All that was changed now. Now, Jason Lee Scott, Zack Taylor, Trini Kwan, Billy Cranston, Kim Hart, and Aisha Campbell thought only of how to fight and to harm other beings. Their every thought and every deed was performed with regards as to how it would please their evil master and mistress, Master Vile and Queen Shanara of M-51. With their hormones practically locked into a high state of arousal, the six teens were indulging themselves in erotic activities almost on a regular basis. Shanara wanted to make certain that they owed her everything, including this type of knowledge.
In the center of the Lunar Palace, in the chambers that had been set aside for them, the six of them were working out, something they did as regularly as they had when they were good, if not more so now. They had to be in peak physical condition to take on the Rangers, especially now that Trey and Ninjor had joined them.
"Keep moving, keep moving!" Jason growled from where he was watching Zack and Billy sparring on the mats. "Zack, he's not made out of glass, put some power in that punch! Billy, you've got a brain cell in that head of yours somewhere, use it and knock his feet out from under him!"
Trini, Kim, and Aisha were working out on a set of machines in a corner, watching as their evil mates sparred. "Jason's the best," Kim observed. "He's got such power in his muscles, such perfection in his form."
"No way!" Aisha shook her head. "Zack's the best, he's graceful, strong, and quick!"
Trini snorted. "You're both out of your minds. There's no one better than Billy; he's got the brains and a body to die for!"
"I'd have to die before I said Billy was better than my Jason!" Kim retorted hotly, glaring over at the Amethyst Ranger. Though their 'discussions' never came to open blows, because of the orders Shanara had imprinted on them, they frequently screamed and yelled at each other. There was a limit they wouldn't go beyond, that they couldn't go beyond without orders they hadn't been given.
The three male evil Rangers looked over at them as the sounds of their argument grew louder, then ceased suddenly, as each mentally felt the lash of Shanara at their fight. "I think it's time we did some planning for our next battle with the Rangers," Jason said, gesturing for Zack and Billy to stop their sparring. "They're going to try and split us up, I think, and wear us down, so they can 'release us from evil'," he snorted a bit at that. "That's how I would do it, and Tommy thinks like me. ..on occasion."
"Separating them was a good plan when he was evil," Kim nodded in agreement. "I don't know if he would think of it now, though, on the other side. But we need to prepare for it."
"Exactly," Zack went along with Jason's statement and leadership, for now at least. The spells that bound them hadn't erased the friendship they all shared, it had reoriented it only towards evil, while causing some of their baser emotions more free rein. As long as Jason kept them winning, and as long as Shanara supported him, Zack was a loyal soldier. He knew Shanara would never stop supporting Jason, so long as they were all evil. And that was something that would never change. They had left their goody-goody days behind forever.
"What is it, Mom?" she asked quietly, standing up and reaching for her housecoat. She wasn't quite certain if she wanted to tell them that she had heard what they were talking about the night before. Her dad did tend to lose his temper on occasion, with or without provocation. The last thing she felt like going through this morning was a lecture on 'eavesdropping'. I've got to meet up with the others sometime today, she reminded herself. We've got to get the new potential Rangers together today and talk to them. And hope that the Jewels don't do anything we can't deal with. Even after the events of the past few days, it was still odd to think of the six Jewel Rangers as her enemies. She barely knew Zack, and Trini, but Kim was a close friend, and she had fought along side of Billy and Aisha for months, as well as Jason. To think of all of them as the enemy wasn't easy, or indeed something she wanted to do. It hurt too much. They couldn't have done a single thing that hurt us more, I think. Literal inside information on us all.
Mrs. Hillard took a deep breath, looking at her husband briefly. There was neither comfort nor compassion in his emotionless eyes, and she wondered yet again how she had managed to marry, and stay married, to this lump for so long. That's over with now, though. "Honey, I want to tell you a couple of things. We both do," she shot an almost viscious glance at Mr. Hillard. "First. ..you know that your father and I have been having some problems."
Kat nodded briefly, barely able to stand looking at her father. Adoptive father. And soon to be ex-adoptive father, she reminded herself even more harshly than before. She wasn't going to miss him. "So I've heard," she said as diplomatically as she could.
"Well, we've decided to get a divorce," Mr. Hillard said, almost glaring at the girl as she ran a brush through her thick golden hair. "You'll be staying here with your mother. I'm going back to Australia."
Kat barely looked up. "All right," her voice held perfect peace in it. "Were you going to tell me that I'm adopted as well, or wait another seventeen years?"
Mrs. Hillard looked startled. "You know?" her eyes flared a little as her husband left, shrugging his shoulders. Good thing I'm leaving him! I don't think I could stand his egocentric attitude one more day! "How did you know?"
"I've always suspected it," Kat knew she was taking this quite a bit better than your average teenager would, but that wasn't bothering her. What was your parents getting a divorce and being adopted, compared to the chance of six of your best friends slicing your head off in battle? "Then I heard you guys yelling at each other last night, and you flat out said it."
Her mother nodded quietly, coming over to sit by her on the bed. "It doesn't mean I love you any less. I've never cared that I didn't give birth to you. You've always been my daughter to me."
Kat smiled, wrapping an arm around her mom and holding her tightly. "I know, Mom. I don't care who did give birth to me. You're my mom, and always will be."
One task, the most important task, still remained, however. The releasing of the Jewel Rangers from the cause of evil. Zordon, Trey, and Ninjor had been working towards figuring a way out almost from the moment they had sent the Zeo Rangers home.
"Our first step should be to discover just how Shanara and Vile are controlling them," Trey stated. "Once we know what spell was used on them, then we can look for a way to break it."
"What if more than one was used?" Ninjor suggested. "We could spend the next several centuries trying to identify all the mind control spells in the universe, and I don't think Earth has that kind of time!"
Zordon looked down on his allies, deep in thought. Never in all of his long life had this situation occurred. There had been evil Rangers in the past, it was a popular ploy with the forces of darkness, since Rangers were practically the most powerful single fighting force in the universe, but only twice had a full team been assembled, and never had it been composed of retired Rangers. WE MUST BE LOGICAL, MY FRIENDS, the ancient wizard-warrior stated solemnly. WHAT IS THE SIMPLEST WAY TO DETECT WHAT SPELLS ARE IN USE ON ANY GIVEN PERSON?
"To have the person in front of you so you can read the magical energy signature," Trey replied. Spellcasting wasn't exactly the golden warrior's forte, but he had picked up a few things during his centuries of wandering around the universe.
Ninjor thought he had picked up on what Zordon was aiming towards. "And the next best thing is to have something of theirs, taken preferably after they were put under the spell. We can read the item and pick up residual spell-energy. That'll give us the clue we need!"
EXACTLY, Zordon agreed. IT WILL NOT BE EASY TO LOCATE SOMETHING TAKEN IN THAT TIME PERIOD, HOWEVER, AS THEY HAVE SPENT MOST OF THEIR TIME SINCE REVEALING WHO THEY ARE TO US ON THE LUNAR PALACE.
"Would it be possible for us to get something they used while attacking the Rangers?"
Zordon and Ninjor considered Trey's thought for a few moments. "Possibly," Ninjor said at last. "But I doubt it very much, since Shanara and Vile will have most likely done their best to erase all traces."
"True," Trey nodded. "But if we keep an eye out for the next time they attack, we might be able to do something before the traces are wiped out."
IT IS NOT THE BEST PLAN WE COULD HAVE CONCEIVED, Zordon admitted. BUT IT WILL DO FOR THE TIME BEING. ALPHA, SET THE SCANNERS TO DETECT THE JEWEL RANGERS ANYWHERE THEY MIGHT APPEAR, IN HUMAN OR MORPHED FORM.
"Ay-yi-yi!" Alpha babbled as he went to the computers. "We still can't detect them morphed, but we might be able to if they come down morphed."
Ninjor stepped up a little. "I can keep an eye out for them. Shanara and Vile may not have shielded them as yet from the Power of Ninja."
EXCELLENT IDEA, NINJOR, Zordon was glad to have this chance to work so much more closely with the ancient ninja master, it gave him hopes for a continued alliance in the future. And they would need all the help they could get, even if they could release the Jewel Rangers.
"Who would have imagined it?" she said, tapping her fingers on the edge of her throne. "My daughter is Katherine Hillard. The Pink Zeo Ranger."
"It does seem a bit coincidental, but at the same time, understandable," Vile reminded her. "Power draws power, that's a law of the universe. It explains why Rita was drawn to Katherine, and why she's been such a fine Ranger," a taste of venom was in his voice as he spoke that last.
Shanara nodded quietly, leaning back and thinking. "It would be very easy for me to bring her here and establish control over her mind. An unbreakable control."
"Very easy," Vile agreed. He could tell there was something more in his wife's mind than just that however. After all, with six evil Rangers already, what could one more mean one way or the other?
"Too easy," she smiled suddenly. "For now, at any rate. I don't think we need to inform anyone of our discovery just yet. We have enough to deal with working against the Rangers and Ninjor. I also have something to do with the Jewel Rangers."
Vile's eyebrows raised, a most interesting sight to see. "What might that be, dear one?"
"I'm going to take them to Earth, unmorphed, to visit with their families and get their clearance to remain here with us on the moon," Shanara's voice was very calm, but it caused Vile to look at her as if his wife of eons had lost her mind. Shanara smiled a little. "Simple common sense, my dear. I want them to stay here full time. But they have families back on Earth, non-Ranger ones, who are unaware of their status. If they suddenly vanish, so soon after returning to Angel Grove, that is going to raise up questions that could seriously hamper our activities. I honestly don't know how my spell would react if they saw their families worried, and they would, sooner or later."
"Ah," the ancient M-51 wizard nodded wisely; he'd suspected there would be something in her agenda to deal with that. "I believe I shall prepare for another battle. Without the Jewel Rangers this time. I've got several monsters that would do a very nasty little number on those puny Zeo Rangers."
Shanara smiled softly as she caressed her husband's heads tenderly. "I have complete trust in you, my dear," she purred. "And don't feel compelled to go softer on the Pink Ranger simply because she's your stepdaughter. But I would be most put out if she were killed. After all, she could still be very useful to us. And fairly soon."
The dark queen rose up from her throne and walked towards the balcony, gazing at the glistening ball of Earth that twirled several thousand miles away. "I won't turn her to our side right away. I'm not quite certain just how one of my mind control spells might work on her. Rita was much less powerful than I am, and I doubt anything she could have done would have had much effect on awakening anything latent Katherine might have. But if I can drive a tiny wedge between her and the others for now. . .it'll be enough to use as a basis for more interesting things later on." her eyes flashed for a moment, then an image of Katherine, walking down a street in Angel Grove with Tommy, apparently headed for the Youth Center, appeared. Shanara smiled; she could see a faint resemblance to her in the Pink Ranger. "Enjoy yourself while you can, dear daughter. Enjoy yourself while you can."
No, something whispered strongly. She won't do that. It would serve no purpose. She shrugged as Tommy squeezed the hand he was holding, and smiled up at him. Both of them were nervous, though neither were showing it. They were going to be talking with Bulk, Skull, Richie, Emily, Angela, Curtis, and David today about something that hadn't been seen since Tanya had arrived in Angel Grove: to be new Rangers. And Ninja Rangers at that.
"Do you think they'll all be there?"
"I hope so," Tommy replied. "If they aren't, we're going to have to go looking for them, and that could waste time."
Kat nodded. "And that's something we don't have right now," was the last thing she said before they entered the Youth Center. The first thing the two Zeo Rangers did was look around for their future teammates. Bulk and Skull were looking over some papers on a table, obviously making preparations for their next case. Richie and Emily were both working, Richie filling the orders that Emily was taking from the customers. David, making one of his rare appearances at the Youth Center, was working out on the mats. Curtis was studying at another table, while Angela was stretching out on another one of the practice mats.
"They're all here," Tommy breathed the words out, then glanced to the side when he saw the others, Adam, Rocky, and Tanya, joining him and Kat. Trey and Zordon would be at the Power Chamber with Ninjor, doing their level best to figure out a way to free the Jewel Rangers. The Red Ranger squared his shoulders and looked at the seven teenagers. "Let's hope we made the right choices."
Rocky nodded. "So how do we do this? We can't exactly teleport them to the Power Chamber just yet."
"We'll talk to them," Tommy decided. "Kat and Tanya, you talk to Emily and Angela. Adam, you approach Richie and Curtis. Rocky, you've got Bulk and Skull, and I'll talk to David."
"Sure, give yourself the easy job and stick me with the real work," Rocky chuckled a little, and Tommy threw him an inscrutable glance. He knew it would be easier on him than the others, since David already knew about the Rangers. But he was also his brother, and Tommy felt a certain sense of responsibility in telling him. He continued what he was saying.
"You don't need to tell them anything about being picked as Rangers just yet. Get them somewhere out of the way, out in the hallway's fine, and then we'll take them to the Power Chamber."
Adam put a hand on both their shoulders. "Come on, guys. Let's do this."
Without any further words, but wishing every member of the team good luck, the five of them spread throughout the Youth Center. As they drew closer to their assigned recruits, none of them could fail to remember the day when they themselves had become Rangers for the first time. For Tommy, it was a double memory of pain and pride. Shock at being pulled out of his normal life. Pride when he was accepted as a true Ranger. For Adam and Rocky, it was joy that they would finally be able to help defend the world. For Tanya, it was relief that she would be accepted into this strange new world she had found herself in. For Kat, it was disbelief that Kim had trusted her with so much, after everything the blonde had done to her. And now, they were getting ready to choose the next team of Rangers. Instead of taking their place, however, these would work alongside of them. There would be thirteen Rangers on Earth, not counting the Jewels, and when those were freed, nineteen would take their place fighting against all that was evil. It was a very strange feeling.
"Emily?" she looked up to see Kat standing behind her, a curious and concerned look on her face. "Can I talk to you for a few minutes?"
"Sure," Emily nodded, wondering what the other girl wanted. "I'm due for my break anyway. What's on your mind?"
Kat swallowed, not quite certain how to deal with this. It was a totally new situation, and she thought about it quickly. I just want to get her someplace out of sight for now, she decided, remembering Tommy's instructions. "Let's go over there," she gestured to the hallway. "It'll be quieter."
The young girl frowned momentarily, then turned to tell Richie she was taking her break. Her eyes widened to see Adam motioning her fellow worker over to the same hallway, then start over to where Curtis Taylor was sitting. Her head whirled around to see Rocky talking with Bulk and Skull, both of whom had pole-axed expressions on their faces, and Tanya was with Angela Johnson. Tommy was talking with his brother David, and while that was nothing unusual, something about the way David looked was tipping Emily off that something was going on.
"All right," she said, placing her trust in Kat. Whatever was going on, if the rest of her friends were involved, it couldn't be bad. Those five were noted for acts of goodness and decency almost on the level of the Power Rangers. She walked over to where Richie was standing, curiously looking over at Adam, and nodded. "So, what are you here for?" she asked teasingly.
"I wish I knew," Richie shrugged a little. "I'm as in the dark as you are."
Kat bit her lip, wishing she could say more, but knowing better than to as the rest of the team started to come over, along with their 'targets'. David was the only one who looked fully comfortable, but even he had a strange look of startlement in his eyes. It was plain to the Rangers Tommy hadn't left anything out while talking to him.
"What's going on here?" Bulk asked, looking somewhere between curiosity and confusion. "What are you guys up to?"
Tommy shook his head. "We'll explain everything in a few minutes. We just want you guys to trust us, that's all."
"Yeah," Adam nodded. "We don't mean to sound mysterious, but it's of vital importance to the safety of the world."
Skull snorted. "You make it sound like you're the Power Rangers or something!"
The five teens glanced at each other, then smiled a little. "Exactly," Tommy said, as each of the Rangers put a hand or two on a recruit's shoulder, and all twelve of them teleported to the Power Chamber.
"Majesty?" she turned to Jason, who was looking at the house with a faint and dim distaste. "Must we do this? Appearing unmorphed gives too many chances for the others to try and recover us to good."
The evil queen let a tendril of her hair smooth around Jason's face for a moment and smiled. "Don't concern yourself, Jason. Everything will be fine."
"Yes, my queen," the Garnet Ranger murmured. The others fell into place behind Shanara as she headed towards the Scott house, and her clothes morphed into a severe business suit. It just wouldn't do to make the wrong impression on several parents.
"When did she say they were going to be here?" Mark Cranston, Billy's father, asked, fidgeting a little in his chair. The children had all returned to Angel Grove only recently, except for Jason, and their parents had seen little of them.
"I think that's them now," Luanna Taylor said, glancing out the window to see a small line of people walking up the front steps. A rapping on the door indicated they had arrived.
Jason's mother went to the door and opened it to see a spectacularly beautiful woman in a business suit standing out there, with Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, Billy, and Aisha lined up behind her. For a moment, she almost thought she saw a hint of shadows in their eyes, a strange sort of something wrong. . .then the woman spoke, and she dismissed it. "I am Shan Clemens, and I wish to speak with you and the other parents here."
"Yes, of course," Mrs. Scott nodded, standing aside so they could all enter. A strand of the woman's hair brushed by her face as Ms. Clemens passed her by, and she felt at once convinced that whatever this woman wanted, it was only good for their children. "Please, take a seat in the living room. Can I get you something to drink?"
Shan smiled winningly. "Thank you. Some fruit juice will be fine," she glanced at the teens behind her. "Would you care for anything?"
"Sodas, please, the trip was tiring," Trini said. Shan raised one eyebrow, then seemed to shrug, nodding her agreement to Mrs. Scott as she went to the kitchen. The group entered the living room, and the parents were somewhat surprised to see their offspring sitting in various positions around Shan, instead of near them.
Robert Kwan looked a little confused at his only daughter. "Trini, it's good to see you again, but why haven't you been home? Why haven't any of you been home?"
"Please, Mr. Kwan," Shan raised one hand almost commandingly. "I will explain everything shortly."
Mrs. Scott returned with a plate of sodas and fruit juice, handing them out to everyone. Shan leaned calmly back in the couch, and looked each of the parents in the eye. All of them flinched back involuntarily at the look in her gaze. "I'm going to make this very short and very to the point. Your children are going to be moving in with me, and helping me with a very important project. That's why they haven't been at home very often since their return; I approached each of them not that long ago and extended an offer to them to pay for their future college tuition and set them up in any business they desire if they work for me for a certain period of time. They have agreed."
John Hart, Kim's father, looked surprised. "Kim, why didn't you tell me anything about this? I hardly even knew you were going to Florida!"
"It's a very great opportunity, Father," Kim said. "Ms. Clemens is doing us a wonderful favor."
He looked as if he were about to say something else, when words suddenly failed him. It was as if his mind had went totally blank. All he did was nod quietly. That expression was repeated by all the other parents, one at a time, until they all looked just faintly blank-faced.
Shan rose to her feet, shedding her 'businesswoman' outfit and returning to her preferred outfit of a blood-red gown and crimson boots. "Hear my words," she murmured, her hair slowly reaching out to caress the parents' faces. "Hear my words and obey. You will feel no fret nor fear for your children's fate. Should anyone ask you where they are, you will say they are with a trusted friend, but you are sworn to say no more. This is all you need to know: they are safe. Is that understood?"
"Yes," the parents murmured, falling under her spell as easily as the Jewel Rangers themselves had. Shanara smiled, a hint of predation in her eyes. She so enjoyed having minds to mold. It was one of her greatest pleasures in life, and something she indulged in whenever she got the opportunity. "We hear and obey."
"Indeed," she chuckled quietly, then pulled her hair back. "Now, rest, and forget you ever saw me or your children. They are safe. They are with me."
The parents each fell back onto the couches or chairs they were in, their eyes closed and their breathing almost shallow. "Are they all right, my queen?" Billy's voice was worried as he looked at his father. Shanara frowned at him; her spells would weaken over time, like any mage's, but hers were of a strength that guaranteed it would be a slow weakening.
"Yes, they are fine," she answered, making a mental note to check on the current strength of the spell binding all her Rangers, not just Billy. One rule Shanara had always lived by was 'better safe than sorry', and that extended into everything. "Come. We have plans to make. Master Vile is planning for an attack on the Rangers soon, and the six of you need your rest. You won't be involved in what he's doing, I have other plans for you."
"May we ask what those are, Your Majesty?" Jason wondered. Shanara's eyes narrowed even farther, something very odd was going on her. Perhaps this wasn't a good idea. But she knew something that could fix that.
Just as it had only moments before, her hair slid out to caress each of them, brushing delicately across their faces. Once again their Jewel colors flashed in their eyes, which went heavy-lidded at once. "Not yet, my Rangers," she purred. "Other duties await you. You must rest. You are tired."
With no more than a thought, she had taken them all back to the palace, and sent each to their chambers. A few extra minutes were spent reweaving the spells that kept them hers. They would have been stronger if she had undone the magic entirely and redone it from the start, but that wasn't very practical. If the spells were broken, either by her or by some outside force, then they would be even harder to establish than they had been the first time. She let a flicker of memory flow through her, of how she had captured and enspelled each of them. It hadn't been easy. . .but it most certainly had been fun.
Tommy cleared his throat a little, and the newcomers all focused their attention on him. "I know this is a shock to all of you, except you, David," he smiled at his brother. "But we've got a lot to tell you about, and then a question to ask. You're free to leave here at any time, as long as you don't tell anyone what happened. Our secrecy has to be maintained."
Everyone fell into total silence. Tommy glanced up at Zordon, who nodded briefly, indicating he should continue talking. Their mentor was rather impressive, and right now, it was better than Tommy ease the new ones into this. "First off, have you guys heard of the Jewel Rangers?"
"Who hasn't?" Skull burst out. "They really trashed the town yesterday! If it wasn't for those two guys..."
"That would be me," Ninjor stepped up. "And Trey, the Gold Ranger and Lord of Triforia. We're both old friends of the Rangers, and we came to help in their time of need."
Tommy nodded briefly. "And we're grateful. But we need even more help. The Jewel Rangers, Master Vile, and Shanara are very dangerous foes, and we don't know if six Rangers is going to be enough."
"Master Vile?" Bulk and Skull both looked at each other; they'd met that hideous monstrosity when he'd held his 'end of the world party' at Ernie's. They'd hoped that would be the last time they saw him. ..they were wrong, it seemed.
Angela cleared her throat. "So what does that have to do with us?"
WE HAVE CHOSEN YOU TO BECOME PART OF THE POWER RANGERS. WHILE THERE ARE NO MORE ZEO CRYSTALS, OUR ALLY NINJOR HAS RECREATED THE SEVEN POWER COINS AND YOU SEVEN ARE THOSE CHOSEN TO WIELD THEM AND THE POWERS OF THE MORPHIN RANGERS IF YOU SO DESIRE.
The Rangers couldn't help but wonder if they had looked that surprised when they had been picked as Rangers. Tommy looked at them all. "Will you? Will you guys help us? We're up against some really tough stuff here, it won't be easy."
David stepped forward at once. "You can count on me, bro!"
"What the heck," Richie shrugged. "I'll do my best."
"This is so cool," Angela couldn't help a giggle as she also threw in her agreement.
"I think I'm going to faint," Emily murmured. "But I want to help."
"Zack's never going to believe this," from Curtis elicited a few chuckles from the others.
"What the heck," Skull shrugged, joining the others.
"Imagine, me, a Power Ranger," Bulk added the last agreement.
A sense of palpable relief went through the Power Chamber as they agreed. "Thanks," Tommy breathed. "Once you've gotten your powers, we'll show you around the Power Chamber here, and tell you what's been going on, give you all the details."
As the new Rangers nodded, Ninjor stepped over to them. "I will take you to my temple, there the Power of Ninja will be unleashed within you. Once you have achieved your powers, I will return you here for the briefing."
Only a moment had passed before all eight of them had vanished, and the remaining Rangers looked at each other. They all knew that things had only just begun.
Skull looked totally thunderstruck, as did all the rest. "What do we do now?" despite having met him bare minutes ago, the potential Rangers could all feel a strange sense of trust in the strange being before them.
"Form a circle around me and join hands. Close your eyes and concentrate," Ninjor instructed, and they all obeyed. Rising in each was a sense of joy and strength unlike anything they had ever thought truly possible. "Your journey is about to begin," his voice fell into a sonorous recitation of the mantra of the Ninja, and as he spoke, each could feel energy and power swirling around them. "Older than time itself, man has always known the calling. Light of the light, strength of the soul, ignite this eternal power inside of me. I am ninja! I am pure of heart, body, mind, and spirit! Join with me now as I become one with the power of Ninja!"
As he silenced himself, their eyes opened, and they stared at each other in surprise and shock. They had all seen the Ninja uniforms worn by the original Ninja Rangers in the past, and now each wore one similar. Only Curtis wore one they had never seen before.
"Bulk, you are the Bull, strong and powerful," Ninjor said, standing before the first of them. "From this moment on you are the Red Ninja Ranger."
"Emily, you are the Hawk, sharp-witted and cunning," she was next. "You are the Pink Ninja Ranger."
"Angela, supple and quick, you are the Cat," the new Yellow Ninja Ranger was told.
"Richie, strong and wise, the Owl is your guide and protector," they all smiled at the new Blue Ninja Ranger.
"Skull, secretive and gifted, the Deer shall answer to your call," the Black Ninja Ranger could feel the strength within him.
"Curtis, you are skilled and talented, and the wisdom of the Fox is at your command," the Green Ninja Ranger heard the words of Ninjor with pride.
"David, the clever and brave Lynx walks the path of life with you, White Ninja Ranger," Ninjor looked around at them all. "Congratulations, you are all now the Ninja Power Rangers. Your Zords will be coming to the Power Chamber Zord Bay shortly, and will remain there until you summon them for combat. You will be instructed in how to morph and the rules of the power by the Zeo Rangers. This is a powerful and dangerous honor that has been given to you, and to rescue the Jewel Rangers from the grip of evil will not be easy. The battle between good and evil never is. But I trust in the Zeo Rangers' wisdom in choosing you, and I know you will do pride to the armor of the Ninja Rangers. And now, we must return to the Power Chamber. We have much to do."
The new Rangers glanced at each other, and with a thought their ninja uniforms had vanished, replaced by the normal clothes they had all been wearing. Emily and Richie glanced at each other. "I wonder if Ernie's noticed we've gone yet?" they both chorused.
All of his eyes glowed faintly as he observed Shanara and the Jewel Rangers returning to the palace. They were in the exercise area, and she was instructing them on the various capabilities of their JewelZords, plus in some fighting techniques that no one from Earth would know how to deal with.
Quite excellent, the king of M-51 approved of his wife's actions. It had been her idea in the first place to come here and crush the Earth in place of their daughter and son-in-law, and to use the Jewel Crystals that she had discovered to power the Jewel Rangers. Though it was mine to use the former Rangers. It was quite entertaining to watch her enspell them all.
He drew a deep breath, remembering what he'd told her, that he had plans to send a monster to Earth. Knowing that more Rangers had been made caused him to rethink things, however. He had screwed up the last time by underestimating these teenagers. Even having a team of his own rangers wasn't going to get him to do the same thing again. Once was bad enough.
I need something. . .no, I need SOMEONE. Someone who can't be corrupted by goodness. Someone who obeys ME and only me, not even my wife. Who can never be swayed by conflicting loyalties. Someone intelligent. Someone cunning and powerful.
That criteria left out everyone that was in the palace at that moment. As he paced and peered down at Earth, the answer suddenly presented itself to him. He almost slapped his heads in disgust at his own ignorance. He had the answer all along! All he required was a mortal husk, a corpse that was undecayed and as fresh as possible. With swift skill he scanned the planet, knowing his plan would go smoother with a 'local' being.
"Excellent," he purred happily, spying a funeral in the town of Stone Canyon. Only one of the dark evil of Master Vile would see pleasure in the grief of a family's loss, and only he would do as he did: teleport down to Earth cloaked in spells that would repel the sensors of the Power Chamber.
He moved quickly and quietly to the foot of the coffin where a young woman was being laid to rest, extending his staff carefully. Unseen by the mourners, dark light flickered within the coffin and the corpse was transported to his workchamber in the palace. Another ray of dark light passed, and a precise duplicate of the body was in the coffin. If ever the Rangers had reason to suspect what he had done, they would find no evidence of it here or anywhere else. But he intended to give them no reason to suspect.
"This is going to be too easy," he laughed, teleporting back to the palace. This was his best plan ever.
"I'm the Red Ranger!" Bulk proclaimed almost fiercely. He was followed by the quick recitation of everyone else's color and animal. Once it was over with, Tommy nodded.
"Welcome to the team," he said briefly. "Zordon would like to speak to you before we go any farther, though. He's our mentor, our guide, and our friend."
WELCOME, NINJA RANGERS, the ancient wizard spoke gently. WE LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH YOU IN THE TIME TO COME. NOW THAT YOU ARE ALL RANGERS, THERE ARE THREE RULES THAT YOU MUST LIVE BY: NEVER ESCALATE A FIGHT UNLESS YOU ARE FORCED TO. NEVER USE YOUR POWER FOR PERSONAL GAIN. AND NEVER REVEAL YOUR IDENTITY. NO ONE MAY KNOW YOU ARE A POWER RANGER.
"You've got it, Zordon!" David did the same double thumb's up that his brother had years earlier when he had first come to the Command Center as a true Power Ranger. "We're all with you!"
"You know it!" the six others declared.
AND NOW, IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO KNOW OUR ENEMIES, AND THE ONES WE HOPE TO CLAIM AS FRIENDS AGAIN. TOMMY?
The Red Ranger nodded. "We're not the original Rangers," he said. "But let's introduce you to us all, so we know who we are. I'm Tommy Oliver, Zeo Ranger Five, Red."
"Adam Park, Zeo Ranger Four, Green."
"Rocky DeSantos, Zeo Ranger Three, Blue."
"Tanya Sloan, Zeo Ranger Two, Yellow."
"Kat Hillard, Zeo Ranger One, Pink," Kat gestured around. "This is our headquarters, the Power Chamber. You've met Zordon and Ninjor, and this is Alpha Five, our assistant and friend. Trey, the Gold Zeo Ranger, is out at the moment."
Adam touched buttons on the console, and on one of the viewscreens there came an image of Master Vile and Queen Shanara. "These are Master Vile and Shanara, they're in charge on the moon now. They rule the M-51 Galaxy, and are the parents of Rita Repulsa and Rito Revolto. No one's seen anything of Zedd or Rita since Vile and Shanara took over. But their worst weapon against us so far has been these," he was almost shaking when he flicked another button, and an image of the Jewel Rangers, fully morphed, appeared on the screen. "The Jewel Rangers."
"They look even meaner like this," Skull shuddered a little, looking at the six who had become the worst menace Angel Grove had seen in years.
"It gets worse," Rocky muttered. Adam flicked a switch, and the armor around the evil Rangers faded to reveal their true identities. All the Zeos were watching their new allies, and every last one of them went pale as they recognized friends, relatives, people they had known for some time, years in some cases.
Tommy nodded. "That was pretty much our reaction. Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, and Billy were the first Power Rangers. Aisha took over for Trini after she went to Switzerland, then retired to stay in Africa and deal with a plague there. Somehow, we don't know how, they were all turned into evil Rangers by Shanara and Vile. It's our goal to release them. If we can ever find out how."
"And I might just know how," everyone turned around to see Trey standing behind them, with six cans of soda held on a tray. "I just might know how."
A quick magical scan had revealed that the person in question had perished of wounds suffered in a mugging. It had been a quick and fatal thrust to the heart, and Vile had easily healed the physical damage. The original spirit of the body was long since gone to the realms of the afterlife, however, and was of no concern to the dark sorcerer.
Another spirit was on his mind, one that swirled and shuddered with a crystal he held in one hand. Thousands of eons earlier, before he had met and married Shanara, his chief assassin had been slain in a war with another wizard. Vile had went on to crush the opposing wizard and establish his unaltered dominance over the M-51 galaxy and several outlying systems as well. But he had never replaced his assassin, and shortly after meeting Shanara and learning of her unutterable cruelty, he had decided not to.
Until now. It wasn't that he wasn't pleased with the Jewel Rangers and all that Shanara had accomplished. But with the currently unknown factors of the new Ninja Rangers entering the picture, and the sensations he'd picked up of Shanara's spell on the six teenagers fading briefly, he wanted to have someone that he knew wouldn't fail or fall to evil. Thus, the rebirth of his favorite assassin.
Words unknown to any human tongue and to many nonhuman were uttered, in ringing tones that were unheard beyond the shut doors of his workroom. Only Shanara was permitted in here, and she would know better than to interrupt one of his spells. As the chant reached a crescendo, he held out the crystal in his hand and crushed it easily.
The black darkness within it uncurled, taking the form of a shadow snake. He gestured peremptorily to the body, and the snake bowed its head low before him, acknowledging his mastery as it slid over to the body and curled out, nose to nose with the thing of the dead. Vile chanted again, uniting the soul of his old slave with the body he had chosen for her.
"And done!" he finished the last of it in English, granting her the power to speak and understand in the tongue in common use these days in the realm they'd chosen to conquer. He watched with eager eyes as the snake thinned away into mist, and the blush of life returned to the body. A faint glow shuddered about her for the briefest of seconds, and the features of the body reshaped into those he had not seen in so long. "Ah, my assassin! Welcome back to life!"
She slowly sat up, her hands reaching to push back a long wealth of hair. "I. ..I am alive again," she murmured, her voice low and husky. "I . . .live."
"Yes," Vile knew that she would be somewhat disoriented for a time. "Yes, you do, my assassin. Do you remember me?"
"I. . .am an assassin," her voice was slowly growing stronger. "I. ..serve you...Master Vile."
He smiled. "It will take you some time to regain your full strength and memories. Once you have, however, I will set you loose upon Angel Grove. And then the world will know the power of Master Vile!"
A foul and wicked laughter lifted out of the workroom, even penetrating to where the Jewel Rangers and Shanara were working out. The dark queen's lips twitched with a smile. She loved to see her husband strike out on his own.
The Gold Ranger nodded a greeting to the others who weren't quite certain just who this person was. "Welcome, Ninja Rangers," he said, attending to matters of properity first. "As you know, I detected the Jewel Rangers teleporting down to Earth unmorphed, and went to see what they were doing. It appears that Shanara was assuaging any concern that their parents might have, not out of kindness, however. She knew that seeing their parents in agitation might well have placed unnecessary stress upon whatever spells she has bound them with. But this also could have given us the key to freeing them."
"How?" Kat's voice was calm as always, but threaded with excitement and joy. "What did you find?"
"Each of these cans was touched by a Jewel Ranger," Trey gave them to Alpha carefully, who took them being cautious not to touch any of them. "Ninjor, Zordon, and I can unite our various powers to read what images and thoughts were left by their touch."
Angela's eyes were wide. "Can you really do that?" she wondered. The newest Yellow Ranger had been shaken by her former boyfriend's existence as not only an evil Jewel Ranger, but as a former Power Ranger as well! And he kept this from me...even when I said I'd date him if he was one!! She shook her head a little in disbelief. There was definitely more to Zack than met the eye.
"We can," Ninjor said, striding over to Trey. "As you will learn in time, the Power of Ninja can accomplish many things."
"As can the power of Zeo," Trey smiled faintly, glancing up to Zordon.
WITH THE THREE POWERS OF NINJA, ZEO, AND MY OWN BRAIN POWER COMBINED, THEN WE SHALL BE ABLE TO NOT ONLY LEARN WHAT HOLD SHANARA HAS OVER THE JEWEL RANGERS, BUT BE ABLE TO PRESENT IT TO YOU ALL. IT WILL BE FOR A BRIEF TIME AS IF YOU HAVE LIVED THROUGH A PORTION OF THEIR LIVES. IN THAT PORTION WE HOPE TO FIND OUR ANSWERS.
Several tense moments passed as Ninjor, Trey, and Zordon conferred in the most silent of tones over things that needed doing. The Rangers slowly mingled, with the Zeos giving quiet and quick lessons on things that had happened to them in the past and some few things they might expect in the future. After a few minutes, however, Tommy noticed Emily standing in a corner, her arms folded and her eyes looked as if she might cry. Quietly he walked over and put a hand on her shoulder.
"What's wrong, Emily?" he asked quietly. He knew she was still hurting over how cruelly Jason had treated her the other day in the Youth Center, and hoped devoutly that she'd be able to accept whatever his choice was once they had freed him.
"When did it happen? When did Shanara take him over? Did he break up with me because of her, or because he really wanted to? How much of what we had together was real?" her voice was literally glowing with pain.
"I don't know," Tommy shook his head. "All we know about when it happened was that it had to be after he gave up the Gold Ranger powers-back when he was having those fainting spells. The powers were incompatible with the human lifeform, and Jason would have died if he'd kept them. He didn't hang around very much with us for a while after that. There's about a two week period we're fairly certain it happened in. Anything more specific than that. ..and we don't know."
Emily nodded quietly, her blue eyes shadowed. "Tommy," she said after several silent moments. "Do you think he still loves me?"
"I don't know, Emily," he replied, hating the way those three words sounded. He was feeling the same way about Kimberly, but he knew something else: he loved Kat. The words they had spoken to each other when he had first found out Kim was coming home had been false. They'd rung hollow even then, but he hadn't felt it, he hadn't let himself feel it. He'd wanted to see Kim again so badly, to feel her in his arms like it had been in the old days. But the old days are gone. We're different people now, and it's time I realized that. I can only hope she does as well when she's herself again. The pain of what she had done in the park when she had seduced him had been great, and he almost wished he hadn't told the others about it.
His introspection and Emily's were broken off suddenly when Trey cleared his throat. "We are ready," he said simply. The two teens walked back over to the others, who were forming into a seated circle around Ninjor and Trey. They could just hear the Ninja Master advising their friends that sitting would be safer, since the memories and thoughts they would be experiencing would probably be very, very intense.
"Who is going to be first?" Tanya wondered. Trey indicated one of the cans.
"Jason," he said simply. And with that, and a crackle of energy, they were all plunged into the depths of memory.
Or so he had thought. Until while he was on the way to the Youth Center, intending to say hi to the guys and see how things were going in the days following Mondo's defeat. One moment he had been walking, the next there had been some odd form of ripple in reality, and he had literally stumbled into what looked like a throne room of some sort. Seated upon two ornate chairs in front of him was a hideous looking creature with multiple heads and a woman who could easily have won every beauty contest on Earth.
"Welcome to our abode, Jason of Earth," the woman spoke. His attention was drawn immediately to her hair; it was a long, cascading spill of midnight black, that seemed to stretch towards both him and the creature beside her. "I see by your expression you are startled."
"I don't know who you are, but let me go at once!" he declared, backing up and getting into a defensive posture. He was still a little weak from the Gold power's effects on his body, but was starting to get over it. He thought he should be in good enough condition to take on whatever they tried.
The monstrous creature laughed. "No, we shall not. But let us not be rude, my dear. We know who you are, but you don't know who we are. I am Master Vile, and this is my wife, Queen Shanara. We are the rulers of the M-51 Galaxy, and you have met our offspring: Rita Repulsa and Rito Revolto."
Jason blanched. The parents of Rita!? He'd heard from the others that Master Vile had come very close to destroying the world once, and he had no idea of what Shanara could be capable of.
"I think he's heard of you, my dear," Shanara smiled, rising from her throne and coming towards her captive. "Jason, we have an offer for you. One you can't refuse."
The former Ranger took another step back; he would have attacked, but just walking didn't count as an offensive movement, and the rules of being a Ranger had been ingrained into his very soul. He couldn't attack unless she did first. "Not interested."
"You have no choice," she retorted. "We want you to come work for us, Jason. We are preparing to come to Earth, and we will need fighters of your caliber."
He shook his head. "Not interested, I said that already! You won't get me!"
She laughed, and he barely had time to jerk before his wrists and ankles were wrapped up suddenly in the folds of her long preternatural tresses. "We have you already. You just need. ..persuading."
Jason wanted to say things, but his head was moved to look directly into her eyes. As their gazes locked, he found all his willpower draining away as another tendril of hair stroked itself across his forehead. "The Rangers have abandoned you again, Jason. Once when you went to Switzerland and once when you lost the Gold powers. Tell me, did they go out of their way to speak with you, or to include you in their activities?"
He found he could speak again, and his mind scrabbled in vain for answers. Clearly he saw in his mind how the other Rangers had ignored and derided him, how they thought of him only as muscles, with nothing of true value, how Zordon had so casually made Tommy team leader in his place, then just as casually banished him, Zack, and Trini to Switzerland. Had he tired of them, and decided to bring in three who would be more easily manipulated? Pulsating in his mind were the faces of the Rangers, glaring at him with evil glee as he nearly died of the Gold Ranger powers. They hadn't cared about HIM, only about saving the power, about saving a total stranger, Trey!
His answer came. "No," he said quietly. There was no bitterness or remorse in the word. Just a simple fact.
"Why should you care for them? What have they done for you that would stir your love or your compassion? What has anyone ever done to you for that?" as Shanara spoke, her hair caressed Jason's face and forehead endlessly. With every touch, an icy chill seemed to radiate outward from the contact all the way through his heart and soul, until he felt absolutely nothing. "The child you date. . .there is no fire in her. No spirit. Nothing but gutless whimpering."
"She is nothing," Jason's voice was pale and weak. "I care nothing for her."
Shanara's lips twisted into a cold smile. "What do you care for, my Jason?"
"For you and for Master Vile, my queen. I am your loyal warrior, in any fashion you desire."
He barely noticed as he was set back on the ground. "Very good, Jason," Master Vile said. "You will be well rewarded for your service."
"Yes," Shanara smirked. "But first, we do require something of you. Something only you can give, dear Jason."
He bowed stiffly from the waist. "I am at your disposal, my lord and lady."
"We require the location and identities of all former Rangers. As one yourself, you do know this, do you not?"
He nodded. "I do. I kept in touch with all save one, but I know her location anyway, having been told when I rejoined the team as the Gold Ranger."
"Tell us," Vile commanded. As Jason began to speak, images of the five others appeared, and Shanara smiled when Kimberly was shown. Jason's eyes flashed a little at the sight of her, and Vile raised one of his eyebrows. "You have feelings for this girl?"
Jason shrugged. "She is one of my dearest friends, or was. We have not seen each other in some time, however."
"Do you find her attractive?" Shanara's voice seemed to hold more than the normal curiosity, and when Jason nodded, triumph glowed in her eyes. "Then she shall be your mate. Is this to your liking? To share your body with one who once was the beloved of your best friend?" it was obvious Shanara knew more than she was letting on about certain events in the Rangers' lives.
"It is indeed, my queen," Jason smiled almost hungrily as he looked at the image of Kimberly working on the balance beam. It would be worth everything to see the pain in Tommy's eyes when he found them in each other's arms. . .
Shanara touched his shoulder. "Return to Earth for now, Jason. In the proper time, we shall summon you again. Until then, forget you have seen us, and forget you serve us. When we meet again, then you shall receive your mate and the power destined to be yours."
He bowed, and then found himself completing the step that he had been taking on his way to the Youth Center. For a moment he thought that something had happened. . .then shook his head. One could get quite paranoid being a Ranger. It was good to be retired, he thought, continuing on to the Youth Center.
"Which means underneath her spell, Jason still loves you, Emily," Kat reassured her Ninja color counterpart. "He loves you, not Kimberly."
Emily nodded, her bright smile returning as she turned her head to Ninjor. "Who next?" she asked.
For he and Trini Kwan, since Jason had left three months earlier, it had been an endless round of classes and meetings that got no further than checking out the height of the girls' skirts. They'd both been packing their bags to go home when it had happened.
A ripple of reality, a twisting of space, and he was no longer in his bedroom in Geneva. Instead, he had been in a throne room, before a woman who looked like a goddess brought to life, with unknown amounts of shadow-colored hair, and an almost demonic looking thing. Both had looked on him with distant curiosity.
"So this is the first Black Ranger?" the three-headed thing said dismissively. "Do we really need him, Shanara?"
"We do," the woman was already walking towards him. Zack was so taken aback by them knowing about his old job he almost jumped out of his skin when she wrapped her hair around him and lifted him off the ground, literally leaning him over her. "Welcome to our palace, Zachary Taylor."
He tried to squirm out of her grip, but failed absolutely. "Who are you, man? Woman?! Whatever?"
"Vile and Shanara of the M-51 Galaxy Empire," the woman gestured first to the one on the throne still, then to herself. "And we know quite a bit about you," her hair caressed his forehead, and he shivered, feeling the chill sinking into him.
"What are you doing?" he tried to wrench away, but had no more success than he had before. "Why do you want me?"
A low laugh, musical and harmonic. "We want more than just you. We want all your friends as well. . .for different things. You we want for your courage and your skill in battle. You are a prankster, but you are also a warrior, and it is that warrior's spirit that I will increase in your heart a thousandfold."
He looked down at her, not understanding, and shivering whenever her tresses touched him. She smiled, and the warmth in that expression only increased the chill in his heart that was slowly increasing. "Why should you always be the forgotten one? Why should you be stripped of your power when you had always served with the greatest of honors? When Jason returned home, did they even call to see if you were coming back? Or were you forgotten?"
A memory opened in his mind, and he saw himself sitting by the phone for hours, staring at it, almost willing it to ring, but to no avail. Mail came in, but none of it was for him. He was forgotten, alone but for Trini, abandoned, unknown to all and all who surrounded him thought him nothing but a clown and a fraud, one who couldn't do anything seriously good for the world if he had tried.
"They will never know your greatness, Zachary," Shanara's voice continued. "They will never know you kept them all alive, risking your life. Why should you keep doing so if they don't give you the respect you deserve?"
His wide dark eyes seemed to fill with a blankness as her hair caressed him repeatedly. "Why should I?" he repeated slowly. "Why should I care about them? What have they ever done for me?"
"Nothing," she purred. "Nothing at all. But I can do much for you, Zachary. I can do things for you that you can't even imagine. And you will be known for them. Perhaps not right away, but all things will happen in their proper time, and the day will come when under MY leadership and guidance, you will be acclaimed as the hero you are."
He smiled slowly as she set him onto the ground. "I am yours to command, Majesty," he said, almost drawling the words out, and both of them seemed to rejoice in the dark evil hinted in them. "What are my orders?"
"Forget for now, Zachary," Shanara commanded. "Forget that you have seen us and that you are in our service. Forget until we need and want you to remember again. Is that understood?"
He nodded. "I will forget."
"That was intense," Tanya said at last. Though they only actively saw the memory being invoked by the magic of the three combined powers, they could all feel the wisdom and courage and nobility of the people whose pasts they were looking into. To see two such bright souls darkened by Shanara's evil was almost painful, especially since they could also taste the sheer raw power she had to do this. Jason had one of the strongest wills that they had ever known, and she had shattered him in under five minutes. That did not bode well for them breaking it.
Tommy waited a few minutes, until the effects of the first two had faded, before looking at Trey. "I think we're ready for the next one." they knew they had to view them all, to know what had happened and to find out if there were any variations at all in the spell being used. Only full knowledge could give them that.
Trey reached out and gestured to a third can, and once again the memories took them.
The first thing that went through her mind when she found herself, in mid-stride, no longer in the room she had been in, but in a throne room with a three-headed thing and a woman with twelve feet or more of hair was that somehow she had been kidnapped by the forces of evil. She had no idea how right she was.
"My husband, I present to you Trini Kwan, kung-fu master and the first Yellow Ranger," the woman said, already in front of her. "Trini, I am Shanara and this is my husband Master Vile. We have selected you to become one of our warriors. You accept the honor," it wasn't a question.
"You've got to be kidding!" Trini laughed in their faces, even knowing the danger that posed. She didn't recognize either of their names, but just the fact they were acting as they were meant they were trouble.
Her eyes widened as Shanara's hair snapped around her wrists and ankles suddenly, and she was lifted up into the air. "We're not," Shanara said, having her hair start to twist around Trini as she did so. "We are going to mold you as we have molded uncounted others throughout the centuries. You are already our warrior, you just don't know it yet."
Something about the way she said that sent chills running straight down Trini's spine. She tried to keep focused, however, bringing all of her extensive martial arts training to bear in this situation. It was all doing her about as much good as if she'd been sitting there playing cards. Shanara almost seemed to laugh.
"You're very good," the queen said quietly, her tresses touching Trini in certain points on her face and forehead. "You are a bold and crafty warrior. I like that. I want that in my service. You could have so much more than you do now if you join me."
"There's nothing more I want!" the former Ranger flared. Shanara only smiled, then a tress of hair lifted Trini's chin up to see an image of Billy in front of her, doing something with someone she didn't know. Trini's lips softly formed his name.
"You can have him," Shanara whispered, one thread of hair floating in front of Trini's heart and glowing darkly. Trini could feel an upwelling of hormones in her body, and a spurt of raw animal-like desire filled her entire being. Shanara kept speaking. "I can give him to you. ..and that is just the beginning. My husband and I have great plans for Earth, Trini, and you and Billy and others will be part of it. You can help us. You are a warrior of strength and courage, of wisdom and craft and skill. Why should you waste your life and your skills in a land where no one appreciates it? You left behind all that you truly cared about to come to a place where you do nothing. Is this not true?"
Trini's eyes pulsed suddenly. "It is. They know nothing of peace or of the horror of war. They're children."
"Let others guide them, you are better than that," Shanara's voice continued. "You deserve a place of power and of strength. I can give that to you. All I want in return is your eternal servitude."
"It is yours, Queen Shanara, Master Vile," Trini said as Shanara returned her to a standing position. "I am yours."
Both of them smiled, and Shanara nodded. "We will summon you again when we are ready. Until then, forget that you have ever seen us. Live your life as you would. When it is time. . .you will remember."
Trini nodded, and then she was back in her room, continuing to pack. Soon it would be time. Time to go home.
He looked up at a hand on his shoulder, and smiled a little to see Angela there. "It hurts to know the truth sometimes," she said, a wisdom that most who knew her would have been surprised to hear in her voice. "Doesn't it?"
"Yeah," he nodded quietly. he didn't quite feel like exploring his feelings just right now, though. And they had no time, either, as another memory was activated, and they were swept again into the mind of one of their enemies. . .
"My, my, my, so THIS is Aisha Campbell," Shanara said, a smile on her lips. Aisha was in so much of a panic over the sudden alteration that she almost didn't hear Shanara introducing herself and her husband Master Vile. She wanted one simple thing: to go home!
Vile's lips did what could be a smile. "You are home. You are a warrior of power, like our other chosen ones. But like them, you were discarded and left behind."
"No," she shook her head. "I CHOSE to remain behind, I sent Tanya ahead with my Crystal, I wanted her to have it."
Shanara snorted most indelicately. "Of course. Why would you ever want to stay there? The man you wanted never paid you the slightest bit of attention. You were never appreciated for your fighting prowess or your medical knowledge. All you were, was just a pretty face for them to gawk at, and then to turn away from."
Aisha's eyes filled with tears as the calm words pulled up images in her mind that she hadn't ever wanted to see again. Rocky going out with other girls, them jumping in front of Putties and Tengas as if she were incapable of fighting for herself. Hardly paying any attention when she would tell them what she'd done at the animal shelter, the way their eyes glazed over whenever someone better looking walked by. It was MADDENING! It had been that, as much as anything else, that had prompted her to stay in Africa.
"You gave up," she heard Shanara talking to her again, and noticed that long strands of her hair had been caressing her forehead and face. It felt good, if cold. "You decided it was better to do nothing and be elsewhere than to be there and be ignored. So you gave your Crystal to Tanya and you fled from your responsibilities, seeking solace in work. But it didn't happen the way you hoped it would, did it?"
She shook her head. "He was always in the back of my head, always there no matter what I was thinking about, and the guys in the tribe ignored me just as much as the guys in Angel Grove had. NO ONE wanted to talk to me, I was just 'the weird girl', the one who fought like a man, the one who played at medicine. . ." tears dripped down her cheeks at the pain, and were wiped away by Shanara's flowing hair.
"You don't have to worry anymore," the woman whispered, her voice echoing softly in Aisha's ears. "You're away from all of that. You can take your revenge on Rocky for not paying attention to you. You can be the fierce warrior you SHOULD have been. You can be feared. You WILL be feared. You will be ours."
The threat/promise in Shanara's voice was intoxicating. Aisha could feel an iciness clamp onto her heart, and welcomed it. What did she care if Rocky loved her or not. . .she would punish him for not seeing her love, and then she would destroy him utterly. She would have her revenge on them all who had not appreciated her for what she was and who she was. There would be no holding back. She would triumph forever, and with Master Vile and Queen Shanara to help her, she would finally claim her rightful place, as one of the most famed warriors of all time.
"Excellent," Shanara smiled. "Now forget, Aisha. Forget this has happened, until I summon you to remember again. You are ours, forever. You are ours."
Then Aisha was back on the Savannah, and the lion ahead of her was moving on. She followed it, no memory at all of what had happened to her just recently. But in the back of her mind, there still pulsed the desire for revenge.
"Looks like you and her are going to have to have a long talk when you get the chance," Adam chuckled. He knew he and Aisha would have to talk as well; he'd though when she was returning that the excitement he had felt to see her again was love. He'd known once he had gotten back with Tanya it wasn't.
Rocky blushed so deep he almost was the Red Ranger once again. Finally, he stuttered, "Um, which one is next?"
With only two to choose from, Tommy wasn't feeling very sanguine. Who would it be. ..his ex-girlfriend or one of his best friends? Teeth clenched, he awaited the coming of the memories.
Joshua was her boyfriend. Well, ex-boyfriend now. He'd dumped her two months after she'd dumped Tommy. For another new gymnast. She'd found out afterwards that Joshua made a habit of seducing the prettiest new girls and stringing them along for a while, dumping them when a new face showed up. She was glad she'd never slept with him. At least she could be proud of THAT, even if she couldn't be of the totally cruel way she'd broken up with Tommy.
She'd always planned to do it to his face. To look into his eyes and say that she only loved him as a friend and brother, that she valued his friendship, and never wanted to lose it, but that the spark between them had died out. It had been flickering in her last days in Angel Grove, but had finally perished. She had never wanted to hurt him. ..but it had happened.
With a sigh she backflipped one more time. . .but instead of landing on the beam, she landed in a mass of the thickest, blackest, most LIVING hair she'd ever imagined.
"Kimberly Hart, welcome to the M-51 Galaxy," the owner of the tresses laughed. "Welcome to your worst nightmare."
The first Pink Ranger almost looked amused. "Who are you and what are you talking about?" she asked, her voice almost calm. That seemed to impress them, as she folded her arms and stared directly at them both.
"I am Shanara, Queen of the M-51 Galaxy, and this is Master Vile, my husband and it's King," the woman introduced herself and the thing on the throne. "We have summoned you here to initiate you into our dark forces. Congratulations."
Kim tossed her hair, her eyes bright with fury. "No way," was her simple reply, just before she was jerked into the air and dragged to be held over Shanara's face. "What are you doing!?" she struggled, only to have the hair stretch out and hold her tighter. "Let me go!"
"No, no, no, Kimmie," the evil one laughed, her hair fondling Kim's forehead and face. "We have put too much work into this already to let it end now. Besides, I'm QUITE looking forward to seeing the effect you're going to have on the Red Ranger."
The small girl growled suddenly. "Why can't you creeps leave Tommy alone!? He's suffered enough!"
"The only time that boy will have suffered enough will be if he's dead!" that came from Master Vile, with raw hatred behind it. It had been Tommy, along with Kat, who had stolen the Zeo Crystal and ruined one of his better plans, and Tommy who had led the team to victory so many times.
Shanara turned to her husband, smiling. "We can speak of amusements later," there was no reprimand in her voice, only a desire to continue what she had begun. "Not to mention that our little Kimmie here will be one of our greatest weapons against that little Ranger."
"I'd never hurt him!" Kim flared proudly.
"You already have," Shanara laughed. "I can see into your mind, little girl, and you know perfectly well how much he had to have hurt when he read your letter. Quite a piece of work that was, by the way. Almost worthy of me. And you're going to become even worse."
Kim was about to protest that she'd never be like Shanara, when another tendril of hair came across her forehead, and a pulse of ice shot down to her heart. Shanara smiled as the girl in her grip fell silent, then began. "He isn't worth your love anyway. What did he do when you sent that letter? Sat there and took it. He obviously didn't love you, or wouldn't he have called or come down to see what was going on? You know, I wouldn't be surprised if he had already been cutting quite a swathe through the females of Angel Grove while you were gone. A different one on his arm every night..."
Shanara shifted her grip a little, and continued. "Tell me, did any of your friends get in touch with you after you left? Why, no, they didn't. They wrote every now and then, but it was like to a pen pal instead of to a true friend. There were never any juicy secrets in those letters, no hints of what they were doing, nothing like that. You were out of the loops. You weren't a Ranger anymore, and that meant you had to be protected. Coddled. Ignored. After all, without the Power you were nothing. You couldn't do anything but flip around like an idiot. Did you notice, they got rid of you almost as soon as Katherine arrived?"
The sorceress was pleased as Kim's eyes darkened a little. It wasn't enough though. She ran her tendrils of hair across her forehead again, and smiled. These humans were all alike. "You want revenge," she purred darkly. "Tommy ignored you. He didn't love you, or he would have spoken to you of the letter. Instead, he went on a skiing trip and met another girl!" a toss of her head showed Kim Tommy, Kat, and Billy skiing around in an area she knew well, the mountains above Angel Grove. Then he was having dinner with a beautiful young woman. ..and her eyes darkened even farther, as the images shifted to show him dancing with Kat.
"Ohhh, look at this," Shanara chuckled. "Why I do believe he's dating the girl you claimed as your best friend! Who you trusted with your Power Coin. Oh, they're both the image of loyalty, aren't they!?"
Kim still could not speak as she watched, then Shanara added the killer. She shifted images to show Billy's departure from Earth. "Did you know your childhood friend no longer lives on this planet? He was so ignored and abused by the others once you left, and then again after he lost his powers, that he opted to live on another planet. They did this not just to him and you, though. They did it to all the old Rangers. Abandoned, forgotten. But not by me. Not by my husband. We will never forget you, never leave your side. With us, you can have eternal power, eternal vengeance, and a man who will be loyal to you and only you."
Shanara placed Kim back on the ground, as all resistance washed away. "Whom do you serve, Kimberly Ann Hart?"
"Master Vile and Queen Shanara, of the M-51 Galaxy," she said. "I am yours to command."
Both the minions of evil smiled. "Then so shall it be. For now, return to where you were, and forget that this has happened. In the proper time, you shall remember, and all will be yours that we have promised."
Kim bowed, and then was back during her workout. All was as it had been before.
"That's what she does, it seems," it was Rocky who answered. He was still reeling some from Aisha's memories. "She picks whatever's most important in a person's life, especially things connected to us for them, and corrupts and perverts them until her victim does what she wants them to do."
Everyone raised their head to look at the Blue Zeo Ranger. They had never expected to hear things like that coming out of his mouth. Rocky looked back at them all.
Adam chuckled; he'd always known there was more to Rocky. There just had to be. But they had one more set of memories to go through, to confirm all they had thought, and when that was over, they would be able to start working towards a release for their friends. "We'd better see what happened to Billy," he said quietly. "Then we've got a lot to do."
Agreements came from all around as the final set of Jewel Rangers' memories was activated, and they entered the mind of the Onyx Ranger.
"What's going on here?" he growled. He remembered the attack on Aquitar, seeing Cestria's friend dead, then blackness had engulfed him. "Where am I?"
A female voice answered him, and he whirled to see a beautiful woman behind him. "You are in Master Vile's Space Skull, and I am Shanara, his wife. We are your new master and mistress."
The former Blue Ranger snorted. "Forget it."
The evil queen actually groaned. "Oh, please. We've heard it all before. Now, on to business."
Billy didn't even have time to ask what she meant before her thick living hair wrapped around his wrists and ankles, hoisting him into the air. He was completely incapable of resisting, both from wounds he had received when the wall had exploded on him and from the tight grip she had on him. "Billy, you served as a Ranger the longest of anyone, even longer than that idiot Tommy. But you gave it up. Why?"
"I had no real choice," he said automatically, feeling compelled to answer. "My Power Coin had been destroyed, and I couldn't take the Zeo Crystal shard from anyone, it wouldn't have been right."
Shanara laughed. "Right. Wrong. What's the difference? The only thing that matters is that you knew you weren't good enough to be a Ranger anymore," he tried to splutter a denial, but his lips were sealed suddenly. "It was your fault the Power Coins were gone. You could have saved them, if you'd simply went to the Power Chamber to perform your little experiment. Instead, you stayed outside, and your Coin and those of all the others were destroyed."
Billy shuddered, he'd thought that self-same thing frequently since seeing the golden dust flying away in the wind. The queen continued. "You knew you'd failed. You knew you couldn't handle it as Ranger any longer after that."
Her hair caressed him deeply, and trickles of ice swept into Billy's heart, mind, and soul. There were tears in the former Blue Ranger's eyes as he listened to her, and Shanara smiled winningly at him. "I think you're wrong, Billy. I think you do have what it takes to be a Ranger, and more. You could be a killer. You could be the finest warrior of all time. Tommy taught you a lot. But I can teach you more. I have no restraints. Neither do my warriors. No limits on what you can do. No rules except one: my husband and I give the orders. Obey those, and all else is yours to do as you will."
She could see him weakening, and it pleased her even more. She wasn't even done yet. "You're not our only warrior, though. You work best with a team, and we have the perfect team for you."
Curiosity touched his eyes, and she lifted his head to show him the other former Rangers, standing in an even line, all looking perfectly at home here. "You will be back with your friends, back with the true team," she breathed. "Plus one. You are a wise warrior, and you shall be given full opportunity to unleash that mind of yours. Rewards beyond measure shall be yours as well."
He looked even more curious, and she didn't stop, driving home for what she knew would wash away his defenses. "Cestria is gone, and you didn't love her anyway. But you do love someone. You love another of our warriors. You love Trini," she could tell from the flush on his cheeks that she was right. "The two of you shall be together, you shall belong to each other and to me and my husband. And you all shall crush those who forgot and ignored you, who considered you only tools to be used and pawns to be abandoned when your purpose is done. But we shall never do that to you. You will always be our warriors, you shall always be our Rangers. Forever. The powers you will be given will be yours for all time."
That did it. To never be forgotten again, to never have to worry about losing his powers again, to have the girl he had loved since childhood, all of that combined to cause Billy to drop to one knee before Shanara and Vile as he was placed on the floor again. "I am your warrior," he spoke the words. "And I always will be."
Shanara smiled. It was done.
"We have what we wanted," Trey said, even his voice sounding strained at the pure evil in all the memories. "We can start looking for the way to break Shanara's hold on them now."
Kat shook her head a little, a frown between her eyes. "There's still one other thing. What happened when they got the Jewel powers? She could have put something else on them when she gave them the powers, and if we don't know that. . ."
YOU ARE CORRECT, KATHERINE, Zordon approved. TREY, NINJOR, CAN WE EXTRACT A COMBINED MEMORY FROM THESE THINGS, CONCERNING THE MOMENT THEY WERE GIVEN THE JEWEL CRYSTALS?
Ninjor and Trey conferred quietly for a moment, then Ninjor looked up. "With the power of Ninja, everything is possible," he said. The Zeo Rangers and Ninja Rangers tried to concentrate on other things as the three worked to show them the last thing they would need to know. Peering into the minds and memories of their friends had shown them things they had never even imagined existed.
"It's done," they heard Trey say, and then once again, the memories of that which had gone by filled them.
"I am pleased with you all," she said. "You have shown great wisdom in choosing my side over Zordon's, and we will reward you well. Billy and Trini, from this moment on, you are to indulge any and all sexual desires you will have with each other," another facet of the spell was that their hormonal desires would become. . .rather uncontrollable. This would ensure that they remained faithful to those she chose for them. "Jason and Kimberly, the same goes for you. Imagine the sweet agony of seeing the Red Ranger's eyes when he sees his ex-girlfriend and former best friend in each other's arms."
The two of them smiled at each other, then at their queen, bowing slightly as Jason laid a kiss on Kim's lips. There was no thought of Emily in Jason's mind, only of Kimberly and doing evil.
"Zack, Aisha," Shanara continued. "I know you two do not know each other very well, but that shall be changed in time. The two of you are also together, and are to indulge with no other. Is that understood by you all?"
All six of them bowed, and Shanara smiled. This was working out perfectly. She held out one hand, and a box appeared in it. "And now for the reasons I chose you all. Step forward, Aisha Campbell."
The young girl moved up a little, and a yellow crystal floated out of the box and over to her. "Claim your destiny and your power, child of evil," Shanara instructed. "Claim what is yours by birthright and the right of command."
Aisha reached up and seized the crystal. A flash of light blinded everyone, and then the form of a morphed Ranger stood there. It was similar to the old Yellow armor she had worn, but a paler shade, and there were no white highlights anywhere on it. The boots and gloves were white, but as the effects of Aisha's spellbound form asserted themselves, they faded to a deep black. The helmet was the same yellow shade as the uniform was, with no designs on it whatsoever. In all, it presented an image of pure evil.
She stepped back at once, demorphing, and another crystal floated up, this one black as a starless night. "Billy Cranston, claim what is yours and always has been. Claim what has waited for you since the dawn of time."
One by one, the Onyx, Garnet, Amethyst, Turquoise, and Jade Rangers were empowered. Shanara enjoyed every moment of it; the Zeo Rangers were going to have QUITE a surprise very soon. As Zack stepped back, demorphing as he did so, Vile approached them.
"Garnet, Amethyst, Turquoise, Jade, and Citrine Rangers. You will return to Earth and make arrangements to return to Angel Grove, those of you who are not there already. Remain together as much as you can without arousing suspicion, and say NOTHING of who you serve. But hurt the Rangers in your civilian identities, once you are back there. Hurt them in any way you can," he commanded. Each of them bowed, then Vile flicked a hand and teleported all but Billy back to Earth. The newly made Onyx Ranger cleared his throat a little.
"What of me, my lord?"
"You will remain here, for now," Vile replied. "When we took you from Aquitar we were seen, therefore, the Rangers will most likely be looking to `rescue' you. You will permit them to. It will get you back to Angel Grove without them knowing anything unusual is going on."
"As you command," Billy bent his head obediently, and Shanara smiled.
"You will be kept in the dungeon for now, to further our design. We will reunite you with the other Jewel Rangers when the time is right."
Billy didn't protest as he was led away by a batch of Ghouls. The only thing on his mind was simple and complete servitude, and the burning desire to harm the Power Rangers, in every way he could. Even to tricking them like this.
It was so WONDERFUL being evil. Why hadn't he done it before?
"It won't be easy," Tommy said. "And once we do free them, we have to heal those wounds Shanara and Vile caused in them."
"But we'll do it," Curtis spoke up. "I'm not going to let my cousin stay evil."
"We aren't going to let any of them stay evil," Bulk declared, with a passion in his voice that they had never thought to hear.
Tommy smiled, and Emily's smile answered him from across the circle. A lot of wounds in them had been healed by the information gathered this way. Slowly, the Red Zeo Ranger put his hand out into the middle of the group. One by one, the other Zeos added their own, and the Ninja Rangers followed, until even Alpha and Ninjor were in the pile-up. Then, with the mightiest of voices they cried out a battle-cry that rang to the rafters.