Legal Disclaimer: And welcome to the third fic in the Second Zeo Quest, please read "A New Beginning" and "Silver Touched" to figure out what's going on, and the Rangers do not belong to me!!

Purple Cheers
by: Cynthia

Laser fire ripped across the park loudly, causing the Pink and Green Zeo Rangers to have to dodge behind a couple of benches quickly, doing their best to avoid getting blasted. "Something tells me Mondo's not in a good mood today," Adam muttered, using the chance to take a couple of deep, quick breaths.

"Oh, what makes you think that?" Kat whispered back, hoping that Tanya, Rocky, and Trey could distract the monster long enough for the two of them to get their breath back.

Adam chuckled softly. "Maybe because he's sent down at least two monsters a day for the past week and a half?"

"That would do it!" Kat grinned beneath her helmet as she peeked between the bench slats and saw the Yellow, Blue, and Gold Rangers doing their level best to keep the new creature, Blastron, away from the two of them. "Let's get going, maybe we can strike this thing from the back and take it out."

Adam nodded, then glanced up as a streak of red appeared on the battlefield; Tommy had finally got there, arriving late from a visit with his brother on the Reservation. "Looks like Fearless Leader finally arrived!" he chuckled just the tiniest bit, then activated his helmet-to-helmet radio, a feature Billy had installed in them just that day. "Nice of you to join us, Tommy, he said a little dryly. "Kat and I are just about to slam into this thing's back and hopefully blow it to . . . .look out!"

The Red Ranger just barely had time to turn around before a powerful blow from a Cog knocked him down. "Whoa!" he groaned. "What a welcome!" a quick jump kick took care of the robotic creature that hovered over him, and then he was with the other two Rangers sweeping up behind him. "Any word from the Power Chamber on this thing's weaknesses?" he had no idea if Billy or Jason or anyone other than Alpha was even in the Power Chamber right now; the two former Rangers had been sticking together almost constantly for the last few days.

"Nothing yet," Adam shook his head. "Alpha said Billy and Jason told him they were going off to go on some sort of camping trip for the weekend together, and they'd be in touch if they needed anything."

Tommy nodded as he raised the Zeo Five Power Sword, preparing to slash into Blastron as harshly as he could. His heart almost stopped, however, when another monster suddenly shimmered into being next to Blastron. Great, Mondo sent reinforcements!

"Hey!" Rocky was torn between almost cheer and fright at the sight of a monster he'd never thought he'd seen again: the mutated version of the plant he had accidentally created during botany class, known as Adrian. I'd been wondering what happened to him. Guess I know now. "We sure could use some help right now!" he groaned as Blastron and Adrian both started firing at the six Rangers, pinning them down almost effortlessly.

"All you really have to do is ask!" a gruff voice asked. Black and silvery light columns flashed into existence, revealing the two mysterious Black and Silver Zeo Rangers. It was Silver Zeo who had spoken, and he punctuated his sentence with a powerful punch and kick match up to Adrian's guts. The plant-creature flew back harshly, and the two strange Rangers quickly cornered it off from Blastron.

Black Zeo looked over at the others. "You guys take care of that one, Silver and I have this guy locked up," he grunted. Tommy nodded quickly, and gestured for the others to follow him. The two mystery Rangers had once again proven they were on the right side. Or were they? Tommy couldn't help but ask himself. Until he knew who they were, he was going to have a few doubts. He couldn't help himself. But I am glad they're here.

* * *
"Whew!" Jason wiped a trickle of sweat off his face and leaned against a tree. "That Zeo power is amazing. I've never felt anything like it. Even being the Gold Ranger wasn't like that."

Billy nodded, stretching out a stubborn knot of muscle in his back. The two of them were ensconced deep in a clearing in the middle of the woods, far from the battle scene they'd left only moments after the final destruction of Blastron and Adrian. "It's because these are powers we're supposed to have, that we were destined for," he explained. "They've bonded much more closely to us than anything else we've ever had before."

The Silver Ranger smiled faintly. "The only thing I've ever had was the Red Ranger and the Gold Zeo powers. And neither were like this."

"Believe me, the Ninja Powers were just as awesome," Billy told him. "Not quite as strong, though. I got the feeling they could have been, but we weren't as closely bonded to them as we are to these."

Jason sighed. "I wish I'd still been here then," he murmured softly. "I really missed everyone while I was in Switzerland. Sure, Trini and Zack were there. ..but things just weren't the same."

"It wasn't the same without you, either," Billy's eyes were dark and distant. "And it got worse after I lost my powers. Much worse," his voice trembled just the tiniest bit, and Jason put a comforting hand on his friend and partner's shoulder. "I think the worst part of it was. . .I was the only one of the original team who lost theirs permanently. The rest of you gave yours up willingly to go on to something else. I had mine taken and could never get them back."

"But you do have them back," Jason reminded him. "Maybe not the old powers, not the ones we started with, but we do have these. Things aren't the same as they were. . .but they're still good."

Billy took a long breath, his eyes starting to clear. "You're right," he nodded, feeling the faintest lightening of the shadows that had been following him. "Things change. That's the nature of the universe. Maybe it was fate that I lose my powers the way that I did, maybe it was an accident. I don't know, and I don't care. I just know that I'm glad to be back. And glad that I'm back with one of my best friends."

"I know how you feel," Jason squeezed Billy's shoulder, looking at him with the warm eyes of a friend and companion and partner. The two of them had been two of the five who had begun the Power Ranger legacy, and they felt it was somehow suitable that they be two of the continuing era. They had chosen their fate, or it had chosen them. They didn't know, and they honestly didn't care at the moment. They had other things on their mind.

Jason's eyes fell on the box that was between them. They never went anywhere without at least one of them watching it, and it was usually Billy. He didn't feel quite complete if it wasn't within arm's length of him, and Jason wasn't going to argue one bit. It had been that box, and what it contained, that had given him the Silver Zeo power, and saved him from a fatal case of "Cog burn".

"Any hints yet as to who the others are?" Jason asked. Billy had been the one who had seen his face reflected in the crystal and he had no idea if he would be able to see the same thing when the time came for the next new Ranger.

"Nothing yet," Billy shook his head. "The crystals only seem to show the face of the next person when it's time. And we have no idea of who the next one is going to be."

Jason nodded. "I guess we wait."

* * *
"I don't believe this!" Mondo was throwing things, such as Cog parts, all over the throne room. To look at the lord and master of the Machine Empire, you wouldn't think he could be quite so violent, or so agile considering his build. But looks were deceiving, and he could throw things, including temper tantrums, with the very best and worst of them. "What is it going to take to get rid of all those Rangers?"

Machina once again was doing her level best to calm her husband down. "Dear, dear, remember, we're just waiting for all four of the new Rangers to be found. Then we're going to capture them all, and use them to fight the others and destroy them!"

The Machine King paced back and forth, not really listening to what his wife was saying. He had other things on his mind at the moment. "I'm going to destroy Zordon's Rangers, and I'm going to dominate those new Rangers! I'll use them to wreck that world they're so fond of, and then I'll destroy and conquer the entire universe!"

Sprocket's eyes followed his father all over the throne room, and the little evil machine was almost nervous as King Mondo began to spout smoke out of his temples. "Chill out, Dad, you're going to blow a gasket!" the prince advised. "I know you're going to win against them!"

"Indeed," Machina agreed, putting an elegant hand on her husband's shoulder and stopping his endless wandering up and down the throne room. "Klank is already making his preparations! He's got samples from the Black and Silver Zeo Rangers already, and all we need is to have them find the other two! Then we can bring them all here!"

Mondo paused finally, listening to his wife. Then without warning, he bellowed as loudly as he could, "Klank! Get in here! I want a progress report!"

Scuttling metallic feet sounded, and the Machine Empire's chief scientist rushed in, Orbus hovering eternally over one shoulder. "How can I help ye, sire?" he said in his Scottish accent.

"Machina says you've gotten samples from those two new Rangers. How are your methods of control coming along? Do you have a way to command them as yet? A foolproof one?"

Klank wished at once he hadn't been called in. "I do have samples from them, sire, but I have not as yet perfected my mind control methods," he hedged a little. "It isn't easy to command a Power Ranger, they tend to be very strongwilled, and these two are prime examples of that."

He winced as Mondo marched closer to him, his eyes burning a strange and furious shade of yellow. "I don't care how strongwilled they are," the king declared slowly. "I don't care how hard or how easy it is. I want it done. There are still two more Rangers that those brats have to find, and once they are discovered, I need them brought here as fast as possible. Then I need them dominated even faster. Am I going too fast for you, Klank, or do I have to repeat that?"

"Nay, sire!" Klank almost whimpered. It was times like this when he really wondered if he had been properly programmed to be evil. Then again, when a plan went off perfectly. ..he knew he was the epitome of evil that he was meant to be. That will happen this time. ..I KNOW it will, I won't fail my king. ..because I don't want to be recycled! "I will not fail you, sire! It will take some time to do this, but that just means it'll be done right. There won't be any loopholes for the Rangers to sneak away from your control through!"

Mondo considered that for a few moments, then backed away from Klank. "Very well, Klank," he declared. "Do this right, and you'll be rewarded. If you fail. ..the last thing you see will be the Cogs tearing you to shreds."

* * *
In a crater on the moon, a dark and disturbing castle stood. Inside, Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd were watching both the Earth and the Skybase. After blowing up the Machine Empire throne, they had moved back into their palace, and had been busy both protecting it from Mondo's expected retaliation.

"What's taking them so long!?" Rita groused, not being the most patient of beings. "Why can't they go ahead and find the other two!?"

Zedd shook his head regretfully. "We must be patient, my putrid pea. Billy and Jason have the Crystals, and we do not. There may be some particular method they use to discover who the other carriers are, and until they find them, we can't do anything."

"Well, I'm tired of waiting!" she screeched, to his intense annoyment. "I say we just take those Crystals!"

"We've been through this," Zedd pointed out to her. "We're going to let those humans find the rest of their little group, and then put them all under our command, remember?"

She whirled around to glare at him, eyes filled with rage. "I don't want to wait anymore! We've been waiting three days already since we decided that, and they haven't gotten any closer! If we strike very fast, we should be able to steal the crystals and find our own evil warriors for ourselves! Forget about waiting! It's done nothing but waste time, and that Machine King's probably getting ready to march on us en masse as it is!"

"I've been thinking about that," Zedd seized the opportunity to deflect her attention away from Earth and to the somewhat murky politics of intergalactic evil. "Our two empires are both very strong separately. What do you think the Rangers would do if we joined forces on a more permanent basis with the Machine Empire?"

He was totally unprepared for her reaction. She practically leaped on him from her position by the RepulsaScope, and glared directly into his skinless face. "Have you lost your mind?" she hissed. "Join forces with those idiots? After they chased us from the palace, and we blew them up?"

"Everyone makes mistakes," Zedd shrugged, pulling her down to sit on his lap. "Listen to me, Rita," his voice was extremely calm and thoughtful, and that got Rita's attention more than anything else would have, for some reason. "I've got an idea. If we are working with the Machine Empire instead of against them, it will give us the perfect opportunity to crush them once we have defeated the Rangers. We are only using them to further our own goals at the moment. I would never make a complete alliance with anyone," he paused for a moment. "Except you, of course," he smiled as they kissed deeply. One side effect of their marriage was that the two empires they ruled had merged upon their wedding. It gave them both a great deal more power than they'd ever had before, and that was just one of the reasons that he had remained with her even after the love potion had been removed from his system.

Rita smiled, leaning back and giggling in his arms. "But I still want to take those Crystals!" she declared. "And Billy and Jason if we can. Those two have been a thorn in my side since the day I got out of that dumpster, and I would so dearly love to have them in my service!" a cold and calculating cackle echoed in the throne room.

"We'll go about it carefully," Zedd told her. "I don't want to approach King Mondo just yet. We'll do that in proper time, and when it's at our advantage to do so."

Rita snuggled closer to her husband, feeling quite happy and content with the decisions they had made. Betrayal, corruption, destruction. She loved days like this.

* * *
It had been almost a year, but Angel Grove looked just the same as it always had. Kimberly Hart sighed deeply with both regret and a sense of homecoming as she peered down at the town from the window of the plane slowly descending into Angel Grove Airport. This place never changed. At least not to the eye. She knew other changes had come to it.

Zeo Rangers. Aisha moving to Africa, and some girl named Tanya taking her place on the team. Billy losing his powers. Jason coming back, then losing the powers he had. Me breaking up with Tommy. That last had to be the most startling change since she had left the town that had given birth to her. She hadn't ever thought that she would send him that letter when she had looked down on this place once before, going in a different direction. But she had.

She didn't regret her decision. She and Tommy had been having the occasional problem even before she had left. He was growing and she was growing, and the directions they were growing in had led to the inevitable separation. She did regret doing it the way she had. He hadn't deserved a 'Dear John' letter. She should have at least tried to make it back to talk to him face to face. But in the end, her courage had failed her and she hadn't been able to do it.

I hope Kat's there, she settled back into the seat and took a long breath, letting Florida and everything that she had went through there pass out of her mind. The decision to come home hadn't really been a spur of the moment thing in the trust sense of the word. She had awakened one morning in time to see the sun coming up over the horizon, and the first thought through her mind hadn't been that it was beautiful. . .it was how perfect it would have looked to have seen it coming up in Angel Grove, either from her own bedroom or from the room she had occupied in Aisha's house. With that had come an influx of memories, of times spent with Jason, Zack, Trini, and Billy when they were kids, of receiving her Ranger powers, of seeing Tommy for the first time, of the heartache she had felt when she had lifted off from the airport and looked back to see Tommy standing there looking so forlorn. As those memories had touched her mind, she had known she had to come home. Gymnastics didn't mean a thing to her. Her friends did.

She hadn't wanted to tell them that she was coming home, though, at least not all of them. She couldn't explain it to herself. The only person who knew of her return was Kat, and that was just because she was going to be moving in with the Pink Ranger and her family. I wonder what Billy and Jason are up to? she thought, remembering what Kat had told her during their last phone conversation before she had left Florida. The two of them had become close friends again, as close as they had been in the long ago before Tommy had shown up, and Kim was hoping somewhere in the back of her heart and mind that they would let her back into the circle. Though she had been close to all the various members of the teams she'd been on, always there had been a special place in her heart for the original five. There was a bond between them that had existed even before they had become Rangers, and it was one that nothing could shatter.

"Kim!" her head almost jerked off her neck when she heard her name being called as she deplaned with the rest of the passengers. Her eyes danced to see Kat standing there, waving at her. She was even more relieved to see that no one was with her except her parents; she really didn't feel like having to deal with all the rest of them right off the plane. After she'd gotten some rest and could think again after the flight, then she would deal with them.

"Hi, Kat!" she waved at her friend and practically ran over to hug her. Mr. and Mrs. Hillard added their greeting to their daughter's; though Kim and Kat hadn't known each other very long before the former had moved to Florida, they had kept in touch through phone calls and letters. "Thanks for letting me stay with you guys!"

Mrs. Hillard smiled. "Our pleasure, Kimberly. You needed a place to stay and we've got a spare room that needs someone in it. We're glad to have you."

As they started carrying her bags to their car, Kim sighed and relaxed mentally for the first time in months. She still had to talk to her old friends and she was almost dreading meeting up with Tommy again, but she was also grateful to be back where she belonged. At long last, Kimberly Ann Hart was home.

* * *
Billy gazed quietly into the depths of the box he carried constantly, trying to have his mind open and get some clue as to who the next Ranger would be. There were still two more Crystals that needed owners, and he wasn't going to rest really easily until they were properly claimed.

It doesn't really seem real sometimes, he thought. All this time we've spent as Rangers. Being on Aquitar. It's almost like a dream. But when I look into this box, I know it's more than a dream. Because I remember you, Tayla.

He had been healing from the death of his first true love slowly, and was starting to regard the search for the new Rangers as a quest in itself, more than simply fulfilling a promise to someone who was gone. He slowly reached into the box and brushed his fingers across the tips of both Crystals. Whoever your bearers are, I know that we will find them. Then not only Tayla's quest will be complete. . but mine as well.

Billy felt in that moment a sensation that he thought was probably similar to what Tayla and her ancestors had felt for unknown eons. The sensation of waiting, the sense that at last the waiting would be over soon. He knew that it was his destiny and duty to find the bearers, and thus it would happen soon. Just who they would be he didn't know yet. But he knew that in the proper time he would know.

Rita, Zedd, Mondo, and Machina are all going to want these, he shivered at the thought of all those evil eyes on him at the same time. It was bad enough that just one group or another had been attacking Earth. To have them all there at the same time sent chills down his spine, and he knew they had to know about the other two Crystals. He had considered sleeping morphed to protect them for a few moments, till realizing that would probably be very hard to explain to his dad why the Black Zeo Ranger was sleeping in his bed. I'll just have to keep an eye out and hope that if they DO somehow manage to get their hands on these Crystals that they can't find who their proper bearers are. And without knowing that, these things are no better than rocks.

With a deep sigh, he got up and stretched, lifting his eyes from the crystals for the first time in a while. He and Jason had went back to Angel Grove after the fight earlier that day. Jason had looked a little sad, and Billy had a very good idea he knew why. The Silver Ranger's girlfriend had broken up with him rather rudely not that long before, and he was still feeling the effects of it. I wish I could find someone for him to date. Nothing serious, just someone to help heal the pain. I wish Kim were in town. They were always close, and I know he's missed her every bit as much as I miss Trini. If not more.

He paused for a moment, then smiled. He knew what would help Jason out more than anything. All it required was talking to a few old friends. Slapping the lock shut on the Crystal box, he slipped it into the pocket of his jacket and headed for the Youth Center. He was in the mood for some low-level matchmaking.

* * *
Kim didn't waste much time putting her things away in the room Kat's parents had set up for, and after a brief nap, she decided to head out for a walk. Kat had left a note saying she was going to be meeting with the others in the Youth Center, and for her to join them any time she wanted. While they had been heading home, Kim had asked her friend not to mention that she was back in town just yet. She still felt like hiding for a couple of days, at least until school on Monday.

It's going to be kind of weird not being there with Billy, Trini, and Zack, she thought, walking down the path. Who would have thought that Billy graduated early? Well, he always was doing special projects and things. I guess he earned it. Oh, well, she shrugged mentally, turning down another walkway. She hadn't been outside in the fresh air in quite some time, and her head was feeling almost thick and dusty with staleness. This was just what she needed.

She didn't need, however, to be bumped into by a tall figure heading in the opposite direction that she was. "Excuse me!" a familiar voice said, and she glanced around curiously to meet a pair of chocolate brown eyes that widened in shock just as she knew her own had to be. "Kim?"

"Tommy?" she couldn't believe her eyes! What was the luck of running across him here and now!? Bad luck, she answered herself almost acidly. But whether she was ready to or not, she was obviously going to be talking to him. "Hi," she did manage to smile; this might have been earlier than she had planned, but she still considered him a friend and a brother.

He looked at her almost with an expression as of being poleaxed. "When did you get back in town? How long are you here for?"

"Earlier today and I'm back to stay," she said, motioning him over to a tree. "I'm staying with Kat. She's the only person. ..except for you now, I guess. . .who knows I'm back."

Tommy was practically reeling in shock. His ex-girlfriend, his first serious girlfriend, was standing in front of him again. It had been quite a while since they had seen each other, and he wasn't quite certain how he should be reacting just yet. The last time he'd heard from her, she had broken up with him a calm and cruel letter, and though he'd stopped feeling the immediate pain by now, seeing her was starting to bring some of the memories of how he had felt back.

Kim looked at him for a few moments, then glanced away. She'd already heard Kat's side of things, and had to hear what he had to say on it. But there was something she had to say first. "I shouldn't have sent you the letter. What it said was true, I did find someone else there, and I do love you just as a brother and a friend. But I shouldn't have said it the way I did. I should have come back to say it to your face. You didn't deserve to be hurt like that letter hurt you."

"It hurt me for a long time," he replied quietly. "But in the end, I think I realized that we just aren't right for each other in the long run. I love you as a sister and a friend. ..but no more."

The smile that spread across her face was like the sun itself rising, and Tommy couldn't help but return it. He'd imagined all sorts of horrible scenarios in which every form of emotion possible raged between the two of them, but he had never thought it would be as simple as this. The two of them leaned back against the tree they were sitting beneath, feeling completely comfortable with each other for the first time in a long time. Feeling like friends.

* * *
Billy felt almost as if he were walking on air when he entered the Youth Center. There was a firmness and a solidity to him that he hadn't experienced when talking to the other Zeo Rangers. He knew that his new powers had a lot to do with it, as well as the training and confidence that came with what Jason had been teaching him, and what he had been teaching Jason of the arts Tayla had taught him. He felt good about himself.

The first thing he noticed as he drew closer to the table was that Trey was sitting with the Rangers and that Tommy wasn't. The Prince of Triforia had been hanging out with them lately, he recalled, and was starting to fit in a bit more with the rest of the team. Well, he said there was no pressing need for him to return to Triforia with his father in excellent health, and he probably does need friends. But I wonder where Tommy is.

"Hi, Billy!" everyone actually seemed glad to see him! He almost laughed at the expression on their faces, and a little voice in the back of his head muttered, I wonder what they would think if they knew you were the mysterious Black Ranger?

"Hi, guys!" he almost flopped himself down into a chair and leaned forward to look at them. "So, what's up? And where's Tommy?"

"The usual," Adam shrugged. "Tommy's out for a walk in the park, he said something about wanting to work out in the fresh air for a change."

Billy nodded; that was just as well, he didn't think the Red Ranger knew of any available girls right then anyway, not with his romantic attentions focusing one hundred percent on Katherine at this point in time. "Did you guys know Emily broke up with Jason?" he hated to state it like that, but he needed an opening somewhere, and that was all he could think of. When it comes to science I could say it in four languages. When it's romance, I come out sounding like I'm gossiping over the back fence!

"I'd heard," Tanya threw a veiled, almost angry, glance at Emily where the other girl was polishing some glasses behind the counter. The Yellow Ranger didn't like people who hurt her friends. "How's he taking it?"

"He's getting over it," Billy didn't really want to spread tales or tell secrets about his friends, even to other friends, but he was hoping that this would help Jason in the long run. "I know I'm not the world's expert on romance, but I was wondering. . .do you think that finding another girl to date for a while. . .nothing serious, just something to keep his mind occupied until he's feeling better."

Adam nodded; he understood how that sort of thing could happen when you broke up with someone. He'd had a girlfriend or two before Tanya. "Pretty much any girl with a pulse would die to go out with Jason. He was just about the most popular guy in school when I first met him, and I don't think that's changed much now that he's back."

"Yeah, you're right," Rocky agreed. Since Billy had turned down the Blue Zeo powers, he had started to feel a little more comfortable with them, and with himself. He was also starting to wonder if just maybe there was something Billy wasn't telling them. The young genius was getting very thick in with Jason, and there were two new Rangers around. Rocky might not have been the brightest being in creation, but he could see there was a definite change in the both of them recently. But for now, he put it aside. He'd think about it later. "Does anyone have any ideas?"

There was silence all around the table; which Billy had almost expected. How could you just think of a girl and want her to date one of your closest friends? He was about to suggest they forget the whole thing, when a sudden smile lit up Kat's face. "I think I know the perfect girl," she said. "I think it should be a blind date, though."

"Who?" Trey hadn't been on Earth long; but already he'd come to figure out that most Earth folk didn't appreciate having their romantic life in the hands of others. He understood this was a special case; however.

"That is my little secret," Kat's eyes held a volume of mystery, literally dancing with pleasure and delight. It was obvious she knew something she wasn't telling anyone about. "Just have Jason come to my house tomorrow about eight or so in the evening, and be ready for a very nice evening."

Billy was finding himself intrigued already; what did Kat know and who was this blind date? But as hard as they all pressed the Pink Ranger, she said nothing. Whoever Jason's mystery date was, was going to remain a mystery.

* * *
Jason had opted not to go for a walk after bidding farewell to Billy, at least not one in the park. He and Emily had walked there too many times, and he didn't quite feel like having any of his barely healed emotional wounds reopened by going where they had together. Instead, he went to the oceanshore, to where he and Billy had spent a lot of hours lately hanging out and talking.

There he started working out, developing a new kata he had had the barest ideas about for several days now. It was a strong, smooth, powerful set of movements that if, used in combat, would probably turn out to be the downfall of several dozen Cogs or Tengas, depending on what they were up against. He was really starting to enjoy himself when the last measure of the kata fell into place and he turned to see Billy leaning against a pile of rocks, watching him.

"Whoa!" the Silver Ranger backed up a bit, his eyes widening in startlement. Billy's getting GOOD, I didn't even hear him! Either he's better than I thought, or I was REALLY distracted. "Billy, what are you doing here? I thought you were going to be trying to figure out who the other two are."

The Black Ranger smiled for a moment. "We'll find them when it's time. I can't rush it," he admitted. "I wanted to do something useful, so I went to talk with the others. We got to talking about you, and your lack of a love life." as he spoke, he marveled internally over how things had changed since the early days of Rangerhood. This could never have happened then. Maturity happens to us all, I guess.

Jason flushed darkly, picking up a towel from where he'd dropped it before starting his workout. "And you're telling me this why?"

"Are you busy tomorrow night?" Billy answered the question with a question. When Jason shook his head, his eyebrows bunching up in a curious expression, Billy nodded. "Good. You've got a date with some friend of Katherine's. You're to meet her at Kat's house at eight tomorrow night."

"Are you kidding!?" Jason's voice held more surprise than anger or anything else. "Why would you set me up on a blind date?"

Billy shrugged. "Because you need someone to help you. Nothing serious, unless you and whoever the girl is decide you want more. But for right now, it's just to have some fun, and to get your mind off everything that's happened. It won't hurt."

His friend looked at him for a few moments, then sighed. He knew Billy was as stubborn as a mule when he had to be, and he had the very strong sense that he thought he had to be for this. "All right," he decided. He could use someone to talk to for a while, and there was nothing wrong with having a date with someone. He trusted Kat to make certain whoever her friend was, they would have some things in common. "Eight, you say? And how formal?"

"Yes, eight. And I'd say whatever you think is formal enough for a blind first date," Billy's lips quirked. "Have fun."

* * *
Kim was almost dancing into the house when she got back from her walk. Tommy had promised not to tell anyone that she was in town until she arrived in school on Monday, and the two of them had had a very long, deep, and soul-searching conversation. She felt better emotionally and mentally than she had in months.

"Kim!" she waved as Kat called out to her from her room. "Hey, could you come here for a minute?"

The young gymnast poked her head into her friend's room. "Sure, what's up?"

"You look happy!" Kat could see a clarity and a light in Kim that hadn't been there when she'd arrived at the airport. "That must have been some walk!"

Kim nodded. "I ran into Tommy," she explained. "We did a lot of talking, and I feel absolutely great!" she was almost on the verge of giggling! "What did you want to talk about?"

"Are you busy tomorrow night?" Kat felt like slapping herself the moment the words came out of her mouth; Kim had just arrived today, how could she have plans? Then again, she could have wanted to do something with Tommy. I trust them both, but it HAS been a while since they saw each other.

Her friend shook her head. "I was sorta thinking about catching up on my sleep if I could. I never really felt all that comfortable in the compound. I think I can rest here."

"What would you say to a blind date?" Kat asked it quickly, and a prayer wafting up that she wouldn't say no. Even though she'd never seen them together, something was whispering in the back of her head that Jason and Kim were going to make a very good couple, if they could get on this date.

Kim frowned for a moment. "With who?"

"If I told you it wouldn't be a blind date, would it? It's nothing really serious planned, unless you and he want it that way once you get to know each other. His girlfriend broke up with him a while back, with not that much of an explanation, and he could use someone to talk to and be with for a while. Just someone to fill the void. Like I said, if you two want to make something more of it, it'll be up to you. But this is just to introduce you to each other," she was rather looking forward to seeing Kim and Jason's faces when they saw each other. She was halfway considering having a camera set up to take a picture of it. Kim looked as if she were considering things for a moment, then nodded slowly.

"All right," she agreed, leaning against the door. "I've never been on a blind date before. This could be fun," she looked suddenly at Kat sharply. "If it's Bulk or Skull, I'm going to hurt you, Katherine!"

"It's not them," Kat reassured her. "And I think you'd be surprised if it was, they grew up a lot. But they've moved to France, something about a really great opportunity there."

Kim couldn't believe her ears. "They moved to France!?" what else had she missed while she was gone? "What else has went on since I left!? I never quite have gotten all the details on the power shift and what happened to Aisha. You guys were all kind of vague in your letters, you know."

"We had to be," Kat shrugged. As much as the Rangers, past and present, kept in touch, there were some things that simply couldn't be said in a letter or over the phone, despite the best attempts at secrecy. Kim knew that as well as Kat did, but that didn't stop the first Pink Ranger from wanting to know what was going on, and what had already happened. "I guess you could say things got really interesting about two months after you left, and when Rita's father, Master Vile showed up. He wanted something called the Zeo Crystal. . ."

* * *
Jason honestly had never been as nervous as he was the next night when he paused his car in front of Kat's house. He hadn't been able to figure out who this mystery date of his was, no matter how hard he tried, and he had thought of every possible person it could logically be. Most of the ones he had come up with were girls he wouldn't mind hanging out with, though none of them were the type that he could see wielding a pair of Zeonizers.

The Power definitely changes the way you think, he thought as he hopped out of the car and grabbed the bouquet of flowers that he'd picked up before coming out tonight. While I was still retired I wouldn't have given one single thought about whether or not someone could take care of themselves in a fight if I were going to date them. But since I'm the Silver Ranger now, I have to think about this sort of thing. If Rita and Zedd or the Machine Empire try to ruin tonight, then whoever I'm with could be in danger. . .

With a shake of his head he tossed those thoughts away. He was going to meet this mystery date in just a few moments. "I wonder why we're meeting here instead of at her house," he mused, walking up to the door. "Must be to keep the secrecy."

His fingers shook just a little bit as he reached out to ring the doorbell. He could hear feet scurrying around inside, and what had to be Kat's voice saying she would get it. As the door swung open, he took a deep breath, and smiled. "I'm here for my date!"

"She's all ready," Kat was obviously enjoying this, and he was starting to get more worried than he was curious. "Come on down, he's here!" she called up the stairs.

Footsteps sounded, and Jason took a deep breath, standing straighter and holding the flowers almost stiffly. A thousand names flickered through his mind as to who it could be, but as he saw a pair of slender legs come into view, followed by a body covered in a pale violet dress that set off every curve of that body. As his eyes traveled up to look into the face, Kat wished she had gotten that camera. The look on their faces went so far beyond priceless as to be record setting!



Kat managed not to chuckle. "I take it you two know each other?" she kept the innocence in her voice as much as she could. It was just too funny! If I'd been thinking, I would have called Tommy here to see this. He would have KILLED for a picture of that look.

Kim shot a deadly glance at her friend. "My blind date is Jason!? One of my best friends since I was in diapers?"

"Why not?" Kat shrugged. "You guys are friends, and if you don't want to think of it as a date, you can just think of it as a heck of a reunion."

The two of them glanced at each other, and Kat could see the veiled interest in both sets of eyes. Jason spoke at last. "All right. It has been a while since we saw each other, Kim."

"Yeah," the perky girl agreed, coming over to him. "Besides, it would be so rude not to go on a date after you brought flowers and everything."

Jason blushed almost as red as his former Ranger uniform as he held the flowers out to Kim. His friend took them, smiling up at him, then took his arm as he turned to the door. He'd never really thought about Kim as `girlfriend' material, especially not once Tommy showed up, but something about the way she looked tonight made him rethink things. As they headed out for the car, he couldn't help but think this was going to be the most interesting date he'd been on in quite some time.

* * *
Billy almost fell flat on the ground in shock when he saw who Jason's blind date was. As courteous as he generally tended to be, he had felt a certain interest in seeing who it was he had set his oldest friend up with. He had no intentions of making a pest of himself or even letting them know he had been hiding in the trees across from Kat's house, but he wanted to at least find out who it was.

Seeing Kimberly Hart come out on Jason's arm had not been what or who he had expected, however. He'd almost convinced himself it was one of the cheerleaders at school; Kat was friends with a couple of them, and as far as Billy knew, any one of them would have committed murder if it would have gotten them a date with Jason. He was relieved to see it wasn't any of them, though, almost as relieved as he was curious to find out when Kim had gotten into town and why no one else seemed to know about it.

I'll ask them about it later, he thought, moving quietly away from the trees and starting to walk back to his own place. Not wanting to reveal his spying in any way, he'd walked to Kat's house rather than take his car. It sure was strange to see Kim again. I thought she was going to be staying in Florida until the Pan-Globals were over with. I guess she changed her mind.

Thinking about his one former teammate inexorably led to thoughts of another. It had been two years since he had seen Trini, and he really missed her. Jason had told him that she and Zack seemed happy at the Peace Conference, and as far as he knew they wouldn't be leaving any time soon. He hadn't known it, but the moment those words had left his lips, a great deal of Billy's hopes had been shattered. He had entertained in the back of his head the thought that one day he would see Trini again, and that maybe. ..

He broke off thoughts like that. There was far more to life than Rangering, but he did have a responsibility to the world to make certain these Crystals got into the right hands. That meant he didn't have time to be mooning over someone whom he'd never been romantically linked with in the first place.

Not that I wouldn't have minded, he entertained the thought for a few moments. Trini was beautiful, calm, serene, talented, had a generous nature, and he would quite probably have had a heart attack if she'd ever smiled at him with more than normal friendliness. She had dated off and on during the couple of months her parents had let her date before she had went to Switzerland, but never Billy. He knew he'd already lost all chance with her, though. If she ever came back, she would probably try to get that relationship going with Richie that had never really started before she and the others had had to leave.

On an instinct, he pulled the box out from his jacket pocket, mentally sending up a prayer of thanks that the nights were just cool enough to need one. It made it a lot easier to keep the box a secret if he could slid it into a pocket somewhere. Not really expecting to see anything, he flipped it open to find his face bathed in an intense purple light. The Purple Crystal was glowing brightly, and as he gazed into it, his entire soul lit on joyous fire to see the beautiful face of Kimberly Hart reflected in it.

Almost in that exact moment, his secondary communicator beeped. It was something he'd built for him and Jason, with two others ready in purple and white, so they could keep in touch aside from the ordinary communicators the rest of the Rangers used, and keep their secret. "What is it, Jason?"

"Get to the lakeshore!" Jason's voice held every bit of command in it that it had in the old days. "There are Cogs everywhere here!"

"I'm on it!" it was almost an unspoken rule for them to call each other before the `regular' Zeo team. Thanks to the tracking system of the Power Chamber, the others would show up soon enough, but usually not until after the Silver and Black Rangers had made a definite dent in the amount of Cogs that were being unleashed lately. As he dropped his arm, he grinned for a moment. And this time, the Rangers are going to have to goggle at the Silver, Black, and PURPLE Zeo Rangers!

* * *
The full moon hung over the city of Angel Grove like a blessing, washing the buildings and the people in a silver lunar light. Two of those people were walking by the lakeshore, after having had a splendid meal together at one of the better restaurants in town.

"How did you afford that?" Kim wondered. "What have you been up to lately?"

"I lifted some boxes for Ernie," Jason told her. "And I've been doing odd jobs around the neighborhood ever since I got back. You know, same old stuff."

She nodded, he'd always helped out whenever he could. They walked along in silence, enjoying being back together again after so long. Finally, Kim chuckled. "Can you believe Kat and Billy set us up like this?"

"Yes, I can!" Jason grinned himself. "I don't know about Kat, but I could definitely see that Billy was worried about me. It's kind of sweet of both of them, really."

"Yeah," she agreed. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw you standing in the door. You looked so cute---" she broke off at once, turning various shades of red.

Jason stared at her for a moment. "You thought I was cute?" he repeated. He'd never expected to hear her say anything like that, especially in that tone of voice. It was different than when she had first looked at Tommy, it sounded more serious and deeper, and it made parts of his mind twitch in pure delight and excitement.

"Yeah," she looked down. "I know it's silly, I'm still on the rebound from Tommy, and from Eric--that's the guy I met in Florida. He dumped me when he found out I was coming back here," there was a slight thread of viciousness in her voice. "I think he was sneaking around behind my back anyway. I was glad to be rid of him."

Jason put a hand on her shoulder and hugged her close to him. "You're three thousand miles from him, you don't have to worry about him anymore. You're back home, with your friends."

She smiled, leaning against him for a moment. A sudden hissing sound pulled both of them out of their half-romantic moment, and Jason could feel his wrists wanting to call up the Silver Zeonizers at once. Only Kimberly's presence kept him from doing so as one of Mondo's portals opened and Cogs started pouring out of it.

"Not exactly the welcome home I wanted!" Kim growled, falling into a battle stance. "I take it these things are Cogs?"

"You got it!" Jason wondered for a moment if it would matter if he morphed in front of Kim; it wasn't exactly as if she were a full civilian, but Billy had suggested they keep their identities secret. He decided on a quick compromise, pulling the smaller communicator Billy had given him out and tapping it.

"What is it, Jason?" Billy's voice came over it, and Jason was hard-pressed to answer as he ducked under a swinging Cog fist. Kim was a tornado of kicks and punches as she tried to avoid the creatures to the best of her ability.

"Get to the lakeshore! There are Cogs everywhere!" Jason filled his voice with all the old leadership from the old days, wanting to impress on Billy how important it was without letting him know that it was Kim with him. He knew the secrecy on her identity was a bit silly, but he wanted to respect her wishes as much as he could. She'd told him that only Kat and Tommy, and now him, knew she was in Angel Grove, and she wanted to keep it that way for as long as she could.

His partner's voice came back to him with a tinge of triumph. "I'm on it!" as the communications line faded, Jason turned back to the Cogs trying to surround Kim, and felt a surge of raw power. After all, he absolutely hated his dates being interrupted.

* * *
In the Machine Skybase, King Mondo was glaring evilly at the viewscreen that showed the Silver Ranger and the human girl he was with. He had sent his Cogs to take the girl, once Klank had told him who she was: Kimberly Hart, the first Pink Ranger. Having her in his grip would make all the Rangers surrender to him in no time at all. He had been temporarily concerned about the fact the Silver Ranger was with her. He'd hoped at first to be able to simply have the Cogs grab her and run, but now things were shaping up to be even more interesting, for one simple reason.

"He's not even morphing!" the machine king chuckled. "That silly fool! This is going to be so easy! He could protect her so easily, but isn't! Does he want her hurt?" he knew that the two newest additions to the Ranger force were keeping their identities secret from the other Zeos, but he'd had no idea that they would even do it from other former Rangers! This was fascinating!

Klank looked a little nervously at his king; could this sudden decision mean that all the work he'd been doing over the last few days would be for nothing? Was Mondo going to forget about his plan to control the new Rangers and use them against the others if he managed to capture the small human? "Aye, sire," he agreed regardless; if that was Mondo's decision, then so be it. He wouldn't go against it; that violated all of his programming.

"In fact," Mondo tapped his metallic fingers thoughtfully. "Machina, what do you think of going on and taking the Silver Ranger? We can test out Klank's mind control attempts and see how well they work on a Ranger."

Machina flipped her fan in her usual habit and looked interested. Only another sentient machine could detect the changes of expression in her faces, so minute were they. "I agree, my dear husband. And to see that particular dratted teenager on his knees in front of us would be so wonderful!"

"I agree!" Mondo turned to Klank and Orbus. "Go down there and have the Cogs bring back both the girl and the Silver Ranger. Don't spend too much time about capturing them, he might decide to morph, and you never know when the Black Ranger will show up! Or the rest of the team, they're always poking themselves in where they don't belong!"

Klank bowed low, and Orbus hovered a bit lower. "We'll do as you command, King Mondo" the tiny robot declared. "You'll have your captives in no time!"

"Aye, sire!" Klank agreed. "Let's go, Orbus!" teleportation light flared for a moment, then only the Machine Royal Family stood in the throne room. Mondo and Machina both leaned over the viewscreen, held enraptured by the one-sided battle proceeding below.

* * *
"This isn't going well! Can you call the Rangers?" Kim shrieked across the back of a cog, trying with a fair amount of success to throw it into the lake. She ran over to Jason just as he kicked another Cog into a tree and in so doing gave them both some breathing space.

Jason hadn't wanted to do it, but he knew that morphing was his only shot right now. He couldn't let Kim be hurt, the very concept got all of his protective instincts flaring up. "I can do better than that," he declared. Billy, what's taking you so long!? His wrists twitched for a moment, and Kim's eyes widened to see a pair of Zeonizers appear on his wrists. Kat had shown her the pink ones while they had been getting caught up on the recent history of the Rangers, but these were a magnificent shade of silver. For a moment, staring at them, she almost saw herself wearing a similar pair, only in a deep shade of violet. Jason drew them together, and his voice broke the momentary trance she was in. "Zeo Ranger VIII, Silver!"

A Silver Zeo Ranger stood in front of her a moment later, the uniform a far clearer and brighter shade than Tommy's White Ranger uniform had been, and with the sign of a sunburst on his helmet. Kim could hardly believed her eyes as Jason launched himself back into the fight, taking on all the Cogs that were left.

"Why didn't he tell me before?" she wondered, backing a bit away. She wasn't afraid of these things, but she was tired from the fight, and she had been out of practice for prolonged combat for a while. The Cogs that tried to sneak up on her, however, didn't care. If it weren't for their squeaking joints, she might not have heard them. "Keep away from me!" she managed to gasp out as she delivered a punishing side kick to the things. "Keep your hands off me!"

"I think not, m'girl!" a Scottish accent declared, and she looked up to see something that looked a great deal like a crash test dummy shuffling over to her. "King Mondo wants both of ye!"

"Well, you're not getting either of them, Klank!" a very familiar voice cracked, and Kim looked up to see another Ranger she'd never seen before leaping down from the trees to land a perfect body block onto the thing.

"Billy?" she stared, trying to deal with all the sudden surprises intruding themselves onto her mind in far too quick succession. She found refuge in words from the past. "Would someone come back to Earth and pick me up, because I'm totally confused!"

She couldn't see Billy's face behind the dark helmet, but she knew he was smiling when he turned to hold out a glowing Purple Crystal to her. "Take it, Kim," he said quietly. "It's yours. Welcome back."

There was neither time nor need for questions. Her hands grasped gratefully over the crystal, and she snapped out the words in her mind easily. "Zeo Ranger IX, Purple!"

That was the scene that the other six Rangers saw when they teleported in only moments later, having been alerted to the presence of the Cogs by the Power Chamber scanners. The Black and Silver Rangers, plus a new Purple Ranger, were trashing the Cogs like there was no tomorrow. Klank had vanished just as soon as Kimberly had morphed, going to bring the bad news back to his king, and the three Rangers were doing their level best to grind the Cogs into scrap metal. As soon as the odds jumped from three Rangers to nine, however, every Cog left there vanished.

"Aww, man!" Purple Ranger seemed disappointed! "I'm just getting started!"

Black Ranger put a hand on her shoulder, and she calmed down. He turned his gaze to the other Rangers. "Thank you for your arrival, I don't know if we could have taken care of them without you."

"Who is your friend?" Tommy was almost used to the fact they weren't going to say who they were. As long as he knew they were friends, and every sign pointed to it, that was all he needed to know, regardless of his doubts.

"Rangers, this is the Purple Ranger," Silver Ranger said, coming up onto their new companion's other side and whispering too low for anyone else to hear, "Don't say anything just yet. We'll explain everything later. Trust me."

Kim nodded, still overwhelmed by the rush of return of power through her system. This was going to take some getting used to, again!

"Oh, Rangers!" everyone whirled at the high-pitched, squealing sound behind them, and Black Ranger spat out some words that made all of his companions wince at what they saw. Rita and Zedd stood there, and Rita held a very familiar box in her hands. "Thanks for leaving this where we could find it! I'm certain whoever this last crystal belongs to will thank you as well. ..once we find them!"

Billy took a step towards them, cursing himself for leaving it wrapped in his jacket in practical plain sight under a tree. He hadn't been able to think of any place else to put it when he morphed, though, and he'd had to hurry to save Kim! Summoning his Zeo Lance as he started to run, he was intent on getting that crystal back before they could leave. Before he could get there, however, both of the dark ones vanished in a hail of light and evil laughter, carrying the last of the trust Tayla had placed in him with them.