Rocky DeSantos, the Blue Zeo Ranger, had but one thing on his mind that day as he drove through Angel Grove: trying to find his friend and the person he wanted to talk to more than anyone in the world right now. He sighed. "Where are you, Billy? Ever since we got you back from that planet, you've been almost impossible to keep track of! It's almost like you're avoiding us!"
In the week since the Rangers' return from Suntara, the planet Billy had been shot down over by Mondo's Cogs, the young genius had been silent and withdrawn. If he'd spoken five words to any of the Rangers in those seven days, Rocky didn't know about it. Then again, we did find him mourning over what had to be his first real love.
Billy had spoken once. To Zordon. He'd told their mentor quietly of what had happened, of how the Quadrafighters had blasted his ship onto Suntara and how he'd lost his memory. There he had been nursed back to health by Tayla, last of the Sun-Priestesses, and there he had fallen in love with her. He had been brutally frank in their love, and in the fact they had made love, but anything more than that, he hadn't spoken of. He had told them how the Cogs had attacked, and he'd managed to fight them off using the skills of her people that she had taught him. But before he could defeat them, they had fatally injured her and it was to see her dying in his arms that the Rangers had arrived.
"Billy!" Rocky slammed on his brakes as he saw the young man leaning against a tree in the park. Billy glanced up at the shriek of abused rubber, and smiled briefly.
"Hi, Rocky," he said quietly as the Ranger bounced over to him. "What's so important you almost wrecked your car trying to talk to me? It's not some sort of emergency, is it?" he glanced briefly at his communicator as he spoke. I should've made a new one for myself in black, he mused. But I don't think I want to advertise the fact I'm back with the power just yet. Not till I find the others.
He could almost hear the siren song of the other Zeo Crystals he now guarded, kept safely in the small box he was never without these days. That, and the power of the Black Zeo Ranger within him, was the only thing he had left to remember Tayla by.
"No," Rocky shook his head. "It's not that. I . ..well. ..it's sort of not that. It's Ranger business, but not a fight."
Billy raised an eyebrow. "What is it?"
The other Ranger took a deep breath. "Billy, I saw how you looked when my Zeo Crystal turned out to be Blue. I could see the hurt in your eyes every time you saw me, and I'm sorry. I didn't think there was anything I could do about it, though."
"I understand," Billy smiled warmly at his friend. "It's all right, Rocky. I was never meant to be the Blue Zeo Ranger," I was meant to be the Black.
Rocky shook his head. "You were," he replied. "Billy, I've been thinking about this for a while, and I want to give you my powers," he said. "You're more qualified than I am to be any sort of Ranger. The team won't miss much by losing me, just another bundle of muscles. Your brains are far more important."
He moved his arms as if he were going to call his Zeonizers, when Billy laid a hand on his wrist. "No, Rocky," he said firmly. "You do deserve to be a Ranger, and you're the most qualified person I know to be the Blue Zeo Ranger. You're more than just brawn, trust me, and the team would lose something far more than muscle if you left. We would lose a friend."
Rocky stared at him for a moment. There was something different about Billy these days, a depth and a wisdom that had been lacking before he had went to Aquitar. He was very sure of himself now, and Rocky found his resolve weakening under the steel in the young man's eyes. "A. ..are you sure?" he asked. He'd been bound and determined to do this, to give up his powers and go back to life as a civilian, but with Billy looking at him like that, with such love and trust and care and friendship. . .he found that he couldn't.
"I am," the other man nodded. "I honestly appreciate the offer and the sentiment, but this is where you belong. I belong. ..elsewhere."
For one moment, his eyes lifted to the heavens, to the clear blue vault of sky overhead. And Rocky saw a tear that shone there, refusing to be shed. He nodded quickly and left, feeling somehow disappointed in a way, but not wanting to intrude on Billy's still-raw grief. Will that wound ever heal? he wondered. And what would happen if it did?
As Rocky walked away, Billy slowly dropped his gaze from above. He'd certainly never expected that to happen! To have Rocky try to give up his powers to him. . .he shook his head a little. Who would have imagined. I almost wish I'd told him. But I want to find the others first. There's three other people out there who are supposed to be Zeo Rangers, and I'm going to find them. Somehow.
He sighed as he started walking again. "I will fulfill your mission, Tayla," he swore. "I will find the other bearers of the Crystals."
His eyes filled with tears at the thought of his love. They had been together for such a short time, only a couple of months, but in that couple of months they had lived and loved a lifetime. As he walked, he segued effortlessly into one of the katas she had taught him, leaping and twirling all over the park. He found himself smiling when he came out of the half-trance working out had put him in. "As long as I remember you, you're not gone," he whispered. "And I will always remember you."
He started back the way he'd come, humming lightly under his breath as he did so. The power of the Black Zeo crystal soared all through him, filling him up as nothing ever had before. Even being the Blue Ranger hadn't made him feel quite this. . .delicious! He could almost giggle and laugh at the strength that flowed through him.
I wonder who the others are, he considered. And how did Tayla know that I was the one for my crystal? He tried to remember how it had happened. He'd awakened early one morning, shortly after he and Tayla had become lovers, and had been considering rousing her for some mutual pleasure, when something had called to his heart and soul. Then, he had been called by the Crystal itself to the box she kept them in.
"And the rest is history," he whispered under his breath, flicking his wrists for a moment to call up the Black Zeonizers. "Somehow I'll find the rest of them. Somewhere."
He shook his wrists, putting the Zeonizers back to wherever it was they went, and as he went back to his car, he spared one more glance up to the heavens. He wasn't looking for the sun of Suntara however, as he had been before. This time, his eyes narrowed with hate. "And when I do find them, Mondo, you'd better beware. I'm going to make you pay for your Cogs killing Tayla!"
Before he could stop it, a tear dashed down his cheek. "You'll pay," he promised. "You'll pay."
Billy closed his eyes briefly, and shook his head, clearing his mind and thoughts. I can't give in to my grief right now. I have to find the others.
As he reached for his keys, a soft glow caught his eye suddenly. He looked quickly to the crystal box, and caught his breath. Slowly he opened the lid, and stared inside. The three other crystals, one purest white, one a silvery shade, and one a deep amethyst-like purple, lay on their cushion.
The silver crystal was the one glowing, and as Billy stared at it, he caught a glimpse of his own face for a moment. Then, it shifted and changed, becoming someone else. Billy had no doubt that he was seeing just how he would know the other Rangers-to-be now. And the face he saw in there he recognized plainly. His heart beat a little faster in both recognition and awe. He smiled.
"Looks like being a Ranger is as much your destiny as it is mine," he said. "And I'd better go find you."
He shut the box quickly and hopped into his car. He had an old friend and a new Ranger to find.
"I do not believe what is going on here!" Mondo, King of the Machine Empire, snarled as he thrashed about his throne room. Having had to get repaired twice inside of six months was not his idea of a good time! Tearing apart Power Rangers and their little allies was. And now there were seven of them! That stupid little human Billy was a Ranger again! "He's got the Treasure of Suntara and he's the Black Ranger! And he's going to be searching for the others!"
Machina flipped her fan and gazed at her husband. "Calm down, dear," she advised. "You won't get anything useful done if you bounce around like a mad machine."
"True, true," the king replied. "But I am going to get some fairly useful revenge on that human Billy! He hasn't told the other Rangers about his new powers, and I'm going to see to it that he doesn't have a chance! Klank!"
The chief footman quickly limped up; he still had a few dents left in him from Rita and Zedd's bomb. "Yes, sire?" he croaked out. "What can I do for you?"
"Send the very best Cogs you have to Earth!" Mondo ordered. "I want to see the Black Zeo Ranger in pieces, is that understood!?"
Klank saluted sharply. "Yes, sire! Immediately, sir!" he was running for the Cog armory almost before the echo of his words faded. Mondo nodded sharply and approvingly.
"And then I want to see those other Zeo Rangers all destroyed!" he declared. "They've stood in my way long enough! And once that is done," he turned his attention to Earth's moon, to the palace visible through the scanners pointed there. His eyes glowed red briefly, and he hissed. "Rita and Zedd will pay for scattering me and my family across the landscape!!!!"
Sprocket bounced up and down eagerly. "Dad, dad, can I blow their palace up? Please!? Please!? Let me, please! I've been very very bad, I promise!"
"He has been an evil little machine," Machina agreed. "And we do have some high explosives that are just sitting around gathering dust in some of the lower levels."
Mondo considered that. "Maybe later," he said finally. "We'll get rid of the Rangers, then deal with Rita and Zedd once that's done with. First things, first after all. Now, go play with your toys, Sprocket."
As his son headed off, Mondo returned his attention to Earth. Soon. Very soon. VERY VERY soon, it will all be mine. Let there be five Rangers, six, seven, or a thousand, they will ALL fall and my Machine Empire will milk this planet dry of it's resources! Then Earth, and the entire universe, will be MINE!! FOREVER!!
He chuckled to himself. Today was going to be a red-letter day for the forces of evil. In mere moments, the Black Zeo Ranger would be gone forever, and after that, the others would follow. Simplicity itself.
"Hi, Emily!" Jason waved brightly to his girlfriend Emily as he saw her wiping tables at Ernie's Beachside Cafe. "I didn't know you were working here today!"
She shrugged a little distantly. "I work wherever Ernie needs me," she said. "Look, Jason, I get off for my break in a few minutes, and I need to talk to you."
"Sure," the former Gold Ranger grinned; he hadn't felt this good in a long time. His body had completely healed from the effects of the Gold Ranger powers, and he was almost literally bouncing around these days. "What about?"
Emily just shook her head, and quickly went back to work. Jason sat down a table and watched quietly as she cleaned and served drinks and food. He hadn't been this happy in years. He was healed, he was happy, he had a wonderful girlfriend, there hadn't been any serious attacks since the Rangers had retrieved Billy, who seemed to be healing emotionally quite well, even if he was somewhat silent and withdrawn these days.
He'll be okay, Jason nodded to himself. I really should go over and talk to him today. It's been a long time since we hung out together. Last time we did. . .Kim, Zack, and Trini were here. He felt a pang in his heart at that thought. The other three were scattered over the planet as well. Kim had finished off with a silver in the Pan-Globals, and Zack and Trini were still in Switzerland. He hadn't heard from any of them in weeks. I'll see if I can pull together some sort of reunion----
"Jason," he looked up to see Emily standing there, a strange look in her eyes. She sat down next to him, and he reached out to take her hand, as he so often did while they were together.
She moved away from him, shaking her head as she did so. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Jason," she said softly. "I'm going to just have to go ahead and say this. I don't want to go out with you anymore."
And the world dropped away from beneath Jason's feet. His eyes went wide and his heartrate tripled. "Emily," he whispered. "What happened? What did I do?"
She stood up, shrugging. "It's just not going to work," she stated firmly. "I really thought it would, I tried. But I don't love you."
He was going to say that he loved her, that they could make it work somehow. She never gave him the chance. "I still want to be friends, though, if we can be. I'll see you around."
As she walked away, Jason sat in complete shock, his mind numb. "Emily?" he whispered. "What did I do?"
But there was no answer. Half in a daze, Jason got up and headed down the beach. The only thing in his mind was the utter shock of what had just happened.
Then it happened. He could hear the voice in his mind, clear and sharp and commanding. "It is time. Come to me, Jason Scott. Come."
He didn't argue. There was no room in his mind to argue with this commanding, whatever it was, whoever it was. He started walking. He had a date with destiny.
And at least destiny wasn't going to break up with him and break his heart.
"Has anyone seen Billy today?" Tommy asked, waving briefly to Rocky as he joined the others at the Youth Center. Trey wasn't with them; he didn't tend to spend too much time with them anymore since the destruction of the Machine Empire. Tommy fully intended to change that if he could. The Gold Ranger had spent far too much time alone. "I've been wanting to talk to him, see how he's doing."
"I talked to him earlier," Rocky said. "At the park. He. . .sort of seemed to want to be alone, I think."
Adam's eyes narrowed momentarily. "You were going to give up your powers," his voice wasn't accusing, but it was smooth and matter-of-fact. Rocky wasn't surprised that he'd figured it out. There was, and always had been, far more to Rocky than met the eye. "You were going to give them to Billy."
Everyone was practically staring at the two of them. Rocky nodded slowly. "I didn't feel. ..and I still don't, really, like I belong in the Blue uniform. Billy should be the Blue Ranger, not me."
"You earned the Blue Zeo subcrystal," Tommy said quietly, keeping his voice down to avoid being heard by anyone else. "You are the Blue Ranger."
Rocky sighed. "That's effectively what Billy said. He told me that I deserved to be the Blue Ranger, and that everyone would miss me too much if I left."
"Very true," Tommy's voice was a trifle sharp. "We miss Billy, too, but he made his own decision, which I respect. And there's something he's not telling us."
The others all looked at him. "What?" Tanya asked.
"There's something that he isn't telling us," Tommy repeated. "I don't know what it is, but ever since we got him back from that planet, there's been something he's keeping to himself."
Adam thought things over for a moment, then nodded. "You're right. I should've seen it before, I've seen how Billy gets when he's got a secret, and it's been practically glowing out of him that he has something he's hiding."
He was on his feet, a familiar grin on his lips. "I think I should go talk to him."
Tommy had his hand on Adam's arm a moment later. "If he wants to tell us, he will," the Red Ranger said firmly. "If whatever it is that he's keeping from us is that important, then he probably has his reasons. One thing I did learn from Billy was to trust him."
As nods went around the table, a sudden six-toned beep sounded. "Looks like Mondo's back on the job," Tommy muttered, getting up and throwing some money down on the table. Emily was working at the Beach Club today, so it was Ernie who grabbed the money and waved them on out the door. "Come on, guys."
Once out of sight of everyone, Tommy spoke quickly into his communicator. "What is it, Zordon?"
RANGERS, TELEPORT TO THE PARK AT ONCE. MONDO HAS SENT DOWN A TROOP OF COGS TO ATTACK BILLY. HE NEEDS YOUR HELP AT ONCE, their mentor ordered. Tommy nodded.
"We're on the way, Zordon," he declared. "Mondo's done more than enough to Billy, we're not going to let him hurt him again!"
"You got it, Tommy!" Rocky said firmly. The Red Ranger nodded sharply.
"It's morphin' time!"
"Zeo Ranger I, Pink!"
"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!"
"Zeo Ranger III, Blue!"
"Zeo Ranger IV, Green!"
"Zeo Ranger V, Red!"
In their teleportation light, the five of them transported to the park, and into a scene beyond their strangest imaginations.
Billy stretched long and languidly, then started up the car. He had an idea of where he was going to find his friend, and wanted to hurry. The sooner he found the others, the better.
"There he is!" the phrase was spoken in a thin metallic voice that he didn't recognize, but he also didn't have to. He could see the Cogs appearing out of the teleportation circle a few feet away. Ten were already heading towards him, and more were still appearing.
This isn't going to be good. Better suit up for action! "Zeo Ranger VII, Black!"
Black light engulfed him, coalescing into the Black Zeo Ranger's uniform. Emblazoned on his helmet was a circle in white, and he could sense his special Zeo weapon, the Zeo Power Lance, ready to be used if he needed it. "You Cogs have had it now! Time to rumble!"
He ran towards the Cogs, slamming into the first ones as hard as he could and grinning as they halted their advance a little. He hadn't fought Cogs very often, but doing it with a Ranger's powers was a lot more invigorating than doing it with a magnet!
Of course, I'm not going to put down magnets, he reminded himself, smoothly blocking a punch and flipping the offending Cog over his shoulder. That thing saved my life that time. Oh, well. This is certainly a lot of fun!
"Hey!" he looked up at the sharp call and was half-surprised to see Jason standing there, tear-traces on his cheeks, sorrow in his eyes, but pure raw fury in his fists. "Leave my friend alone!"
The Cogs barely had enough time to register the fact someone else was there before the former Gold Ranger was charging straight into them. He wasn't as strong as he'd been when carrying Trey's powers, but Jason had something very few did: years of experience fighting the creatures that the forces of evil had brought against his planet, and a great deal of simple brute strength. Both of those went a long way towards knocking the living daylights out of those Cogs.
"Jason!" Billy cried out, and that proved to be a mistake as his friend glanced over to him, recognizing his voice even through the distortion of the helmet. The Cogs seized both the advantage Jason's inattention gave them and the former Ranger himself, holding onto him as harshly as they could. "Oh, crap!" the Black Ranger groaned to himself. "Just what we most certainly did not need!"
"Billy!" Jason almost screamed the name. "Help!" how'd Billy get Ranger powers? Nevermind, I've got my own problems! "Let go of me, you metallic morons!"
The Cogs didn't seem to be listening, however, as they started dragging Jason down to the ground, intent on keeping him in one place as their fellows headed over to Billy. The Black Zeo Ranger growled deep in his throat.
Got to help him. ..wait a minute. ..that's IT!! Billy turned in his tracks and jumped over the Cogs in the way of the front seat of his car. "Jason!" he pulled the box out, and wasn't surprised to see it glowing a brilliant silver. "Got a present for you! Courtesy of an old friend!"
Jason managed to look up in time to see Billy opening up the box and cast a long, silvery white crystal across the battlefield. In a powerful movement he surged up through the Cogs holding him down and leaped high, high over them all, to where the crystal arced like a blade of doom and salvation both.
Cogs were reaching for him, and Billy was keeping them off him as much as he could. One Cog had his arms around his waist, jerking him down just as his fingers were reaching for the crystal. . .and Billy's Zeo Lance swiped straight through the robot, reducing it to scrap metal.
Jason's fingers closed on the crystal, and he could feel the power sweeping through him, filling up those empty vacant place in his soul that had been torn asunder by the Gold Power. The last remnants of the weakness he'd went through were healed, more than healed, with this power, it was as if he'd never went through it. Words swam up through his mind, words he spoke as naturally as if born to them.
"Zeo Ranger VIII, Silver!"
"Zeddy!" Rita screamed. "Come look! This is important!"
Lord Zedd glanced up irritably from where he was making some plans for defending their palace against the Machine Empire and growled. Ever since they'd blown Mondo and his family apart and resumed residence here, Zedd had been on guard, looking to see if the animated machines were going to be attacking them or the Earth or both. Mondo seemed to be relatively ignoring them, however. He didn't expect that to last. "This better be good!"
"Oh, it is!" Rita laughed as she gestured him over to her. He joined her on the balcony, peering over and scanning Angel Grove with his visor as she watched through the RepulsaScope he'd given her. "Look at the park!"
He tracked down just where she was looking at, and laughed to see that former Ranger Jason fighting with a pack of Cogs. His laughter stopped a few moments later, however, when he saw who else was in the combat. "Who is that?" he growled. "I didn't know there was a Black Zeo Ranger!"
"It's Billy!" Rita laughed. "I was watching him when he morphed, it's that annoying twerp all right!"
Zedd's fingers flexed around his staff. "Well now," he growled. "Well, imagine that!"
They watched in silence for a few moments, with various plans going through both sets of evil brains. "Oh, look!" Rita cackled. "Looks like the poor little former Ranger is going to go down! Imagine, a Cog actually doing something right!"
"Hah! I'd sooner trust that bonehead brother of yours!" Zedd retorted. "I wouldn't put it past those Rangers to have some sort of backup plan! The others will probably come tele----" he stopped in midword, staring in pure outrage at the events below. "Noooo!!" he shrieked almost as loudly as Rita ever had. "Noooooooo!!!!"
The two of them watched in complete shock and disbelief as Billy managed to drag some sort of crystal out a glowing box and toss it gracefully across the clearing. He kept the Cogs away from his friend, even to slicing one across with a black version of his former Power Lance, and Jason shouted in a voice that rang clearly to the moon his newest morphing call of the Silver Zeo Ranger.
"Oh, Zeddy, I think I'm going to be ill!" Rita moaned. "Now there's eight of those blasted Rangers!"
Zedd was frowning. "Where did the other crystals come from?" he wondered. "Finster!"
The little inventor dashed into the throne room as fast as he could. "How can I serve you, my lord Zedd?" he asked. Finster had been loyal to Rita most of his life, and when she had married Zedd, his loyalty had extended to the lord of evil as well.
"Look," he touched Finster for a moment on the shoulder, enabling the scientist to see what was going on down on Earth. "Where could those other Crystals have come from?"
Finster frowned, thinking. "I'm not quite sure, Lord Zedd," he said. "I think I remember seeing a mention of something like that in one of my books, let me go check, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can on them."
"Hurry!" Zedd ordered, nodding as Finster practically ran out of the room. His eyes returned to the scene being played out below, and frowned deeply. I've always wanted my own evil Rangers. And I think those two would do just perfectly. The brains and the brawn. Everything I ever wanted in a fighter, and never got with Goldar.
He smiled under his mask. This was going to be very interesting. Very interesting indeed.
"Umm. . .would someone please tell me who those two are?" Rocky stared in pure and unabashed shock at the sight before them. Two Rangers that they had never seen before were happily bashing Cogs around. "And where's Billy?" they could see his car parked by the side of the road, but there was no sign of their friend.
"I have no idea," Tommy shook his head, watching as what appeared to be a Black and Silver pair of Zeo Rangers smashed two Cogs against each other and into scrap metal. "But if they're Rangers, then they're on our side. And we need to help them."
But even as the others started towards them, the last of the Cogs fell to the strange new team. The Black and Silver Rangers looked at each other, then to the five walking towards them. "Hi," Tommy said suddenly, feeling a flashback to when he had tried to get Trey to tell him who he really was. "Ummm. . .who are you guys? Do you know where our friend Billy is?"
The Silver Ranger, his uniform a gleaming silvery shade and his helmet emblazoned with a half-moon shape, stepped forward. His voice was too distorted by the helmet to be recognized as he said, "He's safe. We made certain of that."
His companion nodded, his voice also twisted beyond recognition. "Thank you for coming to aid us, Rangers, even if it wasn't needed. We shall meet again."
Tommy turned around to look at the others, wondering if they were getting the same strange flashes that he was of familiarity. "Whoa," Adam whispered. "They're gone!" when the Red Zeo Ranger turned back around, they were gone. . .and Billy was coming out of the woods.
"Billy!" Tommy ran over to him, demorphing. "Are you okay? Did you see those other two Rangers?"
Billy nodded. "The Black and Silver Rangers. They showed up just when the Cogs did and did some serious damage," he glanced at the Cog parts strewn everywhere, which vanished almost as soon as he did so. "Did they tell you guys who they were?"
"No, not a clue," Kat shook her head. "They're being every bit as mysterious as Trey was!"
The former Ranger smiled a little. "I'm sure they'll tell everything when they feel the time is right," he glanced down at his watch, and his eyes went wide. "Oh, man, I've got to go! I'm supposed to meet Jason for a workout!"
The Rangers waved as Billy hopped into his car and sped off out of sight. Tommy frowned as he left. "Tommy?" he looked to see Tanya looking at him. "Are you okay, you seem sort of upset."
"Not really," the Rangers' leader shook his head. "Just. ..well. ..this seemed a little too coincidental to me. The Cogs attack, those two Rangers show up and save Billy. We know Mondo's got to hate Billy for not dying on that planet like he was `supposed to'," his voice held heavy sarcasm. "I'm wondering if Mondo could be tricking us or Billy somehow."
"I hope not," Adam shook his head. "We'd better check in with Zordon, see if he knows anything about these two new Rangers. If they're really Cogs in disguise, or somehow working for Mondo, then we need to know about it."
Kat nodded. "They'd almost have to be disguised Cogs," she said. "I mean, there aren't any more Zeo Crystals. Right?"
"Right," Tommy nodded. "If there were, Zordon would've told us about them," as they teleported to the Power Chamber, Tommy could hear his own words going through his mind. Zordon would have told us. ..wouldn't he?
Billy slowed his car down and opened the passenger side, letting Jason jump in. "I can't believe that actually worked!" he declared as his former leader leaned back in the seat and felt the power of the Silver Ranger rushing all through him. "I mean, I had no idea they'd fall for a story that. . .that. . .."
"Lame?" Jason suggested, and Billy nodded. "Well, they do have a lot on their minds, and you haven't ever lied to them before. Not to mention the fact that you almost have to see a person morphing before it connects in your mind that they might be a Ranger. Part of the distortion field around us, I think is what Zordon called it once."
Billy nodded, remembering back in the early days of the Rangers, when he'd brought up the subject with their mentor. "I think you're right. Well, that's good for us, at least. They're not going to be trying to find out who we are."
"Billy," Jason glanced at him. "I've known you all my life, so I trust you with my life. But why do you want to keep who we are from them? I can understand why Trey did it. . . but why us?"
The Black Ranger took a long breath. "Because there are two others," he said quietly. "Two more crystals that need owners, and if the Rangers know who we are, and know about those crystals, then they're going to want to help find them."
Jason frowned. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't that be a good thing?"
"I can't explain it," Billy shook his head. "It's just something I've felt ever since Tayla died. That we can't tell the others who we are until we've found all of us. All those who are to carry the Crystals."
"Tayla?" Jason hadn't been at the briefing where Billy had told of his alien love and what had happened to him on Suntara. As Billy filled his old friend and once more reborn fellow Ranger in on what had happened to him, and how he'd become the Black Ranger, Jason nodded. He felt a touch of envy for Billy for having simply lost his love. She didn't dump him. She died. I feel sorry for him, but at least he knew that they loved each other. I've been living a lie for the past few months, and just had no idea.
"So, we keep this a secret until we find whoever White Ranger and Purple Ranger are supposed to be?" Billy asked, glancing to his friend. Jason nodded almost absently. "Thanks. This . ..this really means a lot to me, Jase. You have no idea how much," he looked again, and saw tear-stains strong on Jason's face. "Jason?"
There was no reply for a moment, and Billy was about to touch his friend's shoulder, when Jason said quietly, "She dumped me, Billy. Just like I was a piece of trash she'd finally gotten around to sweeping up. And for nothing. She wouldn't even say why. She didn't say what I'd done wrong, or if I'd done anything wrong, it just happened. What did I do?! What did I do?!"
Jason's voice was racked with pain and guilt, and Billy could only stop the car to comfort him as best he could. "I don't know, Jason," he said quietly. "I wish I could help you, but this is something I have no experience in."
Tears began to pour forth once again from Jason, and Billy held his friend, almost his brother, as the sobs racked his body. In that moment, the Black Zeo Ranger would have given everything, his health, his life, his powers, to make these tears stop. Jason had always been the strong rock in his life, and to see him break down now almost broke Billy down. It was only that friendship now that kept Billy here with him, where he was needed, and not going to talk some sense into Emily for hurting his friend like this. He whispered softly, "I'm here for you, Jason. I'm here for you."
That was all he could be for now. But it was enough.
"I thought I told you to destroy the Black Ranger, not give him the chance to make another Ranger!" Mondo shrieked so loudly his throat joints almost popped out. "Klank, you insufferable ignoramus!! I've seen Earth toasters with more sense than you! You call yourself a henchmachine, you couldn't hench your way out of a wet paper bag!! I should have you recycled and find me someone who can get the job done that I ordered done!!"
Klank bowed and scraped and begged. "Please, Yer Majesty, I tried!" he groveled. "I did what I could, `tis not my fault the Black Ranger destroyed the Cogs before his friend could take the Crystal! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
"That you are!" Mondo grouched. "But we still have two more chances to stop them. There are still two other Crystals, which means two more Rangers out there who are going to be getting their powers somehow. We must find them, and destroy them!"
Machina waved her fan about briefly. "Dear, there are other things we could do rather than destroy them," she suggested. "Though it would be rather enjoyable to see them screaming in pain."
"What have you got in mind, Mom?" Sprocket asked, peeking his head in the throne room. "I know it's gotta be evil, my Mom would never have an idea that wasn't evil!"
Mondo shushed his babbling son and turned to his queen. "What is it, dear?"
"Why, Mondo, I think it would be obvious," Machina almost seemed to smile, at least her eyes grew lighter and more evil. "It would be far, far better not to destroy these new Rangers. ..but to control them."
Mondo could hardly believe his audio circuits!! "Are you suggesting what I think you are, my dear?"
"That depends," Machina couldn't help but chuckle. "Are you thinking that I'm thinking of capturing the new Rangers, including the Black and Silver ones, and bending them to our twisted and evil will?"
Mondo laughed hideously, and wrapped his arms tightly around his tall queen. "Oh, you are as evil and corrupt as I am, my dear! That is a perfect plan! The Rangers won't be able to fight against other Rangers, especially not if those other Rangers are their own friends!"
Machina nodded. "All we have to do is just sit back and wait for those two to find the others and then we sweep in and take over their minds!"
"Klank!" Mondo shouted. "Get over here!"
As the majordomo hurried over, Mondo thought over just how perfect this plan was. How could it fail? "Klank, I want you to get to work on creating four different ways to control humans," he ordered. "Each one must be perfectly designed and tailored for each of the new Rangers as they get their powers. Go down to Earth now, and see if you can get skin or hair samples from where they were just fighting. Do you think you can handle that at least?"
Klank bowed once again, Orbus hovering over his shoulder and doing his best to look servile as well. "Yes, my liege," he affirmed. "We can do that, no problem!"
"Then what are you waiting for?" Mondo screamed, knocking Klank away with one metallic fist. "Get moving!"
As Klank, Orbus, and a platoon of Cogs vanished off the Skybase, Mondo turned back to Machina. "My dearest queen, this plan of yours is going to be the crowning achievement of our Machine Empire! To have four Power Rangers on their knees before us is the very ultimate in evil!"
Machina laughed. "I know, dear, I know. I learned how to be evil from the very best. . .you!"
"Of course, dear," Mondo chuckled. "Of course!"
"Lord Zedd, Queen Rita!" Finster hurried into the throne room, bowing and waving a parchment madly about. "I've found what you were looking for, Your Majesties! I know about those Crystals!"
Zedd looked up from where he was busily whispering sour nothings in Rita's ear. "This better be good, Finster!" he growled. "Rita and I were about to----"
Rita interrupted him. "What is it, Finster?" she might have really fallen in love with him, but that didn't mean they had to advertise what they were doing!!
Finster unrolled the parchment in front of him. "It appears that many thousands of years ago, when the Zeo Crystal was placed in the Caves of Deception, it was only part of the full crystal. There were still other shards elsewhere. One become part of the Gold Ranger's staff, while four others were put into the care of the Priesthood of the Sun on the planet Suntara. Suntarian legend held it that in the fullness of time, a stranger from the stars would come to claim one of the shards, and would take the others to where they would be needed. There are also vague rumors of two other pieces, bringing the total number of Zeo fragments to twelve, but no one knows just where those are at this point in time. Each crystal can only be used by a certain person in each generation, and there is apparently some method to choose who it will be, but no one knows just what that is, either, or at least not that they've ever written down."
Rita and Zedd exchanged glances as Finster rolled the parchment back up and beamed at them, glad he'd been able to find what they'd ordered him to. "Zeddy," Rita smiled wickedly. "We need to get those other two crystals before those Rangers find who they belong to, and get them and their powers for ourselves!"
Zedd laughed. "Oh, indeed we do! And we will! I noticed that the Black Ranger is keeping them in a box. All we have to do is send Rito and Goldar down to Earth, and they should be able to steal that without too many problems!"
Rita snorted in derision at her brother and oldest warrior. "Are you kidding? Send those two up against the Black Ranger, who probably has toenails with higher IQs than the two of them put together?"
"You're right," Zedd relented. "How to get them, then?"
The Queen of Evil thought for a moment, then laughed. "Simplicity itself. We'll let the Rangers do it. When they seek out the users of the Crystals, all we have to do is just seize them at that moment, and put our spell on them! Then we've got our own little Rangers, all ready, willing, and eager to serve our every whim!!"
Her husband laughed darkly. "Ohhhh, that's what I love about you, Rita!" he squeezed her, just barely not scraping her skin with his talons. "The way your twisted and evil mind works! Well, one of the things I love about you!"
As they drew together for another kiss, Finster couldn't help but take himself away decently. He might serve them both equally and loyally, but there were things about their marriage that he did not want to actively know about. And maybe. ..just maybe. . .I don't serve them as loyally as they think I do, he thought quietly as he slipped into his bedroom. After locking the door behind him, he quietly reached under the bed and pulled out a box. The spells he'd managed to figure out and place on his room prevented Rita or Zedd from peering in magically, so he felt safe doing this.
For one moment, and one moment alone, he peered into the box. Two crystals flashed back at him, one a deep and pleasing orange, the other a glittering brown like tree bark. He quickly locked the box back and shoved it under his bed, and sighed. I'll get out of here with those someday, he swore to himself. Or at least get THOSE to where they can do the most good against Rita and Zedd.
SILVER AND BLACK ZEO RANGERS? Zordon seemed. . .surprised rather than worried or angry. SO THE ANCIENT TALES ARE TRUE AFTER ALL.
"Zordon?" Tommy stared at his mentor. "What are you talking about?"
CENTURIES AGO, BEFORE THE ZEO CRYSTAL WAS PLACED UNDER THE LUNAR PALACE, IT WAS PART OF A MUCH LARGER CRYSTAL. IN ALL, THERE ARE TWELVE PIECES TO IT. FIVE WERE PLACED TOGETHER INTO THE ZEO CRYSTAL YOU RETRIEVED. ONE WAS SENT TO TRIFORIA, WHERE IT BECAME PART OF THE GOLDEN POWER STAFF, Zordon's eyes went first from Tommy to Trey, who had been there when the Rangers arrived. FOUR WERE SENT AWAY TO BE KEPT IN SECRECY, AND ONLY ONE ANCIENT PARCHMENT HAS EVER TOLD OF PRECISELY WHERE THEY WERE SENT. THAT PARCHMENT WAS LOST EONS AGO TO THE FORCES OF EVIL. THE LAST TWO PIECES WERE SENT TO THE PLANET KILANSIS, TO POWER THE TWO RANGERS THEY NEEDED AT THE TIME.
"Just two?" Rocky asked. He'd never imagined that just two people could defend a planet!
"The old stories say that Kilansis was overrun and conquered by Rita's armies when the two Rangers that the Crystals powered died of old age," Trey told them quietly. "Whatever happened to the Crystals is unknown. The slaves who were taken from that planet circulated a rumor for a time that said one of their own had been given charge of the Crystals, but that ceased shortly after their enslavement."
Tommy nodded, it was entirely possible in his mind that the Crystals had either been lost or shattered beyond repair. "So somehow, at least two of the Crystals have been found?" at least that puts it to rest on whether or not they're REAL Rangers. But why would they not tell us who they are?
IT APPEARS TO BE SO, TOMMY, Zordon nodded. BUT WHO DISCOVERED THEM IS A MYSTERY STILL, AS IS THE LOCATION OF THE OTHERS. IF THE BLACK AND SILVER RANGERS POSSESS THE OTHER TWO CRYSTALS, THEN THEY WILL BE LOOKING FOR THE OTHER RANGERS TO USE THEM.
"So the best thing to do would just be to sit tight and see what they do," Adam suggested. "If they're real Rangers, they're on our side, and are probably just waiting to find the others before telling us who they are."
Tommy nodded briefly. "Good idea," he said. "Zordon, if there's nothing else, I think we should head back to town. I want to make sure Billy's okay, he looked a little out of it when he drove off."
EXCELLENT IDEA, TOMMY, Zordon agreed. HE HAS BEEN SOMEWHAT WITHDRAWN SINCE HIS RETURN FROM SUNTARA. IT WILL BE GOOD TO REMIND HIM THAT WE ARE ALL STILL HIS FRIENDS.
"He has lost someone dear to him," Trey pointed out quietly. "It is often a long time before those wounds can heal, longer than a physical wound," he looked somewhat uncomfortable for a few moments. "Should you require my assistance, Rangers, you have but to ask."
He was about to teleport away, when Tanya laid a hand on his arm. "Why don't you stay?" she asked. She'd seen the same signs of loneliness in him that Tommy had, and fully intended to do something about it. "You can come with us to the Youth Center, have something to eat, hang out."
They could see the confusion and indecision going across the alien prince's face. Then finally, he nodded. "I would be honored," he said firmly. "Thank you."
"So, we just . ..look at the crystals and we see whoever they're meant for reflected back?" Jason asked. He'd wiped his eyes and washed his face once they'd gotten to the Youth Center, and he looked somewhat better. It was plain he was glad, however, that they were here, and not at the Beach Club where Emily was still working. He didn't think he could face her just yet.
"I think that's how it works," Billy shrugged as he dodged one of Jason's powerful kicks. They'd agreed to start up an intensive training program, until they found the other two and could reveal who they were to the other Rangers. Jason was more than willing to trust Billy on keeping their secret.
"Then let's take a look and see who we have to look for," Jason suggested. Billy nodded, and glanced over to the box, half-hidden under the black towel he'd brought with him. They were about to head over, when six figures entered the Youth Center.
"Oh, man," he groaned to himself. "Just who we really didn't need to see right now."
"Calm down," Jason put a hand on his shoulder. "Remember, I'm with you, bro."
Billy felt a warm flush of friendship fill him at that, something Jason hadn't called him since. ..well. ..since Tommy had shown up four years earlier. It felt good to hear it again. "Thanks," he replied, then jerked Jason's arm down and around, almost pinning his larger friend. "Remember, focus!"
Both of them just grinned at that, then launched into something that was half-farce, half-serious sparring match around the gym. The Rangers were at their usual table and watching them. Billy knew they were going to be asking questions once he and Jason were done, and he felt he could handle that now, with his best friend by his side. As the two of them rolled around the mats, Billy felt a warmth welling up inside of him, and smiled.
We're going to be okay, he sensed. We're going to find the others. We'll keep Rita and Zedd and Mondo and Machina and anyone else who tries to attack this planet away. Jason will heal from what Emily did, and I'll heal from Tayla's death. We'll both find real love, permanent love. Tayla wouldn't want me to be alone forever. And I won't be.
He swore that to Tayla now. I'll find someone, Tayla. And I swear to you, I will never forget you. I will always love you.