Legal Disclaimer: If I have to tell you I don't own the Power Rangers and that Saban does, then this must be your first fanfic. Welcome. If I don't, hi anyway! This fanfic was one of the roughest to write I've ever had to deal with, but it's done at last, and I hope you like it; watch out, it's rated PG-14 in some sections for mild sexual references. It starts after "Good as Gold". Please let me know what you think, this is just the beginning of yet another new series for me! Thanks!!
It was ended. The year-long war with the Machine Empire was over with. But it was not the Power Rangers who had struck the final blow in that conflict, though they weren't going to complain over it either. If Rita and Zedd wanted to remove their metallic foes, that only gave the teen defenders of Earth a little more time to rest from the hair-raising events of the past few weeks.
And those events had truly been hair-raising. First Billy, former Blue Ranger and technical advisor to the team, had suffered a hideous side effect to the device he'd used to restore himself to full adulthood when Master Vile turned time back. Only the intercession of the Alien Rangers of Aquitar had saved his life, and he had determined to remain on their world with Cestria, a young Aquitian whom he truly could relate to.
Then Jason, holder of the Gold Ranger powers while Trey of Triforia attempted to reunite his sundered selves, had begun to have an adverse reaction to those powers. With the thinnest of margins had they brought Trey back together and transferred the Gold Powers back to the Lord of Triforia, saving Jason's life and quite possibly the world just in the nick of time.
Learning that Rita and Zedd had blown up the Machine Empire was a definite piece of good news after all of that. The Rangers knew perfectly well they weren't going to get much of a rest, not with Rita and Zedd back on the job, but they would take anything they could get.
Jason hadn't hung out too much with the still-active Rangers since the loss of the Gold Powers. He was still busy recovering from the physical drain he'd experienced, and wanted to be on his own for a little while. Tommy understood what he was going through, he'd felt much the same way when he'd lost his own powers.
Quiet was the rule for the days that followed the ending of the Machine Empire. Trey had returned to Triforia for now, but had promised the Rangers that he would be back soon; he had pledged his help to them, and would not stop simply because the Machine Empire was destroyed.
Rita and Zedd made no attacks on the Earth; they seemed to be deeply involved in setting themselves back up on the moon and celebrating their defeat of the Machine Empire. The Rangers knew perfectly well this wasn't going to last forever, though, and were keeping themselves in readiness for the inevitable day when they would be called into action yet again.
That day was far, far closer than any of them could possibly have imagined.
There was a subdued air of joy that ran all throughout the Angel Grove Youth Center that day, as it had for several days prior. The five teenagers inside who generated it were seated around the table they'd, or various friends of theirs, had used for several years now. Though not quite a party atmosphere, the Power Rangers were at rest and at ease.
"It's almost a relief to have Rita and Zedd back," Adam murmured softly, to avoid being overheard by anyone else near them. "They're a nuisance, but I really didn't like Mondo!"
"You're just mad because Sprocket shrunk you once!" Rocky teased his friend. Adam grinned and retorted swiftly, "What about when Zedd's Pachinko head monster put that spell on you so all you wanted to do was have fun?"
Tanya raised an eyebrow. "Say what?" she asked, having missed out on all their adventures before the advent of the Zeo Crystal and Machine Empire. Kat also looked a little confused, this was prior to her own joining of the team as well. Tommy chuckled.
"You should've seen it," he grinned. "Rocky was making a complete fool of himself!"
"He was?" Kat giggled at the thought of the Blue Ranger running around like a maniac. "What was he doing?"
Adam's eyes sparked with a mischievous glee. "You sort of had to see it. And I think that whole little adventure was recorded at the Command Center."
"Of course," Tommy put in, "with the switch to the Power Chamber, things might've gotten lost. You never know."
The momentary relief in Rocky's eyes faded as Kat and Tanya both stood up. "Let's go find out," they chorused softly. Rocky almost panicked, until Ernie called over to them, phone in his hand.
"Tommy!" he gestured to the Red Ranger. "Phone for you!"
"Phone?" Tommy started over, curious. "Wonder who it could be?"
As he talked, Rocky did his best to convince the two female Rangers not to go to the Power Chamber and start looking for the record of one of his more embarrassing moments. Adam kept glancing over to Tommy, quietly waiting his moment. As soon as his leader turned away, and no one was looking at Adam, the Green Ranger pulled a wrinkled telegram out of his pocket and smoothed it out, staring at it as if it held the very secrets of life itself.
Plague over with. Arriving 3 P.M. plane Angel Grove Airport, January 12. See you there? Aisha.
He breathed a deep sigh. It had been a year since he and Aisha had seen each other. A year. So much had happened in that time. He glanced over at Tanya, and smiled a little bit. Their time together had been great, incredible, beyond belief. He shook his head a little. Do I love Tanya? I honestly don't know. Do I love Aisha? I don't know that either.
I do know I need to tell the others about her coming back. He took a deep breath. "Guys," he got their attention. "I got a telegram the other day, from Aisha."
Tanya almost jerked her head off looking at her boyfriend. "What does she say?" she missed the other young woman who had given up so much for her already.
"She's dealt with the plague there," he told them, putting the telegram on the table. "And she's coming back to Angel Grove tomorrow, her plane's supposed to get here around three."
"She's not the only one coming back in," the Rangers glanced up as Tommy came back over to them. "That was Zack. He and Trini are flying in the day after tomorrow."
"Looks like the only two of the old gang we're missing are Billy and Kim," Rocky mused after a quick moment of thought. The others sobered; they knew Billy was happy on Aquitar, or hoped he was at least, he hadn't communicated with them once since that final message that he was going to stay there. But that didn't prevent them from missing him a great deal.
Kat shook her head. "The only one we're going to be missing is Billy," she told them. "Remember, the Pan-Globals ended last week. Kim's coming home too. "
Tommy's eyes darkened for a moment; this would be the first time he'd seen Kimberly since she'd left for Florida, and the first time he'd heard from her since that letter six months earlier. "I remember," he said softly. I remember seeing her win the gold medal. I remember wondering what I did wrong so she broke up with me.
"It's going to be strange having them all back here," Adam mused. "I don't think we've ever all been together at the same time."
"We haven't," Tommy pulled himself deliberately away from the thoughts of Kim. "It's going to be great to see them all again!"
As the others fell into discussion over the varied homecomings, Kat
found herself staring out the window. It's going to be good to see Kim
and Aisha again, and I want to meet the others. But I think Tommy and I
need to have a serious talk. He has to know.
"Oh, it's good to be home again, Zeddy!" Rita Repulsa sighed in evil joy as she and her husband and their court finally drove up to the Lunar Palace. She was out of it far faster than she'd ever gotten out of anything in her life, all she wanted to do was get away from that stupid Winnebago as fast as she possibly could!
Zedd was out almost as fast as she was; but for entirely different reasons; spending almost two weeks cooped up with Rito and Goldar in that small space was more than even his sense of smell could deal with. He took long, deep breaths of the nonexistent lunar air; even the nothingness of space was sweet compared to the noxious odor given off by his two henchidiots! At times he wondered if it had been worth it to give them back their memories. Then again, if he hadn't, then who would do all the grunt work around the palace?
"Hey, Goldy, we're back!" Rito bumped into his friend as he tried to wiggle his way out of the vehicle. "I wonder if I'll get my old room back!"
Goldar growled as the skeleton bumped into his wings. "I'm certainly not going to share with you!" he grunted. "It was bad enough having to share when we were with Bulk and Skull!"
"I kinda liked that," Rito did his best to think, then gave it up as a bad attempt. "Oh, well, this is much more fun!"
"Maybe for you," Finster sighed as he wormed his way out from under the two bigger monsters and started to head back for his beloved laboratory. I wonder how much has been messed up? I had to pack in such a hurry. . .he shifted the small bag in his hand gingerly; in it was everything he'd been able to get from his lab as they had rushed out under the onslaught of the Machine Empire, as well as a few things he'd managed to get while they were living with Master Vile and his wife at the M-51 Galaxy.
Rita growled to herself as she saw the disaster that had been left behind by their hurried departure. "Well, we're back now," she muttered, glancing behind her at Zedd and the rest of the idiots making their way into the palace. "Zedd! We've got to clean this place up!"
"Get Rito and Goldar working on it!" her husband grumped as he made his way back to his throne. "I've got better things to do with my time!"
"You idiot!" Rita hissed. "We've got magic, we do it like that!" with a wave of her wand that almost took Zedd's head from his shoulders, she'd transformed the whole palace back from a dust-filled wreck to the splendid bastion of evil it had been since she first took up residence in it. "There, that's better!"
Zedd perched himself on the throne he'd spent so many enjoyable hours on and pulled Rita to him, away from the RepulsaScope she was trying to set back up. "Now that we're back and those stupid talking toasters are out of the way, it's time for the next phase in our plan: getting rid of the Power Rangers!"
She laughed. "Easier said than done, Zeddy! Those Rangers are harder to get rid of than crabgrass!"
"Tell me about it!" he growled. "But we will do it! They are no match for us together!"
"You know it, Zeddy!" Rita cackled suddenly. "We're going to destroy them once and for all!!!"
Finster sighed briefly; their voices were clearly audible in his lab
as he pulled things out of his bag and set them in their usual places.
And here we go back to the same old grind again.
Red light colored the surging waters of the Pacific like blood as Tommy and Kat walked by the ocean together. Neither had spoken a word since they had gotten out of his car and started the stroll. It was almost too quiet to speak, it seemed.
"Do you love Kim?" Kat finally asked, breaking the silence that had stretched long between them. Her heart was in her throat as she awaited the answer. She wasn't really sure which word she wanted to hear coming from his lips, either.
He took a long breath. There had been nothing else on his mind ever since he'd heard Kimberly was returning to Angel Grove. "I'm not sure," he said honestly. "I know when she left I was. I know when she sent me that letter, I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart. I know that when we started going out, I felt something for you."
Before he could speak another word, she laid a finger on his lips. "Next question. Do you love me?"
Again silence fell. When he answered, it was what she had expected to hear. "No, Kat. I tried to. I wanted to. I found you attractive from the moment you walked into the Youth Center that day. I always knew I didn't love you, though. I really tried to, once Kim broke up with me, though. I was hurting, though, badly hurting, and that helped. It was. . .good to have someone to be with me, to help me through it. You did that."
He dared look at her, half-afraid, but drawn beyond his will to do so anyway. He was shocked to see a look of. ..was that . . .relief. ..in her eyes? "Kat?" his voice was shaky. "Kat?"
"Tommy," she said softly, tenderly. "I've known since I was released from Rita's spell that I didn't love you. I knew it before then, but it didn't matter then, I was under orders to try and break you and Kimberly up. I couldn't have then, and I can't know. And there's a reason for that. Whether you want to admit right now or not, you are. You two are. ..," she paused, searching for the word. "Soulmates. Perfectly made for each other."
He was speechless, as she smiled and leaned forward to plant a chaste kiss on his lips. "You and I are very good friends, Thomas Michael Oliver, and that is all we are ever going to be, I'm afraid."
He should've been devastated. He'd just broken up with someone he'd been dating for two months. Instead, Tommy felt. . .free. As if something tight and hard inside of him had finally released. As if he were no longer living a lie. "But," he said, glancing out over the water. "What about Kim? She's the one who broke up with me, remember?"
Kat laughed. "You don't have much to worry about, Tommy."
"What are you talking about?" he looked back at her in confusion. "What do you know that I don't?"
In a spooky voice, she haunted, "More than you can ever imagine!" in a more normal tone, she told him, "I talked with Kim the other day. That's how I knew when she'd be getting into Angel Grove. I confronted her about the letter, and she told me the truth about it all."
His eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "The truth?" eagerness was in his voice. "What did she tell you?"
Kat chuckled. "Not going to tell," she grinned. "She asked me not to until she came back. She wants to tell you everything herself."
"Oh, come on!" Tommy whined a little. "Please!"
The Pink Ranger shook her head, grinning. "Nope! I promised her I wouldn't say a word about what she told me, and I'm not going to!"
Tommy was begging in vain all the way back to Angel Grove.
Far from Angel Grove, on the planet of Aquitar, a young man was gently kissing a young Aquitian lady. "Cestria," Billy Cranston whispered softly. "I love you."
She smiled softly, running her fingers through the thick masses of his hair. "I love you, Billy," she let the tips of her fingers rest gently on the back of his neck, then caressed delicately. He moaned, shivering with delight, then glanced up as she moved away from him to the communications device. He watched, a trifle confused, as she dialed up someone he didn't know and spoke in tones too low for him to hear.
"Cestria?" he frowned as she came back over to him. "What was that about?"
She shrugged. "Just calling a friend over for the evening's entertainment."
"Excuse me?" Billy's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"
Just as she was about to answer, a tapping came at the door to his suite of rooms. "Who is it?" Billy had no idea who'd be coming to visit him, he didn't yet know too many people here, and the Aquitian Rangers were all out until the end of the week training. They'd asked if he wanted to go with them, but he'd declined; wanting to spend some time getting to know Cestria a little better.
Cestria got to her feet and opened the door, smiling as another Aquitian woman entered the room. "Hello, Tiria," she said, kissing her lightly on the lips. "It has been a long time since we had such an entertainment planned as we do for tonight."
"Indeed," Tiria said, making the traditional gesture of Aquitian greeting. Billy returned it a bit fearfully, not sure at all of what was going on here, and becoming even more nervous when they sat down on each side of him. Dual kisses sent shivers of delight and fear down his spine.
"Uh, ladies," he jerked away from them. "May I ask what is going on here?"
They glanced at each other, then at him. "Billy," Cestria said, a frown forming. "This is Aquitian custom. Two females per male. I thought you knew that."
He shook his head, backing away as he did so. "No, I didn't," he'd been increasingly nervous about his decision to remain here on Aquitar ever since Cestria had casually mentioned they didn't have anything like the Earth institution of marriage; partners in each relationship were 'free' to do as they pleased with anyone else they pleased, so long as both were willingly. Billy found that a trifle disturbing, to say the least.
I always thought when I found someone, we'd love each other exclusively. And I thought I'd found that someone with Cestria. Maybe. . maybe I was wrong. He didn't like the way both of them were looking at him; they didn't seem angry, just. . .confused. He took a deep breath. "Cestria, Tiria, if this is the custom of your world, then I'm afraid I can't honor it. I'm just not. . .built like that, I guess." as much as I might like to be, they're both very attractive. But things like this, just aren't my style.
They both stared at him, then Cestria rose to her feet. "I can respect that, Billy," she said softly, brushing her lips against his. "Will you be returning to Earth?"
"I'm. . .not sure," he thought back briefly, and felt confusion. There was so much he'd left behind, but so much out here in the wider galaxy that he could do. Maybe. . .
A scream from Tiria stopped his thoughts, as did the entire backside of the dwelling unit being blown away. All three of them were knocked down by the force of the explosion. Billy hit his head on the far side of the wall, and through his suddenly blurred vision, he saw two figures coming through the rubble. The taller one he didn't recognize, but the other. . .
As a wave of darkness swept over him, he had just barely enough time
to recognize that one. He absently noticed Tiria wasn't breathing, and
that Cestria barely was. It was the very last thing he saw before everything
Where joy had been the undercurrent just two days prior, now nervous anticipation filled the air of the Angel Grove Youth Center. It was an open bet on who was the most nervous of the people gathered there. Zack and Trini had called to say they were going to be a day later; there had been some sort of trouble with their reservations, which meant the four of them, Zack, Trini, Aisha, and Kim, were all going to be coming in pretty much at the same time.
"Where did you say Jason was?" Tanya asked as she fixed a streamer that was trying to slip down.
"He's going to the airport to pick them all up," Tommy replied from where he was busily pacing a hole in the floor. "He said something about having a lot to talk with them all about."
Kat nodded a little, tossing a roll of cups to Adam as the two of them set up the refreshment table. The five of them were planning the world's greatest "WELCOME HOME" party for their friends; it was an event to be remembered.
Rocky grinned as he watched Tommy jump nervously from window to window, looking to see if they were back yet. "You'd think he was the one with the sugar overload," the Blue Ranger shook his head and threw a hammer up to Tanya carefully as she tacked the streamer into final position. She chuckled.
"He hasn't seen Kim in a while, I understand," she said. "And whatever Kat told him the other day has him all excited about meeting back up with her."
"Those two were the tightest couple I'd seen in a long time," Rocky remembered. "I couldn't believe my ears when I heard that letter Kim sent. Tommy. . .," he shook his head. "He looked like he'd just seen his whole world come to an end."
They both looked to where Tommy was peering eagerly out a window. "Looks like it was reborn," Tanya observed. "And he looks very happy about it."
Adam nodded briefly, smiling at Kat as she laid out the cakes and chips. Without even having to look up, he put an arm out to stop Rocky as the ever-hungry Blue Ranger charged for the food. "Don't you even think about it," he admonished. "Kat's worked too hard on that for you to go demolishing it until everyone gets here!"
"Awww, come on!" Rocky groaned. "Just a little taste?"
Kat swatted his hands gently, teasingly. "No way," she warned him. "Wait until after our guests arrive!"
He sighed melodramatically. "If I must!"
"You must," Adam told him. "Or I will show Kat and Tanya those tapes of you playing around like a maniac!"
"You wouldn't!" Rocky stared at his best friend, recognizing the glint in Adam's eyes. He was serious. As he looked, Rocky had one of his rare moments of insight. He knew why Adam was protecting Kat's work, and it wasn't just because they were friends. That might be what they both thought it was, but Rocky smiled to himself. If they ever got around to admitting it, they were going to go far together, he knew.
"There they are!" Tommy bounced up and down every bit as eagerly as if he were a two year old seeing his parents coming in with a bag of treats. "Jason's car just pulled up outside!"
"Calm down!" Kat chuckled in her soft accent. "You're going to go through the roof if you're not careful!"
The five Rangers quickly extinguished the lights and hid under various
pieces of furniture. This was going to be one party that they would never
"Oh, look, a party!" Rita's lips twisted into a hideous mockery of a smile as she looked down on the Rangers. "I think I'm going to be sick!"
Zedd growled as he scanned the Youth Center, watching as the Rangers made their preparations. "Let's send down a monster!" he decided. "Something that'll destroy all those precious decorations!"
They raised their staffs in unison, preparing to create a monster of awesome proportions, when thunder and lightning rocked the entire palace, sending everyone in there collapsing to the floor. Zedd groaned and hissed; this had only happened once before! "It had better not be. ...," he muttered as he clawed his way back to his feet, looking around for what. .and who. .he most certainly did not want to see!
"Daddy!" he heard Rito's happy voice before he saw what he was looking for, and his eyes flashed red with anger. Can't we EVER get away from him? Rito barked out another word a moment later. "Mom! You're both here!" BOTH of them??
Zedd turned around to see the all too familiar forms of Master Vile and Queen Shanara standing there. He wasn't certain which one of them he hated more, the evil overlord who had ran whining when the Aquitian Rangers had defeated his horde of monsters, or the ice-cold queen who hadn't deigned to leave the M-51 Galaxy at that time.
"Mom? Dad?" Rita stared at them. "What are you two doing here?"
"Can't we visit our favorite children?" Vile asked, shuffling over towards them. Shanara looked casually around the throne room, plainly approving of the depressing decor.
"We're your only children," Rita growled. "What are you really doing?"
Shanara laughed softly, toying with the long, midnight mass of her hair. "We came to see how you were doing since you overthrew the Machine Empire," she said. "And quite frankly, my evil daughter, you are not instilling us with the greatest of confidence."
"What do you expect us to do, just go down there and trash everything in sight? They've got Power Rangers!" Zedd reminded them, speaking for the first time since the arrival of his in-laws. Rita's side of the family didn't exactly seem to have the brightest people in it; first Rito, then Master Vile, and finally Shanara.
Vile threw his heads back in his customary mocking laughter. "Well, this time, so do we!"
Rita, Zedd, Rito, Goldar, and Finster all stared at the two of them in disbelief, until Shanara materialized a large golden staff and stamped it firmly on the ground. In six flashes of light, six morphed Rangers, in uniforms that twinkled like gemstones, appeared before them. As a group they dropped to their knees before Vile and Shanara, and remained there, speechless.
"Meet our Rangers," Master Vile chuckled, gesturing to the kneeling warriors. "Onyx Ranger, Citrine Ranger, Turquoise Ranger, Jade Ranger, Garnet Ranger, and Amethyst Ranger."
"They're named after jewels?" Zedd laughed. "What's next, the Fruit Rangers?"
Shanara glared at him, her eyes dancing with fury. "I'll thank you to be more respectful to our warriors!" she snapped. "Or else!"
Zedd almost stepped back, then snorted in contempt. "Who are they under those helmets?" he wanted to know. "And I thought Ranger powers couldn't be used for evil willingly!"
Vile and Shanara exchanged a knowing glance, then only laughed. "Who they are and why they serve us is our concern, and no one else's," Vile said. "Suffice it to say that they do serve us, and will forever."
Rita glared at her parents. "And what do you intend to do now that you're here, and they're here?" she asked, intending to look into these "Jewel Rangers" when she had more of a chance. Her mother laughed.
"Why, defeat the Power Rangers and take over the world!" she
threw her head back and joined her husband in laughter so hideous that
in itself it should have destroyed half of Earth.
"Welcome home!" over twenty voices chorused as Jason led his long-gone friends into the Youth Center. Kim, Trini, Zack, and Aisha stared in disbelief at the gathering.
"Whoa!" Zack's eyes went wide. "What's all this?"
"This, my friend," Tommy grinned, "is a welcome home party! We've missed you guys!" despite the Red Ranger speaking with Zack, his eyes were on Kim. His heart sank when she glanced first at him, then Kat, then coolly looked away again. What's that about? he made a mental note to speak to her as soon as he possibly could; from what Kat had hinted at, she wanted to apologize, but that look. ...he wasn't so sure.
Aisha nodded briefly. "So we see!" a smile flickered at the corners of her lips. "Where's Billy?"
"On Aquitar," Adam told her, coming up to give his old friend a warm hug and whispering the information. "Come on, we'll explain everything later; but for right now; it's time to party!"
The music got started, and before long just about everyone was out there dancing and celebrating. Tommy made his way over to Kat as inconspicuously as he could. "Is something wrong with Kim?" she asked even as he got there. "She seems sort of. . .rude."
"I was about to ask you the same thing," he murmured. "You can almost feel the ice dripping off those looks she's been shooting both of us with."
Kat nodded, then looked up as Kim walked over to them. The first Pink Ranger cocked her head to one side, looking at them. "And just what are you two discussing so quietly over here?" she almost purred the words out, and neither of them liked hearing that tone in her voice. "Your next date, perhaps?"
"We're not going out," Kat said quietly, but firmly. "We were, but we broke it off about three days ago."
"Of course," Kim's lips curved into what might have been a smile, if it had been a little friendlier. "Just in time for me to get back into town, right? Expect to pick up right where we left off, huh, Tommy?"
Her ex-boyfriend could only stare in shocked disbelief at her changed attitude. This was not the sweet and loving Kim he'd known before! "No, I didn't," he managed to get out. "We broke up because we don't love each other!"
Kim laughed slowly. "You don't expect me to believe that, do you? And even if it's true, Tommy, we're not getting back together. I went to too much trouble breaking up with you in the first place to waste my life with the same old loser you always are, were, and will be. And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go hang out with my new boyfriend!"
Tommy and Kat watched, Tommy's heart breaking as Kim sauntered over to Jason and wrapped him up in her arms, giving a long, sweet, passionate kiss. "I. . .don't believe it," he whispered. "She never said anything to me. . .he never said anything to me about that. . ."
Kat shook her head, her eyes blazing. "Or to me!" she said, guiding Tommy to a seat. "Maybe it's some sort of cruel joke?" she suggested half-heartedly. Tommy almost perked up, till he saw Jason tenderly pushing back Kim's hair in a gesture he knew all too well, he'd done it half a hundred times after he and Kim had . . .No, he whispered to himself. No. . .they're not. . ..
But as Jason and Kim kissed again, and he saw the depth of passion in the looks they gave each other, Thomas Micheal Oliver's newly reborn world faded away.
Only the beeping of their communicators saved him from entering a soul-deep shock that he might never have emerged from. Thank goodness, he was actually glad to hear that sound as he and the other active Rangers slipped away to teleport to the Power Chamber. Whatever's going on, I can just lose myself in a fight. Maybe the pain will stop.
For a little while.
"What's the problem, Zordon?" Tanya asked as they materialized in the Power Chamber. "Are Rita and Zedd attacking?"
NO, TANYA, the ancient mentor shook his head, noting immediately the tenseness Tommy was held by. Something is wrong with him. But this matter is slightly more pressing. WE HAVE RECEIVED A COMMUNICATION FROM AQUITAR, RANGERS.
Adam smiled briefly. "From Billy?"
NO, Zordon denied again. BUT IT IS ABOUT BILLY. OBSERVE, RANGERS.
The five of them glanced to the Viewing Globe, watching as it fuzzed for a moment, then went clear. Delphine, the leader of the Aquitian Rangers, stood there, with traces of tears still on her cheeks it seemed. "Rangers of Earth," her voice was the same as it had always been, quiet and firm, but with a sadness in it that they had never heard before. "I have upsetting news."
"Nothing's happened to Billy, has it?" Rocky asked, his heart jumping up to his throat suddenly. I hope he's okay!
"That is what I have contacted you about," she said. "I would have done so sooner, but communications between our two worlds were temporarily blocked as a result of the attack."
The Rangers exchanged confused and worried glances. "Attack?" Tommy asked finally, worry for Billy overwhelming everything else.
"Two days ago, Aquitar was the subject of an attack by Master Vile and his wife, Queen Shanara," Delphine told them. "It appears that during the early stages of the battle, Billy, Cestria, and her female lover Tiria were together, and as they spoke amongst themselves, Vile and Shanara broke into their chambers. Tiria was killed outright, Cestria injured unto the point of death, and Billy. . .," she paused, eyes troubled.
Adam looked at her, fear filling him. "Delphine? What happened to Billy?"
The White Aquitian Ranger took some time before she spoke again. "He was taken prisoner on board Master Vile's SpaceSkull. Our communications were specifically destroyed in the attack; it is our belief they did not wish you to learn of this before a certain amount of time had passed."
Silence fell throughout the Power Chamber. It was Tommy who broke it. "Can we get a location on the SpaceSkull?" he was looking at Alpha.
"Ay-yi-yi, I'm on it, Tommy!" the little robot was already working at the console. "We'll find him!"
"We'd better," Tommy turned back around to the Viewing Globe. "If they do anything to hurt him, they're going to pay for it, in spades."
The others glanced at their leader briefly. They'd all seen what Kim and Jason were up to at the Youth Center, and the pain Tommy was going through was written plainly all over his fate. One and all, they feared for what he might do if Billy, his oldest and truest friend now it seemed, was hurt in any way.
"Rangers," Delphine spoke again. "It was only thanks to Cestria that we were aware of Billy's plight. She died moments after giving this information to us; her wounds were severe. We ask that when you rescue Billy, as I am certain you will, that you inform him of this. I am certain he would wish to know."
Adam nodded. "We will. Thanks, Delphine; thanks a lot."
As the Viewing Globe faded, Tommy leaned against a pillar, closed his eyes. Over and over on the back of his eyelids he saw Kim and Jason kissing, touching, and his tortured imagination conjured up even more, things he once would have said would never have happened, but now. . .now he wasn't certain of anything. How could they do this to me? If they love each other, I understand, but how could they keep it from me? Jason was here for months, and didn't so much as breathe a word to me about dating Kim, or even having SEEN Kim!
"Ay-yi-yi!" Alpha's catch phrase brought Tommy up out of his dark thoughts. "Rangers, this is incredible! Master Vile's SpaceSkull has docked on the Lunar Palace, and the scans show that Billy is in Rita and Zedd's dungeon!"
Tommy sighed and straightened up, looking to Zordon. "We've got to go get him out, Zordon. They can't be permitted to keep him."
His mentor watched him for a few moments. He is correct. Someone of Billy's intelligence, in the forced service of those who are evil. . .the only thing that would be worse would be if he served them willingly. But I hesitate to send them with Tommy in the emotional state he is right now. I fear, however, I have no choice. WE WILL TELEPORT YOU ALL AS CLOSE TO THE ENTRANCE TO THE LUNAR PALACE AS POSSIBLE. BUT BE CAREFUL, RANGERS, THIS COULD BE A TRAP, WITH BILLY AS THE BAIT.
"We'll keep an eye out, Zordon," Adam promised. Tommy nodded and flicked his wrists, calling his Zeonizers.
"It's morphin' time!"
"It's my palace, my Tengas that are going to be fighting the Rangers most of the time, so I should be the one in charge!" Zedd bellowed harshly. "We've put the most time and effort into conquering the Rangers, all you two have done is just show up with six Rangers of your own!"
Shanara's eyes blazed with their usual unholy fire. "May I remind you that if it wasn't for our charity, both of you probably would have been destroyed by the Machine Empire?"
"Mother!" Rita shouted. "How dare you!"
"She's right!" Vile retorted. "We took you in when you had no place to go, and how do you repay us? By trying to run this show when you're so obviously outmatched by us!"
Zedd laughed. "Outmatched? By a three-headed freak and a female with hair that can do tricks like a trained dog?"
Shanara's cascades of black hair, a living, almost intelligent extension of her evil magical will, reared up almost as if to hiss at him. Zedd batted it away with his staff, only to have it jerked out of his hands by the tresses. "Would you care to insult my hair again?" Shanara asked silkily, toying with his staff. "Or do you actually want to see your next birthday?"
Vile laughed as he put an arm around his wife. "You certainly are the most evil creature I know," he complimented her. "I really don't know where we went wrong with Rita and Rito!"
"Hey!" Rito whined. "Why drag me into this?"
Rita shook her head in disgust. "Mom, Dad," she tried to bring the conversation back on track. "This palace has been mine since I was released from that dumpster, and mine and Zedd's since we were married! If it wasn't for us, no one would even be interested in Earth! What makes you think you can just come in here and take over the conquest?"
Vile whirled suddenly, knocking his rebellious daughter to the floor. "Because we're your parents!" he roared
"You don't seem to get it, Rita," Shanara walked over and helped her back up to her feet, her hair flowing all around them both, enveloping them in an inky cloak of shadows. "We're not asking to take over. We're in charge. That's all there is to it. This isn't a democracy and we're not taking votes. Your father and I have taken over, and the only sensible thing you can do about it is just accept it."
The room suddenly flared red all around them as Zedd's mood shifted from slightly annoyed to absolutely furious. "I don't care if you are Rita's parents!" he thundered, a sudden magical storm raging all about them. "If you don't get away from my palace this very moment, taking your silly Rangers with you, I'm going to level the place with all of you in it! Now those are the only choices you get!"
Rita hurried over to Zedd and stood beside him, her staff flashing with the same dark energy as his as they joined their powers. She loved her parents, as much as any creature of evil could love anything, but to have them interfering in this conquest was just too much. "You heard him!" she declared. "Now, leave!"
Vile and Shanara only laughed. "Do your worst," the dark queen invited. "I think you'll have a fairly nasty surprise if you have the guts to actually try something."
Twisted bolts of power lashed out at the both of them and curled out to pull at the very beams that held the palace up. For a brief moment, the entire structure shook. It ended when Shanara and Vile linked hands and struck with their own magical powers. Rita and Zedd stared in what was either awe or shock at the ease with which their power had been turned aside.
"You're going to have to do better than that," Vile sighed. "Rita, I really had hoped you had grown some sense since you left M-51, but I guess that is too much to hope for."
"I'd lost all hope once I found out who she married," Shanara shrugged. "Vile, I really hate to do this, she is our daughter, but she simply refuses to submit to our authority. We're going to have to punish her. Both of them, actually. It's the only way Earth is ever going to be properly conquered. These two certainly can't do it. Our fierce little sorceress daughter has turned into an incompetent buffoon, and it's all due to her poor marriage."
Zedd glared at his mother-in-law. "She was that way before I ever arrived on the moon!" he snapped, stamping his foot harshly on the ground in an attempt to conjure up a second mage-storm. Vile laughed as not so much as a lunar wind came up in response. "What have you done?" the skinless lord demanded to know. "What have you done to my power?"
"What's the matter, Zedd?" the wrinkled old wizard mocked. "Can something possibly have interfered in the great Master of Evil's spells?"
Rita hissed and swung her staff, trying to duplicate the spell Zedd had attempted, with even less effect, if that were possible. Shanara grinned at the expression on her daughter's face, and Vile slowly nodded.
"I'm afraid you're right, my dearest Shanara," he said. "These two are simply incapable of doing anything right, even finding their way out of something so basic as a shielding spell. Or so much as noticing that it exists in the first place!" it was only with that statement that Rita and Zedd noticed the slight shimmer about them that marked the shield around them.
So THAT'S why our powers don't work! Zedd noted. A shielding spell to block us off from the currents of magic! Clever! I should've thought of that!
"And now I'm afraid, it's time for you both to say good-bye," Shanara's hair whipped through the shield and seized Rita's wand, jerking it over to her. "Perhaps in another ten thousand years you will have learned your lesson!"
Rita and Zedd both stared in shock at the sudden loss of their power, then everyone winced in pain as Rita wailed. The cause of her outburst: a space dumpster that appeared at Vile's command.
Five streams of light appeared just inside the reaches of the Lunar Palace and formed into the Power Rangers Zeo. Tommy glanced around carefully, looking for anything that might be there to ambush them. "Everything looks okay so far," he whispered, gesturing for the others to follow him. He and Kat both knew this place better than any of the others, legacies of their unwanted times spent as the servants of evil.
As they started into the building, every set of nerves was so on edge that they were starting at the slightest sound. Rocky shivered a little, this place was freezing! "Don't Rita and Zedd believe in paying the heating bill?" he whispered to Adam as they crept through the lower reaches of the palace. "I can't remember the last time I was this cold!"
The Green Ranger nodded slowly, whispering back, "Faster we get Billy out of here, the faster we can get back to where it's warm!"
Tanya and Kat practically stalked side by side through the palace corridors, looking every which way for any sign of their friend. Tanya couldn't see Kat's eyes under the Pink Ranger's helmet, but she could plainly see the worry in the set of her best friend's shoulders. "Kat," she muttered just loudly enough for it to be heard, "What happened with Kim? Tommy was so happy, and then. .."
Kat waved her to silence quickly, then spoke softly. "I'll explain what I know later. Now's not the time or place."
A quick nod, and they continued with the search. Just as they were starting to head up a flight of stairs, twin balls of black light flew towards them, transforming into Rito and Goldar. "Well, what do you know!" Goldar pointed at them with his heavy sword. "It's the Power Rangers! Invading our territory!"
"We're coming to get our friend out!" Tommy told his old enemy. "Release Billy, and we're out of here!"
The two henchmutants exchanged glances, and laughed harshly. "I don't think so!" Rito mocked. "And I think Mom and Dad would just love to have you guys as their prisoners too!"
"Rangers!" Tommy snapped out the order. "Let's teach these jerks a lesson!"
"Tengas!" Goldar roared, watching as the black-feathered birds came into existence all around them. "Charge!"
Tommy almost gratefully threw himself into this fight, it gave him something to think about other than the endless parade of Kim and Jason in his mind. He dodged, swept, blocked, struck, parried, made every move he possibly could. He hardly noticed what the other Rangers were doing, all that mattered was just a surcease to the pain.
A sudden sharp whistle broke through the battle-fog in his mind, and he looked up to see the Tengas, Goldar, and Rito gone, and the other Rangers standing ahead of him on the steps.
"They're gone, Tommy," Kat said softly. "I think you scared them off. Come on, let's go find Billy."
He could tell they were all surprised at the way he'd been acting in the fight, and he was really surprised at himself. As they continued the search for Billy, he decided something. If Kim and Jason really and truly love each other, then I'm not going to stand in their way. I'll let them be happy together.
It was a good thing their Ranger helmets covered their faces so completely.
Because otherwise, the Power Rangers might have been even more surprised
to see two crystalline tears shining on the cheeks of the Red Ranger as
he let go of the only woman he would ever truly love.
"The Master and Mistress have not yet summoned us," the Citrine Ranger said sharply. "We do not go to them unless we are called."
Jade Ranger snorted. "Why should we wait? The Power Rangers would never expect an attack while they're trying to rescue their friend!"
Amethyst Ranger swatted the other servant of evil upside the head. "Because we wait for orders, that's why! Master Vile and Queen Shanara ordered us to remain hidden until they tell us otherwise, remember?"
"Quite correct," Garnet Ranger nodded, leaning against a chair in their gathering place. Turquoise shrugged casually.
"I'm perfectly willing to wait forever," she lazed the words out. "Gives me more time to plan how to toy with them."
"Gives us more time," Amethyst corrected her. "We're in this together, remember?"
Soft chuckles of laughter sounded. "We're in this because we serve our Master and Mistress," Citrine defined. "They're the ones who picked us and gave us our powers. If it wasn't for them, we'd still be the little wimps we used to be."
Garnet almost glared at his companion. "I'll thank you to remember just who I am! I am no wimp, Citrine!"
"That's debatable," Jade growled. "I've always been able to match you, and you know it."
The two of them might have started a fight right then and there, if Amethyst and Turquoise hadn't gotten in the way. "Forget it, you two," Amethyst ordered. "We've got more important things to do than have the two of you break each other's bones."
"Yeah!" Citrine nodded harshly. "Like break Power Ranger bones!"
Garnet hissed something vile under his breath, then glanced around, headcounting. "Hey, where's Onyx? Wasn't he supposed to meet us here?"
"He's on some sort of special mission for the Master and Mistress," Amethyst told the other evil Ranger. "He's going to be joining up with us later."
"Why does he get the special mission?" Garnet grumped. "I'm a better fighter than he is, I should be doing it!"
Jade laughed. "Maybe because this particular mission doesn't require the muscles of an ox and the brains of a toothpick?"
"That's enough out of you!" Garnet charged towards the irritating Jade Ranger and perhaps would have done serious damage to him, had the image of Queen Shanara not appeared to them all just then.
"Peace, my Rangers!" the evil queen ordered. "Garnet, Jade, cease your bickering at once. I will have no arguments in the ranks of my warriors, is that understood?"
Both of them hung their heads like chastised schoolboys and murmured apologies. Shanara nodded approvingly. "Now, hear me, my Rangers. As I told you before our arrival here, you might have to take orders from Rita and Zedd. That is now rescinded. My husband Vile and I are the only ones that you shall ever obey. My daughter and her husband Zedd have proven themselves incompetent and unfit to continue reigning here. We will shortly be disposing of them for good. Prepare yourselves for combat; you will be meeting the Rangers soon."
The five evil soldiers leaped to their feet, eyes practically glowing with the desire to do battle. Garnet pushed his way to the front of the group and saluted sharply. "We will destroy them for you, Majesty!" he declared. "And bring their severed heads to your feet!"
Shanara chuckled. "As sweet a gift as that would be, my Garnet Ranger, that does not fit into the plans my beloved and I have made for the Rangers. We shall instruct you in how to deal with them at the proper time. Until then, ready yourselves for combat. You will be summoned at the proper time."
"As you command, my queen," Garnet bowed low. "What of the Onyx Ranger?"
"He will join you in good time," Shanara informed him. "I will speak with you again, my Rangers."
With a crackle of energy, her image vanished, and the five warriors
looked at each other, evil grins spreading across each face. Jade spoke
for them all. "This is going to be magnificent!"
"No!" Zedd protested. "You can't mean this! You're not going to put Rita in that thing again!" Besides, she can never stay in those things! She always gets let out!
Vile laughed at the expression on Rita's face; he hadn't been there when Zordon had defeated and trapped Rita ten thousand years earlier, nor when Zedd had banished her when he arrived on the moon, but he imagined she looked something like this at both those times: absolutely terrified. Even if she was his daughter, that look of fear was rather intriguing. "I'm not going to put her in there," he chuckled. "We're going to put you both in there!"
"What!?" Rita and Zedd's voices echoed in eerie harmony. "You're not serious!"
Shanara and Vile only nodded, and Shanara's hair, still holding their staffs, jerked suddenly, breaking both of them. The shards faded away into mist, blown away in moments. Vile pointed at his daughter and son-in-law, and waves of power extended from his hand, wrapping around them. Shrieks echoed from the two, that grew smaller and smaller as Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa were reduced to the size of toys.
"Oh, cool!" Rito Revolto laughed as he and Goldar entered the throne room. "Can I play with them, Mom?"
"No, dear," Shanara barely spared a glance for her son as she picked up Rita and Zedd. "They're going to be leaving here for a very long time, if not forever."
Goldar stared at his master and mistress as they were sealed into the space dumpster. "Master Vile, Queen Shanara!" he half-protested. "Why are you doing this?"
Vile glared at him. "Open your mouth again and you'll join them!" he snapped out to Goldar, Rito, and Finster. "The three of you have got two choices: serve us or take up residence in this dumpster for all eternity!"
Goldar dropped to his knees at once. "You are my only masters," he declared, pledging his devotion to them both. Rito only waved his agreement, and they all winced at the language that was coming from within the dumpster, it was plain for all to hear that Zedd didn't like this set up one little bit!
Finster stared; he'd went to all that trouble to return Rita to full size once, and now she was back to powerlessness? For a moment, loyalty versus survival warred within him. As always, survival kicked in. "I will do whatever you command, Master Vile, Queen Shanara," he declared. Until and unless I can find some way to release Lord Zedd and Queen Rita!
Shanara nodded, then with one powerful kick knocked the dumpster out of the palace and into the far reaches of space. As it flew out of sight, she turned to Vile. "I think we can forget about having to remember Rita's birthday for quite some time," she laughed as she gave her husband a kiss on his main face. "And now, we can turn to what's really important: the destruction of the Power Rangers!"
"Uh, Mom," Rito decided to break into the conversation before he forgot what he and Goldar had come to say. "The Power Rangers are here in the palace!"
Shanara and Vile both smiled. "They're coming for their little friend Billy," Vile laughed. "This should be very interesting, my dearest!"
"Indeed," Shanara nodded. "Should we unveil our own Rangers just yet?"
"No, I don't think so," Vile mused. "We'll keep them for a surprise. I think we should unleash the Ghouls."
Shanara giggled and clapped her hands as a child. "Oh, can we?" she asked. "I've been wanting to use them for some time!"
With a wave of his staff, twelve hulking, gray-skinned humanoid things appeared before Vile and Shanara. They were covered in what might once have been rags, and rippling muscles. Rito sniffed the air suspiciously. "What's that? Is it me?" his skeletal eyes went wide as he checked his own aroma. "No. . .it's. . .them!"
His mother laughed, and snapped her fingers. The Ghouls vanished, teleported
at once to where Billy was being kept. "Now," the four of them
settled down as Shanara created a viewscreen for them to watch the events
on. "This is quality entertainment!"
"We're almost at the dungeons," Tommy whispered as they paused. "In fact, we're here," he gestured to the iron-bound door ahead of them. "That leads into the cell area. According to Alpha's scans, Billy is in there somewhere. He couldn't pinpoint just where he is, but at least we know where to look."
Adam slid past the Red Ranger and carefully tried the door. He glanced back at the others, confusion in his voice. "It's unlocked."
Tommy and Kat both shivered. "This is a trap," they whispered in unison. "But maybe it's a trap we can spring back on them," Tommy continued. "If we can get Billy out and get back to Earth, then we'll have won, no matter what they try."
Rocky nodded. "Let's get moving then," he watched as Adam opened up the door and they crept inside one by one. Let's just hope we CAN all get back!
"This is too easy, even for a trap," Tommy muttered as they walked down the row of cells. There weren't any guards, no Putties, Tengas, monsters, Goldar, or Rito. The entire palace might still have been deserted; if they hadn't seen the two henchmutants earlier, they might well have thought that. "We'll have to keep our eyes---"
"Rangers!" the five of them looked to see Billy chained to a wall about thirty feet away. He looked at them eagerly. "You guys came!"
"Hey, have we ever let you down?" Tommy smiled a little as the team raced over to their friend. He and Rocky kept a guard up as Adam, Kat, and Tanya started to burn through the chains that kept him there. "What happened, Billy?"
"Vile and his wife, Shanara, attacked Aquitar," Billy told them quickly, wincing as the last of the chains fell off and he slid down to his feet. "I think they were after me, at least once they had me, they left. Cestria and Tiria were hurt, maybe worse, I don't know. Do you guys?"
Tommy glanced to his friends, then knew this was his job. "Tiria. .. was killed outright," he whispered. "Cestria lasted long enough to tell the Aquitian Rangers what had happened, and. . .she died of her injuries. Delphine wanted us to let you know when we found you."
Billy nodded briefly. "They did look rather badly injured," his voice quivered a little as they started back down the hallways. "I will have to return to Aquitar briefly to offer my condolences to their families."
"Briefly?" Adam asked. "I thought you were going to stay there?"
The former Ranger shook his head. "Their customs are not compatible with my upbringing and desires," he told them. It was a mark of how upset he was that he was speaking in 'technobabble'. "I had already determined to leave Aquitar before my capture."
Rocky couldn't stop himself from asking, "Billy, what did Vile and Shanara do to you? Or did they have time to do anything? I mean, you've been here for about two Earth days, I think," he winced at the pain-filled glance Billy directed at him.
His voice was filled with pain as he replied, "Pray you never have to find out, Rocky."
The Blue Ranger shivered at both the hurt in Billy's voice and the sudden stench that filled the air. He frowned suddenly, looking around. "Is it just me, or do you guys smell that too?"
Billy winced as he took a deep breath. "It's Ghouls," he whispered. "Shanara and Vile's foot soldiers, like Tengas or Cogs. They're very strong, and they reek."
"I think we noticed that last part," Tommy muttered. "How smart are they?"
"Not very," the genius reported. "I think we can avoid them if we try hard."
"Avoiding sounds like a very good idea," the team's leader agreed. He wasn't going to get involved in a fight if he could get around it, not with a powerless person there. Billy was a good fighter, but if these Ghouls were anything like Tengas, he would need powers he didn't have in order to fight them. "Let's see if we can get out of here."
Tommy tapped his communicator. "Zordon, Alpha, we've got Billy, can you get us out of here?"
The little robot's tinny voice came back, "Teleporting now, Tommy!"
Adam took hold of Billy's arm just as a group of shambling creatures
turned a corner and started towards them. "Ghouls!" Billy hissed
under his breath, even as they were brought back to the Power Chamber.
Adam sighed deeply in relief; once again, they had won the day.
The party at the Youth Center was still going strong twenty minutes later when the Rangers and Billy made it back. Alpha had given Billy a quick scan and a clean bill of health; he had suffered no ill effects from being a two-day prisoner it seemed. The former Rangers hardly seemed to have noticed their friends were gone, but Billy was welcomed with open arms by his fellow formers.
Jason and Kim were still hanging all over each other, and Tommy took a deep breath as he walked over to them. I think I'd rather face Goldar, Rito, Rita, Zedd, Vile, Shanara, Mondo, Machina, and every Cog, Tenga, Putty, and Ghoul they've got than do this. But I'm going to anyway.
"What do you want, Tommy?" Jason looked up at his best friend. "We're sort of busy over here."
The Red Ranger almost flinched at the coldness in Jason's voice. "I just wanted to say. . .I'm happy for the both of you. If you're really in love, then I wish you nothing but the best. For ever. And I have some advice for you, Jason."
"What?" the burly young man raised an eyebrow.
"Tell Emily," he gestured behind them to where the young woman who had so recently entered their lives was standing with tears in her eyes. "She deserves to be treated better than what you are." Funny, I thought I did too.
Jason casually glanced over to Emily, and gestured her over to them. "Jason?" she asked softly, her eyes sparking with a mixture of tears and rage. "What's going on?"
"I'd think it would be obvious," he said. "Emily, this is Kim, my girlfriend. Kim, this is Emily. She's someone I hung around with until you got back to town."
Tommy winced at the pain that had to have caused the young woman. "Oh," Emily whispered, shoulders shaking. "It's nice to meet you."
Kim nodded briefly, then turned her attention back to Jason, ignoring Emily and Tommy both. The Red Ranger stepped over to the devastated girl. "Emily," he said quietly, touching her shoulder. "Want some punch?"
She looked up at him, and he wasn't surprised to see tears spilling down her cheeks. "Does punching the two of them out count?"
"I know you're hurt," he told her. "I feel the same way. It's not right. They should've told us both. But there's not much we can do about it now."
Emily sighed as they went over to the punchbowl. "I guess you're right. I'll be okay, after I spend a few days throwing darts at my picture of Jason."
He chuckled a little. "I think I might do a little target practice of my own," he admitted. "It's not a good feeling to be dumped. I've had to go through it twice."
"How do you do it?"
"It's not easy," he shook his head as they sat down together. "Not easy at all."
The two 'dumpees' watched from the sidelines as music played, and people began to dance. Jason and Kim were two of the most prominent, and were plainly enjoying themselves. Tommy sighed, and closed his eyes for a moment, not wanting to see them briefly.
"Tommy?" he heard Emily call his name. "Want to dance? Just as friends?"
He smiled a little. "I'd be honored," he said, getting to
his feet. This wasn't quite how he'd expected his day to end, not dancing
with Emily while Jason and Kim were all over each other only a few feet
away, with the battle for good and evil beginning all over again. Then
again, things never do turn out as you expect them.
"The Ghouls didn't attack them!" Goldar stared at the new masters of the Lunar Palace in shock. "I thought that was why you sent them!"
"That's what you get for thinking," Shanara teased him as the viewing screen faded away. "Everything is working out just as we want it to."
Rito and Goldar shook their heads; not quite understanding just what was going on here, but knowing that it was evil. It was far more complicated than anything Rita and Zedd had ever pulled off, more complicated and involved and definitely worth hanging around to see the end of!
"Now what next, my dearest?" Vile asked. "Something to confuse the Rangers even more perhaps?"
Shanara tapped her fingers thoughtfully, then smiled. "I think not. It's time that the Power Rangers Zeo met our Jewel Rangers, I believe."
"So soon?" her husband frowned. "Are you certain?"
"Yes," Shanara confirmed. "Trust me, darling. I know what I'm doing!"
Vile hugged her strongly. "Indeed you do! You've always been the brains of our marriage, Shanara!"
She kissed him once, twice, and three times, one per face, then paused. "An attack, I think. To draw the Zeo Rangers out in the open, so that our Rangers can make their presence known. Not to mention all that fun destruction it can cause!"
"An attack?" Vile considered. "Perfect. Monkey-boy, Rito! You two go down and cause trouble!"
Shanara shook her head at once. "Not now. Tomorrow. Our Rangers have had a long day, as have we. Better to attack in the morning after a good night's rest."
"But that will give the Rangers time to sleep as well!" Vile pointed out. Shanara shrugged.
"We have time, my love," she reminded him. "And the passage of time will also give the Rangers a chance to worry over what we're going to be doing. The anxiety is good for them!"
"Quite true, quite true!" Vile laughed, pulling her into his
arms. "Oh, my darling, every time we conquer a new planet, I remember
all over again why I fell in love with you! Tomorrow, the Power Rangers
meet the Jewel Rangers, and it's going to be the final victory of evil
"Well, it's nice to see you back," Garnet Ranger almost snapped at Onyx as the six of them gathered in the park the next morning. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd betrayed us!"
Onyx delivered a cutting glance to the other evil Ranger. "It took me a while to get away. It's nice to see you've lost none of your leadership ability. . .if that's what you can call it."
"Boys!" Amethyst Ranger growled. "The queen has forbidden us to fight amongst ourselves, remember?"
"When are we going to fight the Rangers?" Jade Ranger grumbled. "I've been itching for a battle for a while now!"
Turquoise examined the tips of her fingers casually. "Keep yourself calm, Jade. When we're called, then we'll fight."
The six evil Rangers were about to separate, when they all paused, feeling the pull within them that was the call of their masters. "It's time!" Garnet hissed. Vile appeared before them a moment later.
"My Rangers!" he greeted them as they each dropped to their knees. "Morph and go the center of town, where the Power Rangers are currently battling Goldar, Rito, and our Ghouls. Wait until Queen Shanara or myself gives you the command to attack. Do not let yourselves be seen or heard until we say so."
As one, they pulled out the crystals that gave them their powers. "As you order, master," Garnet said. "We exist only to obey and serve you and Queen Shanara"
Vile laughed, his eyes glinted with evil glee as he gazed on his slave Rangers. "Indeed!" he said. "Now, obey me!"
With six flashes of light, they transformed from their mundane identities to the six powerful warriors of evil he and his wife had molded them into. He watched and listened with approving eyes and ears as they teleported to where they could watch everything.
"How long till we can attack?" Turquoise whispered, eyes on the Rangers and glinting with red fire. "I can't wait to destroy them!"
"Be patient!" Onyx advised her, "when we are commanded, then we shall do away with them once and for all!"
Garnet nodded fiercely. "I certainly hope so! I've waited long enough to do some serious damage to them!"
Jade growled them into silence. "Remember," he hissed. "We're to stay quiet, remember? Master's command!"
The six of them stopped speaking, twelve eyes peering out from under six helmets to the Power Rangers fighting only about twenty feet from them. Under his helmet, Garnet licked his lips in evil anticipation. Very soon, it's all going to be over with for you Rangers. My master and mistress have given my fellow Jewel Rangers and I the power to defeat you once and for all!
"Attack!" Vile's voice hissed in their minds. "Attack,
my Rangers, and bring defeat to the Rangers, and victory to us!"
"Zordon, who are those?" Alpha stared into the Viewing Globe. It had been a most unusual morning already; Rito and Goldar had attacked almost before the sun was up, and from the scans they'd been doing of the Lunar Palace ever since then, it seemed Zedd and Rita were no longer in charge.
I BELIEVE THOSE ARE THE JEWEL RANGERS, ALPHA. Zordon said sadly. TWELVE THOUSAND YEARS AGO, THE SIX JEWEL POWER CRYSTALS WERE SEALED WITHIN AN ENCHANTED CHEST AND HIDDEN, IT WAS THOUGHT THEY WOULD NEVER BE FOUND AGAIN.
"Ay-yi-yi, it appears they have!" Alpha stared as the two groups of Rangers faced each other off. "Can the Power Rangers defeat them?"
I DO NOT KNOW, ALPHA, Zordon told him. BUT BEGAN SCANS TO LEARN THE IDENTITIES OF THE JEWEL RANGERS. IT IS PLAIN THEY SERVE THE CAUSE OF EVIL, AND WE MUST DISCOVER HOW THIS CAN BE WHEN NO TRUE RANGER CAN SERVE EVIL.
Alpha nodded as he jumped to the consoles. This would be so much
easier if Billy was here. But he refused to come back to the Power Chamber
when Rito and Goldar started their attack! He has done enough in here,
though. I just hope he and the other former Rangers are all right!
"Whoa," Kat stared at the six Rangers, three male and three female, who had appeared out of nowhere to face them. "Who are you guys?"
"We are the Jewel Rangers," the one in deep red spoke, his voice deep and commanding. "I am Garnet Ranger."
"Jade Ranger," the one in deep green identified himself. Next up was one in solid black.
From the female in blue-green came, "Turquoise Ranger."
"Amethyst Ranger," the Ranger in light purple almost bent her head in a mocking parody of respect. The last one, a pale copy of Tanya's yellow, introduced herself as the Citrine Ranger.
Garnet took the lead. "We are the Jewel Rangers," he repeated. "Sworn warriors of Master Vile and Queen Shanara, and those who shall defeat you in combat, and drag you before our master and mistress, there to face whatever punishment or pleasure it suits their desires to grant to you."
Tommy took a shuddering breath; he'd never had to face an evil Ranger before, even though that was how he'd begun his own Ranger career. "If you're Rangers, you shouldn't be serving evil," he pointed out. "And who are you anyway? Who are you really?"
Amethyst laughed. "Who we are isn't important. What is important is that you surrender now and avoid the painful process of having it beaten out of you!"
"I don't think so!" Tanya growled. "The Power Rangers don't give up easily!"
"Or at all!" Rocky added. "You're the ones who should surrender, maybe we can help you undo whatever Vile and Shanara did to you!"
All six of the evil Rangers laughed. "They are our masters, and the ultimate masters of evil!" Onyx told them. "You need no longer worry about the petty plans of Rita and Zedd!"
The Zeos exchanged glances as best they could with eyes hidden behind helmets. "What are you talking about?" Kat asked, hoping to keep their new foes conversing long enough for Zordon and Alpha to scan them, as she knew they had to be doing. "What's happened to Rita and Zedd?" not that I particularly care!
Citrine's voice held an edge of a grin. "They have been banished, never to return," she told them. "And you're next, Rangers!"
Without another word, the Jewel Rangers charged the Zeo Rangers. For
the first time since Rita's spell over Tommy had been broken three years
earlier, Power Ranger fought Power Ranger.
"Oh, my evil love, this is soooo close!" Shanara rejoiced, her eyes flashing with glee. "The Jewel Rangers are going to conquer Zordon's stupid teenagers, I just know it! What are we going to do once we've gotten rid of them all?"
"Well," Vile mused. "Let me put it like this, my love. . .if six evil Rangers serve us so well. . .how would eleven do?"
Shanara laughed hideously, her fingers flexing with joy and her hair twining about them both in ecstasy. "Ohhhh!! The pure pleasure I take in bending minds to my will! Especially Power Ranger minds! They fight so hard, and it's so sweet when they finally give in!"
Vile hadn't seen his wife this happy since she had broken the last of the Jewel Rangers to their twisted will only two days earlier. They had put up a good fight, but in the end, the combination of her brainwashing techniques and his evil magic had overwhelmed them all. The delicious sweetness of seeing one who had once served good kneeling before them in submission was far too tantalizing to pass up the chance to go through again.
"You spoil me," Shanara whispered, kissing her husband. "I really don't know what I'd do without you, my heart!"
"You'd be bored to death!" Vile told her. She smiled briefly and glanced down to Earth.
"The fight goes well," she mused. "But a shock is needed. Something to destroy the Zeo Rangers' fighting spirit."
Vile nodded. "Or at the very least deal it a serious blow. These five are very hard to get rid of. Rita was incompetent, but the Machine Empire had a very hard time dealing with them as well, remember. They're not pushovers, Shanara."
"I know," she agreed. "That's why our Jewel Rangers should. . .," she whispered her plan into her husband's ears and he laughed.
"Indeed, beloved!" he declared, kissing her as sweetly as one of his evil was capable of. "That is the most perfect thing to do! The Rangers won't be able to fight once they see that!"
Shanara's hair almost seemed to be laughing as it wrapped around them both, drawing them closer together. She did laugh, enjoying the feel of her husband's arms about her. "Dearest," she said seriously a few moments after giving the proper orders to the Jewel Rangers. "I'd like to know something."
"What is it?" he glanced at the cold perfection of her face with delight. From the top of her midnight-crowned hair to the soles of her pale-skinned feet, he loved her and would do anything for her that was within his evil power.
"We haven't exactly done the best with our two children," she pointed out. "Rita was an incredible disappointment, and as for Rito," she shook her head. "I'd rather not even go there."
"Are you wanting to have another child?" he asked pointedly. "Because I truly would enjoy that!"
Shanara smiled briefly. "Not just yet," she said. "But I've got a little secret to tell you. Do you remember when we separated about twenty Earth-years ago? To put a little spice back into our marriage?"
Vile nodded; he'd rather enjoyed the time apart, it made their reunion
all that much more wonderful. "Well, Vile," she chuckled. "I've
got a little surprise for you."
The Zeo Rangers and the Jewel Rangers had fought for almost a full ten minutes when the evil Rangers disentangled themselves from the fight and assembled on the far side of the street. Tommy and his friends huddled together, surprised and shocked at what was going on here.
"Six evil Rangers," Adam whispered. "It's not good!"
Tommy nodded. "To say the least," he replied. "I did enough damage when I was the evil Green Ranger, and there was only one of me."
Tanya shivered a little, she'd heard a few stories of that, enough to give her the shakes when it came to evil Rangers. "If they're under a spell, can we break it like yours was?"
"I certainly hope so," Tommy sighed. He vividly remembered how Rita had kidnapped and transformed him from simply Tommy Oliver into her evil Green Ranger. He had woken up screaming for weeks after Jason had destroyed the Sword of Darkness. The nightmares still bothered him on occasion, even after all this time. He shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts from his mind. That's over and done with, and I have other people to worry about now.
A call from the Jewel Rangers stopped whatever course his thoughts might have continued on. "Rangers!" Garnet Ranger was calling to them. "You shall have one of your 'requests' granted. You shall know who we truly are, by the grace of our Master and Mistress!"
The six of them stood in a row, glaring with near-visible hatred at the five who faced them. "And I think you're going to wish you'd never known," Citrine Ranger laughed as their hands moved in unison to the latches on their helmets.
The Zeo Rangers stared as six helmets were removed and they saw the faces of their enemies for the first time. The Jewel Rangers laughed, eerie identical mocking laughter, at the expression on their faces. "What's the matter?" Garnet Ranger laughed. "See a few familiar faces, bro?"
In a row stood the Garnet, Jade, Onyx, Turquoise, Amethyst, and Citrine Rangers. The Zeo Rangers stared into the faces of Jason, Zack, Billy, Kim, Trini, and Aisha.
The Jewel Rangers were the former Power Rangers.