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." "Tommy--" "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. "Awesome!" "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!*: [What?] :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) *NOOO! *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. *Fine. *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.