Legal Disclaimer: Power Rangers and their enemies do not belong to me, but to Saban Entertainment. Marissa and David Browder, Celestria, and the Zodiac Powers do not belong to Saban Entertainment, but to me. No one is to use them without my express written permission. I would like to thank my online sister Kathy for her invaluable help in the writing of this fanfic, which takes place after the Power Rangers Zeo episode "Game of Honor", Thank you.

Zodiac Rangers
by: Cynthia

The Zeo Crystal is thought by many to be the most powerful force in creation. So powerful that it can destroy any with the slightest trace of evil in the, so pure it can only be touched by those sworn to defend, it is still only a crystal. Crystals can be broken, and should it ever be destroyed, then all that exists is in the deadliest of danger.

Without the Zeo Crystal, those who defend the world would have no power. The world would be defenseless.

Or would it?

* * *

Chapter One : The Shattering

It was another disgusting day on the Machine Skybase, with the powerful leader of the Machine Empire doing what he usually did: ranting over the latest defeat the Power Rangers had handed him.

"The Rangers have defeated me at every turn!" King Mondo raged, steam coming out of him. "This must not be permitted to continue!"

"Do you have a plan, dear?" Queen Machina asked, looking interested. She'd never seen him so evilly excited before.

Mondo turned quickly. "As a matter of fact, I do!" he laughed. "The Rangers draw their power from the Zeo Crystal: but not for much longer!"

"How dear?"

Mondo cackled evilly. "You'll see! This will be the end of the Power Rangers forever! Klank! Orbus!"

The two footmen exchanged weary glances. "Truly, Orbus, I didna think serving King Mondo 'twould be so wearisome!"

"It pays the bills," was Orbus' only comment as they headed over to see what the king wanted.

"Klank, I want a monster, a very special monster," King Mondo ordered. "And this is what I want it to do!"

* * *

"Hey, watch out there!" a roller-blader nearly bumped into Adam as he carried the picnic basket to where the others were waiting.

"Sorry," she said, smiling a little. He caught his breath; she was beautiful! Long dark hair, eyes that seemed to sparkle with pure starlight, and a figure to die for. If he hadn't already been dating Tanya happily, he might have considered asking her out. She continued blading on, while he continued to the picnic site.

"Who was that, Adam?" Rocky asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No one!" Adam didn't know why Rocky liked to stir up trouble at times; it was just the Blue Ranger's way. He looked over at Billy, his best friend. He'd taken to wearing black a lot lately, ever since he'd given his chance at the Zeo Crystal to Tanya. "Billy?" he asked gently.

"Mmmmm?" Billy was staring up into space, his thoughts obviously elsewhere.

"Billy!" Adam poked at his friend, and Billy glanced over at him, frowning a little. It suddenly struck Adam he hadn't really seen Billy smile, and mean it, since he'd given up his powers.

"What is it?"

"What's with you? You've been down for a while," Adam worried about Billy, and had since they'd first met. It had been nearly an instant friendship between them, one that they both knew was going to go on for a long while.

"Nothing," Billy shook his head. Adam didn't believe him for a moment; he knew Billy too well for that.

"Billy!" he said, more sharply than he'd intended. The ex-Ranger returned his gaze, and the pain there nearly broke Adam's heart. I had no idea he was hurting like this! I've got to find out what's going on!

"What is it?"

"I'm sorry," Adam said shakily; the concerned look in his eyes nearly tearing Billy's heart in two. "Billy, we need to talk. Something's up with you."

Billy commented, "I'm fine. Really. There's absolutely nothing wrong with me."

Sighing deeply, Billy returned his gaze to the sky. Adam grabbed ahold of Billy's arm and jerked him up to a standing position. "We'll be right back," he quickly told the others and pulled Billy off to a secluded area nearby.

"Billy, talk to me," he pleaded, his grip not tightening on Billy's arm; he sensed instinctively that Billy would clam up if he was pushed much farther. "I can tell when something is wrong with you, you can talk to me. I'm your best friend, best friends can tell when there is something wrong, and best friends do not keep secrets from each other!"

Billy tried to break Adam's grip, but to no avail. "It's nothing, Adam, nothing really," he said, not sounding the least bit convincing.

"You can tell me everything, Billy. You can trust me. That's what best friends are for," Billy sighed once more, realizing that Adam was as stubborn as a mule on this. There was no possible way h e could get out of it other than telling him.

"All right," Billy sighed. "Well, it's two things, mainly."

"What two things? What's bothering you? You can tell me."

Billy took a deep breath, looking up at the sky. "Well. . .the thing that is eating me up inside the most is, well, being powerless. Being out of the action. Watching you guys fight all the monsters, get all the glory, while I'm sitting inside the Power Chamber playing checkers with Alpha!"

Adam's face now bore a shocked expression. "I never knew you felt that way! Why didn't you tell me before?"

"Because I wasn't sure what reaction I was going to get," Billy replied, staring down at his feet. "I'm jealous of you guys: very jealous."

Patting Billy on the shoulder gently, Adam said, "I know I don't understand how you're feeling, man, but I wish I could be more help than this."

"No, if you hadn't been so stubborn, I would have kept it all bottled up inside, then I might exploded! Billy pieces everywhere!" This comment caused both of them to burst out laughing; Billy so rarely made jokes these days it was an incredible relief to hear it happen again. When they quieted, Adam noticed something else. "You didn't tell me what the other thing was, though."

Billy looked puzzled. "What other thing?"

"The other thing that's been bothering you."

"Oh," Billy's face twisted with pain yet again. "You remember that girl I was going out with? Dina?"

Adam nodded, remembering the pretty blonde that Billy had fallen head over heels in love with. "Yeah, what about her?"

"She. . .she dumped me," Billy said, tears welling up in the corner of his eyes. Adam pulled Billy into a bear hug, comforting him as best he could.

"She wasn't right for you, forget her!" he advised. Before Billy could respond, they could hear the sound of a girl screaming. Adam turned to see the rollerblading girl he had bumped into earlier, followed by. . .Cogs? She bladed towards them as fast as she could move, not looking where she was going, just trying to get away.

Adam managed to jump out of the way, but before he was able to call out a warning to Billy, the girl plowed into him and the two toppled over. Billy grabbed hold of the girl and quickly pulled her behind a tree. By that time, Adam had rushed off to get the others, but before help could arrive, Cogs has surrounded the tree. Billy was doing his level best to fight them off, but he'd never been more relieved to see the Rangers arrive in a flash of multicolored brilliance. The dumb machines had never been a match for his friends, and within minutes the Cogs had retreated, with oil leaking and circuits sizzling.

"Miss, are you all right?" the Red Ranger asked as the Cogs vanished, turning to the girl with Billy.

"Y-yes," she stammered, getting to her feet. "What were those things?"

"They're called Cogs," Blue Ranger told her. "Why were they chasing you?"

She shook her head. "I don't know, I was just rollerblading, and the next thing I know, they were there! They tried to grab me!" she shivered a little, and Billy put a steadying arm around her.

"What's your name?" he asked gently.

"Marissa," she smiled at him. "Marissa Browder."

Billy felt a shiver of joy run through him as Marissa smiled. "I'm Billy Cranston."

"And you're the Power Rangers," Marissa turned to the five figures still there. "I owe you guys."

"It's our job," Yellow Ranger told her. "But we've got to be going now; we'll be around if you need the help."

The Rangers teleported away, only to return unmorphed a few moments later. "Hey, what's going on?" Tanya asked, as innocently as if she had no idea whatsoever.

"Guys, this is Marissa Browder," Billy introduced her to the others and explained about the Cogs attacking her. Marissa waved a greeting to them all, then glanced down at her watch.

"Oh, man, I've got to go! My dad's expecting me back at the house for dinner!"

"If there's Cogs after you, for whatever reason," Tommy told here, "You shouldn't go alone."

Billy offered to walk her home, and Marissa smiled warmly. "I'd like that. My dad would probably like to meet the guy who saved me from those things, too."

Tanya nudged Kat a little and whispered, "Is it just me, or does Billy look a little lovestruck?"

"I think they both are," Kat giggled in return. As Billy and Marissa left, she noticed Tommy watching them with curious eyes.

"What is it?" she asked him gently.

"I'm just wondering why the Cogs would be after her. Mondo doesn't usually attack specific people," Tommy told her. This was worrying him more than he really wanted to let on.

"You're right," Adam agreed. "There's more to this than meets the eye."

"But what more?" Tanya wondered. It was something they all pondered as they headed back to their picnic, a more sober air about them than had been before.

* * *

"Those Cogs couldn't' even capture one stupid human girl!" Mondo raged. "My plan can't succeed if she's loose!"

"What do you mean, dear?" Machina asked. "What's so special about this girl?"

"Ah, my dear Machina, you'll learn," Mondo promised her. "But I must have her! She is essential to my master plan's success!"

Klank entered the throne room just then. "Sire, I've found what you were looking for!"

"Excellent, Klank!" Mondo tried to smile and failed miserably at it. "Now all that remains is to capture that human!"

* * *

"So, what do you like to do?" it was the only topic of small talk Billy could think of. Marissa's very presence was distracting him from thinking clearly, something that had never happened with any of his previous girlfriends.

"Rollerblade, read, astronomy," Marissa told him. "Also long walks. . .with someone I care about."

"Oh?" Oh, please, God, don't let her have a boyfriend! "Anyone in particular?"

"Not at the moment," Billy nearly tripped over his own feet when she smiled at him that time. He's so cute like that! Marissa thought. Hope he doesn't have a girlfriend. "What about you?"

"Me? Uh, no, no girlfriend, not anymore," not since what's-her-name dumped me.

"That's nice," Marissa stopped in front of a large house. "This is my place. Come on in, my dad should be around somewhere."

Billy was suddenly extremely nervous. "All right," he said, heading for the door with her. "Will your mom be home later or something?"

Marissa sighed a little. "My mom and dad split up when I was really little. I don't even remember her, and dad doesn't have any pictures."

"I'm sorry," Billy sighed a little. Just as they reached the door, it opened up to reveal a tall, well-built older man standing there.

"Oh, Marissa!" he smiled at her. "I was just going out for pizza; I'm not feeling up to cooking. Oh, who's your friend?

"Hi, dad," Marissa waved. " This is Billy; he helped me out earlier today."

"Doing what?" Mr. Browder raised an eyebrow. Marissa quickly told him of the Cog attack, and how Billy had protected her until the Power Rangers arrived. "Well done, young man," he shook Billy's hand. "Would you care to join us for dinner? It'll just be pizza, but you're welcome."

"Thank you, sir," Billy nodded as Mr. Browder drove off. Billy and Marissa took seats on the porch to await his return. Things were going well; Billy hadn't ever been this comfortable with a girl this fast. He was just considering if it would be too forward to ask her out on a date when a cog-shaped teleportation circle appeared and a round dozen of the metallic creatures poured out, all heading for them.

"Let's go, Marissa!" Billy pulled her to her feet and headed out of the yard at top speed. "We've got to get away from those things!"

"What do they want with me?" Marissa sounded frightened as they pelted away.

"I don't know," Billy admitted as they ran. But I want to find out!

* * *

"Ay-yi-yi, Zordon!" Alpha-5 cried out as the alarms rang all over the Power Chamber. "There's a monster attacking downtown Angel Grove!"

ALERT THE POWER RANGERS, ALPHA. WHERE IS BILLY? WE MAY NEED HIS HELP. Zordon was somewhat surprised the teenage genius wasn't in the Power Chamber; he seldom left it these days. Alpha ran a quick scan of Angel Grove, and brought up their friend on the Viewing Globe. It showed him and a young girl running from a batch of Cogs. THIS IS NOT GOOD, ALPHA.

"Who is that, Zordon?"

SOMEONE MONDO MUST NEVER GAIN POSSESSION OF. Zordon didn't like keeping secrets from anyone; especially Alpha, who had been with him for so many thousands of years, but this was necessary, and out of his control at any rate. The Zeo Rangers teleported in a few seconds later.

"What's up, Zordon?" Tommy asked.

MONDO HAS SENT YET ANOTHER MONSTER TO DOWNTOWN ANGEL GROVE, RANGERS. OBSERVE THE VIEWING GLOBE. The five teenagers turned to the globe and watched as a seven-foot-tall "boombox with attitude", as Tanya described it, terrorized several passersby.

"Hey," Adam peered at the globe a little close. "Isn't that Billy and Marissa?"

Indeed it was them, hiding from the Cogs the Rangers all saw coming up fast.

"We'd better get down there and clear that monster away, then help them," Tommy said. "Who knows how long they can hide?"

"Let's not find out the hard way," Adam could almost see time running out for his friend and Marissa.

"It's morphin' time!" Tommy cried.

"Zeo Ranger One, Pink!"

"Zeo Ranger Two, Yellow!"

"Zeo Ranger Three, Blue!"

"Zeo Ranger Four, Green!"

"Zeo Ranger Five, Red!"

As they teleported to the battle site, Zordon thought softly, Good-bye, Zeo Rangers.

* * *

"I am Blastar, and I will blast you into oblivion, Zeo Rangers!" the monster attacked almost before the five Rangers were solid. A small army of Cogs had joined it, launching into the Rangers with metallic enthusiasm.

"Oh, great, another 'creative' monster name by Mondo," Kat groaned as she triple-kicked Blastar. "Doesn't he ever think of anything new?"

"So you want something new, do you?" Mondo himself appeared, or rather a hologram of him did, over the battlefield, glaring at them.

"Oh, man, that's hideous!" Tanya nearly retched to see the hideous face of the Machine King glaring at them balefully.

"You're not much of a beauty yourself, Zeo Ranger Two," Mondo snapped. "Not like my lovely Queen Machina!"

"Why don't you come down here and fight this battle yourself, Mondo?" Tommy taunted him. "Or are you just too afraid to face us?"

Mondo actually laughed. "Why should I be afraid of you, Rangers? I know your weakness, and there is nothing any of you can do to stop me!"

"I don't like the sound of that," Adam muttered. None of the Rangers did.

* * *

Marissa whispered, "What's going on, Billy?" They were hiding in an abandoned warehouse; the Cogs had run them nearly straight into Blastar. Only Billy's quick thinking had gotten them away before the monster had started to fire on them. Now they cowered behind boxes, peering out every now and then to watch the Rangers as they fought with the creature.

"Mondo's out there, a hologram of him, anyway," Billy reported. Marissa peered through a crack and shivered as she saw the depiction of the evil machine.

"He's hideous!"

"No arguments there,' Billy watched as Mondo taunted the Rangers. "Hope they can beat that thing. It's not looking good."

A moment later, it got even worse.

* * *

"So the Zeo Rangers want to see something new, do they?" Mondo laughed coldly. "Show them something new, Blastar!"

"As you command, my lord!" Blastar turned to face the Rangers head on, and two small speakers came out of its side. Before any of them could do anything, a high pitched wail that could have only come from the depths of hell itself began to sound. It did worse than hurt their ears, something about the sound seemed to penetrate to their very souls!

"What's going on?" Tommy screamed even as he writhed in agony. Kat was already on the ground, unconscious, and Tanya wasn't much better. Adam stood only because he leaned against a tree, and Rocky dropped to his knees even as Tommy saw him. "What's happening to us?"

"You'll find out soon enough!" Mondo laughed. "But you won't like it much when you do!"

Inside each of the Zeo Rangers was an explosion as small as an atom, but as devastating as the destruction of the world. Only darkness followed.

* * *

"We've got to help them!" Marissa dodged Billy's restraining hands and ran out to where the Rangers, each surrounded now by an odd pale glow, lay in heaps.

"This isn't good at all," Billy muttered to himself as he followed her out. The monster was still there, laughing, as the Cogs surrounded it protectively.

"Do what you like, what I've done to them is irreversible!" Blastar gloated nastily.

"Blastar! Return to me at once, you've done your job!" Mondo ordered. "We have plans to make: great plans!"

Blastar vanished and Marissa dropped by one of the crumpled forms that only minutes earlier had been a Power Ranger Zeo. "What's happening to them?" she breathed. The glow faded from each Ranger, revealing them in civilian outfits.

"No way!" Marissa stared in complete disbelief as she recognized Billy's friends. "You guys are the Power Rangers?" I wonder if Billy knew about this?

Rocky, by whom Marissa knelt, opened his eyes. "Ohhh. . .what happened?"

Tommy sat up, his head spinning. It seemed they were all alive. "Whatever Blastar tried, it didn't work."

"I think it did work," Tanya stared at herself, then at the others. She could feel the difference within her, almost as if someone had torn out her essence.

"What do you mean, we're all alive, it didn't kill us," Adam winced slightly, he felt as if someone had turned him inside out and left him that way for about a week.

Billy looked at them, then told them, "You're all unmorphed," everyone glanced nervously at Marissa, the only person around thankfully. She was staring back in obvious awe.

"This is incredible," she whispered to herself. "The Power Rangers."

"Hope she can keep a secret," Tommy tried to get to his feet and quickly sat back down again. "Oh, man, that was a mistake. What's wrong with us?"

"We don't have any powers," Tanya replied. "The Zeo Crystal has been destroyed."

* * *

Chapter Two : The Discovery

"Please tell me you're kidding," Kat stared at Tanya after the other girl's startling announcement. "How can the Zeo Crystal have been destroyed?"

Tanya shook her head. "I don't know. But I do know it hurt!"

Their communicators beeped suddenly, and Marissa's eyes widened to hear Zordon's voice. RANGERS, RETURN TO THE POWER CHAMBER, AND PLEASE BRING YOUR YOUNG FRIEND WITH YOU.

"Who was that?" Marissa almost stammered. "What's the Power chamber, and why do they want me to go with you?"

Billy came over next to her. "It's all right, Marissa," he gave her a reassuring hug. "Zordon's our leader, and our friend. You know Mondo's after you for some reason, maybe Zordon knows why, or can find out."

Marissa stared at the others, who were slowly getting to their feet. She took a deep breath. "All right. I'll go."

Billy smiled at her and gently took her hand, a light blush staining both their cheeks as he did so. He looked at his friends. "Come on, we'd better go before someone sees us."

As they teleported into the Power Chamber, Marissa let out a little yelp of shock at the sudden shift in location. She calmed herself quickly and started to look around the strange room they were in. When she saw the huge head floating in the tube, she could only stare in surprise, though.

"W-who are you?" she asked in awe. A head in a tube!! Wow! What else am I gonna see today?


"Do you know why he wants me?" Marissa's curiosity and wonder overcame her brief flash of fear.


Marissa looked disappointed, but not inclined to press the matter. Tommy stepped up then. "Zordon, what happened? Is Tanya right, was the Zeo Crystal destroyed?"


* * *

There was dark celebration on the Machine Skybase. Mondo congratulated Blastar on the successful destruction of the Zeo Crystal, as monsters gathered from all over the Machine realm to wait for their master's command to invade Earth.

"There is nothing that can stand in our way now!" Machina couldn't believe it had finally happened. The Rangers were defeated and their ships were poised on the verge of total invasion.

Mondo heard her. "Unfortunately, that's not true," he was suddenly angry, his previous good mood gone as if it had never been. "That is why I must have that human girl Marissa! If she realizes what she has, what she is, then all is lost!"

"What's so important about her, Pop?" Sprocket wanted to know. "She's just another silly human!"

"Son, believe me, she isn't!" Mondo stared at the Earth through a viewport. "Klank, have Cogs around her house in concealment. The moment she comes out of the Power Chamber, I want her!"

"Aye, sire!" Klank saluted and gave the appropriate orders. "Sire, perhaps we could launch an assault on the Power Chamber itself to get her?"

"Yes!" Mondo shouted suddenly. "The Rangers cannot protect her if they are protecting themselves! Launch the Quadrafighters immediately!"

* * *

"Zordon, is there anything we can do, anything at all?" Tommy was desperate, all the Rangers were. "If we can't do something, Mondo's going to destroy the world!"


Just as Zordon spoke those words, the Power Chamber was rocked by explosions. "What's going on?" Marissa yelled, hanging onto Billy. "Is it an earthquake?"

Adam quickly checked the monitors, then turned frightened eyes to Zordon. "It's a squadron of Quadrafighters. They're attacking the Power Chamber."

"Oh, man, Mondo wants to make sure we can't stop him!" Tommy groaned. Billy gently pushed Marissa off him and went to the weapons systems.

"We can at least defend ourselves," the former Ranger said, aiming lasers and missiles at the attacking ships. "We're not going down without a fight."

The room shook even more as Billy took control of the Power Chamber's defenses. Everyone watched as he blasted ship after ship out of the sky. "Good going, Billy!" Tommy encouraged him. "But there's a lot more coming!"

"There's a message coming in on the Viewing Globe," Tanya reported. "It. . .it's from Mondo!"

The Rangers and Marissa all watched in stunned shock as the evil metallic king came into view on the globe. "Greetings, ex-Rangers!" he gloated.

BEGONE, MONDO! YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE, IN ANY WAY! Zordon commanded, only to be mocked by Mondo's laughter

"You're in no position to give me orders, Zordon! I've already defeated you, all I want now is the girl! Hand her over to me at once, and the attack on the Power Chamber will cease, and you will all escape with your lives: for now!"

Marissa shrank back behind a console as Mondo's cold eyes sought her out. She felt a metal hand on her shoulder and whirled, almost shrieking in fear until she saw it was Alpha. "Don't worry, Marissa," he reassured her. "The Rangers would never put anyone in danger, especially someone Mondo wants as badly as he seems to want you."

She smiled wanly at him. "Do you know why he wants me?"

Alpha shook his head. "But we won't let him get you!"

"Well, Rangers?" Mondo's voice broke into their conversation. "Are you going to give me what I want, or shall I destroy your precious Power Chamber and you all along with it?"

Billy glance around for Marissa; when he saw her with Alpha, he smiled. "You're going to have to destroy us, Mondo! I don't know why you want her, but you're not getting Marissa!"

Mondo's roar of outrage nearly brought down the Power Chamber by itself. He cut off communications and in the next moment, the Quadrafighter attack nearly doubled. Marissa shivered. "Why does he want me?" she whispered. Zordon's booming voice startled her.


"What are you talking bout?" Marissa, along with the Rangers, looked surprised. Tommy was the first to find his voice.

"Zordon, what's going on? There's more going on here than what you're telling us, why?"


* * *

"Destroy the Power Chamber! Burn it to the ground! And bring me that girl!" Mondo raged. "I will have her as my prisoner! She must not be permitted to learn of what she is! The Rangers must not learn what she is! Blastar, go to Earth, join in on the attack! She is to be mine!"

Blastar saluted. "As you command, master. I will bring the girl to you, dead or alive!"

"Alive!" Mondo corrected quickly. "Dead she is of no use to me! She must be brought back alive!"

"Your will is all, sire!" Blastar was gone a moment later. Mondo grumped around the throne room, staring at the Earth incessantly.

"The Rangers are out of my way, but the girl still roams free. I must have her. I must!"

* * *

"What others are you talking about, Zordon?" Kat wondered. "More Rangers?" New Rangers? she thought to herself.

YOU SHALL SOON SEE, KATHERINE, Zordon promised. The teleportation system lit up suddenly, as five beams of white light entered the Power Chamber. As they transformed into humans, the Rangers, Billy, and Marissa all stared. This was definitely not what they had expected.

* * *

Chapter Three : The Return

"I don't believe this!" Tommy stared at the five people who had just arrived. "Jason, Kim, Aisha, Trini, Zack!"

The five former Rangers looked up at Zordon. "We're here, Zordon," Jason said. He looked at the others. "Looks like everyone's back!"

Kat was staring just as much as Tommy was. "What are you guys doing here?"

I SUMMONED THEM. THE TIME HAS ALMOST ARRIVED, Zordon informed them. The Zeo Rangers looked at each other, then up at their mentor.

"Time for what?" Tommy wanted to know. Zordon looked at them all, worry plain even in his eyes.


Marissa found herself facing the curious scrutiny of five strangers. In a rush, everything that had happened to her that day fell in on her: being attacked by Cogs, learning the secret of the Rangers, being told she was targeted by an evil mechanical overlord for who knew what, seeing eleven people look at her as if she were some curious new type of bug, along with a floating head and a sentient robot. . .she couldn't take it anymore.

"Woah, Marissa!" Billy caught her as her eyes rolled up into her head and she fainted. "Today has been rough on her, I imagine. I'll take her back to her house.


"Ay-yi-yi, Zordon, will do!" Alpha punched a few buttons, and Billy and Marissa both melted way into white light. Trini glanced up at her mentor, a worried expression in her eyes.

"Zordon, why is Marissa so important? All you ever told us was that we were going to be needed as Rangers again. And you didn't mention her at all."


"Who is that?"


The Power Rangers all exchanged worried and confused glances. Things were just getting weirder and weirder, it seemed.

* * *

"Sire, the Rangers' brainy friend and the girl you want are in her house! They teleported straight there, bypassing the Cogs!" Klank reported. His scans had shown the teleport stream, but had been unable to block or alter it.

"Then send the Cogs into her house, you imbecile, or I'll have you recycled into paper clips!" Mondo raged, his oil pressure rising dramatically. Machina tried to soothe him.

"Dear, please, you must remember, we've won already! The Zeo Rangers are gone forever!"

"I know that, Machina!" Mondo almost glared at her. "And I want to make sure the Rangers stay gone! Klank!"

"Yes, milord?" Klank jumped right next to the Machine King. "How may I be of service, sire?"

"Block off teleportation to and from the Power Chamber! I don't want her to escape like that again! And send a triple squadron of Cogs down to back up the ones we already have there! She will have absolutely no way out!"

"Aye, milord!" Klank saluted and gave the orders. He sighed as well as a machine could at his master's impatience. Some days it just doesn't pay to turn yourself on.

* * *

Marissa's eyes fluttered open, and the first thing she saw was Billy. She smiled a little as she took that in. Well, one good thing that's happened today was this. I've met Billy. That wouldn't have happened without those Cog things.

"Marissa?" Billy returned her smile with one of his own. "How are you feeling? You fainted."

She grimaced. "Everything that's went on, kind of caught up with me at once, I guess you could say."

Billy nodded. "It's understandable; it is a big shock."

She glanced around, noticing their surroundings. "We're in my house. How'd we get here?"

"Alpha teleported us here. Zordon didn't want to risk Cogs trying to grab you if we had to walk to your place. He's never acted like this before. It's really starting to get weird."

Marissa sat up, then stood up. "Who were those other people? The ones who. . .teleported in?"

"Those were Jason, Kim, Trini, Zack, and Aisha. They're all former Rangers, like me," Billy told her. "Like us all now, I guess. From the way Zordon's acting, I'd say there's a way for us to get powers again, but for some reason, he doesn't want us to know too soon." And if there is, if I can, this time I'm taking back being a Ranger. I was never meant to stay in the Power Chamber, I know that now. It was a nice vacation, but I'm supposed to be one of them, not a helper.

"I wish I knew why this Mondo guy wants me so badly," she sighed. "That's really getting on my nerves. Am I going to have to spend the rest of my life not even able to move without being afraid of him?"

Billy smiled and touched her arm gently. "No, Marissa. Believe me on that. We won't have to deal with Mondo at all one day."

Marissa turned a dazzling grin upon him. "I truly hope so, Billy. I truly do."

Billy reached out to take her hand. "I promise you that. And Billy Cranston does not break his promises."

Marissa glanced down to where he was touching her hand, and smiled. She was about to say something else, when the door to her room crashed open and Cogs poured in all around them.

* * *

Chapter Four : The Family

"Billy!" Marissa shrieked as she backed away from the Cogs pouring into her room. "How'd they get in here? Why can't they leave me alone?"

Billy quickly put himself in between her and the Cogs, trying to protect her as the metallic soldiers charged at them. "Teleport back to the Power chamber, Marissa!" he told her, trying to get his communicator to her.

She nodded, reaching out for it, only to have a Cog knock the small device away from them both as two of it's companions seized the two young people. Marissa was about to call out for help, from someone, anyone, when a strange thought went through her mind. Why do I keep calling for help? I can help myself! "Leave me alone!" her voice no longer held fear or was pleading. Nothing but pure, raw determination filled it.

Marissa began to glow, so brightly that Billy couldn't see an anything but the light. "Marissa!" he called out. "What's going on?"

"I'm not going to let them terrify me anymore!" he heard her voice. "I might not know why they want me, now or ever, but they're not going to get me, and they're not going to scare me, ever again!"

The light faded a moment later, and Billy glanced around to see all the Cogs had vanished! Marissa stood where she had, breathing heavily, and with a determined look on her face. Billy stepped over to her, eyes wide. "What was that light?"

"I. . .I don't know," she stared, surprised. "I was just tired of being afraid, tired of those things making me afraid. I don't know why Mondo wants me, but I'm not going to make a fool of myself being afraid of something I don't know."

"The light was the light of courage, Marissa, and it is only the very beginning of what you are capable of," an unfamiliar voice said. They both looked up to see a tall, spectacularly beautiful woman standing in the doorway. Her hair and eyes seemed to be woven of pure starlight, there was simply no other way to describe them. Her face was divinely beautiful, and she was casually dressed in jeans and a blouse that simply could not hide the otherworldly exoticness she exuded.

"Who are you?" Marissa asked, her eyes wide. "How did you get into my house?"

"I let her in," her dad stepped out from behind the woman. "Marissa, Billy, I'd like you to meet Celestria: the most powerful being of good in the universe, and your mother, Marissa."

* * *

"No! This is impossible!" Mondo couldn't believe the readings that the Skybase scanners were giving him. This was the ultimate outrage!

"What is it, Mondo?" Machina asked, looking at him curiously. "Please, remember your oil-pressure, you're steaming!"

Indeed, steam was coming from the Machine King as he fumed. He turned to his queen. "Celestria has come to Earth!"


"Celestria!" Mondo grated out the name. "She is the mother of that human Marissa, and now that she's here, the Rangers will learn what I've been trying to keep from them!"

Sprocket bounced up and down. "What is it, Dad? Will you tell me what it is now?"

"The Zodiac Powers!"

* * *

"My mother?" Marissa stared at her father and the woman he claimed was her mother. "You told me that my mother and you separated once I was born!"

"And we did," Celestria nodded. "Your father didn't lie to you, Marissa. He just didn't tell you everything."

"The most powerful being of good in the universe?" Billy stared at the glittering woman standing there. Celestria looked at him, and smiled. With that, he felt all the worries and troubles he'd ever had washing away in the light of it.

"I have that distinction," she told him. "And I have come to help you and the other Power Rangers," she chuckled at the look Billy threw Marissa's father. Mr. Browder smiled.

"I've known about the Power Rangers longer than you have, Billy. Celestria told me all about you years ago," he told the startled ex-Ranger. "When I saw you, I knew I had to call her back to Earth. That's where I was going, instead of to get pizza earlier."

Celestria nodded. "And now it's time for us all to go to the Power Chamber. The time has come at last for the power of the stars themselves to be used."

"The power of the stars?" Billy repeated. Celestria chuckled.

"All will be explained at the Power Chamber," she didn't move, she didn't blink, she didn't make any motion or sound, but a heartbeat later, Mr. Browder included, stood in the Power Chamber. The Rangers, who had been sitting around catching up on old times with their recently returned friends, leaped to their feet, confused over their sudden and unexpected arrival.

"Billy, what's going on?" Tommy asked, his eyes flicking to his friend. Billy shrugged.

"Don't ask me. I just got brought along for the ride!"

"Not true," Celestria told him. "There are reasons for everything in the cosmos, and you are all just beginning to discover this."

"What possible reason could the Zeo Crystal being shattered have?" Rocky almost growled. Celestria looked at him; just looked, and the former Blue Zeo Ranger sank back against the console. "Sorry, ma'am."


"What?" Aisha stared, and it looked like the other Rangers wanted to! "She's a goddess?"

"No," Celestria corrected. "I am the most powerful being of good. Not a goddess. There is a very large difference. You could, however, say that I am the closest one can get to being a deity without actually being one. I am immortal, invulnerable, and I have powers beyond even your comprehension. To be honest, I could banish Mondo, Machina, Rita, Zedd, Vile, and all the rest of them without a moment's thought or exertion of power."

"Then why don't you?" Kim asked. The others held their breath as Celestria came over to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Because I am forbidden to, Kimberly. There must be a balance in the universe, and if I use my powers to take part in the war between good and evil, then that balance will be upset. Should that happen, all that exists will turn to dust."

"How are you going to give us our powers, then?" Adam wanted to know. Celestria looked at him next, and chuckled.

"I'm not. I'm only going to tell you how to get to them. I can't help you gain the powers, that knowledge lies within each of you," she told them. "It is for someone else to open the gate to the StarLands wherein your powers lie."

"What kind of powers?" Tommy asked. Celestria again made no motions, but each of the Rangers found themselves floating in what seemed to be open space. Stars surrounded them all, and they heard Celestria's voice echoing all around them.

Since the beginning of time, and even before then, the twelve mightiest powers in creation have awaited the day when all else failed, and they would be called upon to defend the world against evil. The power of the stars themselves, of the forces that were wielded in the creation of the universe, are those powers. The time has now come for the StarChild to come into her own, and for her to lead you all to the StarLands, where you will claim the powers meant for you all these long thousands of centuries. You will become. . .the Power Rangers Zodiac.

As her voice faded, they were back in the Power Chamber, staring at each other in awe. "The Power Rangers Zodiac," Kat whispered. "I like the sound of that."

"Who is the StarChild?" Trini wondered, her heart still pounding over what they had seen and heard. Celestria smiled, and turned to Marissa.

"Before I answer that, there is something you must know, my daughter," she said. "How you came to be."

Her father touched her on the shoulder. " Your mother came to me seventeen years ago, disguised as a human woman. We fell in love and were married, and not long afterwards, you were born. Celestria told me who and what she was then, and that she had to leave me, though she still loved me."

"And I love you still," Celestria's lips brushed his. "But I cannot remain among mortals for long, it goes against the natural balance of things," she turned back to Marissa, and held her hand. "Marissa, look into your heart, and you will see who I am. You know me, as I know you. Who am I?"

Marissa didn't have to think. She knew. The answer flowed through her veins, was in her eyes, and in her heart. A missing part of her life had suddenly fit into place. She threw herself into her mother's arms, and whispered, "You're my mother."

Celestria held her tightly for a moment, then pulled back to look at her. "Marissa. You are my daughter, and I love you. You are more, though. You are the StarChild, and through you, the Power Rangers will be reborn."

* * *

Chapter Five : The Decision

Marissa sat quietly in a darkened room in the Power Chamber, thinking. So much had happened over the past few hours, she'd had to get away from everyone just to take it all in. In the space of twenty-four hours she had gone from being just plain Marissa Browder, daughter of David Browder, to being Marissa Browder, the StarChild, last hope the Power Rangers had for getting any new powers to defend the Earth against Mondo, and the daughter of Celestria, the most powerful being of good in the universe.

My mother. Celestria. The most powerful being of good in the universe. She's incredible. I love her, but I'm scared of what she represents. Not. . .change, not precisely. But in a sense, all of this is her fault. If she and Dad hadn't had me, then Mondo wouldn't be after me now. . .and the Power Rangers. . .

Her thoughts trailed off. With no StarChild, without her, the Rangers wouldn't be able to get the powers meant for them. Marissa had a strong sense of duty; she knew when things had to be done. Her father had taught her that; probably preparing her for the day when her mother would return. She wondered what else her father hadn't told her. He hadn't let her know where her mother was, much less what her mother was. He hadn't given a single hint there was anything more to Billy than what he seems when she'd introduced them.

She found herself blushing severely at the thought of Billy. Did she like him, she wondered. Yes, she did. She thought there was a fairly good chance that given time, and the right circumstances, she'd be falling in love with him. He was so kind, so gentle, and yet had fought so fiercely when the Cogs had invaded her room. She shivered at that memory, the horrible metallic creatures all over the one place that had always been a refuge for her.

I wonder if I'll ever feel safe there again. I guess I won't know until all this is over. I don't think I'll even be in my room until it's ended. They won't even let me be alone here, in the heart of the Power Chamber. She glanced up, just catching a glimpse of Tommy moving out of sight. She smiled a little. She'd insisted on some place she could sit and think everything through, and they'd shown her this little room in the very center of the complex. She knew very well they'd put a guard on the door, not in case she tried to get out, but in case Mondo tried to get in. She did worse than shiver at the thought of the Machine King, she was just barely able to keep herself from whimpering in fear.

I know, inside I know, that he won't get to me. That the Rangers will keep me free from him. But I'm still afraid. He was willing to destroy the Power Chamber to get to me, he wants me to get the Zodiac Powers for him. She remembered what her mother had told her, that Mondo had been after her because he'd known who she was, even though she hadn't.

"Every powerful being of evil and of good has known of you since before you were born, my child," Celestria had explained. "Your birth was foreseen at the very dawn of creation. The beings of good, such as Zordon, swore to protect you when you came, while the beings of evil swore to one another they would either destroy you or force you to get the Zodiac Powers for them. Only you can access the dimension where they are kept. If anything ever happens to you, then the Zodiac Powers will be sealed off from the rest of the universe until the end of time."

I swear, he'll never get the Zodiac Powers. I'd die before I let him do that. I might not LIKE being the StarChild, not knowing about my mother and what I was supposed to do all these years, but he's not going to get the Powers. I can do that much at least; make sure they get into the proper hands.

She closed her eyes for a few minutes, adjusting to and accepting what had happened, and preparing herself to deal with what was going to happen. She and the Rangers had a long journey ahead of them, to the StarLands where the Zodiac Powers were kept. She knew Mondo was going to be chasing them, he would never stop until either the Rangers were destroyed, the Powers were his, or he was stopped.

And he will be stopped. Somehow, I can feel it.

* * *

Mondo the Machine King had never been this angry in all his existence. For thousands of years, he and every other being of evil had been waiting for the StarChild to be born, waiting for the keys to the StarLands and the Zodiac Powers to come into existence. The planet Earth had been decided at the dawn of time as the birth place of the StarChild, and the forces of evil had hovered always near it, ready to destroy it if that was what it took to bring the Zodiac Powers under their control.

I really didn't expect to find the StarChild born and almost grown by human standards when I got here. I should've went after her the moment we arrived, but I allowed myself to be distracted by the Power Rangers. Well, that's all over with now. She knows who she is, and what she is. And I will have her in my clutches. The power of the StarChild will be mine.

"Klank!" he bellowed suddenly. "Klank, get in here, you rusted bucket of bolts!"

"Yes, sire!" Klank popped up next to him, servile and helpful as always. Mondo appreciated that in his servants. Complete promptness and obedience.

"Prepare a squadron of Cogs and Blastar. The Rangers are going to be journeying to the StarLands to gain the Zodiac Powers; they must not reach them. Is that understood?" Mondo ordered. Klank nodded sharply.

"And what of the girl, my lord? The StarChild?"

"She is to be taken alive, and brought to me," the Machine King ordered. "If so much as one hair is out of place, you will pay for it with your existence, Klank!"

"Y-yes, sire," Klank nodded and backed away, heading off to the Cog assembly area. I hope we can capture her this time, if we don't, it's the end for me!

* * *

The Rangers all looked up as Marissa entered the main room of the Power Chamber complex. Tommy had made it there just seconds before she had, trying to look as if he'd been in there the whole time, not guarding her. She smiled a little at him, and asked, "You didn't get bored standing out there all by yourself, did you?"

"Well, a lit-hey!" Tommy stared at her; he could've sworn she hadn't noticed him!

Marissa went over to Billy and gave him a gentle, sweet kiss on the lips. She turned to her mother and father, flashing them a smile, then to Zordon. "If we're going to find the Zodiac Powers in the StarLands, we'd better get moving. The faster the Power Rangers Zodiac are born, the better!"

* * *

Chapter Six : The Gate

"How do we get to the StarLands, Zordon?" Jason wanted to know. "Just where are they, anyway?"


Celestria looked the twelve of them over, and nodded to herself. They are indeed the ones. "Mondo will follow you into the StarLands, Rangers, still seeking to take Marissa and the power she can unlock for his own. You must protect her, at any cost, until you have all achieved your powers. Once that has been done, she will be able to protect herself."

Marissa took a deep breath at that; she wanted to defend herself, but still she was afraid of Mondo and what he might try. "I'm not going to let him get me," she whispered, and felt a warm hand taking her own. She looked to see Billy standing next to her, and smiled a little. She'd kissed him only moments before, but that was more of a confirmation of the decision that she'd made than out of true love.

"We're going to keep you safe," Trini said suddenly, glancing over at the two of them. "The last thing we need is Mondo getting even more powerful, and this Zodiac power sounds dangerous.

"The Zodiac Powers are the strongest in all creation," Celestria told them all. "That is why they are sought after by the forces of evil so much. If they ever fell into the power of evil, then all is lost: forever."

Everyone was silent for a moment, then Tommy straightened up. "We're not going to let that happen. Let's get going."

Celestria nodded. "I will transport you to just outside the StarLands. Marissa, you will open the gateway from there, and guide the Rangers to the Zodiac Temple."

"How do I open it?" Marissa wondered. "Mother, I don't know if you've noticed, but I've never done anything like that before! I wouldn't know where to start!"

The most powerful being of good in creation smiled. "You will know what to do, my dear. You'll see. Now, is everyone ready?"

The Rangers and Marissa all stood up, nodding and agreeing in various ways. "Let's do this," Marissa stated. Barely before the words had left her lips, she and the others were no longer in the Power Chamber.


"She has to be, Zordon," Celestria sighed a little. "The Rangers' powers, more than their powers, their lives, and the safety of this entire universe depend upon her."


Celestria nodded, turning to the Viewing Globe which showed the Rangers and her daughter just on the fringes of the StarLands. Be strong, Marissa, and be well.

* * *

Mondo watched, dark thoughts filling his metallic mind as he saw the Rangers and the girl he wanted so badly appearing just outside the StarLands. His warriors had already forced their way into the mystic dimension, and were waiting for them. At the first opportunity, they were going to attack and fulfill the dream of every evil overlord and queen the universe over. The capture of the StarChild.

"The Zodiac Powers will be mine," he growled to himself. "And I will use them to destroy the Rangers, this I swear by everything that is evil in the universe!!"

"Yes, dear," Machina nodded and waved her fan about. "The Machine Empire will rule everything when this plan of yours succeeds!"

Sprocket nodded avidly. "Yeah, dad, things are gonna be great when we're in charge!"

Mondo looked warmly at his mechanical family. "Yes, they are. When the Zodiac Powers are under my control, then everything will fall into place!" he returned his gaze to the StarLands. Soon she and all the power she represents will be mine, forever! Then the Power Rangers will be nothing more than a very bad memory!

* * *

The twelve of them stood in a row where they had teleported. In front of them was a twisted ruin in what looked to be a thick jungle. From the looks of things they were still on Earth, but it was a part of the world none of them had ever gone to. Tommy looked over to Marissa.

"Your mother said you'd know how to open the gateway to the StarLands," he reminded her. "It's your show now."

Marissa nodded a bit reluctantly. "Everyone look around," she said. "There's going to be something like a framework, something that is the physical link of the gateway."

"What would it look like?" Zack wanted to know. Marissa shrugged, how was she supposed to know? They fanned out, searching all over for whatever they might find.

Kim found herself looking with Kat; the two Pink Rangers had been friends before Kim had left for the Pan-Globals, and the young gymnast hoped the friendship would continue. "So, Kat, how have things been?" she asked, trying to get some sort of conversation or small talk going.

"Other than Mondo destroying the Zeo Crystal, not badly," the taller girl smiled a little. "Kim, I've been wondering something."

"What's that?" she's going to ask me about the break-up with Tommy, I know!

"What was it like at the Pan-Globals?" was what came from Kat, instead. Kim was surprised for a moment, then she considered.

She did miss going to the Pan-Globals herself. She's probably very curious. "The training was exhausting," she began. "But it was worth it when the games actually came. All those people, looking at you, cheering for you," she sighed a little. "It was wonderful, exhilarating! But. . .nothing like being a Power Ranger."

"Nothing is like that," Kat replied. "I think it comes from knowing you're doing something to protect the entire world, not just to get a paycheck or a good grade."

Kim nodded her agreement, then her gaze was caught by what seemed to be a doorway of sorts, formed by two white marble columns and a connecting slab between them. She quickly made her way over to them for a quick examination. Stars, comets, and moons were all carved into the pillars, and all twelve symbols of the Zodiac were etched into the connecting slab. "I think this is it," she said, just loud enough for the others to hear her and come over. "This is the gateway."

Marissa looked at it, and nodded briefly. "That's it. Now I have to open it."

"How?" Rocky wondered. Marissa smiled a little, and stepped over to the gateway, placing one hand on each column. She wasn't quite sure how she knew what to do, but she wasn't going to argue with the feelings that stirred within her.

"Like this," she told him, and concentrated. They all stared, awestruck, as a silvery-white aura surrounded her, flowing from her into the pillars she stood before. Her hair lifted in a wind that only affected her, and her eyes glowed with a strange, starlit power.

Billy smiled a little, recognizing a fainter version of the glow she'd produced at her house when the Cogs had attacked. Whatever she is, she's coming into her full power. I think Mondo's going to be in for a very nasty surprise the next time he bothers her. I like that thought.

All further musings were cut off as the space between the pillars began to glow the same color as the aura around Marissa. The Rangers stared as they looked through it; on the other side was a clear, star-filled night sky and grasslands that seemed to go on forever, both meeting at a horizon marked by mountains. Marissa knew what they were looking at, and whispered the name of the place.

"The StarLands."

* * *

The entire Machine Royal Family jerked up suddenly as a ripple of power flowed through the air. Mondo looked directly at the StarLands, his fists clenching in a rage that dwarfed anything and everything he'd felt in his entire evil career. There was one, and only one, event that could have produced such an effect.

"She has opened the portal," he grated. "She has opened the portal to the StarLands, and they are on their way!"

Machina glanced towards the small group of humans moving through the grasslands. "They're going to get the Zodiac Powers, my dear!"

"No, they're not!" Mondo growled. "I will not permit it to happen! I will not!"

"What are you gonna do, Dad?" Sprocket bounced up and down, eagerly awaiting the results of his father's masterful evil mind. "What are you gonna do?"

"You'll see, Sprocket," Mondo sent a message to Klank, who was directing the Cogs as they prepared to ambush the Rangers. "It will be my crowning achievement!"

* * *

In the M-51 Galaxy, Master Vile, Rita Repulsa, and Lord Zedd all looked up at the same moment. "This is impossible!" Zedd hissed. "The gateway to the StarLands has been opened! The StarChild lives!"

"Yes, and King Mondo had better make certain she dies!" Vile's heads nodded agreement. The destruction or control of the StarChild was the one thing every being of evil in the universe agreed upon. "We can't risk the Rangers getting the Zodiac Powers!"

Rita glared at her father and husband. "If the StarLands' gateway has been opened, then the Rangers are already on the way to getting the powers! Do you seriously think that bucket of bolts can handle twelve Rangers? From all reports, he was failing miserably when it was just five of them!"

"You are right, my darling daughter," Vile agreed. "Mondo is going to get his metallic posterior kicked straight out of the solar system if something isn't done about it!"

Zedd couldn't believe what he'd just heard. "What are you suggesting, Vile?" Do NOT let it be what I think it is!

"Yes!" Vile nodded fiercely. "Pack your things, we're heading back to Earth! For an alliance with the Machine Empire!"

Rita fainted.

Chapter Seven: The Attack

A little group of twelve trudged through what seemed to be the endless stretches of the StarLands. Billy and Marissa were the lead, while everyone kept an eye out for anything that could be the Zodiac Temple. Marissa knew her mother had told her she was to be the guide there, but she had no idea where to look for it! She sighed briefly to herself as they walked.

It seemed so easy back at the Power Chamber. Just open the gate, walk straight into the Zodiac Temple, help the Rangers get their powers, and blow Mondo straight to the recycling bin. But this. . .I don't know what this is. And I haven't even been able to talk to Billy since we got here.

She spared a glance then for where 'here' was. This was a place where the sun never shined, it was obvious. That was one reason it was called the "StarLands". The midnight blue sky overhead was filled with more tiny points of light than any of them had ever imagined could exist, most of them set into constellations, only twelve of which she recognized.

And somehow, I'm not surprised about which twelve they are, either. She felt comforted to see the zodiac signs she'd known all her life looking down from this strange sky onto her. She wondered if the Rangers felt the same sense of being 'home' that she did here, and found herself glancing at them all.

Billy was just to her right, eyes scanning the horizon and all sides for the Temple. Jason and Tommy were right behind them, talking in low tones about something. She let her gaze linger on them for a few moments, they were alike in a lot of ways, she knew, the way best friends should be. Both leaders, both strong, both putting everything they had into doing what was right. Jason seemed more of the 'natural'-type of leader to her, though, while Tommy had learned how to do it the hard way.

Just behind them were Kim and Kat, also talking about something. From the way they glanced at Tommy every now and then, they were talking about the long-haired male Ranger. Marissa felt a smile tugging at her lips. I wonder which one of them will end up with him? He doesn't seem to quite fit in with either, really.

The rest of them were clumped together in the back, talking and laughing back and forth, though the laughter was somewhat subdued. They all knew the safety of the entire world depended on their success here.

* * *

"Klank!" Mondo bellowed at the top of his lungs. "Klank, is everything ready for the attack on the Rangers? Klank, where are you?"

The majordomo popped up from a side corridor. "Here, Yer Majesty!" he reported. "Everything is in readiness, sire, we await your word of command!"

Mondo's eyes gleamed. "Go to the StarLands, destroy the Rangers, and bring me the StarChild, alive and unharmed!"

"As you wish, my lord!" Klank nodded.

Both of them looked up suddenly as a beeping sounded from one of the sensors. "What is it, Klank?" Mondo screamed, enraged by the disruption to his evil thoughts and plans. "What is that infernal beeping?"

Klank ran to the computer, checking the alarm, then looked back at his king. "Sire. ..yer not going to believe this, King Mondo!"

"What?" Mondo lumbered over to him. "What is it?"

"Sire," Klank would've taken a deep breath if he were capable of it. "It is two things. Master Vile's SpaceSkull and Rita and Lord Zedd's Serpenterra. They have just entered the Milky Way Galaxy and will arrive in this solar system within twelve hours."

* * *

"I can't believe we're doing this!" Rita grumbled to Zedd. "I can't believe we're going to work with that blasted King Mondo after his troops drove us out of our palace!"

Zedd shrugged. "It's either that, or we have to deal with twelve Rangers on our own after they blow him away! Which would you rather do, Rita?"

She glared at him, then opened the communications channel to her father's SpaceSkull. "Father, do we have to work with Mondo?" she whined. "You know I hate him!"

Master Vile's voice came back, "Yes, we do! Don't whine, Rita, you're far too old for that!"

Zedd laughed. "I've been trying to tell her that for a while now, Vile!" I might have more in common with the old coot than I thought!

Rita glared at her husband and at the communications console her father's rebuke had come from, but before she could do or say anything else, Vile continued, "We've just entered the Milky Way Galaxy, and will have hit Earth's solar system within twelve hours if we continue at this speed. As soon as we're within communications range, I'm going to offer Mondo our alliance."

"What makes you think he'll accept it?" Zedd wondered. "The old rust bucket probably thinks he can handle the Zodiac Powers without any assistance whatsoever!"

And I'm perfectly willing to let him make that mistake! Rita fumed to herself. No one's consulted me on any of this, they just expect me to go along with it! Well, they're going to find out Rita Repulsa does what SHE wants to do! But only when I'm ready for them to find out!

Zedd didn't notice Rita leaving the bridge and going to their personal quarters. She smiled wickedly to herself as she made a private plan of her own. She was going to have a little alliance of her own, one dedicated to giving the power of the Zodiac and the StarChild to one person: herself.

* * *

"Penny for your thoughts, Marissa," Billy touched her hand lightly and smiled as she looked at him. He bit his lip as he saw the fear that filled those sparkling eyes of hers. "What is it?"

She glanced back at the others, then back to him. He thought for a moment she wasn't going to answer him, then a soft whisper reached his ears. "I'm afraid, Billy."

"Of what?" his voice was just as soft as hers.

"Failing," she continued. "I don't know how to do any of this. I don't know how to find the Zodiac Temple or help you guys get the Zodiac Powers. I know my mother said I could do it, but I don't know how to do it!"

They walked in silence for a few moments, then Billy said softly, "I believe in you, Marissa."

She smiled slightly as she looked at him, then gently took his hand. "Thank you, Billy," she replied. "That means a lot to me. More than you know. But I still don't know how to do it."

He thought for a few minutes. "How did you open the gates here?"

"I don't know," she shrugged. "I just did what felt right to do."

He nodded. "So try that. It seems to work. What feels right for you to do right now?"

Marissa closed her eyes and thought, letting the feelings wash over her. She stopped walking, face turned up to the stars, and let her mind roam completely free. Something tugged at her thoughts, begging for attention. She examined it briefly, then opened her eyes to see the Rangers standing in front of her.

"Well?" Trini asked quietly. Marissa smiled a little and turned to her right.

"We go that way," she said. "The Zodiac Temple is less than two miles that way."

Zack raised an eyebrow. "How do you know?"

Marissa looked back at him as she started off. "I'm the StarChild. That's how I know."

The Rangers exchanged glances, then followed her. "Don't argue with the guide if you don't know where you're going," was Jason's only comment, and they all seemed inclined to agree. It wasn't as if they had much choice, either.

* * *

"I tell you, Machina, this is going to be the greatest scheme I've ever come up with!" Mondo gloated to his wife. "The Rangers won't be able to stand up against the monsters that I'm building!"

Machina glanced into the monster creation area and waved her fan about. "Indeed, dear," she agreed. "You will be victorious, once the power of the StarChild is added to our mighty Machine Empire!"

Sprocket watched them both gloating; neither of them saw him slip out of the room and into the communications area of the Skybase. "I'll show them!" he muttered to himself. "I can help catch the StarChild! Even if I have to call him!"

The Machine Prince pressed a few buttons and sent out the message to a certain planet in a distant galaxy. A few moments later, he got the reply he was looking for. "What do you want, you infuriating little pip-squeak?" Gasket, firstbuilt son of Mondo and Machina, hissed through the communications panel. "Why are you calling me?"

"You can't tell me you missed the opening of the gates to the StarLands!" Sprocket hadn't thought his brother was that stupid! "Dad's all in a fuss over the coming of the StarChild!"

A female voice sounded. "The StarChild has come? Oh, Gasket, we simply must go and help your father, there's no way he can win against the power of the Zodiac Rangers if they've been empowered!"

"No, Archerina," Gasket shushed his wife. "If Father perishes in battle, then I become King of the Machine Empire, taking my rightful place on the throne!"

Sprocket interrupted, "Gasket, if Dad goes boom, then what makes you think those Rangers won't turn you into paper clips just as easily?"

"Hah!" Gasket laughed. "Those soft human weaklings couldn't defeat me, not on my worst day!"

"Of course they couldn't!" Archerina declared. "No one can defeat my Gasket!"

Sprocket tried to talk to his brother again, but Gasket wasn't listening. "Sprocket, Archerina and I are taking no part in this fight until Father is dust! Do not contact me again, either!" before the younger robot could say or do anything else, Gasket cut the communications line. Sprocket stared at it for a moment, then did his level best to shrug.

"I tried," he said to himself as he trudged back to his parents. "Not my fault he's an oil-headed idiot!"

* * *

"Are you ready, Master Vile?" Zedd was almost a touch respectful to his father-in-law as they prepared to send their alliance offer to the Machine King.

"I am," Vile chuckled a little to himself. What did petty quarrels matter when the power of the StarChild was to be had from a simple alliance? He was certain Mondo would see the wisdom in this. He might be a cold-hearted machine, but that didn't mean he was stupid!

Zedd looked around the bridge of the SpaceSkull; he'd teleported there to add his voice to the alliance. "Where's that screeching daughter of yours?"

The old evil wizard shrugged. "Who knows, she's probably sulking somewhere! She doesn't see the advantages in this alliance to the cause of evil!"

"Oh, she'll turn up whenever she's ready!" Zedd declared. Vile nodded his heads, then turned to the communications console.

"This is Master Vile, overlord of the M-51 Galaxy, and Lord Zedd of the Zakrin Empire, offering alliance and peace to Mondo, King of the Machine Empire," he began. Like any decent overlord, he wasn't making this presentation in person. His words were being recorded and would be sent via Tenga courier to the Machine Skybase. "With the recent emergence of the StarChild, and the coming of the Zodiac Powers, it is time to put aside our differences and work together to destroy everything that is good and pure in the universe! We await your response, but with you or without you, we are coming to destroy the Earth and the Power Rangers!"

Zedd picked up the gem on which everything had been stored and threw it to a Tenga. "Take this to King Mondo," he ordered. "And return with his reply as soon as he makes it! If you screw up. . .," he issued a chilling chuckle. "It's Tenga wings for dinner!"

The Tenga almost visibly gulped, then vanished, teleporting to the Skybase. Vile laughed. "You're good at threats, Zedd!" he complimented his son-in-law. "Now we just have to wait until Mondo gets the message, and decides to join us!"

Zedd would have been frowning if his face were capable of it. "What if he doesn't?"

Vile's faces all smiled in hideous harmony. "Then I turn him and his whole Skybase into a floating puddle of liquid metal, and run the whole show myself!"

* * *

"Tommy?" the voice was Kim's, but when the young man turned around, he saw both her and Kat standing there, both looking a trifle nervous. Oh, man, what's going on? he wondered. Kim and I really need to talk, I guess Kat and I do too. I. . .

"We need to talk," Kat said softly. "All of us."

Tommy glanced around, it was almost just the three of them. The other nine were scattered about a bit, all of them looking for the Zodiac Temple. He sighed. "We do," he nodded. "Who wants to go first?"

Both former Pink Rangers looked at each other, then Kim nodded. "I will," she decided. "First, I want to apologize for that letter, Tommy. It was the very worst way I could've handled that situation. I should've flown back here and told you a few things in person."

Tommy felt his heart dropping into the vicinity of his shoes. "Like what?" he managed to ask, not sure how he spoke without choking or crying. He was surprised when Kim reached out to touch his cheek gently.

"Like how I'll always love you as my friend," she told him. "And that there was no other guy in Florida. I made him up."

His eyes widened. "What?" he stared in disbelief. "Why?"

She sighed, and Kat placed a hand on her shoulder. Kim seemed to take strength from that. "Because I thought you'd take the idea of me being with someone else better than you could me just flat out breaking up with you because I don't love you. . .in that way. I thought I did, I really thought I did. I wanted to love you like that, more than I wanted anything. But when I got to Florida, I realized that I don't love you. That what I thought was love was friendship."

A thousand emotions tore through Tommy in that moment. He went from anger to grief to love to sorrow to understanding all inside of a second. He opened and shut his mouth several times before realizing he wasn't going to be able to say anything coherent for a while to come. Kim continued. "I want you to pretend for a moment that letter didn't come. And this is what I should've said to your face instead."

She took a deep breath. "Tommy Oliver, you are a good friend, the best friend I've ever had in my life. There is nothing more I wanted for the last few years than to believe we would be together forever. But as soon as I got away from Angel Grove, from seeing you on a daily basis, as soon as I was able to think without having you there to distract me, I realized that we aren't meant for each other. Maybe there's no such thing as two people who are like that, but I know that we aren't. I will always love you, as my brother and friend, but I can't date you. Find someone else, someone who loves you the way that I can't. I'm sorry, Tommy."

Tears shone in Kim's eyes as she finished, and in Tommy's too. She reached over gently and wiped them out of his eyes. "We'll always be friends, Kim," he whispered, as he pulled her into a hug suddenly. "But I did some thinking too. And you're right. We're not meant for each other. I was hurt more by the fact you broke up with me in a letter than the actual breaking up," he looked over at Kat, dreading what was going to come next. He'd known Kat had liked him from the first moment they'd met, and didn't want to hurt her. They'd dated a few times since Kim's letter, and she'd helped him deal with that so much. How could he do this to her? I have to, he told himself. I can't and won't live a lie.

"Tommy," Kat suddenly spoke up. He shook his head, quieting her so fast it was almost comical. He smiled briefly at Kim, then stepped over to the other pink-wearing girl.

"Kat, I know we've dated, but to be brutally honest, I was trying to replace Kim. It was wrong of me, and I'm sorry. I don't know how you feel about me, but you're just a friend," it wasn't exactly the most elegant way to say it, but it was true, and it had to be said. He hadn't looked at her the whole time he'd been speaking, he'd been focused on a point just past her left shoulder, but felt her delicate hand forcing his head to look at her.

"That's how I feel about you," she told him gently. "That's what I wanted to tell you. It was fun dating, and I had a good time. But that's all there is to it, just having fun. No love, not romantic love. Just friends."

For one moment, the three of them stood there, smiling at each other. The specter of breakups and misunderstandings had been swept away by love and acceptance and honesty. Three friends, three good friends, stood together in the light of the StarLands, and were renewed.

* * *

"Have my troops caught up with the humans yet, Klank?" Mondo lurched into his throne room, glaring around in his usual baleful fashion. Klank just barely managed to stop himself from shrinking away.

"Not yet, sire," he reported. "But 'twill be any moment now, I know!"

Whatever Mondo might have said next was interrupted as a black-feathered bird appeared in the throne room. "A Tenga!" Machina was startled. "What's it doing here?"

"A message from Master Vile and Lord Zedd!" the Tenga squawked quickly as Cogs surrounded it. "To His Majesty, King Mondo!"

Mondo glared at the creature. "What is it?" he demanded. "What do they want now, and why are they coming into my galaxy?"

The Tenga tossed a gem quickly to the Machine King. "What they wish is there!" he told them. "I am to wait for your reply!"

Mondo held the gem in his metallic grip, then activated it. He and his family stared in disbelief at the offer Zedd and Vile were making, this was completely unprecedented in the affairs of all the evil monarchs in the universe! Machina came over to him. "Darling, this could be a trick! They would have us lower our defenses, then sweep in and attempt to destroy us!"

"Yeah, pop!" Sprocket agreed. "Don't pay any attention to them!"

Mondo ignored both his wife and son as he thought through the offer. They could be useful. And twelve Rangers are going to be trouble, twice the trouble and more that we had with five! And once we've swept the Rangers out of the way, I can have my Cogs tear them both to little pieces! Yes, I do believe I will accept this alliance!

The Tenga was watching him nervously, and Mondo did the very best he could to smile. "Tell Master Vile and Lord Zedd that I accept their alliance offer, and await their presence on my Skybase as soon as possible. Also, I have sent a squadron of my best Cogs into the StarLands to ambush the Rangers. In token of this new partnership, have them send a squad of Tengas in there as well. The Rangers will stand no chance against us all!"

Machina and Sprocket stared in shock as the Tenga saluted and vanished. "Dear, are you sure of this?" the Machine Queen wondered.

"Of course I'm sure!" Mondo hefted his body around, staring at the Earth. "I always know what I'm doing, Machina, remember that! As soon as we've defeated the Rangers, Vile, Rita, and Zedd will all be destroyed, and the Machine Empire will rule supreme!"

* * *

Prince Gasket of the Machine Empire looked at the ship sliding through deep space, and smiled as much as his metallic features could manage. "And yet another ship will deliver it's riches to me, the supreme master of villiany!" he declared to his wife. Archerina nodded eagerly, her pink eyes flaring with greed..

"No one dares to interfere with you, my darling Gasket!" she cooed. "You are the greatest evil in the universe!"

"Hey, you!" the voice crackled over the communications system. "What do you think you're doing, putting your greedy eyes on that ship! It's mine! Back off, go find your own ship to plunder!"

Gasket frowned, then hit the scanners. Floating a few miles away from their vessel was another ship, marked with the intergalactic symbol for piracy. "Who are you, stranger?" he screamed into the microphone.

"Divatox, Queen Pirate of the Universe!" came the snappy reply. "The most feared plunderer and pillager that has ever been known! Who are you?"

The Machine Prince drew himself up to his full height and glared out the viewscreen to the ship outside. He could almost see Divatox doing the same thing. "I am Gasket, Prince and heir to the Machine Empire! Stand aside, you lowly pirate!"

"Gasket?" Divatox sounded interested in something! "As in, the son of King Mondo? Who's currently involved in conquering the Earth, or trying to, anyway?"

"What do you know about that?" Gasket wondered. Divatox laughed.

"I know quite a lot, little prince, and I also know that the Power Rangers have fought him since he got there, and that they're currently in the StarLands searching for the Zodiac Powers. Gasket, I think we need to talk."

Archerina stepped up. "Talk about what? You'd better keep your filthy pirate human hands off my husband!"

"Oh, relax, Archerina!" both robots were surprised to hear the pirate queen knew Archerina's name. "Robots aren't my type. I'm considering a business proposition, not matrimony! Come on over to my ship, both of you. We have things to discuss. Very important things that could very well lead to us all getting what we want!"

Gasket liked this pirate already!

* * *

"How much farther do we have to go?" Trini asked. "It feels like we've been walking for hours!"

Billy glanced at his watch, then shrugged. It apparently wasn't working here. "I haven't any idea. Marissa?"

The StarChild smiled briefly. "We're about ten minutes from the Temple. It won't be long now before you guys have your powers again."

Jason stretched, feeling the wear on his muscles. "How can you be sure? I mean, you've never been here before, have you?"

"No, I haven't," Marissa shook her head. "But I can feel this place, it's a part of me. It's nothing that can be explained it just----what are those?" her eyes widened as she saw something behind them. As one, the eleven others turned to see. . .

"Tengas?!" Adam couldn't believe his eyes. "What are Tengas doing here?"

"Oh, great, they're not the only things that are in the way!" Kat growled deep and low. "Look, Cogs!"

Billy quickly placed himself in between Marissa and the feathered and metallic warriors coming towards them. "Cogs and Tengas both. You know what that means, guys!"

Tommy nodded slowly. None of them wanted it to be true, though. Their enemies had joined forces. He shook his head briefly, they could worry over that later. For now, they had fighting to do! The battle began almost at once, as Tengas and Cogs both lurched to the attack.

It was quickly obvious even to Marissa that the fight wasn't going well, and she didn't know that much about battle. Billy had told her about some of the battles he'd fought in, when he was a full Ranger, and from his descriptions, things were not going in the Rangers' favor this time. Half a dozen Cogs had Trini, Jason, and Kim cornered against a grove of trees, while Tommy had his hands full with almost ten Tengas. Aisha and Tanya were back to back, dealing with both types of fighters, while a few feet away, Rocky, Adam, and Kat were making a stand against a squad of Cogs.

Marissa glanced around, looking for the most important person to her, Billy. She finally found him just a short distance from her, struggling in the grip of three Cogs. Her heart sank at the sight, and she started over towards him, every instinct saying to help him! "Marissa!" Billy shouted at her. "Get back, get away from here! We can't let them take you!"

Billy's shout, meant to help, did the exact opposite. It brought the attention of the Cogs and Tengas to Marissa. She groaned under her breath as they started towards her. This is not good. . .this is not good at all! It was even worse when she found herself surrounded.

"King Mon-do will re-ward us well!" one Cog uttered as it lunged for Marissa. She jumped back, just barely avoiding a Tenga as she did so, and growled, "In your dreams, toaster-face!"

"Marissa!" she heard her name, it was Billy calling out to her as a Cog grabbed her from behind. "Marissa, look out!"

Hold it! Marissa's eyes narrowed as she struggled with the metallic creature holding her. I handled these things in my room, and I can certainly handle them here!

The fight stopped. It just flat out stopped as Marissa began to glow with a pure, raw, angry white light. "I have had it!" they heard her voice. "Leave this place alone, leave my friends alone, but most of all leave me alone!" The light shrank, coalescing into twin balls of fire around Marissa's hands. She pointed both glowing hands at the Cogs and Tengas, who had let her go and gathered into a cowering group at the light coming from her. "Tell your masters that the StarChild says hello!" was the last thing she said as she blasted them with elemental fire and light. A moment later, they were gone.

The Rangers stared at where their enemies had been, then at Marissa. Zack asked, voice quivering, "What did you do to them?" he managed to ask.

Marissa was smiling, and stood up a little straighter than she had before as the light faded away entirely. "I sent them out of the StarLands."

"Next question," Rocky wondered. "How did you do it?"

She shrugged. "I'm the StarChild," she smiled. "I can do a lot of things. Come on, the temple isn't that far, and if those things are in the StarLands, then we don't have much time."

"What are you talking about?" Billy wondered. "You banished them, right?"

She nodded. "But they can come back. I just got rid of them for now. Let's get to the temple, and get you guys your powers. That way when they show up again, you can kick some serious metallic and feathered rear end!"

* * *

"What?" Vile stared at the viewscreen that displayed the battle scene in the StarLands. "I don't believe this, that child defeated the Tengas and the Cogs?"

"She's not just a child, Vile!" Mondo reminded him. Vile and Zedd stood in the Skybase, watching what was going on. "She's the StarChild, remember? We've never known just what she'd be capable of, but I do know that I want her power!"

Zedd shrugged. "We all do, that's why we're here, remember?"

"Well, I'm going to have that power turned to my use!" Vile growled. "Ours!" he corrected himself when Mondo turned a glare on him. "Ours, of course, my ally!"

Mondo nodded. "And don't you forget that, either!" he declared. "Ever!"

Rita entered the Skybase unnoticed, and stared at the console where the battle replayed itself. She smiled slightly, things were already working out the way she wanted them to, and she didn't have to do a single thing to affect them! She ignored her husband and father, as well as the Machine King, as they argued back and forth over which of them was going to control the StarChild once they had captured her. She shook her head slightly to herself. The fools. The ultimate power in the universe, and they're going to screw everything up with their bumbling! All they can think about is how to capture her before the Rangers get the Zodiac Powers! What FOOLS! She has eleven of the best fighters this planet has to offer, and they expect to be able to catch her.

"Rita!" she almost jumped when her father called her name, and turned to him. "Where have you been, girl, we've already sent out a first wave of Tengas, and failed, thanks to you!"

Thanks to me? I wasn't even here! Rita growled softly under her breath, and forced herself not to scream at the top of her lungs. It had never gotten her anywhere, despite being a great tension reliever. "Well, I'm here now!" she snapped back. "Let's get down to business, and capture that StarChild!"

* * *

"So you're Divatox," Gasket took a long look at the pirate queen seated in her throne on the bridge of her Subcraft. "You don't look like a fearsome pirate!"

The purple-haired masked pirate queen raised an eyebrow. "And you don't look like much different than a frying pan with legs. Now that we've got the compliments out of the way, let's get down to business. I've been considering dropping by Earth for a few years now, I hear it's got some incredible jewels and gold there. The only thing in my way is the Power Rangers. Now they're currently powerless, and are attempting to fix that situation."

"You haven't said anything I didn't already know," Gasket reminded her. "You said something about a business proposition?"

She nodded and gestured towards one of her crew-members, a large, ungainly creature with a face hidden by a porthole. "Porto," she said. "Tell the prince what I have in mind!"

"Yes, my queen!" Porto bowed, then turned to Gasket. "Queen Divatox offers you the use of her Piranatrons, which are much stronger than your Cogs, and a formal alliance with her, with the end result of the destruction of the Power Rangers, and the destruction of the StarChild and all the power that she represents."

Gasket smiled to himself, more a lightening of his glowing eyes than anything else. "And just how do you propose to do that when she has all that power, and is going to be getting more soon?"

Divatox laughed coldly. "That, my dear prince, is my little secret. Are you in or not?"

Gasket and Archerina exchanged glances, then both nodded, slowly and deliberately. "We're in," the prince said.

Chapter Eight: The Temple

"I thought you said we were ten minutes away from the Temple!" Trini asked delicately, glancing at Marissa. The young girl shrugged a little.

"We are," she replied. "We'll be able to see it when we get to that rise over there," she gestured to a small hill they were coming up on. "Of course, we're going to have to pass through a few things to get there?"

Tommy raised an eyebrow. "What sort of things?" he wondered.

The StarChild shivered. "You don't want to know," she said softly. "Believe me, Tommy, you don't want to know, and you'll find out soon enough, anyway."

She looked up at a touch on her arm, and her eyes lightened to see Billy there. "Whatever it is," he glanced from her to the others. "We've got to get through it. Earth is in incredible danger at the moment, and we're the only hope it has."

Somehow, Marissa sensed he meant her too in that, and shook a little at the thought of being responsible for the entire planet. Then again, if I'm half as powerful as I seem to be, I don't think I've got much to worry about. I wonder what I can do, what I can REALLY do when I put my mind to it. I've got the feeling it's a whole lot more than just blast light out of my hands and find the Zodiac Temple.

"I wonder what she's thinking about?" Rocky murmured to Kat as they kept on walking through the StarLands. His eyes were on Marissa. She was the ultimate enigma to the Rangers, in many ways. She was the only hope they had of getting powers again, but they didn't know her. And there was no sense of instinctive trust, as there had been with Zordon and Ninjor when they'd gotten their other powers.

Kat shook her head a little. "I don't know," she told him. "I'd like to talk with her for a while," she mused. "Get to know her."

"Yeah," the former Blue Zeo nodded. "I kind of like knowing who I'm trying to save the world with!"

Jason, just behind them both, cleared his throat. "Why don't we save the world, then get to know her?" he suggested lightly. "We all need to talk, then, I think. But first things first."

Both Rocky and Kat nodded. "Good idea," Kat smiled at him. "Besides, we should be back on Earth soon enough. We're almost at the Temple!"

A call from the head of the group brought all their attention to Marissa and Billy. The genius was standing on the top of the hill, Marissa next to him, and both were looking down the other side. The others quickly joined him, drawn by his call and by the look in his eyes.

Deep in the valley there stood a many-pillared building, carved with symbols they couldn't see very well from where they stood. Standing before it were twelve statues, six to each side in two neat rows, depicting the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

"The Zodiac Temple," Adam breathed. A faint light caught their eyes suddenly, and Marissa stepped ahead of them a little.

"I'm home," the softly glowing StarChild whispered. "I'm home."

* * *

Since the dawn of time, the twelve powers had waited in the StarLands. Slowly, each had drifted into a deep slumber, waiting and dreaming for the day when their ancient destinies would be fulfilled, and they would be brought together with those who would be the Zodiac Rangers.

All had slept. All but one. The Spirit of the White Lion roamed ceaselessly throughout their home, acting as guardian and longing for the day when the long wait would be over.

"Lion," the voice was long unheard, but one the White Lion knew well. His head would have jerked up in shock, if he had been flesh, and he would have dropped to his knees, if he had possessed them at the sound of that voice.

Lacking these, he simply replied, in profoundest respect, "My Lady Celestria?"

"The time has come," he heard at last the four words he had yearned for since his beginning. "The StarChild, my daughter, has come into the knowledge of her power, and is even now in the StarLands, seeking out the Zodiac Temple."

White Lion felt an actual shiver at that. She was here at least! After so long! The wait was over! "My Lady," he spoke, unable to keep the joy from his mental voice, "Can it be true, after all this time? I have waited so long. . ."

"Yes," Celestria nodded. "She came with the others, to awaken the Zodiac Powers and rise up in the defense of the world."

The ancient spirit sighed in purest love. "I thank you for bringing me this news, my Lady. You have brought this ancient spirit hope and purpose again."

A silvery laugh. "You've always had both, my old friend. You were simply unaware of them. They will soon be at the temple. Rest, old friend, and await the time of the Bonding."

As the awareness of the most powerful being of good faded, White Lion relaxed, and allowed his essence to return to the Zodiac Temple. He could see them coming, and a sense of joy filled him at the sight of the woman in the lead.

"Marissa," he whispered the name that had been a part of him, from the very moment he had been brought into existence. "Welcome home."

* * *

"Things aren't going well!" Rita listened to her father, husband, and Mondo berate each other for how badly the attack on the Rangers and the StarChild had gone. "That's the understatement of the century, you crown-wearing toaster!"

"Don't you dare insult my Mondo like that!" Machina growled, glaring at the skinless overlord.

Zedd laughed. "How should I insult him, then?" he retorted. Rita stifled a chuckle of her own.

My plans are proceeding perfectly. In time, they're ALL going to bow to me, and everything I've been working for ever since I married Zedd will be MINE! Forever!

"Rita!" she looked up. "Get over here and plot with us!"

Oh, great, just what I always wanted, to plot with the three greatest idiots of all time. Rather than listen to Zedd bellow constantly at her, though, she rustled over, listening to what they had in mind.

"I say we just flood the entire StarLands with Tengas and Cogs and just overrun those blasted Rangers!" Mondo was saying. "We can take them if there's enough of them!"

"Forget the Tengas and Cogs!" Vile shook his head. "Monsters are the thing! I can have a full blown army in there in under ten minutes!"

Zedd laughed. "And have the StarChild blow them away in ten seconds? What are you, stupid? No, don't answer that!"

Rita sighed to herself, and shook her head. "Gentlemen," and I use the term very loosely, "The key to the Rangers is the StarChild herself. Take her out, and the Rangers can wander the StarLands for eternity without getting their new powers."

"And just how do you propose to do this, Rita?" Vile stared at his daughter, wondering if she'd actually somehow come up with an idea.

The evil sorceress laughed softly to herself as she began to explain her plan. These fools were playing right into her hands.

* * *

"Now that we're allies," Gasket looked at the pirate queen, who still lounged in her throne, eyes glinting, "How do we get the power of the StarChild for ourselves?"

Divatox filed her nails casually, then glanced casually to the communications device in one corner. "It's going to be delivered to us," she said silkily. "In a very short amount of time, actually."

Archerina did her best to frown. "Who is going to deliver it to you?"

"Now, that is something you don't need to know," Divatox shook her head. She licked her lips a little, then shot her tongue out and snagged a fly that was buzzing by. Once dinner was done with, she laughed. "You'll just be surprised when she gets here, that's all."

Porto shuffled up to his queen with a sheaf of papers in his hand. Divatox took a look through them, then nodded briefly. Gasket whispered, "I don't trust this human, my love!"

Archerina shook her head. "Neither do I, dearest. We must keep an eye on her!"

"I would rather keep one on you, but we must do what we must to conquer!" Gasket nodded. "And conquer we shall!"

As the married machines gloated, Divatox smiled a little. Oh, if they only knew what I had planned. Dear sisters, we shall go far together. Far indeed. And without any of those who seek to command us!

* * *

"The Zodiac Temple," the Rangers all breathed. The light aura surrounding Marissa had faded, but it had struck home in their minds.

Billy took a deep breath. "We're almost there," he whispered. "Marissa, do you know what we do next? This is your territory, not ours."

The StarChild closed her eyes for a moment, seeking guidance from the knowledge and power within her. "We have to go down there. We'll know what to do from there."

Tommy nodded. "Let's do it," he started down the hill, followed by the others. Marissa quietly let them all go ahead of her, until only Rocky was behind her.

"Marissa?" she looked to see him there, and sighed. She knew what was going to come next. "You shouldn't be in the back like this. If Mondo or Zedd or whoever tries something, then you're going to be helpless."

Her eyes flashed a little. "I'm the StarChild, Rocky," she reminded him. "I'm the least helpless person in this group," her hands glowed for a moment. "Just let me be."

Rocky bit back a quick retort and walked on past her. He'd keep an eye on her. She was necessary to the group, even as odd as she was. She was the most necessary person of them all.

Marissa ignored the feeling of being watched as much as she could. She knew all the others were glancing back every now and then to check on her, and she could plainly see Billy falling back to walk with her. She sighed a little. They're treating me like I'm made out of glass or something. I've got more power than any of them right now, and I don't need their constant watching. I just want to have some time to myself!

"Marissa?" she looked up again, and this time Billy was right next to her. Before he could open his mouth, she shook her head harshly. "What is it?" he managed to get out.

"Just leave me alone," she snarled. "I want some time by myself, without all you guys around me! You've been hovering like a pack of overprotective mother hens ever since we got here! I want some space!"

Billy stared at her for a moment, then just turned and walked back up to the others. Marissa took a long breath. They were quite literally just a few dozen feet from the Zodiac Temple, and only keeping her eyes on that, and on her mission, kept her calm.

This is almost over with. Then maybe I can get to spend some time with Mom and Dad, and figure out just what I really want to do with myself. Once I've fulfilled this 'destiny' of mine and brought the Rangers their powers, then I'm going to RETIRE!

* * *

Two pairs of eyes watched from the shadows, and a soft chuckle sounded. "Be alone, StarChild. For in solitude you might find peace. . .but you shall also find me. And in that, you shall find that which you most fear."

An evil laugh rippled through the air. "You shall find. . .yourself."

Chapter Nine: The Terror

Rita laid out the details of her plan neatly. "The beauty of it is that we don't have to actually do anything except grab her. I know the Rangers, and they're going to be protecting that girl far more than they're going to be protecting themselves. No one can stand being hovered over like that for long, so she'll want some time to herself, she might even demand that alone time before giving them their powers!"

"And while she's alone, we grab her!" Zedd finished. He was very proud of her; never before had he seen such a plan coming from her. "Perfect, Rita!"

Mondo and Machina exchanged startled glances; never before had they seen a plan come from Rita that would actually work. "But who to capture her? And if she has the power to protect herself that we've seen, can it even be done?"

Rita smiled balefully, then held a hand out flat. In a flash of light, a bottle appeared there. "This will knock her out and keep her out until we have her here. That done, it will be child's play to find a way to control her." One of the more annoying side effects of her being the StarChild was that normal controlling spells, such as had been used on Tommy or Kat, would have no effect on Marissa. It would take research in order to bend her to their will. None of the forces of evil had any doubts that they would find a way to do just that, however.

With an elaborate gesture, Rita made the bottle vanish, then continued. "As for who will do it: we'll send Cogs and Tengas to keep her attention, and to keep the Rangers occupied. While they're busy and she's not paying strict attention to what's going on around her, I'll go there myself and capture her. Simple as that, we've won!"

Vile did something he hadn't done to his daughter in years. He reached out and hugged her with pride. "My dearest evil daughter, you have done well! I'm so very proud of you! This plan is at least as nasty as something that I would've come up with! We are going to win!"

Rita wiggled away from her father, then laughed. "Indeed we are!" Too bad the WE isn't going to be US! My sisters and I have worked too hard for this! WE are going to triumph!

* * *

HAS THERE BEEN ANY WORD FROM THE RANGERS, ALPHA? Zordon asked. The little droid shook his head; since they had all teleported near the gateway of the StarLands there had been nothing from the Rangers.

Celestria shimmered into being on top of a console and sighed. "I'm afraid my daughter is not taking very well to being the StarChild."


The most powerful being of good in the universe stretched out, hovering easily in midair. "And your Rangers aren't helping her much, really. None of them quite understand just how confusing things have been for her lately, and they're all focused on getting their powers. I believe she feels somewhat. . .unappreciated."

"But they need her! Of course they appreciate her!" Alpha objected. He, Zordon, and Celestria were the only ones in the Power Chamber at the moment, David Browder had returned home to await results there.

Celestria shook her head. "They appreciate what she can do for them. But they do not appreciate her. And she can sense the difference. In time, they will come to know and care for her as a friend and companion. But I am not so certain that they have the time. Should the combined forces of Rita, Zedd, Vile, Mondo, and Machina seize Marissa before she comes into her full power and releases the Zodiac Powers to the Rangers then we have all lost."


Celestria only sighed, bidding them farewell and dissolving into ether. There was still so much hanging in the balance.

* * *

"What's going on here?" Jason's voice came clear and full of surprise as shadows suddenly enveloped the questers. It had quite literally come out of nowhere; one second they'd been walking towards the Zodiac temple only a few feet away, the next they were enshrouded in darkness. "Marissa?"

The StarChild fought back a growl of anger; why should she be the one looked to for the answers? "I told you we were going to have to face things you'd rather not know about! This is one of them, and it's only the first! It's a test."

"What about you?" Tommy's voice came from another direction. "Don't you get tested?"

This time she did growl. "I'd think being with a pack of insensitive power-oriented people like you would be more than enough of a test for anyone! Let's make it through here, so I can go back to where I belong," far away from anything to do with Power Rangers or saving the world or anything like this!!

As the twelve of them blundered through the darkness, trying to locate each other vainly, Billy found himself wondering about Marissa. She had changed somewhat from the sweet girl he'd met earlier that day in the park. She knew herself better now, but had not had the time to come to terms with that knowledge. A few hours of contemplation couldn't possibly be long enough to deal with the fact that you were half-human, the daughter of the most powerful being of good in the universe, and responsible for restoring Power to the Power Rangers. She needed a good long time to consider this, to get to know her mother, and to know herself.

Too bad she won't get that time until this is all ended, he sighed. Something brushed against his hand, and at the same moment, a faint light sparked. "Who's there?" he asked; it had felt like flesh. "Who's that?"

"It's me," Adam's voice came. "What was that light?"

Billy shook his head, reaching back to where Adam's hand and his had touched. As their palms joined, a pale light shone from the connection. "Oh, weird," he whispered. "Come on, everyone come over here!"

No sounds could be heard here save their voices as the others began to gather. "Kim," Kat said, reaching out to her friend. "Let's see if that works for us."

As the two former Pink Rangers joined hands, another pale light burst into being. "It's the light of friendship," Jason realized. "I know it sounds kind of corny, but when we touch, and we're friends, it lights up."

He proved his words by grasping Tommy's hand as the other boy came near him. Slowly they began to grope for hands, and as each touched another, the darkness faded away. When Adam and Tanya touched, the light was practically blinding, and when Billy's other hand seized Marissa's, the shadows were gone completely.

"Okay, so that was one test," Zack stated. "Now what?"

Once again, all eyes were on Marissa. It was a feeling she was beginning to loathe.

* * *

Divatox glanced around the bridge; Gasket and Archerina had left to take care of personal matters on board their own ship, she was left alone except for her crew. A single curt order was all that lay between her and total privacy, and she gave that with ease.

As the last of them hurried out, she leaned back in her throne and waved a hand, creating two screens of light. In one was reflected her oldest sister, in the other her youngest. "Greetings, sisters!" she nodded to them. "And how is it with you and all your evil plans?"

Her eldest sister laughed coldly. "Everything's going just fine here! What about you?" her gaze was on their youngest one.

"My troops and I are already moving into place," she reported. "We should be at your location, Divatox, in approximately seventy-two standard hours."

The pirate laughed. "Excellent! And no one suspects that we are coming together?"

The oldest shook her head. "Not a clue! Then again, I'm not exactly trying to fool the brightest people in the universe!"

"True, true!" the youngest nodded. "How is the Rangers' quest going? Does anyone know?"

The oldest shrugged. "By the time the two of you get here, the StarChild will be our captive, and together we can find a way to twist her to the cause of evil without much effort."

Divatox grinned, examining her long nails with great attention to detail. "Excellent. Until we meet once more in person, dear sisters."

The three of them bid each other farewell, then Divatox dismissed the two screens. She laughed to herself; reuniting with her sisters had been the greatest plan she'd ever had! Gasket and Archerina would serve as excellent cannon fodder, not to mention it would keep at least one group of evil beings under careful watch until it was time for them to be disposed of. Everything was proceeding just perfectly.

* * *

"Well?" Kat asked; all eyes were still on the StarChild as they stood so close to the Zodiac Temple. "Is that the only test, or do we have to deal with more of them?"

"I don't know!" Marissa groaned. "I have no idea! I found this place, what more do you want?"

Jason stepped up. "You're supposed to give us those powers!" his voice didn't sound any different than normal to the others, but to Marissa, it represented the very last straw.

"That does it!" the StarChild was glowing again, but not in joy or defense, in pure and unmatched raw anger. "Forget it! This isn't my fight, it never has been, and I'm out of here! Find your own way to get these powers, I'm gone!"

And before they could stop her, she had rushed away and out of sight at top speed. She wanted one thing and one thing only: to be away from the Rangers and all they represented: the ending of the peaceful, calm, and ordered world she had known.

Got to find a place to stay, a way to get home, she thought over and over. A place to hide, a place to stay safe. Where no one can find me, I hope! Especially not the Rangers or Mondo or whoever sent those bird-things!

She'd been running for what might have been ten minutes or longer, when she finally stopped and looked around. The constellations and stars overhead hadn't changed, but seemed to be shining with a slightly harsher light now. She practically glared at them. "No one asked your opinion!" she hissed. "I'm not the StarChild anymore! I'm just Marissa Browder, just a human!"

The words were hollow, though. She was the StarChild, and always had been, whether she'd known it or not. She crumpled up against a tree and sobbed, scared out of her mind in more ways than one.

I'm not who I knew. I'm nothing like I thought I was. I can blast things and open up gateways and who knows what else! The person I spent seventeen years of my life becoming and knowing doesn't even exist anymore! How could this happen? Why me!?

Her silent plea became verbal as she stared up at the stars gleaming above her. "Why me!?!"

* * *

"How could all of you!?" Billy glared to his fellow former Rangers, feeling the irresistable urge to strangle each and every one of them individiually. "Marissa's not a Power Ranger, remember? She has no idea of what we're fighting for, she never has! All she ever wanted was to help, but when you started demanding that she know everything and tell you it, she freaked! Who wouldn't?!"

The ten others stared at him, then at each other, but Billy wasn't finished yet. "I really like Marissa, and I think she was starting to like me when all this started interfering in our lives! Don't you people even think before you say anything anymore!? Or are you so far removed from normal humans that you don't remember what it's like to be afraid anymore?"

Jason almost opened his mouth, when he realized Billy was right. He, Zack, and Trini had went immediately to Switzerland once their time as Rangers was over; Kim had went to Florida, and Aisha to Africa. None of them had been in the line of fire, powerless, like Billy had. Whenever they'd been in Angel Grove, since the attacks had started, they'd been in the battle, protected by the Power. They had forgotten what it was to just be a human.

And with that forgetting had come a slight removal from the normal problems of humanity. In some cases, that was good, but in this one, it could have cost them everything.

Billy glared at them. "Let's just hope we can find her," he didn't want to give them any chances to speak. "Before someone else does."

As they started out, the statues behind them glowed faintly for a brief moment. The StarChild has fled? the Scorpion spoke quietly.

Those with her have forgotten what it is to fear, the Crab observed. But they each need to be tested. This will serve as well as anything to do so.

The Lion agreed. Then so shall it be.

If anyone had remained behind to watch, the twelve statues pulsed one final time, then each vanished in a different wash of color. The forces of the StarLands were to be reckoned with.

* * *

"Has anyone seen Rita!?" Mondo glanced around the throne room. "She was just here, wasn't she?"

Zedd shrugged as he created a throne and sat down. "Who cares? She came up with that plan, that's all we need!"

"Quite so, quite so!" Vile agreed. "Is everything ready for it?"

Machina gestured to the panel showing the StarLands, and the weeping StarChild sitting under a tree there. "She's seperated from the others, and very doubting of herself right now. It's the perfect time to take her captive!"

Zedd nodded, gesturing for a patrol of Tengas just as Mondo zapped up some Cogs. "Someone had better go find Rita, though! These'll just keep the StarChild distracted, and she's the one who has that knockout drug."

"Oh, very well!" Mondo bellowed suddenly. "Klank! Go find Rita Repulsa and inform her that our plan is about to begin! She is to join the rest of us at once!"

As the robot servant hurried out, Vile paced briefly. "She never has been around when I need her!" he grumbled. "Her and her sisters always liked running off on their own business to working with me!"

"Sisters?" Zedd asked; Rita had never mentioned any siblings other than Rito to him before. He found himself wondering just what else she had kept from him all of a sudden. "She has sisters? I thought it was just that bone-bag Rito!"

Vile shook his head. "I wish those two were all the offspring I've had! No, she has two sisters, and they're both disappointments to me! Neither one of them has shown the slightest bit of interest in continuing my evil empire, they've both went off to carve their own! I suppose it's all well and good they want their own places, but still!!"

"I agree!" Mondo declared, finding a sudden and unexpected camaraderie with this evil sorcerer. "My own eldest offspring has proven to be a great disappointment to me!"

"Sprocket?" Zedd wondered, and Mondo snorted.

"No! Gasket, our first manufactured son! He's off somewhere in the universe with that blasted wife of his, Archerina!" the Machine King's disgust was evident in his voice. "At least they're not going to bother us now! They refuse to come near Earth as long as I'm here!"

Machina stepped forward a trifle delicately. "What are your daughter's names, Master Vile? I've considered building a daughter, but I could never get Mondo to agree to it!"

"And we don't need one!" her husband grumped, hitching himself a little away. "Two sons are trouble enough!"

"Rita's my oldest," Vile said after a few moments. "The other two are Divatox, a space pirate, and Astronema. I really don't know what it is she does, but she's not working with me, that's for sure."

Machina almost seemed to taste the three names. "Rita, Divatox, and Astronema. Quite a strange family."

Rita stood in the doorway, hearing this, and smiled. You don't know the half of it, Machina! You don't know the HALF of it!

* * *

Marissa curled herself into a tight ball and wept, wondering if the ache she felt inside would ever ease, and indeed, where it had even come from. "Why me?" she had whispered the two words over and over again for how long, she had no idea. Time didn't seem to pass in the StarLands as it did anywhere else.

"Because you're running from your destiny," the voice was clear and touched with an edge as of steel. It didn't seem familiar, but at the same time it did. "And you know it."

She jumped up. "Who are you!? What do you want?" there was no one there but she herself, and the tree she stood next to. "And where are you?"

"I am all around," the voice said. "You stand upon me. You breathe the air that wraps around me. You gaze on the stars that you see above me. I am the StarLands."

"You. . . can speak?" she found no reason to doubt, indeed, everything in her said that this was the utter truth. "Why haven't you before?"

The StarLands told her, "I can speak, but only to you, StarChild. If another was here, they would hear nothing. You are the only one who can hear me. I have spoken to you because you require essential knowledge that only I may impart to you."


"You wished to know why you. Now you shall find out why: and the consequences of it not being you. You shall see the terror that awaits the world if you do not fulfill that which is being asked of you. I assure you, it is not a pleasant sight."

Marissa threw her head back proudly. "I don't care. I refuse to move another step without knowing why all of this is happening. Show me this terror."

And the world ended.

Chapter Ten
The Veil

"What's going on here?" Marissa's voice held the thin edge of terror, and she clutched spasmodically at the grass that should've been beneath her. "Where are we?" her heart pounded faster and faster to feel nothing beneath her but emptiness. "Hey! What's going on?"

The voice of the StarLands came again to her. "What you asked to be seen. For this one time, the veil that conceals reality shall be parted, and you shall see what might have been, and what might still be. Gaze upon the Earth that will exist if you, and only you, do not fulfill your destiny. See the world that might well be, should you not be the one to claim the Zodiac Powers."

There was something like a rippling, and then she stood on Earth again. But it wasn't Earth the way she was used to seeing it. It was Angel Grove, but not the on of her memories. Something floated by in the sky, and she automatically flinched to see it looked just like the Cog Quadrafighters she'd seen on the scanners of the Power Chamber. A full fleet of them was coasting by in the sooty sky.

"What is this?" she whispered. "Can they see me?"

The voice came only in her mind now. No. You are invisible to all in this possible reality. You have merely to wish to be somewhere, and there shall you be. Travel is as swift as thought for you in this time and place, child of the stars.

The first place that occurred to her was her home, and even as she thought of that place, she was there. Or rather what would have been her home. It, and every other house in their neighborhood, was ashes. Being built on top of it was some form of factory. "What is this?"

A rendering plant, she was told. Without the Power Rangers to defend Earth, it quickly fell to the combined forces of Rita, Zedd, Mondo, Machina, and several other enemies who joined together. There is very little life left on this world now. All was destroyed either in the takeover or in the destruction that followed.

"The Rangers," she whispered softly. "What about them?"

Her heart nearly stopped when she was swept off this time to something that looked like a throne room. There were eleven heads mounted expertly on the wall, and her gorge rose at the sight. Each of them looked as if they had been experiencing the most hideous of pain before the end, as well. "No," she whispered. "How could this be?"

I told you. In this future, the Rangers had no powers. They were easy prey to the forces of evil. Lord Zedd and King Mondo enjoyed torturing them to death. Each of them begged for death in the end. Their pride, their souls were extinguished, annihilated before that happened. They were violated in ways that cannot be described, Marissa. A good many of the humans on this planet experienced the same things.

"Father. . .mother. . .," she whispered, her mind reeling. She had never known what it was the Rangers were fighting against, what the consequences might be if they failed. Then she was being whirled off again. When she could see, she was in a graveyard: a mass graveyard. "What?" she managed to utter. "Who's here?"

Somewhere in that mass of dead is your father, she was told. Your mother still exists; nothing can destroy her. But by the prevalence of evil in this reality, she cannot enter it. You yourself were captured by Rita and Zedd. That is HOW they took over. You refused to give the Rangers their powers, even when they found you again, and you ran straight into the arms of evil.

Marissa could feel her blood pounding. "What?" she whispered. "What. . .happened to me?"

Once again reality rippled, and she saw a throne room. On a dais there were many thrones, and in each there sat a hideous overlord or queen of evil. She had never had any idea so many of them existed. Kneeling in front of them, clad in a battlesuit, was. .. herself. She heard a harsh voice speaking, and barely recognized it as her own.

"The last of the humans has been destroyed, my lords," the alternate version of herself grated. "There is now only one of my species left on this planet: myself."

A skinless creature holding a 'Z' staff spoke. "Excellently done, StarChild. With your powers at our command it has been child's play to destroy this entire planet."

The evil-Marissa laughed coldly. "Indeed. I live only to serve you, and serve you in order to live."

Marrisa's eyes went wide, and she began to back away. "No," she whispered. "No, this can't be happening!"

Mondo, one of the few she recognized, laughed harshly. "Who would have imagined, that we shattered the Zeo Crystal, only a week ago! In one week, this is all ours!"

Marissa screamed. There was no way this could be happening. She wasn't evil, she wasn't! She couldn't let this happen! Everything that she was cried against this, and she realized, without knowing how she did, that she was the one who had caused this to the Rangers, that she had killed them, she had destroyed this world. Her eyes blazed. "NO! This isn't real! This isn't possible! I won't let it happen! I won't!"

In that moment, everything faded, and Marissa found herself back in the StarLands. Her eyes were full of tears, and her heart raced as if she'd been running. "I won't let that happen," she repeated, the nightmare version of herself, serving evil, flared up behind her eyes, the heads of the Rangers ranked on a wall, everything she'd loved destroyed. . .no! The StarChild's spirit, weakened by the casualness of the Rangers and by not understanding what they were fighting, now rallied in the greatest of strength. "This will not be!" she declared, starting back to the temple. She had a mission, and a destiny, to fulfill.

* * *

Tommy ran down a hill, glancing to each side as he did so. "Where are you, Marissa?" he wondered. We shouldn't have treated her like that. Billy was right. We have forgotten what it's like to be just a human, not to have any powers at all, and be caught up in the fight. We treated her like she should have known and told us everything, and we were lucky she even helped us here. And now she's gone. I wish we could help her realize what we're fighting for. Maybe that would help.

He took another two steps, then found himself engulfed in a darkness so black that he literally could not see an inch in front of his face. "Whoa! What is this? Guys?" the last time they'd been in the shadows like this, they'd found their way out with the light of friendship. Now, he was on his own.

The former Ranger shivered, clenching his fists. This can't be happening. I am NOT alone. The others are here in the StarLands with me, we just can't see each other. That's all there is to it. We can't see each other. I'm not alone.

A low, evil laugh came to his ears. A very familiar laugh. "You are alone, Tommy," the voice floated to his ears. "You're all alone. You always have been. The poor little lone Ranger. You were always the one on the sidelines, you know. The evil Ranger. Then the evil Ranger who turned good. Then the noble, self-sacrificing White Ranger. Then the Red Ranger, who tried so hard to be part of the group, but isn't. He's always got to be in the front of things. Always has to have all the attention on him. Alone. Just him alone."

Out of the shadows surrounding him, and the only thing he could see, he couldn't even see himself, came the form of the Green Morphin Ranger. Himself, so long ago. The evil Ranger laughed. "Remember me, Tommy? Your other side? Your dark half? The side you thought you got rid of? Well, guess what. . .I'm back!"

Tommy shook his head. "Can't be! The Green Ranger powers are back in the nineteenth century, with my clone!"

"Oh, grow up!" the Green Ranger snorted. "Anything is possible, you know that. But face up to your destiny, Tommy-boy. You're evil to the core. You always have been. Any time you tried to be anything else, you always failed. It was because of you that the Ninja Powers were lost. It was your fault the Zeo Crystal was shattered. And your fault that Marissa ran off and isn't going to help you get your new powers! Unless you're evil. .you don't stand a chance in this universe."

Tommy shivered, taking a deep breath. This might have worked once, but he had done some growing lately. "Wrong on all counts," he said firmly. "I'm not evil, and I've not failed. It wasn't because of me that we lost any of that stuff. Not me alone. If Rita, Zedd, and all of their kind hadn't attacked Earth in the first place, then none of this would've happened. It's their fault: not mine. I'm doing what I can to fix it all, so even if it was, I would be repairing the damage I'd caused. I don't know who you are, but you can't fool me. I know what I am: I'm a Power Ranger. With or without powers, that's what I am."

The image of the Green Ranger slowly removed it's helmet, and smiled at him. To see his own features reflected like that was amazing. Then, the Ranger was gone, and Tommy stood no longer on the hill where he had been. He stood in front of the Zodiac Temple.

* * *

With a perfect flip, Kim landed on the far side of a bush and glanced not just around, but into it in case the object of her search was there. No luck, she growled to herself. Blast it, where would I go if I were the daughter of the most powerful being of good in the universe and I was running from the Power Rangers, ten of whom had just insulted me fairly badly, where would I go?

She realized fairly quickly, she didn't have the foggiest idea. The only thing she would do in that situation would be to run. We're in the StarLands, and she's about as safe as any of us are in here, if not safer. We were so STUPID! We should've done better. .. let's hope we have the chance TO do better. We should've just went into the temple and seen what happened from there. By now we could have our powers and be back on Earth. Who knows what Mondo and all the rest are doing while we're gone?

The former Pink Ranger shivered to think that there was a fairly good chance they could get their new powers, then come back to find their world destroyed already. Who knew how time moved in between thee two places? It could be centuries later already on Earth, and they wouldn't have aged much. . .

No. She said the word firmly to herself. I won't lose hope. I won't.

As she searched, she found herself humming a little under her breath, as she usually did in order to keep herself from going insane with worry. I wonder where the others are. We split up to work faster. I hope Billy's the one who finds Marissa, really. He can help her cool off and hopefully get her to realize what we're doing. And how sorry we all are.

She stopped suddenly when she realized what she was humming: the song she'd composed for Tommy, so long before when he had been losing his Green Ranger powers. Tears welled up in her eyes suddenly. That was so long ago. So very long ago, but not that long ago at all really. A couple of years. And so much has changed since then. We've been through so much. The Kim of then loved Tommy so much. But the Kim of now is in love with someone else entirely.

Kim blushed to realize she really didn't know how the real object of her affections felt about her. She'd have to figure out some way to talk to him, she knew. He's just like a big teddy bear, she thought to herself. But how in the world do I go about telling Jason Scott, who could break me in half without even breathing hard, that I love him? And what if he doesn't love me? What do I do then?

She trembled suddenly, stopping and shaking flat out. What do I do if I tell a guy I haven't really seen or talked to in two years that I'm madly in love with him, and he just laughs in my face? He's been with Trini so much, what if he loves HER? She's so much prettier than I am, anyway. What do I do. . .the answer came to her suddenly. It was the only answer there could ever be for that situation, and she had to speak it out loud, there was no other way.

"If Jason loves someone else, then so be it. I'm going to tell him how I feel, and if he loves Trini or anyone else in the world, then I wish them the best luck in the universe. Wherever you are here in the StarLands, I love you, Jason, and I want what's best for you."

Something rippled in the air, and she could no longer keep on her feet. When things cleared, she found herself staring up into Tommy's eyes, and they were in front of the Zodiac Temple.

* * *

Jason was getting fairly tired of searching; he'd been looking for almost thirty minutes or so, he thought. Time didn't seem to mean much here, and he wasn't sure how he thought of that. Blast it, Marissa, where are you? he wondered. I know we didn't treat you too well, but that's no reason to go running, not when we need you so much.

He sighed. That's WHY she ran. Because we need her, but we were taking it for granted. We didn't think. I didn't think. I should have. There's a whole lot I haven't been doing.

For a brief moment, he thought of how they'd split up. Billy hadn't paid any attention to the rest of them after he'd practically screamed his lungs out at them. The ten of them had separated to hunt Marissa down, and he had deliberately chosen to go in the total opposite direction that Kim had. Last thing I need is to get distracted by those legs of hers. Even if I DO want to talk to her fairly badly. In two years I haven't been able to get my mind off her. She's just too beautiful. And she was dating Tommy all the time I was gone. But could I really have a chance with her now, I wonder? She and Tommy have broken up. ..but I don't want to be a rebound relationship.

Jason thought for a few moments on how things had shifted and changed over the last few years. One day he was just a normal teenager, stronger than most because of his karate training, the next thing he knew, he and four of his best friends were superheroes, fighting to defend the Earth from Rita Repulsa and her evil crew. Then Tommy had come along, and in him Jason had found a best friend, a partner, both in the ring and on the battlefield. He had stood by him throughout his power loss, and willingly, almost eagerly, given him the leadership of the Rangers when he had been chosen to go to Switzerland. He'd known Tommy would do a good job, and needed to learn to believe in himself. The best way to do that would be to have everyone else believing in him. Jason had kept an eye on the news coming from Angel Grove, and had been glad to see that Tommy had matured just as he thought he would have.

He's done so well. And now we're all together again. We're going to have to pull together as never before, though. With Rita, Zedd, and the Machine Empire all working together, not to mention anyone else who might join up with them, it's going to require us all. That must be why Zordon did call us all. I hope we're all up to this. None of us are used to working together, and we've got this new person working with us. She's supposed to be so powerful, but is it going to be enough? Will twelve Rangers be enough to fight against everything?

He shivered. He knew the answer: he didn't know. The only way they could find out would be just to try and find out. To get the power, and to use it, and to do all within their power to keep Earth free, the way they always had. They would do their best. They had to do their best. It was all that they could do.

Jason stopped suddenly. "We'll do our best," he declared. "Cause we're the Power Rangers, and that's what we do. We'll fight, and we'll learn how to work as the biggest team we've ever had, and we are a team. We always have been, it's just we've never been together before. But we are now, and that's all that really matters. All the forces of evil can and will stand in our way, but we will not give in, and we will not stop, until we are dead!"

As he spoke, he felt a shiver in the air around him, and glanced around. Something seemed almost to shift or tear, he wasn't sure which, and he found himself standing in front of the Zodiac Temple, with Tommy and Kim right next to him. This is one strange day.

* * *

Aisha performed a perfect high karate kick, and grinned to herself. Doesn't matter how long I'm away from it, it always feels good to come back. I'm glad I stayed and I'm glad we cured those animals in the end, but it's still good to be home. More than good, GREAT! I don't know how much longer I could've handled being away from my friends. I missed them all so much. I'm really glad I was able to send Tanya back, though. I knew she would find a place here, but I had no IDEA that she was going to fall so hard for Adam, or that he'd fall for her like this. I'm glad for them both, though.

It was so strange to be back in 'civilization', though. She had been in Africa for so long, she'd almost forgotten what it was like to live near cars, planes, and all other trappings. She wasn't sure which she enjoyed more, the peace of their village or being back with things she also remembered growing up with. Ever since the experience with the Zeo Crystal, her memories had been doubled; she recalled growing up in Africa and Stone Canyon at the same time, and her martial arts skills were unchanged.

Back to being a Ranger again, she thought, jogging along what seemed to be a trail, and keeping an eye out for Marissa as she did so. And not just a Ranger, but a Zodiac Ranger. Wonder what those powers are like. Only ones I ever had were the Morphin and the Ninja Powers, and those were strong enough. Apparently the Zeo powers were supposed to be even stronger. But these Zodiac ones. ..who knows? I wonder if Marissa does.

Thinking about the StarChild made a slight chill run down her back. She hadn't told anyone, but she had dreamed of the coming of Marissa two nights before she'd actually been summoned back to Angel Grove by Zordon. In her dream, the stars themselves had fallen, and shaped themselves into a person with stars for eyes. Aisha had never felt any fear in this dream, but she had felt as if something very terrible was going to happen before this person arrived.

And it did. The Zeo Crystal shattered. It was so strange. ..I literally spent the next two days after that dream just WAITING for Zordon to call me. I KNEW I was going to be needed again, and I'm actually glad I was. With the plague over with, there wasn't really much else for me to do there. I just didn't feel like growing up to be like all the other village girls.

She took a deep breath, and looked around. "I'm home," she said out loud, driven to speak by something she couldn't name. "I'm home at last, and this time I'm never leaving. My purpose in remaining in Africa has ended, and I'm going to talk to my parents about moving back to Angel Grove once we've settled this power situation. It's time for me to come home, and take up the mission I put aside for a time."

She smiled briefly, not knowing to whom she spoke, but feeling as if something was listening anyway. Perhaps it was the StarLands themselves, she considered. Who knew what could happen in this mysterious realm? Marissa knows, she realized. "I don't fear her," she continued softly. "I respect the power she has, and I will do everything I can to help her, and to help the world in the process. She might be the StarChild, but she is also a human being, and she needs friends. I'm willing to be her friend. I was wrong, we all were, and we're going to make up for it. I'll make up for it."

A light wind began to blow around, warm and full of promise as it whispered around her. She blacked out for a moment, and when things cleared, she was staring directly into the opening of the Zodiac Temple. Standing near her were Tommy, Jason, and Kim. Something told her that the four of them were only the first. Their quest for Marissa had turned into something else altogether, and only the StarLands knew what would happen next.

And that, for some reason, was a very comforting thought to the young woman.

* * *

Zack was quite literally dancing his way through the StarLands, seeking out Marissa, and not finding her. Man, it's been SO long since I was back in Angel Grove, I almost forgot what the place is like! Having to dodge Putties, Tengas, Cogs, whatever these things are called these days, fighting off whoever the villain of the week and monster of the day are, training, the constant training, hanging out with everyone, finding new friends, morphing into action against the forces of evil., I missed it!

He would never have told it to anyone, but he had felt just the teeniest bit hurt that they'd all been replaced so quickly. It was almost as if something had placed Rocky, Adam, and Aisha in the right place so that when they were gone, the Rangers wouldn't even be down a member for two minutes. And I guess that was for the good, in the long run. But I still can't help feeling like they just were using the three of us to wait until the three of THEM came along. They lasted longer than we have. Through Rita's return, the loss of the Morphin Powers, that Rito guy, the Machine Empire. ..we took off when it was still just Zedd.

The former Black Ranger sighed deeply. It's not my fault or anyone's fault. Things just happened that way. And at least Trini and I got to know each other while we were in Switzerland, without Zedd interrupting a date every time we turned around good.

He smiled to himself, thinking about how the three of them had really bonded during their time at the Peace Conference. Saving the world had given them a tight link, and being the only people they could talk to after their 'retirement', they had developed an even tighter bond. There was no one else they could speak to about how they had felt the pain of the loss of their DinoZords when Zedd had arrived, or how scared they'd been when Tommy had shown up as the evil Green Ranger. There was no one else they could talk to about how it had been to give their powers to someone else.

Trini and I REALLY got to know each other that one night, his dark skin hid his blush as he remembered the night Jason had been out all night with a young lady he'd hung out with while they were there. The two of them had started talking, and the next thing they had known, they were in bed together. It had begun as just a tease, an experiment between two friends, and had ended up with the two of them in clear, pure, and true love. And Jason's the only one who knows about it, he thought. And he swore to keep it secret till we were ready to reveal it.

"What do we do now?" he wondered softly. "Do we still stay together now that we're back in Angel Grove? Or do we try it apart and see how things go? Or what? She was sorta seeing that guy Richie. .."

His head almost came off when he heard a voice from behind him. "Not really. But even if I was, I know who I love now, Zack Taylor. It's you."

He smiled at Trini. "Are you sure?" he asked, taking her hands. "I mean, while we were in Switzerland, that was one thing. But we're back home now, and things could change. ..we're back in the fight, what if something happens to one of us?"

"So?" Trini shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me, Zack. I love you, and I'm not going to stop loving you just because we've moved. Being with you means more to me than anything. I love you, Zachary Taylor, and will for all time."

Zack smiled softly, and kissed the tips of her fingers, a motion he'd begun soon after they'd become lovers. "I love you, too, Trini Kwan. And I always will."

Reality ripped about them, and the two of them found themselves standing besides four of the others, Jason, Tommy, Kim, and Aisha, in front of the Zodiac Temple.

* * *

"Marissa!" Billy ran this way and that, trying to find out where his possible girlfriend was. "Where are you?" he muttered. "If you're in any danger, I swear, I will pull Mondo apart by the seams!!!"

He realized almost as soon as the words left his mouth that what he'd said was a trifle silly. As the StarChild and one who was aware of the Rangers' true identities, she was in the most danger of any of them.

He paused for a few moments, to catch his breath and see if she was anywhere around. He wasn't going to stop until he found her, until he helped her to understand what they were dealing with. We need her, and she needs us, it's an interdependence that we can't survive without, and that this planet can't survive without. I think she'll understand, once we explain it to her.

"Marissa!" he called out. "Where are you? You've got to be here somewhere, but where are you?" okay, Cranston, think logically. You're in the StarLands. She is the StarChild. Cogs and Tengas can get here, but there are also eleven trained Power Rangers wandering around here. She's got powers I don't even begin to understand, and for all I know, this place could rise up itself to protect her, they're linked somehow. I think the best objective might be to find my way back to the Zodiac Temple and wait there for her. He couldn't explain the strong, unbelievable sense that was pulsating through him that she was more than fine, she was going to have found her way through all this when he saw her again.

Logic be damned. I'm still going to go find her. I don't want her wandering around here on her own. If she sees one of the others, she's likely to go running off again, and if there are any Cogs or Tengas or who knows WHAT else wandering around here, then she's going to need my help. He knew perfectly well he was lying to himself, though. She didn't need his help, with her powers she could probably blow away Mondo's entire army, with more than enough energy left over to knock ten dozen Tengas around. She's been through so much in just one day. Finding out who, and WHAT her mother is, finding out what she is, learning our secret, maybe even falling in love. ..he blushed a little at that.

I know I sure fell in love. He didn't just like Marissa, like he'd told the others. He'd fallen in love with her. He knew it wasn't logical, but this was something he couldn't deny. He loved her, he wanted to protect her, he wanted her to protect him, he wanted to be her partner and equal in all things. He'd never quite felt that way about any of the girls he'd dated over the years.

"Who would have imagined after seventeen years of pure logic, that true love would just smack me in the head out of the blue?" he chuckled to himself. "Marissa Browder, wherever you are, I do love you! And as soon as I find you again, I'm going to let you know about it. I think I shall love you forever."

As the words fell from his lips, they seemed to shiver and shake the very air around him. Everything rippled, becoming impossible to see clearly for a few moments. When things firmed up, he was looking at Tommy, Jason, Kim, Aisha, Zack, and Trini, and the Zodiac Temple was behind them. He blinked a little.

"Um, does anyone know where the others are?" he asked. Trini shrugged a little; her arm was around Zack, and his was around her shoulders.

"All we've seen are each other. We've talked, and we think we get sent back here when we realize something important. Seems to be different for just about everyone, though."

Billy nodded. "Guess we just wait then," he turned his eyes back out to the StarLands. Marissa, be safe.

* * *

"There is nowhere she can be," Kat grumbled a little. "I've been looking for Marissa everywhere, and I haven't even seen any of the others. You'd think that with eleven of us wandering around, we'd at least see each other!"

Before the words had faded away, she heard someone calling out her name. "Kat! Kat!"

It was probably the one person she didn't really want to see right now. The former Red Ranger and Blue Zeo Ranger, Rocky DeSantos. It wasn't because she didn't like him that she didn't want to see him, though. In fact, it was for the very opposite reason. The reason I didn't want to stay with Tommy. . .because I like Rocky. More than like him. And I am NOT going to say a word. I know he likes Aisha, and now that she's back, he's probably going to go running back to her. I can't blame him, either, she's a lot prettier than I am, and they've known each other all their lives. I've only known him about a year and a half.

She took a deep breath, and waved happily at him. "Hey, Rocky! Seen any of the others or just me?"

"Just you," he told her. And I'm not going to argue over that! God, she's gorgeous! And so incredibly available too! She broke up with Tommy. . .of course, Kim did too, I do feel for him. I'll talk to him when I get the chance. We sort of have to save the world right now.

Kat nodded. "I haven't seen anyone except you either. No sign of Marissa or the others, and I don't think I could find the Temple again on a bet."

Rocky shrugged. "We'll find it," he said philosophically. "We're going to get through this, Kat, I know we are."

"How can you be so sure?" she asked, doing her best to hide her concern. "How can you be sure of anything anymore? We lost the Zeo Crystal, Rocky, how can anything be certain after that? That thing was supposed to be the next best thing to indestructible!"

The tall young man laid a firm hand on her shoulder, and she practically melted in the heat of his gaze. "Because we always come through," he said quietly. "We always have and will. It's what we do. We're more than Rangers, we're friends, and as friends, we've been through quite a lot together. This is just something else. Don't give up hope, Kat. Those eyes of yours don't look very good hopeless."

She blushed furiously at the unexpected compliment, and he smiled at her. "Thanks, Rocky," she said quietly. "Thanks a lot. You always seem to know just what to say to make me feel better."

"You're welcome," he replied, smiling even more warmly. "Glad I could help out. I like helping you, Kat."

"And. . .," her voice dropped almost down to where it couldn't be heard. "I like being helped by you."

The two of them stared at each other for a long moment, then slowly began to move towards each other. Their lips met delicately, in a first, sweet kiss so passionate that it didn't seem too surprising when the very air and reality seemed to ripple and twist around them. It was, however, somewhat surprising when they heard not just applause, but a shout from Kim, "Hey, you guys need a room or something? I think we could talk Marissa into conjuring one up once we find her!"

The two of them turned to see Tommy, Jason, Kim, Zack, Aisha, Billy, and Trini all looking at them, and the Zodiac Temple in the background. Kat noticed something. "Um, did any of you guys know that those statues that were here. ..are gone?"

* * *

Tanya and Adam hadn't even bothered to separate when they went in search of Marissa. Hand in hand, the tight couple wandered through the StarLands, taking outrageous advantage of the fact that no one was around to see them as they dashed around seeking the StarChild.

"I love you, Adam," Tanya whispered softly, her eyes warm and liquid with love. "I can't believe how lucky I am to have you in my life as even a friend, much less my boyfriend."

Adam smiled softly. "I know. I wasn't quite sure what to make of you, honestly, when you first showed up."

Her eyes darkened just a trifle. "Because I was replacing Aisha?"

There was no answer for a moment, it appeared he was thinking over this. When he finally spoke, he said, "In the beginning. I wasn't sure what to think or do. I kept missing Aisha, and I wondered what you were going to be like. Then I started training you how to fight, and I got to know you. . .and then I went and fell in love with you, and I haven't looked back since then."

She smiled. "Thanks, Adam," she squeezed his hand. "We've still got to find Marissa, though. We won't be able to do anything with the rest of our lives until we do that."

"I know," Adam nodded, glancing around. "But this is a big place, and she could probably hide here better than anywhere else in the world. I mean, we're in the StarLands and she's the StarChild, they sort of go together."

Tanya agreed with him. "But we'll find her, and we'll find a way to convince her that we do appreciate what she's doing for us. I know how she feels; I had no idea what we were fighting against for the longest time."

Adam nodded. "We all had that time, I think. When we weren't really sure what we were doing or why. And we all know she's going to be one of us. It's kind of obvious. Twelve powers, twelve of us. We're going to be more than just the old Rangers with new powers, we're going to be the old Rangers, with new powers, probably new Zords, and a new member."

"Just like it was when I showed up," she giggled a little. "Everyone else already knew each other, but we had new powers, and Billy made the new Zords, and there I was, the new person on the team. I really know a lot of what she's going through. Not everything. But enough. Enough to talk to her over it. Enough to reach out to her," Adam almost had the sensation something or someone else was speaking through Tanya. She took a deep breath. "Enough to be her friend."

The former Green Zeo Ranger nodded, feeling something sweep over him even as she stopped. Something very unusual was happening here in the StarLands, and he could sense it would be the very worst thing to question it right now. "She will need friends. We'll do what we can to help her, and to show her we more than need her on the team, we want her on it."

Just like on TV, a ripple of reality washed across them, and when they looked up, they were standing in front of the others, who were in turn standing in front of the Zodiac Temple, which now seemed to be a few statues short. "What's going on here?" Tanya asked, frowning. "Has anyone seen Marissa?"

Billy shook his head, then his eyes went wide with shock as twelve explosions of light appeared, transforming in front of them into the twelve statues that had been there, only now they were animated! The Lion stepped forward.

The eleven of you have been tested by the StarLands, and found worthy. You have proven you regret the actions you took against the StarChild, and admitted your wrong in them. You will grow stronger for that, and will become true friends with her in time, if that time is given. Wait here. Soon the fate of the StarChild will lie in your hands, and you must be ready.

"What are you talking about?" Tommy wondered, but the Lion only leaped neatly to it's place and became stone. Whatever it meant, was sealed in it's mind.

* * *

Marissa ran faster and faster, seeking the Temple. Her every thought was focused on finding that, and the Rangers, before it was too late. Her thoughts stopped, sharply, when she slammed straight into one of the most hideous of sights: Rita Repulsa, surrounded by Cogs and Tengas. The evil queen laughed quietly.

"So nice to meet you face to face at last, StarChild!" Rita grinned. "Let me introduce myself. I am Rita Repulsa, Queen of Evil, and soon to be your mistress!"

The StarChild very nearly screamed her head off right then and there. The memory of what she'd seen in that possible future was still fresh in her mind, and she remembered that Rita had been one of the people she'd been kneeling to. "Get away from me!" she growled. "And stay away!" she could already tell she was beginning to glow brightly, though whether it was in fear or courage or what, she had no idea.

Rita waved the Tengas and Cogs all around her, and Marissa backed away as much as she could. This is NOT what I wanted or needed at ALL! I've got to focus my powers, find out what I'm capable of NOW before it's too late!

Her attention flicked from Rita to the soldiers surrounding, and she cried out as one of the Tengas blindsided her suddenly. She spit out a few words that probably would have gotten her mouth washed out with soap by either of her parents. While she was busy swearing, a Cog slammed hard into her back, not breaking it, but she had the definite feeling if she'd been entirely human, it would have!

"Grab her," she heard the cold voice of Rita, and swore again at herself for losing track of the leader. She felt cold metallic hands on her, and then something warm and wet was across her mouth. She inhaled automatically, and a sickly sweet aroma filled her nose, followed by total darkness.

Chapter Eleven: The Prisoner

"Oh, this is great!" Kim half-pouted. "Just great! We're here, without our powers, in a place we don't even understand, there's absolutely no way we can get home without Marissa, and we have no idea where she even is, or even if she's---" the former Pink Ranger broke off when Billy delivered a fairly deadly look at her. "Sorry, Billy," she whispered. "I didn't mean that like it sounded.

He shrugged. "It's okay," was his reply. "And you're right, we don't know if she's alive or not. But I think she is. Something tells me that the StarLands themselves would react if she wasn't."

"They would," Jason's voice was quiet. "Don't ask how I know. I just do. If anything truly fatal had happened to her, then the StarLands would rise up in protest."

Zack shuddered at the thought of who knew how much space and land getting that annoyed. It should have been a laughable concept, but quite frankly, nothing that had happened lately was laughable. Instead, the former Black Ranger found himself wondering what would happen once Marissa returned and they got their powers.

Twelve Rangers, he thought. I've never had that many on a team before. We only ever had six when I was a Ranger. That's the most we've EVER had. I guess with all the bad guys starting to work together, we're going to need all the help we can get, though. I hope we stand a chance.

His thoughts, and those of all the other Rangers, were cut off suddenly when the twelve statues shuddered back to life. The Lion looked quite honestly absolutely furious as it leaped off the pedestal and marched towards them, tail lashing harshly. This is obscene! The tone of it's mental voice was one of purest rage and anger. This is beyond obscene. This is what should never be!

"Um, sir?" Tommy asked gingerly, stepping a bit closer. "What is going on?"

The Crab statue sidled up closer to the young Ranger leader. The forces of evil have captured the StarChild, it's voice echoed in all their minds, and Billy went as white as Tommy's former mode of dress. She is still within the StarLands, but is a captive. She must be freed, Rangers, or your world and all the universe is lost!

* * *

A cackle like that of the stereotypical Halloween witch greeted Marissa's slow opening of her eyes. A few quick glances showed her that she didn't really want to see what was going on and she closed them again. I didn't see that, she tried to convince herself. I didn't see that blasted witch Rita cackling like I'm the prize turkey at Thanksgiving. Didn't see who knows how many Tengas wandering around here. I do not feel those cha--oh, who am I kidding, I saw it all and I'm in BIG trouble!

She took a long, harsh breath, opening her eyes again. Rita wasn't the only person gloating over her, though she was the only one that the StarChild recognized. Two other females, one in silver and black tight fitting armor and cascades of light purple hair, the other in stylized red and gold armor that hugged every curve she had and dark brown hair with a vivid purple streak in it, were also in front of her. Both were clapping Rita on the back, and all three looked decicedly evil to Marissa.

"Excellent catch, Rita!" the one with a simple purple streak declared, leaning over to leer at the captive, and unwittingly {or perhaps not} offering a phenomneal view of her cleavage. It was all Marissa could do not to regurgitate her last few meals.

"I know, Divatox, I know!" the evil queen cackled. "What do you think, Astronema?"

The third woman turned her back on Marissa, swaying over to her sisters. "I think that we'd better decide quickly what we're going to do with her, and do it before those Rangers find her!"

Rita snorted visciously. "They're not going to!" she protested. "They don't have any idea that she's even been captured! How could they know?"

"You'd be surprised," the three evil sisters were startled to hear Marissa speaking. As they turned to look at her, she glared at them with a courage she didn't really feel in her eyes. "The StarLands will protect me."

"They didn't do a very good job this time, did they?" Divatox mocked. "Now shut up, we'll let you know when you can speak!"

Marissa rolled her eyes, but was silent. She knew better than to antagonize them right now; not when they held her life quite literally in their hands. She knew, without knowing how she knew, that the Rangers did know about her captivity, and that they were most likely doing something about it right now.

You'd think I could do this on my own, she thought bitterly, trying not to pay any attention to the cackles of laughter that kept on coming from the three of them.

"We do have to decide just what we're going to do," Rita agreed with Astronema. "I'm certainly not going back to those dunces on the Skybase!"

"Is it true Father went into alliance with the Machine Empire?" Divatox wondered.

"Yes, and Zedd's with them," Rita made a few disgusted noises. "They can all have each other! I'm done with them!"

Astronema raised one eyebrow. "But I thought you were in love with Zedd?"

"You've got to be kidding!" Rita snorted. "I only married him to get control of his empire. But I'm going to have my own empire now, and there won't be anything that any of them can do about it!"

* * *

"I don't believe this is happening! What sort of daughters are you raising, Vile?" Mondo was shooting sparks and his eyes were burning with what could only be called pure, unadultered rage, extremely uncharacteristic of a machine.

"What are you talking about, Mondo?" Vile didn't appreciate this sort of attitude in the slightest!

Zedd stepped forward as Mondo's attempts at `explanation' devolved into pure raw howls of rage. "It appears that Rita has betrayed us all," he growled. "She has been seen in the StarLands with the StarChild captive, and in the company of these two," a flick of his staff caused one of the Skybase's monitors to show two other images in it, both of which caused all of Vile's eyes to widen extremely.

"Divatox! Astronema!" he breathed at the sight of his other two daughters. The view expanded to show the three of them taunting and tormenting the tied up StarChild to the very best of their evil ability; and the young girl was glaring at them with nothing but hatred in her eyes. "They can't have!" he growled. "They better not have! I'm going to find out what's going on here right now!"

In a blast of black fire, he vanished from the Skybase. Zedd shook his head and turned to Mondo, trying to calm the irate Machine King down. Already in the dark lord's mind, Rita had ceased to be his wife, and was instead another competitor for the domination of Earth, just like her sisters. He'd literally forgotten the arguments he'd had with Mondo and Machina, all that mattered now was destroying the Power Rangers' last chance to regain their powers.

And woe be unto any who stood in the way.

* * *

"We're not even partners a week yet, not even a full day yet, and already Divatox has betrayed us!" Gasket wailed, stomping up and down the deck of his ship. "Is this the sort of thanks we get for all that we've done for her?"

Archerina would have raised an eyebrow if her metal face had been constructed to enable her to do so. "We've only exchanged information with her, Divatox has done nothing for us, and we've done less for her. It's not that much of a betrayal."

"I know that, Archerina," Gasket almost growled. "But I still don't like the idea of anyone betraying us! What kind of reputation does that give us in intergalactic circles if it gets out that the Prince and Heir to the Machine Empire was doublecrossed by a mere pirate?"

"Who said we ever had to admit that she was involved with us in anyway?" his wife suggested. "Or even better, we could spread a rumor of some sort about her, something to sully her reputation to the point no one will believe a word she says, and will improve our own at the same time."

Gasket tapped his fingers on his sword-hilt in thought, then shrugged. "We'll figure out a suitable revenge for her treachery at some late date. I've done some research into her while she's been gone, and I found out that Divatox is the sister of Rita Repulsa and Astronema, and all three are the daughters of Master Vile, the monarch of the M-51 Galaxy!"

Archerina shook her head. "And they've joined with your parents in the attempt to destroy the Power Rangers," she breathed. "Just wonderful. What a sorry situation."

"I know, I know!" Gasket threw his hands up and paced even more around the ship's bridge. "Why did I ever listen to Divatox? Why didn't we just go on about our business and forget this entire sector of space exists?"

"It has been said that this galaxy, and indeed this planet, is cursed," Archerina mused. "Or at least extremely bad luck."

"I don't believe in that sort of thing, Archerina," Gasket reminded her. "But I don't like this section of space anymore, and I don't want to come back here, ever!"

The pink robot archerist shook her head, touching Gasket tenderly on the shoulder. "Let's not be so hasty. I say we just cut our losses and forget this whole sorry mess has ever happened. Let Rita, Zedd, Vile, Mondo, Machina, Divatox, and whoever else they've got face defeat at the hands of the Power Rangers. Once the Rangers have reduced them to rubble, then we can come in here, fresh and eager and ready to destroy them!"

Her husband's yellow eyes glinted darkly. "Excellent, Archerina!" he declared. "Simply and unutterably excellent! The Rangers will be exhausted after so long and so hard a fight, and won't have the energy to fight off our fresh troops! We might have to wait a while, those Rangers are notoriously tough and it's going to be even harder once they have their Zodiac powers. But in the end, we will return, and we will destroy them, once and for all!"

"That we will!" she laughed wickedly. "And the Power Rangers will fear the coming of Gasket and Archerina! Beware, Rangers! We shall return, stronger than ever!"

The ultimate of evil laughter sounded all over their ship, as it soared away from the Milky Way Galaxy.

* * *

Deep within the heart of a fortress on the Cimmerian planet, a dark and foul being, the very duplicate of the Great Flame of Destruction Maligore, known as Dark Spectre, was receiving a report from his second henchman, Ecliptor. He had been most upset when his first henchman, or rather henchwoman to be technically accurate, had vanished into thin air, and he wanted to know where Astronema had went off to.

"A report from one of your spies in the Machine Empire says she was spotted in the StarLands with the---"

Dark Spectre's roar cut off Ecliptor's report. "In the StarLands? But that can only be if. . ." his voice trailed off and his eyes flamed with pure anger. He'd felt the presence of the StarChild in the universe, just the same as all the other beings of evil in the cosmos, but he hadn't wanted to think about it. He was having more than enough problems dealing with the conquest of a small planet called KO-35, it only had two defenders, the Red and Silver Rangers, but they were tough. The last thing he wanted to fight with was a team of Rangers powered by the stars themselves. "What is she doing there?" he grated out.

"According to the spy," Ecliptor checked over his report, "she has joined up with her sisters, Rita Repulsa, wife of Lord Zedd, and Divatox, Pirate Queen. What they plan to do is probably the usual, somehow use the powers of the StarChild to destroy the Rangers and take over Earth. And it appears they've already captured the girl."

Dark Spectre looked a trifle surprised, and most definitly impressed. "An excellent beginning."

The black and green crystalline monster lowered the sheaf of papers he'd been reporting from and looked up at his master. "Are you going to invade Earth once the conquest of KO-35 is assured?" he asked tenatively. "Or do you wish me to go and reclaim Astronema for your forces?"

The lava creature thought quickly and deeply, then shook his head. "Astronema has proven that she can work well on her own. Let her and her sisters conquer Earth for us. According to the contract she signed when she entered my service, any planet she takes over is automatically part of my empire. And if I'm not mistaken, neither Rita or Divatox has signed such a contract with anyone else, have they?"

"No, sire," Ecliptor shook his head himself this time. "Divatox has never worked with anyone except a brief temporary alliance with Gasket and Archerina, who have currently left the Milky Way Galaxy, and Rita will shortly be terminating all alliances with Zedd, I do believe. The two groups will be vying for domination of Earth"

Spectre closed his eyes and smiled, a hideous sight. "Excellent," he purred. "Quite excellent. They will have all the work, then I will enjoy the spoils of their labor! Send a message to Astronema, Rita, and Divatox, wishing them the very best of luck in their battle, and send the same message to Zedd, Vile, and the Machine Empire."

Ecliptor frowned suddenly. "Master? I don't understand."

"It's very simple, Ecliptor," Spectre explained. "I want them all to wear themselves out fighting with the Rangers and each other. Once one side has been defeated, and it will happen, then my armies can either take the place from Zedd and his cronies, crush the Power Rangers, or simply acquire it from Astronema and her sisters. We can't lose."

"You are truly evil, master," Ecliptor chuckled, turning to leave the chamber. I wonder if I can still join Astronema? I spent so much of my life already with her. . .perhaps. ..

* * *

Rita, Divatox, and Astronema were busily plotting the various things of evil they were going to do once they were in total control of Marissa and her powers. Astronema was all for a flat out attack on the Earth, leaving the Power Rangers in the StarLands to wonder and wander for eternity. Divatox preferred theft, stealing everything of value, destroying everything else, and quite simply having a fun time doing it all. Rita's ideas included mass destruction and devestation.

They weren't exactly agreeing too swiftly.

The object of most of the discussion, or at least the power source for them all, was leaning against the pole she had been shackled to, eyes closed and her thoughts tumbling this way and that. I'm being held prisoner by three of the worst creatures of evil in the known universe. I have no idea where I am, except that I'm in the StarLands. I know the Rangers have got to be looking for me, but they don't have any powers, and they would need them against those Cogs and Tengas and things, plus whatever those other two brought with them. They don't have my abilities, and I can't get them to their powers while I'm trapped in here.

Marissa took several deep breaths, opening her eyes briefly to look around and see if anything had changed. It hadn't. The three sisters were still screaming and yelling and shaking their fingers in each other's faces as they tried to figure out what to do with her. She sighed, closing her eyes again, trying not to think about what was going on.

I've got to get calm, she thought. I'm the StarChild. I can get out of this. I HAVE to get out of this. The Rangers need me, and the Earth needs them. And the last thing I need is to lose my head over it.

Slowly, her thoughts began to calm down and order themselves. She remembered the essence of power that flowed through her when she had used her power, how she had used it to escape dangerous situations before. I was caught off guard this time, she thought. But now I am on guard, and will not be so careless again. I will return to the Rangers and their powers will once again be used to defend the universe.

Behind Marissa's closed eyes there began to spark a small flame of power. She focused her mind and her powers, flexing the energies within her. She smiled faintly, knowing that her hands were starting to glow. Within her mind's eye she could see the Zodiac Temple, with the statues of the twelve signs of the Zodiac in front of it. The Rangers were in a small knot, looking around in various directions, with concerned looks on their faces. Something told her that they had overcome the things that had made her run in fear from them, that they would at the very least try to accept the fact they all had to work together. She smiled faintly. Time to go.

"Hey, ladies. . .and I use the term loosely," she half-purred, opening her eyes and chuckling softly as Rita, Astronema, and Divatox all turned to stare at her. "I've had a lovely time, but I've got a destiny to fulfill. Catch you later. . .not!"

The three beings of evil barely had time to look at each other and her in shock, before a ball of condensed white light was where Marissa had been, and then she was gone.

* * *

"Okay, let's split up and look for her," Tommy started directing various Ranger to different parts of the StarLands. "We'll find her---"

His words were cut off when a glowing ball of white light exploded right in front of them, blinding them temporarily. As they regained their sight, the Rangers were surprised, or perhaps not, given all that had happened that day, to see Marissa standing where the light had been.

"I'm back!" she breathed, looking around at them. As her eyes fell on Billy, he ran over, holding her quickly.

"You're okay!"

StarChild. The twelve of them all froze at the voice that sounded in their minds, and turned to see the statues staring at them. The lion was in the front. It is time, Marissa Browder. Time to fulfill your destiny.

Marissa nodded slowly, moving away from Billy and looking at the doorway to the Temple. She extended one hand straight out towards the door, and from the tip of her index finger there burst a small beam of light that flew directly towards the door. As the light hit it, the door swung open, and the statues each began to glow, each in a different shade. A voice spoke quietly.

"Zodiac Rangers, it is time. Let the forces of evil tremble, for the chosen warriors of good have come at last!"

Chapter Twelve - The Triumph

The twelve teenagers stood in a row outside the Zodiac Temple, with Marissa just a step or two ahead of them. Every heart was pounding, every one of them felt the strangest mixture of wonderment, fear, and excitement that they ever had.

"The time has come," the same voice that had spoken earlier now did so again. "Starchild, Marissa Browder, unleash the power that is the birthright of all here."

Marissa recognized the voice as that of the StarLands, that had spoken to her earlier. One hand was still pointing towards the temple, and she curved it gently, cupping a ball of gleaming light as she turned towards them. "Deep within us all there has rested the power of the stars," she said softly. "We are the Zodiac Rangers, the last defense of the world against all that is evil. Ranged against us are Master Vile, Lord Zedd, the Machine Empire, Rita, Astronema, and Divatox. We will face many dangers in the time to come, and many new foes and new allies will arise to join us. Do each of you accept this task and this power fully, knowing that this fight could take until the end of our days, and could mean our deaths?"

The Power Rangers of Earth were a very special group of young people. They were more than willing to sacrifice their own lives for the safety of their universe. As one, eleven voices answered Marissa.


The StarChild only smiled, and the ball in her hand transmuted itself to a pure, brilliant red. From the center of it a scarlet beam came forth to strike Jason directly on the chest. For a moment they couldn't see him, then when they could, he stood in an armor-like uniform, in a briliant red shade, looking much like the old Morphin' armor, but over his chest, instead of the Tyrannosaurus, there was the gleaming mark of the Bull, the sign of Taurus. "You are the Red Zodiac Ranger, Jason Lee Scott," the voice of the StarLands came. "Strong and dependable, a fierce warrior. You will use the power of the Red TigerZord well and wisely."

Jason powered down and stood to one side, his face beaming to be back in red. The ball in Marissa's hand morphed to a deep sooty black, which shone upon Zack, who soon stood forth in the Black Zodiac Ranger armor, with the sign of Capricorn on his chest. "Clever and full of mischief and jokes, the LoonZord shall be yours, Zachary Taylor, and bring joy along with justice to the world."

"Wise and full of care, the power of the Yellow Zodiac Ranger and the EagleZord is yours, Trini Kwan," the voice said next, and Trini almost laughed at the sign of Libra she now bore. "Remember, patience and balance are all."

Blue light sparkled around Billy next, and he stood in the familiar blue armor he had always worn, now complete with the sign of Aries upon it. "Intelligent and commanding, you are the Blue Zodiac Ranger and in the WolfZord you shall once again strike against all that is evil."

"Pink Ranger you were once and Pink Zodiac Ranger you shall be forevermore, Kimberly Hart," was the next to be chosen, with the Scorpio sign emblazoned upon her chest. "You and the CraneZord will fight side by side once more."

Tommy was almost startled when green light enveloped him, and he saw the armor of the Green Zodiac Ranger forming on him. But he had long since realized that he wasn't either the White or Red Rangers; the only color that he had ever felt completely right in, that he had ever felt comfortable in, was green. "You are the Green Zodiac Ranger, Tommy Oliver, and with the power of the FalconZord, you shall strike terror into the heart of evil. Bear it well, Green Cancer Ranger."

"For you, Adam Park, there is the power of the Gray Sagitarrius Ranger, and the FrogZord," the voice declared, the gray armor coming into being on the new Gray Ranger. "Cunning and wisdom are your forte."

Rocky almost laughed at the sight of the orange armor that materialized on him, and heard the voice granting him the power of the Orange Zodiac Ranger, the ApeZord, and the mark of the Aquarius sign on him. Next was Aisha, with the Brown BearZord and the Virgo sign. To Kat went the Purple Pisces Ranger power, and the SwanZord, with Tanya gaining the Tan Gemini Ranger power and the OwlZord to pilot.

All of them paused as the ball of light Marissa was holding transmuted into purest white, and grew to encompass her. The voice spoke firmly. "Marissa Browder, never before have you been a Power Ranger, but from this day forward you are one of those who defend the world against all that is evil and vile. Use your powers wisely, and let the others guide you in the proper ways of them. From now on, you are the White Zodiac Ranger, with the power of the LionZord and the symbol of Leo."

When the light faded, Marissa stood there in pure white armor like theirs, and upon her chest there blazed forth the sign of Leo. The twelve Zodiac Rangers smiled at each other. The forces of evil didn't know what was going to hit them.

* * *

"We are in trouble," Rita growled, looking at where Marissa had been. "Major trouble."

Divatox slapped both of them harshly. "Forget that. Let's just get out of here while we can, and get set up on my SpaceBase. We've got some planning to do."

All three of them vanished in puffs of smoke and light. They weren't going to stop until they'd conquered the Earth and vanquished all twelve of it's defenders, including that irritating StarChild!

* * *

Three days had passed since the Rangers had gotten their Powers. There was a dance being held at the Youth Center to celebrate the return of Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, and Aisha to Angel Grove; they were five of the best-beloved teenagers the place had ever had. Jason and Kim were going as a couple, as were Zack and Trini, Rocky and Kat, Adam and Tanya, Billy and Marissa. Aisha and Tommy were the only two Rangers who didn't have a date, and shortly after they arrived at the dance, Aisha was swept away by Richie, one of Ernie's helpers. Tommy was sitting there by himself, staring into his drink and wondering if it was his destiny to be alone.

"Excuse me?" at the sound of the voice, he looked up into the face of an angel. She was much shorter than he was, almost by a foot, and had long, wavy black hair, gray eyes, and a dark tan. Her body was thin and wiry, and he recognized her natural grace as that of a dancer. She looked a little older than he was, but he didn't really care right now. "Would you like to dance?"

Tommy smiled, more than willing to indulge himself in a fantasy, that might turn into a reality someday. "I'd love to. I'm Tommy Oliver. And your name is?"

"Lashana Romero," she smiled. "Nice to meet you, Tommy."

Together, Tommy and Lashana danced the night away, with his fellow Rangers wandering around in love with their respective others. ..and no thoughts for the forces of evil at all. ...


Author's Note: To anyone who actually read this {Liz, Kahva, Kathy, Christi, Jeremy, you guys don't count, you're my friends and the only ones I know for a fact who are going to read this just because I wrote it}: Yes, I know the ending sucks. Majorly. And there is a reason for that. This fic has taken me over a year to write. In that year I have gotten {that I am currently aware of} 2 pieces of e-mail about this fic. You might say it died because of lack of true feedback. My apologies. I seriously doubt I'm going to write a sequel to this. Have a nice day.

Cynthia Harrell