_Not again!_ Raph skidded to a halt and whirled, stancing. His eyes widened at this vision. It was, and wasn't the friend he'd known. With a twist of his wrists, he summoned his talons and advanced on the form. "You just never give up, do you?" he growled.
"Raph?" She raised her hands and backed away a step. "What in the blazes is wrong with you? It's me! Corry!" Glancing down at her outfit, she bit her lip. "Okay, so I'm Ginger Spice, but-"
"Right," he snarled, "and I'm Dr. Pepper." He slashed the talons against one another making a rasping noise like that of a blade being sharpened.
"Oh geez...nothing the easy way....." The girl backed against the building wall.
Black Ranger paused as she whipped an object from behind her back. "What the -"
"WHITE RANGER POWER!" Silver-white energy engulfed the girl in a maelstrom that lit the dark street momentarily. When it cleared another Ranger stood before him, this one dressed in gleaming white armor, with the emblem of a wolf blazoned on the coin on her chestplate.
Black Ranger took a step back, staggered by surprise. "Corry?" he whispered. "Is it...."
The armored figure nodded and opened her arms wide. "Catastrophe Corry is back," she said laughing.
"Madre de Dios!" Raph sent the talons away with the flick of a wrist and bounded over to engulf his long-lost teammate in a hug. "We thought you were gone for good!"
An ear-splitting roar rattled the near-by windows and echoed off the buildings.
"What in tarnation is that?!" Corry looked around.
"Tarnation?" Raph paused to look at his companion, bemused by an expression he'd never heard.
"The creek's rising fast and we're trapped on the riser." There was something giving off huge energy readings not too far ahead of them. She paused a moment. "Hey, I got the saying right!"
He decided to ask her about all the colorful speech later. "Cor?" Raph gripped her arm. "I don't know how to tell you this, so I'm just going to tell you." He guided her around the corner of the building and pointed to the huge glowing green dragon that was smashing buildings. "That made the noise, and....." He took a deep breath. "It's Thomas."
White Ranger stiffened visibly. "What?" She shook her head. "No...." Raph was so certain, but....
"Jett possessed him and all the kids who went to the V.R. Arcade grand opening-"
"Becca and Alex?" Corry felt sick all of a sudden, thinking of all that had gone on while she was gone.
Black Ranger nodded. "Afraid so. Lon, Madie, Ben and Ted also."
Leaning against the building, Corry let that sink in, feeling like someone had punched her in the stomach. "Oh....oh no." Pushing herself upright, she took a deep breath. "Okay. So how do we stop him?"
Raph recognized the tone of voice from when they had first lost their parents to the Wraiths. She was in analytical mode for the time being, until the trouble passed. "I think we should regroup and hit as one." He gripped her arm. "Seeing that you're back will boost all of our spirits, and we can use that."
"Let's call 'em in." Corry nodded, and turned her attention back to the readings on her visor. _There has to be a weak spot!_ A cold determination filled her as she watched the dragon take out another building. _No WAY I'm letting Jett do this and get away with it....._
"We're meeting two blocks over." Raph's voice broke into her thoughts. "Let's go."
The amount of destruction in the city numbed Corry as she jogged with Raph. Streets were split in half, buildings collapsed, buses and cars crushed and overturned, and trees uprooted and strewn all over. The city was a mess.
"Oh man...." Corry bit her lip. This was worse than she had imagined. And according to the data on her visor, she'd been gone almost two months. _Two months! Mom and Dad must be going ballistic!_
As they came around the corner, they saw the Pink and Yellow Rangers waiting. Both turned and stopped dead when they spotted the White Ranger. "Oh...my...gosh...," Olivia intoned. "C-Corry?"
She had barely got a nod out when both the others tackled her, almost knocking her down in their enthusiasm.
"Corry!" Olivia was sobbing as she embraced her friend in a fierce hug.
"Cranston," Gavin sounded shaken, but happy, "you've got some nerve scaring us like that."
Hugging them both at the same time, Corry could only laugh happily. "I missed you so much!"
"NO WAY!" A voice boomed out.
Before she could turn, Corry was swept up in a bear hug, as blue armored arms wrapped around her, swinging her around. "Jared!" His hug drove the air from her lungs.
Red Ranger just stood stock-still, facing the group. She slowly shook her head.
Corry was still laughing as Jared set her down, and she turned to face Nisha. Her smile faded slightly. "Nish?"
Shaking her head, the Red Ranger quietly said, "Corry.... I- I thought...."
Hearing her friend's voice choke up, Corry took the few steps needed to reach her friend's side, and threw her arms around the Red Ranger. "Nisha, you silly! I'm fine!" Her ribs almost creaked as her friend fiercely hugged her.
"Don't EVER scare us like that again!" Nisha said, pushing her away. She squeezed her arm. "I'm glad you're back, girl."
"Sorry to break this up," Raph sighed, "but we need to stop this creature before he wrecks all of downtown. Any ideas?"
"Energy seemed to affect him," Gavin said after a moment's reflection. "It brought him back to normal when I hit him with my stingers."
"Wish we had the Zords," Jared sighed.
"We do," Corry said, grinning. "The Power Chamber ended up with me, and should be here by now."
"Well at least you brought back what you took with you," Nisha said, elbowing her. "Next time, warn us, will ya?"
"Hey, if I'd had time, I would've." Corry shook her head at the memory of that rooftop encounter with Jett.
"Let's call 'em," Jared said, slapping Raph's shoulder.
"WE NEED NINJAZORD POWER, NOW!"
White Ranger stepped away from the group, getting ready to teleport. "I'll join you in a sec, gang. I have a surprise from where I went."
"Geez, you went somewhere and got souvenirs too?" Jared teased. "WolverineZord power up!" He teleported in a blue streak.
"Don't take too long," Olivia warned. "OwlZord, power up!" A pink blaze of light shot towards a banking pink-grey Zord.
Red Ranger shook her head. "Always showboating, aren't you?" Clapping her friend's shoulder to show she was joking, Nisha yelled, "BearZord, power up!" Red light shot off as she teleported away.
"What are you planning?" Raph sighed. Of all the team, he worried about Corry and Gavin, and their madcap ideas, the most. "Nothing involving more time travel, I hope?"
"No way!" Corry laughed. "Go! I'll be fine." She shooed Gavin and Raph.
"JaguarZord, power up!" Raph disappeared in a flash of black.
"Should I be worried?" Gavin asked somberly. "That is Thomas, after all."
Corry gripped his arm. "Don't worry. I swear, I'll join you in a sec. Okay?"
Gavin nodded. "Promise?" He sighed as she nodded and squeezed his hand. "If you don't, I'll come looking. MongooseZord, power up!" He flashed off in a beam of yellow.
Corry touched the wolf emblem on the coin on her chest. "Old friend, for this one time, I think the ladybird will be a better choice." She took a deep breath. "Hope this works here." Raising her hand, she shouted, "White Crane Assault Vehicle, power up!" Closing her eyes, she waited....and was suddenly swept up in a dazzling white beam of light as she shot upwards.
* * *
It was proving to be another cruddy night for Will. He scowled as he tried to get the holoprojectors to give a visual. "Lupine, try again. I've got to know what's going on!"
"Working," the computer informed him. A dim, reddish holo of the city skyline formed before blanking again. "The holoprojectors are working, Will. There is an unnatural fog that is making visual surveillance impossible."
"What...? Lupine," Will frowned and leaned forward as half the lights on his console lit up suddenly, "what's going on?"
"Communications with the Power Chamber have been restored," the computer said in its quiet monotone.
"Restored....." A grin spread across his face. "Lupine, teleport me to the Power Chamber." In a flash of royal blue, Will disappeared from his lab.
He reappeared moments later inside the Power Chamber. "Zordon?" Will looked around, seeing the very familiar surroundings, but no sentient beings. "Alpha?"
"WILLIAM." Zordon's projected image suddenly appeared in his tube. A smile curved his lips. "IT IS GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN."
For once, Will just stared. A million questions queued in his mind, each one vying to be asked first, leaving him effectively speechless. He shook his head. "You're back." It was the only thing he could get out.
"Will!" Alpha came toddling out from an alcove. "Welcome back!" The robot paused, the red lights on its visor blinking rapidly. "Oh...but we were the ones who left, not you. Heh heh...." Alpha gave the equivalent of a robotic "silly me" laugh.
"Alpha...." Will walked over to pat the automaton's shoulder. "It's wonderful to have you back." He smiled at both of the beings. "But, where-" He broke off as a deep rumbling rattled the entire structure. "The Zords...," he breathed.
He beat Alpha to the console and brought up the visual as the Zords launched, teleporting once they had cleared their bays. "How did they know they could use them?" He noticed WolfZord didn't move.
"CORRIANE IS BACK ALSO, WILLIAM."
Will sat with a thump on a stool behind him, a happy grin curving his face. "You found her?"
"Well..." Alpha tilted his head, "we found one another."
* * *
The OwlZord banked between two buildings, silently floating through the foggy sky like an otherworldly being. "I can't see anything," Olivia complained. It scared her to be the only one in the air when her companions were miles below her. "Maybe we should just form the NinjaMegaZord and fight him that way."
"We need to hit him on all sides, 'Livy," Raph's calm voice answered her.
"Just use your scanners, Olivia." Gavin watched her as MongooseZord scampered towards the battle. "Relax and let your instincts take over. You do great in simulations."
"Yeah, but I KNOW those aren't real." Olivia frowned. She just hated working alone.
"Mind some company?"
Olivia looked to her right and saw the silver-white gleam of a craft off her wing. "White Ranger?"
The craft had long, lean legs, a very long neck and a small body. The cockpit was perched on the head. "Yep. Courtesy of ....well, I'll tell you later. Let's go show that beast not to mess with OUR city!"
"All right!" Olivia fisted her hand, following the Crane A.V. as it banked gracefully around a building.
* * *
The glowing emerald dragon grabbed the top of one building in its talons and ripped it off easily. With almost casual indifference, it chomped the spire to bits, spitting out the remains. Debris rained to the ground.
"Hey!" BearZord reared up on its hind legs and roared a challenge. "That was one of my favorite restaurants!" Red Ranger snorted. "What, is he out to ruin everything that I like?"
"Thank God they evacuated the city," Blue Ranger commented as WolverineZord shuffled up at the opposite corner of the building.
"Element of surprise, people!" Black Ranger commanded, "Hit him now!" Black beams of concentrated energy shot out of the Zord's eyes, slamming into the side of the green dragon.
>From behind the creature, MongooseZord ran up to the dragon's leg. "Here goes," Yellow Ranger whispered. He pictured what he wanted and the Zord shot forward, latching sharp teeth into the dragon's leg. Yellow energy began to pour through the link, making the leg look first a lighter green, then increasingly yellow.
The dragon bellowed in pain and released the building. Before it could slew around to smack the offending things causing it pain, twin pink lasers hit dead center of its head. The lasers burned tracks up the creature's head as OwlZord swooped past.
Shrieking, the dragon grabbed for the Zord.
"Oh no you don't!" Twin white heat-seeking missiles shot towards the dragon. One impacted on its shoulder, the other right into its neck. White lightning danced across the surface for a moment before the energy of the missiles went internal. White began to overcome the green, and the dragon groaned, forgetting about taking out the OwlZord.
"My turn!" Red Ranger aimed her BearZord's lasers for the creature's belly and added red energy to the mix, turning the creature a more sickly shade of green.
"That's doing the trick, guys!" Blue Ranger brought WolverineZord closer and crouched. It sprang at the dragon's uninjured leg, and dug wicked silver claws into the green surface. As it slid towards the ground, it left furrows of blue-green energy that slowly became brighter and brighter blue.
JaguarZord hit it again, this time in the center of the dragon's back.
Corry bit her lip, fighting the tears welling in her eyes as the dragon screamed in agony. _Forget it's him...._ The dragon was no longer a glowing emerald, but a sickly grey color. It moaned piteously, thrashing its head as the combined assaults continued to burn across its skin.
The dragon began to shrink, becoming smaller and smaller as it's color faded.
"It's working!" Red Ranger whooped.
"Let's back off," Raph cautioned. "Wounded animals are the most dangerous."
The team re-grouped, all of them ready to pounce at a second's notice. OwlZord circled above the scene as the White Crane A.V. settled down on a nearby rooftop. White Ranger hopped out and ran to the edge, unable to keep from thinking that the creature they had attacked was actually a teammate...and friend. "Thomas...," she whispered.
Shrieking defiantly, the dragon suddenly shrank to a human form that collapsed to the ground.
"Thomas!" Raph vaulted out of his Zord and was running, almost as soon as his ex-teammate hit the ground.
"NO!" Thomas pushed himself upright and gestured. Black and emerald flames sprang up to surround him. "Stay away....."
Corry started to step out to the edge of the building when something held her back. She whirled around and stopped. Wolf stood there, slowly shaking his head. "But....why?!" Corry pointed down to the street where the Rangers were slowly approaching Thomas. "We can get him back!"
Wolf shook his head, iceblue eyes solemn. *No. Not now.*
"WHAT?" Yanking off her helmet, Corry threw it down and stepped closer to demand, "Why? Why does he have to suffer and stay with them?!"
*Panther is not here, is he?* The tone of the giant wolf was surprisingly patient.
Throwing up her hands, Corry made an exasperated sound. "What does that have-"
*Do you see, Cub?*
The way the guardian said it made the girl pause. She frowned, struggling to regain her lost composure. "No," she said sharply. "No. I don't see."
*Look again.* Wolf nudged the girl around with his head, standing next to her.
Corry unconsciously put her arm around the animal's neck, her hand clenching at the thick ruff around the Wolf's neck. Thomas seemed to shimmer before her eyes, becoming someone familiar.... "Mirage," Corry snarled.
*Indeed. You caught on fast that time.* Wolf padded over and picked up Corry's helmet in its mouth. *Tell them it is a trap, but you must stay with me.*
Corry took the helmet, "But-"
*Do it!* Wolf snapped
Clenching her fists, the girl forced her rebellion down and hit all-call. "It's a trap, Rangers! That isn't Thomas -- it's Mirage!"
"What?" Red Ranger looked around.
"Heads up!" Pink Ranger yelled. She put the OwlZord into a steep dive, heading straight for the inky figures heading for her friend's backs. Pink lasers shot out, nailing two of the Wraiths. They disappeared with a scream.
"Crap!" Blue Ranger whirled, pulling his sword as five Wraiths descended upon him. He slashed at one, cutting it in half, and ducked under the swipe of another's claws. "Bonsai!" He charged at the remaining Wraiths, slashing like a beserker.
"Yow!" Yellow Ranger back-pedaled, summoning his stingers. The weapons shimmered into existence a split second later and he shot them off at the two hulking shadows reaching for him. The Wraiths barely had time to moan before they were eaten up by the yellow energy. Gavin blew on his stinger as if blowing the smoke off the barrel of a gun. "Old dead-eye strikes again."
Black Ranger back-flipped away, looking for fighting space. He came out of it feet first, and hit a Wraith dead center, knocking it down. With a twist of his wrists, his talons appeared. "An ambush, huh? Not nice. We're gonna have to show you what we think of that!" Leaping up, he slashed down, cutting a Wraith to ribbons.
Taking a trick from her boyfriend, Red Ranger summoned the power to her fist and drove it into the abdomen of the nearest Wraith. "You'll need some serious Antacid to take care of that stomach upset!" Whirling, she backhanded another Wraith attempting to sneak up on her.
"Uh-oh." Pink saw a rift opening and watched in dismay as more and more Wraiths poured out of it heading towards her friends. "Incoming!" The OwlZord flexed it's talons and dove towards the army of ebony shadows, shrieking defiantly as it raked a swathe clear.
* * *
Watching silently from her rooftop perch, White Ranger felt nothing less than a traitor for not getting involved. She knelt in front of the Wolf. "Please...isn't there ANY way I can help? They're getting pounded!"
The Guardian sighed. It knew this one well; knew the passions and beliefs that held her heart and mind. *There is one way...,* it agreed, reluctantly. The blue eyes regarded her. *Close your eyes, Cub. Concentrate on the sound of my voice in your mind. Reach past your conscious self and find the many parts that comprise the whole.*
Corry struggled to do what Wolf said, but the urgency she felt was making it difficult. She reached out as she swayed suddenly, steadying herself with a hand on the Wolf's shoulder. Peace flooded her, and she did as she was told. "I...I see colors....." It almost was like being in the lucid dream again. She could almost feel the presence of her friends there with her. Pink, Blue, Black, Yellow, Green and Red filled her mind.
*Take parts of those and create a single new image.* Wolf looked over to where the battle was going on, then back to his charge. *Fix it firmly in your mind.*
"I have it....." Corry could almost see the iridescent figure in her mind it was so vivid.
*Good.* Wolf was a little surprised at how quickly she picked it up, but moved swiftly. *Now. Stand. Power down, then morph once more, with this image in your mind.*
Corry's eyes snapped open as realization dawned. "Change the form I morph into?"
*Indeed.* Wolf nodded, a hint of a smile in his tone.
Standing, she didn't hesitate. "Power down." As soon as the white glow had faded Corry pulled her morpher and closed her eyes. She called forth the image she had seen. A new command came to her. "White Ranger Chromatic!" Brilliant rainbow color light flared around her. When it died down, a shifting, iridescent armored form stood before the Wolf.
*Go now!* Wolf urged.
Not hesitating, Corry whirled and leaped off the building.
* * *
Thomas sat in the center of the flames watching, a smirk on his face. He stood slowly, staggering slightly, and grimacing. Seeing the Rangers all occupied, he lowered the flames.
"Enjoying the show?"
Whirling, Thomas' eyes grew huge as he saw a ghostly figure emerge from the shadows. His eyes flickered to the fighting forms then back to the armored form standing before him. "Well...they didn't wait long to get a replacement for White Ranger, did they?"
The armored form walked closer. "Call the Wraiths off...." Her voice was cold, full of repressed fury. "...Mirage."
The man started back. "Wha-?"
"Call them off!" The Ranger lunged forward, grabbing his arm and yanking him out of the circle of flames. She grabbed his throat with her left hand. "Or by all that's Holy and Pure, I'll send you to a realm where there is NOTHING but sunshine and musicals!"
The form of Thomas wavered, then fell away, revealing it to be Mirage. The Wraith stared at his own image in the dark visor of the Ranger and swallowed hard. There was something unyielding about this Ranger that told him not to try any of his tricks. "Wraiths," he croaked.
The dark forms battling the Rangers didn't seem to hear as they continued to try to overwhelm the colorful figures.
"Try harder, Wraith," the Ranger snapped, tightening her grip around his throat.
"WRAITHS! DISENGAGE!" Mirage bellowed.
The shadow warriors stopped where they were and shimmered out of existence. The rift closed silently, sealing the Wraiths from Angel Grove.
"What the sam hill is going on?" Blue Ranger looked around and spotted Mirage and a Ranger he didn't recognize. "Guys, check it out!"
"Who is that?" Red Ranger dismissed her nunchukus and came over to stand next to Blue.
"Guys," Olivia said, worry evident in her tone. "I can't see Corry anywhere!" OwlZord soared over the building where the Crane A.V. was perched.
"Bio readings are...." Yellow stopped and shook his head. "In flux. Whoever it is, they're...phasing from one form to another."
"Whoever it is, they have Mirage!" Black gestured. "Come on!"
"Leave. Now, Wraith." The Ranger shoved Mirage back, away from her. Her hands fisted as she watched the man give her a withering frown before disappearing in a rush of cold air and darkness.
"Wait!" Black Ranger skidded to a halt as the Wraith departed. He looked at the Ranger, shaking his head. "Why did you let him go?"
"Who are you?" Yellow stopped next to Black Ranger, highly intrigued by this new Ranger. All of the Ranger colors washed over the girl's armor in a constant state of change. No one color stayed long enough before the next emerged to flash across the armor. There was no design on the helmet, just a darkened visor. It reminded Gavin of the colors on a soap bubble -- seemingly colorless then iridescent with all the shades of the rainbow.
Blue and Red Rangers ran up, approaching more warily than their teammates.
"Guys," a very familiar voice chuckled. "It's me!" Reaching up, Corry removed her helmet. The colors of her armor immediately vanished, once again becoming just plain white.
"How-" Gavin let out a long breath. "It stopped." He shook his head. All of his readings now indicated it was Corry. "What the heck was that?"
"I'll explain back at the Power Chamber." She linked her arm through Gavin's. "How about we go say howdy to Zordon?"
"Howdy?" Red shook her head. "Girl, you have GOT to tell us where you went!"
"I will," Corry promised. "And I'll explain about this too. Let's go." She looked up to where OwlZord hovered above them. "Let's take it to homecourt, 'Livy!"
"See ya there!" The OwlZord shrieked once before shooting off into the sky.
"You've got a lot of explaining to do," Raph sighed as he stood next to Corry. "Let's go."
A brilliant flash lit up the area as a rainbow leaped off the ground and shot off over the city skyline, heading for the desert.
* * *
Will swallowed hard as the Power Chamber shook again, announcing the return of the Zords. Pushing a control on the panel, he paged Kimberly, then turned to face the Chamber door, hope and fear both vying for space in his expression.
Light flashed into the room, materializing into six forms. They were laughing, all pounding one another on the backs....
He blinked, as much to ensure his eyes were working as to keep them from misting up.
"DADDY!" With a whoop loud enough to rattle the building, White Ranger bounded towards Will. "Power down!" She threw herself at him as he reached out to pull her close.
"Corry!" Will was knocked backwards by the force of her enthusiasm, but didn't loosen his embrace one bit. Half-laughing, half-crying, he held his daughter tightly, as if she would disappear again if he didn't. "Corry...."
Pink light flashed into the room and Kimberly Hart-Cranston looked around in confusion. "Will, what....?" Her eyes grew huge as she saw her husband embracing what looked like one of the Spice Girls. Kim blinked, thoroughly confused. "Zordon! You're back!"
Kimberly stared in shock as the Spice Girl turned and ran at her. "C-Corry?" It was all she got out before she was engulfed in a fierce embrace. Still shocked, Kim put her arms around her daughter, then pulled her back to stare at her. "Is it really you?" She peered past the heavy make-up and wig, seeing the crystal blue eyes bright with joy and tears. "Corry....baby..." Tears rolled down Kim's cheeks as she pulled her daughter to her in a fierce hug.
Will walked over and put his arms around the two, feeling considerably more happy than he had in several months. Part of the hole that had been a gaping wound in his heart was healing with the return of one of his children.
"Zordon," Raph removed his helmet and walked forward, a smile of joy lighting his dark eyes. "I have never been so glad to see you in my entire life!"
Olivia, already powered down, wiped tears off her face as she watched the Cranston reunion. She felt an arm go around her shoulders and smiled up at Gavin, also powered down. "You okay, 'Livy?"
She nodded, sniffling. "Better than in a long time, Gav!" Spotting Alpha, Olivia grinned. "Alpha!" She ran over and gave the robot a hug.
"Rangers!" Alpha sounded suspiciously tearful for an automaton as he awkwardly returned the girl's hug.
"Welcome back, Alpha!" Gavin grinned and patted the robot's back.
"Nice of you to decide to join us again," Nisha said, winking at Zordon.
"If you think we didn't appreciate you, trust me," Jared grinned widely. "We do!"
"IT IS GOOD TO BE BACK, RANGERS." Zordon smiled at the teens, feeling a sense of satisfaction. He was proud of the way they had held together in the face of overwhelming odds.
Gavin suddenly got a good look at the way Corry was dressed and let out a whistle. "Look at you, Cranston!"
Standing between her parents, Corry blushed, and looked down at her form-fitting, very short dress. "I was...uh...at a costume party." She kicked off her platform shoes, once again her normal height.
"That's quite the outfit." Jared waggled his eyebrows, a grin curving his mouth.
"You gained some weight," Nisha remarked, staring pointedly at the girl's cleavage.
Corry looked startled, opening her mouth to protest, when she realized what her friend meant. Color suffused her cheeks as she realized she still had the padding to fill out the dress. "Uh...."
Olivia started to giggle, covering her mouth. Her dark eyes were full of mirth as her friend tugged at the bottom of the dress that only went to the top of her thighs. "Were you all Spice Girls?"
"Yeah." Corry grinned happily at the memory of her other dimension friends. She sighed, seeing Gavin still looking at her. "Would you stop staring?"
"Nope." He grinned unrepentantly. "This is a once in a lifetime view of you, Cranston!" He reached behind him to the console, winking. "And I got it all recorded."
"Gavin," Corry gasped. "Aw geez...." She leaned into her parent's embrace as the team laughed with her. "I'll get you for this, Skullovich."
Seeing her smile, Gavin wasn't too worried. "You can try." He winked.
"Why don't we go back to our house?" Kim suggested. "I'm sure you kids are hungry?"
"Famished!" Jared agreed readily. "Power down!"
Nisha and Raph powered down simultaneously and joined the group.
Will hesitated, looking to Zordon and Alpha. "Or we could come back here?" he suggested. It felt almost rude to leave the two out.
"GO AND ENJOY YOURSELVES," Zordon replied with a smile. "ALPHA AND I HAVE MUCH TO CATCH UP ON."
"But thank you," Alpha added.
Arm still around her daughter, Kimberly pulled her close to kiss her temple. "Want to teleport your father and me home?"
"Home," Corry sighed happily. "You don't know how good that sounds." With a grin she linked arms with her parents then hit her comm. The three left in a brightly colored wash of pink, white and blue.
"Let's go!" Jared offered his arm to Nisha who threaded her arm through his with a smile. The two disappeared in a flash of royal blue and ruby red.
"Right behind ya!" Raph gave a jaunty salute to Zordon and left in a burst of intense ebony.
"Did you really record that?" Olivia tilted her head and narrowed her eyes as she looked at Gavin.
"You betcha!" Gavin waggled his eyebrows. "And just wait until we get Thomas back. He's gonna be SO jealous!" Ducking the girl's swipe at him, Gavin left in a flash of sunshine yellow, still laughing.
"Boys," Olivia remarked, sighing. She grinned at Zordon and Alpha. "We're really glad you're back." Not wanting to be left out of the fun, she waved. "Laters." A burst of pink lit the Chamber as she 'ported out.
Zordon nodded as he smiled at Alpha. "IT IS VERY GOOD TO BE HOME."
"Ay yi yi, Zordon!" Alpha sighed happily. "I agree!"
* * *
Later, after they had laughed, stuffed themselves silly and filled each other in on what had happened in their times apart, the teens gathered outside. Kimberly and Will stayed inside, knowing the team needed some time without them for talking things over.
Corry had changed into jeans and a warm, white sweater, washed the makeup off and ditched the wig. She sat betwen Gavin and Olivia in the circle they had formed outside on the grass. She was currently passing the photo around she had brought back with her from the other dimension. "That's Tara as Sporty Spice, Dana as Baby, me as Ginger, Beth as Posh, Crystal as Scary, Allison is Father Death from "Scream", and Jeremy was a vampire." She touched the faces on the photo gently as Olivia handed it back to her. "That was a lot of fun." Looking up, she grinned. "We'll have to try an outside dance sometime."
"Sometime when these storms let up," Nisha snorted.
"Just one guy with all those girls?" Jared shook his head, grinning. He looked over at Nisha who had her eyebrow up in a question, and put his arm around her. "Just kidding." She smiled and leaned into his side.
"Man," Corry sighed happily. "You don't know how good it is to be back here with all of you!" She reached out to take Olivia's and Gavin's hands. Right now she just wanted physical touch to assure herself this was real and not another dream. "Not that I wasn't welcomed there, but...." She felt tears burn her eyes as she looked at her childhood friends. "As wonderful as they were, they weren't you."
Olivia scooted closer and leaned against Corry's shoulder, letting a content feeling wash over her. "I missed you," she sighed. "Thanksgiving was really weird."
"Okay, I've been patient and waited all evening." Gavin half-turned to face the girl. He squeezed her hand. "Tell me how you did that change thing today."
"It was Wolf's idea." Corry shrugged. She explained what the Guardian had told her. "I really think it has more to do with white reflecting all colors in the spectrum than any given ability I have," she concluded. "I imagine Raph could do the same, given black absorbs all the colors."
"Because they really aren't colors, but shades," Gavin said, nodding. He mulled it over for a moment. "I wonder what else we haven't discovered yet?"
Nisha snorted. "I imagine there are loads of things Zordon and the Guardians haven't shared with any Rangers."
"They are pretty secretive," Jared agreed with a shrug.
"We've been Rangers less than five months," Raph pointed out. "You can't expect them to tell us everything at once."
After a slight pause, Corry added, "It was really weird. I almost felt like I wasn't me, but a combination of all of us while I was in that form." She looked at her friends with a shrug. "I really get the feeling this might just be the tip of a huge iceberg."
"Then let's hope we aren't The Titanic," Nisha quipped.
Corry stared at her, remembering her movie experience. "Oh God, no!" She shuddered.
"I was joking," Nisha told her. She was a little perplexed at the strong reaction, but guessed at the reason. Leaning over, Nisha squeezed her shoulder. "We'll get Thomas back, Corry."
"And Becca and Alex," Gavin added.
"Not to mention everyone else." Raph sighed. "I don't know how, but we ....." He shook his head. "We have to."
"We will." Jared said it confidently, without bravado. It was as certain in his mind as the fact Christmas was quickly approaching. He gazed at his friends, a sure confidence lighting his dark eyes. Holding out his hand, he smiled.
One by one, the team added their hands to the pile. "We swore this when you and Thomas disappeared, Corry," Jared told her. "Until we're seven again."
Corry smiled, warmed by the love of her oldest friends. "Until we're as one again," she agreed.
Gavin recognized the ref and chuckled. "All for one...," he prompted.
"AND ONE FOR ALL!" They responded in unison. The group leaned forward into a hug.
Corry yawned, grinning sheepishly. "Sorry, but I'm on Southern time still. Back there it's three a.m."
"Time for our beauty sleep?" Jared teased. He grunted as Nisha's elbow hit his ribs.
"He who sleeps like the dead shouldn't talk," she said, shaking her head.
"Oh?" Corry's eyebrows rose. "I think more went on when I was gone than you told me!" She winked at the pair.
"We had a middle of the night bonding experience," Jared agreed with a nod. He grinned at Nisha. "Nothing like being woke out of a sound sleep to go get your butt kicked by a former teammate." He grimaced even before Nisha slapped his arm. "Sorry, Cor...."
The girl smiled sadly. "It's okay, Jay." She looked up at the sky. "Just another episode to chalk up against Jett."
Olivia looked at her friend, startled by the venom in her voice. Raph caught her eye and shook his head. He stood. "Well, I, for one, am pooped." He smiled and offered Olivia a hand up. "Why don't we let the Cranstons have some time together?"
They stood up and trooped back into the house to help clean up and say farewell. When they were ready to go, and at the door, there was one last, long group hug.
"Thank you, guys." Corry blinked her misty eyes. "You're just the best."
"Don't forget it." Nisha winked as she linked her arm through Jared's. "Walk me home?"
"Yep." Jared winked at Corry. "Welcome back, kiddo."
Gavin hugged Corry tightly, kissing her cheek. "I missed you," he whispered.
Corry reached up to touch his face, smiling warmly. "I missed you too." She kissed his cheek and smoothed the stray hairs off his forehead that always fell there.
"Come on, 'Livy. Raph and me'll walk you home." Gavin's voice was a bit gruff as he turned away.
Olivia gave her friend a big hug and grin. "Call me in the morning."
"I will," Corry promised, kissing her cheek. "Sweet dreams, 'Livy."
"Go ahead," Raph told them. "I'll catch up." He waited until they had walked off a ways to turn to Corry. His dark eyes swept over her face, concern evident in his expression. "You really okay?"
"Yes," she laughed and reached out to hug him. "I really am." She toyed with a button on his jacket before meeting his gaze. "I'm not gonna fall apart, Raph." Corry knew how much he worried about all of them, and felt responsible for their well-being. "Yes, I'm worried about Thomas, but...." She shook her head. "I'm not going to let that stop me from being happy." Leaning forward, she kissed his cheek. "Thank you for always looking out for me."
Raph shrugged, coloring slightly. "Well," he said, looking away, "someone has to watch out for you." He grinned, a goofy kind of smile that tugged one side of his mouth up. "You're always getting into trouble." Gently pinching her nose, he stepped back. "Get some sleep. Talk to you tomorrow."
Corry waved as the trio disappeared up the street. She closed the door and leaned against it, sighing happily. No, life wasn't perfect, but it was getting better. Hearing her mother's voice and her father's laugh, Corry closed her eyes, feeling content.
There really was no place like home.
* * *
Corry sighed. This was the slowest elevator she'd ever been on. She watched the numbers slowly tick off as the creaky old thing rose. This was not her favorite building -- the elevators were mid-20th century make, and not exactly up to safety standards. Why it was still in use, was beyond her.
Still. Olivia had been insistent they meet there. Her favorite toy store in the world -- FAO Schwartz -- was housed in the building.
She winced as the cables groaned. Suddenly, the car rocked and the lights died. Corry threw out her hands, bracing herself against the walls. "Oh, no...." Closing her eyes, she waited -- half-expecting to feel the car begin to drop. _If it does, I'm teleporting, and Zordon can just like it!_
Something brushed against her face and she recoiled, yelping.
"I thought girls liked romantic situations."
Corry's breath caught in her throat, partly from fear, part from surprise. She could sense him there, but it was too dark to see anything.
"Action adventure. Didn't you say that was your favorite type of holo?"
_How did he find me!_ Fighting to control her fear, Corry gulped air in, hearing her heart pound like a jackhammer. "Holos are one thing, real life is another!" Her voice shook, betraying how scared she was.
"What happened to your sense of fun?" His breath tickled her ear as he brushed behind her.
Corry shivered, already scared out of her wits. "Turn on the lights," she pleaded.
"You don't like the dark?"
His laugh did nothing to reassure her. It was low, and tinged with a wicked enjoyment of her discomfort. "No." Corry shook her head. "Not...not in a creepy old elevator." She tried to think, tried to move, and found she was frozen. "Let me go...please!"
Green light flared and she blinked against the sudden intrusion of light. Corry's eyes widened as she saw him.
Thomas held a burning sphere of light in his hand. It looked like ball lightning, only it was a green color. A cruel smile curved his lips. "Better?"
He was dressed all in black -- black leather jacket and sunglasses finished off the look. His dark hair was slicked back, and tied in a severe ponytail.
In contrast, Corry's white shirt was almost a glowing green in the eerie light.
"No," she whispered. It wasn't better. Now she could see what the others had told her.
Moving closer, until she was pushed up against the elevator wall, Thomas put his arms on either side of her head. "Are you scared of me, Corry?"
She was. Terrified of what this person had become. Unable to move, Corry closed her eyes. "What do you want?"
Corry looked up, eyes huge. Reason was beginning to reassert itself over the fear gripping her and she knew there was only one chance to get free. _I hope I can do this!_ "W-what?" She shook her head. "Let me go!"
"Tell you what." The cruel smile mocked her. "You answer my question correctly and I'll think about it."
"W-what's the question?" He was so close now, his breath fanned her face. Corry swallowed hard, and fought to push her fear down.
"Category is music. 1989. Album was named Pump." Thomas' smile became a leer. "Aerosmith was the group. What song fits this situation?"
_1989!_ Corry blanked. Not that she would have come up with the correct answer, but the look on his face and the situation was too much. She shook her head. "I don't know." She shivered as a predatory smile curved his mouth.
"Oh...not even a guess?" He tsk'd. "Answer?"
Corry shut her eyes, clenched her hands together, took a deep breath.....
"Love in an Elevator."
As he leaned closer she concentrated on summoning the White Power to her hands. As soon as she felt her palms tingling she opened her eyes.
"What?" Thomas straightened, eyes narrowing as he saw her expression.
"White pulse!" Corry threw the ball of crackling light at Thomas.
Thomas barely managed to get his hands up as the white sphere impacted against him. It dispersed across his body, looking almost like white lightning dancing over him. Grimacing, he dropped to one knee. His sunglasses hit the floor as he cradled one hand.
Corry backed away, her finger on the teleport button of her wrist comm. She bit her lip. _I can't just leave, not knowing if he's okay....._
"You've learned some new tricks," he grated out, glaring up at her.
The hate in the obsidian eyes made her flinch. "Are you still going back to her?" Corry couldn't help the anger that filled her voice.
Smirking, Thomas slowly stood. Without a word, he disappeared in green-black flames. Blackness filled the elevator only for a moment, before the lights came back up and the hum of the engine online again filled the car. Jolting slightly, the car began to climb again.
Leaning against the wall, Corry let her breath out in a long sigh. _Oh, God...,_ she silently prayed. _Will this ever end?_
The elevator stopped and the ping announced she had arrived on her floor. The doors slid open to reveal Olivia. "Hey! You made it. I - " Olivia's smile dropped seeing how pale her friend was. "What happened?" She scowled. "Thomas or Jett?"
"Thomas," Corry croaked. She felt suddenly ill. Pushing herself upright, she ran out of the elevator towards the restrooms.
Olivia followed, offering silent comfort as her friend retched. She got some paper towels and wetted them, holding them out to Corry who was rinsing her mouth out with water.
"Thanks." Corry sat on the couch in the lounge and held the cool cloths to her face. "Sorry, 'Livy."
"Don't be." Olivia sat next to her. "I'm just sorry they keep hurting all of us." She put an arm around her friend's shoulder, leaning her head against Corry's. "There has to be something we can do....." The two best friends were silent for a long moment.
Corry sat up, forcing a smile to her face. No sense ruining Olivia's day. "We can Christmas shop." She tossed the towel in the waste bin and hugged Olivia. "You're the best, 'Livy."
"I know." Olivia grinned, winking. "Let's go see what damage we can do to this place!"
"Think they'll let us do kareoke again?" Corry combed fingers through her hair, untangling it. "We didn't do too bad with the Christmas carols last year."
"Let's go try!" Grabbing her hand, Olivia pulled Corry after her.
* * *
"I have something to show you." Olivia stood, then turned. "I haven't shown the others yet." Biting her lip, she hesitated.
Corry looked up, from one of the bags she was looking through. "Someone's Christmas present?"
Olivia shook her head. "No....." She reached into the dimensional pocket that held their morphers and weapons -- and now her secret.
"What?" With a smile, Corry set the bag aside. Her curiosity was piqued as Olivia faced her with a bundle in her hands.
Briefly Olivia told her about the trip out to the Reservation, and what Sam Trueheart had said. "He gave me this." Carefully, the girl unwrapped the deerskin, revealing the woven tapestry.
"Wow," Corry breathed. "That looks really old." It looked like a museum piece, but the colors were still bright. The animals looked real enough to leap off the woven fabric into the room.
"It is." Olivia's hands shook slightly as she unwrapped the blade. "Mr. Trueheart said to use this to summon the Shining Ones."
Eyes wide, Corry stared at the blade. It seemed to gleam with an inner silver luminescence, making it almost look like crystal. "That...." She shook her head. "I've never seen anything like it."
"He said the tapestry is what shields it from the Wraiths." Olivia quickly and carefully re-wrapped the knife and sent it back to its hiding place.
"So...how do you know when to use it?" Corry tucked her hair behind her ear.
"I don't know." Olivia shrugged. "Mr. Trueheart said when things seemed darkest, and hope was all but gone....." Shaking her head, she sat. "That was when all this first happened." Her dark eyes were troubled. "Do you think this means things will get worse?"
Corry looked at her hands, as she clasped them. "I don't know, 'Livy. I guess it's possible." Sighing, the girl stood. "It's almost time to meet with the others." They had made plans to do something about getting Thomas back that night -- before Jett had time to notice White Ranger's return. "I have one thing to do, then I'll meet you there, okay?"
"Cor?" Olivia reached out to grasp her friend's arm. "Are you-"
"I'm fine." Corry hugged the younger girl, flashing a smile. They walked to the door of the Park's home and Corry waved. "See you in a little bit!"
Olivia nodded and watched her jog off. Something was bothering her, but she clearly wasn't ready to discuss it yet. With a sigh, Olivia turned and went to find her father. Talking to him always helped when she was worried.
* * *
Corry slightly opened the huge door and peeked in. No one. Just light streaming in from the stained-glass windows, tinting the empty pews.
Slipping inside, Corry walked silently up the middle aisle. She looked around, half-afraid someone was going to pop out and yell at her for trespassing. When she reached the third pew from the front, she sat.
It was a simple, beautiful altar. A see-through podium for the Pastor to put his notes on was in the center, towards the front. To the left was a piano that looked as though many hands had played the yellowed ivory keys. Many players had sat on the worn bench. There was a large dark brown table to the right, with one large white candle atop it. The words, "Do this in remembrance of me," were carved into the side of the table.
Corry clasped her hands, and bit her lip as she leaned forward on the pew in front of her. She could feel the peace of the place. It was the same permeating sense of gentle power she sensed whenever Wolf had come to guide her. Closing her eyes, Corry was silent, just letting the peace seep into her.
_It's been...so long...since I've been here. I don't even know ...._ Corry sighed. It had all been so simple as a child. She had knelt at her bed and said prayers like her parents had taught her. They still went to church, but it had almost just become routine for her.
The wonder and awe from her earliest memories was missing.
Why was it so hard now?
Images of all she'd gone through came to mind. _The darkness had touched her. She still felt insecure about that. Somehow it had never occurred to her that being a Ranger would touch your soul somehow. And yet, that is what Jett seemed to be able to do. Reach in and twist your insides, your thoughts.....
Tonight was when they were planning to try and call Thomas out. _I don't know if I can face him again...._
Hearing someone pulling open the huge door, Corry ducked down. For some reason she just didn't feel like facing anyone at the time. She had too many questions, too many emotions tangled up inside of her, to voice what she was feeling.
Muted footsteps echoed as someone walked up the aisle, just like she had. Corry peeked up in time to glimpse an older man. His hair was dark, but grey streaked the temples. Light blue eyes were set in a lined face that spoke of hours in the sun. She had seen smile lines around his mouth though, so he wasn't entirely somber.
He walked up the stairs, to the altar, and Corry heard him moving around up there. She almost jumped when he started to sing in a beautiful tenor.
I've seen the darkness
And it saw me
But here in the light
Where the dark can't see
There is a sweet glow of mercy that covers me
Now I am found
But once was lost
And there in the gutter
Where the wheels came off
There was a sweet glow of mercy that covered me
Stunned at the words, Corry sat listening. She had expected a somber hymn or some song about repentance perhaps. This.... This she could relate to.
It picked me up
And set me right
Brought me day
And killed my night
Mercy's there at every turn
Mercy gives what I can't earn
Gonna let that sweet glow of mercy
Yeah, that sweet glow of mercy
Gonna let that sweet glow of mercy cover me
He was moving around as he sang, probably dusting, or cleaning.
Sitting between the pews, Corry hung on the words. They applied to her, and the others, almost frighteningly well. _I never knew they had songs like this...in church!_
I've been known to run
But I can't hide
I can't get away
>From the light inside
There is a sweet glow of mercy that covers me
I have fun
I go fast
But when the pull
Of this life has passed
There will be a sweet glow of mercy that covers me
It'll pick me up
And set me right
Bring me day
And kill my night
Mercy's there at every turn
Mercy gives what I can't earn
Gonna let that sweet glow of mercy
Yeah, that sweet glow of mercy
Gonna let that sweet glow of mercy cover me
It was almost too much.
Scrambling to her feet, Corry sprang up, and the man stopped singing when he saw her.
"Hello," he said softly. His voice was deep, friendly. The light blue eyes had a twinkle in them.
"Did you know I was there?" Corry gripped the pew in front of her tightly, almost afraid of his answer.
"I didn't see you." He walked over to sit on the first step. He was dressed in brown slacks, and a white sweater.
"Are you the Pastor?"
"No." He shook his head. "The acoustics are quite good, aren't they?" The man looked around. "I love the way the light shines through those windows."
Bewildered by his answer, Corry looked at the windows. "They're beautiful," she admitted. Feeling his gaze on her, she looked at him. "Are you a member of the congregation?"
"Yes." He smiled, then looked to the windows again. "You know, there was a time, this old church was almost condemned. It was empty, and no one seemed to care. Those beautiful windows were covered in soot and grime." He shook his head. "You couldn't even tell they were a work of art."
Curious despite herself, Corry edged out into the aisle. "What happened?"
"There were a few people who remembered what a treasure the church was, and began to rally others to support them." The man looked around. "To look at it now, you would never know it had once been so, would you?"
"No." Corry backed away. "Um...I was just curious what it looked like." She offered a half-smile. "I'm sorry to intrude."
"You didn't." The man slowly stood. "Did you find what you came searching for?"
"What?" She stopped, blinking. "I...." It had been on the tip of her tongue to say no, when she realized she had, indeed found answers. Corry nodded slowly. "I think I did." Her comm began to vibrate and she grabbed her wrist, eyes wide. "Um....I have to go. Thank you for telling me about this place. It's beautiful!" She turned and ran, pausing at the door, to give him one last look. "Thank you."
As the door slowly shut with a heavy thunk, light began to glow around the man. His form became a bright silver-white tinged with blue as it shifted to another form.
When the light died down, a huge grey and white wolf stood in his place. Light blue eyes twinkled merrily as it looked around the church. Pacing forward, it stepped into one of the pools of light streaming down from the windows. Brilliant colors and patterns hit the silver-grey coat of the wolf as it lifted its face to the beam of light.
Wolf slowly disappeared, leaving only the peaceful serenity of the church, and the brilliant patterns of light still shining down into the aisle.
* * *
It reminded her the night she and Gavin had stood in the same plaza, waiting to be attacked by the Wraiths. _But we had Thomas with us then._ Corry shivered as the wind blew against her. The cold might not touch her in her armored form, but the memories could. The sky was clouding over, as another storm rolled in.
The memory of standing on a rooftop, in weather much like this, was fresh in her mind. _Jett isn't going to fool me this time!_ As if to reassure herself, Corry touched the gold coin set on the center of her armored shield. Even through the gloves she could feel the image of the wolf blazoned there. Thinking of Wolf gave her strength.
"Cor?" Gavin's voice over her internal comm broke into her thoughts.
"You okay? Your vital signs are pretty elevated."
She smiled wryly, scanning the plaza for any sign of Wraiths or the Green Ranger. "I'm nervous, Gav. That's all."
His quiet snort of disbelief said volumes. "You're getting to be as much of an adrenaline junkie as Jared!"
"Hardly." She was excited...but, also, scared to death.
Knowing they were monitoring her, Corry nodded. The plaza's streetlights came on as dusk passed into darkness. Corry moved away from the light so she could see better.
The smallest whisper of movement was her only warning, as her vision was suddenly filled with green. Reacting instinctively, she dove to one side. Rolling to her feet, she saw him standing, watching.
Corry fought to steady her racing heart. Even thought she had been expecting him, his stealthy arrival caught her off-guard. She took a step back then stopped, lifting her chin as she looked right at him. "Hello, Thomas." She was proud of how steady her voice sounded.
The Green armored figure didn't move.
Remembering what the others told her about Jett trying to trick them with the empty armor, Corry took a step sideways. He still didn't move. She took another step, then another, beginning to circle him.
His move was so sudden, so swift, he was standing right before her before she could blink. Corry belatedly reacted, and stopped as he held her in place. She looked down at her arm in shock. "Let go." She began to feel the cold edge of panic as he just stared at her. _Where are the others?!_ Forcing herself to be calm, Corry put an edge on her voice. "Let..me..go."
"W-what...?" Corry watched in shock as the armor dematerialized from him. For a moment she'd thought the command had been directed to her.
His eyes were darker than before, almost pure black. He smiled. It was the same devil-may-care smile. "Feel safer? He released her arm, but didn't move away, staying close to her. "Now you're all covered in power and armor and I'm..." He held out his arms and shrugged. Dressed all in black, he looked as dangerous as his guardian animal, the Panther.
Corry wasn't fooled, but she didn't like the challenging gleam in his eyes either. Throwing caution to the wind, she took a deep breath. "Power down." She raised her chin defiantly as the white armor melted from her. "So. Now what?" She brushed back a wisp of hair the wind blew in her face.
He smiled innocently. "You tell me."
Corry narrowed her eyes, feeling totally lost all of a sudden. _This isn't the way it was supposed to go!_
Thomas took a small step closer, and tilted his head. One dark eyebrow rose in a question.
Her eyes widened a little. He was less than a foot away from her, and smiling a very charming, warm smile.
His eyes were still obsidian though.
That chilled Corry, and she frowned. "Are you here as Jett's pet lapdog, Thomas?"
Something flickered deep in his eyes, and the smile faded. "That wasn't very nice."
"No," Corry agreed coolly. "It wasn't. But your mistress tried to fry me with lightning and then sent me to Never Never Land. Her plan was to leave me there." She shoved a finger at his chest, pushing him back slightly. "If it wasn't for the Wolf, I'd still be there!"
Thomas blinked, an uncertain expression filtering through the cold, controlled look. "You saw the Wolf?"
She nodded. "He helped me get to a place where I could gather my scattered wits and regroup." Her eyes glittered icily. "No thanks to your...mistress."
A smile tilted the corners of his mouth. "You sound jealous."
Corry felt her cool evaporate, as her temper flared. "Listen to me, you thick-skulled, jolt-headed oaf! You're a puppet again! Jett's boy toy! How does it feel to be controlled again, Thomas?" She moved closer, so their faces were only inches apart, even though she still had to look up slightly. "Are you happy now?"
Uncertainty warred with anger in his expression. "You have no right to talk about Jett like that."
That was the last straw. Corry snarled, drew back her arm, fisted her hand and put her entire weight behind her punch.
Thomas reeled back, covering his eye with one hand. "You hit me!" He looked at her in disbelief.
"You had it coming!" Corry shook her hand, wincing. That had hurt! "Maybe it'll bring some sense into that ponytailed head of yours!"
"I can't believe you hit me." He stared at her in complete shock.
Corry shook her hand, wincing slightly as it ached. "Be happy I wasn't morphed, mister!" It never looked that painful in the holos! Watching him warily, she noticed his eyes were brown instead of black. "Thomas?" She bit her lip, afraid to trust him -- to get too close.
Blue eyes met brown for a timeless moment as they stared at each other.
"Corry?" He sounded dazed, confused. Wincing, Thomas closed his eyes. "I feel...strange."
She had a hunch -- a flash of insight -- and decided to toss logic out and go with her instinct. "Draanov? Are you listening?"
In a flash of black light, the man appeared. Wearing his black armor, and frowning slightly, the dark-skinned man might have frightened the girl if she didn't know him for what he truly was -- an angel. His frown grew as he looked at Thomas. "There is a darkness surrounding this one, Corriane." His sword materialized in his hand.
"No!" Corry threw out her arms, blocking any advance he had intended to make towards Thomas. "I need your help." She looked up at Draanov, reaching out to touch his arms. "Please. Thomas is our Green Ranger. Jett stole him away."
Thomas' eyes had widened as soon as he caught sight of Draanov. There was an unmistakable aura of power and Light around this man -- despite his tough appearance. Being in the presence of both the White Ranger and this being was clearing his mind faster than he had hoped. "That's not...quite...true."
Taking a deep breath, Thomas took a wary step closer. "I was given a choice."
Corry bit her bottom lip hard as she turned to face him. The Rangers hadn't told her about this. "What?"
"Jett gave me a choice." Thomas met her gaze squarely. "Join her or watch the Rangers die." His gaze went to the man standing behind the girl. "I chose to ...to join her."
"No..." Corry shook her head. Hearing those words hurt her more than she wanted to admit.
"It was my own free will." Thomas couldn't lie. Not to her, and not in the face of this being.
"Not quite, Green Ranger." Draanov's voice was laced with dry humor. "Having a threat hung over you as you chose is not what I call free will." He laid a hand on Corry's shoulder, sensing the girl's distress, and sobered. "But now, you do chose freely. Will you return to the Wraiths or come with those who care for you?"
"How....?" Thomas shook his head. "There are still..things..inside of me. Jett...," he hesitated, looking at Corry again.
The girl's hands fisted as her chin came up. "I know what Jett wanted, Thomas." She reached up to touch Draanov's hand, seeking reassurance. "What do YOU want?" Looking up, she pinned him with her gaze.
"To be free." It was barely a whisper, but Thomas had never wanted anything so much in his entire life.
Draanov nodded. "And so shall you be, Green Ranger. But," the angel shook his head, "for the time being you must remain as you are."
"What?" Corry whirled to face the man, completely dismayed. "But why?"
"He's right." Thomas sighed wearily. It wasn't what he wanted, but he could see what the man was getting at. As Corry turned to protest, he cut her off, shaking his head. "If I was changed now Jett would know." He took a step closer, dredging up a slight smile. "We can use this to our advantage."
Looking from Draanov to Thomas, Corry shook her head. "No.... I still don't see-"
"Corry." Thomas gently grasped her arms, squeezing them. "I can help you get to the Wraith's dimension. We can fight this on their home turf instead of ripping up Angel Grove." He looked at Draanov who nodded. "Think of me as an ace in the pocket."
"What?" She shook her head impatiently. "How?" Corry scowled at him. "How can you be the creep you were on the elevator, and still be...." She looked up at him, feeling very uncertain. "You?" The memory of that encounter was still fresh in her memory. His touch had made her skin crawl and sent alarms off in her head.
That wasn't happening now, but..... She wondered if it was only because Draanov was present. Still, she almost felt as though she just...knew. Corry shook off her musings as the angel spoke.
"I believe that is where I come in." Draanov smiled slightly.
"Exactly." Thomas slid his hands down Corry's arms to take her hands in his. "As long as Draanov is with me, I'm not under Jett's influence."
"And when he's not?" Corry scowled and shook her head. "You'll know what our plan is! You'll tell the Wraiths...and her."
"Then he'll have to be with me all the time." Thomas looked at Draanov, who nodded. He grinned lopsidedly at Corry, throwing every ounce of charm into convincing the stubborn girl. "This is our chance to get the kids from the shelter, Becca and Alex back, Cor."
After a long moment, Corry reluctantly nodded. She scowled at him. "But if you so much as breathe a word of this to that witch, Thomas -"
"I'll have another shiner to match the one I have?"
She nodded, a sober expression on her face. "Count on it." A reluctant smile curved her mouth as he reached up to brush his knuckle across her cheek, and nodded, equally somber.
"I won't." The sincerity in his expression and voice did a lot to melt her resistance. Seeing her eyes soften, Thomas pulled her into his arms and hugged her. "Thank you," he whispered into her hair.
This was their Thomas -- not the tormentor Jett had created. Corry hugged him tightly, and felt tears burn her eyes. Their Ranger, but she could sense the darkness still in him. Reluctantly she pulled away to look up at him. His eyes were still a warm brown and no arrogant expression marred his features. But....
"What?" Thomas wondered what was going on inside her head as she stared at him for a long moment. Her blue eyes were clear -- and for a second he got the impression she could almost see to his soul.
Slowly Corry reached up to brush her fingers through his hair that had come lose of its elastic holder. She gently touched the brow above the eye she'd punched and winced. "You're gonna have a shiner."
"My badge of honor." Thomas winked with his good eye, and took her hand in his. "Nice left hook, by the way."
Corry blushed slightly. "You asked for it," she demurred.
"Forgive me for interrupting," Draanov was smiling as he stepped over to the pair. "But we really must move quickly to gain this advantage."
As if on cue, Corry's wrist comm vibrated. "Gav?"
"What's going on?" His voice was full of concern. "We saw you morph back to civilian and lost the signal!"
"We have Thomas." Corry looked at him. "Draanov and I are bringing him in."
The girl hesitated for a long moment. Taking a deep breath, she said, "We'll teleport to the infirmary, Gav. See you there." She cut the comm off and looked at Draanov. "Let's go."
Three teleportation beams lit up the plaza in one beam of pure silver-white, one darkest ebony, and one brilliant green, then flashed off towards the desert, leaving the downtown area once again dark and deserted.
* * *
"You punched him." Gavin stared at Corry in total shock. "I thought you were opposed to physical violence?"
"I am. Usually." Corry winced as her hand throbbed again. "He had it coming, Gav."
"Agreed." Gavin grinned. "I'm not saying it wasn't appropriate-"
"Pow!" Nisha winked at Corry. "The big man goes down!"
"I'm proud of ya, girl." Nisha hugged her. "Didn't think you had it in you."
"How is he?" Olivia asked. The whole situation had her upset, but things were at least beginning to go right again.
"Will's checking him over." Raph squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.
"What did they teach you in that other dimension?" Jared nudged Corry with his elbow. "Guess all the theories of how violent the late twentieth century were are true, huh?"
Corry stuck her tongue out at him. "They were totally welcoming!" She sobered. "If it wasn't for them I would still think Jett had stripped me of the White power." Smiling at Olivia who came over to stand next to her, Corry hugged the girl. "It's great to be home though."
The door to the infirmary opened and Will walked out. He smiled at the six faces watching him. "Go ahead." Will gestured the group towards the door and stepped out of the way to let them in.
Thomas was sitting on the diagnostic bed, and looked up as they entered.
Nisha giggled a little seeing one eye was still swollen shut. She stopped when Corry elbowed her, contenting herself with a grin.
Raph broke the slightly strained silence. "Welcome back, Thomas." He held out his hand.
Thomas stood and shook the younger boy's hand. "Man," he sighed in a heartfelt voice, "is it good to see you guys again." His smile faltered a little as he looked to the others.
Corry walked over to stand next to Draanov who stood directly behind Thomas. She looked up at the angel who smiled in reassurance.
"Is he really...okay?" Gavin couldn't help feel a tiny bit of apprehension as he looked at Thomas. The guy had threatened to kill him, and almost carried it out. That was a little hard to forget.
"He isn't gonna go psycho on us again, is he?" Nisha had the same doubts. No one had ever frightened her as badly as Thomas had. Ever. She wasn't about to trust him that quickly.
Jared stepped forward to offer his hand to Thomas. "No hard feelings?" He met the young man's eyes steadily. His parents had told him what had happened to Tommy Oliver and his unique way of joining the team. If they had been able to forgive Tommy and welcome him.... In fact his father and Tommy had been the best of friends. All but brothers.
Surprise lit Thomas' dark eyes. "Shouldn't I be asking you that?" He firmly shook Jared's hand. Gavin and Nisha's hesitation hadn't been lost on him. Neither was the way Olivia hung back, as if afraid to approach.
Corry shoved aside her own feelings of apprehension and moved to thread her arm through Thomas'. She caught and held each of her teammates' gaze one by one. "We're seven again," she reminded them quietly.
"Yeah, but...." Nisha frowned slightly. "I can't just forget like that." She snapped her fingers.
"Then don't," Corry responded sharper than she had intended. She sighed as Draanov gently squeezed her shoulder. "We need to be united on this," she said in a calmer voice. "Or the Wraiths will rip us up and spit us out."
"She's right." Jared turned to look at his girlfriend. "If you can't forget, then at least forgive. It wasn't his fault, Nish."
"Any more than it was our parent's fault when they attacked us." Raph stepped into the chasm between the two groups. "We were all possessed at one point. I think we all know how we felt when we came out of that. And I don't need to, but I will remind you, Thomas helped get our parents, and us, back."
Nisha looked down, her face reddening slightly. "I'm sorry," she muttered. "I can't help feeling cautious."
Olivia walked forward and held out a slightly shaking hand. "Thomas, welcome back." She looked up tentatively, smile growing as he gently took her hand and squeezed it.
"Thank you, 'Livy." Thomas felt horrible for what he had done to this gentle girl. "I'm sorry-"
"I know." She smiled shyly. "You'll make it up if I know you." Ducking her head, she darted over to stand next to Corry.
Gavin sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Okay, I can forgive you. Just...," he smiled wryly. "Please don't ever come after me again." He looked up and saw the sincerity in the man's dark eyes. "Because you just never know what a Skullovich can do." With a grin he held out his hand and shook Thomas' firmly.
"That's the truth," Corry muttered. She winked at him.
"Okay." Nisha took a deep breath and walked over to face Thomas. "I have never been afraid to admit I was wrong, or face anyone, or anything." She met his gaze and held it for a long moment. "You scared the crap outta me, Thomas. I don't think I can forget that, but...." A reluctant smile curved her mouth. "I can learn to live with it." She held out her hand and shook his, nodding. "Welcome back."
"RANGERS," Zordon's voice interrupted on their comm's. "PLEASE ASSEMBLE IN THE POWER CHAMBER."
"Uh oh," Jared muttered. "Sounds serious."
"Let's go." Raph gestured for everyone to move.
Will followed, curious to know what was going on. He almost ran into Thomas who had stopped suddenly at the entrance to the Power Chamber. "What....?"
Draanov raised one eyebrow. "The Panther is here."
The Rangers parted to allow Thomas to go first. Draanov stayed back with the rest of the team, watching with an easy smile.
Corry bit her lip and gave Raph a worried look. He shook his head and shrugged. Slowly, the rest of the team and Will filed in to stand behind Thomas.
The big black cat stood, its tail slowly moving back and forth. Its amber eyes were on the young man approaching. *Thomas...* it acknowledged, pacing forward until it stood right before him. Its gaze went to Draanov and the Panther nodded.
Draanov nodded solemnly.
"Have you come to...to...disown me?" Thomas' voice was barely a whisper.
*Cub,* rebuked the Panther. *Have I not told you I will NEVER leave you?* The cat sighed and sat, twitching one ear. *I have come to make sure you all realize where you now stand.*
"I can hear it," Gavin realized. Usually he could only hear his individual Guardian.
A feral smile curved the cat's mouth, showing white teeth. *Indeed, Gavin. I speak for all the Guardians tonight.* Its gaze swept over the assembled group. *You stand at a cross-roads, younglings. The turning point is at hand.*
"Turning point?" Raph echoed. "Because we're back together?"
*Partly.* Panther stood and glanced at Zordon. *There is more to all of this than has been revealed to you, young ones.* It walked past Raph and Jared. *Up to now it has been a fight for survival and learning. You have learned to be a team, to find your strengths. You have discovered your weaknesses.* It glanced at Nisha and nodded. *You have been tested as any warrior must be.* Passing Gavin and Olivia it stopped. *You have found there can be compassion in the midst of battle, and indeed, there must be. Or you risk becoming that which you battle against.* It walked over to Corry. *You have tested the boundaries and found there is more than you dreamed waiting for you. And,* Panther ended back up standing in front of Thomas. *You have strayed away, and been found again, to be brought back into the fold.* The big cat nodded. *We are all proud of you, young ones. But now....* Panther's gaze swept over all of them. "Now, you must go beyond what you are comfortable with. A new level.* Its tone was gentle. *Life is a journey, not a destination you reach. To live is to grow.*
"Where are we going?" Jared, as usual, cut to the chase in a no-nonsense way. He shrugged as his teammates looked at him in dismay. "What?"
"Mr. Tactful," Gavin muttered.
Corry pressed her lips together to keep from laughing. It didn't work. Before long, they were all laughing. The tension that had built was eased a bit by the team's laughter.
*You must take the battle to the enemy.* Panther walked to stand in front of Zordon's column. *Know that wherever you go, no matter how far, you are never where we cannot reach you. We are always with you.* The big cat nodded to them. *Go in the Light, and do not fear, young ones.*
The teens and Will had to look away as the Panther's form began to glow a brilliant green. When they could look again, the big cat was gone.
"What the heck did that cat mean?" Nisha shook her head, sighing. "Just once...I wish they'd say something plainly!"
"RANGERS," Zordon's voice drew every eye in the room to him. "THOMAS AND I DISCUSSED THIS. HE HAS AGREED TO HELP YOU INFILTRATE THE WRAITHS DIMENSION."
"Take the battle...." Raph's eyes widened. "You mean that literally!"
Thomas nodded. "I'll go back." Quickly he added, "With Draanov's help I won't be totally zombified again. Zordon suggested a way to get all of you there also."
Nisha shot a disbelieving look first at Thomas then Corry. "You're for this?"
"Yes." Corry crossed her arms and gazed evenly at her friend. "You have a better idea?"
"This is as bad as the very first plan you had!" Nisha said, scowling. She walked over to stand right before Corry. "Going back in time to get Thomas was bad enough. This is...."
"Nisha," Corry's voice was that of a person pushed to the limit. "Do you think I like this? I don't. However," she straightened, eyes glittering. "I don't see an alternative plan. If you have one, please...tell us."
Taken aback by her friend's tone, Nisha blinked. "No. But-"
"Then I suggest we listen." Crossing her arms again, Corry sighed. "The Panther said to take the battle to the enemy, Nish." She walked over to lean against the glass cases housing the previous team's uniforms, separating herself a little from the team.
"Us...against all those Wraiths?" Nisha shook her head. "We'll be annihilated!"
"YOU WILL NOT BE ALONE." Zordon assured her. "WE HAVE ALREADY CONTACTED ALLIES WHO ARE PREPARED TO AIDE YOU IN THIS ENDEAVOUR."
"Does that mean other Rangers?" Jared asked hopefully. "You mean, Trey?"
Zordon shook his head. "THERE ARE OTHERS. BEHOLD."
In the center of the Power Chamber, a hologram of five uniformed Rangers appeared. They wore armor much like the team's, but where Earth's defenders had their animals emblazoned on their coins, this team had a narrow strip bearing all the colors of their team.
"Who are they?" Gavin asked curiously. He walked around the hologram. "They're human?"
"YES." Zordon smiled. "IN FACT ALL BUT TWO OF THEM ARE FROM EARTH."
"Earth?" Raph shook his head. "Why haven't we ever heard of them?"
"ONLY WILLIAM KNOWS OF THEIR EXISTENCE," Zordon explained. He looked at the man who nodded.
Will picked up the tale. "They came to us before any of you were born. Their world, KO-35 came under attack and they were forced to leave. All but two of their Rangers died in the conflict, and one was placed in stasis to heal from near fatal wounds." He sighed. "We had just fought the battle that drove all the evil from Earth not months before. Zordon and I made the decision to not tell any of the other Rangers and let everyone live in peace for ...." Will shrugged. "However long it lasted. At that point we had no idea it would be this long." He looked at the holo-image and smiled. "Their leader is named Andros, Red Astro Ranger. He's one of the Kerovans on the team. When he first came here, all he sought was time to heal so he could go and get revenge for his homeworld." Pushing a couple of controls, Will brought up an image of Andros over that of the Red Astro Ranger. "What he ended up with is four Earthers who became members of his team." He brought up the unmorphed images of the rest of the Astro Rangers. "Cassie Chan was Pink, Carlos Vega was Black, TJ Andrews was Blue and Ashley Hammond is still the Yellow Astro Ranger."
"That's Vanessa's mom!" Olivia pointed to the Pink Astro Ranger. "Vanessa Bulkmeier is two years behind me!"
"No way!" Gavin's jaw dropped open. "I've known the Bulkmeiers...forever. How could they....?" He looked at Will, obviously confused.
"Vanessa is too young to take up her position yet, but she is the heir to the Yellow Astro powers." Will shrugged. "Farkas and Cassie spend time both here, and on KO-35, so that Vanessa will be trained properly."
"How do they keep this secret?!" Nisha was surprised, but not as much as the others. She had always known Zordon held back much of what he knew. "Why didn't anyone know?"
"They just...go to this place and no one questions it?" Jared scratched the back of his neck.
"Do they ever wonder when all of you disappear?" Will smiled gently.
"True." The youth grinned wryly.
"Who is the current team?" Raph studied the armor, noting slight differences. The Astro's armor was more streamlined, more form-fitting than their own.
"Andros is still the Red Astro Ranger. His wife, Ashley, is Yellow. Monika, their daughter, is the team's Black Astro Ranger." Will gestured to Carlos. "Dante, the son of Carlos and Emily Vargas is the Blue Astro Ranger. The Pink Ranger is Rhea." He smiled and brought up two last holograms. "Rhea is the daughter of Zhane and Karone. Zhane is the team's Silver Astro Ranger and Karone is Andros' sister."
"Holy smokes." Gavin sat with a thump on one of the stools next to a console. "This is gettin' to be a family thing."
"ON KO-35 RANGERING IS HERIDITARY," Zordon explained. "THAT CONTINUATION WAS BROKEN WITH THE COLONIES DESTRUCTION, BUT THE CURRENT TEAM IS REVIVING THE KEROVAN TRADITIONS."
"With some help from Earth," Raph added with a smile.
"So, these are the people that will help us?" Nisha studied the images of the team.
"Yes." Will smiled as he nodded. "They were more than happy to offer their help. Their team is a little more mixed as far as ages than ours, but I don't think that will be a problem."
"Why can't we work with you?" Olivia asked. "After all, you and all of our parents have a stake in this too."
Will shook his head. "We'll stay to defend Earth, 'Livy." He sighed. "Besides, the Astro Rangers have full Ranger abilities that we Morphin Warriors don't."
"Do they know about what has been going on here?" Thomas had been silent until then realizing they truly were moving on to a much bigger step.
"WE HAVE KEPT IN CONTACT WITH THE ASTRO RANGERS FOR SOME TIME NOW."
"Why couldn't they help us when you were missing?" Corry asked her father. She remembered how frantically they'd searched for allies -- and how no one had answered.
"No signals were going in or out from Earth at that time," Will pointed out. "Trey had a hard time getting through, and that was with Pyramidas." He sighed. "They would have helped if they had known, Corry."
"Another episode to chalk up to the Wraiths," Gavin muttered.
"How are we going to go then?" Jared shook his head. "Is Trey helping us?"
"We'll establish a tight-link beam with them and teleport you." Will nodded to Draanov. "Draanov is actually providing the bulk of the power for it with his sword."
"And Thomas and Draanov will go back...wherever it is Wraiths go?" Raph didn't like splitting up again, but it was beginning to look necessary.
Will nodded. "Once you're on KO-35, Thomas will contact you there."
Nisha straightened. "When do we go?"
"IT WILL BE BEST TO GO RIGHT AWAY, RANGERS." Zordon didn't miss the dismay on their faces. "I WILL EXPLAIN TO YOUR PARENTS. WE MUST MOVE BEFORE JETT DOES."
"I'll distract her," Thomas said with a sigh. "Keep her focus off you." The thought was not appealing to him at all. He saw Corry turn abruptly, almost running out of the Chamber and winced. This wasn't going to be easy on any of them.
Almost as one, Raph, Olivia, Jared, Nisha and Gavin turned to look at Thomas. He blinked at them, seeing their expectant expressions. He nodded. "Guess I'll go talk to her." Taking several steps, he stopped to glance at Draanov.
"I will remain here," the big man told him. "You will be within the sphere of my protection as long as you are within this building."
With a curt nod, Thomas took off after Corry.
"He CAN be taught," Gavin muttered acerbically.
Raph shot him a quelling look. "Go easy on him, Gav. Those two have a rough road ahead of them." He sighed. "And we can't afford to have them at odds." He knew things wouldn't go back to what they had been before all this started, but all Raph wanted was the team to be strong and whole. Rifts between friends were weaknesses an enemy could exploit.
With so much on the line, they couldn't afford that.
* * *
He found her in DragonZord's aqua bay, leaning back against the ancient Zord's head. She watched him with an unreadable expression as he approached.
"Draanov said I'd be okay within the building," he offered in way of explanation for the angel's absence.
Corry nodded, and looked away.
"I'm surprised you came here." Thomas reached out to touch the green metal. He was always surprised at the sense of awareness he got from the Zord.
"It's ancient." Corry said, shrugging. "There's a sense of calmness around it. Probably from all those eons of sitting in the ocean, waiting." She looked directly at him, eyes a clear crystal blue. "I needed some of that."
"This isn't going to be easy for either of us," Thomas agreed quietly. He met her gaze. "I won't lie to you about what happened, or what my part in it is. And, I wouldn't blame you for not wanting to have much to do with me...." His throat tightened, but he pushed on, determined to get it out in the open between them. He didn't want them to go into this with unspoken words between them. "I know you and I only went on a couple dates, " Thomas gave a wry smile. "And, the second ended badly. We never even have more than just a couple of minutes to talk it seems." He took a deep breath and reached out to take her hands in his. "I don't want to lose you over this, Corry. Two dates might not be much, and several months knowing each other even less, but I know what I feel for you doesn't come along every day." As her eyes widened, he added, "You don't have to answer. I just...." Thomas let his eyes wander over her face, memorizing it. "I wanted to say it while..while the words could be said."
Her grip tightened on his hands as he started to let go and he looked at her questioningly. "Are you through?" she asked evenly.
Not knowing quite how to reply, Thomas just nodded.
Corry nodded once. "Then let me say this." She stepped closer, looking up at him. "I have no intentions of letting you be a martyr, or of letting Jett win. Nothing would convince me to leave you there with her, so you can just put that thought out of your mind." She shook her head. "I got you back twice from her so far, Thomas. What in the world makes you think I'll give up on you now?" A wistful smile curved her mouth.
His eyes warmed seeing the smile, and he slipped his arms around her waist, gently pulling her closer. "I forgot how stubborn you are," he murmured.
Taking hold of his jacket, Corry's smile widened, cheeks warming slightly. She looked up, eyes softening. "Thomas-"
"Shh...." He leaned forward, gently capturing her lips in a kiss. He had intended it only to be a sweet first kiss, but Corry slid her arms around his neck and pulled him deeper into it. When they broke apart, both were breathless, hearts pounding. His eyebrows rose of their own volition, showing his surprise.
A mischievous smile curved Corry's mouth, something in her eyes showing a wisdom beyond that of her true age. "That," she told him, gently brushing his hair back from his forehead, "was to jog your faulty memory."
He smiled appreciatively. "That, I'll remember."
A tingling on her wrist told her it was time to go. Corry slipped her arms under his jacket, pressing her face against his chest as they held each other tightly. The steady beating of his heart, and the warmth of his breath on her hair was so comforting, so right, she didn't ever want to leave. They both had responsibilities beyond those of their wishes though, and Corry drew away first. She mustered a smile, and met his eyes.
Taking her hand, he gently pressed something into her palm and closed her fingers around it. Raising her fist, he kissed it. "Don't look now," Thomas instructed her softly. "See you on the other side." He slowly let go of her hand, eyes meeting hers.
Corry nodded, tightened her fist and turned sharply, walking swiftly out of the bay.
As the door slid shut behind her, Thomas let out his breath and leaned back against DragonZord. He closed his eyes, and hid the memory of their time together deep in his mind.
It was time to go back.
* * *
Gavin turned as the door opened sighed in relief. "There you are. We were just about to send out the Calvary."
She walked over to join the others, standing next to her father. "Dad...." Tears filled her eyes. She'd just come home and now she had to leave again.
"We'll be in contact." Will hugged her hard, whispering, "I love you." Tears misted his eyes as he let her go.
"We'll be back before you know it." Corry held out her hand, a shaky smile trembling on her lips. Her father looped his pinkie around hers and nodded, then stepped back.
"Where's Thomas?" Olivia took hold of Corry's hand, moving closer to her as much to comfort her as to help fight her own nervousness. She was scared to death and wanted nothing more than to teleport home.
"He said he'll see us there." Corry squeezed Olivia's hand and forced herself to smile. "It's okay, 'Livy." Looking to the rest she asked, "Are we ready then?"
Gavin walked over to stand on the other side of Corry and took her hand. Raph stood between Olivia and Nisha. Jared was on Nisha's other side. They linked hands, forming a circle, as Draanov began to glow.
"Tell our parents we love them," Raph called to Will. His face was somber as the older man nodded. The weight of responsibility rested heavy on the teen as he stood preparing to leave his homeworld.
"We'll send a postcard," Jared joked. He tightened his grip on Nisha's hand, smiling to cover his nervousness.
"And bring back a t-shirt." Nisha hid her trembling lips with a smile.
Olivia closed her eyes as tears blurred her vision. She felt both hands on either side tighten their grip and clung to them tightly.
"Don't do anything we wouldn't!" Gavin called. His eyes burned too, even as he smiled.
"That leaves a lot open," Corry commented wryly. She met her father's gaze and mouthed the words 'I love you' to him.
Will nodded and smiled. The door slid open behind him, and Thomas walked in to the Chamber, now glowing with white light.
"We'll be home for Christmas!" Corry yelled as their forms began to blur into their respective Ranger colors.
Will and Thomas shielded their eyes as the Rangers became brightly colored columns of energy, each glowing the purest colors they'd ever seen. The columns grew too bright to look at, then seemed to leap upwards, disappearing through the top of the Power Chamber.
Draanov, eyes closed, his sword held before him, continued to glow brightly for a bit longer. After a breathless moment, he smiled and opened his eyes as the white light began to decrease. "They have arrived," he announced, nodding.
"Then it's time for us to go." Thomas turned to say good-bye to Will, only to be engulfed in an embrace.
"Be careful," Will told him. He stepped back.
Thomas nodded, and looked over to Draanov. "Ready?"
The angel walked over to stand next to him. "No one will see me from here on except you, Thomas."
With a nod, Thomas closed his eyes. He reached inside to a place he had avoided all night, the part of him that harboured the darkness Jett had planted. He loathed the festering dark power, but now reached out to touch it. It sprang at him, ravenous to consume, but was held at bay by the power Draanov exuded. Thomas called forth a circle of ebony and green fire and felt the same dark light burn in his eyes. It seared through his veins, seeking to purge the Light from him, but, again, was held back. Opening his eyes, he nodded to the angel. The emerald flames rose like a curtain, obscuring them from view.
When it died down, they were gone.
"God speed, Thomas," Will sighed. "Bring them back."
* * *
Light dazzled them, and even with their eyes closed, they still were blinded by the beauty and purity of the colors that danced around them.
There was a moment of disorientation, one familiar to Corry. It was the same floating, timeless feeling she'd had when Jett had sent her away. She gripped her friend's hands to reassure herself, and felt her own hands squeezed tightly in response.
Then...they were standing on a hill overlooking an area green with grass and trees.
"Looks almost like home," Jared commented, looking around. He took in a deep breath of the fresh air. "KO-35."
"KO-35." Nisha snorted. "Can't even give the planet a real name...."
"What I wouldn't give to explore," Gavin said, looking around.
Corry walked several steps away and pulled the object Thomas had given her out of her pocket. It was a leather pouch. She frowned slightly and pulled the pouch open -- and stared. "Oh no....."
"What's wrong?" Olivia joined her and her eyes widened. "How....?"
"What?" Nisha asked impatiently.
Swallowing hard, Corry turned to face the group and slowly opened her hand.
The Kerovan sunlight caught the metal gleam of the object resting on her palm and it flashed green.
"The dragon coin," Olivia breathed.
"Corry," Raph's expression was somber. "How did you get that?"
She looked up at her friends and shook her head. "He gave it to me."
"Thomas?" Jared almost reached out to touch the coin, then drew his hand back. "Why?"
"This is not good," Gavin sighed. "He's not going to be able to morph now."
"He's giving us an edge," Nisha realized. She nodded. "Think about it. Why else would he give it away?"
"As a sign of his faith in us." Olivia's quiet statement stopped all the speculation as they all looked at her. "He gave it to Corry to keep it safe for him." Her gaze went to her friend as Corry nodded slowly, a worried frown creasing her brow.
"Someone's approaching," Gavin warned as he spotted two people coming towards them.
Corry quickly put the coin in its pouch and shoved it in her pocket. Her eyes met Olivia's as the younger girl put her arm through hers, squeezing it reassuringly.
As one, the group turned to face the pair walking up to them.
"Rangers of Earth?" the man asked cautiously. Only when they nodded did he add, "My name is Andros. This is Ashley."
The woman smiled warmly, taking a step towards them. "Welcome to KO-35."