Legal Disclaimer: The Power Rangers do not belong to me, etc., etc., the character of Tayla, her past, her planet, and what she guards do belong to me, however, so I'd better not see them elsewhere without someone having asked permission! This story begins after "Hawaii Zeo" but before "Good as Gold", and unless otherwise noted, continuity is forever discarded at this point.

A New Beginning
by: Cynthia

"Billy?" the young genius looked up at the sound of his name, and smiled to see Cestria standing there. "Billy, we need to talk."

Billy, former Blue Ranger of Earth, stood up. "What is it, Cestria?" unspoken in his voice was worry. "Is something wrong?"

She shook her head. "No. Yes. I. . . I don't know," he walked over to her and held her gently, trying to be as supportive as he could, whatever the problem was. He was hurt when she stepped away from him. "Billy, how long have you been here? On Aquitar?"

He thought for a moment. "About a week now," he said. Ever since he had arrived there for treatment for his rapid aging problem, he and Cestria had been close. He'd even decided not to go back to Earth, to remain on this world for her. She knew that, he'd told her before.

What he didn't want to tell her was that he was regretting that decision. He missed his friends on Earth, he missed his family, his lab, he even missed Bulk and Skull!! What he couldn't get over was how his friends had just smiled at him, wished him luck, then signed off like he meant nothing more to them than that.

Cestria's voice drew him back to the present. "Billy, I've wanted to tell you this since you sent that message back to your friends. I saw how they reacted, and I saw how you reacted to it," her voice was soft and sweet and full of friendship. "I don't know how you feel, but. . .I don't love you. Not in that way. I love you as a friend, as a brother, but nothing more than that. We're just too different for me to love you as a beloved and husband."

She watched his eyes carefully, prepared for a thousand emotions but the one that filled his dreamy blue eyes moments later. Simple, enormous, unbelievable. . .gratitude. He smiled at her. "I know," he said softly. "And that's how I care about you, as a friend and sister."

Cestria touched his cheek gently. "Do you want to go back to Earth? You can still stay here on Aquitar if you want to. You know that."

He shook his head. "This is a beautiful world," he told her. "And I think I will want to visit whenever I can. But I want to go home. To Earth."

"I will have a spacecraft prepared for you at once," he looked up to see Delphine, the White Aquitian Ranger and their leader, standing in the doorway. "I anticipated this time, Billy, and was prepared. You have been a good friend, and are welcome on Aquitar whenever you would like to visit."

"Thanks, Delphine," he smiled at her. "This means a lot to me."

The Aquitian woman nodded, and went about having the craft prepared. Cestria turned back to him. "I am going to miss you," she admitted. "I certainly never imagined things would turn out like this when we came to help you get young again."

The former Ranger smiled, remembering those hectic hours when he wondered if he would die of old age before he was even nineteen years old. "I'm glad you came. I'd be a pile of ancient dust by now if you hadn't."

She leaned over and placed a chaste kiss upon his lips. "I'm glad I came too. But now it's time for you to go back to where you belong."

Billy nodded briefly. Time to go home.

Far from Aquitar and Earth both, removed from the wars that dotted that part of the galaxy, on a planet devoid of the civilization that had once thrived there, a young woman rose from her solitary bed and moved at once to the shrine set up only a few feet away. With a flick of her hand she had lit the candles upon it, and knelt in prayer.

"Divine Light," she whispered. "I, thy priestess, give Thee thanks for a night of sweet dreams and rest, and prepare once more for a day devoted to serving Thee."

As she recited the ancient prayers of her people, she gazed deeply into the flames, emptying her mind and letting the dancing fire fill it with what it would. Rarely did she receive full visions of what was to come, and this time was no exception. Images flashes through her, of great battles and pain, of honor betrayed and friends lost, of love and grief and joy and sorrow that cut deeper than the sharpest knife. She trembled, hoping that these images would not come to her world. What she was shown often did not happen in her direct experience, but she knew that somewhere in the vast universe, it was happening.

Often did the lonely priestess wish she could journey from her planet and join in the greater community of interstellar space, fighting against the forces of evil and hate that threatened to overwhelm everything at times. Often had she prayed, asking to be released from her duties that she might do this.

But always had she received the same answer. That it was not time. That another destiny had been chosen for her. Not that of warrior, but of priestess and guardian. It was for others to fight. She had something else to do with her life.

Her morning prayers ended, she rose and began the day in full, bathing and robing herself in the traditional garments of a Sun-priestess. As she always did, she wondered why she did this. It wasn't as if anyone saw her, with each day turning much as the one had before it. But she knew she'd always wear the robes. It was more than just a tradition, it was the only link she had to her past.

Moving as quietly as she could, for the practice, she went to the secret portion of her house and gazed upon the shimmering box that lay on a table carved of ebony. My ancestors spent their lives guarding this. And so will I. And when I am gone, there will be no guardians. A flash of anger filled her at that thought. She was the last of her people, the last Sun-priestess, the last of her family. If those for whom this treasure was not meant did not come in her lifetime, then she would leave it with no guardian. And that went against everything that made her what she was.

Somehow, whoever it is must come. I will not leave them unguarded. She opened the box to look upon the treasure within, and sighed deeply. She didn't know really what these things were, she only knew that they were to be kept safe and sacred, until they were claimed by their rightful owners. That was the trust of her people, and one she would never betray.

Four crystals, each pure and true and glowing with strength and power, lay on a satin pillow within the box. Carved upon the box were symbols she didn't know the meaning of. As she did every day, she touched them briefly.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, she thought. Please come soon.

Tayla, last priestess and guardian, gazed up into the sky and wiped away a tear. Lift this burden from me, whoever you are. Come and take these crystals.

Let me be free.

"Yer Majesty, yer Majesty!" Klank rushed into the throne room of the Machine Skybase, Orbus floating excitedly by his shoulder as always. "I have news for ye!"

Mondo, lord and master of the mighty Machine Empire, turned to his majordomo. "What is it, Klank? This had better be good, I was about to go take me an oil bath!"

The servant robot bowed over and over again. "I beg yer pardon, my lord, but I have been spying on those Alien Rangers, as ye ordered!"

"Yes, what have you learned?" ever since the Alien Rangers of Aquitar had come to Earth to help against one of the mightiest monsters the Machine Empire had ever built, Mondo had been searching for some form of revenge against them. Hopefully whatever Klank's news was would help in that.

Klank and Orbus shared a quick conspiratorial glance, they liked being able to bring good news to their master. Before he started bellowing at them to get on with it, Klank spoke. "Sire, that former Ranger, the brainy one who helped them out so much, and just recently moved to Aquitar: he's coming back to Earth. And he did not tell the Rangers he was coming home, either!"

"Well, now!" Mondo laughed, a sound they hadn't heard often! "This could be very useful!"

"How so, dear?" Queen Machina asked, waving her fan about a trifle.

Mondo ignored her for a moment, turning back to Klank. "Order up a fleet of Quadrafighters! Have them ambush Billy before he gets back into this solar system, and make certain they get rid of him! If the Rangers don't know he's coming, they'll never miss him! We can remove a thorn in our sides very easily with this!"

Klank bowed again. "At once, Yer Majesty, right away, Yer Majesty!" he declared, then ran off to do his king's bidding. Mondo laughed again as he returned to his gazing possessively at Earth.

"Dear, are you certain this is a good idea?" Machina wondered. "We could use his intelligence here, you know!"

Mondo did the best he could to shrug. "Very true, but it will be so much more satisfying to simply destroy him! That way, the Rangers can't rescue him, and we don't have to put up with him trying to escape! This just removes the problem altogether!"

"Yeah, my dad's the greatest, he knows what's best!" Sprocket piped up. "It won't be long now till the Rangers are gone forever."

Billy piloted his ship quietly through the reaches of space. He'd thought about sending a message to the Power Chamber that he was coming home, but decided in the long run not to. He was going to surprise them all. Besides, he wanted time to think over if he was going to even land in Angel Grove or not.

After the way they practically brushed me off with that last transmission, when I thought I was going to stay on Aquitar for the rest of my life, I don't know if I want to go back there or not. Earth's a big place. I can set myself up anywhere, really. He sighed a little. I think I am going to talk to my parents some, though. Get them caught up on what I've been doing.

His parents had known he was on Aquitar, he'd told them about it in a separate communication. They didn't know about his life as a Power Ranger, but living on another planet was something else altogether. Before his first visit to Aquitar, he'd introduced them to Cestro, and they'd been charmed by the Aquitian scientist's hesitant manner, so like Billy's own younger days.

He smiled to himself. Only my parents could ever be told their son is going to live on another planet for the rest of his life and NOT go insane! He remembered the look in his mother's eyes when he'd introduced Cestria to her. She knew. She knew, I think, that it wasn't going to work out between us. But she let us make our own choices, our own mistakes. She always has. They both have.

Billy would've been lost in thought for several more hours if the proximity alarms hadn't started beeping. "What the heck?" he murmured as he checked the scanners. "Oh, this isn't good!"

The scanners revealed twenty Quadrafighters on an intercept course with him. Billy growled something nasty to himself, then turned to the communications console. Regardless of how they'd treated him, the Rangers were his friends, and he was going to need their help to get out of this.

"Billy to the Power Chamber!" he opened the communications channel quickly. "I need help!"

Only static answered him. He growled darkly. Mondo's jammed communications. I'm on my own! I wish this thing came with weapons! I KNEW I should've just teleported back! But, no, I had to come by spaceship, so they wouldn't pick me up on the scans! Argh, so much for the "genius of Billy!"

The Quadrafighters were zooming in on him, and he had only one hope: evasion. Billy hit the accelerators, hoping to outrun them and lose them. Once he got closer to Earth, he'd be able to cut through the interference and get in touch with the Rangers.

He hoped.

Long agonizing minutes passed as he sent his ship twisting and turning through space, doing all he was capable of to avoid the enemy. But as good as he was, and he was good, the Quadrafighters didn't have to worry about losing fighter craft. If one of them slammed into something and exploded, there were still several others to continue the chase. Billy, on the other hand, couldn't afford to hit anything or be hit by anything. One mistake, and he was toast, and he knew it.

Laser bolts ripped by him suddenly as the fighters opened fire. Billy growled something unintelligible even to him, and opened up his engines all the way. "I've got to get out of here," he muttered to himself. "If I can't get back to Earth, then there should be some other planet I can hide for a few days, till I can get in touch with the Rangers."

Steering one-handed, he brought up a quick map of the sector he was in, scanning for inhabitable planets, anything he could land on and keep out of sight. Only one site showed up as anywhere near habitable.

"Suntara," he muttered. "Hope they've got a McDonald's, I'm starving!"

He sent himself soaring towards it, hoping to get there in one piece. Those hopes were dashed as five Quadrafighters appeared almost literally out of nowhere to blast him with several rounds of laser fire. White fire exploded around him, and he knew nothing more.

Tayla turned from taking care of her garden as a strange sound spilt the air. "What is that?" she murmured. "I've never heard anything like it."

She glanced up to see something rocketing through the air. Whatever it was crash-landed almost a mile from her house. As she looked at the wreckage, she felt a sudden shock, almost as of recognition. She looked up to the glittering sun, and almost felt it's command.

I must save whoever is in that thing, she thought, even as she was seizing her bag of medical supplies and running towards the crash site. Hold on, whoever you are. I'm coming.

She came to the wreckage and groaned. "This doesn't look good," she muttered. Things looked even worse a few seconds later when what had once been a spaceship exploded into nothing but scrap metal. No! I couldn't have failed! I was told to save. . .

"Uhhhhhhh. . .," the soft groan caused her to nearly break her neck looking around to see where it came from. A young male lay on the ground, clothing tattered and torn, bruises and bleeding wounds all over him.

"He must be the one I was sent for," she ran to him, already starting to tend to his wounds. She glanced up several times to see if she could tell who had done this to his ship and to him. There was no trace of whatever it was, however.

She looked long into his face, once she had cleaned it clear of blood and dust. He was quite handsome, with blondish-brown hair and gentle features. "I wonder who you are, young one, and where you come from. I suppose I will learn when you wake up."

He tossed a little, and she frowned. "And if I don't get you back to my place, then I will never learn, for you will never wake up."

"Yes!" Mondo practically pranced around his throne room in glorious triumph. He had won! The Quadrafighters had shot down that annoying Billy with little more than a few smashed Cogs for trouble! "Putting that communications barrier around his ship was an excellent idea, Klank! I'm glad I thought of it!"

Klank nodded, though in truth he had been the one to suggest blocking the former Ranger's attempt to communicate with the Power Chamber. "Yes, sire!" he declared, bowing to the Machine King. "It was brilliant!"

Machina laughed. "You are a genius, my love!"

"Oh, yes, I am, aren't I?" Mondo enjoyed being told how great he was over and over again. It made him feel so much better about himself. Billy was done for, forever! And the Rangers knew nothing about it!

It was so good to be so bad!

Tayla's wonderment over her unexpected guest's identity and personality remained unanswered for days to come as he languished in a deep coma. She did what she could to help him, healing his physical wounds and keeping watch over him day and night, looking for any sign of change in him.

Day after day she changed the dressings on his wounds, laying fresh herbs and bandages where and when needed, and singing the ancient healing songs of her people. She noticed he slept better and more deeply when she was near, somehow he noticed and drew comfort from her presence. She sang to him often, and lay near him when she slept, close enough to hear him if he needed her.

As she watched him healing, she wondered many things about him, not just his name. Though that was chief on her mind, for the healing magic could work better if she knew what to call him, she wondered what he was like. Was he good or evil, a warrior or scientist, was he honored among his people, or did they scoff at the things he must know to travel through space?

Frequently he tossed in his uneasy rest, calling out names she did not know. She repeated them softly to herself, hoping to learn his tongue, at least to a degree. "Trini," she tasted the word on her tongue. "Kimberly. Katherine," they sounded like female names, and wondered if they were friends, relatives, lovers, or simply people he knew.

At other times, other names were shouted, and these were in fear. She trembled at one name, a name her people had hated since the very dawn of their civilization. When the name of "Mondo" fell from his lips for the first time, Tayla spent that night shaking in her own fear. She would not let him know of this, though. When he awakened, he would have his own problems.

One night, some fourteen sunrises since she had found him, she despaired of his ever waking again. He had fallen into a deep coma, and had not spoken, not even a shout of pain, in many hours. Ceaselessly she tended to him, singing songs of healing and magic to him, desiring only to help and heal him.

"Awaken, beautiful one," she whispered often into his ears that long night. "You have much to live for. Do not die."

There was no response, though. Tayla trembled in fear of his life, sensing that if he perished, all that was good in the universe would go with him. This could not be.

She would not let it be.

Billy wandered through the wilds of his own mind, unable to see or hear anything, no matter how hard he tried. Something blocked him from touching his senses, and he was getting more and more furious by the moment.

"Why?" he screamed silently. "What has happened to me?"

He could remember nothing but his name. What he'd done before entering this vastness that was his dwelling place now, who he had been, what had happened to him to drive him here, he had no idea. He could only wonder, and hope, and pray that somehow, something would get him out of this. There had to be a way.

"Who am I?" he wondered ceaselessly. He could sense the memories just out of reach, just tantalizingly where he couldn't get to them. All he wanted was a simple memory, just one thing, anything, that would give him some clue as to what had happened to him.

"You will remain here forever!" his head came up at the hideous twisted mockery of his own voice. "You will never again know what it is to live, Billy!"

He stared to see someone standing before him. His same height and build. Every feature identical, as far as he could tell. But where he wore torn and dirty clothing, this one was all in black, and his eyes glowed a harsh and cold red.

"Who are you? Do you know who I am?"

The twin laughed. "Of course I know! I know everything about you, because I am you! I am the side of you that you have always hidden from, that you pushed away and wished never existed. I am hate. I am greed and selfishness and heartbreak and rage and sorrow. I am all that you have feared and fought against, and now I am free at last."

Billy stepped back, feeling a strange fear in his heart. "What. . .do you mean?"

"Oh, you fool!" the negative Billy mocked him with cold laughter. "You have no idea anymore of who you are. Then again, you haven't known that for a long time. I shall enjoy what I do to you. . .and then I shall enjoy even more what I do to her!"

"What are you talking about?" Billy shook as he gazed at this collection of shadows given life. "I don't understand!"

Negative-Billy shook his head. "I don't understand, I don't understand," he repeated Billy's phrase mockingly. "Do you understand this?"

He smashed a powerful fist into Billy's solar plexus, and the young man staggered back in pain. "Why?" he grunted, feeling a strange reluctance to return the attack. "Why?"

"Because I like to," his negative side purred into his ear, seizing him in a powerful grip. "Because you are a foolish boy who had the power of the universe in his grip at one point, and let it be stolen from you. When you could've had everything you've ever wanted, and you just let it go!"

Billy couldn't, wouldn't fight against this part of himself. He couldn't bring himself to do it. It went against everything he was aware of, against every instinct he possessed, which was all he had to go on at the moment. He was not to fight this thing, no matter what! He couldn't fight it!

The evil side of him threw him about the confines of his own mind like a rag doll. He did nothing to fight back, nothing to defend himself. It wasn't what he was supposed to do.

Then what are you supposed to do? The question floated into his mind, and he realized he didn't know the answer. And he knew that was wrong, he should know. That was what he did, what he was, he answered questions no one else did. He knew things, it was his job to know things like this, but this was something he had no idea on.

Negative-Billy stood over normal Billy. Even his mental form was beaten and bruised, a hideous mockery of his physical body. The dark side of his soul laughed in an echoing cackle that destroyed what will he had to survive left.

"It is time to die, my dear positive twin," the side of him that was purest evil laughed in demonic joy. "And once you are gone. . .then I will have free reign over our body!"

Billy shuddered in terror. "No," he found himself saying. "No. I won't let you. I won't let you do that."

"You can't stop me!" his evil half raised a black lance that seemed so familiar to him. "For you have no memory: while I am nothing but memory! Memories of all those who hurt you, who hated you, who tried to kill you. . .and I shall wreak my revenge on them, and take all I have ever wanted for myself!"

The evil side of him began to bring the lance down at a terrifying speed. Normal Billy stared straight up into his opposite's face, intending to meet death head on. . .

When a silvery melody began to weave it's way into the confines of his mind. No, he thought suddenly. Not my mind. OUR mind. It's not mine or his. It's ours. We're the same person.

His evil half brought the lance down far too fast for a normal person to have stopped it. But Billy wasn't normal. He had reflexes and speed equal to that which tried to kill him, and he rolled out of the way as swiftly as he could. "Very good, Billy!" his wicked half mustered a laugh. "But can you keep it up?"

Billy rolled to his feet and smiled. "I don't have to. You destroy me, then you destroy yourself at the same time."

The negative Billy chuckled. "We shall see!"

The song continued, and Billy found himself drawing strength and sustenance from it. "We are the same person," he said softly. "And we are one."

His evil side laughed, and stepped away. "We are not the same," he said. "And we will never be one, for I will never be part of you again! Hail, and farewell. . .and forget, forever, who you once were!"

Billy watched as his evil other half faded into nothingness. I am still within you, Billy. . .and as long as I exist, you shall remember. . .nothing. . ..

Billy's eyes fluttered briefly as he began to awake. He saw a face before him, with eyes as gray as stormy skies and hair as golden as the sun. "Who are you?" she asked in softly accented English.

He tried to speak, and managed to croak out, "B. . .Bi. . .Billy."

The vision of loveliness before him smiled. "Hello, Billy. I am Tayla. Do you know where you are?"

He managed to shake his head. "Do you know what happened?" again a headshake. He spoke again.

"No," he shuddered suddenly. "I . . .don't . ..know anything. I can't remember."

Tayla frowned a little. He had no memory of who he was beyond his name! She had heard of such things happening with wounds such as he had suffered, but she had little training in how to overcome them. Luckily she had learned some of his language, enough to communicate with him, from his ramblings, and it was similiar enough to her own for them to speak with one another.

"What. . .am I doing here?" he asked. "What happened?"

"I do not know," she told him. "I found you in the wreckage of a spacecraft not too far from here. I have nursed you ever since."

He nodded a little, frowning. It seemed as if there was a barrier in his mind, behind which all his memories and experiences, that which made up his entire life, lay hidden. If he could just reach through that barrier, than all he desired to know would be there. He wanted to, more than he wanted anything else. But even as he mentally reached for that barrier, he flung himself back, sweating in fear.

"You are still ill," Tayla told him gently, bathing his forehead with a soft moist cloth. "You have to rest to regain your strength."

"How long will that take?" he asked. He couldn't explain why, but he had the strongest and strangest feeling he was going to need his strength sooner than Tayla might think.

She shrugged. "It varies with all patients," she told him. "Some took longer than others. It all depends upon the person."

"Took?" his ears caught the tense she used. "What do you mean?"

Tayla looked away from him. "We are alone on this planet, Billy," she said softly. "I am the last of my people, the last of my race, and you are the first visitor that has come here in many, many years. I cannot say more than that, because more than that I do not know."

"Is there any way off this planet?" he asked, glancing up involuntarily to the ceiling of her dwelling. A cold chill ran down his spine for some reason.

She shrugged. "For me, no. I am bound to remain here until my Guardianship ends. For you, I cannot say, for I do not know."

"I do not know," were words both of them spoke frequently over the next few weeks. There was much Tayla didn't know about the world outside her planet, and Billy could remember nothing beyond his own name.

She hoped that as he recovered, his memory would return, as did he. There was something about having nothing in his mind beyond his name and what had happened since he awakened to Tayla's eyes gazing into his that felt wrong. With no memory, he could not explain this curious gap he felt in his soul, but whatever it was made him long for all those years he must have lived and learned in.

Tayla did what she could to help him. She healed his body, and though neither knew whether it was her medical skills or the fact he was a naturally swift healer, he was soon back on his feet. His memory, however, remained the blank it had been since his awakening.

"Tayla," Billy glanced at her one bright morning. "I'm feeling kind of stiff. . .is there anything I can do to move around some, work in my muscles?"

She looked up from where she was beginning her morning exercises. "I should have thought of that!" she sighed. "If you don't get on some form of exercise regimen, then your muscles are going to atrophy from lack of use."

"Well, we don't want that!" Billy managed a small smile. She looked at him thoughtfully for a few moments, then nodded as if to herself. "What is it?"

The priestess smiled. "I'm going to teach you the fighting arts of my people. That should get you in shape and keep you in shape if you maintain them once you leave here," she saw the shadow in his eyes at that mention. "Billy, you must leave here one day."

"Why?" he wanted to know. "What good am I to anyone out there," he gestured to the heavens, "without a memory? At least here I can help you guard whatever it is you guard."

She shook her head. "No, Billy. You don't belong to this world, and when you leave, what I guard will go with you."

His eyes widened. "I don't want whatever you're guarding!" he told her. "That's why you live! You told me so yourself, whenever the treasure you guard leaves, your purpose for living leaves with it!"

She chuckled. "Billy, my people have guarded the Treasure for as far back as our knowledge extends, knowing that one day someone would come for it. And the someone they spent their lives, and I spent my life, waiting for, is you."

"How do you know?"

She looked at him for a long moment. "I'll explain later," was what she finally said. "For now, you have exercises to learn."

"Spoilsport," he muttered under his breath as she came over to him, tying her long golden hair behind her to keep it out of her way. He didn't really mind, though. Something about being that close to her was tantalizing to his senses and semi-blank mind.

He didn't recognize the feeling of falling in love.

"Things sure are quiet around here without Billy and Jason," Kat observed one afternoon. The other Rangers nodded quietly. Jason had given the Gold Powers back to Trey two days earlier, and Tommy had insisted he go somewhere for some rest afterwards.

"I really miss them," Tanya sighed. "Things don't feel right without them."

Rocky was gazing quietly into his drink. He hadn't said much of anything since Billy's decision to stay on Aquitar. Adam had tried to get him to talk, but the Blue Zeo Ranger was as silent as a clam when he really wanted to be. And apparently, he really wanted to be.

If the others could have seen into his thoughts, they would have been surprised. Oh, certainly he acted like his normal happy go lucky self on the outside. But ever since Billy had left the Earth for good, he'd been depressed. He spent ten minutes every morning staring at the blue clothing in his closet, and all day every day he felt like an impostor in those garments. You're not the Blue Ranger, he heard the refrain in his mind over and over again. Billy's supposed to be Blue.

But as often as he heard it, he couldn't change it. He was the Blue Ranger now, and Billy wasn't a Ranger at all. He wasn't even on the same planet they were anymore.

"Rocky?" he glanced up to see Adam looking at him. "Rocky, you okay?"

Rocky nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine," he plastered a grin on his face.

"You sure?" the Green Ranger didn't look very convinced. Rocky nodded again and leaped up to his feet.

"Let's spar some, I'll show you just how fine I am!" he challenged. Adam grinned as they headed for the mats. Rocky was just the same as he'd always been.

They all missed the sadness in their happy friend's eyes. Rocky was very good at hiding his true emotions when he wanted to be.

"Move your arms like this," Tayla demonstrated to Billy. "And your legs like this at the same time."

He watched her for a few moments, then duplicated the move. She corrected his form a few times, then observed in pleasure as he performed it flawlessly. "Excellent!" she declared. "You're going to be a natural, I can tell already."

Billy smiled a little. "Thanks," was all he said as he started to go through the movements she'd already taught him. They seemed familiar, but once again, he didn't know how. In the weeks since she'd begun to teach, him, he'd learned quickly and well. Tayla sighed briefly as she watched him. She knew perfectly well she was falling in love with him, and had been since she'd first looked at him after the crash. But she was also the Guardian of the Treasure, and since he was going to be taking it with him when he left. . ..

Which means my familial trust is ended. I can have a child to suit myself, not to carry on the legacy, since there isn't going to BE one anymore!

She found herself smiling. She wondered, though, how Billy felt about this, and how he would react when he regained his memory. As handsome and kind as he was, he had to have a girlfriend or female interest of some type where he was from. How could he not? The woman who would give him up was obviously a fool and madwoman. But then again, if he DOESN'T have someone, then he is free for me.

Tayla thought back to how she had discovered he was the one destined for the Treasure. It had been not long after he had awakened that first time. She had bade him sleep, to heal, and after a round of the healing songs, she had went to her nightly meditations.

As she gazed into the fires, she had suddenly noticed that the box was open. And she hadn't touched it. Quietly she had went over to look inside, to see one of the Crystals was glowing brightly. Reflected in it was not her own face, as had on occasion happened when the light was caught right in it. Instead, she had seen Billy's countenance looking back at her. She'd been startled, to say the very least.

Staggering back to the altar in shock, she had prayed for guidance and wisdom in this matter. Immediately she had plunged into a far deeper trance than she had ever before known. Instead of flashes and brief images, she saw clear and precise visions. Fear filled her, and she knew now why her people had the saying, "Ignorance is bliss, knowledge is terror, choose then which you desire."

Tayla had always enjoyed being scared. But now that she had seen what she had seen, she wondered if bliss was so bad after all. She had seen Billy with the crystal in his hands, and knew now what his complete destiny was. As much as she might love to keep him there, she knew now that his destiny would guide him far from her world.

"Tayla?" she glanced up at his calling of her name. "Are you all right? You looked as if you were thinking about something scary for a few moments there."

She shook her head. "No, Billy," she lied well, despite never having done it before. "Come, I've got some more things to show you."

She tried to leave the pain in her heart behind as she taught him the skills of her people. She wanted to have him forever, to keep him on her world or go with him to his, but as she had remembered her vision, she also knew she was not a part of his future. Tears glittered in her eyes softly, and she thanked the Sun that her pupil and patient had not seen them. She would have enough of a difficulty explaining how she was to give the Crystal to him without him thinking she was upset over his leaving.

"Sweet Sun," she whispered softly, too softly for Billy to hear her, "grant me this time with him. That is all I ask. Not forever. But just for now. Just this one time."

As they worked out, he stumbled a little, and she managed to catch him. Their eyes met, and more than their eyes. He saw within her love, passion, harmony, and desire, and met it with his own. Gently he brought his lips onto hers.

And the priestess's prayer was answered.

Rocky stared at a photograph of the Rangers in their Ninja stage. He touched briefly two faces quietly: his own, dressed in the red he loved so much, and Billy's, clad in his then-usual blue. Why did things have to change? It's Rita and Zedd's fault this happened. He would never forget the pain that had filled him when he'd seen them destroying the Power Coins. A physical stab in the heart wouldn't have hurt nearly as badly.

He sighed deeply. I'm going to do it. He got to his feet. I don't belong in Blue. I never have. Billy does. I'm going to ask him to come back: and become the Blue Zeo Ranger he should have been in the beginning. I saw how he looked when my color was made Blue. He deserves this. I just hope he accepts. I can't stand this anymore. He brings so much more to the team than I ever could.

He wasn't going to tell the others about this, though. Not until he had already given the Zeonizers to Billy. Not until it was done. He quickly teleported to the Power Chamber, wincing a little at how empty it felt without Billy in it. Alpha was quietly recharging in a corner, and he and Zordon were alone.

ROCKY, HOW CAN WE HELP YOU? Zordon asked as soon as he arrived. IS THERE A PROBLEM?

The Blue Ranger sighed. "Nothing Billy can't fix," he muttered. "Zordon, I want to talk to you for a second. There's something I want to do."


Rocky slowly managed to tell his mentor what he was feeling, how he felt like a faker in the armor of the Blue Ranger. How he intended to call Billy and see if the original Blue Ranger would take the power. "I hope he does," he finished. "I'm tired of it. I hate staring into my closet every morning and wondering when Billy's going to want his wardrobe back."


"I know," Rocky nodded. "But I still want to ask."

The Ranger waited as the connection to the Aquitian Rangers' headquarters was made. "Hello, Zordon," Delphine appeared on the Viewing Globe. "How may we help you?"


Delphine frowned. "I do not understand, Zordon. Billy left for Earth seven of your weeks ago. He should have arrived long ago."

Rocky's eyes widened. "He was coming back? He came back?"

HE HAS NOT ARRIVED, DELPHINE, Zordon's voice was worried. PLEASE WAIT A MOMENT. The two Rangers, Aquitian and human, waited and worried as Zordon scanned the entire planet for a specific bio-spatial viobration. HE IS NOT ON EARTH, Zordon reported.

"We will begin an investigation into this at once," Delphine told him. "Billy and Cestria determined they were truly not compatible after all, and he was going to return home. He had personal reasons for not informing you all of his return, which we respected."

Rocky nodded slowly. "I'd better go tell the others," he said. "They're going to want to know about this."

THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE, DELPHINE, Zordon said as Rocky teleported out. WE MUST LOCATE BILLY. I FEAR THE MACHINE EMPIRE HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH HIS DISAPPEARANCE. Though the royal court had been destroyed by Rita and Zedd's bomb, they had apparently left instructions with their Cogs on how to deal with this, since they were in the process of being rebuilt. The Rangers were taking the opportunity to rest up, and they had needed it.

"It was my pleasure, Zordon," the White Ranger told the ancient mentor. "We will find him."

As Delphine faded from the Viewing Globe, Zordon was glad he had not told them what he suspected and feared: that Billy was dead at the hands of the Machine Empire.

"I love you, Tayla," Billy whispered the next morning. He gazed into her sleeping face and smiled. He still had no memories from before he had awakened to her tending him, but he didn't care. All that mattered to him now was the woman he lay so very close to.

I can't decide if she's more beautiful awake or asleep. He touched her forehead gently, lovingly. I don't care what she says, I'm staying with her.

He was about to wake her up, aroused with love and desire once more, when something tickled his mind. It was almost like a memory, but not quite. Then again, how would I know? he wondered. It's not like I HAVE any memories or anything!

It was a strangely insistent mental call, he identified it a moment later. He looked back at Tayla, then got to his feet, unable or unwilling to waken her, he wasn't certain which anymore. Following the inner prompting, he quietly walked over to the box Tayla kept guard over. I wonder what this is. I've never seen her open it, but she keeps an eye on it constantly whenever she's in the room. It's almost like she expects it to vanish, or is making certain that it doesn't.

His eyes widened as the box opened without any hand's help. Inside lay four crystals. His heart pounded with excitement as he looked at each of them. This is her Treasure. This is what her ancestors have guarded since as far back as they can remember. This is her trust and her life.

"This is what you have come to Suntara for," the voice sounded clearly in his ears. "This is the reason you turned down the Power when you had the chance for it."

He looked around, to see nothing but the sleeping Tayla in their blankets still. "Who said that?" he asked softly, but received no answer. He looked back at the box, as one of the Crystals began to glow softly. Somehow, who had spoken before didn't matter.

The Crystal in front of him did. He reached within the box and wrapped his hand around it. As he did so, he felt an incredible rush of power within his soul. He could hardly comprehend what was happening to him, but didn't care. He could sense this was his destiny; it had found him at last.

"Billy?" he turned around to see Tayla standing there looking at him. "Is that you? What are you wearing?"

"Of course it's me!" he glanced down to see he wasn't wearing the loincloth he had been when he'd risen just moments earlier. Instead, he was encased in a smooth shimmering outfit of purest black. He reached up a hand to feel a helmet on his head. Latches were on the side and he quickly undid them to take the thing off. "See, it's me!"

Tayla came over to him, eyes wide with shock. "What happened?" she paused as she saw there were but three crystals in the box, and a sad smile passed her features. "Ah, I see what happened."

"Tayla?" he frowned. "I don't understand."

She closed the box gently and turned to him. "You were given the Power of the Crystal," she explained. "The Crystal called to you, didn't it?" he nodded. "Our ancient legends say that when the one who we have guarded these Crystals for comes, he will be given the Power of one, and will take the others to his world, where the others will be brought together in the fullness of time."

He took a deep breath. "I still don't remember anything," he said. "But you're right. I have to take these Crystals to where they can be used. I can't explain it. It's just something I feel inside."

Tayla sighed. "I love you, Billy," she said, leaning against him for a moment. "But you're right. And I've known it all along. I just didn't really want it to happen."

He wrapped an arm around her and kissed her on the lips. "When I leave," he promised. "With or without memory, you're coming with me."

As he drew her back to their blankets, Tayla locked away the knowledge her earlier visions had given her. I have seen your future, Billy, and I am not in it. If only I was. I want to be more than anything. But I am not. I love you.

Deep within the bowels of the Machine Skybase, the Cogs put the last details on their King's repairs. Mondo looked around, testing his rebuilt form, and nodded. "Excellent!" he said. "Well done, Cogs!" he declared. He looked to his right and left, where Machina and Sprocket were just now being finished up. Klank and Orbus would be completed later that day, he judged, by the amounts of work being done on them.

I'll have to pay Rita and Zedd back for this! he thought, hauling himself to his throne room and triggering the scans. Klank usually did that, but with his majordomo out of operation for now, the King had to do it himself. Maybe I'll blow their palace up or something. I'll figure it out later.

Mondo scanned the Earth, noting that the Rangers seemed to be in their usual irritating good form. A sweep of the moon revealed that Rita and Zedd had taken up residence there again. He ignored them for now, he wanted to think on a suitable revenge, and that could take days, if not longer.

He turned the scanners out to the universe on a whim. His features moved into the nearest approximation of a smile he could muster as he remembered how he'd destroyed the Rangers' friend Billy. And they still have no idea that I did it! What fools they are!

A sudden beeping caught his attention, and he checked the results without really putting much thought into it. His metallic jaw dropped to see what they revealed. "No!" he growled. "It can't be!"

There on his viewscreen was Billy, alive and well, and talking with some humanoid woman! A quick check of the sensors identified the planet they were on as Suntara, home of the Sun-clan priesthood. Mondo remembered that world now; he had invaded it centuries earlier in a search for the Sacred Treasure it held in trust. He hadn't been able to find it, but now it looked as if that blasted human had!

"Klank!" he roared at the top of his machine lungs. "Klank, I don't care how many pieces you're in, get in here now!"

Klank, still missing one arm and part of a leg, limped into the throne room. "Yes, sire?" he asked, bowing as best he could. "How may I help ye?"

Mondo grabbed him and shoved his face towards the monitors, where Billy and the Suntaran woman were indulging in some obscene human activity. "The human Billy is alive! Fix that! I want him torn into a thousand pieces! At once!"

"Guys," Rocky walked over to their usual table in the Youth Center. "I just came from the Power Chamber. I was trying to get in touch with Billy."

"Over what?" Tommy wondered. Rocky and Billy had never really been close, and he'd never considered that the Blue Zeo Ranger might communicate solo with the former Blue Morphin.

Rocky shrugged. "Private matter," was all he would say about it. "But the important thing is this: Billy's not on Aquitar. Delphine said he and Cestria broke up about two months ago. He was coming back to Earth, and never got here."

The Rangers all went very still and quiet. "He didn't get here?" Kat whispered softly, gripping Tommy's hand. "What happened?"

"Zordon's looking for him now, but we already know he's not on Earth or Aquitar," Rocky reported. "I think we'd better get to the Power Chamber and do what we can to help find him."

Adam nodded briefly. "Let's go," they tossed the money for what they'd had onto the table and headed out, teleporting as soon as they reached their usual spot just out of sight. Ernie grinned as he watched. Those kids. Being Power Rangers has been good for them all. Hope they find Billy. He's a good kid.

The five Rangers arrived in the Power Chamber, being joined moments later by Trey, who had been alerted by Zordon as to the situation. "I will use Pyramidus' scanners to track Billy's trajectory and determine what happened, if at all possible."

THANK YOU, TREY, Zordon said as softly as he was capable of. WE WILL NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET TO LOCATE BILLY.

Tanya took a deep breath. "Has anyone checked the Skybase?" she asked quickly before losing her nerve. "I mean, there's that chance that he could be there, isn't it? Even after they were blown up. . ."

Adam nodded slowly. "It is possible," he was already moving towards the scanners, hoping they didn't have shields up still. The Green Ranger got lucky, or the Machine Empire unlucky, depending on one's point of view. "He's not there," he reported, taking a deep sigh of relief. "Wherever he is, he's not there."

The other Rangers said nothing out loud, but among them all was a great and heartfelt relief. They could deal with Billy being lost somewhere in the cosmos, but being on the Skybase was something none of them wanted to deal with.

"We'll find him," Tommy muttered to himself. "We've got to."

Tayla watched as Billy went through several katas she had taught him over the last few weeks. She'd never been sadder or more proud as she observed his moments. Proud, for he was maturing into a fine, proud warrior of her people's skills. Sad, for she knew the day would soon come when his memory would return, and on that day he would leave her world forever, going back to whatever world he had come from.

And I will be alone again. Forever. She laid a hand on her stomach, wondering if what she suspected was true. Could it be? I WAS due last week, but that means very little.

"Tayla," she smiled to see he was doing one of the most difficult maneuvers, and doing it easily. "How am I doing?"

"Just fine," she smiled again. "Congratulations!"

He was going to say something else, when all the blood drained from his face. "Tayla!" he shouted, pointing behind her. "Look out!"

Tayla turned, only to be knocked halfway across their training ground by a harsh metallic fist. Her head slammed into a rockpile and darkness engulfed her totally.

"Tayla!" Billy's throat was raw from the force of his scream. He turned to the creatures coming towards him and felt his fury growing beyond all bounds. "How dare you attack her!" he snarled. "I love her!"

The metallic soldiers advancing ignored his declaration of love, and charged. Billy ran towards them, fists swinging in fury as he knocked the first row of them down. "You're not going to get away with this!" he hissed, whirling around to attack again. "You'll pay for hurting her!"

As powerfully as Billy was fighting, he was severely outnumbered, though not outclassed. Suddenly, as two of the robots grabbed him by the arms, he wondered if the power of the Crystal could in any way help him. Words rose to his lips, strange and unusual words.

"Zeo Ranger Seven, Black!" he cried out suddenly. In a flash of light, that same strange uniform he had worn before was back on him. He felt an incredible burst of energy and strength as he transformed. "You Cogs have had it now!"

They're Cogs! The memory burst on him like a thunderbolt. They're Cogs, and I'm a Power Ranger! I have the Power! I'm the Black Zeo Ranger!

He could sense the presence of his dark other within him, and almost flinched. We are one again, the other laughed. I told you I was the essence of hate for all who have wronged you: and the Machine Empire wronged you, as did Rita and Zedd. It is not wrong to hate evil, but do not let that hate overwhelm you. Not all I told you before was true. I spoke only to frighten you. We are one again. You have a destiny to fulfill, Black Ranger. Go to it.

Billy smiled, as his other side melded with him, and turned to the Cogs, who had been thrown aside by his morphing. "Let's rumble," he chuckled."

The Cogs surged forward.

"Zordon!" Adam said suddenly. "There's a whole fleet of Quadrafighters and Cogs being teleported out to a small planet about fifty light years from Earth. It was on Billy's flight path home, and our scanners are picking up wreckage near it that reads as being from Quadrafighters."


The little droid investigated briefly, then shook his head. "Ay-yi-yi, Zordon, we can only scan parts of the surface, but there are traces of a spacecraft of Aquitian design having crashed there not too long ago!"

Tommy's eyes went wide. "Can we teleport there?"

"Yes, Rangers!" Alpha nodded vigorously. "And you'd better hurry, Mondo's forces are on the way there!! If Billy is there, you don't have much time to get to him!"

The Rangers nodded as they looked at each other. "Let's do it," was all Tommy said softly. They morphed quickly.

"Zeo Ranger I, Pink!"

"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!"

"Zeo Ranger III, Blue!"

"Zeo Ranger IV, Green!"

"Zeo Ranger V, Red!"

"Gold Ranger Power!"

Six flashes of light teleported out of the Power Chamber, on their way to the far side of the galaxy, in search of their dearest and missing friend.

The Cogs were done for. Billy's memory had returned in full. And Tayla lay still and unmoving on the ground. He gathered her up into his arms, tears falling. Demorphed, he brushed the hair away from her eyes and tried to revive her. "Tayla," he whispered her name over and over. "Please, wake up! Please be all right!"

Slowly, her eyes fluttered open. "Billy. . .," her voice was low and weak. "Billy. . .you're all . ..right. . ."

"Yes, I am," he nodded. "I have my memory back, too! Please, don't leave me!"

She raised one hand to brush against his cheek delicately. "I. . .have done. . .my task, Billy. You have the Crystal now. Take the others. your world. . . fight the evil."

Billy shook his head. "No, Tayla!" he whispered. "Don't!" he shivered a little, as he sensed a teleportation.

"Billy!" he heard Tommy's voice behind him, but ignored it, all his attention was held by the woman in his arms.

The Rangers had seen many things, but never anything like this. They had arrived to see their friend cradling an injured woman in his arms, bloody and bruised. He was also wearing nothing but a loincloth. Irreverent thoughts went through both Tanya and Kat's minds as they saw how tanned and muscular he was. But as they got a good look at the woman he was holding, both of them steadied.

"Tayla," he whispered. "How can you leave me?"

She slowly raised herself up enough to kiss him tenderly on the lips. "I don't want to," she spoke with all her strength, though it was fading fast. "But the fate of the last of the Guardians was determined centuries ago. Farewell, my love, I will always remember you. . .and love you. . .my Billy. . .my sweet warrior. . .my love. . ."

Her head dropped back, and her entire body went limp and still in death. Billy threw his head back and howled out his grief. Tears poured down his cheeks. "Tayla! Nooooooooo!!!!!"

The Rangers looked nervously at each other. They had found Billy, but he had lost someone he obviously cared deeply about. Rocky took a deep, hitching breath. Though he had intended to ask Billy to take his place as soon as his friend was found, he knew now that he couldn't. That would have to wait until Billy's grief had passed.

If it ever did.

The End... for now