by Melissa Morris

..........It's a sunny day in Angel Grove, as most days are, and the gang is playing basketball. Rocky, Adam, and Aisha are one team, while Billy, Tommy, and Kat make up the other. The game starts with Rocky's team in the lead, because Kat doesn't know how to play. Basketball isn't a popular Australian sport. After a coaching break from Tommy and Billy she is doing well, and with a miraculous streak of luck, the game has came down to four points in Rocky's favor. Billy and Tommy confer on the best strategy.

.........."Tommy, I think we should try for a three point shot, it would be unexpected and we might surprise them," says Billy.

.........."Right, but what'll we do for the last shot?"

..........Kat decides to step in. "Since you're talking about unexpected why don't you throw the ball to me? Tommy's the one they expect to go for the last shot."

..........Billy and Tommy think about it and decide that this is their best chance. "Okay, let's do it!" agrees Tommy.

..........In the game that follows, Tommy passes the ball to Billy. Billy starts forward, with Adam doing a tight guard, and then suddenly reverses and goes back over the three point line to shoot. It hits the inside edge of the rim and falls in. Tommy and Kat cheer, while Adam and Rocky groan. Now that Rocky has the ball he takes it onto the court. Tommy is doing his best to keep Rocky from passing it away, but Rocky manages to pass it towards Aisha. Then Kat manages to knock the ball away. ..........

There is a quick center court scramble and Tommy comes up with the ball. He starts to head for the basket and the winning point, with Rocky trying to keep him from getting there. Adam and Aisha move closer to Tommy because they know he is going for a basket. Tommy nears the basket, jumps to shoot, and passes the ball to Kat. Kat aims as Rocky, Adam, and Aisha scramble for her, but Billy and Tommy are in their way so she gets the shot off. Swish, nothing but net!

..........Tommy grins at Kat, "Fantastic shot!"

..........Billy comes over. "Morphenominal!"

.........."Thanks, but I think that was more luck than me."

.........."Nah, that was you. You did great, luck was what got us to the point where you could make that shot," says Tommy. He turns to Rocky, Adam, and Aisha. "Didn't you say loser buys lunch and drinks at Ernie's?"

..........Rocky glumly nods. "Yes, though I thought we had you. That was a great shot Kat."

..........Kat smiles, "Thanks, but I've got an idea. Why don't we just buy each other lunch. I think we all deserve it." Cheers abound.
* * *
..........Somewhere else, definitely not in Angel Grove, unless it had taken a very sinister turn, Rita had been staring at the game. Now she turns. "Oohhh, that Kat she makes me sick, with all that niceness. Why couldn't she have stayed evil. She was such a bad kitty."

..........A thought slowly percolates through Rita's brain. --Stayed evil? Maybe I could make her evil again!--

.........."Finster, bring me the Agin Grimoire," she screeches. The Grimoire had belonged to a vile sorcerer named Agin, who had ruled a galaxy with an iron claw, but he was old. So when she had been young, before she met Zordon, she had challenged him and taken his spell book when she won. Then she attempted to master the magic within, and this had started her on the path that led her to Zordon and Earth. Some of those spells were immensely powerful, but they were only one-shot deals and had to be used sparingly.

.........."My Queen, here is the tome you've requested," proclaims Finster as he hands it to her.

..........He waits expectantly to see what she has in mind. Rita pages through the Grimoire, carefully searching for a spell. A wicked smile lights her face. "Here it is! The spell that will make my Kat evil again, forever!"

.......... "My Queen...?"

..........She turns the book to Finster. "See? This is the spell of Darkening. It will turn anyone to evil and to me!" She gives an evil laugh.

..........Finster carefully reads the requirements, ingredients, and checks the fine print (after that Kat fiasco he can't be too careful). "My Queen, the ingredients alone are almost impossible to get, but I have collected many items for millennia and I believe I possess them all. However, I only have enough for one casting, and I doubt I will ever be able to get them all again. See here how it requires Zanthian Pecans? Zanth ceased to be over thirty thousand years ago! And..."

.........."Finster, shut up! What about the requirements?"

.........."Oh yes, the spell must be directed at one person only, and it must be cast using a power crystal that is thrown. The crystal then transforms into the spell itself and the effect must squarely hit the person. It warns of unpredictable effects if..."

.........."Shut up! Goldar! Get over here you overgrown monkey!"

..........Goldar stomps into the room, "Yes my Queen?"

.........."I need my cauldron. It's in the basement. Then I'll need you to go to Earth and play with the Power Brats while I prepare a gift for them."

.........."Yes, my Queen," he growls as he stomps back out of the room mumbling.

.........."RITA, What is this RACKET!?" roars Zedd, "I was resting when I heard your shrill voice screaming for Monkey-Boy."

.........."Well Zeddikins, I had a wonderful idea. I'm going to make the Pink Ranger evil again once and for all. I have a spell.."

..........Zedd snorts, "You have a spell, none of your spells have worked in the past, what makes you think this one will?"

.........."Well if you'd shut up Zeddy I'd tell you that the spell comes from Agin's Grimoire and you know he wasn't a pushover, " Rita screeches.

.........."Unlike some I know," Zedd mumbles.

.........."WHAT was that!" Rita questions.

..........Goldar walks into the room and deposits the cauldron at Rita's feet. "Um, I said I heard Goldar," Zedd fumbles.

..........Goldar turns to Zedd, "What is your bidding?"

..........Zedd smiles to himself. --If this works, I can steal credit from Rita for my brilliant plan and if it fails its all her fault.-- "Goldar, take the Tengas, I want you to wear out the Rangers a bit, while Rita prepares her spell. No screw ups this time!"

..........Goldar bows, "Yes my lord." and teleports off to Earth.
* * *
..........The usual gang is walking back to the Juice Bar for lunch after their intense game of basketball. Everyone is pretty happy, and Aisha keeps congratulating Kat on that great shot. "Thanks. I did okay, but if it wasn't for Billy's plan I wouldn't have been able to get to that shot."

.........."Well, it was still a great shot. Why don't you buy me lunch and I'll get yours. That way you don't have to worry about feeding Rocky," Aisha laughingly says.

.........."Hey," protests Rocky, "I don't eat that much."

.........."WELL, Red Ranger I can remedy your ever having to eat again," roars a new but familiar voice from behind.

..........Everyone turns to see Goldar and six Tengas standing in attack positions. "Tengas attack," growls Goldar.
* * *
..........Back at the Palace, Zedd isn't to surprised by Goldar's bluster, though he's waiting for the part where Goldar tells the Rangers about Rita's plan. "Your monkey-boy is getting thrashed as usual," taunts Zedd.

.........."Shut up, Zeddy. If he wasn't getting beaten by those Power Pests I would really be surprised. I hired him for muscle not brains," snaps Rita in reply.

..........Rita keeps staring into her book and drops miscellaneous and disgusting things into her cauldron. She's deep in thought with a real plan formulating. She looks up and shouts,"Finster!"

..........Finster rushes into the room, "Yes, My Queen?"

.........."You still have putties, don't you Finster?"


.........."Then get Rito and prepare to send twelve putties down to Earth after Goldar gets his butt kicked. And I know you always save and recycle your monsters, so prepare a few of those for when Rito retreats."

.........."But My Queen, that will seriously undermine our defenses and..."

.........."Finster, think! The Power Punks only attack here when we've actually captured one of them and since I'm not capturing any of them, they will be honor-bound not to attack," Rita snarls before she turns back to her spell.

..........Finster leaves and Rita absently tells Zedd, "Zeddy, dim the lights in here for the spell and leave."

.........."What" blusters a shocked Zedd, "You can't order me around.."

.........."Zedd, Shut up! I'm not ordering, I'm commanding, now GO!"

..........Zedd is so shocked that he dims the lights and leaves the room. Rita smiles. --Zedd has gotten a bit old and complacent,-- she thinks. --If it is unexpected or contrary to his plans he just doesn't know how to deal with it any more. If people don't fall down when he says "boom," he has no idea what to do. Just like Agin was when I deposed him and took his power. *Sigh!* Well, Zedd is just going to have to get used to having me in charge.--

..........Rita has finished preparing her spell components, now it's time to get to the actual heavy enchanting. She grins and rolls up her sleeves.
* * *
..........Back on Earth the Rangers have had to morph to their ninja powers, but except for a few new wisecracks it is much like any other fight. Goldar runs off saying that he'll be back and the Rangers demorph. Adam turns to Tommy, "I wonder what that was all about."

.........."I don't know Adam, but it can't be good," solemnly replies Tommy.

..........Billy looks thoughtful for all of second, just long enough for the others to catch on. "Maybe Zedd has a new plan," he states. "This is what he always does when he has a new one," he says in a slightly annoyed fashion. "Lets morph to the Command Center and ask Zordon," he sighs. But before they can leave, Rito and his Putty Patrol attack. Now the Rangers are stuck fighting Rito and are unable to get to the Command Center.
* * *
..........Rita works carefully, even though she went over this spell a millon times during her 10,000 years stuck in that dumpster. It is the spell used by Agin to steal the original Green Ranger from Zordon, but Zordon hadn't know about Agin's involvement. Once she had the Green Ranger, it had been easy to transform his powers to the darkness that mirrored his soul and link them to her. She'd been waiting to use it but she just hadn't found the proper time...........

In her cauldron bubbles a black sludge, and the fact that it is bubbling is pretty interesting, because she has no heat source under it. She holds the last two ingredients in her hands, two power crystals. (A power crystal is simply a crystal that has been specially prepared to hold powerful enchantments, they're hard to make and harder to get.) These are her two most powerful: one will be destroyed during the detonation of the spell, the other will hold the power. As long as the second crystal is intact, the spell will continue. She takes the crystals and holds them over the cauldron as she intones the incantation. Then she drops the crystals into the cauldron while she keeps her chanting steady. This is the test. If the spell works, it will be obvious.
* * *
..........The battle is pitched, the twelve putties and Rito versus the Rangers. Normally the Rangers would deal with Rito and his goons in a quick fashion, but between the basketball game and Goldar's assault, the Rangers are worn thin. Combined with the sheer number of putties and Rito's erratic and forgetful style of combat it is actually a challenge.

.........."Tommy, we need to morph!" cries Billy as he ducks around the two putties, he swings but misses a center shot on the Z.

.........."Right, Billy, but we need to get away for a second," shouts Tommy who is battling Rito and a putty, "Everyone split up and try to trade off putties."

..........The demorphed teens spread out, but Billy comes up with a better idea. He dodges his putties and runs for Rito. As he leaps through the area between Adam and the putties he's battling. His putties run right in front of Adam's opponents and it breaks the fight up long enough for Adam to present his morpher and shout "Frog."

..........Now morphed, Adam takes out his two putties with well placed punches, then he helps Aisha deal with her putty attackers long enough to morph, then they go to Rocky's and Kat's aid. Tommy gets knocked away from Rito just as Billy gets there....
* * *
..........Rita finishes the incantation and the room sinks into darkness. She stares as a black fire erupts from her cauldron, then implodes into the two crystals. She looks into the cauldron and sees the culmination of her efforts, the casting Darken crystal and the shining holding crystal. She reaches in and reverently takes the two crystals, placing the holding crystal on a stand in the center of an arcane circle where it glows slightly. She then turns the spell book to the next spell. She places the Darkening Crystal in a velvet bag sewn with silver mystic symbols.

..........--I have done it,-- she triumphantly thinks to herself. --I have cast Agin's most devastating spell! Well, okay, I have only cast the first part. I have to wait until the Darkening Crystal is used before I can use the Darken Spell's true power. But very few magicians could ever hope of casting it to this level of perfection.-- "Finster!" she shrieks, "Has Rito been beaten yet?"

..........Finster rushes into the room, "No My Queen, by some stroke of luck, he is still engaged, though the tide is turning..."

.........."Good. Better than I had hoped. What monsters do you have for me?"

.........."I was able to gather three for..."

.........."THREE, I need more, how can I..." Rita trails off as a thought comes to her: --Old and complacent, doesn't know what to do if a plan doesn't go perfectly right...-- "Yes, 3 monsters, but send down the Tengas and Goldar," she purrs thoughtfully.

.........."But My Queen, the Tengas and Goldar have just returned from battle, you can't send them back..."

.........."Oh yes I can, tell them that if they don't go down they won't live to see tomorrow and that goes DOUBLE for Goldar!" she roars at Finster. "I know you can make more putties now that the last batch has been destroyed. So make twelve more and send them down to Earth in this last assault.

.........."Last assault, My Queen?"

.........."Finster, leave, NOW!" commands Rita.

..........Finster dashes out of the room. He hasn't heard that tone of voice in over 12,000 years, and he definitely doesn't want it directed at him. Rita places the crystal in a pouch on her dress, for she knows that she can't trust any of the others to get this right. --Soon, Kat will be a bad little kitty again. And with one of the main Rangers out of the loop the whole group will be weakened. But first...-- She turns back to the tome and looks up a couple of minor spells, one that will temporarily cloak her from sight and from Zordon, and another that will freeze Kat in place long enough for her to cast the spell. --Well, I suppose that I have to get it right the first time,-- she thinks. --This cloaking spell will be disrupted by the casting power of the Darken Spell, so I'll have to work quickly. And thanks to the Ranger powers this paralyzation spell will only work a short time. Arggh!-- Rita turns to her telescope to watch the ongoing battle. What she sees makes it plain that it is time for her assault. But she knows that a confrontation of the numbers she's proposing will cause Zordon to teleport the brats out, so she begins casting the spell that will keep that from happening, for a little while at least.
* * *
..........The battle is starting to turn in the Ranger's favor. Tommy and Billy are the only two whom are still demorphed. Billy is being closely tailed by two putties. --Come on, clay brains,-- he mentally pleads, --a little closer, just keep it up a little longer.-- Billy reaches Rito and Tommy. "Hey Bone Head!" he shouts.

..........Rito turns and Billy dives right between his legs. The two putties are so intent on the running Ranger that they don't slow fast enough and plow right into Rito, knocking him down. Billy rolls to his feet shouting "Wolf" and morphs.

..........With Rito out of the way, Tommy quickly takes out his putty and morphs as well. He teams up with the rest of the Rangers, except for Billy, who's still on the other side of Rito, to face Rito and the last two putties.

..........Rito looks around and decides it is time for a retreat, "Um, I'll be seeing you soon, yeah!"

.........."We'll be ready!" shouts Rocky.

..........Then Goldar, six Tengas, and 10 putties appear. "Are you ready now Red Ranger," growls Goldar.

..........Rito's confidence is restored and he charges back into the fray. The battle is intense, the sheer numbers and the toll of the previous fight are wearing on them even morphed. Then to make matters worse three true monsters teleport in. ..........

The new Rangers look at the new monsters in confusion, but Billy and Tommy know these guys. Billy decides that it's time to call on Alpha and Zordon, because they barely beat them the last time these monsters appeared. Rocky, Adam, and Aisha need to be briefed on these monsters' powers. "Zordon, Zordon, come in," whispers Billy into his communicator.

..........He doesn't even receive static as a response. He gets ready to tell the other Rangers when he notices that the monsters have their backs to him and that they're between him and the Rangers. Then something flashes behind the guys....


Rita looks at the battle and decides to set herself down in a place that puts the Power Brats between her and her monsters. The cloak enchantment won't work during teleport, so she starts the incantation. As soon as she lands on the battle field she speaks the last word of the spell and vanishes. --Yes,-- she gloats, --I'm here and there is my Kitty. But she has Tommy to protect her. How will I get rid of... Ah!-- She waves her staff from her place of invisibility and three putties break away from their battles to go after Kat. One of them manages to knock Kat back, and then Tommy is on them. --Yes, those clay brains may be dumb, but they are very easy to manipulate. Now back to business.-- She finishes her thought as Kat rises to her feet.

..........She casts the spell of holding on Kat, and Kat stands frozen. --Now to cast it!-- She starts to intone the next part of the Spell.
* * *
..........Billy looks for the flash and sees nothing, then he sees the putties break off and charge Kat. He starts to go toward the monsters to help his friends, but he sees an orange mist appear around and quickly vanish into Kat. He shoots a glance to his friends and sees that luck has left him the only one not currently engaged in battle. He starts toward Kat, when --No!-- Rita appears about ten feet behind her. He doubles his pace and takes the fastest route there, over the monsters. He leaps and bounds managing to dodge each monster, yet keep his path, in a feat of agility he'd probably never manage to duplicate. He probably wouldn't have attempted this mad dash, if there had been any other choice or any other thought than to help his friend. He closes the distance to Kat and....
* * *
..........Rita is deep in casting when she notes the blue streak coming her way. --No!-- she mentally screams, --not the Blue Ranger, he'll disrupt my spell at the rate he's going.-- She slows chanting yet doesn't stop the spell. --I can't cast the spell before he gets here. What will I do?--
* * *
..........Billy leaps at Kat to knock her out of the way, because all he sees is a black mist that surrounds Rita. He knows he has to act quickly.
* * *
..........Rita knows she has to act quick as she sees Billy jump. --He'll reach Kat before my spell is finished and I can't have a debacle like Morrick did. No, I'm ruined!-- Then another thought rises. --Old and complacent...?-- Rita understands what to do and she smiles. She resumes a casting pace like the one she started with and throws the crystal...
* * *
..........Billy is just inches from Kat...
* * *
..........The crystal hits the ground at Kat's feet. Rita casts all but one word of the spell...


Billy touches Kat and knocks her away...
* * *
.........."DURAK" screams Rita.
* * *
..........Black fire, blacker than the blackest night, rises up in a pillar of flame that darkens the heavens. But the Blue Ranger is already past. "NOOOO!" screams Rita in defeat, and she teleports the whole bunch up to Palace.
* * *
..........Billy hits the ground and doesn't roll up too nimbly. A wave of dizziness hits him, and the bottoms of his feet and the tips of his toes feel like they've been turned to ice. --Must be the effect of overtaxing my powers,-- he thinks as he mentally dismisses it. The feeling quickly fades as he goes to check on his friends, starting with Kat.
* * *
..........The fighting is intense, but when the pillar of Darkenflame shoots to the heavens, everything pauses for an instant. Rocky and Aisha use this lull to take out a couple putties each. Tommy pauses too, for he feels the Darken power behind him, but he can't turn his attention from Goldar and Rito. Adam is actually facing Billy's charge and the blast, and he freezes, staring at the pillar. He feels simultaneously compelled and repelled by its dark fire and cannot turn his gaze away. His putty and Tenga opponents continue their assault and he manages to block some of it, but he takes many hits that he just doesn't feel. Then, suddenly, all the monsters vanish.

..........Billy staggers to his feet, feeling very drained, and goes to Kat. She is a little dazed but seems fine. Then Tommy rushes over. "Kat, Billy are you all right?"

.........."I seem all right, just very tired," replies Billy ,"Kat seems fine."

..........Aisha comes over and talks to Kat, she then gets Rocky and they stand beside Kat who seems about as stable as Billy.

..........Adam walks towards them, while throwing the occasional glance to where the pillar of darkness grew and vanished. "Um, guys, did you see that?" he asks hesitantly.

.........."See what?" ask Billy and Tommy together.

.........."The fire," mumbles Adam as he turns again to the place where it had appeared.

..........They get ready to ask more when Tommy's communicator beeps. "What is it Zordon?" questions Tommy.

.........."Return to the Command Center immediately, we must talk."

..........They teleport out.
* * *
..........--No! How could I have failed! I timed it perfectly, yet I didn't miss just one Ranger I missed two.-- Rita mentally berates herself.

.........."I see you messed up again, not that I'm surprised."

..........Rita looks up to see Zedd enter, "I didn't..." She trails off as Zedd passes between the candles and the Darken Crystal. Where before it glowed a pale, clear light, it now glows faintly blue. --Blue?-- A wicked smile crosses Rita's face as the significance of this event dawns on her. "I didn't fail, Zeddy. I succeeded, I cast my spell perfectly. It worked!"

.........."Worked? I don't see Kat pledging her allegiance to you anywhere, though I could be mistaken," Zedd sarcastically replies.

..........Rita sighs in irritation. --Zedd just doesn't know how a good spell works. Spells that instantly turn someone evil lack strength. That's why I lost Kat and Tommy to Zordon. Also, if it was blindingly obvious Zordon would find some way to deal with it before it took full effect. But I need to prepare the later incantations, I'll turn Blue Ranger Billy evil and I will defeat the Power Rangers.--

.........."I'll not tell you my plans anymore Zeddy, if you're going to be such a dolt. Tonight I will continue my spell."

.........."You should continue it now, while you have the chance," growls Zedd.

.........."If I continue it now it might be obvious to Zordon, and MY Ranger's full will can be directed to interfere with it. I'll wait till night, when all of the Rangers are asleep. Now GO!" screams Rita.

..........Zedd having been through this before, decides to leave so he won't have to put up with Rita's horrendous screeching any longer. Or her gloating.
* * *
..........Six very weary and still morphed Rangers appear in the Command Center. Tommy moves towards Zordon as Billy and Kat lean heavily on some consoles. "Zordon what happened? We've never fought so many monsters before..." questions a worried Tommy.

.........."What was the fire?" quietly interrupts Adam.

..........Everyone turns to stare at Adam, he's one of the last people they'd expect to interrupt anyone, especially Tommy. Zordon looks concerned and thoughtful for a moment. "Alpha, scan Kat and Billy, they were closest to the 'fire.'" He then addresses Adam, "What you saw was the effect of a very powerful spell, but I do not how Rita could cast it. She cast it many thousands of years ago and it can only be cast once by any one person. If I had known she could cast it again, I would have taken more precautions."

..........The Rangers look at each other, it actually sounds like Zordon is apologizing to them. Then Alpha walks up with a scanner. He quickly scans Kat starting at her head working down to a little below her knees and back up as he usually does. "Zordon, there only seems to be a faint residue of the paralyzation spell, but no other spells seem to be present."

..........He turns to Billy and repeats the procedure, "Ai-yi-yi, Billy you have seriously overtaxed your powers. I don't know what the effect will be." Alpha shakes the scanner slightly, "Aside from that, he seems fine."

.........."Good." replies Zordon.

.........."I'll second that," mumbles a tired Billy. Something suddenly dawns on him. "Zordon, we are all pretty tired, and that's with our Ranger powers. How will we be without them?" Billy asks worriedly.

.........."You will all require rest, though you have taxed your powers the most and there might be other side effects. But you should be well," replies Zordon, "You may demorph now."

..........The Rangers demorph and everyone looks tired, Adam groans a bit because he's sore all over. Billy slumps to a seat on the floor and yawns. "You all right, Billy?," Tommy asks with concern in his voice.

.........."Yes, I'm just really tired that's all," and Billy yawns again.

..........Adam has stepped a bit back from the group and is standing more to the shadows. He looks slightly uncomfortable as he says, "Um, Zordon you still haven't answered my question."

..........Zordon stares at Adam carefully, he was able to see only parts of the battle, so he doesn't know how much Adam saw. "Billy, your quick thinking saved Kat from a terrible fate. If Rita had been able to cast the Darken Spell on Kat, she would have become evil once more. I also possess no cure for the Darken Spell as I know too little about it." He sees the question appear on Tommy and Kat's faces. "This is unlike the spells used on you, those were far weaker. I had said that this spell was used once before by Rita and it was. It was used to turn the original Green Ranger to darkness."

..........Kat turns to Billy, "Thank you so much."

.........."I'm glad the situation allowed me to help," replies Billy. He looks slightly uncomfortable at the attention and then he sees Adam. "Adam, what did you see when that spell went off?" Billy questions in a tactical diversion.

.........."I saw black fire, I mean, reallyÉ blackÉ no, darkÉ fire, rise up in a big column from where Kat was standing when you pushed her. It was..." Adam fumbles for a minute, as if deciding on whether to say something. "It was dark and I knew it was bad, but it was like part of me was listening to it. I mean I could kinda hear it whisper. Part of me wanted to look away and the other part just wanted to go to it." He looks worriedly to the guys and Zordon wondering.

.........."Adam," speaks Zordon quietly (which is impressive considering that he has one good PA system), "I believe I understand your reaction, and it is nothing you should be ashamed of. You have noticed that all of the Rangers have colors that relate to light. But light cannot exist without darkness. Your power is shadow: the darkness that is made by the light. Your power is what keeps the balance of power among the Rangers." He sees the worried look still on Adam's face. "Do not worry, you will hold to the light in your nature always. Of this I am sure."

..........Zordon is interrupted by a very light snore from Billy. Zordon's revelations may have been fascinating, and Adam is feeling a bit better, though a bit confused, but Billy reminds them that they are all very tired. Zordon smiles slightly, "Go home and rest Rangers, I will call you if I need you."

..........Tommy reaches over and shakes Billy. "What," mumbles a very sleepy Billy.

.........."Time for you to go home, man," grins Tommy as he helps Billy up.

..........So the Rangers, with Billy leaning mostly asleep on Tommy teleport home for the night. Tommy takes Billy home and after checking if his dad is there, takes Billy up to his room and points him to the bed. "Thanks," mumbles Billy as he falls onto the bed, and falls to sleep.

.........."Anytime," grins Tommy, who goes to his house, eats and goes to bed.
* * *
..........In a dim room, in a dark palace, Rita carefully watches Billy. --Now is the time to start my spell, while he dreams he will have trouble resisting the Darken.-- She turns to her tome and to her casting circle with the crystal. She begins softly chanting the guttural and disturbing incantations. "Durak, shirak, und Wraithlin..."
* * *
..........Billy dreams. He's walking in the park on a nice day with his friends, when suddenly the sky darkens and his friends vanish. --What?-- He thinks to himself. --This park sure doesn't look friendly at night.--

..........He looks around and sees two big kids picking on a smaller boy. "Hey geek, maybe you should leave us normal kids alone," taunts the largest one.

..........Billy gets closer and it dawns on him that he knows that voice, and that in fact this scene is familiar. --Hey, that's me getting beat up by Bulk and Skull. This is my dream, maybe I should break them up.--

..........But before he can finish the thought, a black wall appears around him, separating him from the fighting boys. --The past is not to be changed, my friend,-- speaks a slightly familiar voice that he can't place.

..........He spins around and sees nothing. "Who said that?" Billy cries to the darkness.

..........--Just a friend, I know you very well, Billy Cranston, and I want to show you the truth,-- replies the voice from behind him.

..........Something about that voice seems very wrong, but the voice also seems to be one he trusts. He spins around searching for the speaker, but again he's not there. "What truth, what do you mean?"

..........--Well, look at this little scene, familiar isn't it. Those two oafs got away with beating up on you for a long time. And why did they do it, because you were smarter than they.--

.........."I think its just because I was the easiest person to bully," replies Billy.

..........--Oh yes, you were easy to bully, but that is not a good enough reason for you is it? No? People tend to lash out at things they don't understand, whether verbally or physically. They all do,-- quietly states the voice.

.........."Bulk and Skull aren't my problems anymore..." replies Billy. --I don't like the turn this conversation is taking.-- He starts as the park vanishes and he is standing on nothing, in nothing. --What the-?--

..........--I wasn't speaking of Bulk and Skull only.-- The voice pauses for a moment as Billy looks like he's ready to retort. --Your "friends,"-- the voice replies with sarcasm. --They always laughed at you when they couldn't understand you, even when you made the special effort of trying to teach one of them.--

.........."Friends poke fun at friends, it's harmless," Billy replies, though something does flash through his mind.

..........--Poking fun? Is that what you called it on one of those many days they just let you get beat up, with nothing more than a "Stop it, Bulk" or a "Leave Billy alone" to try and dissuade those bullies. Or how about that time that Bulk and Skull shook you upside down to get change, and then dumped you in that trash can. Didn't Jason and Zack look like they were laughing?--

..........Billy looks very hesitant. "I remember that, and they did look like they were laughing, but I learned some martial arts..."

..........--Yes, I see you know what I'm saying. And you're probably saying ,"Well they don't pick on me now," and that you know martial arts and can defend yourself. Right?-- Billy's shocked expression is all the voice needs. --I said I know you very well. But could you have learned martial arts before you became a Power Ranger? Without the morphing energy? You're nothing but a geek to them. Only the power has allowed you to become what you are now, not those fools. They may have given you the keys to that knowledge but only you knew how to use it,-- the voice hypnotically states.

..........Billy looks confused and stammers, "YouÉ You leave my friends out of it!"

..........--I would, Billy, but you've only deluded yourself into thinking that Tommy, Kat, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha are your friends, and the others are gone. They left you, but then again they aren't much better than the current bunch of "friends,"-- the voice purrs as it slowly weakens Billy's resolve a bit. --I mean, when you show them your inventions or talk about your likes, they glaze over or smirk to each other. They don't care what you say or do, as long as you're there to be a foil to their "goodness" or to always make that device or gizmo for them when they need it. They don't need you, they only need your work.-- At the end of this speech the voice has become very friendly and compassionate. Billy just stares at the ground, searching in vain for a retort, he knows he's thought these same thoughts before, but only when he had a very, very bad day or time. But the voice has other ideas and a deeper confusion comes over Billy. --You will know me soon enough, my friend, thinks the voice, but first I need to magic your will a little more. Then we'll be great friends.--

..........The Darkness envelopes Billy and he shouts in fear.
* * *
..........Rita smiles during her continued casting, the Crystal glows a brighter blue the longer she continues. --Once the crystal is fully blue, Billy will be well under the sway of my spell, and when it's fully dark....-- the thought trails off as she notes the spell is having some difficulty. "That Blue Ranger must have more will power than I thought. No matter," she says out loud to herself.

..........She increases the power of her casting and as the crystal continues to brighten, she carefully gauges the amount of power the crystal holds. --That should be enough for the spell to still have sway over him in the day and I don't want to over do it,-- she thinks to herself. --It might be noticeable.-- She is tired from this work and decides that this is a good start. She blows out the candles and leaves the room.
* * *
..........Billy wakes up sweating and confused. He looks about his room. It was all a dream, he thinks and he sighs in relief. He stands up and suddenly remembers that he is very tired, --But I'd better get ready for school.-- This thought fades as soon as he looks to his alarm clock "Four o'clock?!"

..........--Okay, I remember being in the Command Center. I was tired, I must have fallen asleep and they sent me home. But it does look like I slept half the day away.-- He thinks of the dream and shivers. Must be another side effect of overusing my powers. He keeps up this train of thought while he goes to the bathroom and gets ready for what is left of his day.

..........After a shower he decides to get something to eat, and he checks the fridge. --Ah no. The fridge is empty, because today is grocery day. Maybe I should run...-- he yawns... --walk, walk down to Ernie's, see the guys, and get some food.--

..........Deed follows thought as he heads to the Juice Bar.
* * *
..........Billy gets to the Juice Bar and sees the gang, "Hi, guys." --First things first, lets see about some food.-- "Hey Ernie, what do you have to eat?"

.........."Well, I have some fruit salads and a couple of sandwiches," Ernie answers. He looks at Billy and gives a low whistle, "Man, you look tired."

.........."I feel worse, but I'm also hungry," Billy replies with a weary smile on his face, "give me a salad, a sandwich, and a spinach shake."

.........."Take a seat, I'll bring it to you."

.........."Thanks, Ernie."

..........Billy walks over to the guys and drags a chair to their table. He slumps down and then looks up into their concerned stares. "I'm fine," he says before any of them can ask, "I'm just a bit tired." Then Ernie brings his order. "And hungry."

..........The others watch Billy tear into his food and look at each other. Tommy takes in Billy's wet hair and slightly damp clothes, "Hey Billy, you had us slightly worried when you didn't show up for school."

..........Billy finishes chewing his food and turns to Tommy, but before he can speak he hears the voice. --Yeah, he's worried, but only SLIGHTLY worried, about his little stooge. I mean what if there was a monster and they needed you for a gadget or a frontal assault.-- The voice fades and Billy shakes his head slightly. Then he remembers that Tommy asked him a question. "Um, I overslept."

..........Tommy looks at Billy and grins, "Till just a few minutes ago, by the looks of you."

..........Billy looks up at Tommy and grins in reply. With that the group is satisfied that Billy is okay and conversation resumes an almost normal course. The only difference is that Billy is too busy eating to talk, and that Adam is sitting a little bit away from the group and saying less than usual. After a brief grilling about why he had missed school, a quick look at the bruises he had from the battle, and his protests that he "is fine," They leave him alone.

..........Adam looks at Billy. For a second there he had noticed something, but it was faint and quick. --It was probably just a shadow.--
* * *
..........Rita is watching. She smiles to herself, for she had seen the crystal flare for a moment while Billy was talking to Tommy. --My spell is working, and with the Blue Ranger so out of sorts, all the other Rangers write off his behavior as exhaustion. Hmm. Maybe another attack, but not a big one, just one that re-taxes their powersÉ.--

.........."Finster! Goldar!" shouts Rita in a voice that echoes through the palace.

..........Finster rushes into the room and a moment later, in walks Goldar.

.........."My Queen? What do you require?" asks Finster.

..........Rita looks at them, "I need more putties, Finster. Goldar, you will take the putties down and attack the teens, I want to keep them reeling."

..........Goldar snorts. Rita turns to him, "Yes Goldar, you have something to say to me?"

..........Goldar glares at Rita, he's been talking to Zedd about the previous battle. --I was winning, the Rangers were faltering, our forces were superior. Yet she stopped us when our moment of triumph was at hand. The fool has kept us from victory.-- Outloud, he merely says, "No my queen, I was just formulating the best tactics for my assault."

..........Rita looks at Goldar and laughs, "Formulate away monkey boy."

..........She's not stupid and she knows that Goldar's allegiances fall to Zedd, so she keeps tabs on him and Zedd. --He's annoyed that I didn't throw my plan away for an apparent victory. But I know that the spell that was keeping Zordon out wouldn't last much longer, and once that was gone Zordon would come up with something. No, I'm quite happy with how that battle went.-- She looks up, "You're still here, GO!"

..........Finster rushes from the room and Goldar strides to Finster's lab.


The gang decides to leave the Juice Bar and relax in the park after Billy finishes eating. They've just found a good spot to rest in, when they hear Goldar's voice behind them, "Feeling tired Rangers? Let's see what a little exercise does for you. Putties attack!"

..........The group spins to see Goldar and twelve more putties. "Ah man, don't they ever run out of those things," groans Rocky.

..........Goldar as usual charges Tommy, along with a two putty escort. The other Rangers have their hands full with two putties a piece.
* * *
..........Rita watches the battle from above, her Blue Ranger is not faring well. -Oh, the poor boy must be getting tired.-- She laughs into the darkness and smiles. --Let's see what I can do to help.-- She knows Zordon will intervene soon so she recasts the spell of disruption. --I can't do that much more.-- She waves her staff and Goldar's putty bodyguards turn and go after Billy.
* * *
..........The battle is going on a little longer than it should, most of the Rangers are still a little tired, Adam's sore, and Billy is already exhausted. It's taking all of Billy's energy to keep the putties from connecting, much less worry about attacking. Another punch gets through as he slows. --I need some help,-- thinks Billy, and then he sees Goldar's putties change direction. Oh no! He cries out, "Guys, I need help!"
* * *
..........The battle is going on strong and Billy's shout draws the other Rangers' attention, but they are all fighting their own battles and can't get to him. In desperation, Billy hits the ground and rolls. It gets him away from the putties, which is good. One of the putties actually trips trying to get out of the way, which is better, but it is only a temporary respite. The four putties are back on him in an instant. Adam manages to land a lucky shot on one of his putties and take it out, but he still has the other one to deal with. He is going to try desperately to even up Billy's odds.
* * *
..........--I don't think so,-- thinks Rita. "Finster, send down the Tengas."
* * *
..........Adam is almost to Billy when two Tengas appear in front of him, and four more appear, one for each of the Rangers. Adam and the others are trapped in battle and Billy is on his own.

..........Billy struggles in vain to deal with the putties, but he is too tired to mount an effective defense, much less an offense. --Your friends aren't coming to help you, Billy. You're all alone. I guess they don't need a gadget right now or they might put a little more effort into helping you,-- whispers the voice.
* * *
..........Rita turns from the battle as she feels the change in the spell. The crystal is glowing brighter! --I should continue the casting now, but firstÉ-- She turns to the battle and waves her wand, the putties fighting Billy each lose a bit of their power, cutting down their chances of actually beating the Blue Ranger. Then she turns to the crystal and resumes casting.
* * *
.........."No," whispers Billy in reply to the voice, "they have problems too."

..........He grunts as a putty lands another blow, and he actually manages to hit one on the Z taking it out of the fight. --Oh, come on, they only need you for your mind, just some fodder for Tommy so he can win the offensive. Look at him, he's taking on Goldar and a couple of Tengas and still managing to show off.-- The voice pauses as it feels its power grow, it decides to take a different track. --These clay brained puppets are sure making mince meat out of you, but you have the power to beat them you just have to use it.--

..........Billy pauses for a second, the purring voice lulling him slightly. "How?" He's broken off from this train of thought by one of the putties who decks him and sends him flying. Billy shakily stands up. --Now I'm mad.--

..........--Exactly,-- answers the voice, --but let me give you a little help.-- The Darken power reaches deep into Billy and finds his anger, the rage of too much bullying, the anger at being an outcast, the resentment he'd felt for the others, the contempt of those who couldn't understand. These are all things that he had dealt with before and put away, these feelings hadn't been a problem in a while, but they are still an intricate part of his being. --Good start, my boy.--

..........Adam is furiously battling the putties when he sees a shadow flit across Billy's face. --What?-- The thought is driven from his mind by a vicious attack by a Tenga that sends him reeling.
* * *
..........Billy is furious, he sees these monsters and rage flows through him. He's no longer tired and no longer feels the pain of his injuries. He looks at the putties in front of him and focuses. He growls and swings at one of them, it puts an arm up to block, but Billy's enraged blow smashes the block back with enough force to shatter the Z. The two putties fighting Billy actually pause and burble worriedly.
* * *
..........Rita smiles. --This is going well.-- She sees Billy turn in rage to the putties and watches him defeat them. --Can't have that, not yet at least.-- She waves her wand again and four of the remaining putties turn to the berserk Blue Ranger.
* * *
..........The battle is turning in the Rangers' favor, mainly because the putties are vanishing. As the rest of the Rangers battle they get glimpses of Billy, who's fighting like a man possessed versus the putties. As they watch he tears into two more and they shatter. Adam catches a few more glimpses of Billy. --His face is dark, where is that shadow coming from? Must be the putties.-- Adam dismisses the thought.

..........--Having fun?-- queries the voice as Billy lays into two putties. --I think you need to calm down a bit.-- The rage slackens into a mere trickle of what it was, but Billy manages to kick another putty and send it hurtling through the air before it explodes.
* * *
..........--That was fun,-- Rita thinks, --but no more.-- She waves her wand.
* * *
..........The Rangers are thrown off a bit when the monsters vanish in mid-fight again. They all seem a bit tired, not as bad as last time, but not up to par yet either. "Whew, that was definitely NOT fun," says Rocky.

.........."I agree with you there," grins a weary Tommy.

..........Billy is standing there trying to get his thoughts together. --What happened? Why did I do that?-- He is still slightly angry, and also scared and confused. Tommy walks over to him, "Wow, where did that come from?"

.........."Um, ...second wind," Billy replies uncomfortably.

.........."Hey, send that wind my way," jokes Rocky.

..........Tommy looks carefully at Billy, dark circles line Billy's eyes, his forehead is cut, and he's swaying slightly. "You all right?" Tommy asks concernedly.

..........Billy gets ready to reply, when the voice decides to put in its two cents worth. --Where was he when you needed him? Hell, where were they? Do you look all right? What is he stupid? Scratch that we know. Yeah, thanks for the assist.--

..........Billy looks at Tommy and feels a flare of that anger come up. "I'm fine, just tired. Thanks for the assist," the last part drips with sarcasm as he stomps off towards his house.

..........Everybody just stares at Billy's retreating form. "Must be really tired," hopefully inputs Tommy.

..........Adam watches Billy leave too, but he hadn't been watching during the "discussion." --Did I see something?-- he wonders.
* * *
..........Zedd stomps into the throne room, furious. "Rita, this has gone far enough. You are just wasting our resources with this delusion of yours. You will never control any of the Power Rangers. You have gotten Goldar's gold plated rear and Tengas thrashed by those Power Pests."

..........Rita looks very unconcerned at Zedd's outburst. --Did I ever say I wanted Goldar to win? And I never said I would 'control' a Power Ranger, but I have one in my power. Billy will be evil and the Rangers will collapse. I thought Kat was part of their stability, but Billy has been the steady backbone of the group since Day One. Without him and his skills the Power Rangers will be ill equipped to deal with my assaults. I will rule.-- Rita grins wickedly at Zedd, "Oh I will continue to do whatever I want." She pauses for a moment, "Zeddy, I have my own plans and they are going along smoothly. You may think that I'm losing the battle, but I am WINNING THE WAR!" She screeches this last bit at the top of her lungs (not a pretty sound). As Zedd cringes at that awful noise, he stares at Rita and before he can formulate a suitable reply, Rita speaks once more, "Zeddy, why don't you go play with Goldar. I have work to do."

..........Zedd has no idea what to do, so he just leaves. --That woman has lost it, maybe I should have listened to that tin-plated monkey.--

..........Rita watches Zedd exit and turns back to her observation of the earth, and more specifically Billy.
* * *
..........Billy staggers home. When he gets there, he raids the fridge which is now full, and heads to bed. --I should just get some sleep. I'm just too tired and I'm getting very cranky. I can't believe I snapped at Tommy like that. I should just go to sleep and get up for school tomorrow.-- He pauses and rubs his hands. --I must have hurt myself.-- He goes to the bathroom and sees the cut on his forehead, cleans it up and puts a couple band-aids on it. He also notes the rising bruise around it. --Ow.-- He pulls up his shirt and finds a few more nasty bruises. --This is really going to hurt tomorrow. How am I going to explain this? I really got beat up by those putties.-- His thoughts turn back to the battle. --What did I do? What...--

..........--You just released a little pent up tension, in fact you should thank me, I mean it was very therapeutic. Got a lot of that built up anger and tension out of your system. Nice job, I especially loved the part where you nearly put your fist through that putty. Um, that looks nasty, you should put some ice on it.--

..........Billy decides that is a good idea and gets some ice. As he's holding it to his bruises his communicator beeps. --Not now,-- he inwardly groans. He hurts all over and can barely stand.

..........--Where was Zordon when you needed him? And you are very tired and sore, he'll understand,-- purrs the voice. --Get some sleep.-- The voice does more than suggest, it pushes Billy a bit more towards sleep. Billy yawns and drops to his bed. He dreams.
* * *
..........The other Rangers are at the Command Center, "Where's Billy?" asks Kat.

.........."Billy did not respond to his communicator, I will look into the matter. I was unable to monitor you due to Rita's interference," Zordon replies.

.........."I think he's probably asleep Zordon," interjects Tommy. He remembers how wasted Billy looked after the battle. "The fight took an awful lot out of him."

..........Adam looks thoughtful, "That whole fight seemed like it focused around Billy."

..........The other Rangers turn to him, in confusion. "What do you mean?" inquires Tommy.

..........Adam gathers his thoughts as all attention in the room is focused on him. He swallows a bit, uncomfortable at all the attention. "Well when the fight started it was even, right?" He looks to the others for conformation, then continues. "Billy was holding his own, not by much but he was still there. But then the putties Tommy was fighting ran across the field and attacked Billy. Billy started to get beat up and I took out one of my putties and started to go to him. Then the Tengas appeared, you each got one, but I ended up with two who kept me from Billy." He pauses for a breath and to see if the others are catching on. "You couldn't get to Billy and I couldn't either, but we were stuck in a stalemate. We couldn't beat them and they were wearing us out. But when Billy suddenly beat his putties, four more came to keep him busy. When he started to beat those the fight ended."

.........."I believe Rita is attempting to get her revenge on Billy for interfering with her spell. She knows that you are all exhausted, and that Billy's energy is flagging dangerously low."

..........All heads turn to Zordon in concern. Zordon continues, "She will attempt to keep these attacks up until Billy is defeated. In his current state it could permanently damage him to continue with this rate of over-exertion." He looks to the Rangers, "You must keep watch over him and shield him from Rita's continued attention."

..........Tommy looks at the others, "We'll do it, Zordon."
* * *
..........Rita spies the sleeping Ranger. --Now is the time to continue my work.-- She turns the dark tome to the next page, blows out one of the candlesÉ --As the spell continues I will have to dim the lights or it will weaken itÉ-- and begins to cast.
* * *
..........Billy is walking in Angel Grove Park at dusk. --Well it seems like dusk, but I don't see the sun going down anywhere.-- Billy just continues to walk aimlessly.

..........The voice is happy. Unleashing the rage taxed it, but now it feels new strength flowing to it. The rage allowed it to crack Billy's mental and emotional armor and get leverage. --I will be unable to do that again. Billy used up a lot of his pent up anger, it won't come back because the stimulus for it is no more, but it has done its work. I was lucky those putties showed up, I couldn't have used it against anyone else. He is still too loyal to his friends and would have never given in.-- Now the voice knows how to best draw Billy in. --Hello, Billy.--

..........Billy spins around, but still cannot figure out where that voice behind him is coming from. "What?"

..........--Just wondering how you feel, and I want to apologize for some of the things I said earlier.-- the voice is brimming with friendly sincerity. --I was just worried about you and I took it out on Tommy and the guys.--

..........Billy is taken aback. --This is a bit different from what I've been hearing,-- he thinks to himself.

..........--I guess I just get cranky when I'm tired, you know?-- the voice continues.

..........Billy thinks about what he said to Tommy. "Yeah, I know."

..........--Still worried about Tommy? Don't be. He's a great guy and he probably understands. He is a bit of a showoff at times, but he can't help it. He's the leader, and its his job to make sure the team's okay, I guess that just wears on him 'till he forgets we're not all perfect, speaks the voice in a sad, yet understanding manner. As for the rest of the guys they're okay too. Rocky can be a bit of a dope, but I think that's mainly because of his short attention span. I don't think he's stupid or anything, just easily distracted. He's a good guy in a fight, but he still hangs more with Adam and Aisha than you and Tommy. Aisha is very cheery, and it makes her seem kinda lame at times, but maybe that's because one can only take that sunny disposition so long. She hangs with Kat a lot, must be a girl thing.--

..........After this the voice pauses and examines Billy. --He's listening, now that I'm not outright insulting or putting them down, he'll listen to what I have to say. He's thought these things before in the back of his head, its just a matter of bringing them to the forefront and being his friend.--

..........--I don't know Kat all that well, she's smarter than Kim though and she's...um, smarter than Kim. Guess we just need to get to know her better, but she hangs around with Aisha all the time. I suppose that leaves Adam, well I definitely think he's the brightest of the bunch, but he's so distant and shy around us. I just don't know about him, what does he have to hide?-- questions the voice as if to itself.

..........Billy has been listening to everything the voice said, and finds himself agreeing with some things, and not being able to completely reject others. --Everybody has their merits and flawsÉ.-- As Billy thinks this, the park darkens a little bit more.

..........--Then we have Zordon and Alpha. Sometimes I think if I hear 'Ai yi yi' one more time I will go crazy. Alpha does tend to get a bit overexcited, don't know why though, its not like he goes outside of the Command Center to fight monsters. But his little mechanical self has been most helpful in solving problems. He does tend to treat Zordon's word as law though. And what about Zordon, he is so powerful that he has lived tens of thousands of years, traveled to distant dimensions, and battled Rita. Wait, he's been battling Rita for tens of thousands of years, couldn't he come up with something better by now? Or what about those times a monster appears, he ID's it, and then tells us what it is after it kicks our rears all over Angel Grove.--

.........."Must be some part of his strategy," inserts Billy who has thought this a few times himself. The park darkens a little more.

..........--I don't know, but you'd better get up now if you want to get to school. Talk to you later.--

..........Something comes to Billy, "Wait, who are you?"

..........His only reply is the engulfing Darkness.
* * *
..........Billy gets up and goes to school. He's still tired and looks pretty bad with his bruises and his exhaustion showing. Though he doesn't notice it, he tends to keep to whatever shadows he can find. He meets the guys in the hallway before class. "Hi guys."

..........They turn to look at him and do a double take, he looks pretty bad. Tommy speaks first, "You sure you're all right?"

.........."Yeah, I just feel a bit worse than I look, oh and before anyone asks, 'I fell down the stairs' yesterday. It was all I could come up with in a pinch."

.........."Okay," replies Tommy, he knows how important some explanation is to keep one's parents from catching on.

..........They all head off to their respective classes.
* * *
..........In her palace on the moon Rita sighs. --If this Ranger's day was any more boring, I would keel over. Maybe I should make it a bit more interesting.-- She turns to her spell circle and dims another candle. --Can't be too careful.-- She looks to her spell book, only a few parts of the Spell are left to cast. --Tonight I will cast the last part and wait, but nowÉ.-- She begins casting another page of the Spell.
* * *
..........Billy sits listening to Mrs. Applebee lecture. He listens intently as usual, even though he already knows what she is talking about. About halfway through his head starts to ache. The lecture begins to wind to an end and the class gets ready for a quiz. *Yawn!*

..........--Billy, why do you force yourself to sit through this drivel, you know and I know that you know it. You could probably teach this class. Well maybe you could, but it seems recently your friends have become more important than your research. In fact it seems to me that you have given up on your intellectual pursuits to hang out with your cool friends.--

..........--No, I haven't. I've just been busy with the Rangers. My gadgeteering knowledge has been focused on dealing with Rita and Zedd,-- inwardly replies Billy to the voice. He winces a little as his headache begins to thump a bit louder in his skull.

..........--Maybe you should take some time for you and your work. I mean you're not feeling well anyway. Go home, relax. That's always a good prescription for headaches or exhaustion. I think you're just overtaxing yourself.-- After the voice finishes, Mrs. Applebee passes out the quizzes. Billy starts on his, but begins to have trouble concentrating as his head begins to pound. --Billy, just ignore the quiz. Relax, close your eyes, it could just be the light getting to you.-- Billy leans forward, rests his head on his hands and closes his eyes.

..........Tommy looks over to Billy, "Billy you all right?"

.........."No," Billy's mumbled reply, "I have a bad headache."

..........Mrs. Applebee looks up at the sound of talking during to the quiz. She sees Billy hunched over his desk, with Tommy leaning near him. She knows Billy isn't feeling well, and he looks like he got very banged up. She scribbles a note and walks to Billy. "Billy, here why don't you go to the Nurse's Office and lie down."

..........She hands him the pass, and gets a grateful look from his weary face. --That boy needs to get some rest.--


Billy leaves his books and heads for the Nurse's Office. --Billy, my boy, you need to go home,-- thinks the voice. Billy's footsteps lead him from the school and towards home. He gets home and goes to his currently darkened lab and sits down. --This feels better,-- thinks Billy as he closes his eyes and the headache fades a little. --I'll just rest here awhile.--
* * *
..........Billy wakes up in his darkened lab. --Must have dosed off.-- His dreams still haunt him slightly, he remembered all the insults and all the times they laughed at him. He shakes his head and fumbles for his watch and sees that there are still a couple of hours till school ends. --Well, at least my head's better.--

..........--Feeling better?-- purrs the voice, --Good, how about you just work here in the lab for a bit. You haven't done it in awhile and the others won't be here to bug you.--

.........."I don't know."

..........--Well, maybe you should just clean up the lab a bit, going through all this might give you some ideas.--

..........Billy begins opening cabinets and pulling boxes out. He starts to go through them, and finds himself putting certain things aside. When he is done he turns to the pile of stuff strewn across his table. --Nice work, Billy. I especially like this stuff.--

..........Billy pulls out a blue gun looking thing. "The Grumble Bee neutralizer. We'll need this." He turns his attention to a spray can. "The cure for the Fighting Flea's bite. We were lucky that none of the monsters could risk using their special powers in the melee. It would have been devastating."

..........--I'll second that,-- replies the voice. Billy turns his attention to another item, the device used to stop the fire breathing Saliguana. The voice interjects, --Yeah, that was a HOT time. Isn't it a pain to deal with those monsters all the time?--

.........."Yes, it is. I think some of my trouble in dealing with them comes from their magical nature. I don't know anything about magic."

..........--Personally, I think your problems in dealing with these monsters comes from Tommy's brilliant tactics. Come on, how many frontal assaults do we need to make? Only after that fails a few times and we get our butt's kicked, does he ever turn to you, good ol' reliable Billy. Don't you ever get fed up with it? I just mean that if they gave you some time from the start you could probably have those monsters dealt with in half the time, with half the fuss.--

..........Billy looks doubtful. "I don't knowÉ."

..........--Yes you could. But what about that magic stuff, maybe you do need to learn more about it. 'Know your enemy' and all that. You could ask Zordon, but as he has never decided to tell you about it before, I doubt he will now.-- The voice switches gears before Billy can begin a rebuttal. --Look here, remember this?-- The voice focuses Billy's attention on a CD disc. --This was the virus that Tommy used on Alpha when he was the Green Ranger. And this.-- Billy finds his attention moving to another item, a gold box with a red light. --You used this to shut down the Command Center. You did in one day, what Rita and Zedd have been trying to do all the time.--

.........."I was under a spell at the time," protests Billy, who is finding himself slightly proud of the extent of his knowledge, if not the use to which it was put.

..........--See, more of that magic. Maybe you should do some research so nothing like that ever happens again.--

..........Maybe I should," thinks Billy and he walks out of the lab. He ends up at the Angel Grove Library, he knows his appearance there during school hours won't cause any fuss, because he gets sent there to do extra-credit work all the time. As he enters he notes the annual book sale sign, people donate such neat books to the sale, ones that the library doesn't have or just in a condition too bad to shelve. Always a few cool deals.
* * *
..........--What's this? Billy has left school?-- Rita watches Billy go through his lab. --Now what?-- as she sees Billy leave his house and go to the library. --Doing a little reading? I wonderÉ.--
* * *
..........Billy looks through the computer catalog and pulls up a selection of books on magic. He peruses the titles and finds a swatch of non-fiction on the subject. --I don't know how much help it'll be, but it's a start.-- He prints out the list and heads to the designated shelves.
* * *
..........--Magic? Billy's looking for magic!-- Rita pauses for a second. --He's never done that before. Could it be the Spell? I suppose my Blue Ranger would be more effective if he knew something, but what?-- She rushes from the room and heads to her quarters and raids her book shelf.
* * *
..........Billy grabs a couple books on his list and heads towards a secluded table to read.
* * *
.........."Ah ha!" cries Rita outloud. --Here it is, a very simple child's spell book. It was mine when I was a girl, not much, but a start. I don't want anything powerful because Zordon would sense that, nor do I want something too powerful if this isn't the spell's work.-- She looks at the book and frowns. It's not in a language he can understand, and this is a little to obvious. --Maybe a make over.-- She waves her wand and the book is now a simple, beat up, leather-bound tome, labeled 'Magick.' --Perfect, this should get past Zordon with ease.-- She waves her wand and the book vanishes.
* * *
..........Billy has skimmed the first few books and found nothing really useful. --This is just the wrong track, but what else am I to do?-- Billy asks the voice.

..........--I don't know, maybe there's something better on the shelves. Give it another try, though I thought the stuff on Vampires was interesting. Or maybe you should just find a real magician.--

..........--Um, yes, I'll go up to Rita or Zedd and ask them to please give me lessons in magic so I can understand it better,-- Billy dryly replies.

..........--Hey, it was just an idea.--

..........Billy walks back and reshelves his books, and grabs a few more. --How about that one?-- asks the voice. --The black one.-- Billy grabs it and takes it with the rest back to his table. He reads through a couple and decides that magic on Earth is just pretty much a myth. Sigh. He picks up the last one and begins to look through it. --This is weird.-- With his interested piqued, he decides to look at it a bit closer. Maybe I should check this one out. He grabs a couple of the encyclopedia-type books along with the tome and heads to the check out counter.

..........The librarian checks out the first two books, but stops with the battered tome, "I don't think this is one of our books."

.........."Well I found it on the shelf over there."

..........The librarian looks at the book's tattered condition and decides that it must be a book sale item that was accidentally shelved. "Actually I think it was part of the book sale, sometimes we shelve the wrong things."

.........."Can I still get it?" questions Billy, who's now worried that the only good book he found is the one he's never going to read.

..........The librarian studies the book and looks at Billy, he's a regular patron and considerate one at that. She decides to offer the book to him at a very reduced price, "Well, it is part of the Book Sale, and that doesn't start for a couple of days." She watches Billy frown. "But I'll sell it to you early for three dollars."

..........--Three dollars? A hardback book like that one would normally go for about six or seven at the sale.-- He quickly digs into his pockets and scrounges up the three dollars. "Thanks a lot," he says as he carries the books out.

..........He gets home and goes to his lab to read.
* * *
..........Rita watches the Blue Ranger intently. The odds are low that he would be able to understand it, much less use it. But she has learned that underestimating a Ranger, especially this one, is a foolish thing to do. She is still uncertain why he decided to suddenly turn his attention to magic. Was it the spell or a tactic to defeat her? --Maybe he knows of my Spell?-- But it is a gamble that sweetens the stakes. --Billy is a genius. I've had to deal with that too many times to think otherwise. But when he falls to the Darkness, he will make a formidable ally or an excellent servant.--
* * *
..........School is letting out and Tommy and the gang meet in the hall. Tommy puts Billy's books in his locker and turns to the guys. "We should find Billy. I know he wasn't feeling well today, but you remember what Zordon said, we have to watch out for him until he's better."

.........."We should check his house first, that's probably where he is," suggests Adam.

..........Tommy nods, "Good plan, lets go."
* * *
..........Billy stops reading. --This is weird, in parts it reads like Dr. Seuss meets the magical arts. What's worse, I still don't have a grasp on it.--

..........--Just relax for a bit. Put on some music, grab some food and work on something. You tend to get so wrapped up in a problem that you miss the obvious, like batteries.-- The voice grins to Billy. Billy gets up and goes to a pile of CDs in one of cabinets. --Billy, most of this stuff is drivel, you know. You listen to a lot of the same dull stuff that Tommy and the others listen to.--

.........."I know. But what about this?" Billy pulls out a small pile of CDs that he keeps in the back of the cabinet "Sting is pretty good, very intelligent lyrics and a subtle sense of humor, he is a bit dark at times, but he's good. And I hadn't really listened to any of it till I heard Adam listening to 'History Will Teach Us Nothing,' so I suppose this counts as drivel too."

..........--No, this is the part that isn't drivel. Adam actually has some taste and intelligence, he just hides it well so he can fade into the background. Pop it in and grab some food. We'll figure out this book yet.-- Billy puts in a CD and hits repeat. "Moon Over Bourbon Street" begins to fill the lab with its despairing sounds. --Fitting choice,-- the voice thinks to itself. Billy heads for the kitchen.
* * *
..........The gang reaches Billy's house and hears music coming from the lab. "I think he's home," smiles Adam, who recognizes the song drifting through the air.

..........They go in and notice that most of the lights are off, and most of the light in the room is coming from the various, unidentified machines lining the shelves. Adam decides to flick on the rest of the lights. This place is surreal. Then the door opens and Billy walks in carrying a sandwich and a glass of milk, he blinks a second in the light. "Hi, guys," he speaks, but he doesn't look entirely enthused to see them here.

.........."We decided to come over and see how you're doing. You looked pretty bad during class and all..." Tommy trails off as Billy walks over and turns most of the lights back off, except for a couple near his table, almost dimming the room to its previous state of gloom.

..........Billy walks back over to the table where his book is and sits on a stool. He takes a few bites of his lunch and sees what he has on the table. "Oh, you'll need these to deal with the monsters' special powers. We were lucky they couldn't risk damaging each other by using their special abilities. This one is for the Grumble Bee, that one for Saliguana, and the can is a cure for the Fighting Flea's itching bite."

..........Tommy takes them and grins, "Thanks Billy, what would we do without you."

..........--Lose,-- retorts the voice. "Lose probably," says Billy. Billy sees their slightly shocked expressions --Oops!-- and grins mischievously, "Sorry, I was just having a slight jest. My humor's been a bit strange as of late."

..........The guys look to each other and shrug. Adam looks at Billy, but he can't really see him. Billy's obscured by a shadow which deepens as Adam watches. --Something's wrong,-- thinks Adam, but he just can't place it. --The mood must be getting to me, I'm imagining things.--

..........--Good cover, but you know they're laughing at you now. Billy can be so strange...-- points out the voice.

..........Billy frowns, he knows that is not what they're thinking. --They're my friends, and they were worried about me.--

..........--Is that why they're here? I think they're spying on you for Zordon. They don't want to lose track of their little genius. In fact, now that you gave them all of this stuff, they're probably going to leave. They've got what they needed.-- The voice gets no reply.

..........Tommy looks at Billy, and Billy looks like he wants to be left alone. "Thanks Billy, we'll take these to Zordon, so they'll be ready if we need them."

..........At the mention of Zordon, Billy remembers that he hasn't seen him in a while. "What did Zordon say yesterday?"

.........."He said you should get some rest and lay off your powers, and that we should drop by to see how you're doing," answered Tommy, he blinks as Billy's eyes seem to harden and flash with anger. --...the brim of my hat hides the eye of a beast... Man, that music must be getting to me. I'm imagining things.-- Tommy, unconsciously echoing Adam's earlier thought, shakes his head and leaves.
* * *
..........As Tommy speaks, so does the voice. --See? He is spying on you for Zordon. Though I don't know why, I mean with that viewing globe he can watch you anywhere. Probably wants to make sure you're not going to get yourself in trouble.--

..........Billy feels an irrational surge of anger at this, because more and more the voice mirrors his own thoughts. --I want my privacy and I'm going to have it,-- thinks Billy resolutely.

..........After they leave he turns to his lab and begins to gather parts that he will need. No more spying. He begins to work as the plans for the the Command Center flit through his head.
* * *
..........Rita watches in bafflement. She sees the other Rangers come and talk to Billy. She notes the Spell's power grows stronger, but except for his joke Billy doesn't seem any different. Then she sees him begin grabbing components from his shelf and begin to build something. What is he doing?
* * *
..........As Billy works some of the book floats through his mind and connects with the image of the device he is building. --Hmmm....-- He finishes and closes the cover, it looks like a simple black box with a button on it. He stares at it a minute. --No! I can't do this. This would be interfering with Zordon.--

..........--So? Zordon is interfering with you. Anyway, don't you want to know if it works?-- seductively purrs the voice.

..........Billy stares at the box and begins to reach for the button. He stops. --I can'tÉ.--

..........--Why not? It isn't as if this is going to affect anybody but you. It won't hurt anybodyÉ.--

..........Billy blinks and just can't remember why it was such a bad idea. --Now I remember, if I use this it will cause me and the area I occupy to vanish from computers too. That would cause an alarm to sound. Wait, I installed that alarm after Zedd kidnapped me. If I justÉ.-- Billy grabs a few more things and after a little while, he smiled. --How's this? I've set this up to bypass the alarms and feed in my previous location as data. Unless they are watching on the globe or send someone to check they won't even know I'm gone.--

..........--Nice work,-- comments the voice. --How about a test drive?--
* * *
..........Rita watches Billy work and it looks like he's done, but all of a sudden he starts again. What is he doing? Then he finishes again and hits a button. He vanishes. --WHAT? He CAN'T do that! He's hidden himself from me. How? I must know.-- Rita begins to cast her cloaking spell again and teleports to Earth.
* * *
..........Tommy ends up at the Command Center with Billy's gadgets. Adam and Rocky are with him, Kat and Aisha decided to go out and have some fun. "Alpha, Billy sent these," says Tommy to the android as he hands over the objects, "he said we would need them."

..........Alpha takes the gadgets, "Yes, we will. These are things we built when Grumble Bee, Saliguana, and Fighting Flea first showed up. Without these we would have been defeated." Alpha scans the objects to make sure that they are still in working order, but only as standard procedure because he knows Billy would have taken good care of them. "How is Billy?"

..........Tommy thinks for a minute, "I guess he's fine, but he seems a bit touchy lately. He did leave school early with a headache, but he went home. We went and saw him at the lab."

.........."Yeah, he had all the lights off. Man, it was creepy," adds Rocky, "almost like something out of a horror movie."

.........."I think he just wanted to be alone for awhile. I understand that feeling," quietly interjects Adam, then he remembers Billy in his lab, in the shadows, with his lunch and a glass of milk in front of him. --Why am I thinking about this?-- Adam pushes the errant thought away.
* * *
..........--Well I've turned it on, but I really won't know if its working, until I can go over the feeds at the Command Center,-- Billy thinks to himself. He picks up the box and tucks it in one of his bags. --I'll go to the park, I'll be able to to check the computers for my location later.-- Billy heads out of his house.


--Where is that Blue Ranger,-- wonders Rita. She teleported to a shaded place besides Billy's house. She turns from her cloaked position and walks into Billy. --Oh No!-- Rita panics and teleports herself back up to the palace.
* * *
..........Billy walks out and hits something, he tumbles to the ground and looks up in time to see Rita appear and teleport away. --What? I'd better tell Zordon.--

..........--Yeah, you should, it would be a good excuse to check the computers.--

..........Billy walks back to his lab and turns off the "box." He taps his communicator and transports to the Command Center. He appears and sees Tommy, Rocky, and Adam listening to Alpha explain how the devices he sent should be used. He steps forward and speaks, "Zordon, I just walked into Rita."

.........."You saw Rita?" asks Rocky.

.........."No, I literally walked into her. I fell and she just appeared and teleported away. I was wondering if you had any idea of what was going on."

..........--I doubt it,-- interjects the voice.

..........Zordon looks worried, "No Billy, I do not. I believe Rita is trying to get her revenge on you for defeating her spell. As to her exact method of this, I have no clues."

..........--Did you think he was going to be able to help you? I mean about all he can do is look worried and tell you things you already know. Or send Alpha to run around going 'Ai yi yi.' A true help. The voice's attention shifts. Look at this place, I bet you could shut it down with no problem. Oops, you already have, sorry.--

..........Billy frowns slightly, partially from Zordon's answer and partially because the voice is right. "I'm going to check the computers to see if or why we missed her." Billy starts to work, keeping an eye out for his "test."

..........Alpha walks up, "Billy can I help?"

..........--No,-- thinks Billy and the voice in unison. "No Alpha, I can do this on my own," says Billy with a slight edge in his voice.

..........The others look at him, they've never really heard him utter a cross word to Alpha, ever. Rocky pauses for a moment, "Billy, you okay? I know you've heard this fifty billion times today, but you seem a bit grumpy all of a sudden."

..........Billy sighs and closes his eyes for a moment. --Maybe because I finally noticed what twits you are.-- "Sorry, I'm still a bit tired. Guess I shouldn't miss any sleep tonight," Billy smiles as he finishes this. --I'm not on the readouts for earlier, it works!-- "I think I'm going to head home and get some more sleep. Bye."

..........With that Billy teleports home, leaving Tommy and Rocky shrugging and look at each other in confusion. Adam just looks thoughtful.
* * *
..........Rita watches Billy appear at his house and head to bed. Now for the final part of the spell. She blows out a couple more candles, if the spell is right, then she will need them no more. She turns to the final page and begins to intone the spell once more.
* * *
..........Billy sleeps and dreams, he's walking through Angel Grove Park and night has fallen. It is a deep night and only a couple of stars in the sky break it, but Billy doesn't really notice. "Where are you?"

..........--I'm here. Sorry about today. It's not good to know that your friends still think you're comedy relief.--

..........Billy looks sad and angry, "I don't know why. I'm like they are! I dress nice, I play their games, and I hang with them. Why isn't it enough?"

..........--Because, even though you try to be like them, you never will be. You'll always be the geek to them, the one who doesn't always seem to be on the same wavelength. You can't make yourself less smart, and you can't make THEM smarter. It's just not going to work. Why fight it? Just do what you do best and ignore them.--

.........."They're my friends," protests Billy, but he doesn't sound all that forceful, he knows what the voice will say next. He's said it to himself hundreds of times. ..........

The park no longer looks well, the trees are starting to brown and the grass is dying, but Billy takes no notice. The wind begins to pick up.

..........--You're their charity case. You didn't fit in with any of them, and Trini was the only one who attempted to understand. Yet she laughed at you as much as they. And what about Bulk and Skull? They still think you're a geek and what have you done to disprove them? Nothing, but why should you care? They are nothing, they lack the intellect to comprehend your ideas, much less understand you. But that can be said of all your friends, can't it. Your only true friend is the knowledge, only it has never betrayed you. Only it is always there. It's the only thing that is worthy of your respect, besides yourself that is.--

.........."Yes," replies Billy very quietly. A sadness and a shame that he had put away after he had been a Ranger for a while comes back. He is still an outcast and a nobody, neither cool clothes nor false friends would change that. Billy feels the despair creep back into him.

..........The darkness in the park deepens, and the grass turns to dust and blows away in the wind. Only one tree stands tall and proud, but it is also showing minor signs of the blight. The other trees are just dead wood.

..........The voice takes on a very reasonable tone, and Billy doesn't feel like fighting this particular battle. --Maybe you should just prove them wrong once and for all. You don't need them as much as they need you, so let them fumble around without you for awhile. Maybe you don't need them at all. Rita and Zedd can be their problem. They'll betray you, only the knowledge is true. Anyway, they'll call you if they need you.--

..........Billy finally figures out where he knows the voice from, it's his own, the voice that rattles around in the back of his head. He doesn't even protest as the Darkness swallows him.
* * *
..........Rita looks to her casting and completes the Spell by blowing out the final candle. Even though there is no light left in the room, she can still see the Crystal and her symbols. They glow with the Darkenflame and she knows that all she has to do is wait.
* * *
..........Self-confidence and self-esteem are strange things, if you've had them most of your life you tend to hold onto them, if you haven'tÉ. Well if you haven't a lot of things can happen, you could be a bully, someone always trying to be 'cool,' or an introvert. You could focus your attentions to books and learning, this seems to be a well traveled path, but you can become an outcast. Sometimes you look at your friends and feel a jealousy, for they all seem to have it together and be so much better compared to you. If you manage to overcome this and get your self-confidence and self-esteem together, you can either find yourself comfortable with your outcast status or attempt to change it. But confidence and self-esteem can be fragile things. You could be going along fine one day, then you find yourself falling into despair. You can't do it and you're not worth the effort to try. It tends to taint your outlook on life and make you consider yourself a failure, even if you have done well. A very dangerous trap for anyone to fall into. Just ask Billy.

..........He wakes up in the morning and is definitely in a bad mood. He is feeling a mixture of despair, rage, and contempt for the world. He digs through his closet for something to wear, but finds himself passing over things he normally likes. He ends up in the back of his closet among some of the clothes he's never worn and finds something he likes. He pulls out a dark navy blue t-shirt (It had been a gift from his Aunt last Christmas, but at the time he had thought it a little dark for his tastes), a pair of dark blue Docker-like pants, and a denim jacket. He just feels drawn to dark colours today.

..........Billy takes a shower and has some breakfast. He then goes to his lab and fiddles with the device he'd once used to shut the Command Center down. --It's nice, but would I really want to be without my powers or the teleporter? No, but I should leave the others powers on too, that way they probably won't notice and I might find some use for them. This'll work a lot better.-- He smiles to himself and grabs the book and the box. --I'll just go to the park and read. If by some miracle they need me, they'll call.-- Billy absently turns the box on and places it in his backpack along with the book, the virus disc, and the Command Center box. He starts out the door and stops. --Whoa. It is a bit bright out there today.-- He stands there blinking in the light. He goes back in the lab and pulls out a pair of sunglasses that he sometimes uses as eye-protection during some of his brighter experiments, --That's better,-- and he heads out to the park.
* * *
..........Adam meets up with Tommy and Rocky at the Juice Bar. He hasn't slept that well, he kept having this dream where he was talking to Billy in a dark room, but when the lights came on Billy was just a dark shadow. --That was creepy, there is something about Billy lately that is making me nervous. Something? But what?-- Adam shakes his head and shivers slightly as he remembers the dream. He walks up behind Tommy and Rocky, "Hi." He's a bit startled when they both spin around and stare at him. "What?"

.........."You scared us sneaking up on us like that," answers a slightly embarrassed Rocky. "Are you trying to be a ninja without the power, or just seeing how high we can jump," Rocky grins mischievously at the last bit.

..........Adam looks a bit embarrassed himself, he knows he has a habit of blending in and being quiet, but usually he remembers to make his presence known a bit better. "Sorry," he grins sheepishly.

.........."No problem. We're going to the park. Kat and Aisha are going to meet us there. Wanna come?" asks Tommy.

..........Adam nods and they head for the park.
* * *
..........Rita is looking for Billy. --That thing he made is interfering with my magical scrying. I'll send down some putties to find him, then I'll go down myself to find him. I just won't get so close this time.-- "Finster!"

..........Finster scurries into the room, "Yes, My Queen?"

.........."I want you to send down some putties and Goldar. They are to find the Blue Ranger and tell me where he is."

.........."Yes, My Queen," replies Finster as he rushes from the room.

.......... She turns to her casting circle, the Darken Crystal, which was once a bright blue has turned dark. It is still blue, but a blue as deep as night, not the day it once resembled. The arcane symbols she had inscribed to hold the Crystal now glow with the same deep blue as the Crystal, and somehow she is able to see them without the lights. --Billy is under my spell, but now I need to make sure he is against the Rangers. How will I do that?--
* * *
..........Tommy, Adam, and Rocky walk through the park. It is a slightly overcast, yet comfortable day. They are going to meet Aisha and Kat, and check on Billy later. But as they walk, they notice a bunch of putties wandering around looking for something. Then the putties notice them.
* * *
..........Billy sits in the shade and reads, the book has begun to make some sense, but only when he thinks about it in a certain way. He has to make it meld with his machines and gadgets, but he can work it. --Magic is such a strange thing, I can't do what Rita can do, just wave a wand and poof, have a spell completed. But with my technical knowledge I believe can somehow augment it and make it part of my work, possibly increasing its power. At the least it would be fun. Something for knowledge's sake, not those fools I spend my time with.-- The voice he has become accustomed to has faded, or has it run into his own thoughts? He doesn't know or care anymore.
* * *
..........Tommy, Rocky, and Adam battle the putties and after a little fuss start to defeat them. Then Goldar shows up and charges them. After knocking Adam and Rocky away, he turns to Tommy, "Well White Ranger, you might not be the person I was looking for, but I suppose you'll have to do."

..........They circle and battle continues.
* * *
..........--Goldar, you moron! I need to know where Billy is, not have you get your gold-plated rear thrashed by Tommy,-- mentally snarls Rita. --They can never get anything right.-- Rita waves her wand.
* * *
..........Tommy, Rocky, and Adam are just left standing there. The fight hasn't really started and it was over. "What was that about," absently questions Tommy.

..........Adam thinks about what Goldar said. --The person he was looking for?-- Adam walks away a bit from where they are and carefully looks around. --There! Under that tree, it's Billy. Goldar must have been looking for him, but we distracted him.-- "Um, why don't we go this way and find out."

..........They walk a little bit in the direction Adam indicated and they notice Billy. Rocky turns to Adam, "I thought the falcon was supposed to have good eyesight," and grins.

..........Tommy groans and shakes his head, "Bad joke, man, bad joke." Tommy looks to Billy reading intently under a tree. "Hey Billy," he shouts and doesn't get much of a reply.

..........Billy hears Tommy's shouted greeting and sighs. --I can't have any peace and quiet can I? I'd better turn off the box, don't need them to blink out too.-- Billy reaches in his bag and turns off the box. --I don't want to listen to their foolishness right now, I'm working.-- Billy looks up, "Hello," he says flatly.

..........Adam, Tommy, and Rocky look at each other. Billy seems downright inhospitable. They also note how Billy looks, he's sitting in the dark and he's still tired and bruised, but he doesn't look as bad as yesterday. He's also wearing a lot of dark blue and sunglasses.

..........--Sunglasses? On a day like this? While he's reading. Something is definitely wrong,-- thinks Adam, then a vision of Billy in his lab yesterday presents itself. Billy is sitting at the table with the shadows obscuring his face and his lunch and a book are on the table in front of him. --Wait, I'm facing the side of the glass that has the glare on it. That means that the light was shining on Billy. But I couldn't see his face, how could that be?-- Then another memory marches past, Billy pushing Kat out of the way of Rita's spell. --Maybe it didn't miss him,-- wonders Adam worriedly. Adam then notes that the conversation has gone on without him, not that Billy is saying anything, but Rocky and Tommy are trying. "Um...Billy?"

..........Billy hears the strange tone of Adam's voice and looks up. Adam takes this as a go-ahead. "Well I was just thinking, um, maybe you should come to the Command Center."

..........Billy's answer is very to the point, "Why?"

..........Adam is not ready for any resistance. --Though I should have been if what I'm thinking is right.--
* * *
..........Rita watches Billy suddenly reappear after Goldar's screw up. He is talking with the Rangers. --Adam looks very suspicious all of a sudden, does he know?--
* * *
.........."Oh, nothing. I just remembered that Alpha said something about there being problems with the viewing globe or something." Adam blinks at Billy's expression.

..........--Do they know? How? My device left no trace. There was no way they could find out,-- Billy thinks to himself in a flash of paranoia. "Oh, well I suppose I must go," says Billy bemusedly.

..........Tommy and Rocky are looking at Adam as Billy grabs his bag. Adam just shrugs, "Let's teleport to the Command Center."

..........They all teleport away in flashes of their respective colors, except for the dark blue of Billy's teleport.
* * *
..........Rita looks worried. --What if they know? Maybe I should make a distraction.-- "Finster, send your monsters down to Earth!"
* * *
..........They appear in the Command Center and Adam looks really worried. He quickly turns to Zordon. --I really don't want to say this. What if I'm wrong?-- "Um, Zordon? How would you know if someone was under that Darken Spell?"

.........."I would be able to scan them and the Darken power would show up," Zordon looks concerned, "but why would you wish to know this?"

..........Billy, Tommy, and Rocky just stare at Adam. Billy thinks to himself. --Is this why Adam wanted me at the Command Center? He thinks I'm under some evil spell or something?--

..........Adam looks uncomfortable, especially after he looks at Billy. --I must be wrong. They'll all think I've gone crazy. Maybe I shouldn't...no I'd better. Better to be safe than to be sorry.-- "Well Zordon, I, um, think that you should scan Billy," this is greeted by shocked gasps from Tommy and Rocky, "I think he might have gotten caught by it." --There, I said it.--

..........Zordon looks thoughtful and Billy looks, well its hard to tell how he looks, his expression is unreadable. Zordon speaks, "Adam I trust your opinions and perceptions. Alpha please scan Billy, we will have to process the results. Billy, I am sorry, but I cannot take a chance that Adam is right. I will require that you leave your power coin here until I get the results."

.........."What!?" protests a shocked Billy. --This is insane, they've all turned against me. His self-doubt washes over him. I'm nothing without my Ranger powers. He can't be doing this!-- Though all of this is flying through Billy's mind, he stands still for the scan. --It can't be true.-- He looks at Alpha standing before him. --It can't be true. They've all betrayed me.-- Rage flashes through him as he reaches back and hands his morpher and coin to Alpha, "Here," he says flatly.

..........Before anything else can be said the viewing globe flashes in alert. They all turn to it and see Rita's monsters rampaging through Angel Grove Park. Zordon speaks once more, "Tommy, I will teleport you, Adam, and Rocky to the park. I will notify Aisha and Kat, then teleport them there." Zordon turns to Billy, "Until the results can be processed you will have to wait. I will send you home."

..........Billy doesn't look happy as he and the others teleport to their separate destinations.
* * *
..........Billy appears at home. --I can't believe it! They took my coin. They treat me as their favorite errand boy, but when I have a bad day they decide that I must be under some evil spell. I don't need this.-- Suddenly his thoughts take a new turn. --Maybe they're trying to get rid of me. Maybe they don't need me as a Ranger anymore. I won't let them take my power away. I will not.-- Then a dark smile crosses Billy's face, if the others had seen this, there would have been no doubt about whether the spell had worked or not. He looks into his bag. --They won't get me if I get them first.--

..........Billy reaches down and pushes the button on his cloaking device. --Find me now, Zordon.-- He smiles and pulls out his newly-improved Command Center disrupter and turns it on. --Oops I guess you can't if you're not in this dimension. No one crosses me.-- He places the devices back into his pack and pulls out the disc. --Now to get my coin back. Billy taps a few buttons on his communicator and teleports away.--

..........He arrives in the darkened Command Center. Alpha is running around trying to find out what is wrong, it hasn't sunk in yet. Billy walks up to Alpha and slides the disc in. Alpha turns and looks at Billy, "Billy, how...," Alpha's voice trails off as the virus attacks. --Oh Alpha, better safe than sorry.-- Billy reaches out and disconnects a couple of wires from Alpha. --Now for my coin.-- Billy sweeps the Command Center and sees his gadgets for battling the monsters. --I don't think they'll be needing these,-- he thinks, and he drops them in his pack. After a little bit of searching, he finds his coin and morpher, and also finds the controls for the Falcon Zord that he made. --This could definitely come in handy.--

..........Billy sits on a console and thinks. --They won't let me get away with this. So I suppose I'll have to deal with them as well. Hmm... But if I get them out of the way, Rita and Zedd will conquer the Earth. Can't have that.-- Billy grins maliciously as a plan forms.
* * *
..........Rita is shocked. Billy returned from the Command Center, then vanished. Not long after the Command Center shut down. --My Billy did it! He has dealt with Alpha and Zordon in one swoop. I need to talk to him, but I'll have to wait. No I don't, the Command Center is out of power, there is nothing to disrupt my spell.-- She waves her wand and teleports to the Command Center.
* * *
..........Billy is still thinking when fate drops exactly what he needs in his lap. Rita appears in front of him. He blinks. --Maybe she did cast a spell. Aw, so what.-- He smiles cordially to Rita, "To what do I owe the pleasure."..........

Rita blinks. --This is just too strange. My plan has worked perfectly, Billy has betrayed his friends and is sitting here talking to me. I'm in the Command Center talking to Billy as a potential ally.-- She shakes her head, "I was curious as to what disaster befell the Command Center."

.........."Oh, your concern is overwhelming. I've decided that I like the place and I'm going to move in," smiles Billy.

.........."Move into this?" she gestures to the powered down consoles.

..........Billy takes her gaze in and smiles, "I'll have everything up and running, except for Zordon that is, in a couple days." --Now for the bait.-- "I just want to stay here and be left alone with my work for awhile."

.........."How will you do that Billy? Now that you have become evil, you will lose your powers, just like my Green Ranger did. I can..."

..........Billy laughs. --She has no idea!-- "Rita this is my coin, so now that I have turned 'evil', as you put it, it will stay mine. I suspect 'your' Green Ranger was cut off from the Morphing Grid by Zordon," Billy glances to the now dark column, "I don't think I'll have to worry about that." Billy watches as Rita takes this in. --She was hoping to have something to offer me, so I'll just have to make her an offer.-- "I believe that we want the same thing: to get rid of my former teammates. Because I know that they won't let me get away with this. I know they won't be able to stop me, but I don't want them to interfere with my research," Billy pauses as it suddenly dawns on Rita what he is saying, "I know how to do it and I have a plan, but I lack the resources to carry it out. You have them." Billy stares at Rita and waits.

.......... --He wants me to help defeat the Rangers! This is wonderful. Resources?-- Rita looks thoughtful as she speaks, "Resources? What do you need?"

.........."I require a good number of putties, oh about twenty, your Tengas, Goldar, Rito, those monsters you sent out, and anyone else who is still hanging around."

.........."There's no way I can get that many putties," she pauses, "I can do thirteen, one of Tengas was injured in the last battle."

.........."No more?"

.........."I'll be seriously weakening myself at that, I don't want to risk anything more."

..........--She is so dull, this is too easy.-- Billy looks thoughtful, "I don't think you'll have to worry. All of the Rangers will be busy being defeated by your monsters and my device, so they won't be able to take advantage of your weakened state." --But I will.--

.........."Unfortunately, I can make no more at this time. With my constant attacks I am close to my limit, the putties you require will cause me to reach it," Rita frowns, "You said 'device'?"

.........."Yes, I have an idea for a device that will allow me to win the day. Whatever you can send will be adequate. I must work, just send your monsters down and I'll do the rest."

..........Rita nods, "As you wish my new ally." Rita laughs and is joined by Billy. She waves her wand and teleports away.

..........--This was too easy, what a fool. I need to grab my supplies and go to my lab. They'll get bright and come here for the gadgets to defeat those monsters. I don't want to be around when they see what I've done to the place.-- Billy runs around the Command Center and 'borrows' a few components. He teleports away.
* * *
..........The battle is not going well, the Rangers are getting thrashed. Between the Grumble Bee's attacks and the Saliguana's fire, they are fading fast. Fighting Flea is just hitting the occasional Ranger when they are down, but he has been ordered not to use his itching bite with other monsters around. Tommy knows they can't keep this up. "Adam go to the Command Center and get those things of Billy's so we can put these guys away." Adam nods and teleports away.
* * *
..........Billy appears in his lab and he quickly puts his cloaking device and disruption system in a drawer. --Don't want anybody to know about those yet.-- Another idea occurs to him and he places a spare communicator in one of the pockets. --Never know when I might need to suddenly send something to the guys.-- Billy works in his lab. --I must finish quickly,-- he thinks, as two similar-looking machines and a triggering mechanism begin to take shape in front of him.
* * *
..........Adam appears in the Command Center. He looks around in shock at the darkened Command Center and the slumped form of Alpha. --No!-- A look of anger actually graces Adam's face. --Billy! He did this!-- The pieces fall into place. He taps his communicator and teleports to Billy's lab.
* * *
..........Billy looks up as Adam teleports in. He stands and picks up his pack, "Hello, Adam. To what do I owe the pleasure." A sinister smile crosses his face, "Wait, let me guess. You need to deal with those nasty monsters right? But you want to 'deal' with me too, right?"

.........."Billy you need help, you're under a spell," Adam tries to reach Billy.

..........A look of contempt settles on Billy's face, "Oh, I'm fine, and you don't have time to worry about me." Billy tosses the pack to Adam, "You've wasted enough time here; your friends need you now. Go help them before it's too late," he sneers at Adam.

..........Adam is shocked, but he knows that he can't waste anymore time. The others need him. "We'll help you Billy," he says as he teleports away to the battle.

..........Billy turns back to his work. --Time's almost up, Adam, and I don't think I need your "help."-- He puts the finishing touches on his devices. --Done. Now I need to go play with my new toy.-- As he picks up his cloaker and the Falcon Zord controller, he begins to hum "Murder by Numbers" as he teleports away.
* * *
..........The beleaguered Rangers are barely holding their own. Right after Adam teleported away, a group of putties, along with Goldar, Rito, and more Tengas appeared. When Adam returns, he grabs the weapons out of the backpack and lets the pack fall to the ground. --I hope Billy hasn't messed with these.-- He sees Kat near him, "Kat use this on Saliguana," and he tosses her the device. She gets it and Saliguana's fiery breath is out of the equasion. After he tosses Kat her weapon, he turns on the Grumble Bee and takes him down. He pulls out his blade blaster and fires a few shots at it to keep it down. This brief respite doesn't last long as the the monsters begin to regroup. --What about Billy?-- he worries to himself as he gets caught up in the melee.
* * *
..........Billy is in the Command Center. He's still humming "Murder by Numbers," though at times he sings to himself as he works. "Once that you've decided on a killing, first you make a stone of your heart. If you find that your hands are still willing, you can turn a murder into art." He laughs a bit at the song. --I suppose that is what I'm planning.-- He grins and turns back to his work. He plays with his morpher and one of the control panels, which suddenly comes back on. --Yes, now I have to go prepare the Falcon Zord.-- He teleports to where the Zord is stored. --Nice.-- Billy makes a few modifications to the Falcon Zord. --I need to know where it is and 'hear' its readouts.-- After working on placing one of the devices in a sturdy case with some kind of clamping mechanism attached, he loads it into the Falcon. --This should work, for a while at least, but the device will short itself out in a few minutes at most, anyway. One last thing.-- He places the cloaker inside the Zord. --I won't need this anymore.-- He teleports from the room and goes back to his Command Center.

..........He turns to the to the teleportation controls and sends his second device to his spare communicator. --Soon, it will be over and I will win the day-- He laughs a bit. --Rita is so slow. After her the Rangers will be no problem.-- He picks up the Falcon Zord controller. --Time to get you into position...-- and uses it to move the Falcon Zord to a position overlooking Rita's Palace. He taps another control and it launches the device. 3-2-1 contact. It's in place. He pulls the triggering device out of his pocket, --Let the show begin!-- and pushes the button.
* * *
..........The battle suddenly pauses. Every Ranger simultaneously demorphs and almost every monster, except Goldar and Rito, staggers as their energy fades. "What's happening," cries Kat.

..........Adam just looks to her and says one word, "Billy."

..........This respite ends as the monsters attack the weakened Rangers.
* * *
..........Rita feels her power suddenly fade. --What? My power! What's happening...-- This thought fades as the Palace is rocked by the first barrage by the Falcon Zord. She looks and sees the Zord. --He betrayed me!-- she thinks in wonder, --and without my power there is nothing I can do!-- Her train of thought is broken as Zedd charges in.

.........."What is happening? Why are we under attack? What have you done to my power?" roars Zedd, "I should have never let you..." He fades off as the Palace is rocked by another explosion.

.........."I turned the Blue Ranger evil, Zeddy, and he's turned against us," Rita moans. --Wait!-- She runs to where the Crystal is and runs her fingers along the protective circle, disrupting it. She then smashes her wand into the Crystal. It shatters in an explosion of Darken Blue flame that lightens as it fades.
* * *
..........The pounding barrage on the Palace halts. --It worked!-- Rita thinks. Then she feels her magic rush back. --I need to end this now so I can save the Palace.-- She waves her wand in the air, reclaiming the magical energy she's invested.
* * *
..........The Rangers are losing. Demorphed, the sheer number of monsters is overwhelming. Suddenly they feel their powers return and just as suddenly as they appeared, the monsters vanish. The Rangers look confused. Adam demorphs, looking pretty worried as he fills them in on his confrontation with Billy. They look pretty shocked.

..........Tommy speaks first. "You mean he turned against us," suddenly something adds up. "That's why our powers went out during the battle. Let's go to the Command Center."
* * *
..........At the moment the Darken Crystal shatters, Billy freezes. The Falcon Zord controller falls from his grasp as he just stares. Realization hits him hard --I-I can't believe I did that. I betrayed...-- He suddenly turns to Alpha and removes the virus disc, he reconnects Alpha, all the while mumbling, "Be okay, please be okay."

..........Alpha shakes slightly as power comes back on, his processors shut down all areas contaminated by the virus. He's confused. "Billy?" He takes in Billy's distraught demeanor, "Billy, what happened?"

..........Billy's shaking slightly, he's on the verge of tears. --I can't believe I did this, I hurt my friends, I helped Rita.-- He looks to Alpha, "I did." He just sits on the floor and covers his face with his hands. --Why? How could I?-- the self-recriminations run through his head. He doesn't even notice the other Rangers entrance.

..........The guys appear and see Billy huddled on the floor. The other Rangers just stare. --Poor guy, he must have broken the spell.-- Adam walks over and puts his hand on Billy's shoulder, "Billy, you okay?" --Man, that was a stupid thing to say. Of course he's not okay.-- He gets no answer. He sits down beside Billy, "I know you're feeling bad, but it wasn't you. It was the spell. You're okay now." Still he gets no answer. --I don't even know if he's listening.-- Adam looks up to Zordon's empty space, "Billy, I need to know how you turned everything off," says Adam quietly.

..........He's startled when Billy replies, "In my lab, in a drawer, just push the button." Billy then looks at Adam and whispers, only Adam hears this, "Adam, the spell may have helped, but it was all me. It was me." Billy's voice holds so much desolation that Adam nearly feels his heart break in sympathy.

.........."Hey Billy. Don't worry, it was a spell. I know exactly how you feel," says Tommy, he remembers being under Rita's spell as the Green Ranger.

.........."Yes, Billy. I've been there too," adds Kat. "We know it wasn't you. Don't blame yourself for it."

..........Billy looks up, he doesn't look like their words are helping very much. "You should go get the device and turn it off," his voice is very soft and they can barely hear him.

..........Tommy stands up, knowing he's not helping very much. "I'll go and get it." He teleports off, a few moments later the power turns back on and Zordon reappears. He looks to his Rangers and notes Billy sitting on the floor with Adam desperately trying to console him.

.........."Billy, do not worry. You are free from the spell. It was not your fault," speaks Zordon with evident concern, "You should go home and rest."

.........."Okay," is Billy's quiet reply.

.........."Hey, Billy. I'll come over and see you later, okay?" asks Adam. --Billy, I hope you let me help. You're not alone, I understand,-- thinks Adam. Some of this must be showing on his face as he takes in Billy's intense stare.

..........Billy looks thoughtful for a moment, "Sure," a sad smile crosses his face as he teleports home.
* * *
..........Billy sits in his darkened lab once more alone with his thoughts. Sting is drifting through the air, singing "If I Ever Lose my Faith in You." He's been sitting here since he returned from the Command Center earlier. He just keeps going over the past few days over and over. He's broken from these thoughts as Adam walks in. "Hi Billy. I said I would come over, so I came now. I had a feeling you wouldn't be getting much sleep tonight anyway."

..........Billy smiles bleakly, "You're right." Billy changes verbal tracks suddenly. "I've been listening to Sting a lot tonight, he really fits my mood."

..........Adam nods, "Sometimes I feel the same way. I know you don't, but want to talk about it? It might help you make some sense of it to have a second opinion."

.........."You're right, I don't want to talk about it, but maybe I do need a second opinion. I still can't believe it, but I know why," Billy looks very sad as he says this. "I've always been there and I find myself being treated as furniture, something that's unimportant until you need it. Just there for them, always. 'Billy we need this,' or 'Billy make this.' It wears on me, you know."

.........."Yeah I do. I suppose its because I'm a background player. But maybe you're right, we do take you for granted sometimes. We get so wrapped up in what we're doing or what's going on that we forget that we're all just people," says Adam thoughtfully.

.........."Especially Tommy, he was different before he became the White Ranger. Now he's just so darn perfect...," Billy trails off and tosses Adam a sadly bemused grin.

.........."I feel the same way, I suppose I just deal with it better," grins Adam. "Hey, I felt the same thing about you sometimes. I mean you were doing good in school, an excellent athlete, and you were getting dates left and right. Hard to measure up to," sighs Adam.

..........Billy blinks, he's been so busy wallowing in his own misery, that he just never thought about it. "Sorry. Now I suppose I'm not so hard to measure up to," this brings a sad chuckle from Billy. "I suppose, in a way, that you and me are the most alike. We're both smart, don't say otherwise, I know. We're both doing much better than we were, and we both still have the occasional confidence problem. We haven't been the best or bravest, or whatever until recently. We still have doubts, unlike some people I know." They both grin conspiratorially as they think of Tommy. Then Billy's grin fades, "But when I was under the spell, all of it came back. My annoyance for being taken for granted, my feelings of being less than everyone, even my feelings of betrayal after Jason, Zack, and Trini left. I had way too much emotional baggage. I just wanted to run back to my books and my work to be safe." Billy pauses to get his thoughts together, and Adam just waits patiently. Billy will say whatever is getting to him. "I think the spell I was under was a lot different than the ones that Kat and Tommy had been under. They were just evil, but it was an external evil, they still fought it. Mine was my own, it was what was already there, all rolled up into one nice neat little package," Billy stands up and begins pacing. "It was me getting even with everybody. I didn't really fight it, I just accepted it, because it was already there." Billy shakes his head as he fumbles for the right words.

.........."You mean that the feelings existed, right?" says Adam. Billy turns and nods. "Billy we all have those feelings, well I know I do, its like Zordon said to me after I saw the spell 'I will hold to the light in my nature always,' I thought about that and came up with something that I think fits. There's light in my nature, but there's something else, an affinity for darkness or whatever. I have that and I think we all do, its just that you and the guys never look at it much. I think this is just shaking you because you thought you dealt with this stuff and put it away. Well you did, but it stayed with you, in someplace in your skull that you only wander into on those really bad days."

..........Billy smiles mischievously, "You know that is the longest I've ever heard you speak. Thanks, I understand what you're saying," Billy's smile fades a bit, "but I don't think anyone understands what went on yet. I don't know if they ever will. You know I suddenly came out of the spell right?" He looks at Adam for confirmation, "I talked to Zordon earlier and he said that to come out of the spell, some crystal had to be broken. So it was...by Rita. I was attacking her palace while the monsters were fighting you. I conned her into stretching her resources thin and I used the Falcon Zord to launch an attack." Billy points to some fused wreckage on his desk, "This device had a partner that I sent to Rita. I'd been reading this weird book on magic and I got an idea. This device shunted power from you guys into the morphing grid and the other drew the magical power into the grid. Essentially for the few minutes that the device contained it, your powers canceled each other out."

.........."That's why the monsters got weaker and we demorphed."

.........."Yes, but right after that I used to Falcon Zord to launch an assault on the Palace. I'd figured Rita was a bigger threat than you guys, I knew I could..." Billy pauses for a moment as the thought rushes through his mind, "take you out with ease. I was very close to destroying the Palace. She destroyed the spell because I was winning and there was nothing else she could do about it. I would have won, if she hadn't done that. How long would I have been happy with just the Command Center? Would I have..."

..........Adam raises his voice, "Billy stop. You're just blaming yourself. The guys are just going to forget about it. You're not evil and what if's or why's are just going to keep eating at you. Sometimes you just need to stand back. Sometimes you just need to go out and feel the sun to banish the shadows," as he spoke his voice shifted down to its normal tone, Adam looks thoughtful. --I think Billy's going to need some time alone, but he'll be alright now.-- "Get some sleep, you'll feel better. How about we go to the park tomorrow and just hang around without the guys?"

..........Billy's still blinking after Adam's outburst, "Okay, sure." Billy watches Adam retreat from the lab. He sits there staring at the space Adam occupied earlier. Billy sighs to himself and hears the music playing. --How fitting.-- he sings along, "Guess I'm familiar with the grey wolf's howl, but I'm certain I've never heard this sound. Devil to pay on judgment day, would Jesus strike me down if I should pray." Billy shakes his head and walks into his house. I'll see how it is tomorrow in the light. Billy goes to bed and dreams of an Angel Grove Park that is bright and full of life.