Zordon, earlier, you said that you were trying to take the energy of the Zeo Crystal into your dimension, right?" Dana asked.
"That is correct."
"And we're currently registering it on our scanners," Dana continued. "But that's nowhere near enough energy to come all the way here. Assuming you knew how to harness it correctly, you could use it to leave one dimension, but..."
"The odds of us coming to the same dimension Corriane came to are astronmical," Zordon finished.
"The readings from another dimension were obviously this one," Tara realized.
"Right," Dana said. "Do you have those recordings in your datafile?"
"I know how to access them," Corry said hurriedly. Running over to the nearest console, she sat her white Wolf helmet on the back of it. Her gloved fingers flew across the controls for a few moments, before she announced, "Found 'em."
Energy crackled as Nadia appeared at the top of the stairwell. "Cross reference villains," she ordered. The computers instantly followed her command.
Omicron and Alpha turned to look, as did everyone else in the Power Core. A few seconds later, the computer beeped. "Match found," Corry said softly.
"Who is it?" Sigma asked.
"No name, but a reference," Corry said.
"Calling it up, now," Jeremy announced. One section of the wall to the left of the room opened up, revealing a video screen. Immediately, a computer-generated image appeared.
"Draanov," Corry whispered.
"He pulled you here?" Tara asked.
"More specifically than that," Sigma started, "Draanov's Club... Cross reference Diamond, Pink Garnet, and Sapphire Swords."
The three Swords in the bed of crystals on the top level all flashed in unison. "Oh my goodness," Nadia sighed as it occurred to her.
"Could you fill in the rest of us?" Allison asked.
"Draanov's Club," Omicron muttered. "It's the missing Onyx Sword... He's one of the SwordKeepers."
* * *
"Popcorn!" Corry called as she walked into the living area with a humongous bowl of popcorn. They were in a well-furnished room next to Corry's bedroom in the labyrinthine expanse that was the Power Core. One wouldn't have ever guessed that the remarkably normal room was several thousand feet below the surface of the Earth.
"And I've got drinks," Beth said, holding a tray with seven glasses on it.
"I finally figured out WHO you remind me of," Tara said.
"Oh?" Corry asked.
"Keri Russell," Tara told her. "She was in _Honey, I Blew Up the Kid_ and the New Mickey Mouse Club. You're identical. Well, you look a little younger, and your hair isn't as curly, but other than that, identical."
"Is she in any of these movies?" Corry asked, pointing to the stack of movies sitting in front of Beth.
"Most of these movies are too old," Beth said. "We've got Friday the 13th, Part Four, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Nightmare on Elm Street, the remake of Night of the Living Dead, and my personal favorite, Scream."
"So help me, if I have nightmares, I am going to come sleep with somebody," Corry muttered nervously.
"O- ow!" Jeremy cried, just as Allison smacked him for a smart-alec comment he was a second from making.
"We don't have time to watch more than three tonight," Beth said. "How about Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th?"
Corry took her seat on the couch and got a pillow ready to shield her face. Allison was close by her side with a similar pillow. "The chickens are ready," Allison answered for the both of them.
"Pop it in," Corry said, grabbing a nervous handful of popcorn before settling back into the couch.
* * *
"You will be okay, right?" Beth asked.
"You can come stay in our guest room, if you like," Jeremy offered.
"No, I'll be fine," Corry said. "If I have to, I'll go make friendly with Omicron tonight."
"Well, good night," Jeremy and Beth said in eerie unison before they teleported away in streams of blue and pink, leaving Corry alone in the living area.
"Horror movies aren't so bad," Corry decided, going back to her room. Stretching her neck, she sat down on the edge of her bed. She had sat still for far too long. "I think I will read before bed, though," she said aloud. "And I guess I should also stop talking to myself."
Just as she reached for a book on her nightstand, the old-fashioned phone sitting by her bed rang. The number was private, and it was relayed through the Power Core. Wrong numbers were an impossibility, and the only people who had it were the Rangers. Of course, Omicron also used it to contact her if it wasn't actual Ranger business. That's probably what it was.
"Hello?" Corry asked, sweeping her hair over one shoulder as she nestled the white and gold handset against her neck.
"Hi," Corry said again. The voice was male. "Sigma?"
"No, not Sigma."
"Not him either."
"Ah, it's Beth then. So you got one of those voice changers like they had in the movie?"
"Do you want to die tonight, Corry?"
Frowning, Corry hung up the phone with a thump. She immediately had a flash from her guilty conscious. It was Beth playing a harmful prank on her, and she had just slammed the phone in her ear. She quickly picked up the receiver and pushed the auto-dial button for Beth.
"Hello?" Beth asked in a confused voice.
"Sorry about hanging up on you like that," Corry apologized, laughing nervously. "I guess those movies startled me more than I thought."
"What are you talking about?" Beth asked.
"Didn't you just call me?" Corry asked.
"No, I just got through talking with my dad. I just this second stepped into my bedroom. Are you okay?"
"I just got a prank call like in the movie," Corry said. "I thought it was you."
"Not me," Beth told her sympathetically. "I wouldn't put it past Jeremy. Heck, I wouldn't put it past Omicron. That girl has got a wicked sense of humor."
"Just me being paranoid," Corry said, smiling. "Sorry I bothered you. Good night."
Corry sat the phone down again, shaking her head. _Way to go, Cranston._ She had no more than stretched out on the bed when the phone rang again.
"Hello?" she asked again, trying to sound just as sweet as before.
"Hi," the same male voice said. "Who is this?"
"This is Corry," she said. "Who is this?"
"Or are you my worst nightmare?" Corry giggled. "You're gonna have to do better than that if you intend to scare me, Logsdon."
"Have you checked on the children, Corry?"
"Why no, I haven't, Mr. Killer, sir. Did you kill them?"
"Not yet... I've got a knife with your name on it, Corry... I can't wait to hear you scream..."
"This isn't funny," Corry snarled.
"It's not supposed to be funny. It's supposed to be scary."
Scowling, Corry slammed the phone down hard. "Omic-!" she started to call out, only to be interrupted by the ringing phone.
She waited nervously as the phone continued to ring. Finally, swallowing hard, she picked up the phone and shouted, "What?!"
The voice was singing this time. "One, two, I'm comin' for you... Three, four, better lock your door..."
Corry instantly hit the receiver and pushed the button for Omicron.
"Corry?" Omicron's cheerful voice said. The White Ranger instantly felt relief.
"Omicron, something's wrong with the phone," Corry said. _That's an understatement._ "I mean, I'm getting menacing phone calls."
"Corry, that's not possible," Omicron told her. "No one has your number except us and the Rangers."
"Would you check, just in (beep, beep) case. Call waiting..."
"Keep whoever it is on the line, and I'll scan the call, okay?" Omicron suggested. "It's possible you're just getting radio signals or anything on it."
"Okay," Corry said. "Thanks Omicron." Corry waited a second before switching to the other line. "Hello?"
"Why did you hang up on me?" the voice asked.
Corry walked over to her closet, the cord stretching out behind her. She was careful not to knock things over with it, as she had done when she first started using phones with cords. "Because I didn't like what you were saying." _Weak, Cranston. Weak._
Corry slid the closet door open. She loved the spacious closet Omicron had prepared for her. It was humongous. "DO you want to die tonight?"
"That's a stupid question," Corry said. "Of course not."
She heard a click, and Omicron was promptly on the line. "Corry, get out of your room!" Omicron cried.
"What?" Corry asked.
"The calls are coming from in your closet!"
"Omicron, that's ridiculous," Corry chastised. "I'm in my closet right- (click)." The phone line went dead instantly. "Omicron?" Pulling the phone away from her ear, Corry immediately saw that the cord had been cut. It had been sliced, while she was talking on it. Her eyes widened as she took in that realization. "LIGHTS ON!" Corry screamed. The lights had no more than turned on when a black shrouded figure, standing just a few inches from her, turned around, revealing a white, masked face. Corry let loose with an ear-shattering scream, ducking just as a gleaming dagger was swung at her face.
She hurled herself from the closet, spinning around as she ran away. The killer, dressed as the murderer from _Scream,_ was close behind her. "Door open!" Corry shouted. She bolted out of her living quarters and ran down the small hallway connecting her to the Power Core. She rounded the right cornered curve of the hallway, running to the end of the corridor that either lead her into the Power Core or her Zord's hangar. Corry was horrified to find it closed tight. "OMICRON! Let me in!" She beat both hands the sliding doors. "Alpha! Zordon! Sigma! PLEASE!!!"
At the corner of the hallway, the masked man appeared, still holding his dagger. "White Ranger Power!" Corry shouted, realizing at that moment that her powers were temporarily blocked again. With a chortled cry, she pushed open the swinging door that led to the Zord hangar.
"Sigma!" she shouted. The hangar wasn't as nice as the Power Core. With the exception of catwalks stretched everywhere, the room was nothing more than a hollowed out cavern of the cave. Lights were positioned at the very top of the hangar, but the room still had a dark feeling to it. Corry's White CraneZord sat, silently, in the center. Catwalks and scaffolding surrounded the mammoth vehicle, giving Omicron or Alpha easy access to the Zord's wiring.
Corry waited on the scaffolding, unsure of what to do. The doors were standing still; whoever that was could easily push through them. _Maybe he's not coming in here._ However, just as soon as she began to think about safety, the doors flew open with lightning force, slamming into the walls on each side of them. Gasping, Corry threw herself down the closest stairwell, her feet scrambling over the steps, taking them two and even three at a time.
As Corry rounded the corner, she looked up behind her. The cloaked figure was methodically stalking her. He wasn't running in the same blind panic she was; he definitely had the upper hand. Corry stopped at the side of the scaffolding and placed her right foot on the utmost ladder rung. Holding tight to the railing, she swung her left leg over the rail. Balanced there precariously but just for a moment, she hurriedly got her right leg over the railing as well and back on the rung. Climbing down quickly, she descended a good forty feet before the ladder ran out.
She let go and dropped, gingerly, to a metal walkway beneath her. She was still hundreds of feet above the floor of the cavern. The Crane's head was the only part of the massive Zord that loomed above her.
Suddenly, Corry was struck with terror. She didn't know where the cloaked killer was. She had lost sight of him during her descent down the ladder. At the moment, she stood on a square of metal. There were no railings anywhere, and no way off she could see, except for a rickety set of stairs. However, when she realized that the killer was still somewhere around, she headed for the rickety stairs.
They swayed rhythmically with her weight. She clutched desperately at the hand railing until she reached the next landing that was considerably more stable. She could hear the shrouded figure moving around above her; she just couldn't see him. However, she didn't have to see him to know that he was too close for comfort.
She continued running down the stairs, unsure of what she would do when she reached the bottom. Then, she caught sight of the service elevator. That could take her back up to the Power Core and give her enough time to figure out something. There was no way that person could run up stairs as fast as an elevator.
Finally, she stepped off of the last step. She looked up above her to see if she could spot the masked assailant. His image not forthcoming, she ran for the elevator. She repeatedly tapped the up button, and realized unhappily that the elevator was at the Power Core. "Come on," she pleaded, tapping the button faster and more forcefully. "Please..."
Something compelled her to turn around, and when she did, she saw the shrouded figure step off of the stairs. _NO!_ Whimpering, Corry began to tap the button frantically. The stalker began to slowly walk toward her, his knife held out before him.
Thankfully, the elevator chimed and the door slid open. Corry forced her way in as soon as the door parted. The stalker immediately began to speed up. Before the doors were even closed, Corry had pressed the button for the Power Core. Then, she pushed herself back into the furthest corner of the elevator, praying that the doors would just hurry up and close.
The killer ran up to the doors just as they slid closed, and it was all Corry could do to keep from sliding to the floor. However, she forced herself to stand up straight. She had to be quick. Sheila was behind this, and she had to stay on her toes.
Several long seconds later, the door opened. Corry cautiously walked out of the elevator, glancing around her for the killer. Seeing that the small hallway was clear, she walked toward the Power Core. "Please open this time," Corry pleaded. As she walked near the sliding doors to the Power Core, she saw that they were open.
Inside, she was greeted to a horrifying sight. None of the lights were working, save for the emergency overhead lights. Zordon's tube was cracked, Alpha lay on his back on the ground, deactivated, and all three Swords were missing from the pedestal at the top of the room.
"Omicron!" Corry cried. She hurried to the back of the Power Core and into the small room that served as Omicron's bedroom. There was one lamp that was turned on, but everything else was trashed. A dark circle of liquid surrounded the bed which housed a lump under a bloody cover. _Oh God no..._
"Omicron?" Corry whimpered. She crept near the bed, whimpering and cowering as the toes of her sneakers touched what she assumed to be a pool of blood. Praying as hard as she could, she reached out and touched the bedcovers. "Please, not Omicron," she pleaded. Then, she yanked hard.
Immediately, the black cloaked stalker leapt up from beneath the covers, still holding his gleaming dagger. Corry screamed and tried to run, but her feet slid in the blood around her ankles. Her tailbone connected, hard, with the floor, and the killer began to move toward her. She heard the door to the bedroom slide shut behind her. "No," she choked out in a weak voice, reaching out to touch it.
The killer stopped, and then knocked the only lamp to the ground. As the light extinguished, Corry found herself trapped in the darkest place she had ever seen in her life. "LIGHTS ON!" she screamed.
Shrieking in terror, she sat up, the bedsheets tangled all around her. As the lights in her room came on, she realized that she had been dreaming. She pressed her hand to her chest, feeling her heart rumbling frantically. "Omicron!" she was finally able to cry.
* * *
Rocky looked over at his son, who had been quiet the whole evening. "Raph?"
"Hmm?" Chin in his hand, elbow on the table, the teen stared morosely at the notepad in front of him.
"You've been staring at that same problem for over thirty minutes, son. Are you okay?"
Sighing, Raph turned in his chair to face his father. "If we're going to Sedona for Christmas, why are we decorating?" He gestured to the tree and the wreath Rocky was struggling with.
"That's not for three more weeks." Rocky set the wreath down and regarded his son seriously. "I haven't forgotten, Raph. I just want to...." He shrugged, and looked down, tugging on the pine branches. "We didn't do much for Christmas the past couple of years."
A hopeful light sparked Raph's dark eyes. "So...we are still going to Sedona?"
"I promised you, Raph. I'm not gonna go back on that." Rocky's mouth twisted into a goofy grin as he looked up. "Now go down and get those boxes of Christmas decorations, will ya?" He tossed a sprig of pine at his son.
Swatting it back at him, Raph stood, an equally silly grin on his face. "Sure." He walked into the kitchen and flipped the switch to the lights in the basement. The door swung shut behind him as he descended the wood stairs.
Rubbing his arms, Raph looked around the large area. It had been the first dojo his dad and mom had opened -- years ago. Now it was dusty, full of storage containers and equipment they stored from the dojo. With a sigh, Raph pushed away his sad feelings and began searching for the containers marked with a pine tree. His mother had been meticulous, and had known where every single thing was kept down here.
_Dad and I haven't exactly kept that up...._ Raph waved a cobweb away from his face, coughing slightly at the dust he was stirring up.
With a flicker, the light died, dropping the basement into complete darkness.
"Oh...great," Raph muttered. He whirled as something skittered past him. Touching the container behind him to keep his direction, Raph turned. _Just a rat....or something._ He shivered as the room's temperature dropped suddenly, and more scratching noises came from behind him. Something ran across his hand, and he pulled it back, taking a step back.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs and he whirled to face that direction. "Dad?" His voice sounded a little too hopeful, even to his ears. _Get a grip!_
The lock on the door clicked with a thunk.
Raph tried not to shiver, but it was cold, and memories of what Jett had done to him still haunted his nightmares. He brought a hand up to his chest and backed away until his back touched the wall. "Who's there?" He growled. _No way she's doing that to me again!_
Green light flared in the center of the room, and Raph winced away from the sudden intrusion of brightness. Once his eyes had adjusted, he looked again.
Thomas stood, staring at him. The eerie green light was coming from him somehow. He glowed in the darkness, his eyes a deep, unnatural gleaming green.
Raph swallowed hard and began to inch his way towards the stairs.
The glowing figure smiled chillingly. "Leaving so soon, Raph?"
Forgetting all about being macho, Raph turned and ran for the stairs. He stopped after two strides.
The stairs had vanished.
Whirling, Raph ran. The green glare from Thomas only affected the immediate area, leaving the rest of the basement in complete darkness. Panicked, Raph ran headlong into one of the shelves, toppling it over with a horrendous crash. He turned, seeing a green glow.
Thomas leaped up on top on the shelf and stalked towards him, looking like a jungle cat on the prowl as he slunk forward on his hands and knees. His eyes glowed green.
Trapped in the corner, and getting angry, Raph stood his ground, hands fisted. "What the hell do you want?"
Thomas shrugged, the wicked grin growing. "To see how the new...leader...of the Rangers is doing." He leaped gracefully down, then stopped as if examining his nails. Green light danced in whirls over his body. "So...." He looked up, dark eyes as cold as the void of space. "How are you holding up? Dreaming a lot lately?"
"Go to hell!" Raph stanced as the man took another step closer. The cold seemed to be radiating from his ex-teammate.
Shrugging carelessly, Thomas stopped. "Trust me, Raph. I won't be alone." Flashing a smile that showed white teeth, the man came closer. "Before long, all of you will join me here." He raised a dark eyebrow. "We'll have a Power Ranger reunion. Should be one...hell...of a party."
Raph couldn't help but cringe away as Thomas laughed. It was a laugh so full of darkness, so full of cold, it scared him. "Stay back!"
A flash of light hit right in front of Raph, and when it cleared the Jaguar crouched, ready to pounce on Thomas. *You will not touch this one!* It dug wickedly sharp claws into the cement floor as it tensed its muscles.
"Fine," Thomas said in a flat voice. Taking a step back, he smirked at Raph. "Sweet dreams, Raphael." Green-black light consumed him in a rush of flames.
The light came on as suddenly as it had gone out, and Raph sagged down to sit against the stairs. His heart was beating hard enough to bruise his ribs. "I'm too young for this kinda stress," he muttered.
"Hey, Raph!" Rocky's voice carried down the stairs. "What's the holdup? You okay?"
*Stay on the alert, Cub,* The Jaguar warned. *They will keep trying to wear you down.* Nudging the boy with its head, the animal disappeared in a grey-white flash.
"I'll remember," Raph assured it grimly. "I'm okay, Dad!" Pulling himself up, Raph again went on search of the elusive Christmas decorations.
* * *
Nisha decided to do some Christmas shopping after school. "Southdale," she decided. It wasn't as crowded as the Galleria, and she really wasn't in the mood for crowds.
Walking towards the bus stop, Nisha tried not to feel left out. Jared and Raph were teaching their usual Karate class, Olivia was in the class and Gavin was doing something with Will. _I'm just used to hanging out with Corry,_ she told herself. Thanksgiving had been a bummer. It just wasn't the same without all of them together.
_This was supposed to be Thomas' first Thanksgiving with all of us too._ Thoughts of their newest friend depressed Nisha, and she sighed. _How could so much have happened in so short a time? We've been Rangers....four months?_
Wind blew against the girl and she pulled her coat tighter. She always had thought that being a Ranger like her parents would give her the feeling of invulnerability.
It didn't. Far from it. _I was happier ignorant._ Nisha sighed. _Well, the rush is great, but the downside of losing friends sucks._
She couldn't shake the feeling they might never see Corry or Thomas again.
The bus pulled up with a quiet whoosh. Lost in her own musings, Nisha didn't pay much attention as she swiped her card through the payunit. She trudged back to the last seat and sat. As the bus pulled away from the stop, Nisha realized what she wasn't hearing.
She looked up, startled to see the entire bus empty.
The driver was the only other passenger.
_During Christmas season?_ Nisha shook her head. _Unheard of!_ Her anxiety increased as she got a better look at the route they were taking.
They were heading out of town, not Southdale.
Nisha stood. "Excuse me, but we're going the wrong direction."
Frowning, Nisha grabbed her bag and walked forward several seats. "Yeah. Southdale is the other direction!" She tried to get a look at the driver, but the hat hid his face. "Who are you? Doesn't Glen usually have this route?"
A low chuckle was her response. It sent chills down her spine. Nisha grabbed the seat to keep from falling as the bus suddenly swerved, jumping the center divider, and heading into the oncoming traffic. Eyes wide, the girl sat, clutching the seat back. "Are you crazy?!"
Her nails dug into the soft padding as the driver let go of the steering wheel, stood, and slowly turned to face her. Glowing green eyes peered out of a shadowed face, and the temperature on the bus suddenly dropped. "I thought you liked challenges, Nisha."
The bus was all over the place, swerving from one lane to the next, always barely missing the oncoming car. Horns blared, as the angry drivers avoided sure death. The bus continued on its wrong-way route.
Crossing his arms, the driver leaned nonchalantly against the pole. No matter how hard the bus swerved, nothing upset his balance. "But, then, you like to be in the driver's seat, don't you?"
"Damn you, Thomas!" Nisha pulled herself to her feet, reaching behind her.
"Ah-aah!" Thomas made a gesture and Nisha's hand met only thin air.
Narrowing her eyes, the girl realized she wasn't going to be allowed to morph. Her gaze was caught by the massive bulk of an oncoming truck. Deciding living was better than arguing, Nisha gestured wildly. "Thomas! The truck!"
"Hmm?" With languid grace, he half turned, and shrugged. "I see it."
"Oh....God...." Nisha thought briefly of her family and friends as the huge semi barreled towards them, unable to move in time to avoid a collision. Air horn blaring, the truck tried to change lanes, but was trapped by traffic. Murmuring a quick prayer, Nisha braced herself.
It all went into slow motion as the semi rushed towards them, grill glinting silver in the afternoon sunlight, airhorn blasting. Nisha could see the driver's horrified expression as he threw his arms up in front of his face. Winds strong as cyclones began to blow around the bus, whipping Nisha's long braids around. With a rush of cold air, strongly tainted by the smell of garlic, the semi met the bus head-on....
Nisha felt the hair on her arms prickle as a ghostly image of the semi rushed at her, then through her. She felt as though she was on fire for a moment, and green light filled the interior of the bus, dancing over the image of the semi. Her ears were filled with the sounds of crackling energy, the air horn and the rushing of wind.....
Sweat beaded on her forehead. Her fingers, dug deeply into the foam of the cushion in front of her, trembled. Slowly, almost afraid to see what would greet her, Nisha opened her eyes.
Screaming at the sight of the glowing green face right in front of her, Nisha scrambled out of the seat and fell into the aisle. Fear turned to anger as Thomas laughed mockingly at her. Shakily climbing to her feet, Nisha glared at him. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
"Nothing frightens you, Nisha. I wanted to see if I could find...something that would." He smirked at her. "Looks like I did." The bus driver uniform shimmered and became black clothing.
Fisting her hands, she shook with reaction and anger. "You...."
Raising a dark eyebrow, Thomas shook a finger at her. "Be careful what you say, Nisha." He gestured out the window. "You might end up here...."
She glanced out the windows and took a step back.
They were at Angel's Rest Cemetery.
"Or maybe you already are, and none of this is real...."
"No...," Nisha whispered. She stumbled past Thomas, down the stairs and staggered over to the headstone. Dropping to her knees, she traced the letters carved into the white marble. Nisha Kethri Taylor. Died, 2018. Beloved daughter, now with the angels. She shook her head. "NO!"
Mocking laughter filled her ears as she covered her face with her hands.
Nisha jumped, and stared wildly at the man in front of her. "What? Where....?" She was on the bus, in front of the mall. Several other passengers gave her curious looks. Nisha looked blankly at the driver. "Glen?"
"Yeah." A kind smile tugged at the portly man's mouth. His green eyes twinkled. "You fell asleep, kid. This is where you wanted to go, right?"
Gripping his hand in a tight hold, Nisha nodded. "Thank you!" She jumped up, grabbed her bag, and bolted off the bus, heading for the women's bathroom.
Glen just shook his head, and walked back up to sit at the wheel. "Next stop, downtown Angel Grove."
* * *
"Why couldn't any of the others have come?" Corry asked as she and Dana started down the old hiking trail. It had been on the Warders' property for as long as Dana could remember.
"They've all been here before," Dana said. "Plus they're lazy."
"How long is this trail?" Corry asked. The path, worn into the ground, extended from the forest. They hadn't gone more than twenty feet, and already, they were in deep shade. It was beautiful, however.
"I dunno, but you can walk it in about two hours," Dana answered. "This is the one place Sheila has never attacked us. Dunno why."
"Maybe her Gargoyles are afraid of the dark?" Corry joked.
Suddenly, the sound of breaking twigs split through the air. Corry gasped and spun around, dropping her bottle of water. "What was that?"
"Probably just an animal," Dana said.
"A big animal," Corry muttered.
"Like a deer?" Dana asked, quirking her eyebrows.
However, before Corry could say anything in reply, metal flashed before her. She screamed and jumped back as a machete embedded itself in a nearby tree. The machete wobbled from the force, stuck deep in the flesh of the tree. "A deer with a machete?!" Corry cried.
Dana screamed, pointing off of the trail. A large hulk of a man stood there, wearing a pair of worn blue overalls and a flannel shirt beneath them. His face was covered with a dirty hockey mask. "Run!" Dana cried, grabbing Corry's hand and pulling her along.
"I can't get my morpher!" Corry yelled. The two girls ran down the path as fast as their legs would carry them, oblivious to the branches and twigs slapping them.
"Sheila must be blocking us!" Dana panted. "Just run!"
Corry looked behind her, expecting to see their masked killer, taken straight from the movie they had seen the previous night, but she saw nothing. However, she had already experienced one dream far too realistic to be fooled, and she didn't stop running. But then, just as she turned around, she ran into a solid body so hard she fell backwards, sprawled out on the ground. She hit the ground painfully, but at the moment, her only concern was the masked man standing before her. She slowly crawled backwards on her hands and knees, too scared to even scream, as the man lifted a machete up to chest level.
"Leave 'er alone!" Dana screamed. The man, posing as Jason Voorhees, turned around in the trail just in time to get the brunt of a large wooden tree limb. "Run Corry, run!" Dana threw the limb into his arms and turned to run. Corry jumped to her feet and ran off of the trail, circling around the disoriented assailant.
Corry suddenly caught sight of a small, old cabin, resting in a hollow of the ground. "Dana!" Corry cried, pointing at the cabin. She was already off of the trail and running for it. "There!"
"Corry no!" Dana cried, but it was too late. The White Ranger was almost there already. "That's not supposed to be there!"
Corry pushed the door to the cabin open. As she looked in, she realized it was nothing more than a shack. The walls were made of sheet metal, as was the roof, and the floor was dirt. The windows were just holes cut in the back wall, plus one smaller one in the front, nothing more. She slowly stepped into the one-room building, looking around her in a mixture of horror and awe.
"This isn't on our property!" Dana cried, grabbing hold of the door frame. "It's part of the trap!"
"Ugh," Corry complained, starting for the door. However, rather than bolt out, she screamed and grabbed Dana by the arm. With a hard yank, she pulled the Green Ranger inside. She slammed the door to and put her shoulder against it, just as the man pushed against it. Dana gave a cry of alarm as she pushed herself against the door as well, trying to keep him out.
"Hold it shut!" Dana entreated. There was a large piece of wood attached to the wall that could swing down to barricade the door shut. Dana moved for it, leaving Corry to hold the door by herself.
Suddenly, metal scraped against metal as the machete plunged into the door. Corry screamed as the end of the machete rushed for her, only to stop a few inches before her face. "Hurry Dana, hurry!" As the machete pulled out of the door, Dana pushed the piece of wood into place, locking the door as best they could manage.
"What now?!" Dana cried, trying to think. She ran her hands through her long, blonde hair, wracking her mind for a way out.
The door shook as the man slammed into it, trying to get in. Corry and Dana both backed into the middle of the room. "I'm sorry," Corry apologized, looking around for a way out.
"The back windows," Dana realized. "C'mon, I'll boost you out."
They crossed over to the back windows. Dana looked out. "It's clear," she said. Bracing herself against the wall, she locked her hands in a stirrup and said, "Let's go."
"How will you get out?" Corry asked as she stepped into Dana's hand.
"I'll figure something out," Dana told her. She boosted Corry out of the window, head first. "Careful not to cut yourself." Corry was halfway out the window when Dana made a horrible realization.
The door had stopped shaking.
Corry suddenly let loose with an ear-shattering scream as she dropped out of the window. "Corry!" Dana cried. She ran at the door, throwing the barricade open and racing out. "Corry!"
She ran around the shack and saw that Corry was currently racing up the nearest hill as though the hounds of hell were after her. Dana looked around her, wondering where the Jason wannabe was. "Corry!" Dana shouted. "Where is he?"
Corry stopped running. Turning around, she realized that the man wasn't behind her. "I don't know!" she shouted back. She twisted her hand, producing her morpher in a sparkle of silver and white light. "I can morph!" she cried. Pointing it out before her, she yelled, "White Ranger Power!"
Dana pressed her thumb and index finger together, attempting to open a communications channel with the Power Core. If it had worked, she would have been rewarded with a green glow around her fingers. Instead, nothing happened. _He's still around._ The reason she couldn't morph had to be related to the man in the hockey mask.
"Do you see him, Corry?" Dana asked. The woods were suddenly deathly silent.
Silently, Corry switched to infrared. She scanned the area around Dana, who appeared as nothing more than a red silhouette. "You know, a thought just occurred to me," Dana said slowly. "If this thing is like the Jason from the movies, then he's dead. And that means he wouldn't have-" Suddenly, an ear-splitting scream echoed through the woods. Corry watched as Dana's red silhouette doubled over and was pulled backwards.
_Dead people don't put off heat!_ Corry realized as she shut her infrared off. As her normal vision returned to her, she saw Dana being pulled away by the shoulders. "Dana!" She started to leap to her, when the ground collapsed beneath her feet. The White Ranger fell into a bed of dry leaves, desperately trying to climb to her feet but sinking deeper and deeper into them. "DANA! Dana, no!" shouted Corry. She ran for her friend, the dry leaves beneath her keeping her from getting any traction. "DANA!!!"
"Corry!" Dana pleaded. The man raised his machete high above his head as he held Dana still.
With a scream, Corry snapped awake, throwing her covers aside. In a panic, she screamed, "Lights on!"
The light flooded the room, and Corry stopped thrashing. _Just a dream..._ Then, she realized that lying with her beneath the covers were dozens and dozens of dry leaves.
* * *
Jared groggily groped for the covers, frowning when his hand met only some scratchy surface. _...left the fan on...._ His sleep-fogged brain hadn't quite caught up to his body, as he sat up. "Fan, low."
He blinked, scowling at the green comforter surrounding him. _My bed isn't green!_ Another sound penetrated his mind. Jared Scott snapped awake, looking around in startled dismay.
It only took a moment to identify where he was. McKenna's Leap. The ocean surf pounded against the cliff base far below, and he could see the lights of Angels Grove in the distance.
"How the heck did I get here?!" Jared scrambled to his feet and looked down at himself. He was dressed only in shorts and blue tank top. _At least I'm dressed....._ "Nisha...if this is your idea of joke....."
Turning in the waist high grass, Jared saw he was alone on the Leap. The moon was already on its downside trip across the night sky scattered with stars. Shivering as a cold breeze stirred the grass, Jared reached for his communicator.
It wasn't on his wrist. _Duh, you took it off when you went to bed!_ Sighing, Jared started walking toward the road. _Someone might still be up here._ He rolled his eyes. Anyone still up at the Leap would not be very welcoming of anyone interrupting them, asking for a ride back to the city.
The Leap was deserted. _Figures. Long walk back home._ Jared winced as his bare foot hit a sharp rock hidden in the grass. He finally reached the dirt road, and started walking at a fair pace.
Light split the night, as a car headed noiselessly towards him. It was going back towards town.
"All right!" Standing to one side, Jared waved his arms, flagging the car down. It came closer, still not slowing. "Crap!" Jared dove to one side as the car blasted past, stirring up the dirt from the speed of it's passing. "Idiot!" Jared yelled. He stood up, brushing himself off.
Twin beams hit him again, and the teen froze. The car had turned around, and was now coming back.
"This is just not my night." Jared crossed his arms, knowing it made him look intimidating. He squinted as the lights came closer. The headlights died, and the car coasted closer, soundlessly rolling over the road. It rolled to a halt just in front of Jared.
_What a minute... Rolling?_ The teen frowned as he realized it was an old fashioned black hearse.
As the car door opened, the temperature on McKenna's Leap dropped to just above freezing, and green light spilled out of the interior.
Jared shivered and wrapped his arms around himself. His teeth were beginning to chatter as the hair on his arms stood on end.
"Fancy meeting you, way out here." Thomas stood and closed the door. He was silhouetted in a glowing outline of green.
Jared reached behind him, grabbing for his morpher. His hand met only air.
Waggling a finger, Thomas grinned wickedly. "None of that." He strolled a little closer. "It's just you and me, Jared. No powers, no armor. Just our muscles and our wits." Dressed in black, form-fitting jeans, a black denim shirt with the sleeves ripped off, and dark sunglasses, Thomas didn't seen affected by the low temperature at all. His shoulder-length mahogany hair blew loose in the chilling breeze.
Jumping up and down now to keep warm, Jared glared at him. "F-fine."
Throwing his head back, Thomas laughed. "That's classic! You're freezing even as we speak, Jared." Pulling the sunglasses off, Thomas smirked at the young man. "No way you can fight."
Jared took an involuntary step back, seeing the glowing green eyes of his one-time teammate. "T-try m-me!" Still freezing, Jared was tired of the taunts. He stanced, trying to ignore the quivering of his limbs and chattering teeth.
Thomas shrugged. "If you insist." Floating up, he rose to the height of the hearses' roof and sat there. The headlights came on, glowing the same eerie green as his eyes. "Run, Ranger. Run!"
Jared whirled and ran, heedless of where he was going. He heard the engine of the hearse revving like a race car, and pushed himself to run faster. The waist high grass slapped against his legs as he stumbled on an unseen rock. His muscles were refusing to move, as he pushed himself forward. He skidded to a halt as the grass ended, watching several pebbles tumble off the edge of the Leap to disappear into the darkness.
The hearse was gliding through the grass like a shark, slowly and silently continuing towards him. Thomas stood up on the roof, a mocking smile twisting his lips. "Now what, Jared?"
Closing his eyes, Jared steeled himself for the impact.
He opened one eye, and the other snapped open in surprise. The bumper of the hearse was only millimeters from his shins. His gaze snapped up to Thomas.
"Ever wanted to find out what flying feels like?" Without waiting for a response, Thomas launched himself at Jared.
"NO!" Jared yelled, but it was too late. Thomas wrapped his arms around Jared's burly chest. His feet were pulled up and away from the ground, as Thomas' momentum sent them airborne and tumbling off the edge of the Leap.
Jared screamed, clutching Thomas' arms in a vice-like grip as they free-fell towards the rocky shore below them. "Exhilarating, isn't it?!" Thomas yelled.
With eyes clenched shut, Jared braced himself for the impact. But then, it was over. He wasn't flying through the air, parallel to the earth. He was standing upright on his own two feet. Opening his eyes, he saw that he was still clutching tightly to Thomas' arms.
"You gonna kiss me or something?" Thomas taunted. He chuckled a pitying laugh as Jared's legs gave out, and he dropped to the ground with a thud.
"We'll meet again, Blue." Thomas grinned mockingly. "Surf's up." He disappeared in a flare of green-black flames.
"Crap." Jared rested his head against his knees, feeling dizzy. He ignored the fact that he was getting wetter and wetter as the tide rolled in. His daze was finally interrupted by a familiar vibrating on his wrist. Lifting his head, he was surprised to see his communicator. His hand shook a little as he reached over and hit the button. "Yeah." His tone was gruff.
"Jared...." Will sounded odd, like he couldn't figure out how or why one of the Rangers was sitting at the base of McKenna's Leap, in the middle of the night, with the tide rising rapidly. "I'm teleporting you to the Lab."
"Yeah? Good." Jared fell back bonelessly into the water, feeling the sand under him. He stared up at the night sky and waited. A brilliant beam of blue covered the youth and swept him up.
* * *
"Are you sure you're okay?" Dana asked, rubbing Corry's arm supportively.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Corry sighed. "I just... I'm not used to watching horror movies."
"I'm really sorry about that," Beth apologized. "Jeremy feels bad for it, too. If we had any idea you would have had nightmares that bad..."
Biting back a yawn, Corry nodded and said, "S'okay, really."
"All right, class," Dr. Green said as she entered the room. "If you'll kindly take your seats, we'll begin." The trio of girls moved to take their seats next to the door as Dr. Green began a lecture on "The Raven."
* * *
Corry smiled. Dr. Green was really getting into her reading of the poem. "'Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked, upstarting- "'Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!" Dr. Green read the words with true emotion, practically yelling at the class. "Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hate spoken! "'Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door! "'TAKE the beak FROM OUT MY HEART, and take THY FORM from OFF MY DOOR!' Then, in a subdued whisper, "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'"
"Nevermore," a calm, male voice said from outside the door. Corry whipped her gaze to the hallway, but she saw nothing. Shrugging, she turned her attention back to Dr. Green.
"And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting-"
"Corry," the voice whispered again. She looked at Dr. Green, who was oblivious to the almost imperceptible interruption. Had she just heard someone whisper her name?
"On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;"
"And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming..."
"Please," the voice whimpered. "Help me..."
Corry stiffened in her seat. She looked at Dana before her and Beth to her left. Neither girl seemed to hear the interrupting voice.
"And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;"
"Help me..." This time, Corry saw his shadow lying just beyond the threshold of the door. It was a man, but who? The shadow immediately disappeared and footsteps sounded down the hall. Perplexed, she got out of her seat as silently as she could manage. Dr. Green continued reading "The Raven" in a calm voice; college students were always leaving class, so she paid Corry no mind.
"And my soul from out that shadow-"
As Corry stepped into the hallway, she saw several black, greasy
footprints. They glistened, black and oily, against the marbled tiles. "Oh my God," she sighed. Looking into the room one final time, she began to follow the path. What WAS going on? Behind her, she could still hear Dr. Green reading.
"-that lies floating on the floor,
"Shall be lifted- nevermore..."
Finally a safe distance from the classroom, Corry cried out, "Where are you?!" The footsteps turned the corner and extended down the stairs that led to the bottom floor of Cherry Hall. More English classes were always going on down there. "How do you know my name?"
She turned around, only to be standing face to chest with a man in a suit. She gave a short cry and jumped back, only to realize that it was an English professor. "Sorry," he apologized. He was holding a cigarette in his hand. Taking a final draw from it, he flicked the butt into a nearby ashtray.
She continued following the footsteps until, suddenly, they just stopped. In mid-print, the footsteps ended. Corry wrapped her arms around herself nervously, looking at the final footprint. "Hello?" she asked cautiously.
Immediately, a very distinct, painful sound came to her ear. It was the sound of something sharp scraping against metal. Following that, a breathy, ragged voice whispered, almost tauntingly, "Corry."
The basement was much darker than it had ever seemed before. For a reason she couldn't quite fathom, she found herself walking deeper into the darkness. No longer were the walls around her comforting white marble. Now, they were grungy brick, just like the walls would be in a furnace room.
"What do you want?" she asked again. Her heart pounded in her chest, but she couldn't bring herself to turn away. She wanted to desperately. She wanted to just spin around and run as fast as her legs would carry her. But instead, she continued walking slowly onward, going deeper and deeper into the bizarre basement.
As she reached the end of the hallway, she was faced with a ninety degree turn to the left. As she stepped out onto it, she realized that she was on a concrete floor. Now, there were furnaces all about her, each hot and burning. She suddenly heard that voice again. It was so... familiar, yet alien at the same time. "Corry..."
"Who are you?" she asked. Suddenly, a male form stepped out from between two furnaces at the end of the corridor. He was average in his physique, but she immediately knew that he was no normal man. He wore a brown fedora on his head, and on his right hand was a leather glove with four sharp, gleaming blades, one for each finger. "Freddy," she muttered, her mouth suddenly dry.
His blades clicked together as he stretched his right arm out and pointed at Corry. "Corrrrryyyy," he said softly. She swallowed hard, wishing she could muster up enough saliva to wet her painfully dry lips.
_RUN!_ she screamed at herself, yet her feet seemed planted to the spot. However, he suddenly ran for her, his razored right hand out before him. Emitting a sharp cry, Corry finally found herself able to run. She turned tail on the spot and ran down the hallway. The furnace room slowly turned back into the white marbled basement of Cherry Hall, but Freddy Krueger was still running for her.
As Corry reached the stairs, she caught sight of the heavy, pedestal ash tray resting beside it. She promptly picked it up and threw it at him. It struck him in the chest, and he instinctually wrapped his arms around it, stumbling backwards in the process.
Corry took advantage of the few seconds she had just gained and vaulted up to the first landing. As she turned to head up to the first floor, Freddy's left arm darted out from between the spindles of the banister, latching onto her leg. He pulled her down, but Corry was quicker to react. Before he could get his deadly claw up to her, she thrust her other leg through the banister and slammed it into his forehead. With an angry, pained groan, he let her go. She pulled back through and crawled up the rest of the stairs.
Clutching the wall for support, she pulled herself into a standing position. There was sunlight now, white marble walls, and brightly colored papers on the bulletin board just opposite her. However, she cast a glance back down in the stairwell, and she saw that Freddy was still coming after her. "NO! You aren't real!" Corry screamed. "You're just a dream!"
Suddenly, he came at her from the side, bypassing the stairs completely. His body slammed into her, and she felt a sharp pain shoot up her left arm. Screaming in rage and fear combined, she let into him with everything she had. He was apparently startled at having someone fight back against him, and he took several steps back, letting her go. As soon as his arms were no longer around her, Corry was running.
But then, she felt a heavy object collide with her. She barely recognized that it was the same ashtray she had thrown at him until she fell to the floor with cigarettes and debris scattered around her. As soon as she was sprawled out on the ground, Freddy was upon her. He latched a burned, scarred hand around one foot and yanked her toward him. Corry, screaming, tried to writhe out of his grip. Freddy was chuckling deep in his throat as he extended one of his razor blades and began to flick it across the legs of her jeans.
A desperate, last-chance thought came to her as she felt a bit of heat against her right elbow. Spying the cigarette butt that the English professor had just put in the ashtray a few seconds before, she reached for it, grabbing it tightly between two fingers. Freddy loomed above her, pulling her closer. Biting down on her lip hard, Corry pressed the still-burning cigarette butt into her open palm, and-
* * *
-woke up screaming. Beth gave a shout of her own and jumped out of her desk, spinning around. Dr. Green, along with the rest of the class, jerked to sudden, frightened attention as Corry screamed louder than several would have thought possible. Still fighting her nightmare assailant, she spilled out of her desk, knocking it into the wall.
"Corry!" Dana cried, jumping out of her seat and dropping to her knees beside her. She took Corry in her arms, speaking her name repeatedly.
As quickly as she woke up, Corry came to her senses. She could hear her heart beating in her chest, and she whipped her gaze to the left and right frantically. Letting out a heavy sigh, she sagged against the skewed desk behind her tiredly. "Oh God," she moaned, covering her face in her hands. Still quivering, she managed to say, "Dr. Green, I am SO sorry..."
"Come on, Corry," Dana said, helping her to her feet. The rest of the class was still watching intently, unsure of what to do next. To Beth, Dana mouthed, "Get our books." Then, she escorted a shaking Corry out of the classroom.
Beth gathered up all of their books and belongings as quickly as she could. Flashing an apologetic smile at Dr. Green, she hurried after her friends.
"Well," Dr. Green finally managed. "Uhm... Okay. Where were we?"
* * *
"What happened in there?" Dana asked as she guided Corry onto a bench in the lobby.
"Another nightmare," Corry muttered. She started to run her hands through her hair, only to be stopped by Dana.
"Your hair," she said, running her hands through Corry's wavy, thick locks. "Some of it's grey..." Her dark golden blonde hair was highlighted with several faint but nonetheless visible grey streaks.
"Grey?" Corry asked, frowning. She was about to pull some of her hair down to look at it, but she stopped when she saw her right forearm smeared with blood. Four shallow but long slash marks were in her flesh. "Dana," she whimpered, holding her arm out. "He cut me like this in my dream!" She then turned her right palm over, seeing a small red spot where she had burned herself with the cigarette butt.
"Are you okay?" Beth asked as she hurried up to them with three bookbags in her arms.
"No," Corry groaned, exhaling a shaky breath.
"Come on," Dana encouraged, pulling her to her feet. "Let's get to the Power Core." Looking around them quickly to ensure privacy, the trio teleported away in a triplet streak of pink, green, and white.
* * *
Yellow and red light flashed as Tara and Crystal arrived. "We just heard," Tara said, running down the stairs. "Are you okay?"
"Getting there," Corry groaned. "I'm never sleeping again, though."
Omicron pulled her Pink Garnet Sword from the pedestal on the top level of the Power Core. "This should fix you right up," she said as she turned to go back down.
"How is it even possible for your hair to turn grey?" Corry grumped, flicking a grey strand out of her eyes.
"Well," Tara started, "melanin is always going through the hair follicle, and-" After Corry flashed her a somewhat cold stare, Tara finished, "Rhetorical, right..."
Running her hands up and down the length of her Sword, she gathered a pink sparkle of energy. Then, she flicked it at Corry's hair. As the pink electricity danced across her hair, the grey was instantly turned back to its normal gold-blonde. Then, Omicron began the more delicate process of healing her wounds.
"We have to do something," Beth said, looking over at Zordon in the corner. "This is Corry's third nightmare, and this time, she woke up injured. Next time..."
"I could be killed," Corry finished for her. "Isn't there someway you can make me stop dreaming?"
"Not possible," Nadia announced. "If you stop dreaming, you lose your mind. That simple. You'd be dead in a month."
"What am I going to do in the mean time?" Corry asked as Omicron continued to work on her. "I mean... is it possible to not sleep?"
"For seventy-two hours, rather easily," Sigma said as he appeared beside the remaining Swords. "After that... it'll become more difficult. After eleven days, well... No one has ever stayed awake longer than eleven days."
"Unless they were morphed," Beth suggested warily.
* * *
"I have The Lion King, Aladdin, Hocus Pocus, The Flintstones, Ghost, and Independence Day," Jeremy said. He, Tara, and Dana had volunteered to stay up with Corry for the night. All four were morphed, minus their helmets.
"Happy movies," Corry smiled. "We should've watched these in the first place."
Suddenly, Nadia appeared in the living area. "You guys, Alpha just found something," was all she said before disappearing.
They all shared a quick glance before teleporting to the Power Core.
"What did you find, Alpha?" Corry asked.
"This," he said, motioning to the crystal sitting on a nearby table.
"Corry?" Tara asked as they all walked over to it. "Isn't that the crystal you got off Draanov?"
"The crystal...." Corry said quietly, nodding at Tara. She picked up the spiked object, glowing a soft grey color. "The Crystal of Nightmares... This...this really is it, Zordon? The same one Mom and Dad dealt with?"
"Yes it is, Corry," Zordon said. "However, we do have some bad news."
"What's that?" Corry asked, a grimace on her face.
"It can't be destroyed, because it is linked to you," Omicron said. "Now we could remove the link, that wouldn't be hard. But it isn't JUST linked to you."
"What do you mean?" Jeremy asked, his face furrowed with confusion.
"It's also linked to Draanov," Omicron finished with a sigh. "He and Corry are diametric opposites. She's white energy, he's black energy, and they totally cancel each other out. If we break Corry's link, Draanov will gain every drop of her power. And we can't break Draanov's link without his permission. And assuming we did, it would end up sucking Corry into the claws of evil."
"How can our links be broken?" Corry asked, her face pale. "There is a way... right?"
"Of course, remarkably few things are permanent," Omicron said. However, her voice was monotone as though she held little hope. "We..."
"Please tell me," Corry pleaded.
"We have to get Draanov to be white energy as well," Omicron said. "Essentially, we have to get Draanov to make a complete 180 and turn good. If he turns white, it'll be like putting two like poles of a magnet together. The link won't just break, it'll fly apart. But it has to be of his own volition. You can't put good spells people; it just doesn't work that way. He'll have to want to change."
Dana put her gloved hands over her mouth in horror. Corry, however, didn't appear too distressed. "I've got an idea," she said. "Power Down!" Her white armor fell away in a shower of white light. "Omicron, Alpha, could you all tell me when Draanov is sleeping? Assuming he does sleep."
"He's typically asleep around midnight to six a.m.," Omicron said. "Why? What are you thinking?"
"I have an idea," she told them. "But it means I have to have at least one more nightmare. But this time, Draanov is gonna be involved."
"Lucid dreaming?" Tara asked in disbelief. "Corry, that's-"
"My ONLY chance!" she cried. "I can't go through the rest of my life having nightmares like these. And what's to keep them from happening when I get home. I want to do it as soon as I can."
* * *
At midnight, Corry was lying on a newly synthesized bed in the Power Core. The other six Rangers, Sigma, Nadia, Alpha, and Zordon all looked on as Omicron hooked her up to various computers. "We're going to be measuring every aspect of your physiology," Omicron said. "If you get even the slightest injury, no matter how small, I'm waking you up."
"I don't intend to get injured," Corry said firmly. Omicron placed two final electrodes on the White Ranger's temples.
"Are you ready?" Omicron asked.
Corry cast one final glance around the Power Core, hoping to see the Wolf appear. When he didn't, she laid her head back down and said, "I'm ready."
"Count backwards from ten," Omicron ordered. An incessant beeping suddenly sounded.
"Heart rate," Alpha announced to everyone's unanswered question.
"Ten," Corry said. She already felt her eyelids growing heavy. "Nine... Eight..."
"Be careful, Corry," Dana called out.
"I don't like this," Crystal said firmly. "This is-"
"Her only chance," Beth told her.
"Fff...iii-" And with that, Corry fell asleep.
* * *
"Sweetie!" Tanya knocked on the door of the bathroom. "Dad and I are leaving now."
"'kay, Mom!" Olivia yelled through the toothpaste in her mouth. "..ove ou bot!" She almost spit toothpaste all over the mirror.
"Have a great day, Ollie!" Adam's voice was full of laughter.
"Daaaad!" Olivia rolled her eyes, and scrubbed at her teeth. Hearing the front door shut, she reached over and turned the comm unit up. _Now I can blast the music!_ Spitting the toothpaste out she rinsed her mouth and then sang with the chorus of the song.
Slam it to the left
If you're having a good time
Shake it to the right
If you know that you feel fine
Grinning at her image in the mirror, Olivia brushed her hair out. The Spice Girls were all middle-age mothers now, but she still loved their light-hearted music. Adding some pink gloss to her lips, Olivia decided
she was probably presentable now. She stepped back to regard her outfit with a critical eye. _Yep. It'll do._
"Too bad we can't get this on Candid Holo."
Shrieking, Olivia whirled, throwing herself back up against the sink. A figure silhouetted on the shower door made her heart start thumping faster. She grabbed her brush, and held it like a weapon. "What do you want?!"
The door slid aside revealing Thomas dressed in black and wearing a black bomber jacket. "Spice Girls, huh?" He grimaced and gestured to the comm. The music changed suddenly, blasting out the plaintive voices of R.E.M. "Now there is a real group."
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Olivia inched towards the door. "I don't like that song!"
"Eh," Thomas shrugged. "No accounting for taste." He removed his sunglasses and winked at the girl with glowing green eyes.
It was too much for her. Olivia yanked the door open and ran pell-mell down the hallway, heading for the front door. _I have to get outta here!_ Sliding on a throw rug as she came around the kitchen, she ran into the door, and grabbed it to keep her balance. She fumbled at the handle, finally wrenching it open.
Olivia's eyes grew huge. She was staring into her room instead of the front yard.
"I've always loved a good amusement park funhouse." Thomas strolled casually into the kitchen, and leaned against the counter. "You just never know what you'll find waiting for you." He slowly smiled, chilling Olivia, who had turned to stare at him.
'Leave me alone!" Deciding forward was the only route open, Olivia dashed through the door, slamming it shut behind her. She looked wildly around her room, and ran to the window. Second story, or not, she wanted to get out of the house. "Locks off!" She fumbled with the window before finally getting a purchase. Throwing the pane up, Olivia groaned. "Nooo......."
The window led to the living room, on the bottom floor of the house.
"This can't be!" Olivia shook her head. She looked up to see Thomas slowly stalking towards her from the kitchen. His whole body glowed green, lighting up the living room. For a moment, he looked as though he was on fire, engulfed in black-emerald flames. As the fire died down, he swept a cape back over his shoulder and smiled at Olivia who was watching in stunned silence.
Thomas was now dressed in a black tuxedo, with a white mask covering his eyes. A top hat balanced on his head, and he carried a cane. He bowed, sweeping the red inside of the cape aside to produce a glowing green flower. "M'lady," he drawled mockingly.
Olivia backed away from the window, shaking her head. Tears filled her eyes as he kept coming towards her, simply walking through the window as if it didn't exist. "NO! You're not Tuxedo Mask!" Picking up a stuffed bear, Olivia hurled it at him, turned, and ran for her bedroom door. She yanked it open and ran down the hallway.
Her heart was pounding in her chest, as she glanced behind her to see if he was following.
The hall was empty.
Taking a ragged breath, Olivia decided to go to her father's office. She ran for the door, and then hesitated. Nothing else had been what it should, why should this one? Gathering the scattered remnants of her courage, Olivia opened the door.
"Wha....?" It was the utility room.
Olivia leaned against the doorframe, feeling dizzy. Pushing herself away, she stumbled to the door of her parent's room and yanked it open.
She slammed the door shut, starting to feel angry as well as scared. Lips quivering, Olivia marched to the next door, and hesitated. She held back a sob, and looked down the hall.
Thomas was leaning against the wall, watching her with an amused smile. "Enjoying my little trick?"
"It isn't Halloween!" Olivia cried. "Why are you doing this?" Without waiting to hear his reply, she opened the door.
The front yard! Freedom.....
Olivia shot a last look at Thomas. He was walking towards her, almost in slow motion. The cane in his hand burst into green flames and became a glowing emerald sword.
"O-li-via....," Thomas said in a sing-song voice. His mouth twisted into a hideous grin, as his eyes flashed green.
"NO!" Olivia dove through the door, and fell from the second story, hitting the ground hard enough to drive the breath out of her. She lay moaning, unable to move, as her paralyzed lungs fought to regain the rhythm lost from the jolt of impact. All she could do was watch, as Thomas leaped from the roof to land lightly on the lawn.
"Poor little Pink Ranger," he taunted. "No hero to save you this time." He raised the flaming sword over his head.
In a flash of brilliant pink light, a huge white owl appeared, and ripped across the young man's face with its sharp talons. It swooped back around and landed in front of the incapacitated girl. *You will NOT harm this one!* The Owl mantled, and snapped it's beak, it's yellow eyes bright with anger.
Thomas stumbled back, and dropped the sword to clutch at his face with a scream.
There was a rush of cold air, and another figure appeared next to him, wreathed in black flames. "And YOU shall not hurt this one!" Jett snapped. She touched Thomas' hands still covering his face, and grey light briefly covered his entire head. "There, Dragon," Jett cooed soothingly. "Let me see."
Thomas was breathing roughly as he lowered his hands to glare at Olivia and the Owl. His face was unmarred, but the fury burning in his gaze spoke of retribution to come.
Olivia cowered back, sobbing.
"You are unharmed, Dragon." Jett turned to face the Owl. She ignored Olivia entirely. "We will meet again, Guardian. Be sure of it." Sweeping her arm as if drawing a cloak about her, Jett and Thomas disappeared in a rush of black-green flames.
*Easy, Fledgling,* the Owl said gently. *You are safe.* Moving closer, the Owl brushed it's downy head against the girls wet face.
Olivia was amazed at the peace that fell on her with the Owl's touch. She took a few last deep breaths and nodded. "Th-thank you."
*You will be late for school if you do not leave soon, Fledgling.* Amusement laced the Owl's mental tone.
"Oh my gosh!" Olivia jumped to her feet and started for the house. She screeched to a halt and turned. "Will I -"
The Owl was gone.
Shaking her head, Olivia hurried back into the house. "No one's gonna believe why I'm late this time!!"
* * *
Gavin sighed heavily, pushing his hair out of his face. It had been a bad day.
First Jared had practically bit his head off when he had made some flippant comment about his rumpled looking hair, and unshaved face. Then Nisha had slammed her locker shut and left without a word to him when he asked if she wanted to go Christmas shopping after school. Raph was quieter than normal, with a haunted look in his eyes that Gavin didn't like.
The worst had been Olivia. She had been waiting for him after school, and attached herself to his arm like she would never let go again. She had a crazed look in her eyes that made him think of the time they had all lost it mentally, thanks to the Wraiths' possession. The Guardians had been responsible for them being whole and healthy again.
He'd walked her home, listening with growing concern as she told him about her encounter with Thomas and Jett that morning. He hadn't told her about the others behavior. There was no reason to alarm her any more than she already was.
Not for the first time, he wished Corry was there. _She always knows what to say or do for Olivia._ Gavin sighed. _I just don't have a clue._
He'd told her everything would be all right.... But why would she believe that, when he didn't? She'd seen it in his eyes too. The doubt, and fear.
Rubbing his face, Gavin headed for the Chem lab. He'd promised the substitute teacher taking Mr. Stewart's place he'd clean up after his last class.
Gavin was jumpy as he worked. _Everyone else has probably met with Thomas._ He glanced out the windows, seeing that nightfall was only a short time away. He began to work faster, unwilling to risk an encounter with the team's new nemesis.
_It was great when he was on OUR side,_ he mentally grumbled. _But having him as an enemy sucks._
Gavin froze, as a crash echoed in the hallway outside. He closed his eyes. _No...please. I'm not ready for this._ Tensing, he listened for more sounds. _I could just teleport outta here, forget this whole thing._
But he knew Thomas could, and would find him, just like he had the others.
"Okay," Gavin muttered. "Get a grip, Gav." Taking a deep breath, he tiptoed over to the lights and dimmed them. Putting a hand up to his pounding heart, he peered out the small square window on the lab's door.
His view was limited, but what he could see was just deserted hall and lockers. Same old Angel Grove High he saw every day.
Gavin eased the door open, and slowly opened it to prevent it creaking. He steeled himself and stepped out.
Nothing. Just empty halls.
_I heard something!_ Gavin frowned. _Playing cat and mouse, are we? Well this mousie has teeth._ He reached behind him, intending to grab his morpher....
When he was suddenly...not where he had been before.
"What the -" Gavin looked around. He was in the Resource Center. He shook his head. _What...just happened?_
Low laughter echoed through the halls, raising the goosebumps on Gavin's arms. He scrambled away from the entrance, heart pounding hard enough to beat through his chest. _Gotta morph!_
Nothing was there. No morpher, no weapon....
He looked around the room. Books, computers, desks, chairs.... Nothing he could conceivably use as a weapon. His eyes fell on the larger desk at the front of the room. Creeping over to the desk, he rummaged around, finding what he was hoping would be there. It wasn't much of a weapon, but it would do.
Now armed, Gavin steeled himself for the coming confrontation, and stepped out into the hallway.
"Eh?" Ben, the old janitor, who had been at the school since dirt, gave the teen an odd look. "What you doing with that stapler, kid?"
"Um...." Gavin quickly stuck it behind his back. "Just finishing up a project, sir." He backed away, smiling sheepishly.
"Project, huh?" The man shook his head, grizzled hair flopping from side to side, as he went back to work. "Kids here get weirder every year."
Gavin walked away quickly, before the janitor could ask him another question. _It was just old Ben,_ he assured himself. _That's all you heard._
Whirling, Gavin half-expected the old man to become some sort of monster. He stared, with huge eyes. "Sir?"
"Don't forget I lock up and turn on the alarm at 6 p.m."
Relief filled Gavin. He smiled. "Thank you, sir!" Feeling much more jaunty, Gavin whistled as he headed back to the lab. As he walked past the boy's bathroom though, he heard the low laugh again. "Oh man!"
Gavin bolted, careening around the corner, intent on reaching the lab....
...and smashed full-force into an immovable object. Gavin hit the floor with an audible "oof" and stared up.
Thomas stood there smirking at him. A glowing, green Thomas dressed like some tough out of a movie, in all black. Dark sunglasses added to the look.
"You really should watch where you're going, Gavin." Thomas brushed his leather jacket off. "You might hurt yourself."
Gavin raised the stapler up, aiming for Thomas. "Stay back!"
"Ooooh!" Thomas raised his hands in mock terror. "Don't shoot!"
Scowling at the mocking laughter, Gavin clenched his teeth. "I've been harassed by worse than you, Thomas." He pocketed the stapler.
"Really?" Casually, Thomas reached up and removed his sunglasses. His glowing emerald eyes flared. "But could they do this?"
Gavin was lifted into the air by an invisible force, and launched into the lockers. He hit so hard one of the locker doors popped open. A mirror glinted in the hall's lights. Grabbing it with one hand, Gavin smashed it on the edge of the locker. He ignored the pain the shards caused his hand, and gathered them up. "Try some of your own medicine!" He hurled the glass at Thomas' face.
The shards stopped inches from the young man's face. "Oh no." Thomas' expression became deadly. "No more messing up my face." He reached out and grabbed Gavin, easily pulling the teen until they were just inches apart. "Any last words, Gavin?"
Gavin grabbed at the hands grasping his shirt, and reached for the stapler. "Put me down!" He shoved the stapler up against Thomas' neck and hit the button that activated the power.
"AGH!" Thomas dropped Gavin, grabbing for his neck.
Rolling to his feet, Gavin scrambled away, running like he had never run before.
"I'LL GET YOU, YOU LITTLE WEASEL!"
Green light erupted in the hallway, as Gavin dashed down the hall. He heard a roar, and ran faster. The floor shook, as something huge lumbered after him. _OH MAN! I could really use some help right now!_ Gavin skidded around the corner and almost ran Ben down. "Ben, run!"
"What in the blazes?" Ben looked up as the kid dashed by him, and gaped.
A glowing, emerald, Chinese-style dragon writhed down the hall, it's eyes flashing. "GAAAVVVIIIINNN!"
Ben dropped his mop, eyes wide, and ran. "Forget it! Ain't no pension plan worth this!"
The dragon followed as the humans dashed outside. In the twilight, the emerald animal looked even more surreal than ever. Gavin skidded to a halt as Ben careened around the corner and disappeared. "Boy, he runs good for an old guy. WILL!" Gavin bellowed into his communicator. "HELP!"
The green dragon, writhed towards Gavin even as he pulled his morpher.
"YELLOW RANGER POWER!" Yellow light engulfed Gavin, making the dragon wince away. Gavin stanced. "And I'm a MONGOOSE, not a weasel! Let's see how you like playing with a beast that hunts snakes like you!" With a flick of his wrist, his stingers appeared on his forearms. The bands wrapped around his hand, almost like another glove, but on top of his hand was what looked like a miniature cross-bow. Three quills were locked in, cocked to fire.
Two more flashes signaled the arrival of a couple of his teammates. "Crap!" Blue Ranger ran up next to Yellow. This day just gets worse and worse!"
"Let's see how it likes the taste of these!" Red Ranger bolted at the emerald dragon, nunchukus swinging. The faster they swung, the more they glowed, powering up.
The dragon roared in defiance and swatted at the Red Ranger.
Red ducked and delivered a stinging blow to the creature's leg.
Bellowing in pain, the dragon whipped around and smacked her with it's tail, sending her smashing into the wall of a building.
"That's it!" Jared pulled a gleaming silver-blue sword out of thin air and charged the dragon. He ducked under the tail, and slashed at the glowing hide of the beast.
"NO!" Yellow ran forward as the dragon grabbed Blue in it's massive, taloned grip. "Thomas, stop!!"
"That's Thomas?" Blue grunted in pain, as the dragon increased its grip on him. If not for the armor, he knew he'd have been pate. "Shoot, Yellow!"
Yellow gritted his teeth and raised his arms for the beasts' head. Three gold bolts of pure energy shot out, burying themselves in the dragon's muzzle.
It screamed and dropped Blue, writhing around the street in agony. The Rangers ran for cover as the dragon mindlessly crashed into buildings, parked cars, streetlights...anything in it's path. Its muzzle was glowing yellow, but the energy from the bolts wasn't consuming its target like it usually did.
"You okay?" Blue dropped down on one knee to help Red up.
"I'll live. Just give me some aspirin." Red saw the bellowing dragon and looked at Yellow. "What did you do?"
"Just shot it." Yellow shrugged.
"Look!" Blue gestured.
The dragon was slowly shrinking, flickering from a human to dragon, and back again. Finally, Thomas stood there glaring at them. He seemed unharmed, but his eyes flashed angrily. "You'll regret that, Rangers. I know your weaknesses." Black-green flames consumed him, and the night around the high school suddenly became unnaturally silent.
"Kids!" Will's voice came through their internal comms. "Get back here, NOW!"
Hearing Will's frantic voice the teens didn't hesitate. "On our way."
Three beams of brightly colored light flared then shot up over the night sky of Angel Grove.
* * *
"...at this time, all we can tell you is a huge dragon has appeared downtown, and is ripping up what is left of part of downtown that collapsed in the earthquakes."
The camera panned to show the emerald green creature ripping up whole chunks of skyscrapers and crushing them to powder in its taloned claws. The emergency sirens wail almost drowned out what the reporter was saying. The fog was getting so thick it was hard to see even the huge, glowing beast.
The CNN reporter had her camera pointed in the opposite direction. "There are armies of shadow-like creatures roaming the streets, creating as much havoc as they can here in Angel Grove. Once again, it appears that all hell has broken loose in this once peaceful city...."
"...reported seeing gangs of children with yellow eyes running through the streets. All citizens are urged to stay inside, behind locked doors." The reporter yelped and dove for cover as a chunk of building crashed to the ground beside him, digging into the hard surface as if it were butter. "Crap!"
"...I don't know!" Mayor Velasquez ran a hand through his black hair, mussing it. "But all I can say is PLEASE remain calm. The Power Rangers will be here soon, I'm sure of it!" As the camera cut the shoot, he turned. "Where the hell are they?" Worry etched lines into his forehead, as the fog continued to get thicker and thicker.
A flash of light caught their eyes, as five beams of colored light touched down in the street. The fog diffused the light show their teleportation caused, spreading the colored light throughout the foggy street.
"SPREAD OUT!" Black Ranger commanded. "STAY SHARP."
Four Rangers ran off before any of the reporters could grab them. Mayor Velasquez took a step forward, away from the reporter he had been speaking with. Black Ranger turned suddenly, twisting his wrists. A shiny, circular, silver bladed weapon appeared instantly on each hand. "Uh....." the Mayor stuttered, backing away. He had become so excited at seeing most of the Rangers there, he had forgotten how dampening fog could be for sounds.
"Sorry, sir." Black Ranger apologized. He lowered his hands. "It would be best if you would go into the shelter everyone." With another flick of his wrists, the weapons were gone. He took the Mayor's elbow. "Please, sir. We don't want anyone to get hurt." Raph ushered the reporters and the Mayor into the shelter, quelling his impatience to be out with his teammates. "Please. Remain in here until the sirens stop." Black Ranger turned, only to stop as a hand grabbed his elbow.
Mayor Velasquez took the Ranger's gloved hand and shook it. "You're our only hope. God speed, son."
Raph felt his throat constrict slightly. So much depended on the Ranger's actions. "Thank you, Mayor." With a brief salute, Black Ranger pivoted and disappeared into the foggy streets.
* * *
"Four... Three... two... one...," Corry whispered. Yawning, she turned over, finding herself still in soft, warm bed. She smiled as she pulled the covers down around her body, tighter.
And then, she remembered, sitting straight up. She glanced down at herself and saw that she was clad in a pair of white pajamas, trimmed in green.
"Where am I?" Corry asked, looking around. No longer was she in the Power Core. She was still in the bed, although it was sitting in the middle of a series of book shelves. She was on the 9th floor of campus' library. The scene was not at all horrific; sunlight was even streaming in through the windows on the far walls.
As she got out of bed, she called out, "Is anyone out there?!" She began to slowly pad around the room, looking up and down the aisles of books. "Hello?"
* * *
"She doesn't seem to be having a nightmare," Beth mused. Corry was sleeping calmly, a look of complete neutrality on her face.
"Wait a minute," Omicron interrupted. "Her heart rate is rising."
"Fast!" Alpha cried.
Immediately, Corry began to thrash on the bed. "And she's having a nightmare," Omicron announced.
* * *
"Who's there?!" Corry asked, spinning around. She heard movement at the far end of aisle of books. In bare feet, she ran to the end, looking around both ways. Much to her anger, although she wasn't surprised, she didn't see anything. Wrapping her arms around herself, a series of goosebumps rose up all over her body. The sun disappeared, and a dark gloom settled onto the library.
Unbeknownst to her, a malicious form was rising up behind her from the shadows.
* * *
"Something bad is about to happen!" Nadia cried.
"I'm waking her up," Omicron stated.
"Not yet!" Beth shouted. "We just need to help her! Somebody, knock me out!"
"What?!" Crystal cried.
"Freddy's Dead, the Final Nightmare!" Jeremy shouted triumphantly, leaping to his feet.
"Right," Beth said, demorphing in a pink sparkle of light. "Come over here and we'll crack heads!"
"You have GOT to be kidding me!" Dana protested. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"
"Corry could die if we don't!" Beth growled as Jeremy demorphed in blue.
"Ready?" he asked, walking up to her.
"Ready," she said.
"This may be the saddest thing I've ever seen happen in my life," Nadia muttered to Sigma.
"Should we stop them?" he asked. Nadia shrugged in reply.
"One," Beth said, taking Jeremy by the biceps.
"Two," he continued, doing the same.
"Three!" Then, in front of the horror of everyone, the two Rangers slammed their foreheads together, producing a wooden thud that made everyone, even Alpha, wince.
"Ow, ow, ow," Jeremy groaned, dropping to one knee.
"I do feel kind of woozy," Beth agreed, holding her head in both hands. Fortunately, before the two slammed foreheads again, two bolts of energy shot from Sigma's Sword, sending them both to the ground in an unconscious heap.
"At least now we know the speed of stupid," Tara muttered.
"I can honestly say that was the dumbest and bravest thing I've ever seen in my life," Allison sighed.
* * *
"We're here," Jeremy muttered, looking at his arms. "This feels so weird."
"Lucid dreaming," Beth agreed. She turned around, seeing Corry at the far end of the room. Behind her- "CORRY!" Beth screamed. "Behind you!" With a loud battle cry, Beth leapt into the air, promptly disappearing in a shower of pink light.
At the other end of the room, the light reappeared. Beth, now morphed as the Pink Ranger, flew out of the light. Her foot slammed into the black form rising up behind Corry. It promptly disintegrated into the darkness.
"What are you doing here?" Corry asked. Jeremy came jogging up to them a moment later.
"We thought you could use some help," Jeremy said.
"Idea came from Nightmare on Elm Street 6," Beth told her. "Have you found Draanov yet?"
"I just got here," Corry admitted.
Suddenly, four faint showers of sparkling light lit up in the air before them. The other four Rangers appeared calmly. "How did you guys get here?" Beth asked.
"If you had waited a minute," Tara started, "Sigma could have zapped you asleep with his Sword."
Allison shook her head, dislodging a few stray purple sparks of light from her hair. "Your unconscious bodies are still sprawled out in the floor," she chided.
"You do realize we're going to make fun of you for this for forever, right?" Crystal asked.
"Way to go, Beth," Jeremy griped.
"Nobody made you go along with it," she shot back.
"Guys!" Corry interrupted. As the six Rangers turned to look at her, she said, "I need to find Draanov."
"Nice P.J.'s," Dana grinned.
"It's so dark in here," Allison complained. However, before anyone could reply, a grey glow appeared at the Rangers' feet.
"It's a Lucid Dream!" Tara shouted. The ground suddenly began to undulate, shocking a scream out of several of them. The book shelves began to sway back and forth, creaking frighteningly. One somewhere in the room tipped over, and a thunderous, domino effect started.
"NO!" Corry yelled angrily. Clamping her eyes shut, she bellowed, "This is JUST A DREAM!!!!"
Suddenly, the entire room seemed to explode. Shelves and books flew everywhere. And then, with that, everything was silent.
"Is everybody okay?" Beth asked.
"I'm okay," Corry answered. "I think I did that. Sorry 'bout that."
Before anyone could reply, black and grey light flashed everywhere. Draanov, wearing his gleaming black armor, stepped into the room as Gargoyles appeared all around the Rangers. In a simultaneous, six-way flash, all morphed except Corry.
"We'll keep them off of you!" Crystal cried.
Corry turned back around, looking at Draanov. He stood at the entrance of the stairwell, not more than thirty feet from her. The fight going on behind her sounded miles away. She briefly wondered what she would have done had her friends not joined her in her lucid dream.
_MY lucid dream..._
"Draanov, we end this, right now," Corry said in the strongest voice she could manage. She slowly began to walk toward him, painfully conscious of her bare feet and lack of protective clothing.
As she neared him, he produced his black club, holding it out before him protectively. "Don't think I won't kill you," he threatened.
"I know you could," Corry said. She turned her head to look at the fight taking place behind her. "But you're not going to."
"You're a smug little pup, you know that?"
As she turned back to him, her eyes landed on the black bead eyes in his rat-face. "I'm confident," she said boldly. "There's a difference." Suddenly, Draanov rushed at her.
Corry immediately moved through the motions of her dream, flipping away with a grace that would have made her mother proud. As soon as she landed, a white club of her own appeared in her hands. Draanov turned around and slammed his club into hers, pushing her back.
The two began to spar with their clubs with an ethereal grace. Each and every strike, no matter who delivered it, was met seemingly effortlessly by the other. _This isn't me,_ Corry thought to herself. _Swordplay is Thomas' game._
That's when she realized what was happening. Every aspect of her friends was within her; every experience she had ever felt or seen in a loved one was for her taking. She had her mother's agility, her father's intelligence, Thomas' uncanny ability to wield a weapon..
"My father's intelligence," she whispered to herself. As Draanov brought his club in again, she lashed out with the club, striking him on the forearm. Dispensing her own club, she threw herself into Draanov's arms, hugging him tightly.
"What are you doing?!" he screamed angrily, trying to stagger away from her. Corry, however, held on tight.
"It's Morphin Time!" she yelled.
"No!" Draanov bellowed.
Summoning her morpher, she shouted, "WHITE RANGER POWER!!!" As the white light welled up around them, Draanov let loose with a primal, painful scream. His own black energy whirled up to counter the sudden influx of pure white. Corry suddenly realized her own scream mingled with his. She could feel his dark energy seeping into her, crawling around her mind like an evil snake. Twisted talons dug into her brain, and she was suddenly wondering if this was such a good idea after all.
However, a second later, an explosion of white light occurred between them, and Corry felt herself get carried up and away into the light.
* * *
With a gasp, Corry sat up in bed. "Draanov?!" she cried, looking around. "Where is he?!"
"Corry?" Omicron asked, hurrying over to the bed. "Are you okay?"
"Where is Draanov?!" she yelled, looking around the bed. She glanced down and saw that she was wearing what she had on before. She was neither morphed nor wearing her dream pajamas. "Am I awake?"
"You just woke up," Sigma said.
Corry slowly turned to look around. Sitting on a bench in the corner of the Power Core were four of the Rangers, still asleep and leaning against each other. Sprawled out at their feet were a much more disheveled Beth and Jeremy. The four sitting up began to slowly wake up, looking very disoriented.
"Hey, you guys?" Nadia called. "Check this out." She pointed to the pedestal of Swords. Nestled amongst the Diamond, Sapphire, and Pink Garnet was a Sword made of Onyx.
Suddenly, the Crystal of Nightmares exploded, sending a cloud of
crystalline dust across the rust. Finally, a massive burst of white light shot out of the central teleport booth. Sigma and Nadia, both standing on the top level, turned in unison as a form in shiny, black armor stepped out of it. It was a tall, bald black man, and he smiled a friendly grin.
"Draanov?" Omicron asked. "Draanov!" Shrieking happily, she bolted up the stairs and threw her arms around him, grabbing him in a tight hug.
"Welcome home, Draanov," Sigma said warmly.
"That's Draanov?" Crystal asked, stretching as she stood up. "He's cute."
"He's one of my big brothers," Omicron grinned.
"You guys, these two are still asleep," Dana said, pushing the toe of her shoe into Beth's ribs.
"They hit their heads together pretty hard," Sigma mused.
"Are my nightmares over?" Corry asked hopefully.
"Both our nightmares are over," Draanov told her with a smile.
* * *
"I never knew lucid dreaming could be so boring," Jeremy protested. He and Beth had yet to wake up, so they were trying to keep themselves entertained.
"Let me try... this," Beth said, thrusting her arm out. With a great amount of effort, she managed to produce a deck of cards. "Great! Wanna play 'Go Fish?'"
"We could at least be on a beach or something," Jeremy griped. Closing his eyes, he tried to change the setting to that of a tropical paradise.
"Didn't work," Beth told him as she began to deal the cards.
"This is your fault," he said.
"I didn't make you slam your head into mine," she shot back. "Now, let's quit fighting and play cards."
As Jeremy took the cards from her, he cocked his head. "You know... since we're here, all alone, and we're JUST dreaming..."
"So help me God, if you finish that thought, I will make you live to regret it."
"Can't blame a guy for trying."
"I blame you for breathing," she snarled with a hidden grin. "So... Go fish?"
* * *
Raph wasn't thrilled at the idea of working by himself, but with only five Rangers, he chose to be odd-man-out. He walked silently through the streets, scanning on infra-red. If there was anything out there, he wasn't going to be able to see it through the thick fog.
His heart pounded as he heard a noise, and whirled.
Falling back a step, Black Ranger stared. "M-Mom?" He knew, in the logical recesses of his mind, this was NOT his mother. His eyes were telling another story. The same wavy dark auburn hair, same hazel eyes, same athletic build. "Wh-what are you doing here?"
"I heard about all the trouble, and came to make sure you're all right."
"No....." Raph shook his head. "My real mother doesn't know I'm a Ranger." With a snarl, Black Ranger's talons appeared on his hands. "You picked the wrong guy to pull this stunt on, Wraith!"
The image of his mother melted and reformed into Corry. "Raph! I'm...I'm sorry." Tears formed in the crystal blue eyes. "Raph...please....help me! I can't break free!" Holding out a hand, the girl took a step forward as the Ranger in black armor stepped back. "They're making me do these things!"
"Stay back!" Raph wasn't so sure about this, but he wasn't going to let another Wraith get up-close and personal, like Jett had. He slashed with the talons, making her jump back. Guilt racked him as tears pooled in the girl's eyes.
"I don't believe you're really Corry!" Raph wished he had half the computer skills Gavin did at that moment. He had no doubts the young genius could tell if it was Corry. Olivia would know too. She had an instinct for truth, second only to Corry herself.
The girl fell to her knees, sobbing. She looked so pitiful....
Raph steeled himself. This is what got him in trouble all the other times. Following what his eyes showed him, instead of his instincts. Taking a deep breath, Raph closed his eyes. "Corry?"
"Raph...please!" She was crying....
Crying like Raph hadn't heard Corry cry for years. Not since they had been in grade school. She had come to school sobbing that day. He remembered being shocked that his sunny friend was so distraught.
Her dog had died.
_So is this genuine?_ Raph struggled to recall the childhood memory.
His eyes snapped open, and he leaped forward, slashing.
"NOOOOOO!!!!" Corry threw up her arms and the talons ripped across her forearms. She stared up at Raph with a shocked look. "Raph....."
"You aren't my friend." Raph's voice was firm. He saw black oozing out from the wounds and nodded. "But you were a better imitation than the other one." With a thought, he sent the talons back to their dimensional pocket.
With a banshee wail, the Wraith form dissipated into the fog.
Black Ranger leaned against the building, resting his head on his arm. "Oh, Lord...." Slashing at his friend like that made him feel sick -- even though he knew it hadn't been her. "If they keep this up-" He stopped abruptly. "The others!"
A figure in black armor bolted towards where he hoped his teammates had gone.
* * *
"I can't believe I actually came out with a 3.4 g.p.a.!" Corry cried happily. "Do you think my credits are transferable twenty years into the future at a different university in a different dimension?"
"I doubt it," Dana said with a grin.
"Man, I've been here for an entire semester," Corry suddenly realized. "That's five months!"
"You'll be going home soon," Tara said. "I'm sure of it. All right, check this out." As Dana and Corry turned to look at her, Tara high-kicked the air before her and stepped back into a defensive stance. "Well?"
"You need the tattoos," Corry decided. "Then it'll be perfect."
"I'll be back," Tara said as she hurried out.
"How do I look?" Crystal asked, stepping into Corry's bedroom.
"Nice cones!" Dana cried with laughter.
"I thought so," Crystal smiled.
"All I have to do," Beth said as soon as she teleported into the room, "is try my best not to smile all night long."
"Okay, how about now?" Tara asked as she hurried back into the room. "Hey Beth, nice wig. You, too, Corry."
"I rather like being a redhead," Corry grinned, primping in an exaggerated manner in the mirror.
"I'm going to break my ankles on these shoes," Dana groaned. "And if I fall, I'm flashing half of Hart County."
"Come on, let's go get an outside opinion," Crystal decided.
* * *
"You're going as the Scream Stalker again?" Jeremy asked.
"Hey, I still have the costume," Allison said, defending herself. "And besides, being a vampire isn't all that original."
"Vampire and pirate," Jeremy told her. "That's all I've ever been able to pull off. Actually, I did manage to be a ghost once, but I was only six years old."
"And how do we look?" Corry asked.
"Wow," Jeremy decided. "Dana, you look great!"
"Partial?" Allison snorted, lifting an eyebrow. "Hmm... Corry, I think you need bigger boobs."
"Told you," Tara chided.
"Crystal?" Zordon asked, his voice rich with curiosity. "Are you trying to look like Rita Repulsa?"
"No," Crystal said, striking a pose. "I'm Scary Spice!"
"They're the Spice Girls!" Alpha realized.
"I'm Baby," Dana said.
"You need a lollipop," Jeremy told her.
"And I'm just too Posh," Beth said in a chilly voice. She tugged at her already too short dress. Her long brownish-blonde hair was pulled up beneath a shoulder-length brunette wig. Tara, meanwhile, was wearing a tanktop, gym pants, and tattoos on both biceps. She, too, bore a wig, although she had her's in a ponytail. Crystal, aside from the cones, wore an outrageous white outfit, covered with leopard spots. Her stomach was exposed, and a long train extended down her back to reach her knees. Corry was wearing a short Union Jack dress, as well as a red and blonde wig that brushed her shoulders.
"She's right," Nadia agreed. "You do need bigger boobs."
"Alpha, why don't you come?!" Allison suddenly realized. "You've got the perfect costume for it!"
"Can I Zordon?" Alpha asked hopefully, turning around to look at his mentor.
"I see no harm since we are not in our own dimension," Zordon said.
"How about you, Draanov?" Dana asked.
The new angel, turned back to the side of good by only about a month, emerged from his quarters. "I don't know," he said slowly. "I haven't an idea of what to go as."
"Go as a guy in black armor," Allison suggested.
"Would someone please make me bigger boobs?" Corry requested.
* * *
"Penny for your thoughts, Ginger?" Dana asked, sitting down beside Corry.
"Just thinking about home," she answered. "In Angel Grove, we've never had an outdoor dance. I don't know why, either. We have the perfect weather for it."
"We're always looking for an opportunity to dance outside in Hart County," Dana answered with a grin.
"As much as I like it here," Corry said, "and believe me, I REALLY do like it here..."
"It's just not home."
"No, it's not."
"We heard that plenty of times last summer," Dana said. "They got to go home. So will you."
"THEY just had to travel through space," Corry sighed. "I have to overcome space AND time. That last one's a real sticker."
Dana put an arm around Corry's shoulders and said, "You'll get home somehow. I promise."
"It has been five entire months," Corry told her. "I gotta be honest with you... I don't think I am going home."
"Didn't the Wolf say you would be going home?"
"No... Wolf said I would be safe. He never told me I would go home."
"You have Zordon and Alpha with you," Dana said. Looking up, she finished, "The latter of which is dancing with HCH's head cheerleader. You will all get to go home." She kissed Corry on the cheek and finished, "I promise, and I never break a promise."
"Picture to remember the night?" a photographer asked. "Five dollars?"
"We're not on a date," Corry smiled.
"Group picture!" Dana cried. "Come on! You Spice Girls, get your butts over here!"
"Gladly!" Beth shouted, rushing over to them. "Some guy named Mason in a Blue Dragon suit has been following me all night long."
"Come on, you two, too," Dana said, waving Allison and Jeremy over. Crystal and Tara were close behind.
As soon as the septet grouped, the photographer said, "Say Girl Power!"
"Girl Power!" everyone shouted.
"Girl Power?" Jeremy asked, just as the camera flashed.
A few moments later, the photographer handed Corry the picture. As the six girls gathered around the photo, the photographer approached Jeremy with his hand outstretched.
"THIS is the main problem with having nothing but female friends," he griped as he pulled out his wallet.
"Hey, it turned out really good!" Corry cried.
"Jeremy, you actually have a decent smile on your face!" Beth joked.
"You're kidding me! That makes my lifetime tally of decent pictures four!"
"Can I have this, please?" Corry asked. Smiling at Dana, she added, "For when I get to go home?"
* * *
"My dear," Jeremy gushed as he approached Corry, "would you like the honor of dancing with the most handsome man here?"
"Oh, absolutely," Corry said nodding. She took his hand, walked a short distance, and then pointed across the courtyard. "That's him right there. Would you ask him for me please?"
"Cruel," he shot back with a smile. "And for that, I'm making you dance with me."
However, before the pair could make it to the designated dance floor, a six-toned beep sounded. Corry lifted her hand up and said, "Corry here."
"Yeah, it's Crystal. Uhm, Tara and I just found something back here we think you should see. We're behind the court house."
"All right, we'll be there in a second," Corry said.
* * *
As Corry and Jeremy ran to the back of the courthouse, she saw Tara standing in front of a large pile of dirt. "What is it?" Corry asked, hurrying up to Crystal's side.
"We found that," Tara answered quickly. She pointed to the ground beside the dirt pile.
Gasping, Corry placed a hand over her mouth. "Oh my God."
There was a grave dug there. At the head of the grave, there was a white marble tombstone :
Corriane Noel Cranston
Born December 25, 2002
Died May 23, 1998
"It's obviously from Sheila," Tara said.
"What movie is this from?" Corry asked of Jeremy.
He shrugged and said, "Take your pick. Horror movie staple."
"I'm not dreaming," Corry said calmly. "I'm just being stalked."
"I'll go talk to Omicron," Tara offered before teleporting away in a streak of canary yellow.
"This isn't gonna work, Sheila!" Corry yelled. "If you want me, YOU come and get me! But my grave stays empty!"
Suddenly, a giant ball of fire shot out of the grave. Sheila was close behind, landing beside Corry. "I'm here," she greeted.
"White Ranger Power!" Corry yelled. White light flared up around her, encasing her in armor.
Instantly, Sheila launched at Corry. Corry flipped backward as Sheila's leg sweeped where she had been standing. As Sheila lashed out with her dagger, Corry blocked her with her arms. She inverted her grip, grabbed Sheila by her forearms, and flipped her, sending the villain spinning into the ground.
"It's Morphin Time!" Crystal cried. "Squirrel!" Ruby red light washed over her as she morphed into her red Tyrannosaurus armor.
"Lion!" Jeremy shouted, instantly clad in royal blue Triceratops armor.
Before the two could go to assist Corry, however, an army of Gargoyles dropped out of the sky and descended on them.
"We need help!" Crystal yelled into her wrist.
With a grunt that sounded more angry that forced, Sheila launched into Corry with a flying high kick. Corry landed on her back in her grave, more angry than stunned. Gargoyles instantly surrounded the grave, and all began to push dirt on top of her.
Yelling like a banshee, Corry leapt out of the pit, knocking the
fighters everywhere. "NO!" She put some space between her and the pit.
"We take this hard core!" Sheila yelled, thrusting her Gargoyle dagger into the sky. Red lightning shot down from the sky and struck it, producing more and more Gargoyles.
Yellow light streaked through the air, producing the already morphed Tara in her Saber-Tooth Tiger armor. With a duo of 'ki-yah's, Dana and Allison, green Brachiosaurus and purple Mastodon respectively, flipped off of the roof of the Court House and landed in the melee.
A tall black man, brandishing a club, was suddenly in the middle of the fight. Gargoyles were destroyed left and right, each landing as an assortment of metallic parts only before black light swept across and made them vanish.
"What do you want from me?!" Corry yelled as she successfully blocked another jab from Sheila.
"I want you dead!" Sheila shrieked. "You-"
"You threaten the Underworld!" Draanov suddenly realized.
Sheila whipped her gaze at her former henchman. "That is not a possibility!" Sheila yelled. She turned back to Corry, both of her eyes glowing like red embers. In a cold, low voice, she growled, "We take this massive."
As she thrust her arms into the sky, she began to glow a flaming red. Tendrils of light leapt off of her body and streaked into the night sky. High above them, the silhouette of a giant fighting machine appeared. Sheila completely disappeared from the ground. A few final strings of light drifted up to the fighting machine, now shaped like an eagle. "Meet your doom, White Ranger." Sheila's voice echoed all around them.
"White Crane Assault Vehicle, Power Up!" Corry yelled. She thrust her fist, glowing a bright white, into the sky. The Power took over, and Corry lifted off of the ground, streaking higher into the atmosphere where she
intercepted her A.V.
The atmosphere was barely a flash of color as Corry streaked into space. However, before she followed Sheila in her eagle, she stopped cold. Fighting machines of all types were flying through space, headed for Earth. "Oh my God," Corry sighed, covering her mouth with her hands.
"It's a bitch, ain't it?" Sheila taunted.
Corry spun around in her chair, looking out a side panel in her cockpit. The fighters were everywhere, coming from all directions. There were so many, they choked out the appearance of the stars.
"I need some help up here!" Corry cried.
* * *
"I'm on my way, Corry!" Dana shouted back. She swung her Trident in a wide swath around her, taking down the closest Gargoyles. "Sparrow Assault Vehicle, On-line!" In a flash of green light, Dana had streaked up into the sky and intercepted her green A.V.
"You guys, there are too many!" Crystal cried out. For every Gargoyle she dismantled with her talons, two more arrived to take its place.
"And there are more on the way!" Dana called through the com units. "Outer space is lousy with these things!"
"Rangers, come back to the Power Core," Omicron ordered suddenly. "Rangers regroup, NOW."
* * *
"There are too many for us to fight," Beth snarled. "I didn't think Sheila had this much power to dump this all at once."
"She shouldn't," Sigma announced.
"She doesn't," Nadia said as she appeared in the Power Core. "Sheila doesn't have nearly this much power on her own. So she went higher. She's just unleashed the forces of hell on Earth."
"We can't defeat the entire underworld!" Allison cried.
"I don't believe it's even possible," Omicron theorized. "Is it?"
"Of course not," Nadia said hurriedly. "Even if we had the firepower to defeat an army that size, to do so would destroy this universe as well. Good and evil can't exist without each other. It's the contrast that makes them exi-"
"Lesson, later," Beth growled. "What do we do?"
"They're tearing apart the entire town!" Tara cried, pointing at a viewing screen. "We can't let the Gargoyles do that. I'm going back."
"No Ranger goes alone!" Sigma ordered.
"I'll go with her," Jeremy volunteered. The two Rangers disappeared in twin streaks of blue and yellow.
"If we can't defeat them," Nadia said, "then we'll drive them back."
"How?" Corry asked. Everyone's patience was already stretched to the breaking point.
"Sheila called the army here through some energy conveyor," Nadia said. "Something of magic origin. We find that, and we destroy that, and they get taken back. Worse than that, they get pulled back with an astounding force..."
"What is the energy conveyor?" Crystal asked.
"I know what it is," Draanov said slowly. "Her dagger... That's the only thing it could be."
"She keeps it on her," Sigma sighed.
"I've got an idea," Corry said. "Alpha, can you make me a replica of Sheila's Gargoyle Dagger?"
"I believe so."
"Then make one," Corry said as she teleported away.
"Back to Action!" Beth shouted.
* * *
The White Crane A.V. streaked over Main Street. A powerful wind followed, sending Gargoyles and the two lone fighting Rangers to the ground. "She's in a rush!" Tara cried as she climbed back to her feet.
Corry, however, had no time to offer a witty reply. She banked sharply, slicing through the atmosphere at an eighty degree angle. The atmosphere
screamed past her, and suddenly, all was quiet. "Firing all secondary weapons!" Corry ordered. A maelstrom of lasers, bullets, and worse roared out of various parts of her Assault Vehicle.
Any fighter that ventured too close was annihilated. Corry plowed mercilessly through them, trying to locate Sheila in her eagle. Suddenly, the massive black ship loomed before her. "Launching rockets!" Corry shouted. Twin white rockets fired from the chest of her A.V., streaking through the emptiness of space to strike Sheila's vehicle. Corry aimed all of her lasers to follow the rockets. She couldn't afford for a kamikaze fighter to save Sheila.
"Impact!" Corry cried triumphantly a split second before two silent, white fireclouds lifted off of the metallic hide of Sheila's eagle. The sullen A.V. turned to face her. Two red eyes on its face flared up, and it was suddenly after her.
Relying on her lightning fast reflexes, Corry jerked the control lever backwards. As she dropped out of the melee of fighters, she was already turning around to flight to Earth. Sheila's massive eagle roared through the cloud, causing many to explode against her hull.
As soon as Corry entered the atmosphere of Earth, a sharp whistling sounded outside her A.V. A quick glance at the monitor below her revealed the eagle still on her tail. _Perfect._
She banked out of her sharp decline just as she approached massive Nolin lake, next door to the small, country town of Munfordville. The water rippled violently as she soared over it. However, as soon as the drastically larger eagle took on her path, the lake actually split. The water fell to the sides, displaced by the incredible speed of the object. The water was pulled along behind the eagle.
Corry flew over Nolin River Dam, and a thought suddenly occurred to her. "Sigma, how long will it take Green River to crest if Nolin Dam breaks?"
"If the dam simply breaks, it won't."
"How about if a wave of water the likes of which Moses would have a hard time making crashes through it?"
"Good night!" Nadia suddenly cried.
"Munfordville is on high ground," Omicron decided.
"With a wave that big, it doesn't matter," Nadia said. "You've got ten minutes, tops. After that, our fair city will be under twelve feet of water."
"How long will it take to recede?" Corry asked.
"Some time tomorrow," Nadia answered.
"All right, then we have to work fast. Corry out."
She silently bid her A.V. back to its "garage," and she dropped out of the cockpit. As soon as she touched the pavement, thunder crashed behind her as a gargantuan wave of water tore the bridge stretching over Green River asunder. Water immediately began to crawl up the street, rapidly approaching the fight.
Gargoyles were instantly all around her. "No!" Corry cried. "I don't have time for you things!" She instantly lit into the beasts, fighting them as best she could without Saba by her side. Wolf had shown her a few tricks and she employed them now. Cupping her hands together, she gathered a ball of white energy and hurled it at a group of Gargoyles. "White Pulse!" It hit several of the beasts, blowing them up, but there were still too many surrounding her. The water was gurgling up the street at a frightening pace, quickly slamming into her ankles and climbing up her legs.
"Corry, duck!" Allison shouted. Corry dropped into a split into the murky water without asking why. Purple metal flashed over her, and the Gargoyles circled around her were destroyed. She leapt back to her feet, just as the Mastodon Machete flew back into Allison's grasp.
"SHEILA!!!" Corry cried.
The eagle was suddenly hovering above them. Sheila appeared before Corry with her arms across her chest. "Destroy a team of Rangers and an entire city in the same day," Sheila purred. "Pretty impressive, ain't it?"
The water in the streets had already reached Corry. The other Rangers were still battling Gargoyles, despite the rapidly flooding street. "Alpha, now," Corry whispered. Extending her hand, she said, "Looking for this, Sheila?" Red light coalesced in Corry's grip, forming an exact replica of the Gargoyle Dagger.
Sheila's eyes opened wide. She thrust her own left arm out. Red fire traveled down her limb, and the real Dagger appeared in her hand. "What are you trying to pull, Cranston?" Sheila snarled.
"Fire!" Tara shouted. Sheila whipped her gaze to the right, just as the Yellow Ranger fired an arrow from her Saber Tooth Tiger Bow and Arrow. The yellow projectile flew at the Dagger, and the sharp point collided with the crystalline orb perched at the top.
Sheila opened her mouth to let out a scream of rage, but before any sound could come out, red and purple light exploded out of the orb in a dazzling, psychedelic display.
Wave after wave of light, alternately colored ruby red and royal purple, washed across the planet and out into the cosmos. The fighters flying toward Earth exploded upon contact, and the debris was swept away into nothingness.
And then, just as quickly as it had happened, it was over. The streets were no longer flooded with water. Although Corry was still morphed, the other six Rangers were in their costumes from the party. The Gargoyles they had been fighting were gone, leaving no remains.
"Sheila?" Corry asked cautiously.
The woman's physical appearance was still the same. However, instead of red armor, she was now wearing a flowing, silver gown. A warm smile stretched across her face as she looked at Corry. She actually giggled, waved at Corry, and then melted away in silver and white light, giggling all the while.
Omicron, Sigma, and Nadia suddenly appeared in the street, each holding their respective Sword. Draanov with his Onyx Sword was close behind.
"Sigma?" Beth asked. "Nadia? You're..."
"Flesh and blood," Sigma answered with a warm smile. "For the first time in many, many years."
"What's going on?" Dana asked.
"The fight is over," Omicron answered. "We won."
"Over?" Crystal echoed. "You mean, like over, for tonight, right?"
"You surely don't mean-," Allison tried, unable to express herself.
"Evil has been beaten back," Nadia said proudly. "Sheila is back where she belongs."
"The Earth is safe," Sigma continued. "The universe is safe."
*You've done well, Cub,* a calm voice called. Corry turned her gaze to see her Guardian slowly approaching her.
"Wolf!" she cried happily running to the Guardian.
*It is time for us to go home,* Wolf said solemnly.
"Crane A.V. is yours," Sigma told her. "Use her well."
"You're going home?" Dana asked. "Just like that?"
Corry removed her helmet and let it drop to the ground. "I'm really going to miss you guys." She swallowed hard as she looked at the four angels. "You did so much for me...."
"I'm going with her," Draanov announced.
Wolf simply nodded, not seeming surprised at the announcement at all.
"Draanov, are you sure?" Omicron asked.
"I'm sure," he said with a smile. "It feels right."
Omicron walked up to Draanov and gave him a hug. "See you on the other side sometime, Big Brother."
"Count on it," he promised.
"It's... weird," Corry said as she approached the six Rangers. "I don't want to go, but I've never been more excited about anything in my life." She wasn't sure how to say thank you to the people who had sheltered her and made her so welcome. They had welcomed a complete stranger as if it was no big deal, taken her into their team and given their friendship as well.
"This isn't your home," Crystal told her. "You need to be with your friends and family."
"You guys are my friends, too," Corry said, eyes misting with tears. "After all you did for me.... I'll never forget you if you never forget me."
*Cub!* Wolf called. *We must go now! Travel through time and space is not like taking a bus! Our return home grows more uncertain by the second!*
Hurriedly, Corry went through the line of Rangers, hugging each one in turn. As she came to Dana, she gave her a kiss on the cheek and a gently fierce hug. "Thank you for everything." Bidding one final wave, she hurried to the side of the Wolf. "Thanks for the picture!" she called out. She picked her helmet back up.
*Ready, Draanov?* Wolf asked.
"Ready." And then, the White Crane A.V. off in the distance, Draanov, Wolf, and Corry all disappeared in a sparkling rain of white light, leaving nothing behind.
Silence reigned for a few moments before Beth said, "Now what happens?"
"The fight is over," Nadia said.
"You're free," Omicron told them with a smile. "The world doesn't need Power Rangers anymore."
"We don't want to be free," Crystal said, speaking everyone's mind.
"The fight is over for now," Sigma recanted. "Evil will never be
completely beaten. The universe is purged for now, but something may crawl out of the woodworks again and come hunt me down. If the fight returns, then you'll be the first six Rangers we come for."
"You know that won't happen," Dana said softly. "Without your Sword around, nobody cares about the Earth. We're just some still-water planet in the bad part of the Galaxy."
"Keep your Power Coins, just in case," Omicron announced.
"We'll miss you," Jeremy said sincerely.
"It's been a wild three years," Tara said with a slow nod of her head.
"It's been too wild," Dana smiled. "Maybe retiring will do us all some good."
"We could've lost at any time, really," Allison theorized.
"The safety of the Earth is more important," Beth agreed. "But it was a lot of fun."
"We have... appointments... elsewhere," Omicron said. "We need to be going. But we'll never forget any of you. Ever. I promise."
"It's been a pleasure," Sigma said. And then, the three angels disappeared in triplet flickers of white, blue, and pink.
Reality roared past the Rangers for a moment, and then, the night was completely restored. The dance could still be heard from the courtyard, a short distance off.
"I don't guess I ever expected it to end," Crystal sighed as she sat down on the curb.
"We're undefeated," Dana said with a bittersweet smile. She plopped down beside Crystal as the other Rangers grouped around them.
Allison, sitting on the street by Jeremy, flipped a stone in her hand. "It really has been fun."
Tara summoned her Power Coin in a flicker of yellow light. "Our coins are gold, again. They aren't silver anymore..." She held up her coin for
inspection. Instead of a silver coin bearing the image of a fox, she held her original golden coin with the Saber-Tooth Tiger.
Beth did likewise with her coin. It, too, was a Pterodactyl again. "Have you guys ever given any thought to law enforcement?" Beth asked.
"What do you mean?" Jeremy asked.
"We would be like the best police officers ever," Beth said. "Like once a month, we could go to some big city and just kick some criminal butt!"
"Yeah!" Crystal agreed happily. "And with Dana's computer expertise, when she's morphed, anyhow, we could make some kind of Command Center in
"I wonder if we can still teleport," Tara mused.
"'Fraid not," Dana said. "Without the Power Core to provide the equipment, teleportation isn't an option. But we should still have our Power Boards and A.V.'s. That shouldn't be a real problem."
"But how are we going to explain ourselves?" Jeremy asked. "This isn't Gotham City. We can't pull a Batman."
"We can run faster than the speed of light when we're morphed," Dana said, warming up to Beth's idea. "We wouldn't have to let anyone even know we exist. We could go kick some criminal butt, tell the cops, and leave 'em tied up somewhere to be found. And with the access to the Grid, which should be simple enough to do since we're connected every time we morph, we can make some flashy things like they had in _Men in Black._ I'm in!"
"Me too," Jeremy and Allison said in unison.
"Definitely," Tara agreed.
"Wait a minute, you guys," Crystal said suddenly. "This is assuming we can even morph... I mean, sure, we have our Power Coins, but..."
"Let's try," Beth suggested. "I don't want to get my hopes up any higher, if we can't..."
The six Rangers stood up, all looking both hopeful and worried at the same time. "It's Morphin Time!" Crystal shouted.
In unison, all six Rangers shouted their morphin calls.
"Triceratops!" Jeremy yelled.
"Pterodactyl!" Beth cried.
"Tyrannosaurus!" Crystal bellowed.
"Mastodon!" Allison shouted.
"Brachiosaurus!" Dana invoked.
"Saber-Tooth Tiger!" Tara shouted.
In a powerful, sudden morph, the six found themselves in their armor. "It worked!" Beth cried happily.
"Look," Dana said, pointing to a white sheet of paper flittering to the ground in the center of their group.
Crystal reached out and grabbed the sheet of paper. Even with her helmet on, (and a lack of actual physical face beneath her helmet notwithstanding), the other Rangers could sense a smile from her. "Dearest Rangers," she read, "we expected you wouldn't be content to return to a normal, boring, collegiate life. And we think your 'law enforcement' idea is a great idea. We've left you the Power Core for your headquarters. Just stay out of trouble, don't do anything stupid, and stay on the lighter side of life. Love, Sigma, Omicron, and Nadia."
The six Rangers looked at one another for a few moments longer before they removed their helmets. The silence was interrupted when Jeremy eagerly said, "We can even have cool nicknames, like all good superheroes do! I can be the Terrifying Triceratops!"
"The Bloated Brachiosaurus!" Beth joked, pointing a gloved finger at Dana.
"Real funny," Dana shot back, smiling just the same.
"How about Blue Ranger?" Allison suggested, cocking an eyebrow. "Although Mighty Mastodon does have a nice ring to it..."
"So, should we get started tonight, or what?" Tara asked. "I mean, this is the start of summer vacation."
"We have all summer to fight crime," Crystal said. "Let's go to the dance and celebrate."
"Without a Ginger Spice, I'm not going as a Spice Girl," Beth announced. "I'm going as the Pink Power Ranger."
"There wasn't a Purple Power Ranger," Allison complained as the sextet began to walk down the blocked-off street.
"Like anybody will know?" Jeremy asked. "Besides, if anybody asks who you are, just tell them you're the Mighty Mastodon!"
"You too," Beth said slowly, "Bloated Brachiosaurus." With that, she took off running.
"I'm gonna kill you for that!" Dana yelled, laughing. She tore off down the street after here. "And that's Ms. Bloated Brachiosaurus to you!"
Jeremy and Allison stretched their arms across each others shoulders as they slowly walked down the street after Crystal and Tara. The Red and Yellow Rangers looked at each other for a moment longer before running after Dana and Beth, both shrieking with laughter that floated all up and down Main Street.
"I think this qualifies as a happy ending," Allison decided.
"Definitely," Jeremy agreed.
* * *