Thank You for Always
Part 7: Riding the Nightmare
A love story of sorts.
by Ranko

Dirk ransacked his closet for something to wear.

[I wonder, is it a formal dinner? Or just a casual, friendly, go-to-McDonalds type thing.]

:What do _you_ think?: Kim asked, horrified. :Of course it's formal!:

[Tebbly, tebbly sowwy.] he apologized. Then he turned back to his closet. [Formal- formal, or just formal?]

:No, it's not terribly formal. No tee-shirts and jeans, but tuxedos are a bit too much.: Kim instructed.

Dirk turned back to his closet again. So it was semi-formal. That would make it that much more difficult. He finally decided on a pair of black slacks, a violet polo (collared, of course) and an surcoat of black. He touched that off with a black belt with gold buckle and black loafers.

After a few minutes, he heard the beeping of a car horn, and went downstairs.

Sitting there, in a red T-bird, was a veritable vision. It had downy amber hair, with a beautiful diamandine sheen over it. Long, slim fingers poked over the edge of the steering wheel, and the paint that adorned the fingernails was a faint gold. High, slim, pink cheekbones moved gently as the dream smiled at him: green eyes shone with a gold tinge.

Those fingers moved as she beckoned him to her. Dirk moved as if in a dream. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. The pressure in his chest was becoming unbearable. Slim hands moved again, in a rapid motion.

<Aren't you going to hurry?> asked Kethry curiously.

<Keth?> he signed, incredulously using the symbol for her name. <That you?>

She giggled a soundless giggle. <Of course it's me. Who else would it be?>

<You look great!> he signed with great enthusiasm. Suddenly, Kimberly's proposition of earlier seemed to take on new depth and realism.

She grinned at him with no glimpse of humility. <Thanks.> she signed, cheerfully. <You, too. Come on, get in, we haven't got all night.>

He liked that.

He half-grinned, a smile that wasn't so much joy as nervousness, and signed, <Just give me a sec.>

He got in, marvelling at this girl who had the ability to have so many faces!

After a very short while, they arrived at a white house with a pink-tinged gate. He walked in--

and was astounded once again. Where he had expected a parlor, there was what seemed to be a private room from a disco and a very high-class restaurant combined. There was a table with tablecloth and candles, which were rendered useless by flashing lights of all colors dancing around and loud music playing. Of course, the _music_ was completely out of place with the lights, being slow rock groups such as the Fugees and Celine Dione.

All in all, it combined for a very striking effect. There were three sitting at the table: Laura, Billy and a boy Dirk didn't recognize. Evidently, Kethry did, because as soon as they were within signing distance, the boy started signing with fluidity and speed that proved, beyond a doubt, that he, too, was deaf.

Kethry nodded. She gestured towards Dirk. <Be polite, Kirstan.> she signed. <He's new here, he can't understand what you're saying. In fact, I don't think _anyone_ here who isn't deaf could have understood that!>

<I'm sorry.> the boy said, rather contrite. Dirk noticed that he was wearing the opposite colours as Kethry: beiges and whites. <It's just that-->

<Whatever it was, Kirstan, it couldn't have been important enough for you to forget your manners!> Kethry scolded.

Kirstan shrunk back, rather like a hen-pecked husband. Then, they giggled soundlessly together, evidently sharing a private joke.

<What's going on?> he asked, patiently. And not without a twinge of something he definately didn't like in his chest. There was no denying the boy was _very_ handsome, in quite a different way then Dirk. Where Dirk was innocent, he was sunny and bright.

<Kirstan, this is Dirk.> she introduced. <Dirk, Kirstan.>

<Hi.> Dirk 'said,' casually.

<Nice to meet you.> the blonde boy replied with a smile. He had green eyes as well, with a tint of blue around them. He turned to Kethry and started signing very fast indeed. Dirk only caught a few words.

But the one sentence he _did_ catch was <Does he know?>

"Do I know what?" asked Dirk sharply, aloud.

<I suppose not.> replied Kethry. <He doesn't need to know; it's not important.>

<True.> Kirstan signed resignedly. <But he _should_...>

<That's enough, Kirstan. It causes us enough pain as it is.> she reprimanded. <Why spread it to everyone else?>

<You have a point. Very well.> he sign-sighed. He turned to Dirk. <We're sorry, but it had to be done. It's not something important, else we would have told you, is that all right?>

<Oh, fine.> Dirk replied with something of an edge. <I like being ignored as much as the _next_ guy.>

Kirstan looked distinctly chagrined. But he was saved from further embarrassment by the arrival of Kimberly. "Oh, you're here!" she cried. "Great! Now the fun can begin." she said with a mischeivous smile. Billy and Zach rolled their eyes, but they, too, smiled.

"Now," said Kimberly, playing the hostess. "What shall we do first. Eat, or something else?"

"I dunno 'bout you guys, but I'm not really hungry." Zach said, as Tommy, Jason, Princilla, Rocky, Adam, Trini, Kadiya and Aisha strolled over. As well as quite a few other people that Dirk recognized from school but didn't really know.

"Affirmative!" Billy agreed.

Jason nodded with a distinct twinkle in his eyes. "Ditto. What did you have in mind for the 'something else,' Kim?"

"Oh, I dunno. A few games, maybe?" Kimberly said, and there was a glitter in them that made Dirk supremely suspicious.

<Works for me.> signed Kethry.

<Same here.> affirmed Kirstan.

"Games it is, then." Kimberly said, smiling. "Anyone violently object to Spin-the-bottle?"

There were giggles from the girls, and guffaws from the boys, but no-one really cared to object. _Especially_ since most of the people there were unpartnered.

Kim brought out a bottle that looked like it had been empty for quite some time, and placed it on the floor. She instructed people to sit in a circle, and soon, everyone was in position. "Now," she said, decisively. "Who wants to go first? Kirstan?" Kirstan shrugged.

Kimberly slid the bottle across the floor to him, and he spun it.

It turned out to point at Kethry. The room erupted in guffaws and giggles, for what reason, Dirk couldn't fanthom. Kirstan's mouth twisted in an ironic grin. He strode over to Kethry, and Dirk's eyes filmed and his chest twinged once more.

<On the cheek O.K?> Kirstan signed.

<To almost anyone else, I'd say yes, but to you, no way!> Kim signed. Kirstan threw his mobile hands up in the air and kissed Kethry--quickly--on the lips.

"Hey," Dirk whispered to Kim. "Are those two going out?"

"Why do you want to know?" asked Kim, curiously. Dirk flushed and glared at the same time.

"Because they act like they can't really stand each other, but I know some couples from ol' SCH that did, too."

Kimberly shrugged. "That's for me to know, and you to find out."

Kethry spun the bottle with a twist of her strong wrists, and it twisted like a snake in the grass... until it stopped to point at Tommy.

Tommy blinked.

<Uh... Kim? This valid?> asked Kethry nervously.

Kimberly shrugged. "Sure." she replied.

Kethry marched over to Tommy and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. The others giggled and booed. She turned around and faced them, a definitely nonplussed expression on her face. <Now see here, you,> she signed, <this fellow's got a girlfriend, who's sure to kill me if I do more than that, you hear me?>

They blinked. "Uh... yeah." one of the most avid booers, Zach, replied hesitantly.

<Good.> she replied.

Tommy took the bottle from her with raised eyebrows, and spun it gently. It stopped--

pointing exactly at Kim. "Hey, that ain't fair!" Zach protested cheerfully. "The world _knows_ they're going out!"

"Well, if it was Isha, _you_ wouldn't be complaining." Kim retorted.

Zach shut up. Tommy slid over to Kimberly and tilted her head up and kissed her firmly on the lips, much to the delight of the others at the party, who "Ooooh"ed and "Ahhhh"ed. Then, suddenly, Tommy's wrist panel rang out.

"Ah, crap." Zach swore under his breath. But Kimberly had clapped her hand over Tommy's wrist panel a mere fraction of a second after it had started ringing, and so only those who knew that signal by heart would have heard it. To everyone else, the intimate 'holding hands' seemed to only signify more of their love for each other.

As soon as they had released each other, they backed out of the circle. The other Rangers, including Aisha, Adam and Rocky also surreptiously left.

Dirk didn't even notice. He was too busy laughing and having fun.

They backed into Kimberly's bedroom. "Come in, Zordon." Tommy murmured into the receiver.

"This is an emergency, Power Rangers. You must come at once."

Tommy sighed. Kimberly and all the others rolled their eyes in disgust. "We read you. Tommy out."

They teleported out, after whispering a quick apology to the other guests.

"What is it, Zordon?" Tommy asked, quietly.

"There is a situation of great danger, Power Rangers." Zordon said, brusquely. "Ivan Ooze again strides the world."

"Ivan _who_?" asked Kimberly sassily.

"A being of great evil, who once displaced Lord Zedd and Rita both, and who the previous set of Power Rangers thought destroyed."

"There was a previous set of Power Rangers?" asked Tommy, curiously.

"You know them well, Tommy. As do you, Adam."

Alpha tottered into the room, and teleported in Aisha, Rocky and Adam. They stared at themselves, then turned to the other Rangers. "What's going on?" Aisha cried. "How come we're in the command center?"

"It is essential you be here, Aisha." said Zordon, calmly. "There are a few people that all of you must meet... or already know."

The doors opened, and six shadowy figures stepped into the light.

"Dad! Is that really you?" Kimberly cried. "What're you doing here?"

"Kim?" Mr. Hart said, quite surprised. "Why are you in the command center."

"Momma?" asked Aisha, eyes wide.

"Mother?" Tommy said incredulously.

"Pop." Adam said, with huge eyes.

"Pa?" asked Rocky.

"Father?" asked Trini, uncertainly.

"They were the previous generation of Power Rangers." Zordon explained.

"WHAT?!" the Rangers roared.

"Zordon." Aisha's mother said, with a huge smile.

"We never thought we'd see you again!" Mrs. Oliver said, with a surprised smile.

The men nodded in acknowledgement.

"After that slime, Ivan Ooze got hit by a comet... we thought we'd won! And then Rita and Lord Zedd got out..." Kimberly's father shook his head. "We were too old by then to be heroes... we heard about the new Rangers..."

Then he turned to Kimberly. "Kim. Why are you here?"

"Dad," she said gently, "we _are_ the new Rangers. We _have_ been."

"Oh, lordy-me." Aisha's mother said. "I had hoped it was someone else... Zordon, what're you sending our kids into?"

"Ivan Ooze is still alive." Zordon said, grimly. "You need not worry, Trini, your daughter is not one of the Rangers... yet."

"Trini?" asked Aisha incredulously. "You were the Yellow Ranger, weren't you, Ma."

"Yes, darlin'. I named you after one of the other Rangers of my time. We _all_ named our children after the other Rangers." Aisha's mother said, soothingly.

"It seems that the Ranger blood breeds true." Zordon said. "But this is no time for greetings and revelations. Ivan Ooze is still alive."

Kimberly's father gave a gasp of horror. "No. Oh, man, no." he shook his head. "What does it take to kill that guy?"

"Yes, Tommy. Even putting him in the path of Ryan's comet did not destroy him altogether."

"Tommy?" Tommy said, wryly.

"Ah, so _you're_ my namesake." said Tommy Hart quietly.

"I'm getting confused." Aisha complained. "What has this got to do with us?"

"You, Aisha, are going to receive the powers that your mother once had."

"Why? And where'll that leave the other Rangers?"

"Because with Ivan Ooze loose, the Rangers will have to be sent to Phaedos once more, to receive the Great Power. _Without_ their powers, so that they will not be an easy target for Ivan Ooze and his henchmen to track." Alpha supplied.

Kimberly's father stepped forth. "Zordon, you're asking us to send our children into great danger, and almost imminent death. A lot of the time, it was just luck that saved us."

"Yes, Tommy. But the powers you brought into the world-- the Dinozord Color Powers-- has been instrumental in the world's salvation more than once. It is the same for them. Desperate times call for desperate measures."

Kimberly's father bowed his head, aquisencing.

"Whoa, wait a minute here." Kimberly said, nervously. "Don't _we_ get any say in this?"

"No." said Zordon, flatly. "The fate of the world depends on it."

"Besides," Zach muttered, "he already knows what we'll say."

"Zach, you are staying. You too, Trini, Jason. You are needed here, to defend the world. Aisha, Rocky, Adam, you will sail to the stars."

They nodded. "But..." Trini said, quietly, "we're only three. We need more than that to defeat Lord Zedd's monsters."

Two shapes stepped out of the shadows. <Will we do?> Kethry signed.

"Hey, guys." Dirk said, quietly.

"That's five." Alpha chirruped. "Wait... there's one missing!"

"One missing?" they chorused. "Who?"

"Tommy," Alpha said, quietly. Both Tommys turned, the old and the young. "No, Mr. Hart. You remember the day you had the celebration? The day that you promised a young boy, seven years old, a young _hero_, that he would be a Ranger some day?"

"Ye-es," Mr. Hart said, slowly. "But he would be, what, in early to mid-twenties now, wouldn't he? He's probably forgotten by now. It's been years, Zordon."

"So it has." came a voice from the shadows. A young man, perhaps six or seven years older than the gathered company Rangers stepped into the light. "But I haven't forgotten."

"My little brother Aubre." Tommy Hart said, quietly.

Kimberly gawped. "Uncle Aubre?"

Aubre laughed. "Just call me Aubre, Kimberly. I'm not _that_ much older than you. I never forgot the day you promised me that I would be a Ranger. It looks like you weren't lying, huh, older-brother Tommy."

"Guess not." Kimberly's father said, with a grin.

"You were instrumental in the saving of Angel Grove, Aubre Hart. It is only fitting that you take your brother's place as the White Ranger."

"I accept." Aubre said, gravely. It was true, he was older than all the other gathered Rangers, but he sure didn't look it!

"Prepare for Power Transfer, then." Alpha said, bringing out the Power Sword. There was brief moment of agony for those whose powers were being stripped from them... and a fleeting moment of bliss for those recieving them.

And suddenly, the 'new' Rangers were dressed in new colors. Kethry wore a bright magenta, Dirk wore violet, and Aubre wore a darker red than Jason: marroon.

"Dirk, as you know, you control the power of the Deinonychus. Now, you control the Jackal Thunderzord as well. It is cunning and quick. Kethry, you must call on the power of the Archaeopterix, winged predecessor of the birds. Your Thunderzord is the Lynx, powerful and silent."

"That's a new one!" Zach joked.

The 'travel' team stood by and watched.

"Aubre. You are now the leader of the Power Rangers. Your zord is the Allosaur, unstoppable and fierce, your Thunderzord is the Gargoyle, indestructable and dangerous. Now go, Rangers. Do your assigned tasks. And remember, be careful." said Zordon.

The 'new' Rangers teleported out, leaving the now non-Rangers to speak to Zordon.

"Tommy." Zordon adressed him. "On Phaedos, there is an ancient power of the Ninjeti. You will learn what it is. There will be no available power to bring you back. You must draw on the power that is there."

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute." the older Tommy protested. "You're sending them to Phaedos, without their powers? They'll be massacred. It was only the Ninjeti animal spirits that kept us from being done in the first time. What more now, that they can't be drawn back?"

"Could you have?" asked Zordon, quietly. "You didn't have your powers, either. You didn't have a way to get home. You were trapped there."

"That's different." protested Tommy's mother. "You were--"

"Do not speak of the past, Aisha." admonished Zordon sternly. "It is over. It is done. The situation is just as grave."

"No it's not!" Aisha Oliver blurted. "We didn't go to Phaedos to save the world. We went to Phaedos so that we could save your life!"

Zordon winced. "That... that is true. The previous order of power had been destroyed, and to save me and the world from certain destruction, you needed a new order of power. But Ivan Ooze is more powerful, now. His skills are not rusty as they were when you last faced him. He will not be as careless as he was."

"So you're asking us to send our children to certain death." said Adam's father grimly.

"Yes. To be perfectly honest, yes."

"Look, hon," said Aisha's mother, tiredly, "Why don't we let the kids decide? It's their lives, after all."

Kimberly huddled up against Tommy's side and held his hand. "I don't want to die," murmured Kim in a bare whisper, "but I'll do what I have to. As long as it'll stop this Ooze guy, I'll do it."

"Wherever Kim goes, I go." affirmed Tommy, squeezing her shoulder reassuringly. She cast him a look of undying gratitude and love.

"If it'll save the world, I'm going." said Adam, shortly.

"Same here." repeated Aisha.

"Affirmative." said Billy, coolly.

"Let's do it." Rocky boosted their spirits.

"Very well." Zordon said. "You have chosen."

"Whatever it is we've got to face, guys," Tommy said, quietly, "We'll face it together."

They nodded, right before they disappeared.

The former Rangers whirled on Zordon. "You knew what they would say!" Adam's father accused.

"You are right. I did. But it is imperative that they succeed. The fate of the world depends on it."

Tommy's group dropped to its feet on a rocky shore. The waves crashed around them, and the wind whistled frigidly. Despite its barrenness, the shore was beautiful.

"Oh, wow." murmured Kimberly.

"We'd better get going." said Adam, shivering. "This place gives me the creeps."

"Hey, guys!" Aisha called. "Maybe you'd better come look at this!"

They skittled down a pile of boulders... and gasped. Lying there were the remains of a huge creature, with the bones of a man--

And the head of a goat.

"Ugh." Adam groaned.

"What _is_ that?" Rocky asked, disgusted.

"I think the question should be, what _was_ it." Billy said, quietly.

"Certainly not the welcoming committee." Kimberly added.

"Let's get going. There's something that I don't like about this place." said Tommy, softly. They march on, clambering over rocky pits.

Unknown to them, from above watched a pair of green eyes from a green hood.

Back on Earth, the Power Rangers were not doing well. Dirk was terrible at martial arts, and was slowing down the rest of the team by insisting (arrogantly) that he could take care of himself.

Until Kethry or one of the others had to bail him out, of course.

Ivan Ooze hadn't reared his ugly head up, yet, but the Rangers were too busy with Lord Zedd's Putties and monsters to worry about it.

"It's morphin' time!" Jason shouted, taking his morpher from its hidden pocket behind his back.





"Sabretooth Tiger!"


They morphed with easy fluidity, facing... something. They had been worn too thin by days and days of fighting monsters and Putties to ask what it was. All they knew was what it could do and what _they_ could do. And it looked like a losing battle. On _their_ side.

"We need Thunderzord Power, _now!_" Jason commanded to the skies.







Jason, Trini and Zach didn't realize how much they'd depended on Kim's grace, Billy's intelligence and Tommy's amazing timing and martial arts ability until they were left with three new Rangers who had only rudimentary amounts of each.

[Guys,] Jason pleaded, hoping that his voice would carry over the light-years. The thing had just struck them a dangerously [You'd better hurry. I don't know how much longer we can hold out.]

The 'guys' were hiking up a mountainside. Kimberly stopped at a crevice in the crack and stared out across the orange sky, which was reflected in the clean, blue waters that whipped past her, spraying her with foam. She wrapped her arms around herself.

Tommy came up behind her, from his normal position of rearguard. He squeezed her shoulder gently. "Hey. You O.K?"

"I... I was thinking about my Dad." Kim said, slowly. "I.. I hadn't seen him since he and my Mom got divorced. I was only seven then, and I didn't understand why my Daddy was leaving. Over the years, Mom painted him as a horrible person, a kind of boogieman. And now... knowing that he was a Power Ranger... I don't know what to think."

"It'll be O.K, Kim." Tommy said, softly. "I promise. We'd better go catch up to the others."

Kimberly nodded, and they turned around.

"Whoa!" Tommy yelled, and ducked, pushing Kim down with him. Right above him flew a hideous bird-man, all black. It squawked in anger at missing them, and dove at them again. But _this_ time, Tommy was ready for it. With a 'ding!' against its beak, he stretch-kicked it in the jaw. And with a 'dong!' against its hollow skull, he brought his leg back down.

The bird-man crashed against the rocks and lay still. Tommy and Kimberly ran down to where the others were not doing quite as well, and joined the battle. One of them had dived at Billy, who had barely managed to backflip out of the way. Rocky kicked out the legs of one, and had bounced around in pain for a few seconds afterwards.

"Geez!" Rocky yelled. "Feels like you're kicking stone!"

Tommy nodded vigorously in agreement. The leader of the racuous bunch jumped up in front of him. "Hah!" it cawed. "You are doomed! You six alone cannot hope to defeat the minions of Ivan Ooze!"

"Ivan Ooze, huh?" Tommy said, casually, backing up slowly. "Well, we can try!"

"Arrogant human!" the bird-man shrieked. "We are the Tengu Warriors! We shall rip you apart, joint by joint, and feast on your marrow!"

The warrior went for him, and thing's kick took him in the left arm. He winced in pain, and with a punch, threw it back. He continued backing up.

Tommy's back touched stone. He swore inside. The Tengu Warrior in front of him shrieked in victory and charged him.

Tommy, at last second, flipped upwards and over the warrior's head, leaving it with its momentum charging it into a rock face.

It smacked into the rock face, then fell backwards with a groan, leaving a dent on the rock, and falling backwards, its beak severely compacted.

Kimberly vaulted up towards the rock facade, then Tommy, Adam, Rocky, Billy and lastly, Aisha joined them. They formed a ring.

"They're so strong!" Adam gasped.

"Tommy, you've been hurt." Kimberly said, looking at the wounds left on Tommy's arm by the Tengu's talons.

"I'll be fine." Tommy said, grimly. "These things have been sent by Ivan Ooze."

There was an insane cackling from above them. A hideous visage appeared: purple it was, with warts of a darker shade decorating it liberally. Out of the chin sprouted two hideous long growths that squirmed disgustingly.

"Hah." it said, sarcastically. "Of course they were sent by me."

"You're Ivan Ooze." said Tommy flatly.

"Of course I am. I'm the master of malevolence, the desperado of despair--"

"Shove it up your butt, wart-face." Kimberly said, defiantly. "We're not scared of you."

"Oh, you're a lot more cocky than you were eighteen years ago." he said, eyeing her. "You're still as cute as you were then, Pink Ranger. Funny, you don't seem to have aged at all. Not since you stuck me in the path of that damned comet. Well, you can try all you like to find the Great Power. You'll never make it, my Tengu will see to that! Tengu, don't harm the Pink Ranger! Bring her to me! Your world will never be the same. Welcome to my nightmare, kids!" Ivan Ooze screamed before fading out.

The Tengu closed in around the close ring of the plateau. "There looks like there's a lot of space down there." Tommy commented, looking over the head. "Go! I'll hold them off."

The others vaulted out, knowing a command from their leader when they heard one. Tommy started out with a moon kick, knocking one out of commission over the edge. The others crowded him, and he kicked once, twice, thrice and kicked out three more. Then one got in a lucky hit with his wing, and Tommy went flying over the edge.

"Tommy!" Kimberly screamed.

Tommy twisted in mid-air and landed on his feet, catlike and unharmed. He looked around and yanked a stake out of the ground. "Spread out!" he called. They ran their separate directions.

Tommy whirled his makeshift bo stick around and around, over his head, under his arm, knocking Tengu out with each motion. He stood with one hand held in a fist, the other holding the stick firmly across his chest. "Welcome to _my_ nightmare!" he growled, lashing out in complicated formations that left the Tengu stunned or worse.

Rocky was making use of his strength, simply tossing the things over his head. Of course, he conveniently forgot that they had _wings_, and when one came charging at him and knocked him to the ground, he _definitely_ wasn't happy.

Adam was using his stealth to knock them out, sneaking up behind them.

Aisha used her witty repartee to confuse them. She grabbed two and banged their heads together, shouting "Kiss and make up!" Of course, when they grabbed her arms and flipped her over and over, she moaned "whoawhoawhoawhoa!" But when she finally got her feet back on the ground, she flipped them over her body into a stone wall with a "Ha!"

Kimberly was using run-and-strike tactics, pretending to flee, while actually using her agility to lead them off cliff-ends and into stone wall-faces.

Billy glided around all of them, judging the trajectory and kick speed of the others, and therefore throwing the Tengu into the kicks and punches of his comerades, or even into the claws of the other Tengu. "You know what's funny about morphing?" he asked.

"What?" asked Adam, fighting at his back.

"You" he ducked. "Take" he jumped. "It" He ducked again. "For granted" Dodge. "Until" jump, "You" somersault. "Can't" split. "Do it" punch "Anymore."

Adam and Rocky had dispatched of their respective Tengu, and had trapped one between them. "Double whammy?" Rocky suggested.

"You're on!" Adam agreed. He started running towards his friend..

The Tengu looked at him. Then turned the other way to see Rocky charging him. He turned forward. "Oh-oh." it said, right before both Rocky's and Adam's flying kicks contacted with its head and bugged its eyes out, and it slid to the ground.

But no matter how good they were, they were only six teenagers against hundreds of seasoned Tengu Warriors. It seemed that no matter how many they dispatched, there wer always more to replace them. And they were tiring.

Kimberly was just a _hint_ too slow in her running, and a Tengu, fresh and calm, caught up with her. As she braced herself for the kick that would send her flying over the rocky facade, the Tengu flew up and caught her shoulders in its talons. She shrieked, both in pain and fear, as the Tengu Warrior bore her up, squirming.

"Kimberly!" Tommy cried, kicking a Tengu out of the way, before the other Tengu realized what a danger he was and sprang at him, flattening him to the ground.

"Somebody help me!" she cried. "Tommy!"

"Kim!" he cried back.

Kimberly squirmed in the thing's grip. "Let _go_ of me, you big bird! I swear, if I get free, I'll make chicken wings out of you!"

Suddenly, there came an unholy screech from the top of the bluff as the green-robed figure finally decided to join the battle. The Tengu holding Kimberly dropped her in surprise, and she fell into a crouch. "Kim!" Tommy called. "You O.K?"

"I'm fine!" she called back. "Who _is_ that?"

Tommy shrugged. "Beats me. But whoever it is, they just lent us a hand."

The figure whipped off the robe and revealed itself as a stunningly beautiful woman, with ginger hair, green eyes, green bikini-toplike shirt and a barely-there loincloth-like material. She carried a _real_ bo stick, unlike Tommy's makeshift one which had broken in the fight.

She jumped amongst the Tengu, wreaking havoc, until they'd backed up long enough to give her a little time. Then, she pulled apart the two pieces of her bo stick, and started whirling them. From them came a pleasant whistling sound.

It was hardly pleasant to the Tengu. They shrieked and abandoned their respective battles, flying off, screaming in pain.

As soon as the last one had left, she stopped whirling the two pieces of her staff and fitted them back together. The Rangers had regrouped, and were standing in a line in front of her.

"Hey," Rocky said, holding out his hand. "Thanks--"

The woman struck his hand aside with her staff. Rocky backed off, holding the hand to his stomach in pain.

"Gee." he muttered. "Toucheee."

"If you would truly wish to thank me," she spat, "then you will leave Phaedos and go back to wherever you came from."

They exchanged looks. "We can't." Aisha protested.

"We heard there was a great power here." Adam began. "Is it true?"

"It is true." she replied, hostility shining out of green eyes. "The very ground here is littered with the bones of those who have tried to get it... and failed."

They exchanged another look. Tommy came forward. "We're different." he said, simply. "We won't fail."

The woman looked at him, judging him--

Then reached out so fast they could barely see her move, swept Tommy's feet out from under him, and stuck one end of the pole against his sternum. He tried to get up: she pushed on the staff.

"Go home." was all she said.

"We can't!" Kimberly objected. "Zordon--"

"Zordon?" the barbarian girl said, looking at Kimberly straight in the eyes. "You know Zordon?"

Tommy winced as the girl pressed down on the staff.

"He's... he's our mentor." Kimberly said. "He told us... to come here. We need the power... to stop Ivan Ooze."

"Ivan Ooze? Ivan Ooze is free?" the woman said, alarmed.

Kimberly nodded. "You've heard of Ivan Ooze?" she asked.

"He is the most disgusting scourge in the universe. You say you come from Zordon?"

Kimberly nodded again. The woman took her staff off Tommy's chest and let him get to his feet with Kimberly's help. "Then I have no choice but to help you." she said, firmly.

"Who _are_ you?" asked Adam.

"I am Dulceia. The First Warrior of the planet Phaedos. Follow me, quickly. The fate of your planet depends on it."

They shrugged and followed.

The costumed Rangers fought, and they fought and they fought... they gathered on top of a wall with the purple creatures that, for some reason, seemed to have replaced the Putties milling about in front of them. Zach's costume was slightly torn, and it was obvious that all of them carried bruises. Aubre raised his sword, which he'd gained when Tommy's powers had been taken away, and shouted with the last vestiges of his tired voice, "I want you guys to meet Saba!"

He released the talking tiger-headed sword, which whirled above the heads of the purple things. They watched it, entranced by the white light shining from it. Then, Saba stopped above a huge bale filled with cement. Suddenly, red beams of laser light shot from Saba's eyes to the line of rope holding the bale up.

It plunged down onto the disgusting purple things, who had time only to look up and murmur "uh-oh" before they were squashed into the oblivion of purple goop.

Suddenly, the energy started to crackle from them in beams of colored light. Saba only had time to say "Oh, no" before he faded into nothingness.

And even as Trini looked at her gloved hands, the gloves faded away and became tan Asian skin.

Their costumes had disappeared. And so had their weapons.

"No." Aubre said, quietly. "Oh, no."

"Oh, no, what, Aubre?" asked Zach sharply.

"We've got to get to the command center. And quickly. Don't bother using the teleporters, they won't work."

The jogged slowly towards the mountains that harbored their sanctuary.

As soon as they got to the door of the command center, Trini noticed that it was covered with purple, viscuous matter.

"Purple ooze." she said, grimly. "Let's get this door open."

They forced it open, their power coins having disappeared with their costumes.

And they gasped in horror. Everything had been trounced and torn apart. What hadn't been simply torn apart had been decapitated.

Then they realized that Zordon's time-warp chamber had been broken along with everything else.

"Zordon!" Trini cried, running to him. She crouched by his side, where he lay on a pedestal that had once been his time-warp chamber that kept him from ageing.

"R... Rangers." he murmured in a barely audible voice. "It's destroyed. All of it. The Zords... the Powers... the weapons. The Power Rangers are no more. Ivan Ooze... has won."

He closed his eyes. Trini, Jason and Zach did, too. Having been Rangers longer than any of the others, they were that much closer to Zordon. And this revelation hurt them that much more.

"What's wrong with him, Alpha?" asked Trini.

"Out of his space-chamber," Alpha replied, "he is aging. He does not have much time left. Ay ya yay ya yay! I hope the other Rangers are doing better than we are!"

They climbed and climbed. It seemed to them as though Dulceia was leading them across many, many hundreds of miles. Finally, at sunset, they reached their destination.

"This, is the ruined temple of the Ninjeti." Dulceia explained. "It is a holy place. No evil creatures will desecrate our work or our sleep here."

She pointed out across the sky to a monolith that towered above all. "That, is where the Great Power is to be found. There are many guardians, not the least of which is the Cold-Drake, an evil dragon."

"Why are you telling us this?" Rocky asked, brusquely. "A few hours ago, you were willing to kill us."

She seemed unperturbed. "I tell you this because without it, your world is surely doomed. I would not choose to doom a planet unless it is one such as it would become if Ivan Ooze has his way."

" Why don't you just come with us, Dulceia?" asked Kimberly.

"Alas," she said, mournfully, "if only I could. But I cannot. Beyond this plateau... my years would catch up to me, and I would age as rapidly as Zordon would if his time-warp was broken."

"So you're leaving us helpless?" asked Rocky incredulously.

"Not helpless. The Ninjeti can help you." she smiled at them. "For those who are Ninjeti, anything is possible. Now, close your eyes."

They did, and she took out a handful of something from a belt-pouch that looked rather like diamond-dust.

"Inside of all of us, there is an animal spirit. Reach inside yourself, and find it." she murmured. Then, she blew the diamond-dust into the fire between them.

The fire flared high, coiling into sinuous shapes. It threw the sparkles into the air, over the team. The sparkles drifted, then rained down on them, bathing their clothing with shimmering light--

And suddenly, they were wearing ninja outfits and had golden plaques on their chests.

She smiled a quiet smile. So Zordon _had_ sent them, after all. If they had been lying in any way, the diamond-dust would surely have killed them.

"Ah." she said, succinctly.

They opened their eyes and stared at each other and at the plaques on their chests. They were wearing metallic colors: brass, bronze, copper; they pulled their hoods back from their faces and their face masks down before giving each other smiles of relief, and Dulceia smiles of thanks.

"Cool!" Aisha exclaimed.

"Whoohoo!" Rocky cried to the skies.

"Absolutely excellent!" Billy said, calmly.

"Morphinomical!" Kimberly said with obvious excitement.

Adam's grateful smile was all the thanks in the world.

"Oh, man, this is great!" Tommy said with a grin, looking at himself and his team.

They wore mettallic colors accented with hints of black, and they wore head-bands with the same plaque in the center as in their chests. The loose, flaring pants neither restricted movement nor hampered it, the short sleeves didn't get in the way, and the wrist and arm-bands were hard as stone--very useful in a fight--but light as cloth. The unconfining clothes didn't hug the body, rather they swirled around it. Claws and talons would get caught in the cloth, instead of in flesh and bone.

She strode over to Aisha, dressed in brass colors, and looked down at her plaque. "Aisha, you will be the Brass Bear. Fierce and unstoppable."

Aisha had to smile.

Dulceia placed a hand on the plaque on Aisha's chest. "Remember this, Aisha.

The Bear is never tired

And the Bear will never fright

The Bear is eager to do her best

Whether in brains or a fight.

But she's stubborn as a heifer

And her spirit must match yours

If you would want to be the Bear

You must dare her fiery roars."

Aisha nodded solemnly.

Dulceia moved on, to Rocky, coloured in bronzes. "Rocky, powerful and smart. The power of the Bronze Jaguar will be yours.

The Jaguar knows your anger

And the Jaguar knows your fear.

For your passions will atrract him

And your feelings draw him near.

But the negative emotions

Only make him roar and flee

Learn to rule your heart for always

If the Jaguar you would be.

She touched Billy's chest, coated in a copper-coloured outfit. "Billy. Cunning and swift. The Copper Wolf shall be your guide.

The Wolf is a strange creature

With a soul both old and wise

You must never think to fool him

For he sees through all disguise.

If you would seek to be him

All your secrets he will plumb.

So be certain you are worthy

Or the Wolf: he will not come."

She moved on to Kimberly, all in silver. She touched the plaque fondly. "Agile Kimberly, light as a puff of down. The Silver Kestrel is your animal.

The Kestrel is always swift and sure

She's light as feathers and down.

She's agile as the best gymnast

Yet she seems to wear a crown.

So haughty is the Kestrel

And if her is who you'd be,

You must learn submissiveness

Or the Kestrel, you won't see."

She tousled Adam's black hair affectionately, looking down at his chest, which had a gold plaque surrounded by darker shades of gold. "Adam... Adam what's wrong?" she asked, cocking her head.

"I'm an owl." he said, glumly.

"Yes, the Gold Owl." she replied, smiling. "The night-flying, night-seeing wise creature, who moves without a sound and strikes without warning.

The Owl is nearly always quiet.

He doesn't say a word

What he does say is useful

And it's always, always heard.

But when he springs, you won't hear him

Until it's way too late.

Stealth's the Owl's first weapon.

Not bluffery, not hate."

Adam nodded, smiling a little. She moved on to Tommy, standing a short distance apart from the rest of the Rangers. And wearing a colour that _looked_ unnervingly like silver, but seemed to shimmer between silver and gold."And you, Tommy. Proud leader of the Rangers, wise and loving to those that trust you, ruthless to those who hurt your friends. You are the Platinum Falcon.

The Falcon is a proud beast

The winged lord of the sky.

And no one forgets the sight

Who've seen the Falcon fly.

But his will is formed in iron

Not in mortal flesh and bone

If you seek to be the Falcon,

You must first control your own."

He nodded, but frowned a little. "What does it mean, Dulceia?"

"What does what mean, Tommy?" she asked.

"For one, how did you know our names?"

"Oh." she gave a little laugh. "That. The _previous_ group of Power Rangers that came were identical to you. I simply presumed you had the same names as they."

They exchanged glances. "But those were our _parents_!"

She shrugged. "All the more reason for you to look like them."

"Second, what do those riddles _mean_?"

"Now, you know your animal guide. But you've not received the Power yet. They will help you, but they cannot interfere. For each of you, there will be a test, to determine whether you are worthy to have the Power again."

"A test? Of what?" asked Billy.

"A test of _you_, of everything you are. For each one, it is different. It attacks you where you are weakest, at the chink in your armour."

They looked at each other, worried. She shook her head. "No use getting fretful about it." she told them. "No one can predict what their test will be. For some, it is mental, for some, physical, for others, spiritual. I will not leave you unarmed."

She strode to them, holding her pouch of diamond dust. She took out a pinch. "Hold out your hands." she commanded. She tossed the dust into the air over them.

And just as they had when Zordon had given them the Power-Weapons, weapons materiallized into their hands from thin air.

"Aisha: this is your Bear Mace. It will reward you with the strength of your Animal."

"Rocky, this is your Jaguar Lance. It gives you the agility of a jaguar."

"Billy, this is your Wolf Spear. With it, you will gain a wolf's fighting spirit."

"Kimberly, this is your Kestrel Whip. The speed of a kestrel is yours.

"Adam, this is your Owl Bow. Your sight will be as the night-seeing owl.

"And Tommy, this is your Falcon Staff. I can not tell you what powers it will give you, because it is different for each bearer. If you bring your weapons together, you will be rewarded in a way I am not permitted to tell you: you must find out yourself."

"Wow." said Kimberly, awed.

"There is one last thing I must tell you before you go. On the way to the tower, you will encounter a fearsome foe. He is the Cold-Drake, the opposer of all that is good and decent. You must destroy him, no matter what he offers you. He will threaten you with your worst nightmare. He will offer you your heart's desire. You must resist him, NO MATTER WHAT!

The cold-drake lives in silence

And he feeds on dark despair.

Where the shadows fall the deepest

You will find the cold-drake there.

For he seeks to chill your spirit

And to lure you down to death.

Learn to rule your soul with iron

Ere you dare the cold-drake's breath."

Though the fire made the fallen temple warm, they shivered.

On Earth, the Rangers were caught in a dilemma. Zordon was dying, their powers were gone, and Ivan Ooze was destroying Angel Grove. He had already enslaved all the parents, and was having them build him another Anti-Morphicon Monster, like the one that had nearly destroyed the Power Rangers the last time. The city was in ruins from rambunctuous teenagers as well as unfortunate accidents.

"Look," Jason said, grimly, from the park, one of the few sanctuaries left in the city."We can go out there, talk to the people, and try to stop them. We could go after Ivan Ooze as we are: I don't think he'll see us coming. Or we could wait. But we can't wait long: the city's being torn apart. I wonder what's taking the others so long..."

Aubre frowned. Technically, _he_ was the leader, but Jason was always the one who took charge in stress situations, when Aubri seemed to panic. Where Aubri stressed out, Jason stayed cool. He took Jason aside. "Look, buddy," he hissed. "I'm a good eight years older than you, and _I'm_ the leader here."

Jason cocked his head at him. "And?" he asked.

"So _I'm_ supposed to be giving the orders!"

Jason looked at him with derision in his eyes. "You're no leader. You're not your brother, you're not Tommy. If you don't take control, then _I_ will. The Rangers need a leader who _leads_, not stands by and watches."

"Why you arrogant little--"

"Stop it, man!" Zach interceded. "Jason's right. If you're not going to lead us, then _he_ will. Tommy was our leader 'cause he would listen, not 'cause he would give all the orders. He could fight good 'nough to defend all of us if he needed to. And he didn't ever try to boss us around. And he _did_ always leave Jason in command when he left."

"Jesus, are you all against me?" Aubri hissed.

"No." Dirk said. "We're all against how you're acting."

<Shape up, or ship out.> Kethry signed, and Dirk translated.

With a roar of anger, Aubri dived at Kethry. He was bigger than her by about half a head, had a lot more weight--

But Kethry had an advantage he didn't. Kethry was a natural martial artist. She slid out of the way, grabbed his arm and slammed him over her head into the hard marble floor. Then she poked a finger into his throat, and pressed, just a little.

<First rule of martial arts.> she signed. <Keep your calm, and stay cool.>

He squirmed, but whenever he did, she started pressing down on his windpipe. <Look,> she signed. <I'm a lot more ruthless than the others. I won't scruple to get rid of you if I think it's necessary. I don't want to, but if you drag the team down, I'll do it. Got that?>

Dirk translated. Aubre growled, but nodded. <Good.> she signed. She took her finger off his windpipe and let him up.

A big mistake. As soon as she did, he dived for her again. _This_ time, he pinned her down and prepared to paste her face in.

He suddenly found himself with his neck's pressure points being pushed. He roared in pain. "Now," Dirk said, calmly, "I may not know much about the _real_ martial arts fighting, but I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I know how to deal with bullies. Now, let Kethry go, nice and easy."

Aubre hissed, but had to get up. "Now, Jason, what are we going to do with him?" asked Trini, apprehensively.

Jason sighed a gusty sigh. "What _can_ we do with him? He know our identities. It doesn't matter anymore, now that we're not Rangers anymore, but it could be dangerous for the others _when_ they come back. He never really _was_ one of us."

Trini nodded. "I don't like it, but what's gotta be done's gotta be done. I think we have enough power to do this."

She held out her right hand. Jason held out his, as did Kethry, Dirk and Zach. The corners touched, forming a pentagon... a tiny spark arced between their hands in the shape of a star. The star rose, touching Aubre's forehead. "Forget that there ever _were_ Power Rangers." Trini sighed.

Aubre looked at them with enmity, but he growled. "I don't know what you damn kids did to me, and I don't know why I hate you, but I'll figure it out. You kids are hiding something."

Zach nodded innocently.

Aubre growled and stomped away.

Tommy stared at the blue-orange glory of a sunrise, twisting his wrist band gently. He had taken off his glove, and saw his white ring--still white-- inlaid with the design of a flying falcon instead of a dancing tiger.

It felt like betrayal, to throw aside the roles they'd held for so long for new roles and new power. Dulceia came up behind him, as did Kimberly, and held one hand on each of his shoulders.

"It doesn't feel right, does it, Tommy." said Dulceia quietly. "To let your old powers go... and to take in the new."

He nodded, and twisted his arm-band again. The flesh under it was becoming quite raw and red. Kimberly's eyes narrowed, and she took his left hand, and moved the wrist-band backward, exposing the reddened flesh. She clucked at him gently, and took a dipperful of water and gently washed it. At her touch, the wrist-band unfastened itself.

Dulceia smiled with touching quietness. "It doesn't feel right... but it feels perfect. You don't feel like the same person anymore, do you."

He shook his head mutely.

Kimberly held his hand, gently. "We may be Ninjeti now... but we'll always be Power Rangers. We're a team, Tommy."

He faced out to the sunset. Again, he twisted his wrist-band. "It's time." he said. The sun rose over the tip of the monolith as they started down the mountainside.

A raven flew above them with a cawing shriek that seemed to say "good luck!"

Tommy looked backwards, and Dulceia was gone.

They trudged along the mountain, heightened by the hope that they could save the world, _their_ world.

[I hope the others are O.K.] Tommy thought to himself.

Mile after mile after mile they strode, until finally, they were at the forest that they'd seen in front of the monolith. It was mid-afternoon.

"Oh man." Rocky sighed, tiredly. "This forest seems to go on forever!"

The others agreed, vigorously. But no matter how tired they were, they couldn't miss it when they strode into something that looked like a graveyard.

"Oh, _man_!" Tommy exclaimed. "What _is_ this place?"

"Welcome to Jurassic Park!" Adam replied. Indeed, all of the skeletons surrounding them, bleached white by the sun and time, were huge, saurian remains that looked like they did, indeed, come from dinosaurs.

"This reminds me of our Zords." Kimberly said in a small voice. Aisha patted her arm sympathetically. Billy gazed into a huge eye socket...

And didn't notice the movement of a whipcord tail until it was way too late. "Billy!" Kimberly shrieked.

Billy looked up to see the huge bony whip swinging at him. He ducked at last second, and the whip swung over his head.

One of the dinosaur skeletons roared to life. It charged for Billy, who, with a yell of horror, fled without a second thought.

The dinosaur then turned on Rocky, the next-nearest one to it. Rocky, despite his fierceness, knew when he was outmatched. He clambered for the nearest tree. But the dinosaur caught his foot.

"Rocky!" Kimberly yelled. With the speed of a diamond's glitter, she struck for the thing's head with another huge bone, which splintered as she used it.

The thing merely shook its head, as if clearing it of cobwebs, and charged for her.

She screamed and ran, into a cage of bones. The thing pursued her--

until she tripped and fell. It stood over her, gloating. Kimberly shrieked for Tommy--

who grabbed a fallen pole from the ground and struck the thing with it, yelling "Hey! Pick on someone your own size, man!"

It turned on him, leaving Kim alone. It roared and went for him. Tommy grabbed a horn and vaulted onto its back.

"Whoah!" he shouted. "I didn't mean _me_!"

"Tommy!" Kim yelled. "Hang on!"

"Yeah!" Rocky cheered. "Ride 'em, cowboy!"

Tommy hung on for dear life, until he spotted a strange bone, shaped like a manta-ray's egg purse.

[Hey, he thought. didn't we learn in science that that's the shape of the bone that connects the head to the neck. I wonder what'll happen if I pull it...]

"Hey, dino-breath!" he yelled. "I've got a bone to pick with you!" He lurched forward, and braced his feet against the dinosaur's collarbone. Then he yanked.

He hadn't been expecting the thing's head to fall of, though.

"Huh?" he said, surprised. Then he yelled "Whoa!" as the body simply collapsed.

Kimberly skittled to him and helped him out of the mess of dinosaur bones and dust. "Tommy. You O.K?" she asked, brushing white dust out of his hair.

"Fine." he replied.

"I guess Biology finally paid off!" Billy commented.

"Let's get out of here before that thing, uh, pulls itself together or something!" Adam commented wisely.

They _tried_ to get out... but the path had changed. And blocking it, there was a huge creature, _like_ a dragon, but white, emanciated.

The cold-drake.

"So." it rumbled. "_You_ are the newest tryers for the Great Power."

"Yeah." Rocky agreed. "Wanna make something of it?"

"Rocky, don't!" Aisha hissed. But it was too late.

"So," the thing rumbled. "Another mouthy teenager. After six hundred years, nothing has changed."

"You obviously don't know who you're dealing with." Kimberly said with false bravado. "We're the Power Rangers!"

The thing rolled its eyes. "Power Shmower. I don't give a tub of meat who you are. All _I_ know and care about is that you're trying to get my hoard, and I've got to stop you."

"The Great Power's your hoard?"

"Why yes." it said, suavely. "Of course. Now, prepare to die."

With a flash of light, Tommy found himself facing two cauldrons which bubbled and boiled like smoke. Hanging over one was Kimberly. Hanging over the other were the other Power Rangers.

"Now," the cold-drake rumbled. "You only have time to save one. Make your choice."

"What if this is all some elaborate hallucination?" he yelled.

"What if it isn't?" the thing countered, chuckling evilly. "You can't risk it, can you? The _poor_ little child-leader of the Power Rangers."

"Damn you." Tommy muttered under his breath. The cold-drake was right, of course. He _couldn't_ risk it.

He turned to his friends. Their mouths were bound, of course, but they all stared at him with trusting eyes, trusting that he would figure out a way to save them.

Trusting _him_. Damning him.

He knew what he should do. Save the others, then go back for Kim. But his heart wouldn't let him.

[What the heck.] he told himself. [I'll do it. I always knew I'd have to make a choice like this someday. I just never thought it would be so soon. Now, how do I get up there?]

He remembered his Falcon Staff. A murmured word into the air, and it materiallized into his hands. Not a moment too soon, too. The strings holding them up snapped, and with muffled screams, they started to fall...

He _knew_ he couldn't jump that high... but he could only try...

Using his stick as a vaulting pole, he leaped into the air. Using his momentum, he tackled the other four to the ground, barely missing the cauldron.

Kimberly's scream lingered in the air. "You guys all right?" asked Tommy, almost praying that they were simulacri and not his real friends.

He never noticed that he had jumped some eight times higher than he had ever been able to.

"Fine." Aisha said, shaken. "But what about Kim?"

"You mean... that wasn't... a fake?" Tommy began.

Adam lowered his head and closed his eyes. Rocky raked a hand through his hair. Billy bit his lip. Aisha placed a hand on his shoulder. None of them could look him in the eye.

Then he knew. He knew.

Part 8: Are Goodbyes Forever?

With a shriek of anguish, his knees gave out on him, and he collapsed onto the hard floor. Suddenly, the appearance of four walls and the cauldrons disappeared, and the cold-drake reappeared laughing, coldly. "One down, five to go!" it cackled.

"Tommy, you can't break down now! Save that for later, when this thing's destroyed. It sees any weakness, it'll make mincemeat out of us!" Aisha said, urgently.

Tommy clambered to his feet, shoving all his emotions away from him. He knew he'd pay for it later, but feelings would just slow him down at this point. For now, he needed the temporary coldness it would bring. "You're... you're right. Let's do it."

He brought out his staff and started pacing around the dragon, his eyes cold and dead. The others, too, decided to flank the thing, until it started to get very nervous.

"Now, look, can't I convince you to anything I have?" it wheedled. "A bag of diamonds? A handful of rubies? Maybe a sack of fire opals?"

The last brought a twinge of pain to Tommy's heart. Kim's engagement ring had been fire opal. Tommy squelched it like someone would squish a bug.

"Now, let's see. I've got a nice bunch of lovely spells down at my cave." it persuaded. "Let's see, Aisha, maybe you'd like your grandmama back?"

Tommy saw hope cross Aisha's face. Then he saw it grow hard. "My grandmother died of old age, having lived a long, full life. She wouldn't thank me for bringing her back for my own selfish purposes."

She darted in and hit it a blow with her Bear Mace. It roared in pain.

"Rocky, don't you miss your brother? Don't you wish he'd come back from wherever he is? From when he ran away from home?"

"You can't bring him back." Rocky said, coldly. "No one could. He left of his own decision. I'm not going to make him come back to a mother and father who hate him."

He jumped in and struck the beast with his Jaguar Lance. It gave a shriek. Its hide started to bleed.

"Billy, don't you wish that people would listen to you, not tease you and call you a nerd? You know how smart you are, you know that the world would be a better place if they did..."

They saw a brief flash of wistfulness cross Billy's face. Then he shook his head. "No one could do that. Not even you, you overgrown descendant of the saurians."

He leapt in fearlessly and swacked the thing across the head with his Wolf Spear. The move tore off one of the thing's ears, and black blood started to flow from it.

"Adam, don't you wish you were as suave as Zach? As smart as Billy? As fearless as Rocky? As good a martial artist and as much a leader as Tommy and Jason? As popular with the ladies?"

The others all looked startled. They had never even thought that quiet Adam had envied them!

Adam's eyes narrowed. Without a reply, he cocked his bow and shot. The arrow flew straight and true to the thing's eye. It fell, and, dying, croaked out its last coercion with its dying breath.

"Tommy... don't you want your fiancée back?"

Tommy's chest constricted painfully. Then his head cleared. "No one can bring Kim back." he said, clearly.

"Ah," it said, "but did your ladies of Power not save her life?"

"You killed her in the first place, monster." Aisha spat. "You have no right to tempt him."

"True." it sighed. "But it's not your place to say, Brass Bear."

Aisha looked into Tommy's face. "Tell him, Tommy." she said, quietly.

"You can't save someone who's already dead." he said, slowly and clearly. "As you will be very soon."

With a burst of cold light, the thing blew up, and all that was left was a shimmer of cold.

That night, Adam awoke. What posessed him to, he didn't know. He just woke up.

He looked around. Aisha was snoozing, flat on her back, bearlike. Rocky had his hands--paws?-- curled around his nose, Billy was curled into a ball, and Tommy--

Tommy wasn't there.

He looked around. He spied a faint person-shadow along the edge and ascertained that there was a white glow coming from it.

Gently, he paced to Tommy. Who was practicing staffwork that was obvioiusly flawless along the edge of the cliff they had decided to camp along. Adam watched him go through the moves with the grace and strength that all women admired. "Tommy." he murmured.

Tommy didn't jump or swipe his staff at him. He knew who it was. "Adam." he replied, dully. He was paying for the coldness he had bought with his heart, back in the battle with the cold-drake. With his owl-sight, Adam could see that his eyes were numb and red, and tear-marks ran their tracks along his face.

"Look, Tommy, Kim wouldn't want you to be like this."

He spoke gently, not wanting to hurt one who was obviously in pain.

"Kim wouldn't want to be dead, either." Tommy shot back. Then he relented. "Look, I'm sorry..."

Adam shook his head. "No need to be."

"Look... no one _understands_ how I feel." Tommy said, mostly to himself. "I... I had thought... that once it happened... it would never end. I would never lose her."

Adam nodded. "I understand, Tommy. Look around you. I bet all you see is solid rock, where nothing can grow."

He didn't even need his owlsight to see Tommy's nod.

"Between every crack, there is life. Tiny green plants, mosses. Stuff like that."

"And?" Tommy said, uncaring.

"I understand how you feel. I didn't know that Kim was your fiancée... but that doesn't matter. You two were already married in the heart. Just like Trini and me."

Tommy's face turned away. Adam could see the heave of his shoulders, and knew, with a sickening lurch of his chest, that Tommy was crying. It was one thing to _know_ that he had been... quite another to actually _see_ him. He never really got used to the idea that Tommy, no matter how perfect he seemed, was human.

"What I'm trying to say, Tommy, is that you'll always be together. No matter what. And when it's _your_ turn to pass into the next life, she'll be right there waiting for you. She would want you to go out and beat Ivan Ooze. Not sit here mourning for her."

"I know. But everything reminds me of her." Tommy choked. "The echoes sound like her laugh... the wind has hints of her voice... even the waterfalls remind me of the way her hair fell."

Adam bowed his head. Then he looked up into the sky. It was _vaguely_ different from the Earth's sky, but not enough to _make_ a difference.

"It's my fault." Tommy said, his voice clogging in his throat. "If I hadn't chosen..."

"Then I would be dead, and all the other Rangers, too." Adam reminded him gently.

"I know. I mean, man, it's like my _head_ knows... but down here," Tommy touched his chest, "it doesn't matter."

Suddenly, he remembered what his friends, the Ladies of Power had said. Especially Nyara. The way she had said it, emphasizing it.

"Oh, no." he muttered. "oh, no."

"Why, Tommy?" Adam asked.

"I remember... what Nyara told me when I saved Kimberly's life the first time. She told me that to have something, you must always be willing to lose it. She told me that love must live free. I guess this is what she meant."

"Oh, no." Adam sighed. "I... I don't know what to tell you, Tommy. I thought... that business with Dirk..."

"Maybe we weren't meant to be." Tommy said, bitterly. "I mean, so much has gotten in the way of our relationship..."

"Don't _ever_ say that." Adam hissed. "Never. You two were always meant to be. It's love."

"Yeah." Tommy said, softly. "But when it's one-sided, what good is it?"

"It's _not_." Adam replied. "It's not one-sided. Kim loved--loves--you."

"But Kim... Kim's gone, now. It's too late."

Adam sighed. "It's not too late, Tommy. It's never too late. Kim's alive. Can't you feel it? Weren't you two linked?"

"Linked, yes." Tommy said, harshly. "But after our powers were taken away... the link just disappeared."

"Damn. I don't know what to tell you." Adam said, softly.

"Then don't say anything." Tommy replied quietly.

Adam didn't have anything to say to that. So he just squeezed Tommy's shoulder and left him to his grief.

The next day, they arrived at the monolithe. "Well," Aisha said, quietly. "We're here."

Tommy nodded. Their normally cheerful leader hadn't smiled once since they'd lost Kim. Tommy, always the one to offer solace, a single cheerful word, now _needed_ the consolation that only Kimberly could have given him in truth.

[Well, how can we help him?] Aisha thought. [He's brought us through so much, so many impossible odds... and now that he lost one of us, or he believes that it's his fault. We all miss Kim, it's true... but none of us were as close to her as him. Heck, we _all_ loved her.]

They had arrived. But there seemed to be no way inside the monolith that held the power they needed so badly. "Heh." Rocky said. "We got here, and there's no way in."

"Maybe there is." Tommy replied, unsmiling. He pressed his open palm against a hand-shaped crevice. A platinum shadow crept across it, then suddenly a deep, bass voice spoke. "Tommy Platinum Falcon. Enter."

A gold-silver door opened in the side of the mountain, and fearlessly, Tommy walked in. As soon as he had passed it, it became solid stone again.

The others looked at each other, shrugged, and Aisha went to the hand-shaped crevice. She put her hand in it, and a brassy light shone across it. "Aisha Brass Bear. Enter."

Aisha went into the brass door that opened into the mountain.

One by one, they went into their respective doors, wondering all the while how whoever was in there knew their names.

Tommy found himself somewhere that looked like Kimberly's bedroom. In fact... it _was_ Kimberly's bedroom. Only, when Tommy looked out of the window, he saw the view of the forest they had just traveled through.

Tommy looked around. His eyes stung as he looked around the room that was as familiar to him as his own. He touched a pink teddy bear with a soft finger. That had been Kim's favourite...

He gritted his teeth. "Is _this_ my test?!" he shrieked to the unfeeling ceiling.

"No." came the replying answer from the door, in a voice that was so familiar to him. _Too_ familiar.

He whirled, and yanked the ponytail-holder from his hair. It twisted and resolved into his Falcon Staff.

It was Kim, sure enough. Not in burnt, boiled clothing, but the clothing that she'd worn before that horrible incident. She was holding her Kestrel Whip, and she was mad. Very mad. _Very_ mad.

"Kim?" Tommy gasped. "Omigod. It can't be you! I... I _saw_ you die!"

"You wish." Kimberly hissed. "Oh, I saw it all. How you didn't even need to think about it, how you left me to die."

Tommy stared at her. His Falcon Staff shrunk back into his hair-tie. "Kim... you're right. It's my fault. But... I was hoping it was a fake."

"Are you sure about that?" she spat. "Glad to be rid of your ditzy girlfriend, weren't you. You didn't grieve for me, you went on to get the Great Power."

"I didn't have the time to grieve!" Tommy cried. "I couldn't! I knew that if I gave in... I'd take my own life, and _then_ where would the rest of the team be?! Come back with us, Kim! We need you."

"No." she said, simply. "_You_ need me. The rest of the team is there. The rest of the traitorous Power Rangers."

She pointed past the door she'd left open, and there, in a cage, were the other Rangers. "Kim..." he whispered, "what's happened to you?"

"Betrayal happened. _Your_ betrayal." she replied. "Now, you will all die, and I'll send the Great Power down to Earth."

"No." Tommy said. "I don't care who you are. They're _my_ friends, even if they're not yours, and no matter how I feel about you, I'll fight you."

"You can't win." she said, certain.

"Let them go." Tommy pleaded. "It's not their fault that the cold-drake chose me instead of one of them to make the choice. Leave them be. It's me you want. _I'm_ the one who left you. They didn't have anything to do with it."

Kimberly seemed to think about it for a moment. Then she replied. "Yes. You are correct. I'll make you a wager. I challenge you to a martial arts competition. I'll use my whip, and you can use that overgrown branch of yours. To the death. Whether you win or lose, they go free."

"Don't!" Aisha protested. "You won't be able to hurt her."

"I know." Tommy answered. "I accept."

With a gesture of her hand, the room turned to a gym mat. Tommy's staff solidified into his hands, and he looked down and realized that he was wearing the exact same outfit that he'd worn the day he'd met Kim at a karate competition, except in white: loose pants and a tight shirt. Kimberly wore a gymnastic leotard of pink. And she carried a whip: her Kestrel Whip.

Along the side, in a cage, Aisha, Billy, Rocky and Adam stood. "Oh, no." Adam whispered. "This isn't good. Tommy won't hurt Kim. He never _could_."

Aisha nodded, and tears came into their eyes. They knew what would happen to their leader once Kimberly had their hands on him.

She would kill him. And he wouldn't lift a hand to stop her.

Kimberly lashed out with her whip, and with a snap of her wrist, it flew at him with inhuman speed. He snapped his staff up, and caught the whip against it. It unravelled and returned to Kimberly. She snarled wordlessly, and somersaulted at him. She tried to kick his legs out from under him, but he jumped over her. She lashed out with a kick, but he deflected it against his staff again.

They watched as Kimberly went all out against Tommy.

Then she activated her whip. "Kestrel Whip!" she shrieked. It started to glow silver, and she flailed out with it so fast that Tommy didn't see it coming.

Tommy fell, landing badly on one side. He leapt up, and again she lashed out. This time it wrapped around his left leg and literally pulled him off his feet.

Again, he got to his feet, favoring his right leg. "Kim," he pleaded, "Why are you doing this?"

"Do you need to ask?" she asked, bitterly. She charged him with the speed granted by her Animal, and kicked him in the stomach. He fell again, but got back up.

"Dammit, Tommy, fight _back_!" Aisha hissed.

He shook his head. Kimberly charged him again, and he didn't try to stop her but to deflect her blows off his staff and arms. Suddenly, with a flip of his pole, he disarmed her, her whip flying off into the corners. Much to their shock, a knife flicked out of the tip of his staff. He knocked her down with a sweep-kick, then set the knife against her neck. "Give up, Kim." he said, quietly. "You know I can hurt you if you threaten the others."

"Never." she hissed. "You'll have to kill me."

"No." he replied. "_You'll_ have to kill _me_."

He backed off.

"What's he _doing_?!" Rocky asked.

Aisha shook her head mutely. Adam shook his head in horror. "He's putting himself at her mercy."

He backed up, and let her get up. Then he tossed her his knife-edged Falcon Staff. "Now," he said. "Go ahead. Kill me. Just let the others go. Let them get the Power, let them bring it back home. They don't need me. Just the Power. I'm not important."

He stood with his head bowed.

"No, Tommy! Don't!" Adam hissed.

Kimberly stared at him, wrinkling her brows. "You betray me... and then you put yourself at my mercy. You hand me your staff as your own death-sentence. Why?"

"Because I would have done it myself if you didn't." he said, simply. "I can't live being hated by the one I love. The others don't need me. I didn't betray you. What I did, I did for the team. I'd do it again, if I had to. I knew what I was doing when I tackled the others and not whatever it was that was hanging over the cauldron. I was destroying my heart and my soul-- but saving the world."

She looked at him, narrow-eyed. Then came the sound of applause. The combat room faded from sight, as did Kimberly, Rocky, Aisha, Adam and Billy. He was left in a rough stone room. Left there was a shadow of a man. Or... was it?

It stepped into the light, and Tommy figured out what it was. It was himself. Or rather, a light-created version of himself. It smiled. "Well done, Tommy."

"Who _are_ you?" he asked, awed. "What happened?"

"Your test." he replied, simply. "I am the Falcon. I am you. I am Power."

It held out a palm, and Tommy reached out to touch him. His hand touched the spirit-Tommy's...

And suddenly, it was gone and he was filled with Power. He held his staff in his hands, and the plain wooden staff writhed in his hands, turning to the silver-gold that was platinum, rune-like marks appearing along it. And at the top, a falcon perched. It opened its beak and spoke to him. "Hello, Tommy Platinum Falcon. My name is Flight."

Tommy looked down at himself. He was wearing the traditional Ranger uniform... except for the plaque on his chest of a screaming falcon, and he somehow knew that if he took off his helmet, that it was no longer a white-tiger head, but that of a raptorial bird. Suddenly, the others appeared around him. They, too, were in the colors that Dulceia had given them: brass, bronze, copper and gold.

But no matter what he had hoped, there was no silver. It had just been a test.

The falcon on the top of his staff started speaking. "Tommy, you haven't lost anything until you believe you have."

"I believe Kim's dead." he replied, his voice trembling.

"Yes." it replied. "But you don't believe you've lost her."

"N... no... no." he replied, much to his own surprise.

A silver light-falcon flew off the tip of his staff, changing, growing... only then did he remember that the kestrel was a raptorial bird-of-prey, too...

Kimberly stood there, all in silver Ranger uniform. She held her Kestrel Whip, except it was no longer a black snake-whip, but a Power Whip that looked like a sword's hilt. And on the end of that hilt was a kestrel that Tommy was sure could speak, just as his could.

He was filled with apprehension at the thought. What if she still hated him? What would he do then?

He would die, that's what. He wouldn't be able to live with himself. "Flight," he spoke, his voice cracking. "Don't do this to me."

"Don't do what?" the staff asked him, puzzled. "Don't show you what's really there?"

"No. Don't show me what _isn't_ really there."

With a mere thought, he was back in his platinum ninja-outfit. He noticed that all the others were, too.

Even Kim.

"Tommy?" she asked. "Tommy, is that you?"

He nodded, guarding his expression studiously. He toyed with Flight, afraid to look into her eyes and see accusation there.

"Swift, is he mad at me?" he heard her ask her whip.

"Perhaps." it replied. "After all, you _were_ part of his test."

"I was?"

"You were trying to kill him, and he refused to hurt you even in self-defense. Perhaps he _is_ angry at you, for that."

"But it wasn't me! You know that, don't you?"

"Yes." the whip agreed. "But he doesn't."

She turned to him. "Tommy," she said, quietly. "Tommy, look at me."

He looked just past her head, imagining anything, _anything_ but her.

"Tommy, don't look _past_ me. Look _at_ me."

He forced himself to look at her. She spread her arms wide to him. "Are you angry at me, love?" she asked, in a very small voice.

"Kimmie?" he asked, his voice barely there.

"Of course it's me, Tommy!" she snapped. "Now come here, and greet me properly."

He ran into her embrace and buried his face in her long, soft hair, as he felt her smile and rub her cheek into his shoulder. He heard Flight speak, at first he thought to himself, then he realized that Flight was talking to the other _weapons_! "Hmmph. About time, too."

The other weapons-- Billy's wolf-topped spear, Rocky's jaguar-headed lance, Aisha's mace that simulated the arm and head of a bear, Kimberly's kestrel-handled whip and Adam's bow in the shape of an owl spreading its wings--grumbled agreement.

They blinked at their weapons, surprised.

"I am Lithe." Rocky's lance spoke. He would have thrown it from him but for the familiarity of the feel of the lance in his hand.

"Name's Forte." Aisha's mace spoke.

"I am Essence." Billy's wolf twisted to look at him. "Turn this thing around, would you? It's awful hard to crane my neck around like this."

"Uh, sure." Billy replied uncertainly. He turned the spear so that the wolf's body was perpendicular to his.

"Ahhh." it sighed. "That's much better."

"Uh... yeah." Billy replied. He prodded the tiny wolf's head with a finger. "How are you possible? All the laws of physics and relativity say--"

"Physics doesn't apply to something that's made of magic, Billy Copper Wolf." Flight replied.

"And poke me like that again, and you'll find yourself missing the tip of that finger. I have teeth, you know." Essence snapped.

"Oh. Sorry." Billy apologized, flustered.

"My name be Vision." Adam's bow spoke, with a heavy accent.

"Oh." said Adam. "Hello."

"Hello." Vision replied.

Aisha shook her head incredulously. "Talking weapons. This'll take some getting used to."

"I'll say!" Tommy replied, breaking out with a smile that was his first in days. "Saba used to back-talk me more than he was worth!"

"That sounds like my little brother." Lithe spoke. "And so he finally chose a name for himself? He never was satisfied with his given name."

"What _was_ his given name?" asked Tommy, curiously.

"Skill." Lithe replied.

"Speaking of skill," Flight said, "You should know of your new abilities."

"What? New ones? Again?" asked Adam.

"Indeed." Vision spoke. "The power of far-sight is now yours, as well as night-seeing."

"The power of seeing one's heart is now yours, Billy, as well as the fight-spirit." Essence told him smugly.

"Fearlessness is now your trait, Aisha, as well as a bear's strength."

"Rocky, a leopard's aura you now possess, to add to your agility."

"Kimberly, power-beams may help you, to add to a kestrel's speed."


"You're not going to be mysterious as Dulceia was, are you?" asked Tommy, hopefully smiling.

"Hardly. Shape-changing is your ability, as a falcon's flight is."

"Falcon's flight... Shape changing?" Tommy asked, incredulous.

"Of course!" Aisha cried. "That's how you managed to jump so high to rescue us!"

Tommy winced. He looked at Kimberly. "Kim... I hope you can forgive me."

She stared at him, not understanding. "Tommy, between us, what is there to forgive?"

With realization dawning on him and Swift and Flight cooing at him, he tipped her chin up and brushed a sweet kiss along her lips.

She pushed to him and kissed him back hard.

The weapons cheered good-naturedly. "Now, that's quite enough of that. Time for courting-practice later." Flight reprimanded with a raptorial smile.

"Oh, leave the two eyas alone." Swift scolded him.

"He be correct, though." Vision spoke. "Zordon be dying. The other Rangers be helpless. Ivan Ooze be destroying the world."

That snapped Kimberly and Tommy out of their reverie like nothing could have.

"Let's go, Power Rangers." Tommy said, dropping one hand behind his back and standing automatically.

"No need for that." Flight spoke. "All you had to do was ask."

Suddenly, after a second of dislocation, they were in Angel Grove park. Their friends stared at them without recognition. "Have you been sent by Ivan Ooze? Hasn't he gotten tired of sending things after us?" asked Zach tiredly.

"He's wearing us down. Now he's even throwing our old powers at us!" Trini replied. She sprang to her feet and dropped automatically into a kung-fu position.

"Whoa, whoa, we don't want to fight you!" Tommy said, surprised.

"Why would we?" asked Aisha.

"Why _should_ we?" asked Kimberly.

Trini stared at them. "Who _are_ you?"

Adam stepped forward, in his gold Power Ranger uniform. He stared at her. "Don't you know us, ainan?" he asked, hurt.

She stared. "A... adam?" she stammered. "Airen?"

He pulled off his owl mask with a movement. "It's me, ainan."

She ran into his arms, and after a passionate embrace and kiss, she turned to the others. "Then you must be--"

"None other." Tommy replied, unfastening his helmet. The others followed suit, and there was a profuse exchange of joyful tears, hugs all around and kisses. For a second, a single blissful second, they were a group of friends, long separated, reunited.

But that was not to last. They shimmered out of their costumes, and then Trini looked at them.

<Oh... oh no... you don't know... haven't heard...> Kethry signed.

"<Heard what?>" asked Tommy, alarmed.

All of them but Dirk looked away. "Oh, man, Tommy," he said, worriedly. "I don't know what to tell you. You guys have been gone a long time. Almost a month."

"A month?" Tommy asked, incredulous. "A _month_?"

"A lot has happened since then. For one, Kim, your uncle defected. Another... oh, man, I don't know how to tell you this..."

<Then I'll say it.> Kethry said, determinedly. <Ivan Ooze got into the Command Center. It was completely destroyed. _Completely_.>

"<Oh, no.> Kim said. "<What about Zordon?>"

Kethry only shook her head.

"We've got to get there fast." Adam suggested. "Can you guys teleport?"

"That's another thing." Dirk said, slowly. "Our powers... were destroyed along with the command center."

"Let me handle this." Flight spoke. He flew off the edge of Tommy's staff, and grew larger and larger, until he was a silver-gold bird made out of light. He enfolded his wings around the group, and in the blink of an eye they were at the command center.

The 'away Rangers' were shocked with the extent of the destruction of what they had thought was their haven.

"Oh, man." Tommy whispered. "What happened?"

"Ivan Ooze." Jason said, shortly. "He got in and destroyed everything."

"Where's Zordon?" asked Kimberly. She, being the one who had no father, was that much closer to Zordon than any of the other Power Rangers.

"He's... he's over there." Dirk pointed. The other Rangers scrambled over the ruins to the remains of Zordon's hyperspace chamber. Lying there was a wrinkled prune barely recognizable as their mentor. He was barely breathing, and didn't open his eyes when Kimberly placed a hand on his forehead.

Then he gave a gasp and breathed no more.

"Power Rangers." a badly damaged Alpha puttered up behind them. "You came back! But... you're too late."

"Oh... oh no." Aisha said, closing her eyes.

Adam shook his head and bowed his head and squeezed Trini to his chest.

"This can't be happening." Kimberly said, futilely trying to deny the reality that was in front of her. Tommy squeezed her shoulder and hugged her to his chest, crying as hard as any of them.

Rocky made the Sign of the Cross and started praying.

Jason turned away, despair on his face.

Zach just shook his head, completely unable to accept it.

Kethry signed, the beautiful and alien signs of her people, the Cherokee. Signs for the soul to fly free.

Dirk bowed his head. He'd faced death before... but never before had it mattered so much...

Billy took off his glasses and wiped away tears. He looked down, so as not to have to face the restless, old face of who had once been their proud leader, their mentor, their guide.

Part 9: Facing the Fear

"No..." Tommy mumbled. "This can't happen. We won't let it."

"What can we do about it?" asked Adam bitterly. "We can't bring the dead back to life."

"You don't know that." Tommy replied.

They looked up. They realized what Tommy was saying. "Remember what Dulceia said? 'For those who are Ninjeti, anything is possible.'" he said, a spark of hope coming into his eyes.

"Would it work, Swift?" asked Kim of her whip.

Swift shrugged, birdlike. "I don't know." she admitted. "No one has ever tried something like this before."

"We'll be the first then." Adam decided. He took off one gold armband and held it so that it seemed as though he was holding a cup. The others all followed suit.

"Now." was all Flight said. But suddenly, an arc of light sparked out from him and reverbrated through each armband, until each one was no longer a hollow ring but a pool filled with metallic colours.

From these pools rose sparks of light, sparks that echoed the colour of the armband they'd risen from. These sparks dangled in the air, flying throughout the ruined command center. Wherever they touched, wires snaked back to their proper places, poles uprighted themselves, electronics stopped sparking and the smell of ozone cleared from the air.

They settled last on Zordon.

They waited. For a long, tense moment, they waited.

With a gasp, Zordon opened his eyes and started breathing.

Suddenly, the entire command center... changed. What had been fairly unsophisticated technology grew amazing. What had been the relatively murky viewing globe turned to glass. What was plastic became metal.

The command center turned white and silver and gold and black. No longer the garish blues and greens.

It was beautiful.

And best of all, Zordon's hyperspace chamber reformed. His head hung there, as it always had.

"Zordon! Oh, Zordon, you're back!" Kimberly exclaimed tearfully.

"It is nice to see you too, Kimberly." he agreed. "Now, Power Rangers, new and old, it is time for you to confront Ivan Ooze once and for all. All eleven of you will be needed in this final battle."

"We can do this, guys." Tommy said, flatly.

"Yeah." they agreed.

"Zordon..." Trini asked. "Are our powers back?"

"No, Trini." Zordon answered. "Much to my regret, everything that was the old Power Rangers was destroyed. There are only the Ninjeti Power Rangers, now. But you will be needed. Ivan Ooze and his minions will not be looking for human signatures, they will be looking for Power. And that they will not find."

"Ahem?" Kim coughed.

"Ah, but your Powers are those of the Ninjeti, Kimberly." Zordon explained. "Hopefully, he and his Anti-Morphicons won't see you until it's too late. Now go, former Rangers. Take the battle to them."

They teleported out in a beam of white light.

Someone pushed open the doors of the command center. "Let us help." Kadiya asked.

"Lady Kadiya shena keNyara. Lady Nyara shena keTsia. Lady Haramis shena keSelenay. Lady Elspeth shena keResczia. Lady Anigel shena keMiribel. Lady Tarma shena keTalisedri. What can you do to help us?" Zordon stated flatly.

"I can track anything on the face of this universe." Tarma stated, bluntly.

"With your powers, yes, but without?" asked Zordon.

"I can still track better than the best hunter on Earth." she promised. "This was not a gift of the Power, it came to me through my own diligence."

"My touch heals, and all who are sick get _less_ sick in my prescence." Kadiya spoke.

"Lost I can never be, nor those who are in my company." Elspeth told him, hooded-eyed.

"I fight to the end, my arrows never miss and my swordplay is faultless." Anigel spoke.

"The Lady of Yellow Goodness I am, the most corrupt cannot stay so in my prescence."

"I am the Guardian." Nyara spoke slowly. "It is my duty."

"He destroyed Color Palace." Haramis stated, just as blunt. "He destroyed the Zords. He nearly killed you, Zordon shon neEltar."

"And he has something else to pay for." Kadiya said, hotly, clenching her fists.

"Kadi?" asked Jason. He'd never seen his sweetheart so angry.

"There is a reason my name was Mistaya shena keSongwynd." she said, grimly. "Songwynd was my father."

"Her father, yes, and the love of my life." Nyara told them, bleakly. "Oh, yes, I loved him. But he-- the Lord of Violet Changes-- loved power too much. He went mad with it. And so Songwynd died-- and Ivan Ooze was born."

The Rangers gasped in horror. "Oh, no." Kim whispered. "So you mean that Ivan Ooze was... your husband? But he's so awful looking!"

"There is something that happens when you are good inside." Haramis said, simply. "If you are good in your heart, then even if you have five chins, piggy eyes, a squashed nose and lips the size of the Statue of Liberty's, you will be beautiful. On the other hand, you could have the most perfect features in the world, and be evil inside, and you will be regarded as hideous. If you hold the evil for too long... then your features change to match it."

Nyara nodded. "Songwynd was handsome, amazingly so. As much as any of _you_. Oh, yes, that's why men and women alike find you eleven so attractive. Even if you _were_ hideous, which none of you are, you would seem beautiful, because you're so noble where it counts."

Her eyes turned cold. "And I will not hesitate to slay Ivan Ooze where he stands."

"Let's go." Tommy said, shortly.

"Wait." Zordon said. "Flight, tell them what would happen if they bring the weapons together."

"Ah." Flight said. "It is part of the Great Power. When you bring your weapons together, you gain the power of a chosen one of you. Except for one thing. When this happens, you will take the shape of your animal."

Tommy nodded. "Yeah. We gotcha."

Flight wrapped his wings around them, and they teleported.

They appeared in the midst of a dessicated street. It had been almost completely demolished by the ugly purple creatures that strode around it, wrecking havoc.

Billy grabbed Essence, and grinning, struck out at one of them. The edge of his spear was covered with purple goop as the thing fell. "Ugh." he scoffed, inspecting the edge of his javelin. "You ooze, you lose." he quipped.

The other new Rangers were treating it quite jovially, knowing that if they gave in to fear, as their friends had, then they would lose.

Kimberly brought Swift to her chest, and kestrel-fast, struck out at one of the purple goopy things. She swept the feet out from under one. "Have a nice _trip_!" she joked. Then she whirled and tripped another one. "See you next _fall_." she finished. Then she patted Swift's head. "Gotta love ya."

Tommy whirled Flight over and over, being faced by some six of Ivan's minions. Then he pointed, looking agitated. "What is _that_?!" he yelled.

The stupid things, being what they were, glanced in that direction.

"Made ya look." he grinned. "Batters up!"

Swinging Flight, he smacked them into a wall where they dissolved into disgusting purple ooze.

Aisha whirled around and around, swinging Forte until she had knocked all of them into walls and was completely surrounded by gross goop. "Ugh. This is gonna be one messy night."

Adam jumped completely over one of the things, and they smacked together. "Kiss and make up!" he commanded, playfully.

The other Rangers were fighting for what they seemed to act like was their lives. The 'away' Rangers were frightened by this. Jason had always been absorbed by the fight, but the others had always treated it so casually, especially Zach and Kethry.

"What's happened to them?" asked Kimberly, frightened."

"They learned that they aren't invincible, that there will always be someone bigger and stronger than you." Swift replied. "Look out!"

Kimberly ducked, and the punch swung right over her head. She rolled through her own legs and tripped the thing that had been trying to get her.

"Yeah." Kimberly muttered back to the whip. "But it doesn't mean you should give in to it! You give in, and you're halfway done!"

Then she realized that Trini was surrounded by four of the purple goopy things. "Trini!" she screamed.

It was too late. Even as both she and Adam rushed to help their friend, the things all disappeared... taking Trini with them.

"No!" Adam yelled.

"Ohdamnohdamnohdamn." Zach swore.

"Trini!" Kim yelled.

Tommy and Jason hissed through their teeth.

<Now what?> asked Kethry.

"We've gotta save her." they all agreed, grimly.

"But how?" asked Dirk.

"We... we may have a way." Tommy began, slowly. "But you guys won't be able to come with us."

"Huh?" asked Zach.

"We could bring our weapons together... take our shapes... and take my powers." Tommy said, quietly.

Adam, Aisha, Billy, Kimberly and Rocky exchanged glances. "You know..." Aisha started, "That might work."

Tommy nodded. "It might. And if we're with Tarma..."

"I, too, have an animal." Tarma supplied. "If I were to include myself into your circle --and I can, the power still obeys us-- then I would take the powers, too, as my own shape of a hound."

"Then let's do it." Tommy replied resolutely. "Those things took her to Ivan Ooze's palace--uh, place-- I bet. So let's kill two birds with one stone."

"Uh, Tommy..." Kimberly said, her voice wavering, "How are we supposed to get to Ivan Ooze's tower without him finding us out? And what are we going to do about these uglies?"

She gestured behind her, and closing in on them were another wave of purple goop-things.

"We can take care of 'em." Zach volunteered boldly. "I dunno what you're gonna do to get there, though.

Tommy closed his eyes. He reached towards Flight, and the falcon-staff changed instantaneously into a single gold feather, which drifted towards Tommy. With that, Tommy changed into a falcon.

But _what_ a falcon! Standing waist-high, he was huge. His wings were golden, his breast and head silver, save the falcon-marks of copper. His feet seemed made out gold, as did his wickedly-hooked beak.

The others gaped as the beak opened and the bird let out a bell-like cry of triumph, raising a formerly unnoticed crest of platinum.

"Tommy?" asked Kimberly, softly. She reached forward to touch the bird's head, and he pressed the crown of his soft feathers into her hand.

The falcon shifted back into his handsome human self. "Whew." he said, relieved. "I wasn't sure that would work.

The others stared at him. "Whoa." was all Zach said.

"Hmm." Jason said, pensively. "What _else_ can you guys do now?"

He hadn't even seen Kimberly move, but suddenly she was behind him...

He turned to see Aisha lifting Zach up with one hand...

He whirled to watch Billy staring at him with eerie, eerie eyes and knew that Billy was reading his heart...

He watched Rocky clamber up the side of a building like a huge cat...

And he saw Adam, who simply said, "Rocky's got a mosquito sitting on the tip of his ear."

Jason looked up. Rocky was standing on the top of a ruined building, and the only reason Jason knew he was there was the light reflecting off of Rocky's headband.

He just gaped. Then a voice from above him told him to look up.

Tommy was floating in the air above him. He gave a smile at Jason's dumbstruck expression.

"You see." Tommy said simply, drifting down to stand beside his friend.

"I see." said Jason with a smile. "I was worried about you guys before... but now I'm not. You guys can do it, I see that now."

"Then let's bring 'em together." Tommy said. He held out Flight.

Mutely, Kim held out Swift, Adam held out Vision, Billy held out Essence, Aisha held out Forte and Rocky, having clambered down from the building, held out Lithe.

Beams of mettalic light shot out from the mouths of the creatures.

An eerie voice asked "Whose power shall you all control, Tommy Platinum Falcon?"

"Mine." Tommy replied, his eyes unfocused.

Suddenly, he was a falcon again. Beside him, a smaller, crestless silver kestrel flapped her wings. A copper wolf sat down, looking for all the world like a big dog. A _very_ big dog. A jaguar made of bronze with blackish markings purred a rumbly purr that reverbrated around them. A bear of brass dropped down on all four paws, touching her own nose with a very astonished paw. Above them, a golden owl blinked myopically and gave a suprised "Hoo?"

"Yes, indeed." Dirk said, ironically. "Who. Which one's which?"

<It's not that hard to tell.> Kethry signed. <Look, which one of them was so fast a minute ago? Kim. Which animal's fastest? The falcon or the kestrel. Since we know the falcon's Tommy, then the kestrel's gotta be Kim.>

"Yeah." Zach agreed, slowly. "And Isha was so strong a second ago, so she's gotta be the bear..."

The animal in question padded up to him, reared and placed her forepaws on his shoulders and nosed his ear with a cold, wet nose. Zach yelped.

"I guess that's that." Dirk agreed. "Now, wasn't it Rocky climbing up the side of the building like some big cat?"

The jaguar touched its nose twice with a foreclaw.

Kethry laughed. <They're playing charades with us.> she signed.

"Then, hmm, which one's the owl, Billy or Adam?"

"I dunno." Zach said, slowly.

"Me neither." agreed Jason.

<It's Adam.> Kethry said resolutely.

"<How d'you know?>" asked Dirk.

<Billy's very smart, but he's not much in the way of wisdom.> she signed. <Sorry, Billy, but it's true. It's Adam who's wise. Intelligence and wisdom aren't always the same thing, you know.>

The owl turned and gave a very definite hoot.

"So it's Adam, and the wolf's Billy. Does it matter? They stick out like sore thumbs in plumage like that." Zach admitted.

Tommy the falcon opened his beak. "It does matter." he replied, his voice somewhat expressionless, but still Tommy's voice. "I think that maybe I can change my colours, and maybe my size, too."

Jason nodded. He was the only one who seemed unsurprised by the multi-hued talking falcon. "Try then, buddy."

The falcon inclined its head. Slowly, it shrank to the size of a bald eagle, with markings of a gyrfalcon, white with beautiful black indications.

Jason nodded. "That's much better. Even though you _are_ a little too big to be a real gyrfalcon. But what about the rest of you? A leopard and a wolf can't exactly get around the city with any amount of ease, you know."

The wolf nodded, looking chagrined. It inclined its head and half-growled. "Perhaps I can. Tommy's ability was shape-shifting after all." It shrank and shrank until it was the size of a large thrush, then took on the coloration of a woodpecker. It wiggled and shook its wings. "Much better. Even if it _is_ a trifle uncomfortable."

"Hoo?" said the owl.

"Can't you talk, Adam?" asked Dirk uncomfortably.

"Yeah." the owl replied. "But 'hoo' sounds so much cooler, doncha think?"

Kethry giggled soundlessly.

"I think you're O.K." Zach said. "Just don't stay gold otherwise someone'll shoot you down for his trophy room."

"Right." Adam replied. He shrunk a little, to be about the size of a Great Horned Owl and took on the coloration of a barn owl.

"A bronze leopard?" Dirk commented. "I think you'll need to be a bird too, Rocky."

"Do I have to?" the leopard growled.

"Yes." Tommy-falcon replied stubbornly. "You do. You won't be able to get around with the rest of us if you can't fly, you know."

The leopard sighed. "Yeah. I guess you're right. But what bird?"

"A starling?" the kestrel-Kimberly suggested.

"Hey, yeah." the leopard agreed. "I like that."

It shrunk until it was the size of a large crow and took on shiny black plumage.

"Now, there's you, Kim." Tommy said, fondly.

"Can't I just stay a kestrel?" she asked plaintatively.

"Actually, you could, but you've got to change your color, Kim. You can't fly around silver, you know." Zach replied.

"What color's a kestrel?" she asked.

"My point exactly." Zach replied. "Change into something you know. Like, hey, a male and female pair of gyrfalcons won't be noticed. Hint, hint."

The kestrel bobbed her head, not changing size, but changing her markings and shape, until there were two gyrfalcons mantling side-by-side. The only difference between them was that Kim's wings were sharper and she was smaller.

She reached out her head--beak-- and preened Tommy's ruff fondly.

Last, there was Aisha the bear. Without saying a word, she shrank and took on the colors of a red-shouldered hawk, with a wickedly hooked beak and tapered wings.

"I think we're ready." Adam the owl spoke up, as Tommy rubbed his cheek against the top of Kimberly-gyrfalcon's head.

"I think you are." Jason agreed. "But what about _them_."

He gestured at the ugly purple things circling around them. Much to their surprise, they hadn't attacked.

"Hold them off as long as you can." Tommy didn't command his friend: he asked.

Jason and the others nodded solemnly. "Good luck, guys. Bring Trini back." Dirk said. He spoke for them all.

The raptorial group of birds bobbed their heads awkwardly. Then they jumped into the air and flew off.

Jason and company automatically dropped into battle-stance and started fighting.

The birds flew. No one could see the white and black specks against the night sky, so their passage was unnoticed and unhindered.

They finally arrived at Ivan Ooze's tower, perching on the edge of the banister.

"O.K." Tommy chirped. "We've got to split up. Billy, Kim, you come with me and we'll look for Trini. Rocky, Aisha and Adam, you guys go look for Ivan Ooze. Don't attack him, though, just chirp his location to us, and your location, and we'll fly there as fast as we can."

"Wait." Adam objected. "I'm going with you."

Tommy raised his crest. He wasn't altogether surprised, though. "Adam, they need you. With your farsight, you'll be able to see him before anyone else. And with night-sight, since I doubt he likes light, you'll be able to locate him better than anyone."

Adam stood his ground.

"Look, Adam." Tommy hooted, reasonably, changing his tongue to be an owl's so that only Adam could understand him. "I know you love her. I know you two are 'married' where it counts. But sometimes loving her means that you have to look at the bigger purpose."

Adam glared at him.

"Look, Adam." Kimberly sighed in the same tongue. "Tommy went on even though he thought I was dead. Which is more important, rescuing Trini or getting rid of Ivan Ooze?"

Adam grudgingly agreed.

"I knew you'd do the right thing." Tommy said, relieved nonetheless. "Let's go."

He took flight with a single powerful flip of his wing and flew around the edge. Kimberly flew behind him, and Woodpecker-Billy flew behind them.

They found Trini using Billy's power of seeing one's heart. Billy shivered. "This entire domicile is brimming with abject debauchery."

"Huh?" asked Kimberly.

"I think he said that this place is full of nasty things, Kim." Tommy chirruped.

"Affirmative." Billy said.

"And Trini's the only one here beside us and the other Rangers who isn't." Kimberly affirmed.

"There she is!" Tommy chirruped. They flew to the cage, Billy's shorter woodpecker wings straining to catch up.

"Hi, birds." Trini greeted them glumly. She was in a huge birdcage-like thing. She touched a hand to the bars, trying to reach to them. "You're free, aren't you? You should get out of here. It's not safe."

"I don't think we should blow our cover." Kimberly chirruped.

"She's right." Tommy agreed.

"Affirmative." the woodpecker agreed.

"It sounds almost as if you three are talking." Trini said. "I wish you _could_ talk. Take a message to my friends not to come here. There's a trap Ivan Ooze is setting for them, and it'll be triggered as soon as they step foot inside here. Unless they can change shape or something, then as soon as they step in, they'll be in cages just like this!"

Kimberly flew to her and nuzzled her hand through the bars. Trini smiled. "You're such a beautiful bird." she complimented. And she giggled when Kimberly chirped a thank-you. Tommy hopped over, just to give cheer. "And is this your mate?"

Trini gave a little chuckle when Kimberly started preening Tommy's ruff. "It's almost as if you can understand me. Look, I could swear that Tommy was blushing."

The birds were staring at her with unabashed shock. "Tommy?" Trini thought aloud. "Where did that come from? Still, I could swear that your name should be Tommy."

She chucked Tommy under the chin. He gave a little croon of agreement. "Then this must be Kimberly." she said, touching the female gyrfalcon. She gave her a little push, and Kimberly flapped her wings and moved over to balance. "You two are the most _beautiful_ birds I've ever seen." she said, admiringly.

Billy gave an indignant cheep and shoved between the wings of his larger companions.

"And you, too, little woodpecker. What should your name be?"

"How about woodpecker soup?" asked a grinning Squatt from the door. "I'm hungry, Baboo."

"Oh, you." Baboo berated him. "We're supposed to be guarding the prisoner. Get those birds out of there."

"Oh, they're only birds. What harm can they do?"

The purple thing sharing guard-duty with them burbled its agreement.

"I'm _hungry_!" Squatt complained.

"Oh, you shut up."

Billy the woodpecker took a little jump and leapt up on the lock, and started pecking at it with a beak harder than adamantium. It made a terrible racket, but he was slowly and inexorably cracking away at it.

"Hey!" Baboo complained, walking forward. "You stop that."

"Yeah!" Squat agreed.

Tommy the gyrfalcon took wing and gave a hiss of anger. Kimberly joined him.

"Hey, Squat, that beak looks awful sharp. You can go first."

"No, _you_ can go, Baboo!"

"I'm gonna go get some help."

"Yeah, me, too."

They scuttled out, leaving only the purple goop-thing to guard Trini.

"What is all that noise?!" asked a familiar, horrible voice, the source walking into the room. "And _what_ is that noisome stink?"

Ivan Ooze was even more horrible in real life than in his visions. He was an oozing mass of pestilence and evil.

Kimberly and Trini couldn't help but make a moue of horror. "And who is your friend, my dear?" asked Ivan malevolently.

"You leave Kimberly alone!" Trini said bravely, cupping a hand around the bird's breast.

"All you have to do is agree to be my little princess." Ivan said, persuasively. "The heir of my empire. That's all. Then as soon as I've captured your cute little Pink Ranger for my queen, then I can sit down and rule. And be as happy as any villian can be. And you can keep those two cute little birdies in some little gilded cage. Won't that be nice?"

"You'll have to get past Tommy first if you want to get Kimberly." Trini said. "And Adam and the others are coming for me right now, I know it."

Ivan Ooze cackled, throwing back his head in a malevolent laugh. Tommy, Kimberly and Billy flew behind him in fright.

"Look around you, my dear. I heard you telling those dumb birds that there's a trap for them. I have a thousand of my ooze warriors guarding the door. I have a guard against morphing or porting in around here. They'll never find you."

Behind him, three birds mantled, and were joined by three more: a raven, an owl and a hawk.

"Your friends aren't coming for you, Trini." Ivan Ooze sneered.

"No." came a voice from behind him. "They're already here."

"Wha--" asked Ivan Ooze, whirling, before he was struck into the wall by a blow from Tommy's staff.

"Tommy!" Trini shouted, delighted. "Adam! Kim! Rocky! Isha! Billy!"

"Well, I guess our cover's broken now!" Kimberly quipped, aiming a powerbolt from the handle of Swift. A blast of pink light came from Swift's eyes and melted away the lock on Trini's cage. She leapt out and ran into Adam's arms.

Ivan Ooze shook his head, as if clearing it of dottle. He rushed them, and was repelled by Tommy's staff.

From outside, there came explosions as the anti-morphicons started to destroy the city.

"Get back!" Tommy shouted to the others. "I can handle this! Morph, get out of here and call the Zords!"

Ivan Ooze, perhaps realizing that he _couldn't_ defeat the leader of the Power Rangers in a fair fight, faded out in a wash of purple ooze.

Flight formed the huge gold falcon once again and wrapped his wings around all of them, teleporting for the street.

There, they realized that there was something like a huge termite tearing up the city-- a termite's head with the body of a praying mantis, that is.

"We need Ninjeti Zord power, now!" Tommy shouted to the skies.

For a second, just a second, everything froze. It was like the world, the galaxy, the _universe_ was holding its breath.

Suddenly, it let it out with a rush. Flying in from the stars were Zords, all right, but nothing like what their Zords before had been.

Instead of looking machinelike, they looked like they had been made out of mercury, flowing and real. One by one, they flew in from the stars: Aisha's brass Bear Zord, Rocky's bronze Leopard Zord, Billy's copper Wolf Zord, Kimberly's silver Kestrel Zord, Adam's gold Owl Zord and lastly, with a scream of triumph, Tommy's platinum Falcon Zord.

One by one, they jumped into their Zords.

"Ninjeti Power Rangers!" Tommy called through their linking system. "Log on!"

"Aisha here, let's get going!"

"Rocky here, how d'you work this thing!?"

"Billy here, all systems go!"

"Kimberly here, ready to rumble!"

"Adam here, let's cream this thing!"

"O.K. Aisha, see if you can distract it." Tommy commanded. Outside of battle, he was many things to many people: lover, comforter, teacher, student, friend. But in battle, he was all leader.

"It's time to boogie with the Bear!" Aisha sang. She charged it, and though she succeeded in damaging it, it whacked her into a wall. "Whoa! Severe systemal damage here!"

"Allow me." Billy volunteered. His keen mind processed the thing's weaknesses as his Wolf Zord circled around the animal, snapping. He realized that all the thing's joints converged on the tail area of the creature.

He leapt at that very area, and was rewarded when the thing roared in pain and swung around to get at the menace that was hitting it in its sensetive spot.

"You guys are doing O.K." Kimberly cried. "I'm going to go get Ivan Ooze."

"I'm coming with you!" Tommy shouted in reply. "You can't handle him alone!"

"You can't go." she replied. "The team needs you to lead them. I can take care of myself!"

"Go, then." he answered, trusting her good judgement over his instincts that commanded him to protect her. "Be careful."

She whispered, "Only for you, Tommy."

With that, she flew off and Tommy concentrated on the other anti-morphicon.

"Fire rockets!" he called to his Zord. Suddenly, previously concealed wing-sheaths opened and shot. The thing roared in pain and struck at the huge bird attacking it. Tommy maneuvered agilely out of its reach and struck again, this time with huge claws held in fists to pummel the anti-morphicon's head, like a goshawk would attack prey larger than itself.

He connected solidly with the eyeball of the thing, and it burst in a pop of purple goop. "Yuck." Rocky groaned, having been splashed by some of the ooze. "Slimed."

The thing slid wetly to the ground, having had its energy source dissipated by the Falcon Zord's vicious attack.

Meanwhile, Kimberly flew around the Tower, slowly and inexorably chipping away at the foundations with unnoticeable power beams from Swift's handle.

Unfortunately, just when she was about to destroy the last support, Ivan Ooze decided to come out for a stroll.

And he brought her Uncle Aubri with him.

"Uh... Boss?" Aubri stammered, when the huge, silver Kestrel Zord flew around, right into their faces.

"What is it, you blithering idiot? Oh." Ivan Ooze said, unsurprised, when he found himself facing down a huge beak. "So. It's that cute little Pink Ranger. And she has a new toy. Well--"

He reached out a tendril of ooze and tried to snag a wing, to draw her closer. With kestrel-speed, she evaded the disgusting thread. She then spat rockets at him, which he deflected as Aubri cringed.

They stayed at stalemate for a long time-- until Ivan started to cheat. He held out a hand, and a spate of purple power flew from his hand, catching her in an energy field.

"He's stilling my circuits! Can't move!" she cried, hoping someone would hear.

"Now I've got you, my pretty little queen!" Ivan cried, triumphant.

Tommy broke from the fighting, leaving the others to decimate the second anti-morphicon, and flew at top speed towards Ivan Ooze's tower.

He flew and blasted rockets at Ivan Ooze. Ivan, not being able to concentrate on holding Kimberly still _and_ deflecting rockets, chose to save himself rather than hold Kim captive.

"Curse you, White Ranger!" he shrieked, shaking a fist at Tommy.

"That's Platinum Falcon to _you_, Oozehead!" Tommy riposted.

"Why, thank you." replied Ivan Ooze, deeply complimented. "But I've got one last can of ooze up my sleeve!"

He raised his hands and shot two bolts of power, not at the pair of 'lovebirds' but at the ground.

A rumbling noise was their first indication of what Ivan Ooze was doing. Then the _ground_ starting shaking, as the third anti-morphicon rose out of the ground.

Unlike the other two, though, this one wasn't hideous. It was, in fact, a Zord that Ivan Ooze had created. It looked like a man.

Ivan made himself into a pool of ooze, and reached down, a long and thick band of purple stuff that looked like Silly Putty gone bad.

"Ugh. I think I'm gonna be sick." Kimberly groaned.

As Ivan Ooze assimilated himself into the third anti-morphicon, his features slowly appeared in the thing, until it was a huge, metal version of himself.

"Gross." Aisha muttered. "Anyone know of a plastic surgeon anywhere nearby?"

"HOHOHO!" the thing roared.

"We need Ninjeti Megazord power, now!" Tommy called, hoping it would work.

The change was swift and mercurial, not like the slow, clunky change of the former Zords. The Zords flowed into their new shapes like melted glass poured into a mold, and with a burst of lightning, they found themselves all together.

"Hoo, yeah!" Rocky cried.

Aisha, sitting beside him, cheered.

Tommy was in a chamber-like tube. Actually, it was too _big_ to be a tube. He could walk around it, and he could _easily_ do any of his moves. He could talk to the others, and they could see each other, but for some reason, he had little probes stuck all over his body.

The answer to the probes came to him unbidden. He tried a punch--

And the Ivan Ooze anti-morphicon went flying as the Ninjeti Megazord made the same movement. "Hey, cool!" Tommy exclaimed.

"Wha'd you just do, Tommy?"

"I dunno. But I _do_ know that whatever I do, the Megazord does, too!"

"Try a kick, Tommy!" Adam exclaimed. Tommy aimed a perfectly calculated kick at the wall, and the Megazord tried the same sweep-kick, knocking Ivan Ooze neatly off his feet.


"Morphenominal! With Tommy there, _nothing_ can stop us!"

Unfortunately, as if Kimberly's words were a harbinger of just the opposite, things went from good to bad to worse. Because they found out that though _Tommy's_ movements were what controlled the Zord, when the Zord got hit, it was Tommy who felt it.

Until the Ladies appeared.

Somehow, they had managed to find them, (perhaps through Tarma) and with their arrival, the tide of the battle suddenly turned. Ivan Ooze found himself being forced back. Swiftly, the bug-Ivan Ooze thing sprang wings and took to the air.

"No you don't!" Tommy shouted. "Ninjeti Falcon Zord, activate!"

Suddenly, large silvery wings sprang from the Zord's shoulders. Tommy gave a little jump, bending his knees... and the Megazord took to the air.

"Power Sword!" Tommy called, holding out his hand. And something rather akin to Luke Skywalker's lightsaber dropped into his hands. At the same time, a larger version--_much_ larger--dropped into Megazord's hand.

"Let's take this to space!" Adam advised from his seat beside Tommy's command chamber. "That way, less people'll get hurt!"

"Right!" Tommy agreed. He gave a little air-jump--

And Adam hit the button marked "Hyperspace".

They zoomed into space, with Ivan Ooze at their tails. Far away, but coming closer every second, was Ryan's comet. It was a streak of bright orange, mixed with yellow.

"Look!" Billy cried.

"Billy," Rocky said, steadily, "this is _no_ time to be stargazing!"

"No, I mean Ryan's Comet! Isn't that the comet that was the undoing of Ivan Ooze in the previous generation?"

"Uh... yeah, I guess..."

"Well, I have come to the decision that if the power sword was thrust into the ionized atoms of the comet's tail, then it would form a temporary containment field. It would give us enough time to get back to the command center, ask for help, and get back here--"

"--to finish him off for good!" Aisha finished excitedly. "Let's do it!"

"Tommy, you heard that?" asked Kimberly.

"I heard." he replied. "Give me the signal."

They played 'chicken' with Ivan Ooze, having him chasing them around the solar system, until they were in the exact spot that Ryan's Comet would be passing in a few seconds. Only then did they let Ivan Ooze catch them.

As they grappled, the Megazord and Ivan, the comet quickly neared. Ivan Ooze grappled with the Megazord, refusing to let it out of his grasp. "Tommy!" Kim screamed, panic rendering her helpless.

"Unless we get out of here, quick, Ivan's not going to be the _only_ thing that comet hits!" Rocky supplied, horrified.

"Hehehehe! I can't be destroyed by some little comet!" Ivan giggled horribly. "Can you say the same for your precious Zords? Or _you_, for that matter!"

"Oh, $#!^! Tommy swore. "Dammit! Kim, I love you!"

"I love you, too, Tommy!" she sobbed.

"Stop talking like that, you two!" Aisha commanded. "There's always a way out!"

She looked around, and spotted a huge red button. "Hmm, I wonder what _this_ does," she asked the world in general, punching it.

"Oh, no, not _that_ button again!" Ivan groaned, being able to see into the cockpit of the Megazord. "Yowtch!" he yelled, as the Megazord's knee came up and whacked him in, shall we say, an extremely sensitive place.

Ivan released the Megazord, and they had both barely drifted out of the way, when Ryan's Comet came rushing past them with all the burning heat of Nature's hatred.

"Tommy! Now!" Billy cried.

Tommy thrust the sword forward randomly, and was rewarded by a shriek from Ivan Ooze and cheers from the other Rangers. "We got 'im!" Rocky cheered.

"Let's get back to the command center!"

They teleported out in beams of metallic light, with Ivan screaming imprecations at them as they left.

"Zordon!" Aisha cried. "We've got Ivan trapped-- now what do we do with him?"

"We've got to get rid of him!" Kimberly agreed, with a shudder. "He is just _too_ gross. But how?"

"Rangers." Zordon's booming voice flowed around them. "The time has come to reveal a final secret to you. And especially to you, Tommy Oliver."

"What? Another secret?" Rocky complained, before Aisha decided to show her well-developed peacekeeping skills by smacking him on the back of the head.

"Let me tell him, Zordon." a voice came out of the shadows.

"Mom!" Tommy cried joyfully, running to his mother.

Mrs. Oliver drew back, and shook her head sadly. "No, Tommy."

"Huh?" asked a bewildered Tommy. "What?"

"I'm not your mother."

"_What?!_" questioned Tommy, rather hurt.

"Don't make this difficult, please, Tommy darling." Mrs. Oliver said, quietly. "I'm not your mother. You know there was a previous power order _before_ the Dinozords, right?"

Tommy nodded, still not understanding.

"Your father was one of the Rangers." Mrs. Oliver said, softly. "As was I. Except when I went to Phaedos, to receive the power, he stayed behind."

"What has this got to do with Tommy?" demanded Kimberly, pacing up to stand beside Tommy, to squeeze his hand.

"When I was away... someone... came to your father, Tommy. You were the result of that union. Yes, your father is your own. But... I am not your mother."

Tommy pulled away from the woman whom he had called his mother his entire life. "What? But-- wait-- oh damn, this is too much to handle." Tommy sank to the floor.

Kimberly sat down beside him and stroked his hair, casting malevolent glances at Mrs. Oliver. "Why did you need to tell him this?" implored Kimberly. "It's not important! It doesn't make a difference to the coming battle!"

"Ah, but it does." boomed Zordon. "You see, Kimberly, Tommy's mother is the only one who can fully destroy Ivan Ooze."

"I... I don't understand." murmured Adam. "How could a _human_ destroy Ivan Ooze?"

:There's the catch, dearie.: came a throaty, husky voice in his mind. :I'm not human.:

A woman strode out of one of the myriad of shadows that covered the command center. A wavy surge of gold-black hair cascaded down shapely shoulders. A slim face was cocked to one side with partial amusement, partial worry. Almond-shaped black eyes looked at them all with assessment. A fine, softly pointed chin tilted as she pursed her mouth, and the muscles in powerful legs slid smoothly as she walked towards them.

More importantly, it was evident which side of his heritage Tommy had gotten his looks from. The almond eyes, the straight nose, the golden skin, and the dark, curly hair, all looked rather... alike. Perhaps it was because Tommy and this girl looked to be almost the same age...

"Who are _you_?" Adam asked the beautiful woman in awe.

She gave a crooked smile. "Tommy's mother. Zordon's daughter. Call me what you will."

"No, I mean, what's your name?"

"Feh. That. My name's Kelane. Kelane shena keMarguere, shena neZordon."

Tommy lifted his head to stare at her. Then he turned to Zordon with accusation in his eyes. "You... you're my _grandfather_?"

Zordon shrugged, though he had no shoulders to.

"And you never _told_ me?"

"Stop it, Tommy." Mrs. Oliver said, tiredly. "I made him promise he wouldn't tell you until it was absolutely necessary."

Kelane shut her up with a wave of her hand. With a sigh, she strolled up to her son, and offered him a hand. "Pleased to meet you, son." she said, calmly. She was being a hundred percent literal.

The statement was so absurdly simple that all in the room started to giggle, except for Kelane, who simply gave a little smile. Tommy took her hand and shook it. She gave a tug on his arm, and Tommy was pulled to his feet.

"Well, now, Tommy." she said, dark eyes a-glitter. "You've certainly grown up since I last saw you!"

Only then did the other Rangers fully realize how tall Kelane was. Her son was a six-footer-- Kelane was only about a centimeter shorter than him.

"Well, of course he's grown up!" Mrs. Oliver exploded. "It's been seventeen years!"

Kelane shook her head. "It's been thirteen years." she amended gently. "I raised him for the first four years of his life."

"Whatever! And not a word, not a peep out of you!" Mrs. Oliver exclaimed, angrily. "And now you barge into our lives--"

"I'm doing no such thing." Kelane interrupted calmly. "I have no intentions of taking my son back, unless he chooses to come with me. I came to stop Ivan Ooze. Are you going to help or hinder?"

Mrs. Oliver shut up. Kelane turned to the collected Rangers. "Now," she said, decisively, "Aren't there more of you?"

"Pardon?" asked Adam, puzzled. "There have always been only six."

"No, there are twelve." Kelane corrected, softly. "There are you six-- and the former six."

She turned to Flight, in Tommy's hand. "Flight, darlin', would you mind fetching the others?" she asked, sweetly.

Flight bowed as well as a platinum bird could. "Of course, milady." he replied respectfully. With that, he turned into a platinum bird of light once again.

"Now, we wait." she said, settling down.

Within seconds, Flight flew back into the command center, carrying five bewildered Rangers in his wings.

"What's going on?" asked Trini, confused.

"Who _are_ you?" asked Jason, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. "I thought nobody could get into the command center without a Power Coin."

"Feh." Kelane shrugged. "Almost nobody. There's an exception to every rule. I'm Kelane. What else I am is not important."

"Wow." Zach murmured. "She looks just like Tommy!"

Kelane heard that, and cocked an eyebrow in his direction. "Well." she said. "That's not really important now, is it? What's important is getting rid of Ivan Ooze. Wait a minute-- aren't there supposed to be _six_ of you?"

"Well, yeah, and there's that." Dirk admitted. "The Marroon Ranger sort of... er... defected."

"Ah." she said, quietly. "Well, we can't have that, now can we? Hmm, let's see..." she muttered, closing her eyes.

"It doesn't matter now, does it." Trini said, hopelessly. "We haven't got powers!"

"Mariosep naman*, you have so little faith in me!" Kelane exclaimed. "You're right, you _don't_ have powers. _Now_. Who's to stop you from having powers _later_?"

They all stared at her, uncomprehending.

Kelane raised her hands and touched Trini's forehead, closing her eyes and muttering something. And suddenly, Trini was dressed in a Power Rangers suite, not of yellow, but of an everchanging colour. "Trini, you are the Opal Ranger. You control the power of Wind"

Kelane paced up to Dirk, who backed off, frightened. "Now look, Dirk Rashkae, I don't bite!" she laughed. "I'm harmless to those who don't try to hurt me!"

Dirk stopped backing away, but still looked warily at the woman.

<Dirk, you're wasting time!> Kethry exclaimed. She stood before Kelane. Kelane looked her over, and touched her forehead.

"Kethry O'Donnell, you are the Amber Ranger. The Earth's power is yours."

Kethry backed away, looking at the rich honey-brown suit she was wearing.

"Now, who's next?" Kelane asked, pleasantly.

Zach danced up to her, and Kelane gave him a reassuring grin. She touched his forehead. "Zachary Taylor, you are the Tiger-Eye Ranger. The power of Fire is yours to control."

He looked down at the soothing waves of brown and gold Spandex rippling over his body.

Jason was next. He was a little apprehensive, a little scared... but if it would save his planet, he'd do it.

Kelane touched his forehead.

Jason was suddenly covered by a rich aura of different colours.

Then suddenly, the aura settled into a Ranger uniform around his body.

"Jason Lee Scott, you are the Agate Ranger. You control the power of Water."

Then she turned to Dirk.

"Dirk Rashkae, come _on_!" she sighed, exasperated.

Dirk shook his head uneasily and backed away.

"Why can't you trust me?" asked Kelane, quietly.

"For all _we_ know, Ivan Ooze has a daughter, and that could be you!" Dirk exclaimed, angrily.

Kelane looked amused. Tommy, Aisha, Kimberly, Rocky, Billy and Adam were hiding giggles behind their palms. "You say that like it's a _bad_ thing! Indeed." she said, wryly. "Ivan Ooze _does_ have a daughter."

"See!" Dirk exclaimed, triumphant.

"Most unfortunately for your ego, Dirk-pretty-boy, that daughter is not me." Kelane replied cheerfully. "You know Kadiya. Is _she_ some monstrous horrible thing?"

Dirk was struck speechless. Then he regained his quicksilver tongue. "Well, then, you could be Lord Zedd's child, sent to destroy us!"

Kelane pursed her lips and raised one eyebrow before looking at Zordon. Tommy, Aisha, Adam, Kimberly, Rocky and Billy giggled. "I think you just mortally offended my father, Dirk." she said, ironically.

"See!" Dirk explained.

"Dirk, buddy," Tommy smiled, "Look at it this way. If she's Lord Zedd's daughter, then I'm his grandson."

Dirk stared at Tommy, gape-mouthed.

<You mean you didn't figure it out the minute you saw them?> Kethry asked him, drolly. <Dirk, _look_ at them! They're so alike, they could be twins!>

"Kelane is my daughter, Dirk." Zordon boomed.

"Eh... well..." Dirk stammered. "Oh geez..."

Kelane sighed. "No problem. Now get over here before I come and get _you_!"

Dirk went.

Before he knew it, he was wrapped in a shimmery purple suit.

"Great." Kelane breathed, tiredly. "Dirk Rashkae, you are the Amethyst Ranger. The power of the Heart is what you have."

"Cool." Dirk said, looking down at himself.

Kelane cocked her head at him, and a wavy waterfall of dark hair cascaded down her shoulder. "So sure I'm out to get you now?" she teased.

Dirk was nonplussed. "It was a natural reaction!"

"To mistrust your mentor's daughter? To back away from the mother of your teammate?" Kelane retorted, somewhat interested in his 'reaction,' as he had called it.

"How was _I_ supposed to know?" Dirk wailed.

"Feh. How were _they_ supposed to know?" Kelane gestured to the others.

"That is enough, Kelly." Zordon reprimanded his daughter. "Time runs out. The containment field cannot hold Ivan Ooze forever."

"Kelly?" asked Jason, amused that this imposing woman could have such a 'cute' nickname.

"Gaaah."she winced. "Blame the floating head." Kelane gestured to Zordon.

"I resent that." Zordon rumbled.

"I resent being called Kelly." Kelane shot back.

"Guys, guys," Rocky began. Then he blanched as both Zordon and Kelane narrowed their eyes at him, bunched their eyebrows, twisted their lips and turned a Power Glare full-force on him. Rocky backed off with a little "eep." He muttered as he reached a safe distance away from the father-daughter pair, "They should have to register that glare as an official weapon!"

"He's right, though." Tommy stepped between Kelane and her father. "We ought to get going."

Kelane threw her hands up in the air. "Patience, patience!" she cried. "Sheesh, those with short life spans have _so_ little equanimity! Here's what we'll do..."

*Mariosep naman--Geez! or Sheesh!

Part 10: No Evil, No Cry

The Rangers, all eleven of them, stood in their assigned places, waiting for Ivan Ooze to come out of hiding. He had broken out of the containment field faster than they had thought he could, and would come after them, next. They were all that was standing between Ivan Ooze--

[And the destruction of everything we know, of all that we love.] Tommy thought. [It's on our shoulders again, just like it always is. Then why does it feel so different?]

:Feh.: came Kelane's voice in his mind. :Son-of-mine, you think loud enough to wake the Dragon himself!:

Tommy was in no mood to be insulted by his mother. [Look, don't you have anything _useful_ to say?]

Kelane's mind-voice whipcorded back to him in suprise. :You were so tense, I just thought I should take some of the tension off you. I guess it didn't work. Tabangan naman, _ang_ bagal si Ivan Ooze!*:


:Nevermind. You know, you _can_ contact the others, now that you've all got your powers back.:

[Nah. I just want to think.]

:You know the plan, right?:

[Yeah. Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot. Zordon said not to use too much power, or you'll still yourself.]

:Tommy's amazing non-memory strikes again!: Zach chuckled.

:This is no laughing matter, Zach.: Kelane reprimanded him, all traces of humour gone from her voice. :This is important. Ah, here comes Ivan now!:

Ivan Ooze flew in from the stars, huge and hideous. "Hahahahaha!" he cackled. "Six little rangers, playing with a hive. A bee's needle stuck one, and then there were five!"

Adam gave a little horrified cry.

[What's he _doing?_] asked Tommy quietly.

:You mean you don't know?:

[Know what?]

:Good.: Kelane said, shakily.

"Five little Rangers, walking 'round the shore. One girl saw a genie, and then there were four."

Kimberly shuddered. She remembered the time when she'd been trapped in a bottle.

"Four little Rangers, strolling round the sea. One saw a Goo-Fish and then there were three."

Billy recoiled in fear. Fish had been his phobia for a long, long time.

"Three little Rangers, going to the zoo. A Green Dragon hugged one, and then there were two."

Only then did Tommy realize what Ivan Ooze was doing. Tommy scrunched into a ball of misery as waves of guilt crashed over him. As the Green Ranger, he'd tried to kill his friends, tried to kill his _grandfather_, though he hadn't know it as of yet. He'd hurt them, Zach, Jason, Trini, Billy, and Kimberly on purpose. What was to stop him from doing it again?

Suddenly, there were arms around him. A soft cheek nestled into the muscles of his back, warm arms were rocking him gently. A small hand wiped away hot tears. Tommy turned his head blindly towards Kimberly, and reached out to touch her soft, wavy hair--

And instead, encountered a thick mass of curls, much like his own had been before he'd had them straightened out.

Ivan Ooze cackled again. "Two little Rangers, going for some fun. One just couldn't stop himself, and then there was one."

From his hiding place, Tommy could see Rocky's look of extreme guilt and remorse. He had been having so much fun that he had neglected his friends.

All this while, Ivan had been shrinking back to his normal-sized, if hideous, form. He stared straight at where Aisha was sitting.

"One little Ranger, left with her gun. She went and shot herself, and then there were none."

Aisha's normally cocoa-brown skin turned the shade of chocolate milk. Very _diluted_ chocolate milk. She started to cry racking sobs, curling up in a ball much as Tommy had done.

"Anak ng aso*." Tommy heard his comforter mutter. He turned to look. Then he was shocked again.

She _could_ have been Kelane, if Kelane had been thirteen. She had the same mass of gold-black curls, the same dark, dark almond eyes, the same curve of the nose and twist of the eyebrow. But there was a sweet innocence there that Kelane did not have, a hint of sweetness in her mournful expression. And, of course, she was a tiny little thing, no taller than 5'4". She blinked at him. "Ano bang hinihintay mo, tanga?" she commanded. "Tara! Patayin mo ang ewan na yan*"

"What?!" Tommy asked, completely bewildered.

:She means to go kill Ivan.: Kelane sighed.

[But I can't!]

:How's _she_ supposed to know that?:

[Who _is_ she?]

:Later. If there _is_ a later. Time to surrender, I guess.:

[Just _why_ have we got to surrender?] Tommy demanded.

:Feh. You'll see.:

Tommy marched out of his hiding place, hands in the air. Around him, he could see the other members of the Ninjeti Rangers doing the same. It hurt his pride deeply, but he knew he didn't have a choice.

"We give up." he said, simply.

"WHAT?!" Ivan Ooze roared. Kimberly and Adam flinched.

"We give up." Tommy repeated. "We can't win. If you didn't die when you got hit by a comet, then _what_ can kill you?"

"So." Ivan Ooze said, pacing around him and ignoring his question. "You finally wisened up, eh? Giving up?"

Tommy nodded, his face as hard as stone.

Ivan called for his Tengu. "Take them to the Dimension of a Thousand Deaths!" Ivan Ooze commanded.

The Tengu gulped and exchanged glances. Bloodthirsty as they were, they didn't think _anyone_ deserved to be sent there!

The Ninjeti Rangers didn't struggle as the Tengu grasped them by their shoulders and flew off.

The other Rangers exchanged frightened glances. That's when Kelane struck.

With a scream of rage, she directed a beam of white-cold energy at Ivan Ooze. He gave a shriek of pain, and fell to the ground, the ooze he was made up of bubbling and boiling with his anguish. Then he raised a hand and blasted Kelane into a building, which crumbled around her.

"_NO_!" Tommy screamed. He twisted in the grasp of the Tengu that was holding him, ripping out gashes of flesh but also succeeding in being released.

He drifted in the air to land softly on his feet. Then he ran to the building.

The others still in the Tengus' grasps wiggled, but did not have the desperation that Tommy had used to get free of the Tengu's grasp. They were stuck.

Tommy ran to the building that had collapsed around his mother, and pulled away a particularly large boulder. He tuned his mind-voice into the rubble.

[Kelane!] Tommy shrieked. [Mother!]

:There is no need to yell, child.: Kelane replied. Tommy began to worry in earnest. Her very mind-voice was weak. :I can hear you.:

[I thought... you could destroy him!]

:So did I.: Kelane replied. :Doesn't mean I won't try! There's a boulder near your right hand. Pull at it, and I should be able to get myself free!:

Tommy pulled with all the strength in his wiry body, and succeeded in dislodging it. Suddenly, a bolt of light erupted out of the remaining crater-like hole, and Kelane rematerialized beside Tommy, her eyes wild and furious.

She charged up to Ivan Ooze, who recognized her on sight. "Kelane. Zordon's whelp," he growled.

"Damn right." Kelane agreed. She raised her hand again, and blasted him again. The ooze bubbled and boiled, and Ivan screamed. This time Kelane ducked his return blast, and blasted him one more time.

Ivan was bubbling all over, now, and shrieking in obvious pain. But he leered up at her. "Only the Child of the Morning can kill me, you remember that now, don't you, Kelane?"

Kelane glared at him. "I _am_ the Child of Morning, you fool." she growled. "Prepare to die."

She summoned her Power for one final blast that would end Ivan Ooze's life entirely.

She reached for the Power-- and touched nothing. There was nothing there. She had gambled all her strength on those three blasts-- and now had none left.

"NO!" she screamed. Ivan cackled despite his obvious pain.

"You're not the Child of Morning, you idiot." Ivan giggled. "Look elsewhere."

He began to rise to his feet. Kelane reached for the Power again, and encountered-- something. Just a tiny little spark. She began to fan the spark into a flame with all the determination of a hunter hunting his prey.

Kelane built up her power frantically. She began to gamble it all into one last blast. It would probably kill her, and it would hurt like hell, but if it would rid the world of Ivan Ooze, then it was worth it.

Screaming, she released a blast of white-hot light at Ivan Ooze. The other Rangers cried out and blasted him with everything they had. He never had a chance. As Ivan Ooze bubbled and boiled down to nothing, Kelane collapsed with a shriek. And promptly stopped moving.

"_HINDI_!*" came an anguished scream from behind Tommy. "_INA_!"

Tommy turned to catch the girl who came scrambling across the rubble. It was the same little girl who had hugged him and patted his head when he had been immersed in guilt. Again, Tommy was struck by her similarity to Kelane.

Only then did he recognize one of the words she spoke.

[Ina?] Tommy thought. Realization came over him. [Oh my God. She's calling Kelane 'Mother'?]

Tommy suddenly felt very sick indeed.

When it became obvious that Ivan Ooze wasn't going to come back, that he was indeed gone, Tommy let the little girl go. She ran, sobbing, down to her mother's body, Tommy loping after her.

"Hindi! Hindi 'to ng yari!* the girl moaned, crying over Kelane.

Tommy hung his head. "Oh God." he whimpered. "No. She can't be dead."

The little girl whirled at him, with a howl of rage. "Kasalanan mo 'to*" she yelled at him, pointing at her mother, lying dead on the floor. "Pag hindi ka sumuko, buhay pa s'ia! Pag pinatay mo si Ivan, _buhay_ pa ang ina namin!*"

Tommy felt guilty like never before. [Dammit, I could've stopped 'im! I could have!]

And suddenly, Kelane gave a gasp.

"Ina!" the girl gave a little shriek.

"Anak ko..." Kelane murmured, her voice tearing against her throat. "Yung dalawang anak ko...*"

"Shh, ina." the girl murmured.

Kelane turned to her son. "Tommy. Tommy, child of the night. Your name is Falcon Star. Yung pangalan mo ay Bituin ng Halkon."

Kelane turned to her daughter. "Silang, bata ko ng araw. Yung pangalan mo ay Bituin ng Silang. Intindihan mo ang ginawa ng kapatid mo. Hindi ito'y kasalanan n'ya.*"

"Ina!" the girl cried. "Ina, hindi pwede ka mag matay! Ikaw ay yung Anak ng Umaga!*"

Kelane shook her head sadly. "Hindi ako yung Anak ng Umaga, iha. _Siya_ ay yung Anak ng Umaga.*"

"Ano? Pero sinabe mo--*"

"Bahala na ang sinabe ko!" Kelane cried, coughing up blood. "_Siya_ ay yung Anak ng Umaga. Ikaw ay yung bituin na dumadala ng araw, pero siya ay yung ilaw.*"

Kelane coughed again, spitting her lifeblood onto the hard concrete.

"Ina. Pahinga ka lang.*" she whispered.

"Saan ba ang kapatid mo?*" Kelane murmured.

"Nan dito siya. Bakit?*"

"Kailangan ko kausapin siya.*"

"Sige.*" The girl stepped backwards, and gestured Tommy forwards.

"Tommy." Kelane whispered. "Take care of Silang. She is your little sister. Your _half_ little sister. One gift I forgot to give you. You _do_ know the language she is speaking. You only need to understand _her_ to understand what she is saying."

"I... I don't understand!" Tommy wailed.

"No. You don't. Know this, though. Protect her with your life. Ivan _will_ return. Promise me you'll protect your sister when that day comes..."

"No. No, he won't, Kelane. You killed him."

"No. I did not. I simply killed him for _now_. Only the Sunrise and the Morning can destroy the Night.

"What? I... I... But... what? The Sunrise? The Morning? I don't understand!" Tommy cried.

"No. You don't. Silang does. You will. Promise!" she gasped.

"I... I promise."

With that, Kelane died.

Silang reached down to her mother's neck and touched her artery. She shook her head and closed her mother's eyes. Then she kneeled and started praying.

"Oh God." Kimberly cried as she came running up.

"Kimberly!" Tommy cried.

"Oh God, what happened!" she asked, anguish seeping out of her every pore.

"She's... she destroyed Ivan Ooze. But she said that it's not for good."

"Destroyed is destroyed, isn't it?"

"No. Not forever. Just for now." Tommy murmured, grief stabbing like a knife through his heart. He'd lost both mothers this day, one to the truth, and one to destiny.

"Come on, Tommy." Kimberly murmured, her eyes downcast. "There's nothing you can do."

"But... but Silang..." Tommy slurred, tears starting to flow their familiar path down his face.

"Who?" asked Kim.

"Silang." Tommy muttered. He gestured at the girl praying. "My little sister."

"Your... little sister?" asked Kimberly, not understanding at all.

"I promised Kelane--Mother--that I would protect her with my life. I can't back out now!"

"Fine." Kimberly sighed. She crouched by the girl, and having seen her face, was struck by the uncanny resemblance of brother and sister. "Silang?" she murmured.

"Ano." asked Silang, her voice as dull as the new moon. "Iwanin mo lang ako magiisa*."

"What's she _saying_?" she asked Tommy.

Tommy shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. Kelane said that if I understood her, I'll understand what she is saying."

"How can you help someone you don't understand?" asked Kimberly.

Tommy could only shake his head. Then something clicked. "Maybe--"

[Silang?] asked Tommy.

:Ano.: she replied. :Ano bang gusto mo.*:

[Do... do you speak English?] Tommy asked.

She stared at him, puzzled.

"Ay... " Tommy moaned. Kethry stumbled in.

<Tommy?> she asked. <What's wrong?>

<My sister.> Tommy replied. <She can't speak English.>

<Let me try.> suggested Kethry.

Kethry turned to the girl. <Do... do you speak English?> she asked.

The girl stared at her, cocking her head. Suddenly, she brought her hands up and started signing back. <No.> she replied. <I speak Tagalog.>

<Do you know your brother?> signed Kethry.

<Yes. Bituin ng Halkon.> she signed, spelling out the words.

<What does that mean?> asked Kethry.

Silang shrugged. <Ask him.> she said, glibly.

Kethry turned to Tommy. <Tommy, she _can_ speak sign language. But she doesn't know English.>

<Feh.> Silang signed, turning to Tommy. <Don't you know the language of your blood? Can't you speak Tagalog?>

Tommy shook his head mutely. <You're going to be staying with me for a little while, Silang.> he signed at her. <I promised your mother-->

<She's your mother, too.> Silang interrupted, giving him a tiny version of the Power Glare that Kelane had used on Rocky. <Why do you speak of her like that? Like she's no part of you?>

<She isn't.> replied Tommy, wincing as the little girl frowned at him with eyes as sharp as diamond daggers. <Look, I didn't know her. I was raised by a family that was _human_."

<And?> Silang demanded. Then, in a normal voice, "Hindi ka marunong mag Tagalog. Hindi alam mo sino ba ang Anak ng Umaga. Trapo ka lang!*"

<I promised Mother that I would take care of you.> Tommy said, gently.

<I can take care of myself, thank you!> she stabbed back. <I wasn't the one crying in the corner like a five-year-old baby!>

Tommy winced. <You don't understand--> he tried to tell her. But she was having none of it.

<Feh. If you're so afraid, the only way is to face your fear. I don't know what Ivan Ooze said that turned you all as white as towels, but he didn't do anything but talk! Sss.> she hissed at him, her hands moving like quicksilver.

"Iwanin mo lang ako magiisa!" she cried, running away from him.

He made as if to go after her, but Kim stopped him, holding his hand. She shook her head. "Tommy, leave her be."

Suddenly, the little beige-clothed girl disappeared in a beam of light.

"We'd better get to the command center and talk this over with Zordon." Dirk suggested.

Tommy nodded, and they all disappeared in signature banners of light.

They arrived in the command center. Silang was already there, and though she looked like she had been somewhat pacified, she still looked angry.

"Tommy." Zordon boomed. "I presume you have met Silang."

Tommy sighed. "I've met 'er."

"She is very angry with you, you know." Zordon told him, softly.

"What did _I_ do?" Tommy shrieked, finally losing his patience. "Jesus, I couldn't _do_ anything! What _could_ I have done? I didn't see _her_ doing anything!" he pointed at his recaciltrant little sister.

"She did what her mother told her to do. She shielded you--all of you-- from most of Ivan's spell of taking. If she hadn't cleansed you of your guilt, then Ivan would simply have found you and killed you, one by one by one. Maybe you remember that tingling feeling when she rocked you? She is a Healer." Zordon told him gently. "She knows nothing else."

"Oh." said Tommy, feeling very, very stupid. And very, very guilty. "But... but... what will my mother--Mrs. Oliver-- say about this?"

"Tell your mother the truth, Tommy." Dirk replied for Zordon. "Lying to 'er won't get you anywhere."

"She can't understand English, can she." said Tommy. It wasn't a question. "Then how are we supposed to communicate? Zordon, haven't you got a language thing you could stick in my head?"

Zordon shook his head. "I am sorry, Tommy, but I must honor your mother's last wish. That you understand your sister, and therefore understand who she is, and who she was."

"But... but..."

"Ay ya yi ya yi!" Alpha squealed, tottering into the room.

Silang gave a little squawk of delight at seeing the little robot. "Alpha!" she cried, running to him.. "Nan dito ka pa!"

"Siempre, nan dito pa ako!" Alpha replied in the same language. "Saan ba ako papunta?*"

"Silang!" Zordon called the little girl. "Papunta ka, kasama ng kapatid mo, sa bahay niya. Diyan ka mag tira. Sinabe n'yan ng nanay mo.*"

"Kailangan ko ba gawin niyan?*" she whined.

"Kailangan mo gawin niyan." Zordon replied, resolutely. "At kailangan mo rin papunta sa eskuwelahan.*"

"Ay nako." she sighed. "Sige. Pero, paano kami mag salita? Ako at si Halkon*?"

"Mag-aral siya ng Tagalog, at mag-aral ka ren ng Ingles*."

Silang sighed, and nodded. "Sige. Pwede na rin*."

Zordon turned to Tommy. "Tommy, it would be extremely unlikely for her to call you anything but Halkon, so don't be surprised."

"Halkon?" asked Tommy, trying out the syllables on his tongue.

"The name your mother gave you from birth."

"Ah." he replied. "Well. I guess... I should be getting home."

"Yes. You should. As should you all."

They all returned home, some scarred, some not, but all had a feeling of a job not finished...

*Ivan Ooze is _so_ slow!

*Son of a bitch!

*What are you waiting for, stupid?... Go, kill that 'thing' (there is no real translation for that word)


*No! This isn't happening!

*This is your fault!... If you hadn't chickened out, she wouldn't be dead! If you had killed Ivan, our mother would still be _alive_!

*My children... my two children...

*Silang, you are my child of the daylight. Your name is Star of the Sunrise. Understand what your brother did. This isn't his fault.

*Mother... you can't die! You're the Child of the Morning!

*I'm not the Child of the Morning, dear. _He_ is the Child of the Morning.

*But... you said--"

*Never mind what I said!... _He_ is the Child of the Morning. You are the star that brings in the day, but he is the light.

*Mother... just rest...

*Where's your brother?

*He's here. Why?

*I need to talk to him.


*What.... Leave me alone...

*What... What do you want.

*You don't know how to speak Tagalog. You don't know who the Daughter of Morning is. You're useless! (Literally, 'trapo ka lang!' means 'you're just a dishrag!')

*Alpha!... You're still here!

*Of course I'm here... where would I go?

*Silang...You are going with your brother to his house. There you will live. Your mother said so.

*Do I _have_ to?

*Yes, you have to... And you also have to go to school.

*Oh, no... Fine. But how will we talk? Me and Halkon?

*He will study Tagalog, and you will study English.

*Fine. I guess.

Part 11: Down Time

Silang sat on the beach, trying to make heads or tails of some English reading material. Her spoken English had become quite good in the past few weeks, quite good enough to sometimes join in the conversations of her older brother and is friends. It would not win her any favors with the teachers, but it would not flunk her, either. But her English reading was abyssmal. Time and time again, she pulled a dictionary out from behind her to root through it for a word.

She sighed in frustration as she encountered yet another word she didn't know.

[Ano 'to?* Pow-er Rayn-gers?] she thought, grabbing for the dictionary again. Then her mind cleared as she remembered the man on the T.V. talking about them, and quickly associated her brother and his friends with the words. He hadn't told her. She just... knew.

Finally, Silang grew tired of struggling with an Angel Grove newspaper. She preferred to be doing _anything_ but studying.

So, she stood up, and dusted herself off. As she looked off, at the twin moons reflected in the water and in the sky, sorrow filled her. She sighed. She missed her mother dearly. She had accepted that she would not come back, but still... it hurt... She started to sing, an old lullaby that she had heard many, many times.

"Nahuhulog na ang mga bulaklak

Lumilipad na ang mga ibon.

Nan doon na ang puso ko.

Doon sa Pilipinas.

Anak, anak ng puso ko.

Nan dito na si Ina. Nan dito na siya para sayo.

Saan ka ba, Ina?

Hindi kita makikita.

Parati ako nan dito para sayo, iha.

Anak ng araw, anak ng umaga.

Silang, silang, nan dito na ang silang.

Umalis na ang gabi.

Magigi kang malakas.

Magigi kang matalino.

Magigi kang maganda.

Kasi bata ka ng araw.*"

She heard footsteps padding across the warm sands. She whirled, afraid that it would be one of those Putty things that 'Halkon' and his friends were always having to fight. It wasn't. It was her brother.

"Halkon." she acknowledged him.

"Silang." he replied clumsily. "Kumusta ka? Dapat, hindi ka mag-aral?"

She gave him a devil-may-care grin. "Do you know what you said?" she asked.

"Yeah. I said that you were supposed to be studying! You're going to Angel Grove High tomorrow."

"No," she contradicted him. "You have say that I should _not_ study. So I don't."

"Uh, Silang, that's 'said,' not 'have say.'"

She shrugged. "Whatever."

Tommy could only grin. She had gotten that particular phrase from him. Then he remembered. "Uh, Silang, pwede ba pangalanin mo ako 'Tommy' pag na sa eskuwelahan sila?"

She looked at him, puzzled. Then her eyes cleared. "Ohh! Halkon, it is 'pwede tatawagin mo ako ng 'Tommy' pag na sa eskuwelahan tayo! What you say is 'can you name me Tommy when they are in school!"

Tommy shrugged, grinning. "Whatever. Oh, by the way, that's 'what you _said_, not 'what you say!'"

She nodded at him. Then she went back to staring over at the ocean.

"What was that song?" asked Tommy, softly. "It sounds familiar."

"Fam-il-yar?" asked Silang, puzzled.

"Parang, alam na alam." Tommy said, groping for the right words.

Silang nodded, understanding. Whether he'd gotten the right words or not, the meaning had come through.

"That song... song sung by mothers, to children. So they sleep. A lullaby. " she replied, thinking hard. "Mother make song for each child. First part, second part, always same. Third part, fourth part, Mother make."

"I... I remember." Tommy said, letting the breeze ruffle his long hair. He closed his eyes, started to sway, and sang, a little off tune, and sometimes missing a word, but he tried. The very fact that he _remembered_ a song that had been last sung to him when he was four, in another language, was astounding.

"Nahuhulog na ang mga bulaklak

Lumilipad na ang mga ibon.

Nan doon na ang puso ko.

Doon sa Pilipinas.

Anak, anak ng puso ko.

Nan dito na si Ina. Nan dito na siya para sayo.

Saan ka ba, Ina?

Hindi kita makikita.

Anak, patawarin mo ako, pakiusap.

Kasalanan 'ko ito, pero hindi 'ko sinadya.

Mahal kita, anak ko, Halkon ko.

Sa alaala ko, lumilipad ka.

Magigi kang malakas, alam ko.

Magigi kang matalino, alam ko.

Magigi kang makisig, alam ko.

Pero hindi ko makikita."

Tommy's rich voice echoed across the sea. He turned to his little sister, who had tears in her eyes. "Silang, what does it mean? I know my name's in there, and I can understand some of the words, but the whole thing?"

"I try to translate." she said, giving him a sad, sad smile.

"The flowers fall.

The birds fly.

My heart is there.

There in the Philippines.

Son, son of my heart.

Mama's here. She is here for you.

Where are you, Mama?

I can not see you.

Son, forgive me, please.

This my fault, but I did not do it on purpose.

I love you, my son, my Falcon.

In my thoughts, you fly.

You become strong, I know.

You become smart, I know.

You become handsome, I know.

But I will not see it."

Tommy looked away, not able to meet the dark eyes of his little sister. He made as if to walk down the beach, back to the cottage where they were staying, but she stopped him.

"Mama not give you up because you be a bad boy." she told him, touching his arm. "No choice, she had. She tell me, she want more than anything, for me to have Kuya.* For Mama to have son, and _keep_ son. I have Kuya now." she told him, smiling at him with tilted almond eyes.

"But thanks to me, you don't have a mother." Tommy muttered under his breath. He'd become something of a father to the girl, who truly _didn't_ know her age, and guessed herself to be between twelve and fifteen.

There was silence behind him, as he realized that Silang had heard his murmured comment.

"Halkon," she began, slowly.

"Don't call me that." he replied harshly.

"Why not? It is your name."

"That's not my name. Tommy Oliver is my name, Silang."

"Halkon." she repeated, looking at him intensely. He found himself turning away from that penetrating gaze. She was a Healer, he remembered Zordon telling him that. Not just a healer of bodies, but of hearts and minds. "Halkon is your name. Winged lord of the skies. The Falcon." she said, quietly.

Tommy whirled on her. "What did you say?" he asked, shocked. That was _exactly_ what Dulceia had told him when he'd gained his Ninjeti powers.

"Winged lord of the skies." she repeated, seeing right through him with her gaze. "The Falcon. That is what your name means."

"Halkon, means Falcon?" he asked, uncertainly. He was unsure of whether to tell her about the Ninjeti powers or not. She had a right to know, as Zordon's granddaughter, but he had sworn that he would keep his identity secret...

"Halkon. Puting halkon. Teka muna, hindi, platinong halkon."

"I, I don't know what you're talking about." Tommy stammered. He'd understood those words all too well. Falcon. White falcon. Wait, no, a falcon of platinum.

Tommy would have died of surprise right there, if he could have. Kimberly came jogging up to them, and took one look at the astonished expression on Tommy's face.

Kimberly looked at her fiancée's little sister for a while, wondering what Silang had said that had surprised Tommy so. She just seemed so... otherworldly. Like she had lived a lifetime of years in her few. Almost as if she knew everything. She had learned English amazingly well in her few weeks. _Too_ well. It was almost unnatural.

Silang gazed at Kimberly intently for a few minutes, before finally saying, "Lawin. Lawin na rosas. Ay, hindi, lawin na pinilakan."

"What?" asked Kimberly. Tommy still looked somewhat shell-shocked, so Kimberly pulled a mini Tagalog-English dictionary -- they had all taken to bringing one around when Tommy's 'long-lost sister' had joined them-- out of her purse, and proceeded to look for 'lawin'

"Lawin." she read out loud. "Any of one of the species of carnivorous raptorial birds, such as the kestrel. The _kestrel_?!" she said, her eyes flying up from the book to rest on Silang's serene face. Her hands shaking, she looked for 'rosas.' Sure enough, there it was.


Kestrel of Pink.

Silang had named her.

Trembling badly now, Kimberly started to look up 'pinilakan.'

"Don't bother, Kim." Tommy said, his voice strained. "Pinilakan means 'silver.'"

Kimberly and Tommy exchanged a glance that said, worriedly, "Does she know? And if _she_ does, then who _else_ does?"

They needed to find out.

They needed to know.

Rocky came rushing up to them. "Hey, what's going on? What's taking so long?" he complained. "The food's getting cold!"

"That's Rocky for ya!" Aisha commented.

"Yeah, he thinks the solution to every problem is food!" Adam agreed, jogging up.

"What seems to be the delay?" asked Billy.

"Silang," Tommy began, searching for the words to ask without sounding strange. "Bakit... gusto mo... tatawagin... si Kim... ng Lawin?*"

"Bakit hindi?" she replied. "Hindi ba lawin siya?*"

"Hindi ko inintindihan mo. Hindi ba, tao siya? Hindi naman siy'ay ibon.*" Tommy said, hiding his nervousness. She had hit _way_ too close to home for his comfort.

"Hindi ba?*" asked Silang, slyly. She cast a look that included all of them, and not just Kimberly and Tommy. "Pow-er Rayn-gers?"

"Urk." Rocky gulped. They had not heard most of the conversation, and had not understood the majority of what they _had_ heard, but they got the point. "Uh... Tommy? Does she... know?"

"Of course I know." Silang grinned at him. "I am not stupid."

"Neither are a lot of _other_ people, and _they_ haven't figured it out!" Aisha gasped.

"Nai-ther?" Silang asked.

"Many people aren't stupid, but they don't know. What you know." Adam explained, concern crossing his face. "You didn't tell anyone, did you?"

"Who will I tell?" she asked, casting puppy-dog eyes up at him.

"That's who _would_ I tell, darlin'." Aisha corrected. The girl really _was_ a sweetie. Even if none of them really had any idea what she was thinking. They had _tried_... but her thoughts went so quickly and so fluently (not to mention in Tagalog!) that none of them could even come within a prayer of deciphering them. The only thing that they _could_ figure was that she was smarter than she let on. _Much_ smarter. But why hide it?

Billy had confirmed that she was indeed pure of heart, but what _was_ she? _Who_ was she? She had Tommy's looks, yes, but none of his earthy manner and self-deprecationary tendencies. She knew her own worth.

Still, they didn't know whether to trust her or not. It was too late for that, though, if she knew their identities.

They exchanged worried glances.

*What's this?

*The flowers are falling.

The birds are flying.

My heart is finally there,

There in the Philippines.

Child, child of my heart.

Mother's here. She's here for you.

Where are you, Mother?

I can't see you.

I'm always here for you, darling.

Child of the day, child of the dawn.

Sunrise, sunrise, the sunrise is finally here.

The night has gone.

You will become strong.

You will become smart.

You will be beautiful.

Because you are a child of the day.

*Big Brother

*Why... do you want... to call... Kim... Kestrel?

*Why not?... Isn't she a kestrel?

*I don't get you. Isn't she a person? She's not a bird.

*Isn't she?

The Rangers strolled into school the next day, Silang as calm and unruffled as a stick. She had been told that most kids were nervous on their first day of school, but she had just blinked and asked, "Why?"

They could not, of course, answer. There simply was not one. _They_, of course, were all nervous wrecks, not for themselves, but for her. They had registered her as Silang Oliver, Tommy's long-lost sister, (an almost-truth) and of course, everyone had accepted it without batting an eye.

"The intelligence of the people of Angel Grove is highly overrated." Billy grumbled somewhat.

"Be glad it is!" Trini replied, bumping him with her hip. "If it wasn't, then we wouldn't have a prayer of keeping our secret!"

Silang-- or rather, 'Seelee' as the others had taken to calling her, despite the fact she didn't think much of nicknames-- nodded enthusiastically. Trini looked at her worriedly. Even Trini did not know the truth about Silang. In fact, Tommy and Kimberly had kept the fact that Silang really _was_ Tommy's little sister secret from all but Tommy's mother, or rather, foster mother. It just wasn't necessary for them to know. "Seelee," she whispered, "are you sure you're up to this?"

They had chosen to enroll her in the same class as Tommy and the others, so that she could be looked out for, but they had no way of knowing how she would do in Mrs. Appelby's class. In truth, they were _very_ worried.

"Oh, here's your locker, Seelee!" Aisha exclaimed.

"Oh, it's the nerrrrds!" Bulk and Skull taunted, coming up with them. "Oh, and they've got a new little nerrrrd with them!"

"Hands off my little sister." Tommy growled menacingly, but Bulk and Skull ignored him, shoving their way to Silang.

"Oh. So she's a _freshman_ nerd. So, nerd, what's your name?" Bulk grinned down at her from his greater height, making Silang look even smaller than she actually was.

Silang merely gazed at him through cold eyes.

"What, she mute? Or just stupid?" asked Bulk nervously, unnerved by the girl's frigid stare.

Tommy shook his head in a warning at Silang, not to rise to their teasing, but Silang ignored him. She simply stared at Bulk and Skull.

"Oh, so she _is_ stupid!" Skull exclaimed. "A stupid freshman!"

"Hardly." Silang finally spoke, calmly deepening her voice to a fine alto. "I was merely formulating a response that would dispose of you two cretins without injuring the self-esteem of either yourselves or us. Now I see there is no need for contemplating on whether to be discourteous or not. It would be greatly appreciated if, since you seem to insist on being a nuisance, you would take your unnecessary comments elsewhere."

Bulk and Skull gaped at the girl, who, though having to look up to talk to them to their faces, seemed to gain in prescence. "Uh, Bulkie?" asked Skull, uncertainly, "What'd she say?"

"If I must spell it out to you in monosyllabic words, you troglodytes," Silang replied, "GO AWAY!"

Bulk and Skull went.

"It seems that Silang has greatly expanded her vocabulary since the previous evening." Billy exclaimed.

"Whatever he said." Kimberly agreed.

Tommy just shook his head in amazement. No, he didn't think Silang would have any problems with school.

" the derivation of the quadratic formula... um, what is that word?... oh, yes, involves much the same things as factoring polynomials to find the definition of 'x', except that in the quadratic formula, where there would normally be a number, there is a letter. You simplify the equation until you have 'x' on one side, and all the other variables on the other" Silang finished.

The class stared at her, glassy-eyed, except Billy, who was nodding in agreement.

Ms. Appelby smiled at the little girl. "Class, did you get that? Very good, Silang! Where did you say you come from?"

"The Philippines, ma'am."

"And how old are you?"

"I am thirteen, ma'am."

"Do they normally teach thirteen-year-olds this kind of thing in the Philippines?"

"Yes, this is what is normally taught, ma'am."

"Indeed. Then what would you have normally learned next year?"

"We would have learned calculus, ma'am."

"And the year after that?"

"Then we'd have learned advanced physics, ma'am."

"Indeed. So, Silang, I think that you explained the derivation of the quadratic formula very well indeed. Class, there will be a test on that tomorrow, so _study_!" she chirruped.

The class let out a heartfelt moan as they filed out the door.

"Seelee, where did you learn all that?" Tommy asked in amazement, poring over his books in the Youth Center. The others looked up at his question, and focused their attention on her. The only one not curled over a book was Silang, who was sucking at a strawberry milkshake. And Kimberly, who was out on some errand for Ernie.

Silang shrugged. "I learned it in school."

Trini looked up from his books and stared at her. "You mean you were serious?"

"Do I joke? Yes, I really _did_ learn it in school. Last year." She smiled at her.

"But you normally don't learn that until you get to high school!"

Silang shook her head. "No. In the Philippines, bata kami lang pag inaaral namin iyan."

"Huh?" came the inevitable chorus.

"We learn it when we are young." she explained.

Zach sighed, looking down at his books. "I don't get it. How come you're so smart?"

"Affirmative! Even I cannot comprehend Einstein's theory of general relativity, yet you perceive it with ease!" Billy struggled.

Silang shrugged. "I do not know."

Kimberly slid in beside them with an affectionate kiss for Tommy. "Hey. How's the studying going?"

Tommy sighed.

Kimberly gave him a sympathetic grin. "That bad, huh? Well, that's not all of it. Your dad... he's back from his business trip. He's coming here. You'd better get Seelee out of here!"

Tommy leaped to his feet. "What? Here? Now?"

"Ay sus mariosep!" Silang swore. "I have to go!"

"You mean you didn't tell your parents about her?" Rocky asked incredulously.

Too late. Tommy's father walked in the door. Silang scrunched herself up as small as she could, and ducked behind Tommy and Jason.

"Tommy!" Mr. Oliver greeted. "So how was... you know."

"It worked, Dad." Tommy replied testily.

Mr. Oliver sighed in relief. "Oh, good. So... he's dead?"

"No." Trini answered. "He's not."

Mr. Oliver simply looked at her strangely, and changed the subject."So, Tommy, aren't you going to practice your karate? Oh, who's that girl over there? I haven't seen her here before."

Tommy looked, and saw a small figure in beige, her side to them. She was bent over a book, studying it so closely that her long, _curly_ hair obscured most of her face. He cast a surreptious glance behind him, and sure enough, Silang had disappeared.

"Oh, her? That's... uh... that's Silang. She's new." Rocky admitted weakly.

"Silang?" Mr. Oliver's eyes narrowed. "Where's she from?"

"Uh... the Philippines?" Zach said, with a sickly grin.

"Oh. I see." Mr. Oliver spoke. "Well, could I meet her?"

"No!" Kim stepped in front. "Oh, well, I mean no, you can't, she's sorta shy, so we don't know her very well."

"I see. Well, Tommy, come home early today, if you would. We have to talk."

"Uh... yeah, Dad." Tommy replied nervously. "See ya."

"See ya." Mr. Oliver replied, striding out of the juice bar.

Tommy wiped his forehead nervously. He'd told his mother about Silang, true, but he wasn't sure how his father would react to seeing Silang, Kelene's daughter, but not his. It was too late, though, for that. Silang lived with them.

Kimberly squeezed his hand reassuringly.

And, of course, just at that second, Tommy's communicator went off.

"Zordon." Tommy spoke flatly. "I don't know whether you're a savior, or a demon. What now?"

"You must all teleport to the Command Center. It is urgent indeed." Zordon grumbled, evidently not getting Tommy's joke.

"All?" Silang spoke.


"Let's go." Tommy stated, heading for a conveniently-deserted hallway. They teleported out in beams of the rainbow, lights arcing out over Angel Grove.

"What is it, Zordon?" Tommy asked pensively. All twelve of them were there, and all twelve of them had worried looks on their faces.

"Rangers." Zordon boomed. "Lord Zedd and Rita are gone. Ivan Ooze is destroyed--"

"Only for now!" Silang protested. _She_ evidently knew where this conversation was going, and didn't like it one bit. "He will be back!"

"Indeed you are right, grandchild." Zordon agreed. "But he will not be back for a very long time. First he must gather up the pieces that were his body. Only then can he restore himself. He trapped Lord Zedd and Rita in a snowglobe. They will trouble us no more."

"So what's the problem?" asked Kimberly.

"The problem, Kimberly, is that there _is_ no problem." Zordon replied. "In other words, there is no need any longer for the Power Rangers."

There was a collective gasp of horror. "But... but Zordon!" Dirk protested. "But..."

"But what, Dirk?"

"Zordon, does this mean you will be taking away their powers?" Silang asked.

"Yes, Silang." Zordon replied.

"But what will happen to Tommy?" Silang asked.

"I don't understand what you're saying, granddaughter. The same will happen to him as to the other Power Rangers!"

"Iba siya sa ibang Rangers, Zordon."

"Alam ko, Silang. Mangyari ay yung mangyari."


"No buts, Silang. He will have to deal with it as any normal child of our race would have to deal with it."

"Deal with _what_, Zordon?"

"You will have to ask Silang, Tommy." Zordon explained, discomfited.

"Fine." Tommy gave a short, curt answer. He took out Flight. "As team leader, I guess I should be the first, huh?"

"Tommy, I will always be with you." Flight told him. "I am your guardian animal, the Falcon. You cannot be without me, even if it is just in spirit."

Tommy laid Flight into Alpha's hands. Instantly, beams of light shot out of him, and he collapsed with a cry.

Kimberly ran to him, and cradled his head against her bosom. Little by little, the Power drifted out of him and back into Flight.

"Farewell, Tommy Falcon." Flight spoke before he faded out. "We will meet again."

With a glistening tear in her eyes, Kimberly handed over Swift. This time, it was Tommy's turn to hold her as the Power drained out of her, tearing its way back into Swift.

"Do not weep for what is not yet lost." Swift advised, fading into nothingness.

One by one, the Rangers handed over their Power Weapons, until Rocky, Adam, Aisha, Kimberly, Billy and Tommy were powerless.

Trini stepped forward and palmed her new Power Coin, made of opal. "I guess... I guess this is yours, Zordon."

Zordon shook his head (or his entire body, as was the case). "It does not belong to me, Trini, but to my granddaughter. She can keep the coins safe, I know. Her mother would have wished it."

Silang nodded. She held out her hands, and a little box materialized in them. She flipped open the lid reluctantly, and Trini dropped the little disc of opal inside.

Zach was next. He fingered the Tigers' Eye disk gently before giving it up to Silang.

Kethry went without a word (or sign). She dropped the circlet of amber into Silang's hands.

Jason stepped forward, and slid the little sliver of agate into the box.

Then Silang turned to Dirk, who had hung back when the others had come forward. "Dirk?" she asked, holding out the box.

"I... I don't understand, Seelee." he replied, hanging back. "Why give us... these great new powers... if they're just going to take them away?"

Zordon began to answer, but Silang stopped him. "They're _not_ taking them away, Kuya Dirk." she replied. "No, they're taking away the Power Coins. You still have your power. You can't morph, but you'll still be faster than normal, smarter than normal, more beautiful than normal."

"Speak for yourself." Rocky griped softly.

"I heard that." Silang replied with a grin, showing white teeth. "Just be assured, Kuyas and Ates, the time will come when the Power Rangers are needed again. When that time comes, be ready, for you will surely be called on again. Power Rangers kayo. Parati ka Power Rangers.*"

Tommy slid his hand into the center of the circle. "One more time, for old times' sake?" he asked.

Kimberly touched his hand with hers.

Aisha layered her hand on.

Then Adam.

Then Rocky.

Then Billy.

Then Trini.

Then Jason.

Then Zach.

Then Kethry.

Then Dirk.

Then they waited, until Silang put her hand in the middle, and then they leapt into the air.


The end? Or the beginning...

*You're Power Rangers. You'll always be Power Rangers.