Legal Disclaimer: The Power Rangers don't belong to me! They belong to the mighty Saban! I am but a humble writer. . .this fanfic takes place in 1991, before the first five became Rangers. Sunset Flames Mall belongs to Kay Enasni, used here by her permission. Thanks, Kay! Thanks also to Liz, Kay, Kahva, and Jessie for telling me I could actually pull this off, and being with me as I did! You guys are the BEST!! To you, my online sisters, I dedicate this fic. I love you all, and hope you enjoy it!!!!
It was your basic Friday night in Angel Grove, California. Warm, not much noise on the streets, and completely peaceful. It was the perfect night for doing some serious mall-walking, and that was exactly what Kimberly Harte was doing. The pretty thirteen-year-old had managed to talk her mom into taking her to the Sunset Flames Mall, and now she fully intended to spend the next five or six hours shopping until she dropped.
"Kim, make certain you're home by ten," Mrs. Harte told her daughter. There was a weariness in her eyes Kim didn't like very much, her parents had been fighting a great deal recently. She shoved thoughts like that out of her mind though, she had come to the mall to have fun, not to worry!
She nodded. "I will be, Mom," she promised, glancing up to the large building before her. "Thanks!" it wasn't many moms who would let their teenage girls run around the mall alone, but Angel Grove was a very peaceful town. As silly as it sounded, bad things just didn't happen here, it seemed.
"You're welcome, dear," Mrs. Harte smiled briefly, then shut the door and drove off. Kim took a deep breath and turned to the mall, feeling a rich sense of joy as she started inside. There was just nothing quite like a mall, and this was one mall she knew like she knew the back of her hand. Blindfolded, she could have found her way to the department store she now headed for.
Shirts, shirts, shirts, she mused, browsing through racks of clothing almost an hour later. She'd already picked up some jeans and a few other shirts, but she just hadn't found the right one. And I need some new leotards. I put a rip in my old pair with that one split.
Just as she reached for one particularly nice yellow shirt, her hand encountered another. She glanced up to see another teenage girl standing on the other side of the rack, also with her eye on the same shirt it seemed. "Hi there," she smiled welcomingly at her. "You like that one?"
"I'm not sure," the young Chinese girl shrugged a little. "I do like the color, though."
Kim glanced at it and shook her head. "Not quite my preference," she picked up a pink one. "This is more what I like."
"I'm Trini Kwan," the girl introduced herself, holding out her hand. She couldn't explain the instant friendship she felt for this perky young girl, but wasn't going to question it.
"Kim Harte," she replied. "You shop here often?"
They both giggled at that, and Trini shook her head. "I don't come to the mall very much, but I wanted to spend some time out today. What about you?"
Kim laughed. "I practically live here," she admitted freely. "I love the mall. It's the best place I've ever seen in my life."
"What else do you do?" the young girl asked as they started out of the store together. Through some unspoken agreement, they started to shop together as if they'd known each other all their lives instead of less than five minutes.
"Gymnastics," Kim replied. "Which reminds me, I need to get a new leotard."
Trini gestured to a store ahead of them. "Do you shop there? The Workout Palace?"
Kim nodded. "That's where I was headed. It sells the best body building and gymnastics equipment and outfits in Angel Grove," she glanced at a sign in the window and giggled suddenly. "And they're having a sale today! All right!"
Trini smiled at her new friend's enthusiasm, and followed her in, wondering briefly just why she felt so comfortable in Kim's company. She hadn't made a friend that fast in her entire life, but something told her that she and Kim were going to be together for a very long time. * * *
Jason Lee didn't usually hang out at the mall, but since he'd cracked one of his barbells that day, he didn't have a lot of choice if he wanted it replaced. It was his goal to one day break the fitness record that had recently been set by Bulk, one of the two local bullies.
Weightlifting and karate. The two most important things in my life, he sighed briefly. And that's ALL I do. I don't have any friends. I don't have a life outside the practice ring or the weights. Even Bulk has Skull!! Me. . .I don't have anyone.
He shook his head, refusing to give in to loneliness. I get along just fine as I am, he thought stubbornly as he tested one of the barbells at the Workout Palace. He barely looked up as two giggling girls entered, mentally dismissing them. He could hear what they were saying plainly, though.
"That leotard would look great on you, Trini!" the first girl gushed. Her friend shook her head.
"I don't know, it's not quite my color, Kim," Trini glanced at the pink outfit her new friend was pointing out and almost winced. "That one next to it's more my type," she picked up the yellow one and held it against her for a moment. "I think this one will do!"
Kim raised an eyebrow and asked, "What would you need one for? I mean, what do you do that you need workout clothes? Or do you just like them?"
Trini grinned. "I workout," she told her. "Kung-fu's my specialty."
"Wow," Jason spoke up before realizing quite what he was saying. "I've never met someone into kung-fu before. I do karate myself."
The two girls glanced over at him, and he almost flushed to see the admiration in their eyes. "Hi there," the one examining the yellow outfit said. "I'm Trini, and this is Kim. And you're?"
"Jason," he extended his hand, and was surprised again at the firmness of both their grips, unlike most girls he'd met. "Jason Lee. You study kung-fu?"
Trini nodded. "My dad teaches me a lot," she told him. "And I've taken some classes at the Youth Center, too."
Jason thought for a moment, then nodded. "I've seen you there," he recalled. "I just didn't know your name," he looked to her friend, and with a rush remembered just who she was! "Hey, you're Kim Harte, the head junior varsity cheerleader, right?"
"Yeah!" Kim blushed a trifle to be recognized. "I hope to make varsity when I get into high school."
"With what I saw at the last game, I'm sure you will," Jason assured her. "So what are you two doing here? I didn't know you knew each other." Oh, that's intelligent, Lee!! For all you know, they've been best friends since they were in their cradles! That's all you are, a batch of muscles with legs, not a brain cell in your body!
Trini shook her head. "Until today, we didn't," she told him. "We met over a rack of shirts in J-Mart."
"Say what?" he asked. As they started to explain, he shook his head in eerie mimicry of Trini. "Let me get this order set up, and then you can tell me about it over some lunch. My treat!"
"Those are my favorite words!" Kim grinned as they waited for him to be done with his orders, then paid for their own purchases. As they headed towards the food court, Trini stopped for a moment, looking at a store they'd passed.
"Trini?" Kim looked at her. "What is it?"
She was already heading into the bookstore. "Saw something," Trini said, looking behind her. "A book on praying mantis kung-fu. I've been looking for this for a while," her eyes still on her friends, she reached for the book, not noticing the young man backing up from the magazine racks. It was obvious he didn't notice her either as they bumped into each other suddenly, scattering the pile of books he'd been carrying all over the floor.
"Oh, I apologize most profusely!" the stranger spouted at once. "I had not intended to collide with you in such an unseemly fashion!"
Trini smiled at him, he looked almost like the stereotypical geek! Short, blonde, blue eyes behind thick glasses, and dressed in suspenders and overalls. Her heart went out to him at once, he looked so lost and scared, as if he expected to be yelled at for just living. "It's all right," she told him. "Accidents happen. Here, let me help you."
He stared as she bent down and picked the books up, handing them to him. "That's truly good of you, ma'am. I do not mean to be a burden on you by interrupting your planned experience in this shopping structure with my unauthorized collision with you."
"Say what?" Trini glanced over to see Kim and Jason were standing there, half-staring at the young man. Jason had a confused look on his face, and Trini could see an identical one forming on Kim's.
"He said he didn't mean to bump into me and mess up my shopping," she translated. Her Uncle Howard spoke the same way sometimes, and she'd learned how to deal with it. "I should've been watching where I was going."
"Let me introduce myself properly," he said. "I'm William Cranston, but a majority of those I know refer to me commonly as Billy."
Jason nodded, sticking his hand out. "I'm Jason, that's Kim, and this is Trini," he told the young man. "Nice to meet you."
"Indeed, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance as well," Billy was somewhat nervous about these people, Jason was rather large, even for someone his age, and it was just that sort of person who had made the young genius' life a living nightmare for thirteen years. He was a technical wizard, but when it came to socializing, Billy Cranston was a complete and total dunce.
Something really weird is going on here, Trini thought to herself. First Kim, then Jason, and now Billy. It's like we're being drawn together somehow. But we're not complete, not yet. Despite only a few words of apologetic conversation, she already thought of Billy as a part of the little group they were forming, and her next words proved it, "Let me buy you something to eat, to make up for knocking your stuff all over the store."
Billy's eyes widened in shock, it was plain he'd never had an offer like that before. The shock faded to disappointment, though, as Jason shook his head. "No, Trini, I can't let you buy him something," the big jock said. Billy's shoulders slumped, as both Trini and Kim's eyes lit up with fury. "I said dinner was my treat, and that means for everyone," he continued, putting a hand on Billy's arm in a friendly manner. "Come on, it'll be fun!"
"C. . .certainly," Billy stuttered briefly. He'd learned not to argue too much with people as big as Jason was, and quickly paid for his books and joined them outside. "Where are we going to dine at?" he asked.
"Dunno," Jason shrugged casually. "Anyone got any ideas?"
Kim was about to suggest the seafood restaurant she'd passed on the way in, when her eyes landed on the music store. She groaned deeply. "Oh, man, I'm supposed to pick up a new cassette for my brother! He gave me the money and everything, and I almost forgot!"
"Let's go, then," Trini grinned. Kim's eyes widened slightly as she realized they intended to go with her. I like this thing, having friends, the cheerleader smiled to herself. I really like it. * * *
"I do not believe my eyes!" the four of them stood in a row, staring at the display before them. Powerful music washed out of the store, filling the air and providing the backbeat as a young black male danced and spun all over the store.
"I concur," Billy whispered, adding his voice to Kim's as they were awed by the display. Trini and Jason only nodded, too blown away by the young man's skill to speak.
They watched for a few moments, right up until the store manager came up to the dancer. "Taylor, get out of here! This is the last time!" he roared. "You come in here one more time and start parading around like an idiot, I'll call the law on you!"
The young man sighed, stopped in his dance, and all four of the teens outside felt something almost like shock as they saw his face. They didn't recognize him, but each and everyone felt as if they should know him.
Zack Taylor looked up, feeling eyes on him, and stared to see four people looking at him. One was a tall, burly boy in red, another a perky blonde in pink, a third a bespectacled guy in blue, and the fourth a Chinese girl in yellow. Whoa. I. . .whoa.
"You were awesome!" the blonde in pink gushed as she came over to him, followed by her friends. "I've never seen dancing like that before! Never!"
"Thanks," he'd been complimented before, but coming from these people, it seemed. . .special. "Zack Taylor."
"Kim Harte," she told him. "That's Billy Cranston, Jason Lee, and Trini Kwan."
"Nice to meet you all," he nodded. "Well, I've got to be going," he was starting to head out, wondering why he didn't stay to talk, when Jason put a hand on his shoulder. "What is it?"
Jason grinned a little. "Want dinner?" he asked casually. "A dancer as good as you deserves a reward of some decent food!"
"Where are you going to find decent food in Angel Grove?" Zack wisecracked. Kim grinned, and pointed out a seafood restaurant a few feet down the mall.
"There!" she stated. "Wanna come?"
Zack thought for all of two seconds before declaring heartily, "I'm in!"
It's complete, Trini thought as the five of them started towards the restaurant. We're all here now. A moment later, she almost shook her head. They were complete, and yet they were not. Something remained. But whatever it was, she sensed it would remain as they were, for now.
Jason, Zack, Kim, Trini, and Billy. As the five of them glanced at each other, each wondering in the back of their mind just what was going on, each felt a complete sense of friendship, a bond beyond the norm. This was what was meant to be.
This was destiny. * * *
"So, who wants sushi?" Trini asked, grinning at the look on all their faces, Billy especially. He seemed far more nervous than usual, even for someone as obviously used to being used as a punching bag by bullies. She made a mental note to ask him about it someday.
"I'd rather not," he shook his head. "If it's all the same to you."
"No problem," Jason shrugged. "What would you like?"
"Well. . .," he thought for a moment. "Would a hamburger and spinach shake do?" * * *
The five of them hung around the mall with each other until they noticed it getting unusually dark and quiet inside the giant building. "Um, does anyone know what time it is?" Kim asked, glancing around. She groaned to realize she'd forgotten her watch, and was probably late coming home!
Billy checked his watch quickly, he'd forgotten all about the time, he was so caught up in the new and strange feeling of having real friends at last. "It is approaching eleven o'clock!" he exclaimed, to Kim's horror.
"I am late!" she shrieked. "Where'd the time go, I've got to get out of here!"
The five of them were running for the door seconds later. Jason pulled at the door handles almost before he stopped moving, then looked at the others, panic just beneath the surface of his eyes. "They're locked," he whispered. "We're stuck in here."
Four faces fell at this disaster. "No way," Kim whispered. "I can't be trapped here. My mom's going to kill me!"
Billy tugged at the handles, and shook his head. "I believe we are sequestered in this overly large shopping structure until it reopens at six a.m. tomorrow morning, at which time the cleaning staff will enter to prepare it for the marketing day."
"What did he say?" Jason, Zack, and Kim wearily chorused. Trini sighed.
"We're stuck in here till tomorrow when it opens up again," she translated. Groans echoed all around. "Well, we're just going to have to make the best of it," she told them.
Billy thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Should we endeavor to locate a security officer or late-remaining worker, then we might be able to be released somewhat earlier than anticipated."
The others automatically looked to Trini, "He said if we can find a mall cop or someone who might have stayed late, then we might be able to get out of here now instead of waiting till tomorrow."
"Let's try!" Jason smiled. "It's worth a shot, anyway, to look for one."
"Who knows, we might find a door someone forgot to lock!" Zack suggested. "Let's go!"
Five teenagers running through a mall isn't an unusual sight, no matter where you are. But when the mall is closed down for the night, that is a trifle unusual. With every store closed, that cut down on the amount of places they could look for anyone who might still be there, but after almost a solid hour of searching, they regrouped at the still-locked front doors.
"Nothing," Zack shook his head. "Mom and Dad are going to ground me for a month, no, two months for this! I was supposed to be at home at nine!"
"Ten, here," Kim murmured, looking at the shadowy and empty parking lot outside. She'd so blithely promised her mom she'd be home at ten; she'd planned to walk, the streets of Angel Grove were safe. But now. . .she's never going to let me out of my bedroom again, I KNOW it!
"I do not have a curfew," Billy shook his head. "My father believes I am mature enough to choose a sensible hour to return to our domicile in without his setting a mandatory one. I fear, however, that with these events he may instigate a cutoff point for me."
Before the others could say anything or even look at her, Trini told them, "He doesn't have to be home at any given time, but his dad might give him a time to be home since he's gotten locked up in here."
"Oh," Jason glanced around, shivering suddenly. "I just had the weirdest feeling. Like someone was looking at me."
Zack's eyes flicked around the hallway. "No one here but us," he said. "And it looks like we're stuck here for the duration. Let's find a place to get comfortable. This is going to be one long night, I think." * * *
Deep under the usual pathways trod by those who knew the mall, deep under where the five teenagers now prepared for sleep, there was a chamber. Within that chamber was a throne, and on that throne there sat a small, twisted man. Before him were arranged a small troop of men and women, all kneeling before him.
"Is all in readiness?" he spoke quietly, the firmness and strength his body lacked more than surpassed by the power in his voice.
"Yes, master," one of the men replied. "Tonight is the night of the conjunction, and the power of the nexus point is gathering."
One of the women stirred. "Master, I beg of you to reconsider this plan! That which you will attempt this night is madness!"
The enthroned man's eyebrows lifted at the interruption. "Lydia," he said softly. "Do you actually raise your voice in contradiction of my orders and desires?"
The others moved back a bit from Lydia, obviously surprised at her temerity. She raised her head firmly and gazed him in the eyes. "I do," she replied. "There is no human who can control the potencies you attempt to unleash tonight, master! You are powerful, yes, but there are things not even you are meant to unlock! I humbly request that you forget this insanity!"
The master raised a hand casually, and white fire erupted to burn Lydia to a pile of ash on the floor. "Is there anyone else who seeks to give their opinion of what I am going to do?" he glanced at the rest of his servants. One and all, they simply shook their heads. "Good. Now, are the sacrifices prepared?"
The first servant cleared his throat a little sheepishly. "Master," he refused to look at the dust that had been Lydia, "I regret to say that they. . .escaped."
"Escaped?" the master turned to look his servant in the eyes. "They escaped? And just how did they do this? Were they not guarded?"
"Yes, master, they were," the First Servant shuddered at the grip of those eyes. "But they overpowered the guards and fled!"
The Master nodded slowly. "If I do not have at least two sacrifices for this ceremony tonight, then it will not work," he reminded them. "If you do not procure new sacrifices by the time I need them, then you and one of these," he gestured to the gathered servants, "will be those sacrifices."
The First Servant sank to his knees. "You know best, my master," he whispered. "Should my life be required, then so be it."
"Master!" everyone looked up to see one of the other servants tumbling into the chamber. "Master!"
"What is it?" the Master asked. "Have the sacrifices been recaptured?"
The servant shook his head. "No, Master. But there are five teenagers in the mall, they've apparently been trapped here somehow."
"Well," the Master smiled, to the horror of his servants. "It appears that we have been given replacements for that which has been lost. First Servant," he glanced to the still groveling one before him. "Take a couple of these and go find these kids. Capture at least two of them, the others, I don't care what happens to them."
First Servant bowed his head. "As you wish, Master," he swore. "I will bring them to you as swiftly as I can!"
"You do that," the Master nodded, turning his thoughts inward. I will sacrifice these children to the forces of evil, and that will raise up the Sellac Demon. With it bound to my service, I can and will bring first this city, then in time, the whole WORLD under my control. He laughed softly to himself as the servants scattered. And to think, I started out as a janitor. * * *
Mall benches are not exactly the most comfortable things in the world to sleep on, but when your choices are between that and the floor, there's very little else you can do. The five teens were finding that out the hard way as they attempted to make themselves at ease.
"I think I have something sticking in my back," Kim complained as she shifted position again. "Something sharp, too!"
"I know how you feel," Trini grunted, twisting around to examine the bench she was on. "I think they make these things with extra splinters for uninvited guests like us."
Billy shrugged a little. "Highly unlikely, Trini," he said. "There was no way for it to be known ahead of time that we would be trapped in this place for such a period of time, therefore those who manufacture these items could not do so with our discomfort in mind."
"Whatever you say, Billy-man," Zack told him, curling up as he did so. "Let's just get some sleep and get out of here in the morning."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Jason groaned, stretching his long frame out on a separate bench. He still hadn't lost that sense of being watched, but it had faded a great deal in the intervening few minutes. Wonder what it was? Probably just a security camera. Well, we're not going to steal anything. Just sit here and sleep till morning. What a way to spend the night. Then again, if I HAD to be trapped somewhere, these guys aren't the worst crew to be with.
Jason twitched a little as he tried to sleep. I STILL keep thinking someone's watching me! No, not me. . .US! He sat up as the nervousness filled his entire body. "What's going on?" he muttered to himself, looking around.
"Jason?" Zack opened his eyes and looked at him. "Something wrong?"
"I'm not sure," the bigger boy glanced back and forth. "I just have this. . .feeling."
"That being watched thing?" Trini spoke without opening her eyes. "You and me both."
Billy and Kim both sat up now. "I concur," the young man nodded. "It is a most disconcerting feeling."
"Yeah, it's really disturbing me too," Kim had actually understood Billy, and that worried her a little. She'd never come together with anyone as she had with these four people. She'd never liked the idea of fate, but something was telling her rather firmly that this was her destiny: to be with these people, these new friends.
Trini glanced around briefly. Something very strange was going on here, something she couldn't quite pin down. "Guys," she sat up, gooseflesh suddenly pimpling her arms. "I think we should move. Now."
"What is it?" Jason was already moving, though, and Zack wasn't far behind him. Kim and Billy didn't take long to slip off the benches and follow them, the feeling that eyes were on them was strong now.
For a moment, they stopped to look at the benches. Only for a moment, for in an explosion of light and sound, there were no more benches. "What the heck?" Zack exclaimed, automatically stifling a stronger oath. "What did that?"
"That!" the single word from Billy, instead of a long discourse, was more than enough to get their attention as their brainy new friend pointed to something behind them. They turned to see five people, all in black, standing there. The look on their faces told the kids that these were not here to help them out of the mall. One held a staff, pointed to the bench still, and as they watched, he turned it towards them.
"Someone tell me I'm not seeing that," Kim whispered as the staff's tip began to glow. "Please, someone tell me I'm not seeing that!"
Trini grabbed her quickly, pushing her to one side. "I could, but it would still be happening!" she said, watching as a bolt of light shot from the staff and incinerated a small tree just behind where Kim had been a second earlier. "We've got get out of here!"
"Halt!" the staff-wielder cried out as they began to back away. "You have been chosen to be the sacrifices for the Master's ceremony! Remain where you are that we might bring you that great honor!"
"You're joking, right?" Zack shook his head as they started away. "I don't know who you are, but we're not sacrifices for anyone!"
The First Servant raised his staff, the tip glowing once more. The five of them didn't wait around this time to see what it was going to do, they simply turned and ran as a group. "After them!" came from behind. "The Master wants two sacrifices, the others, do as you will with them!" * * *
"I did not see that!" Jason shook his head repeatedly. "Things like that just don't happen! That guy was not blasting at us with some sort of magic wand!"
"Actually, Jason," Billy found himself correcting the larger boy automatically, "I believe it was a staff that was casting forth those blasts of energy."
The five of them had regrouped at the far end of the mall, having put as much distance between them and that guy with the staff as they could. Jason and Trini were keeping what could be called a watch, while Zack, Billy, and Kim sat on the floor catching their breath.
Kim glanced back down to where they'd come from. "We're in a nightmare," she shuddered. "A very bad nightmare. One I want to wake up from!"
"I wish we were in one," Trini sighed. "But this is real."
"It can't be!" Zack shook his head. "How could it be?"
"How should I know?" Jason waved them all to silence suddenly, whispering, "I think they're coming. We've got to find a place to hide, and we've got to get some sort of weapons. I think we're in for a long night."
They quickly scattered, moving as quietly as they could to avoid being heard. All held still and stiff, as the strange group of people came closer. They could hear the First Servant's voice. "This is where they must be. There is no other place they can hide."
"Then we will find them," another of the men spoke. "And the Master will not be sacrificing us to the Sellac Demon!"
Fear filled the third voice. "Why would he wish to raise such a thing?"
The teens shivered as they heard the First slap the third. "It is not your place to question that! It is only for you to serve his will, and if that means you will perish to raise the Sellac, then so will it be! Is that understood?"
Only a whimper was heard in response. Billy shivered a bit, glancing quickly around to see if there was any other way out. Nothing. Nothin. . .wait. . .what's that? His eyes widened to see a small door half-hidden behind a potted plant. "Guys!" he called out softly, hoping that the strangers wouldn't hear him. "This way!"
One by one, he saw Jason, Zack, Trini, and Kim coming towards him, sliding through the shadows in an attempt to stay completely unnoticed. We've got to make it through! Maybe this door leads outside!
"There they are!" First Servant was pointing straight to them. "Catch them! Two of them!"
"Fat chance, sucker!" Kim growled as she leaped through the door, Jason on her heels and Billy already there. She twisted around to check on Zack and Trini, who had been the farthest away from them. She paled to see them struggling in the grip of those strange people. "Hey! Let them go!"
"Kim!" Jason tugged at her arm. "Kim, we've got to get out of here! We can't risk getting caught too!"
She caught Trini's eye as she and Zack were being dragged away. I'll get you back, Trini, she promised with her eyes. Both of you. I won't let these jerks take away my best friend. She almost went into shock at the thought. Best friend? Yeah, I guess she is. Kinda strange, my best friend is someone I've known maybe five hours, if that long. Oh, well.
That was all she had time to do as Jason and Billy pulled her through the door and it closed behind them. Her eyes were filling up with tears even as they clattered down a stairway. "We're going to rescue them!" she insisted.
Billy nodded, as did Jason. "I don't know what those jerks want," Jason declared, "but we're not going to let them do it."
"They said something about raising some demon," Kim remembered. "I wonder if they're serious."
"If they truly intend to unleash such a powerful force of evil, then it is in our best interests to put a halt to their heinous plans," Billy told them. "In any fashion we can."
The three of them exchanged glances, then nods. Quietly, moving almost as if by pure instinct, they put their hands together, and whispered, "Together." * * *
"Let us go, you jerks!" Zack growled, constrained by his upbringing not to call them what he really wanted to. Trini was obviously feeling no such restraints, and was swearing in Chinese at their captors.
"You will be blessed by being the sacrifices to our Master's calling of the Sellac Demon," the First Servant told them as two of the others bound the teenagers' wrists behind them. "It is a grand honor and you should appreciate it and not give us such trouble!"
The two of them exchanged glances. "What's their problem?" Trini reverted back to English. "Do they actually think we're supposed to like being killed?"
"For the glory of the Master," First Servant raised his eyes to the heavens, "all is only for his glory."
"I think I'm gonna hurl," Zack groaned. "Have a brain cell, please!"
"Take them to the Master's chamber of power!" First ordered. "He will be most pleased to see them! But first, blindfold them!"
Darkness descended on them both as strips of cloth were tied around their eyes. They were hurried through several corridors, down stairs, and deeper into the mall than either of them had ever thought the place extended. Any sense of direction they had was destroyed in minutes.
Finally, they stopped moving. Neither was truly scared, Trini's skill in kung-fu and Zack's natural self-confidence were both more than enough to keep them courageous, no matter what the situation. As they were forced to their knees, a rich voice spoke.
"These are the sacrifices you have captured for me, First?"
The voice of the First Servant sounded, with a servile edge they hadn't noticed when he spoke before. "I have, my master," he replied. "There were three others, but they escaped."
"It is well," the Master approved. "Have them robed appropriately for the ceremony, and brought to the ritual room. In one hour, at midnight, they shall be given to the Demon Sellac, and in return, he will give me ultimate power over everything!"
Zack chuckled. "Did you get that in writing?" he wisecracked. He almost regretted it a moment later as someone slapped him harshly on the cheek.
"You will not speak to the Master in such a tone!" he was told. "Have them taken away!"
Trini laughed a little as they were dragged down what seemed to be another corridor. "Zack, you've got the most inappropriate sense of humor of anyone I've met in my life. I like that."
"I like you, too, Trini," he told her.
They were shoved unceremoniously into a small room, and heard something locking. Footsteps walked away, and they were left alone, as far as they could tell. "So, what do we do now?" Zack shrugged himself into as comfortable a position as he could.
Trini didn't answer for a few minutes, though he could plainly hear her breathing and knew she was there. Finally, she said, "We get these blindfolds off to start with, and these ropes."
"How?" he asked, just as the cloth around his eyes was lifted, and Trini was standing there with it in her hands. "Oh."
She grinned a little at the questioning look in his eyes. "Let's just say, I learned kung fu from my dad. ..but I learned a few other things from my mom. Like how to get out of restraints."
He wasn't going to ask anything more than that, as she undid his ropes and he looked around to get a better view of what was going on. They were in a small cell, with no visible guards, but a door behind which there surely were watchers. He had the sudden and irresistible urge to hold an ax in his hands suddenly, and wondered why that image popped into his mind.
Well, I don't have one, but we've still got to get out of here. The others are probably going to help, but I want to be working on this too! I'm not going to sit around and wait!
All the plans pouring into his mind, though, faded away as a sudden mist filled the room, and the two of them collapsed into a deep and profound slumber. The Master watched from his place of safety, and laughed softly. "Sacrifices," he smiled to himself. "Within the hour, I will be the undisputed master of the demon's power, and within the year, I will be the ruler of the world!"
Dark laughter sounded, chilling and fearsome. The Master was pleased. Truly pleased. * * *
"So what do we do now?" Kim asked, looking at her friends. "We don't even know where they've taken Zack and Trini."
"Logic would dictate that they are underneath the mall," Billy declared. "It is the only place of any real size that would be able to hold the sort of room that must be required for an activity such as what this 'Master' wishes to perform."
Jason nodded, still keeping an eye out as they huddled in a broom closet. "But we can't go running off without a plan. We need to find out just where they are, and some way to stop them without hurting our friends."
Billy closed his eyes in thought. Below. And we need weapons and information. Information is what I am capable of providing in most circumstances, but I do not know anything concerning magic and spells. I did not believe such things exist, and am not certain if I do now. But what matters is that this 'master' does, and he will most certainly sacrifice Zachary and Trini if that is what his beliefs dictate will bring forth the demon he seeks. Therefore, we must locate this 'master' and bring a halt to his attempt. It is the only logical thing to do. He completely ignored the small voice in the back of his mind that was screaming for him to just run and hide somewhere. This was something he had to do.
"I would suggest that we form weapons from the items we find here," he said. "These mops and brooms can become implements with which to fight this evil."
"Billy's right," Jason nodded, snatching up a broom and snapping the bristles off to form a passable bo staff. "Kim, what can you use?"
She felt a wash of warmth over her that he didn't ask if she could use something. "These'll have to do for us all," she said, grabbing for another broom to make a staff of it. "It's better than nothing."
In moments, they were all armed with the best they could do at the moment. "Those guys will probably still be looking for us," Jason suggested. "They were supposed to just catch two of us for this sacrifice, but I don't think they're going to give up on us."
"So, we try and avoid them, right?" Kim asked, having a sinking feeling the answer was going to be 'no'.
"Negative," Billy replied. "The wisest course of action would be to wait until we see a patrol or group of them passing by, then follow them unobtrusively until we locate their secret base, at which time we. . .."
Jason grinned a little. "We bust in there and bring their little games down," he said. Kim and Billy both nodded, a light flush staining Billy's cheeks at the colloquialisms. "But how do we---," he broke off suddenly as the sound of footsteps came to them all. "Shhh," he whispered, and utter silence fell on all three.
"Where are they?" they heard a voice. "They must be around here somewhere."
"Why are we still searching for them?" another asked. "We have the two sacrifices, we don't need anything else!"
A third voice, low and evil to the extreme, replied, "Because they were promised to us to play with, and I haven't had a decent toy in years. I want to see them suffer!"
"Whatever," the first voice sounded careless. After a moment, he sounded afraid. "By the Master! It is almost midnight! We must return to the chamber for the ceremony and the summoning!"
The third voice spoke. "We'll find the children later. They can't hide forever."
Kim shivered at the sound of that voice, and found herself reaching for Billy's hand automatically. He stared at her, their faces pale in the darkness, then squeezed it gently. A pressure on his shoulder, which almost terrified him if he hadn't been too far beyond that already, turned out to be Jason. Holding onto each other as if they were children, the three of them waited for the voices to fade just a tiny bit.
Quietly, Jason opened the door to the closet and peeked out carefully, looking to see which direction the speakers had taken. This was the most dangerous part of what they were trying to do, because they had no idea which way the ones they intended to follow were going to go or if they would be looking at the door as it opened.
Luck seemed to be with them, though, and the speakers were just turning out of sight. They started after the little group of three, holding their makeshift staffs nervously as they did so. Moving quickly, but silently and keeping to the shadows as much as they could, they found themselves going down and deeper into the mall's depths.
One thought sounded in their minds. One thought only.
Time to kick butt. * * *
"Zack, are you having the same bad feelings about this that I am?" Trini asked as she looked over to her friend.
"Yeah, I do believe I am," Zack replied. "I wonder why."
"Could be the company. . .the surroundings. ..or the situation?"
"I think all three."
"I think you're right."
The two of them looked down at the company: the Master and his company of servants. They were all glaring at the two captives, almost gloating. The surroundings weren't much better, with the two of them being strapped down to a pair of altars and the Master hovering with a sharp blade over them.
And they were going to be sacrificed to the Sellac Demon. That was the worst situation either of them could possibly comprehend. Once they'd awakened from the gas that knocked them out in the cage, they found themselves stripped down to a loincloth for Zack and a loincloth and bare strip across the bosom for Trini.
"Silence!" the Master ordered. "It is time!"
Complete stillness fell upon the room. All of the Master's servants were gathered there, watching as their lord slowly went through the motions of summoning. "Sellac! Evil beyond evil! Hate beyond hate! I call to you!" was the only understandable thing Zack and Trini could hear, as he descended into a hideous, twisted language they were both glad they couldn't comprehend.
"Is there anything we can do?" Zack asked quietly. "Or is it too late?"
Trini took a deep breath, eyes on the knife as it rose over her. "I hope not." * * *
"So what do we do now?" Kim whispered. The three of them stood crouched where they hoped was out of sight of the group of people chanting around Zack and Trini. Her question was directed at Jason, who was looking directly at the Master as he worked on this spell or whatever it was.
I don't think we have time for a lot of fancy stuff, Jason thought. He hefted his makeshift staff in one hand, then balanced it. "We kick butt," he muttered. "You guys ready?"
Billy stood up, his own stick in his hand, and nodded shortly. "And even if we are not, we do not have the time to wait until we are. They have no time left."
The other two looked as Billy gestured into the room, eyes going wide with shock and rage as they saw the knife beginning to come down on Trini. Jason drew his arm back, and concentrated not on the knife, but on the hand holding it. His entire being focused on that hand, it was all he could see. It was coming down, deliberately slow, wanting to hurt, wanting to draw a scream from her. . .
He threw the staff, his only weapon, across the room. Time slowed down as it flipped over and over. His heart pounded. Would he make it? Or had he screwed it up? Was Trini dead already and he hadn't noticed? Was all of this even happening? Or was it an incredibly realistic dream of some type?
Billy and Kim watched with baited breath as the staff traced a course down through the room. Was it going to hit? Was Jason a good enough shot? Was it too late?
Trini and Zack both saw the staff coming across. Five pairs of eyes fastened on it. Five minds thought the same thing.
Please. * * *
The Master brought the blade down, his eyes flashing with twisted hate and dark evil. He could hardly wait for the splash of blood, the scream of pain, the way her limbs would twitch and then still in death.
Something struck his hand. The knife went skittering across the floor, and he looked up, hissing, to see the three children whom his servants had failed to capture standing there. The tallest of them was looking straight at him, dark eyes flashing with fury.
"Let our friends go!" he declared proudly. "You've failed here!"
A wild shriek rose from the Master's lips. "Noooo!!" he wailed. "This can't be!"
He could feel the power of the moment slipping away. He had chosen this place and this time carefully. Angel Grove was a magical powerhouse, a place where thousands upon thousands of ley lines, lines of magic, converged. The mall itself was on top of one of the many nexuses in the area, the third largest of them all. That night was the most powerful astrologically as it would be for another five hundred years, and the Master didn't want to wait that long to attempt this releasing of the Demon again.
"How could you!" he whined. "How could you do this? Do you know how long I worked and waited for this!?"
"Let's just kill them!" the First Servant rushed up, a knife in his hands. "Regardless!"
Trini and Zack both just stared up fearlessly. They would meet their deaths head on if they had to. As the Servant brought his own blade down, the last thing any of them expected happened.
The Master knocked the Servant to one side. "Master!" the Servant stared. "Why?"
He drew himself up tall. "There is no need for this now that the moment has passed," the Master's rage had faded with the failure of his plan. He glanced to the others. "This bargain I offer you, children."
"What?" Jason folded his arms and stared straight down at him, eyes blazing. "What could you offer us?"
"Your lives," the Master stated simply. "This is my bargain: you will permit me and my followers to leave, without using the martial arts and gymnastics skill you and your young lady friend have or the intellectual gifts of your other friend, and I will not permit my First Servant to kill your friends."
Looks passed between the five of them that carried more meaning and communication than most people could possibly have had without more than a few hours of knowledge. At last, by unspoken agreement among them all, Jason stepped forward. "We agree. Let them go, and you'll all go. We won't let anyone know what happened here. We'll keep the secret all our lives."
The Master nodded, and gestured for his servants to gather closer to him. "We shall meet again," he stated. "For I will not cease in my desires."
The five of them were all looking at him, not at each other. There was no way they could ever have prearranged to do what happened next. But they did.
"And we'll be waiting."
Five voices spoke in perfect unison. The Master looked at each of them in turn, and smiled. "Until we meet again," he said. Around him and his followers he folded a cloak of blackest night, and then they were gone. * * *
The next morning came quicker than they had ever wanted it to. The five of them were all in the front entryway, curled up in defensive postures and sound asleep.
"Everyone!" Billy was the first one awake. "It's morning!"
All four were awake a second later. Trini and Zack were on their feet, their brief time with the Master and his servants had made both hyper-alert, especially since the gas they'd been knocked out with had given them the equilivant of an eight hours of sleep.
Once the Master had left, Kim and Billy had untied Zack and Trini while Jason kept watch just in case it was a trick. They'd cleaned up everything they possibly could, then locked every door and headed back up to the top. By common consent, and the oath Jason had bound them all too, they wouldn't ever speak of what had went on that night.
"It's not like anyone's going to believe us, anyway," Zack said. "I mean, a guy trying to raise a demon and sacrificing us? Who'd believe that?"
"Affirmative," Billy nodded. "We will simply have been trapped in the shopping structure overnight, and will be berated by our parents and looked up to by our peers for a brief period of time."
Kim took a deep breath. She'd thought about this ever since meeting up with Trini, which now that she thought about it, had started everything. "And we'll have each other," she said softly. The others were all quiet for a time, until she felt guilty for even saying anything. Why should they stay friends, just cause they'd been trapped overnight and had been forced into working together to save two of them from a fate possibly worse than death?
"I agree," Trini nodded. "You guys are the best."
"Same here," Zack agreed, with Jason a silent nod over his shoulder. They all turned to look at Billy, who had sort of drawn into himself. Was he going to be the one who backed away? Something told them all if he, if any of them didn't remain with them, they would miss out on something incredible.
Billy looked at them all. Burly Jason. Dancing Zack. Cheerleader Kimberly. Quiet Trini. They were all. . .different. None of them were scientists. Trini was the only one who could translate the way he spoke by habit. They weren't the type of people he'd hung out with all his life. They weren't 'geeks'. They weren't 'nerds'. They weren't geniuses.
They were . . .friends.
"Affirmative," he smiled. They piled their hands together, sensing a rightness in that action that not even Billy could explain. "Friends," they said softly. "Friends forever."
Together, the five friends, Jason Lee, Zack Taylor, Trini Kwan, Kimberly Harte, and Billy Cranston awaited the coming of the mall staff, and the opening of the building they'd been trapped in. Together, they awaited the coming of their future.