Spirit's Spell
by Melissa Morris

..........Rita is in a foul mood as she sifts through the rubble of her casting room. She holds the Agin Tome in her hands as her thoughts go over the last few days, --This is all Billy's fault. I can't believe I almost let him defeat me. Arghh!-- She groans as more stucco-like substance drops from the ceiling on her head. --I'll never get this back together. And I'll never be done with Zedd's incessive gloating, 'You should have listened to me, it would never work. You'll never beat the Rangers without me.' Oh, I'll beat them alright, it's just that your plans are ineffective, because you lack the true drive to put them into action.-- Rita feels a new determination fill her instead of the defeat and self-recriminations. --My vision has failed. I have no one to blame but myself. I understand once again that setbacks happen and you just have to work with them not against them. And when you fail...-- She pauses her thoughts as she sees a flicker of blue from where her casting circle was. --What?-- she digs through the rubble and pulls out several shards of the Darken Crystal. She begins to build a pile of crystal fragments. --How can this be? Several pieces still glow! But I destroyed the spell. Wait, I never destroyed the Darken Crystal of the Green Ranger, he just passed on and the power faded. Maybe since the Blue Ranger is still alive and still has the power, he is still connected to the fragments. I must do some tests. I must know.-- She walks out of her room, "Finster, come here!"
..........Finster shuffles into her room, dodging rubble. --I'll never get my lab back together, but I know My Queen will deal with it.-- "Yes, My Queen?"
.........."Finster, I need my room cleaned, but I have some work to do. Get the Tengas, Goldar, and some putties if you can trust them not to destroy anything and have them clean it." Rita smiles, "And once they're done in here you can have them work on your lab." --Give Finster a little and he's loyal for life. Also it'll tick Monkey-Boy off.-- "Well, Finster, what are you waiting for?"
.........."Nothing My Queen. As you command," Finster replies as he hurries from the room to fulfill her command.
.......... --Now to get to my work,-- Rita thinks as she picks up the crystal fragments and her Grimoire.

* * *
..........While Rita is bemoaning her fortune, Billy and Adam prepare to enter the Juice Bar. Billy and Adam are continuing a conversation about Sting, his music, and how he says a lot of things they have trouble saying. As they near the door Adam grins, "I'll bet that Kat and Aisha are sitting at our table talking while Rocky and Tommy are fighting. And when we sit down Tommy and Rocky will join us."
..........Billy smiles as he shakes his head, "I don't bet, and even if I did I would be an idiot to take that one. They always end up doing the same things. We are all of a predictable sort aren't we?"
.........."Yeah, I guess we are. But is that a good thing or a bad thing?" shrugs Adam. They enter the bar itself and see Aisha and Kat chatting over homework at a table, while Rocky and Tommy are sparring. "Well it looks like we were both right. They are doing the same old routine."
.........."Should we try and break it?" asks Billy mischievously. Billy grins as they head over to the table to see Kat and Aisha. Then Billy shivers slightly and feels goose bumps break out over his arms. But it goes away quickly, and he shakes his head. --Must be some of that exhaustion rearing its ugly head.--
..........Adam sees Billy pause and a slight frown passes over Billy's face, then Billy shakes his head as if to clear it. --What was that?--
..........They sit down as Ernie brings the usual beverages for Billy and Adam. Adam looks at Billy's drink, "You know, I have always wondered how you could drink that stuff."
..........Billy stares at his spinach shake, "I just like how it tastes."
.........."But it's spinach. How can you drink spinach?" Adam looks slightly incredulous.
.........."The same way anyone else can drink orange juice or a cola. You just lift the glass and take a sip." Billy grins, "I thought you had the concept of drinking down pat by now."
..........Adam sputters, turns slightly red, and retorts, "You know exactly what I mean." Then Adam smiles and laughs, especially after he sees Kat's and Aisha's shocked looks. "That was different," Adam says and he starts laughing harder as Billy joins in. Kat and Aisha look on in confusion.
.........."Hey guys, is this a private party or can anyone join in?" asks Rocky, who has just finished his workout with Tommy.
.........."Yeah, it looks like you're having fun," adds Tommy.
..........Billy smiles again, "Yes we are having fun, and yes, this is a private party." He watches a look of total incomprehension pass over their faces. Adam begins to giggle slightly in the background. "Sorry, it was a hoax. A jest?" He waits till they begin to grin in understanding, "Have a seat."
..........Tommy and Rocky take their seats. They join Kat and Aisha in throwing worried and confused glances Billy and Adam's way. Tommy decides to make sure that this isn't anything about yesterday. He clears his throat and after a slight pause speaks, "How are you feeling, Billy?"
..........Adam sighs. -Sometimes Tommy is just way too straight forward. He's a nice guy, but he can be a bit too blunt.-
..........Billy blinks, then snickers slightly. --I've been going on about the predictability of this group and I didn't expect that? And I'm supposed to be the bright one.-- He smiles at the guys, "I'm fine, I suppose. I mean everything is okay now, right?"
.........."Yeah man," replies Tommy, who is very happy to see that Billy's going to be all right. "I was just worried, you know?"
.........."Yes, I know," replies Billy. "Now that we've all thoroughly depressed ourselves, why don't we work on having some fun?"
..........A chorus of cheers, starting with Aisha, works it's way around the table. The gang then decides to start having some fun.
* * *
..........Rita has been going over the crystal shards for a while. --They are still connected to the Blue Ranger. I suppose they were a receptacle for his 'goodness' before the Spell corrupted it. When the Spell was broken, the Darkness was released. But the Crystal was bound to Billy, so it kept an imprint of his 'goodness' or spirit or whatever. While I can't cast the Darken Spell again, this connection could make him vulnerable to some other spells that normally would be too unpredictable. But what spell?-- Rita begins to flip through the tome, a vague thought is dancing around the edges of her consciousness, but before she can really get to reading, Finster walks in. He speaks before she can yell at him, "I'm sorry to disturb you My Queen, but your room is repaired." He huddles slightly as he prepares for her next outburst.
..........Rita looks at Finster. --I shouldn't yell at him for getting results should I, negative reinforcement and all of that.-- "Good work Finster, now you can go clean your lab." He bows and leaves as she heads back to her quarters. She finds her room straightened and repaired, her supplies are back where they should be, and he has even replaced those that were broken in the rumble. --Finster can be so considerate and thoughtful to my needs, though his monsters might stink. He can do excellent work when he sets his mind to it.-- She turns back to her book and begins reading, searching for the spell that she wants to use to get her revenge on the Blue Ranger.
* * *
.........."We're going to the park." sighed Billy. Adam shrugs in sympathy. The rest of the gang just looks at Billy confusedly.
.........."What's wrong with the park?" asks Rocky.
.........."Nothing, but why don't we do something different today. Why don't we..." Billy trails off as he tries to figure out a location within Angel Grove that they don't usually inhabit. "Why don't we go to the woods? We haven't been near there since, wait I don't even think WE'VE been there as a group."..........
"Sounds good to me," pipes in Adam.
..........In fact this idea sounds good to everyone, so they decide to take a hike in the woods. Everyone heads home to grab lunches and drinks so this can be an all-day excursion.
* * *
..........Rita pages through the tome and stops on a series of red-inked pages. --Ah ha! Here it is! Morrick's blunder. He was the fool who misused the Darken Spell. Not only did he manage to hit a second person along with his target, but he caught himself within it. A major magical backlash and a true mess. But thus was Salidus born, a monster that feeds on the Darkness and Light within a being until that being is consumed, making Salidus stronger. His first victim was Morrick himself and the next was the other one caught in the spell. But Salidus was too strong, and the forces of Light and Dark joined together to banish him to a dimension he could not escape and even they only succeeded due to Gral's assistance. There was something about Gral, but what? Over the eons Salidus has weakened and I can use the Summoning Spell to free him and make him serve me. But I don't want to risk him rampaging through the world or turning on me. What to do?-- As if in answer the crystal shards glow. --That's it! I can use the crystals to link him to Billy. That way Salidus doesn't even have to set foot on earth. But I still must have Salidus in this dimension, yet somewhere he can't get out. Hmm...I'll figure that out, but I need Finster to make me a monster to transport the Spell, I don't need to overdo my magic.-- "Finster!"
.........."Yes, My Queen," asks Finster, who's feeling pretty good because his lab is back in shape, and the last time he checked, Goldar was stuck helping clean up Zedd's quarters.
.........."Finster, I need a monster." Rita states.
.........."Well My Queen, I have a few monsters that I think you'll find appropriate," inputs Finster helpfully.
.........."Not this time, Finster," says Rita softly. --I don't need to tear Finster apart to get him to work. He's quite eager to please on his own.-- "I need a monster that is intelligent and quick, I don't need a brawler or a special attack. I just need someone smart enough to get out of the way. Can you do it?"
..........Finster blinks in shock, "Yes, My Queen, right away." Finster hurries from the room to begin work.
* * *
..........The woods are a nice change from the park. Everyone has their packs and their lunches and they were hiking along. They are commenting on the scenery, when Rocky decides to break the tedium that is threatening to overwhelm him. He drops his pack, and leaps up to grab a branch above him. He swings up the branch and proceeds to climb up the tree. "Hey guys, maybe you should join in. This is fun." ..........
Aisha looks up, "I don't think trees are my thing," she says, but she starts to grin at Rocky's antics.
..........Tommy looks up, his noble leader/role-model tendencies warring with his desire to have some fun. He shrugs its not as if I have to save the day right now, is it? and starts to climb up a tree beside Rocky's. He gives a loud whoop as he feels the breeze blow by. "Great idea Rocko," grins Tommy.
..........Kat looks up at Rocky and Tommy. That is a bit high up, kind of like the high dive. She sighs. --But I'll never get over my fear if I don't confront it.-- She proceeds to nimbly climb up the nearest tree to everyone's amazement. She sees their looks and grins back, "Don't you know cats like climbing trees?"
..........Then everyone is startled by a sudden burst of laughter from Adam and Billy, who give each other a high five. "I guess this is a little less predictable," grins Billy, "I don't think I ever imagined Tommy and Kat trying out their climbing skills on this excursion."
..........The others look on as Adam just starts laughing harder. "Definitely...not...routine," he manages to gasp out between laughs. He and Billy simultaneously decide not to illuminate the others on the source of their jest.
..........Billy decides to look around a bit, tree climbing is not his forte, but he's glad the others are having fun. He comes to the edge of the rise to find that it ends very suddenly. --Whoa. I'd better tell the others about this.-- He studies it for a moment. --About 15-17 feet down at about a 20 degree grade, not something I'd want try to get down in a hurry.-- He gets ready to inform them, but decides not to interfere with their fun. --I'll just sit here for awhile.-- He yawns slightly as he sits on a rock. --Must still be a bit winded. That sun is nice...--
* * *
..........Rita has puzzled over her dilemma. --How to bring the monster to this dimension, yet keep him from escaping? Where can I keep him, someplace that is impossible for him to escape from and impossible for the Rangers to get to him. Keep the Rangers from him?-- An idea spins through Rita's head. --The Labyrinth of Light! I think I still have control of it, after I corrupted it the forces of good just couldn't risk anymore "accidents."-- Rita smiles maliciously. --It was a training ground for brats like the Rangers and Ninjetti, but after months of planning, Agin and I were able to thwart it. Traps that normally tested the students became deadly. A misstep that sent one back to the beginning before, could send the unwary to the end... of their lives.-- Rita laughs out loud at this. --If Salidus is trapped within the Labyrinth he can't escape without a Ranger's help, but no Ranger can survive the maze, and what Ranger would help Salidus? He would devour anyone who came close. So now I can summon him there?-- Rita turns to her books and begins forming the intricate circle of protection on floor. --Must get this right, any flaw will allow Salidus to attack me. I DEFINITELY don't want that.-- She carefully finishes the circle and to her eye it is perfect, then she checks it again. --I'll spend some more time going over it just to be sure, but in the meantime...-- "Finster! Are you done with that monster yet?" she shrieks to the air.
..........A few moments later Finster comes huffing into the room, "Yes My Queen," he replies breathlessly, "What are your commands?"
.........."I want you to bring the monster to me so that I may cast a spell on him. Then I'll send the monster down to the where the Rangers are."
.........."The monster still has a little bit of work to go."
.........."Then finish it," replies Rita evenly. She watches as Finster leaves. --Back to work,-- she thinks as she begins to check the circle once more. ..........

..........The tree-bound Rangers are having fun, but they decide to come down when they figure out that there is no way they're getting Aisha and Adam up into the trees with them. Also, they notice that Billy has vanished. "Adam, have you seen Billy?" questions Tommy.
..........Adam points to a shadow under a tree, "It looks like he's still a bit tired. I checked on him, I think he fell asleep a few minutes ago."
..........Tommy looks thoughtful, then he brightens. "Why don't we just sit down and eat. We can let Billy get some rest and not leave him alone out here."
..........Tommy's suggestion is greeted by a series of nods as the others spread out blankets or just sit on the ground and start lunch.
* * *
.......... The circle is complete, declares Rita mentally. --If there is a flaw, I will not know it until the spell is cast. Now to strengthen the linking between the Crystal shards.-- She looks though the seven shards and picks the three best. --One will be given to Salidus so he can use the link, the second will be used by my monster to initiate the link with Billy, and I will use the last to make the actual connection. I will have to destroy the latter two so Salidus can't use them to backtrack the link, but it's worth it.-- Rita places the three shards in front of her and begins casting and soon she is finished. --Now that was easy, I hope the rest of this goes as well.-- She goes to her cabinets and pulls out an old scrying mirror. --I'll set this to watch the center of the Labyrinth as I cast the spell, so I'll know if I set him loose or not.-- "Finster!" she shrieks. --I'm glad that so much reconstruction is going on, that's probably the only reason I'm not having to put up with Zedd's rambling right now.-- She turns as Finster enters her room. "Finster, make sure no one disturbs me until I call you again."
.........."But what of the monster?"
.........."Make him wait a few minutes, what do I care?" asks Rita rhetorically.
.........."Yes, My Queen," Finster replies as he leaves the room to guard her door. --The monster has been told to wait, I hope he doesn't wreck my lab. But if he does Rita will fix it,-- Finster thinks to himself.
..........Once Finster leaves the room, Rita begins to work. --I have to cast the spell through the scrye, which is more difficult, but it is safer as it places one more barrier between Salidus and me.-- She turns the book to the Spell and begins the intone the summons, "Salidus o' thief of spirits, I call thee, Come to me and ye shall be free from thy prisone of olde. To my bidding I chain thee, to my will you will obey..." she then begins to intone the many names of Salidus to help tighten the Spell's power around him. In her mirror a inky shadow begins to form...
* * *
..........Rita completes the final intonation of her Spell and waits fearfully. --Did I do it right? Is the circle strong enough? Will Salidus get me?-- But the blackness in her mirror coalesces into the form of Salidus. --Yes! He is trapped within the maze. Now to speak with him.-- She turns to her mirror. "Salidus, thief of spirits, I have freed you from your exile..."
.........."Freed. no." The voice is cold and infinite, it holds nothing and this chills Rita slightly. "You have just changed my residence, I still sense a power keeping me trapped in this place. I still hunger."
.........."But I offer you a bargain, thief. I will grant you the power to have what you need and let you stay in this dimension, if you help me," Rita responds confidently, but inwardly she's terrified.
.........."Sustenance. And this not-freedom. For what?" asks the voice.
.........."Your sustenance," Rita manages to infuse this word with a bit of loathing, yet she smiles as she thinks of the horrid revenge she will inflict on the Blue Ranger, "you just need to take your time. I know you probably won't want to, so I'll regulate it a bit. I want to play with your food first." Rita snorts and laughs her nightmarish laugh.
..........The void that is Salidus thinks this over. In but an instant, it knows that it lacks the strength to do otherwise. "Very well. I wait."
.........."Good. I will send you the Crystal that will link you with your meal, but first I'll send you a snack," finishes Rita, who quickly matches her words by sending one of the linking Crystals to Salidus. "I have some work to do, but you will be fed soon." She turns and quickly exits the room, feeling Salidus' empty gaze upon her as she leaves. She turns to Finster, "Bring me your monster, and a couple of those rejects from yesterday. Get me that useless Saliguana and Fighting Flea."
..........Finster rushes off and returns with the monster, "Here are the monsters you requested, My Queen."
..........Rita doesn't even look at the monsters, "Good work Finster, you may leave now. You monsters follow me." She turns and walks back into the room with the beasts in tow. She looks to the lizard and the flea, "You have failed me many times, but I have one use for you that will not fail." The monsters shuffle a bit, they dislike the tone of her voice, even they get the impression that something is not right. But she is their Master and they can only watch as she waves her wand. Saliguana and Fighting Flea vanish and reappear in the scrying mirror with Salidus. They don't have a chance against the ravenous monster, who drains their evil beings dry in an instant. Rita watches in horrified fascination as Salidus begins to cackle evilly, "Bring me more. I hunger."
..........Rita shudders. --Salidus has changed, it was so emotionless before, but now it seems full of dark emotion. What happened? No matter, I must finish what I set out to do.-- She turns to her newest monster which is shaking in sheer terror. "Don't worry, I have something for you to do. If you do it well I'll have you do more, if you fail..." She lets her words hang ominously in the air.
..........The monster trembles, "I will do whatever you will, my queen. I will serve you to the full extent of my abilities."
.........."Good. Take this crystal," she hands it to the monster, "You must hit the Blue Ranger and ONLY the Blue Ranger with it. You don't have to fight the other Rangers, in fact I order you not to. Don't do anything that would make them attack you, just walk around take in the 'pretty' sights and wait for your chance to get the Blue Ranger. Understand?"
.........."Yes, my Queen," the monster holds the crystal carefully. It knows its life depends on it.
..........Rita waves her wand and the monster vanishes. She huddles over her crystal and watches it. --I'll wait, I will know if the monster fails or not.--
* * *
..........The guys are having a nice little picnic and are just about done with their meals. Adam has been checking on Billy every now and then, but Billy is still dozing peacefully. --Good one Adam, the next time one of your friends is recovering from a serious illness, DON'T recommend
sparring as an activity.-- Adam mentally berates himself. But his self-recriminations are cut short by the beeping of Tommy's communicator. Tommy and the others glance around to see if anyone is around, but the way is truly clear. --This is probably the first time we've been in a truly secluded area for talking with Zordon in a very long time,-- Adam notes. He watches as Tommy contacts Zordon.
.........."Yes, Zordon. What is it," asks Tommy worriedly.
.........."I have detected a monster near your location, but its nature and motivations are unclear to me."
.........."What do you mean, Zordon?"
.........."It has not undertaken any activities that I normally associate with Rita's monsters. It hasn't begun destroying property in a senseless rampage, accosting innocent citizens, or just running around in a mindless daze screaming for the Power Rangers to challenge it. I am at a loss to understand this."
.........."Well, we'll go look into it. Okay Zordon?"
.........."Go, and may the power protect you."
..........The others look around, but don't have to look far as the monster walks out of the trees. The Rangers fall into defensive positions as they take in the monster. It's pathetic. The monster stands about as tall as Adam, though it would be taller if it wasn't hunched over and is nearly three feet wide. It has mottled grayish-green skin, and a shaggy mop of black coarse hair. Its arms and legs are out of proportion for its enormous torso, its legs look stumpy and its massive arms reach the ground. Its balanced on its gigantic hands and feet, it looks like the only battle it's ready to fight is the one for balance. It stares at the Rangers for a minute and hunches down a bit more, it shuffles a bit, "Um, ah, nice, ah, day for a walk, ah, right?" says the monster in a slightly pathetic fashion.
* * *
..........After the monster's appearance, the gang stares at each other. --What is up with this monster? It hasn't done anything, and it would be against the rules to attack it before it has done anything evilÉ but we all know it's going to turn on us. What a lame rule,-- thinks Adam. --Just have to keep an eye on it and be ready.--
.......... Tommy takes his cue. "We're the Power Rangers and if you try anything we'll have to fight you and send you back to Rita."
..........The group again passes glances as the monster falls to the ground shaking at the mention of Rita's name. "I am sorry for, um, ah, inconveniencing you. Please just ignore me." It crawls to a rock under a tree and sits for a moment. It sees the looks of pity that crosses the Rangers' faces. --Suckers,-- thinks the beast, --my crude form and pitiful demeanor have put you off guard. You are not prepared for the unexpected, it has become your routine. I am closer to the Blue One, but I'm not in position yet. I will serve my Mistress faithfully. I don't wish to join those two foolsÉ.-- its thoughts trail off as it shudders once more.
..........Again the Rangers pass confused glances. Tommy looks to the monster, "Ah, Excuse us for a moment, we need to talk in private." Tommy gestures for the other Rangers to join him a few steps away from the monster.
.........."Oh, you're excused. Thank you for being so considerate as to ask," replies the monster with what the Rangers think is a smile. It gets up and begins to shuffle and stagger around a bit. --Just a little bit closerÉ.--
..........The Rangers get ready to talk, but Adam decides to bring up what to him is a very important point, "Guys, how about I go wake Billy up." Before they can even answer Adam has started walking over to Billy.
..........--Arggh! That boy is coming to separate me from the Blue One. I must get close enough to spring without letting them know something is up. Ah Ha!-- The monster continues its shuffling pace and suddenly hits an exposed root and trips. If anyone had been able to look closer, they would have seen the monster's toes curl around the root and help push him off. "Oh, oops, clumsy me," whimpers the monster, it curls its legs under it as it seemingly struggles to get upright once more.
..........Adam watches suspiciously as he goes over to Billy. "Hey Billy, wake up." He shakes Billy's shoulder.
..........Billy blinks, yawns and looks up. "Hi Adam, I guess I must have dozed off. So much for predictability," he chuckles lightly. Then Billy sees the monster, "Adam, there is a monster curled up on the ground behind you. What is going on?" asks Billy calmly.
.........."That is Rita's latest monster, but it hasn't done anything yet and all those damn Power Promises are making Tommy form a committee." Adam understands the blindingly obvious. Having a monster less than three feet away is bad karma. It is not the time for group discussion. He keeps throwing glances at the monster.
..........Billy looks at Adam carefully, he's still half-awake, but he hasn't heard Adam ever sound so on edge. "What is it?"
.........."Something about that guy is not right, he is NOT all he seems. I don't like it, he seems eager about something, and nothing he says seems to reach his eyes. They just flicker with rage and fear every now and then. Then there is the fact that he is one of Rita's monsters."
..........--Adam's intuition is far superior to my own, or to that of any of the others. Should stay on guard.-- Billy yawns again. --Need to wake up.-- "Lets go to the others."
..........Adam turns and helps Billy up, but before they can both straighten, the monster springs, they are hit by it. Adam falls to the side but the momentum pushes Billy and the monster over the edge. The monster smashes his hand to Billy's chest and is greeted by a flash of Blue. The monster then agilely pushes off Billy and grabs a tree branch. The beast quickly swings away though the trees. Billy just falls.
* * *
..........Rita looks as her Crystal flares a bright blue. --Contact! My monster succeeded.-- She turns to the scrying mirror, "Salidus I have finished preparing your meal. Just use the crystal to reach out."
..........In the scrye, Salidus reaches out and grasps the bright blue Crystal and begins to focus. He senses his prey and begins to close in.
* * *
..........Adam leaps up and shouts, "Billy!" as he rushes to the edge. He sees Billy lying at the bottom, moving slightly and a flash of something. --Stupid! I shouldn't have turned my back to it when I helped Billy up. Man, I knew something was up. I hope he's all right. This is all my fault.-- Adam breaks off this train of thought as Billy's hand reaches out and grabs the flash.
* * *
..........Billy groans, his head hurts and he's sore all over. He can feel something warm running through his hair. He opens his eyes and groans again, the world is upside down. --No, I must be upside down.-- He reaches up and touches his head and looks to his fingers. --Blood, great, just great. Picked a great day to decide to doze off. Well at least it wasn't predictable.-- Billy giggles slightly and blinks. --What's that?-- A dark something is coming towards him. --Adam?-- The something gets closer and just as Billy decides that this is very bad, it reaches towards him and he feels weak. --It's a monster! What's it doing?-- Then Billy sees the light flash off his coin and grabs it.
* * *
..........Salidus has found his prey and it is confused and injured. He's already beginning to draw from it, when it reaches out and closes its appendage around something. Then something stops the flow to but a trickle of what it once was. --Hmm.--
* * *
..........When Billy's hand closes around the coin the world changes. What was once bright and colorful has changed into shades of grey. Yet somehow he knows colors that were not there before. --What? Did I knock myself color blind? Am I having a hallucination?-- Then a brightness appears in between him and the thing, and coalesces into the form of a wolf that squares off with the monster. --I must have really hit my head.-- His hand keeps its tight grip on the coin.
* * *
..........Adam gets down the embankment and rushes to Billy, "Billy, you all right?" A chill runs down his spine. He sees Billy's morpher and scoops it up on his way to Billy. He gets closer to Billy and is more worried. --Man, that looks nasty.-- There is a gash starting right above Billy's right eye that is gushing blood, but Billy takes no notice. --What is he staring at? Something is definitely off here.-- Adam taps his communicator, "Zordon, bring Billy and me to the Command Center. He's hurt and he needs some help."
..........Billy and Adam vanish in flashes of Blue and Black light.
* * *
..........Adam appears in the middle on the Command Center with Billy, who's lying sprawled on the floor. "Alpha, teleport Billy to the table and scan him. Adam, what happened?" asked Zordon.
..........--What? You weren't watching? Just great,-- Adam thinks. "I was waking Billy up after the monster appeared. It didn't attack us, and then it tripped and fell. I was helping Billy up when it suddenly leaped at us. It knocked me down and hit Billy, pushing him off the edge. But I swear I saw a flash of something when the monster hit him."..........
By this time Alpha has finished the scan. "He's got a nasty head wound along with a concussion, and a collection of scrapes and bruises. I've scanned him and he is drawing more energy from the Morphing Grid, but as far as I can tell it's not being directed towards his injuries. Ai-yi-yi!" say Alpha worriedly.
..........Adam blinks. --I never knew our coins could heal us. Well maybe I just never noticed, I mean after all of those fights we should be black and blue.-- He shakes his head. "Can you help Billy?"
.........."Yes. Alpha, get the medical kit and tend to Billy's injuries. I am curious as to what is causing Billy to draw so much energy. Please wait as I check out the results myself," says Zordon, who vanishes from his column.
..........Adam looks at the column and waits. He steps back to lean on a console so he can see Zordon's column and Alpha working on Billy. As far as Adam can tell he's just cleaning up the wound and putting something on Billy's cut that looks like a big metal band-aid with a few blinking lights attached. --Man, we sure have some weird stuff around here.-- He keeps watching as Alpha works and gets the distinct impression that something is wrong. "What's wrong, Alpha?"
.........."Ai yi yi, Adam. I should be healing Billy's injury, but all I'm doing is stabilizing it. He's still losing strength, I don't know what is happening."
..........Adam looks carefully at his injured friend, who has begun to mumble something about "wolf" and "monster." Something is definitely wrong here, thinks Adam. "Alpha, maybe you should teleport the guys here."
..........Alpha quickly complies with Adam's request and the other four Rangers materialize. They see Billy's prone form, Zordon's empty column, and Adam's grim look. Tommy speaks first, "Adam what happened? How is Billy? We tried to get the monster, but by the time we got there you had vanished and so had it."
.........."The monster attacked Billy and he's hurt pretty bad. Zordon is trying to find out what's wrong," says Adam, forestalling their next question.
..........As soon as Adam finishes speaking, Zordon reappears. He looks gravely to his Rangers and speaks. "I have gone over Alpha's scans and found an anomaly. Even though it was destroyed, there are still traces of the Darken Spell connected with Billy. I believe Rita has used this link to harm Billy. I have found a taint within the link. I am familiar with the source and it worries me greatly. Rita has allowed a being called 'Salidus' to have access to Billy's life enregies through this link. Salidus is a type of psychic vampire." Zordon sees the looks of worry and confusion cross the faces of his charges.
.........."Psychic vampire?" questions Kat, who looks as confused as almost everyone else.
..........Adam shakes his head, "He's a vampire but instead of drinking blood for food, he steals someone's life force to feed. Now thanks to Rita he has access to Billy." The guys look at Adam stangely, he isn't the one they expect to be explaining anything, that's Billy's job. Adam looks carefully to Zordon, "That extra energy Billy's drawing is being used to battle Salidus, right? But it's not enough." Adam shakes his head in worry.
..........Zordon looks very grave and decides to continue, "I do not know where he originates from, but eons ago he was a serious threat to all life in the universe. In an attempt to stop him, the forces of light and darkness joined together, but even we would not have been enough had it not been for the appearence of Gral, a warrior, who until this time had been a neutral enigma in the War of Light. He battled Salidus to a standstill and we cast him into an extra-dimensional prison. Gral vanished and our alliance broke down, the universe went on. Even Rita was not foolish enough to allow Salidus free reign in this dimension. Once I ascertained Salidus' involvement, I scanned for his bio-signature and found it."
..........At this moment Billy moans slightly and shivers. The Rangers look at their friend and feel a determination build.
.........."Great then lets go kick this guy's butt and save Billy," inputs Rocky. Adam groans. --Brilliant plan.--
.........."That will not be as easy as you think my Rangers. I do not know if you will be able to resist Salidus. If you can acquire the Crystal that links Billy to Salidus, I should be able to cleanse the taint. However, even that is extrememly over-simplified. Rita has placed Salidus at the center of the Labyrinth, a place that was once a training ground for the powers of Light. It was corrupted and became a very dangerous place, but it is still connected to the forces of Light. Only a Ranger or someone similary allied can enter or allow anyone else to enter or exit the Maze. You must go through the Maze and brave its dangers. Only then will you be able to reach Salidus. You will not be able to contact me once you enter the Maze proper, nor will you be able to teleport. Only once you have returned to the starting point may I teleport you back. If you are lost in the maze I will not be able to bring you back. This is not a quest I ask you to undertake lightly, but without it, Billy will surely perish before the end of the day," Zordon watches his Rangers' reactions. He already knows which way they will choose.
..........The Rangers looked pretty shocked at Zordon's dire assessment of Billy's condition. Then their expressions change to ones of determination. Tommy looks to the others and gauges their expressions, then he turns to Zordon, "We'll do it."
.........."Then may the power protect you. I will teleport you there."
..........Five Rangers vanish in swirls ot their respective colors.
* * *
..........As Zordon explains the situation to the Rangers, two monsters are thinking. At the outskirts of the Maze guarding the entrance is the shambling beast from earlier. He is studying the layout of the ruins around him. After his success with the Blue One, his Mistress was happy and sent him here to keep the Rangers from trying to reach Salidus. --If she was so sure that those Power People wouldn't make it through the maze, why did she send me? I think she actually expects them to have a chance, even though she's trying hard to avoid it. But I, her loyal Quick, will do her bidding. At least I'm on this side of the maze, I wouldn't want to be on the inside.-- Quick climbs up the ruins of the entrance and waits.
..........Inside the maze, in that place Quick is glad he's not currently located, sits Salidus. He holds the Crystal and tries again to fully reach his meal. --My prey is protected by some type of powerful quadruped, a strong guardian, but I am still drawing from it.-- The guardian is weakening. As Salidus thinks this he flicks a mental claw at the beast and scores a hit. The flow of energy increases slightly. --Hmm. My prey is linked to this guardian, while it is much stronger than my prey, the guardian's weakness slowly chips away at my prey's fleeting strength, and thus weakens the guardian. I will be patient.-- Salidus withdraws some of his focus from the Crystal and sets it down. --My tasty morsel will fall in time. All of my effort won't speed that up much. And I don't need to expend what little energy I have acquired.-- Salidus ponders his last meal and the one who has brought him to this not-free place. That meal was not very filling. --Those creatures the One sent were pale. They lacked the true essence of being, they were one-dimensional. A quick snack, but not as tasty as the one I touch now. The One does not understand my needs, or I think, even truly know me.-- Then Salidus shifts uncomfortably. --My prey's strength is starting to counter-balance my snack. I dislike this.-- He frowns and walks away from the Crystal to explore the maze and attempt to escape his own thoughts.
* * *
..........Billy was confused when the world changed, it took him a moment to recognize his altered surroundings. --The Command Center, Zordon must have brought me back.-- Billy turns his head and sees the Wolf still battling the Monster. It's cold. --Watch out!-- He mentally cries to the Wolf, but he's a little late as the Monster strikes the Wolf. Billy feels a bit of pain shoot down his side and the cold intensifies...........
* * *
..........The Rangers appear in the center of some ruins. Tattered banners hang limp in the stale, breeze less air. Dust is thick on everything. The place looks like it was once a gleaming white, but now it is a dingy grey-brown. They look around and see the entrance to the Labyrinth in the distance. Tommy speaks first, "We've got to go into the maze, but be careful."
* * *
..........The Rangers have been in the ruins for a while and they are all concious of time slipping away as they make their way to the entrance of the Maze. Adam is getting slightly agitated. --This is taking way too long. Couldn't Zordon have set us down any closer? Sigh. If he could we would be closer, I think. I need to relax a bit, I'm in a bit of a short temper today all of a sudden. Not good.-- Adam keeps his thoughts to himself as he walks with the others who keep commenting on how strange this place is. "Hey, one alien world in a distant galaxy and you've seen em all," quips Rocky. Everyone groans.
..........They continue on and suddenly a figure appears before them: a warrior of some sort. The Rangers fall into defensive positions, but the warrior doesn't respond to their posture. Then the warrior speaks, "Welcome Children of the Light to the Labyrinth. Upon entering the Maze your testing will begin, be wary of the obstacles before you, but have faith and you will succeed. You will be tested separately and once one of you has entered the maze it will change for the others. Once you..." The voice stops and the image flickers, "testing will begin," it flickers once more, "have faith." It continues to flicker and repeat its last two messages over and over.
.........."Must be broken," helpfully adds Rocky. He stares at it a moment and suddenly reaches out and taps at it. His hand passes through it. "Cool, it's a Rimmer wanna-be."
..........Everyone stares at Rocky. Not one of them gets the joke or the reference to holgrams. Tommy ponders the image for a moment, "It must be some kinda holgram, y'know, like Billy made that one time. Probably here to give students tips for beating the Maze."
..........Rocky shakes his head. --I just said it was a holgram, duh.-- "Well, I don't think he's going to be giving us any help. So let's go."
..........The others begin walking towards the entrance, but Adam is still standing staring at the hologram. --Have faith. Isn't what that Billy and I were talking about earlier?-- He looks towards the guys and sees their footprints in the dust like a trail to lead him. He starts to follow them but stops, when he sees more footprints in the dust. --Hey, those are pretty big feet.-- His thoughts pause as he sees something else. --Handprints?-- An image of today's monster flashes in his mind. "Guys, we're not alone!" he shouts. The others turn to him and he sees the beast above them. "Behind you! Look up!" They spin in time to see the monster leap down.
..........The monster bellows hoping to throw them off guard, "I am Quick the great and powerful, I tell you to leave this place now." --Hell, it worked for Oz.-- Quick smashes his thick arms down and cracks the stone beneath. --Ow, but hopefully that'll scare them off. I dislike violence so.--
..........Rocky yells, "You hurt Billy, now you're going down!" He charges and begins trying to hit the rapidly evading Quick.
..........Tommy sees his friend battling the monster and automatically joins in. Kat and Aisha follow Tommy's charge. Adam looks on and starts to move over there, but Zordon's words echo in his head. "He will not make it through the day." --The frontal assault is tying us up and we don't have time for it. Billy needs us now. I think that the best way to deal with this fight is to avoid it, but I shouldn't....-- The warrior's words carry through the still air once more. "Have faith."
..........Adam nods to himself and begins to take a route that will lead him to the outcropping Quick was on. --I don't want to go through the fight, I'll get caught up in it like the others. Can't afford that. I'll just go to where the monster was standing earlier and go from there.-- He walks around and begins climbing up a tumbled wall so he can reach the top. --Man, I hate climbing.-- He begins to walk along the top of the wall. --Almost there,-- he thinks as he reaches the end of the wall, but there is still a gap between him and the ledge. --I think maybe I should reconsider this, I'll just fall and get hurt. NO! That won't help Billy, got to get it together Adam. Can't keep worrying about "what ifs" now.-- He braces himself and leaps.
* * *
..........Salidus walks around his new prison. --I have been here before, but when?-- He pauses as memory flits by and he sees himself and his friends. --NO I will not think of this.-- But contrary to his wishes, memory's grip tightens and he remembers...
..........It is a bright day, he and his friends are listening to the careful insructions of the Guide, a recorded message that is all the questors are allowed to know before they enter the Labyrinth. It is not the ruin it is now, the white stone shines in the bright light and the air is warm. They are all still chatting and laughing to one another, the testing hasn't began yet. They look to one another and wish each other luck, this is to test them to see if they are ready to gain the Power so they might battle Morrick the Mad, a sorcerer who is attempting to take over their home. He looks to his friends and feels such pride, "We are the Chosen, let us prove our worth and bring the Power to save our home." He sees Gral talk with Shiela and give her a hug. Gral waves to her and enters the Maze first, he follows. He finds his first challenge and passes it. He continues and tries to find the center of the Maze...
* * *
..........Adam leaps the gap and lands squarely on the other side. --I did it!-- He manages to contain the cheer he wants to voice. --I need to get down.-- He crouches and watches the battle below, it has moved a little bit away from the gate. --They could stop fighting and go in, but they won't. Not while there is a monster to fight, even when to fight is unimportant.-- Adam shakes his head and drops to the ground. He turns to the Maze, --Here I go,-- and runs in.
* * *
..........Salidus walks along, no longer seeing his surroundings. His memories have moved past the challenge, he and his friends succeeded and were granted the Power. Gral was the first through and said he had figured out the secret to the maze, and that he had to wait a long time till the rest of them made it. But he never said what this 'secret' was. Time moves forward and suddenly they are battling Morrick and his demons, the battle is fierce and they are losing, but they call on their Powers and the tide turns. They win and he is cheering with his friends and Shiela is trying to get her sad Gral to join in. Salidus frowns. --The calm before the storm, before....-- His thoughts take a darker turn for he knows that this moment is fleeting. --Why?-- The guilt of many eons washes over him as he continues his walk.
* * *
..........Rita looks at her crystal. --The link is complete and Billy's Ranger powers are slowing it enough. I don't need to risk having this around any more.-- She smashes her wand into the crystal and it shatters. She looks to her mirror to see her monster. --What? It's battling the Rangers already?!-- She pauses. --The more Rangers there, the more chances they have of completeing the Maze. Maybe I should send something to Earth and keep them occupied.-- She turns and leaves the room, "Goldar, get in here!"
..........A few moments later Goldar appears, he's covered in dust and broken masonry. He looks very unhappy. "Yes, my queen," he growls.
.........."Goldar take Rito and the Grumble Bee, go down to Earth and cause some chaos."..........
"My queen, I must help repair the Palace."
.........."Get off it Goldar! Get your tin-plated rear down to that planet and start making some noise!" shrieks Rita.
..........Goldar decides that anything is better than listening to her or cleaning the Palace, he nods and goes to get Rito and the Bee.
..........Rita smiles. --With the blue ranger down, the Rangers will be at less than full strength, and all Goldar and Rito have to do is stall untill he's finished. They can't run the Maze if they have to save the planet.-- Rita's laughter echoes through the crumbling Palace.
* * *
..........Zordon is watching the Command Center and worrying. Alpha continues to keep watch on Billy, but Zordon knows that there is nothing they can do. --I dislike this waiting and this feeling of helplessness. But I must have faith in my Rangers, they have not failed me yet and never will.-- Zordon is shaken from his ruminations by the harsh alarm of the viewing globe. He turns his attention to it. --No, not now.-- He sees Goldar, Rito, and the Grumble Bee rampaging through Angel Grove. "Alpha, try and contact the Rangers. If they have not entered the Labyrinth yet, we can try and bring them back to battle the monsters."
.........."But what about Billy?" asks Alpha with concern in his voice as he goes to carry out Zordon's order. His only reply is Zordon's grim look and another low moan from Billy, who curls up into a ball on the table and shivers.
* * *
..........Tommy, Kat, Rocky, and Aisha are battling Quick and not making much progress. Quick dogdes and evades until he can dart in and land a blow on a Ranger. Then Tommy's communicator beeps. --Great timing,-- sighs Tommy inwardly. He continues fighting but sees Kat fall back to recover out of the corner of his eye, "Kat, contact Zordon," he shouts as he flicks a couple more kicks the monster's way.
..........Kat backs off and the fight continues. She taps her communicator, "Zordon, this is Kat."
..........Alpha's voice comes through, "Kat you and the Rangers must return to Earth. Rita has sent more monsters down and they are destroying Angel Grove."
.........."Oh no, but we're battling a monster here. It's keeping us from getting in the Labyrinth." She pauses as something else creeps through her mind, "and I think we've lost Adam. I don't see him anywhere and can't remember him being in the fight."
..........Zordon's voice speaks from her communicator, "I believe Adam has entered the Maze, he is beyond our help now. Cease your battle with the monster. I will be able to use your comunicators as a lock-on point to teleport you back to Earth."
.........."Yes Zordon. I'll tell the others. Kat out."
..........She turns back to the battle, she waits until one of the Rangers moves a bit away from the group, it's Aisha. "Aisha, we have to go back home and stop Rita, she's attacking Angel Grove."
.........."Doesn't that woman ever stop," moans Aisha. "You tell Tommy and I'll tell Rocky and Adam."
.........."Um, Adam has already entered the Maze."
.........."What?! Well, then I'll just get Rocky, lets go."
..........They both make their way to the others and after dodging a few blows, they tell Tommy and Rocky. The Rangers pull back from the monster, who is pretty glad to have a breather, and Tommy looks straight at him, "We will be back." The Rangers then vanish in swirls of color. They appear in Angel Grove and are quickly drawn into battle with Goldar, Rito, and Grumble Bee.
* * *
..........Zordon watches this from the Command Center, he wasn't all that surprised that Adam had already entered the Maze. --He was extremely worried for Billy's well being, his friend is in danger and he will not fail,-- he thinks of the others for a moment. --Nor will he allow himself to be distracted. May the Power protect him.-- Zordon waits and watches.
* * *
..........When Adam rushed through the door of the Labyrinth the world changed. No longer were the walls covered in dust, they gleamed as if they were new. --Whoa.-- He walked down the corridor and came to a sign. --I think its a sign, it could just be some seriously abstract art. I wish alien cultures would considerate and have signs in English,-- he snickers at his little joke, but he stops when the squiggles on the sign begin to rearrange themselves into the words 'Choose YOUR path.' Adam stares blinking at the sign for a moment. --Nice trick, I guess not everyone who came through here could read that dialect of Alien either.--
..........Adam walks down the hallway and it opens into a room with many exits. The part of the floor he stands on is grey and the floor ahead of him is split into rows of colors. The light in the room comes from a little wall nitch to the right. Its harsh shadow falls on some of the White Row. Beside the White row is a Pink row, then Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, another Blueish Color, and finally a Purple. Man, these people must have had some crazy interior decorators. I've gotta keep moving. He steps on the Green row and suddenly feels the floor fall out from under him. "Help!" he screams to no one in particular as he drops.
..........He springs up off the Green floor and grabs the grey edge. He struggles to pull himself up, but eventually gets back on safe ground. He looks down the gap left in the floor and feels a bit sick, all he sees is a void that gives him a case of vertigo. Um, this is dangerous. Remember that fact, Adam? He watches the Green row reappear. Guess Green is not my color. He smiles slightly and looks down at himself. I don't see black anywhere, which is probably what I'm looking for.
..........Adam stares at the floor, wondering which path he should attempt. Why couldn't there be a Black row. He paces a bit and is at a loss untll he looks at the White row. Wait, Zordon said my power was Shadow not Black, its not like Tommy's White or Billy's Blue. Adam walks over to where the White row is thrown into shadow. Here goes... Adam carefully places one foot on the shadow and carefully puts his weight on it. Absolutely nothing happens and Adam begins to carefully walk towards the end of his path...........
* * *
..........Salidus stalks along the maze his guilt is overwhelming. How could I come to this point. I was a hero, I fought for the good. They were my friends. He feels the battle waging on with his meal. Soon he will falter like all the others, then who will I go after? Salidus moans slightly, he would stop, even wants to stop, but the hunger is to great. He must feed. It's all Morrick's fault. As he thinks this his memories turn to the Day. He continues his walk, but now his shoulders shake in silent sobs.
* * *
..........Adam reaches the end of the walkway and steps into the darkness at its end. Suddenly he's standing within another corridor, blinking at the sudden change in light. He turns to look behind him and sees only more corridor. That was weird, but I've got to keep moving. He walks on and comes to a fork, new paths begin to the left and right. I vaguely remember that there was a way to beat mazes, going mostly one direction, but I can't remember which one. Maybe there is a clue here somewhere. Adam begins to look around and spots a plaque which forms the words 'Have Faith'. That is freaky. He peeks down each of the corridors and sees nothing to really help except in each corridor there is a letter inside a drawing of a key: C, D, or A. Why isn't there a B? Something about this seems vaguely familiar but what? Adam sighs and carefully starts down the A corridor, which thins as he moves down it. He turns a corner and hears a slight buzz in front of him, he looks and sees a very large blade comeing towards him. Wrong way! He flattens himself against the wall and the blade goes harmlessly past. He takes a few deep breaths as the blade vanishes again and begins to carefully edge his way back down the corridor.
* * *
..........Salidus remembers the battle, it was massive, but he and friends were keeping the demons at bay. Then he saw Morrick himself teleport into the battle and he turned to the Evil One. Salidus was the leader, he was the strongest and he knew that anything with Morrick would be his battle. "Leave this place Evil One or I shall destroy you," challenged Salidus as he squared off with Morrick.
.........."No, today it is I that shall destroy you, and you will help" cackled the dark mage. Morrick began chanting and two of his demons leapt to his defense. He cackled more as he lifted a glowing crystal above his head and chanted louder.
..........Salidus fought the demons and was begining to win when Shiela joined him. They made quick work of the monsters as Morrick's voice rose to its crescendo. As one mind they leapt at Morrick, but he threw the crystal and it hit Salidus sqaure in the chest and bounced back. Salidus and Shiela hit Morrick as the crystal exploded and they were caught in its Darkenflame.
..........Salidus howls in anguish from his seat in the maze.
* * *
..........Adam made it back to the main corridor, a little pale and trembling, but in one piece. Whoa. Almost managed to get myself killed there, definitely not what I want to do with my day. He chuckles slightly at his dark humor. That blade was pretty big and darn sharp, it would have sliced me in half...Sharp! That's it, I remember where this setup seems familiar from. I was watching TV while eating my breakfast and kept channel surfing because nothing was on. I flipped it to cartoons and started watching Batman, they were going up against the Riddler and were going through a maze. This was a puzzle within their maze. The keys were a reference to music: A has one sharp, so I run into one blade; D has two, so I would have been ground round, if I'd gone that way first; C has no sharps, so there should be no blades. Adam starts forward with a silent prayer of thanks to Batman and Robin. He hears an unearthly howl echo through the maze and shudders. He carefully begins to creep down corridor C. Better safe than sorry.
* * *
..........Salidus sighs. There is nothing I can do, my meal is affecting me, I have no way to conrol it. If I had I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't...
..........Salidus remembers the Darkenflame roaring through him and the look of sheer terror on Morrick's face. He feels an emptiness fill him and rages at Morrick as he reaches out. When his hands close on Morrick, Salidus feels power flood through him, he assualts a darkness that keeps
him at bay and sees a slight flicker of light within. The light, thought Salidus as he reached out and consumed the light, now a path to the darkness forms and he draws it in and begins to devour it.
.........."Salidus, stop," pleads Shiela, she doesn't know what's going on but she is very frightened. Morrick is literally withering away in Salidus' grip. She decides to try and stop Salidus and grabs him.
..........Salidus hears something behind him, something interferes with him. He reaches out and closes a hand around it. Now a bright light flares around Morrick's flickering darkness. The light is different from the dark, but the same tactic works: he reaches the darkness within it and
uses it as a way to engulf the light. Soon the light and the darkness are consumed and he comes back to himself and looks around. He sees Morrick's crumpled form and then sees Shiela's still form. He reaches down and carefully picks her up. How could I? What have I done? What am I? His thoughts are awash with grief and horror. He sees the battle still raging, no one has seen him yet, and he runs away.
..........Too much time, too much has happened, I will never be that person again. I am no longer the true master of my destiny. Salidus sighs to himself. I am ruled by my hunger. Salidus sits down on a bench and turns his thoughts to his current prey. He sighs. My young meal is still fighting, he is strong but he will fail as they all do in the end. All except Gral, he was such a strongly held person. He accepted all that he was and would let none of it slip away. That was his weakness when we were friends, but it became his strength when we were enemies. Unlike my other food there was no easy or ungaurded route through his soul. He hears a sound in the distance that distracts him from his thoughts. He turns his attention to the crystal. Hmm. He looks back and sees it glowing faintly in the distance. He decides to get it, because he's now slightly curious about his prey.
* * *
..........In the Command Center, Billy shivers once more. He's looking pale and dark circles line his eyes. The scary thing is that he looks worse than he did a couple days ago when he overtaxed his powers and got beat up by putties. In the strange colorless other-world, he watches as the wolf begins to tire. We can't take much more of this, but the monster seems reluctant to press its advantage. I hope it stays that way. Billy feels the cold still creeping through him. I can't take much more of this.
* * *
..........Zordon looks at his young charge, then to the viewing globe. Billy is weakening rapidly. The others will not finish this battle soon enough to help Billy. Adam must succeed, there is no other choice. As if in response, the Rangers within the globe defeat the Flea. They then begin to regroup and press Rito and Goldar. Zordon frowns from his column, "Alpha, any change in Billy's condition?"
..........Alpha doesn't sound too happy, he can't even bring himself to voice his usual 'Ai yi yi,' "No Zordon, Billy is continuing to weaken and his ability to channel the power is lessening. I can't do anything."
.........."Don't fret Alpha, I am confident that Adam will return in time," says Zordon quietly, but to Alpha, who has been with Zordon for thousands of years, Zordon doesn't sound very hopeful at all.
* * *
..........Adam walks through the corridors carefully, he hasn't seen any puzzles for a while, nor has he seen any end to this corridor, but he still finds the intermitant sign that transforms to 'Have Faith' before his eyes. This is weird, but I think that there is something behind all these 'Have Faith' signs. I've been watching them change for me as I walk along, but I've never thought about it. They seem to respond to me, I mean they're only changing when I look at them. So maybe this whole maze is like based on me, so like every puzzle I've seen is based on what I know. It may be digging up stuff I don't think about, but I have the answers. Cool. Adam smiles to himself. I can do this. He turns from the sign to the corridor. What? This wasn't here just a minute ago. The corridor he's in now goes into a room. He cautiously walks in, then he hears a thud behind him and spins to see the wall behind him close. Looks like I'm stuck in here. He looks around the room.
* * *
..........Salidus stares at the crystal cradled within his palm and focuses his attention through it. The guardian is weaker and so is my prey. What is this creature? Before I was too hungry to care, but now I feel much more inquisitive. Nor do I feel that destroying it is justified. Salidus shakes his head. My meal is a strong being, it has been through something that has strengthened its resolve to be good, as well as deal with some of its compacity for darkness. Something familiar, but what? Salidus ponders this and decides to ask, the guardian cannot truly hurt him, and his prey seems like a nice fellow. He walks towards where his prey lies, it is on sort of pedestal. Some sleeping accomodation perhaps? He then examines the surroundings his prey is in, some sort of metal structure, it seems very stark to Salidus' eyes.
..........His prey looks at him fearfully and its guardian growls. He speaks out loud to it, "I am not here to continue my feeding. I am curious as to what manner of being you are."
* * *
..........Billy blinks, the monster is asking him a question! Well it can't hurt, I suppose. As long as it stays way over there. Maybe talking will keep it distracted. "I'm a human, we live on Earth," Billy pauses and waits for the monsters response.
..........It ponders this. A Suranoid, but very pale, just like I was...before. "Well human, I am Salidus. I wish to know more about you and where you come from. Do not worry, only through you can I have any access to your planet. Once my link with you is cut I shall be trapped in the Maze until someone frees me."
.........."If you're so curious about me, why are you trying to kill me?"
.........."I have no choice I must feed," he sounds slightly apologetic about the whole thing. "I would have continued my feeding," Salidus watches as the 'human' shudders, "but there is something about you that is familiar to me. You are very powerful, are you a servant of the Light?"
..........Billy just stares at him. Servant of the light? Does he mean Power Ranger? I can't tell him, I'm not supposed to reveal my identity to anyone. "I'm Billy." Better than nothing....
..........Salidus sees his hesitation and smiles, "I'll assume you are a member of the Light. I myself made those same promises a very long time ago." Salidus takes in the shocked feeling that flows from this 'Billy.' "I am curious about you 'Billy,' but I see that you don't want to start talking. I've decided that I will give you the singular honor of hearing my story. I have the time and I haven't had anyone to speak with in millenia." He sees 'Billy' take this in and sees some of the fear replace itself with curiosity. How fascinating, he is far more interested in me than afraid of me right now. Well, I suppose I should speak. Salidus begins to tell his story, "I was a young warrior of the Light like yourself..."
* * *
..........Adam stares at the room. There are three doors leading out, one to the left, another to the right, and one in the center. Above the center door is a sign that transforms into the words 'Young Apprentice: the passage you seek is between the proverbial rock and a hard place.' Adam stares at it a bit longer. I wish that made some sense. He looks around the room and sees a design worked into the floor. It looks kinda like a compass, but it has pictures instead of letters. The north has a six headed lizard like creature. Hydra? No, it has human heads, it seems familiar. The west has a winged bird creature with a human head. Harpy, identifies Adam. South is set with a man-shaped monster with the head of a bull. Minotaur. To the east is a blue spiral. What's that supposed to be? Maybe something to do with water?
..........He walks around the room and as he nears the doors the smell of salty air reaches him. An ocean? How can that be? I don't think it matters, but it means that all those creatures relate to water. The harpies waited on the rocks and lured ships to crash on them, definitely not the direction I want to go. Wait if they're all related to water, maybe the spiral is a whirlpool. What about the big monster? He shakes his head and stares at the six-headed monster then he paces around some more. Well, Mister Minotaur, I doubt I'll be going back in your maze, but I suppose that's where you fit in. I'm stuck, I don't know which way to go. I don't know which door to take, I don't understand the clues. What the heck is the proverbial rock and a hard place? I don't have time....
..........Adam turns and walks towards the door indicated by the whirlpool direction. He hears the sound of roaring waves and stops at the door. It's a whirlpool, great. I'm not going this way either. Guess that leaves door Number Two. He walks to the center door and hears the same roaring sound that he heard before, as well as a hissing. These all sound bad. He smiles darkly as his predicament makes itself apparent. Yup. I'm a 'young apprentice' caught between a.... Adam's thoughts trail off as he finishes the phrase by rote, "...Scylla and Charybdis, hypnotized by you if I should linger..." Adam begins to laugh. I nearly got myself killed over a Sting song, just peachy. Billy would get a kick out of this.... Adam sobers. I've got to hurry. He doesn't walk to a door, he walks to the corner between the monster and whirlpool doors. He puts his hands to the corner and feels for a door, he finds nothing. No, this has to be the answer. I've failed.
..........He closes his eyes and leans his head against the wall, or where he expected the wall to be. He stumbles forward and opens his eyes to find that he's in a large garden. Well, it was a garden at some point I think. I was right! As this soaks in, he sees an image flicker to life before him, it's the warrior he saw earlier! It faces him and speaks, "Child of Light, you have completed the Labyrinth. Congratulations. You may rest here and leave when you are rested, the paths will open for you." The warrior flickers, "have earned...the test is over...lesson...Have Faith...," the warriors message winds down, it's been far to long and the machines are in ill-repair and the minor magics invested in this message have faded too much. It's final message to the universe and to Adam is, "Have Faith," then it vanishes as suddenly as it appeared.
..........Man, that was creepy. I'm done with the maze, but I've only been through three puzzles or had three chances to choose my direction, that was weirdly easy. Can't think about that now, I've still got to save Billy. Adam looks around. I've got to find that Crystal and save Billy. He doesn't see anything but he hears a voice whispering through the air, "...a young warrior of the Light like yourself."
..........Adam listens for it and begins to carefully and quietly sneaks towards the sound of the voice.
* * *
..........Billy finds himself listening raptly to Salidus' story. He was a Ranger of sorts, now he's this monster. All because of a spell. Billy shudders slightly as he thinks of what a spell almost did to him. Salidus said there was something familiar about me, could it be the same spell? That Morrick guy, threw the cystal and a pillar of black flame appeared.... Billy pauses for a moment and Salidus' halts in his story, "Um, Salidus, did you ever find out anything about it?"
..........Salidus grimaces, "I know that it was intended to turn me evil, but that only I should have been within the spell's effects. I 'gleaned' this from Morrick when I... dealt with him." 'Billy' looks slightly ill at that point. "It was called...Dark Spell, or something close. I don't fully remember, such knowledge has faded over time."
.........."Could it have been called the Darken Spell?"
..........Salidus blinks as it becomes apparent that this was the name of the spell, "Yes, I believe you are right. How do you know?"
.........."I was the subject of it a couple days ago," Billy replies, he can't even bring himself to look at Salidus.
..........Salidus takes in his reaction, but also notes that this 'Billy' is not evil. "Yet you are not evil..."
..........Billy breaks off his question by answering it, "I was defeating the person who cast the Spell, so she decided to break the Spell herself rather than be destroyed."
.........."The Spell can be broken? How?" Salidus feels an emotion he hasn't felt in eons, hope. His attention focuses only on 'Billy.' I can be free. Never to have to hunt or fight the hunger again, is it possible?
..........Billy sees Salidus' change in demeanor. He's under a twisted version of the same Spell, and in all this time no one ever thought to try and break it! Maybe no one knows, Zordon himself admitted that he didn't know much about the Darken Spell and said that it could only be cast once in a lifetime. With people who live thousands of years it wouldn't be cast very often so knowledge of it would just fade to ink on some pages in a dusty tome. "There's a crystal that has to be broken, then the spell's power will be broken."
..........Salidus looks incredulous, "Just break a crystal? That's all! I've been trapped like this for eons because no one thought to break a stupid rock!" Rage flows through Salidus as he stands.
..........Billy pulls back and the wolf begins to growl. I'm in trouble, I'm in BIG trouble.... and the chill grips him tighter.
* * *
..........Adam listens to Salidus' speech and the one-sided conversation he's having with the crystal. Well, that must be the crystal I'm supposed to get, but how? He seems pretty intent on it. Adam begins to carefully walk closer. He doesn't seem to be noticing me. Then Salidus' voice fades as he begins to concentrate on the crystal more. He's so wrapped up in the crystal that he doesn't notice me. I can deal with this. I don't want to fight the guy, it just doesn't sound like he's doing this to be evil, but I can't just walk up and take it. Adam is about five feet from Salidus, when he hears Salidus roar in rage. Oh boy. Wait. Adam carefully looks at Salidus. It's not me, he's still focused on the crystal. The crystal flares brighter. That can't be good.
* * *
..........Alpha is panicking. "Zordon, Billy's vital signs are fading rapidly. There is nothing I can do."
..........Zordon looks grave, he has been watching the readings slowly falter. I had hoped it would never come to this. I had hoped that Adam would save him. I have failed them, I have failed Billy. Quietly he speaks, "I know Alpha, but you have done all you can."
* * *
..........Adam knows a bad thing when he sees it, Salidus and the glowing crystal definitely qualify. I've got to act fast. Adam continues quitely stalk Salidus and is standing right behind his right shoulder. I've only got one chance to get this right. I can do it. I have to.
* * *
..........Billy is terrified, Salidus has gone off the deep end. The wolf is fighting tooth and claw, but he's only slowing Salidus, not stopping him. We're losing. He watches Salidus bat the wolf away and start to move closer. The wolf vanishes in a fine blue mist. Gone, the power's gone. Billy feels weakness wash over him and his blood feels like it's turned to ice water. He can only watch as Salidus advances.
..........In the Command Center, Billy's hand opens and the Power Coin rolls from it and falls to the floor.
* * *
..........Adam looks at Salidus, closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath. Let this work, please let this work, rumbles through his mind like a mantra. He reaches out and snatches the crystal from Salidus' palm and pulls back. I did it! I don't want to hang around here. Adam begins to sprint away from Salidus.
* * *
..........Salidus is enraged, all he sees before him is his prey and its annoying gaurdian. The beast tries to battle him and he smashes the thing away and feels its power fade. He looks at his weakening prey and advances, when suddenly his connection to his prey is cut off. His rage fades as he stares in confusion at his empty palm. What? He turned and looked around. Shadow? He thinks as he sees a patch of darkness break off from the shadows and head towards the door. Thief! Salidus rises and charges after his crystal.
* * *
..........Adam moves at a good clip and is nearing the door when a hand clamps down on his shoulder, Adam's feet keep pumping but his upper body is pretty well restrained and he falls to his back. I'm in trouble. He looks up into Salidus' very unhappy face. I'm in BIG trouble. "I doubt we could talk this over."
..........Salidus looks at the little creature. Another 'human.' How quaint. "No. You have interrupted my meal, I wish to continue. But I think you'll make an excellent appetizer." With this Salidus reaches down and places his hand on Adam's chest. He stares at Adam.
..........Adam feels Salidus place his hand on his chest and feels a tug. I don't know what that is, but I don't like it. Adam watches as a look of surprise passes over Salidus' face and hears him mumble, "his weakness is his strength."
..........I don't know what that means, but I'm not going to wait to find out. Adam smashes his hands into the sides of Salidus' knees and rolls to his feet as Salidus tumbles. Run. Run, faster.
.......... Adam charges towards the corridor and hears Salidus gaining. He leaps for the corridor and is through. He hears a roar behind him, but doesn't look back. He runs through this corridor until he is at the exit of the maze and keeps running. He's forced to stop when Quick appears in front of him. How many times do I have to say I don't have the time for this? Adam begins circling with Quick, I'm going to finish this, and gets Quick in front of the maze entrance. Adam pulls out his blade blaster and shoots the ground by Quick's feet. Quick leaps into the air. Yes! You can't block this if you're already in the air. Adam does a flying kick that smashes Quick through the entrance of the maze. All he needed was my permission to go in, but I don't know what he's going to do without me to get him back out. Tough. Adam begins to run towards the outskirts of the maze area. He's breathing hard when he stops and tries his communicator, "Zordon...Alpha...This is...Adam...I've got the...Crystal." Adam vanishes in a swirl of black energy.
* * *
..........Adam reappears in the Command Center and is rushed by Alpha, "Adam give me the crystal."
..........Adam hands the crystal to Alpha who runs over and grabs some gadgets of unknown purpose and starts to run it though them. Adam looks around and sees Billy --He looks bad-- "Zordon, will Billy be alright?"
.........."I am unsure, Adam. I believe you managed to get the crystal in time. But I can make no promises at this stage."
..........Adam heads toward the table, on his way there his foot hits something and he looks down to find Billy's Power Coin. He might need this. Adam picks it up and places it in Billy's hand where it flares a bright blue for a moment before Billy's hand closes over it.
.........."What?" cries Alpha, he looks at his scanner, "I recorded a power surge just a moment ago, did you do something?"
.........."Well I picked up Billy's coin and put it in his hand," Adam says confusedly. That should NOT be a bad thing. He watches as Alpha runs around mumbling. "Alpha, what does that mean?"
..........Alpha runs around tapping various buttons on his gadgets and scanning the crystal, "I'm not sure, at one point Billy's connection with the power had weakened to near nothingness, but now it has resurfaced, stronger than it has ever been." Alpha runs a few more scans, "It's still not healing him. Zordon, do you think we could use the crystal to focus more power to Billy, Oh, I don't know," cries Alpha in exasperation.
..........Zordon thinks this over and calmly nods from his column, "Yes Alpha, I believe you are right. Calm down. If we use the crystal to focus the power we can heal his ebbing life-force, but I am unsure of what permanent effect this will have on him." Zordon checks Billy's life readings himself. He's still fading, the time for talk and theory has past, we must act while we have the chance. "Alpha, begin the procedure." He watches. I do not know if this will work, but I need to be confident for Adam and Alpha's sake. He looks solemn, yet hopeful from his column as he stares over the room.
..........I guess it's working, I mean Zordon looks like it is. I hope Billy's alright, I got here as fast as I could, what if I failed him, what if he...Shut up, Adam. He won't. He CAN'T. Adam shakes his head and focuses his attention on Billy as if willing him to get better. His concentration is so intense that he jumps when Alpha's scanner begins a frantic beeping, "What's that?"
.........."It's some type of overload, the crystal isn't going to hold much longer, but I can't stop it now. Billy still needs the energy. Hopefully it will hold lond enough." Alpha is so intent on Billy that he says as an afterthought, "Adam, it's probably going to explode, maybe you should..."
..........Adam gets the idea quickly and drops behind one of the consoles. Sheesh, Alpha. Great warning. This is driven home as he hears a loud snap and sees blue energy crackle in the air above his head. Great warning, just peachy. "Uh, Alpha? Are you still there?" Adam catiously raises his head over the top of the console to see Alpha getting off the floor with another scanner in his hand. Wow, that's dedication. He watches as Alpha runs it over Billy and suddenly he starts laughing. I don't think Billy's going to believe this one. He was greeted to the sight of Alpha tossing his scanner in the air and jumping around for joy. I think he's happy, just have a hint here. I've got a distinct impression that Billy's going to be okay. He's still giggling slightly when he walks up to Alpha, "Well, how is he?"
..........Alpha suddenly stops jumping, "He'll be fine," Alpha sounds a bit embarrased as he says this, "I'm not sure what effects the power surge of earlier will have, but the overload of the crystal has done him no harm. The power has broken through whatever barrier that was preventing it and begun to heal him. We'll have to keep him under some observation, but well we do have a viewing globe."
.........."Yes!" and Adam jumps in the air and begins a parody of Alpha's earlier dance.
.........."Oh you did see that, heh heh," says Alpha as he suddenly notices how mess the command center is and begins to frantically clean.
.........."Sorry Alpha, I just couldn't contain myself," grins Adam as he watches the robot continue his duities. He turns his attention to Billy, who looks a bit pale still and still very unconcious to Adam's untrained eye, but not like he's standing on death's door. I did it Billy, I... He grins to himself. had faith. I'll stay around and wait. He smiles at his sleeping friend. Sleep well.
* * *
..........Rita sighs. I've failed again, first I underestimate Billy, then Adam. This is not my week. But at least I still have a few more crystals. I should be able to cause some chaos with that. She smiles, but it's short-lived as her remaining crystals glow brigher. What? Something is happening to my crystals! What! she groans. No, I need some sleep, I don't want to deal with this any more, not today. Rita sighs.
* * *
..........Adam is standing in the Command Center watching Billy sleep when when the others get in, Zordon hadn't sent him to the battle because the Rangers were just wrapping up when he had returned and Zordon was a bit too busy to care. He had watched the viewing globe for a bit and waited. The others quickly turn their attention to Billy. Tommy looks worriedly at Billy, "Will Billy be alright?"
.........."Yes, Tommy. Adam was able to get the crystal in time. Billy will recover. You have all done well, I believe you should go home and rest. There is nothing you can do here," says Zordon.
.........."What about Billy?" asks Tommy.
.........."I'll take him home, I need to talk to Zordon anyway," replies Adam.
..........Tommy shrugs and looks to the others, "Okay, we'll check by later." Tommy and the others teleport off.
* * *
..........Adam looks to Zordon, he's just finished relating his experiences in the Labyrinth. "I was wondering about the Maze. It seemed to go by pretty quick...I mean...well, I don't know what I mean," Adam trails off embarrassedly.
.........."The Maze, as you surmised, is based around the one traversing it. Thus you had all the answers, once you accepted this you had already beaten the Maze. You just had to pass the last puzzle and prove that you accepted it. If you had not found the answer, you would have continued to go through it until you had actually made it through the Maze. As it was, you were sent directly to the end of the Maze," answered Zordon.
..........Advance token to Boardwalk. Adam grins and gets ready to speak when he sees Billy stir. He goes over to the table where Billy's situated. "Hey Billy, how are you feeling?"
..........Billy yawns and sits up, "Tired," he groans and grabs his head, "and sore. Did you beat the monster? What happened?"
..........Adam looks to the floor, "Sort of," he pauses at Billy's questioning look, "I'll tell you about it later. Now lets just get you home so you can sleep."
..........Billy yawns and nods in response. Adam teleports with Billy and sends him to bed. I'll see Billy tommorow and talk about it then, I could use some sleep myself. Adam thinks to himself as he heads home.
* * *
..........Adam ends up at Billy's house at one in the afternoon. Billy wasn't up earlier, but if he's true to form he should be up by now. Adam knocks and waits for a moment as Billy opens the door. Billy looks a bit better though he has a big lump over his eye and a bandage over that.
.........."Hi, Adam. And before you ask, I fell in the woods yesterday." he shakes his head, "I have been so accident prone as of late."
.........."Uh huh. Sleep well? You look a lot better than yesterday."
.........."Odds are I could have been in a car wreck and still look better than yesterday," grins Billy, "Come in." Billy leads Adam to his lab and pulls out a couple of stools. "Well, you said that you were going to tell me what happened yesterday and I might as well tell you what happened yesterday, it was surreal."
.........."Um, as far as I could tell all you did yesterday was be unconscious," jokes Adam.
..........Billy grins, "Well, I may have done a bit of that, but to me I was sitting there with a wolf protecting me from Salidus. The wolf..." he trails off with a far-away expression, then shakes himself and turns his attention back to Adam. "Then Salidus decided to tell me his life story, it gets kinda fuzzy after that. I think there was something important, but I just can't remember what. Salidus became extremely agitated and I watched him beat the wolf. I thought it was over, but all of a sudden he vanished. I don't really know what happened around that." Billy shrugs, "Now it's your turn."
.........."Okay, that is a bit surreal." Adam collects his thoughts and relates yesterday's adventure.
.........."It looks like we both had a close call yesterday, but we've pulled through." Billy grins mischieviously, "Well at least it wasn't the same old routine."
..........Adam groans, "That's bad, that's real bad, but you're sick so I'll let you get away with it. What did you think about Salidus, he was strange."
..........Billy shrugs, "Well I am a bit biased in my opinion, but I didn't find him that wonderful a companion for the day. But besides that I felt kinda sorry for him."
.........."I know, after hearing him talk, it just sounded like he wasn't that bad of a guy. Except for the fact he was trying to kill us. I still don't know why he let me go, but I'm very glad he did." He pauses when he sees Billy frown, "What's up?"
.........."I have the feeling I know, but it's unclear. Well, I suppose it should come back, if it was important," Billy shakes his head, "I suppose I have had one bad week. I'm glad that it's over."
.........."Bad week, you can say that again," grins Adam.
.........."But I won't," retorts Billy. "Why don't we listen to some Sting and do something, I don't even care if it's the same old routine. It would be a relaxing change."
..........Adam groans, "Remember when I said your last joke was bad, well that was worse. Let's head to the Juice Bar, everyone will be there," Adam pauses and smiles, "as usual."
..........Laughter is his only reply as they leave the lab.

..........Salidus sits in the maze and waits.