Tommy and Billy had taken a moment to confer, and seeing two of the team down as they tried to catch their breaths, they knew they had to hit this thing hard and as fast as they could. It was the only chance they had. Tommy glanced around, counting off people mentally, and growled when he came up one short.
"Over here," a feminine voice called out, and the White and Blue Rangers looked up to see Aisha half-supporting, half-carrying Kat, morphed into her Pink armor, over to them. Billy let out a strangled gasp and ran quickly over, wrapping an arm around his girlfriend. Aisha glanced quickly at Tommy, then turned her head to the monster. Her meaning was clear, and Tommy nodded, pulling Saba out. They had some work to do.
"Take care of her, Billy," the leader of the team ordered almost bluntly. "Find out what's going on. Aisha and I will keep this thing under wraps as much as we can till the rest of you can join us.'
Billy nodded, looking quickly back at his girlfriend. It had been a bit of a shock to the others when Billy and Kat had shown up one morning practically draped all over each other, but it was obvious from the way they looked, talked, and acted that they were so much in love it was practically nauseating.
His eyes weren't visible beneath his helmet, but Kat could sense they were full of worry as she slowly started to stand. "What happened?" Billy wanted to know. They didn't have time to talk for long, with the monster only being held off by Tommy and Aisha at the moment, but they could take a couple of moments. "Were you hurt?"
"No," Kat shook her head, taking several deep breaths. "I demorphed for a second. . .completely unwillingly, I don't know what happened. A Tenga got a good hit on me, but I'll be okay. Aisha managed to get me away from them, and we were heading back here when I remorphed."
She moved away from him a bit, catching her balance. He smiled just a little, enjoying the sight of her doing something that technically came to her by virtue of nature. After all, you didn't get to see a werecat trying to stay on her feet every day of the week! "I think I'm going to be all right now," she said finally, shaking her head a little to clear her mind the last bit. "Come on, the others need some help!"
He looked at her for a moment, not quite positive if he believed that she was all right. I'll talk to her about it later, he decided at last. Right now, this thing has to head for the garbage heap! He straightened up and side by side the two of them ran into the fight, ready, willing, and able to do anything and everything they had to do to protect their planet.
But beneath her helmet, Kat was biting her lip, and wondering if the slight disconnection from her powers she had been feeling the last few days had anything at all to do with this. I have to talk to Zordon, she decided at last. I can't put the team at risk. And I need to tell them what I am. . .and what Billy and I are to each other. This is a secret I don't need to keep any longer.
"That was most. . .interesting," Zedd gazed down, his fingers tapping against his throne. "I don't believe I've seen anything like this since back when Tommy was losing his Green Ranger powers. Not even then, really."
Rita nodded; they'd both seen the fading of the Green power and this wasn't identical. Similar, but not identical. "That little brat Katherine is losing control of her powers!"
"This could be useful," Zedd chuckled. "But if that blasted Zordon finds a way to fix it!"
His wife almost spit in disgust; that meddling wizard always seemed to interfere at the wrong times! "Let's just hope he can't. I still want to punish that girl for daring to betray us!"
"Yes, yes, I know," Zedd waved a hand; he'd heard all of Rita's speeches before. "And we will, we just have to wait for the proper time. And you'd better not be thinking of it; you know she can still pick up your stronger thoughts!"
Rita hissed; that was something she hoped faded fast, the telepathic link between her and her former servant was still in existence, and every now and then, some cunning plan was ruined by that werecat. That had been one of her own better plans, however: the enspelling of one of the last werecats to do her bidding. If she were ever, for any reason, tested for spells by the Rangers, she would pass, since the controlling spell was set in such a fashion that wouldn't be detected. Shapeshifting spells couldn't be done so, but Kat wasn't affected by a spell, she could shift back and forth naturally.
She paced back and forth for a few minutes, thinking. "Let's think on this, Zedd. Assume the best, that Zordon can't stop her loss of control. He's going to want to save the Pink power, he's like that. What would he do?"
"Call Kimberly," Zedd responded at once. They knew that he was also likely to pick someone entirely new to the team, but that wouldn't be wise, considering that they could have the same problem that they were right now. Except when she wasn't in possession of her Power Coin, Kim had always controlled the Pink Power without a hitch or flaw.
Rita's lips curved into the most hideous mockery of a smile. "Quite so," she agreed. "But what if we got to her first?"
"What are you talking about?" Zedd half-rose from his throne to look at her. Rita's maniacal evil edge had always been one of those things that Zedd had loved about her, even before they were married. "Kidnap her before they get the chance to get in touch? If that's even what they do? And if they don't, then we'll be inviting them up here!"
She shook her head. "If you must know, I was thinking more like doing a repeat of my best idea ever! But with some differences. ..such as permanency!"
Zedd wished he could frown just so he could look as confused as he was. "Explain yourself!" somehow, he thought her plan would sound far more intelligent if she wasn't screeching it. But that was how she talked, and that was what she was. A screeching, conniving, evil witch that he loved to distraction.
"Once we know if they're going to call her back. . .we grab her before then and make her evil! I've been doing some research on the spells I used to make Tommy and Kat my tools, and I think I know where both of them went wrong!"
Zedd restrained a groan; the woman had never been able to think up anything new! If it wasn't one failing monster after another, it was turn one of the Rangers against their fellows! Still, this was a twist they'd never done. . .someone the Rangers knew and trusted, a former and possibly future Ranger, a secret and hidden weapon among them. One they couldn't detect. ..then something occurred to him. "How are you going to make certain the Rangers don't find out you enspelled her?"
"They never did find out Kat was against them!" Rita laughed. "The little kitty told them after she broke my spell! But Kimmie won't break it, and she'll be the weapon that brings them down!"
Zedd got up and encircled his arms around Rita, guiding her into a dance around the throne room. "As soon as we know what they're doing. ..and we'll keep an eye on them. . .we'll do it!"
It wasn't being a Ranger. She knew that. She had experienced two and a half years of that thrill, and though she had loved every moment of it, she didn't miss it to the point she was willing to drop everything and take her Power Coin away from Kat.
Not mine. It's hers now. She earned it, Kim reminded herself. She knew it intellectually, and she didn't feel any jealousy towards Kat for it. But every now and then, she woke up reaching for 'her' coin, and it took her a couple of minutes to realize where she was and what had happened.
The main reason she wanted to go home was she wasn't happy here. Here she didn't fit in the way she had back in Angel Grove. The other gymnasts here resented her skill, had closed ranks against her the moment she'd arrived. They, like her, had been recruited by the Coach from various points in the USA, but unlike her, they didn't know anything more than gymnastics and whatever other interests they had. She had been involved in life and death battles with the fate of the universe at stake. Though she wasn't going to run back to California, her life as a Ranger had changed her. She wasn't the bubble-head she used to be, she had faced threats and things that would have made nine-tenths of the people here collapse in absolute fear and terror.
And it made her different. They didn't know, but they sensed it, and at some gut level, for whatever reason, they hated her for it. It just doesn't make sense, she'd thought to herself over and over again. Why would they hate me just because I'm not an air-head like they were expecting?
She still remembered that, and it grated. She'd just finished setting her things up in the room the Coach's assistant had assigned her, and she'd wanted to wander around the compound some, to learn where things were. She'd heard voices ahead of her, and the first thing she'd heard had made her stop and listen more intently.
"---some bubble-brain from California," a male voice had stated. A female voice answered him.
"Great. Just what we needed around here, some little kid who thinks gymnastics is easy and will want to 'hang out' with us all the time!" the distaste and disgust in her voice cut into Kim like a knife.
The male voice spoke again. "Supposedly she's from Angel Grove. You know, where all the 'monster attacks' are?"
"You mean where all the nutcases are. Come on, aliens, witches, heroes in magic armor?" the girl snorted harshly. "You know they're just making it up for a tourist trade! And that little bit of fluff is probably convinced they're all real."
Kim didn't stay to hear anymore. To hear her hometown and the things she'd risked her life for so casually dismissed and degraded ripped into her heart. She'd pretended ever since she hadn't heard anything, had thrown herself into her gymnastics work, proving to herself and to them that she was truly a gymnast. If anyone mentioned Angel Grove's monsters, she changed the subject as fast as she could. But it didn't work. They still hated her.
And it made her long for home more than anything.
Kat sighed briefly as she glanced up at Zordon. The day after she and Billy had discovered they were destined mates, they had went to the Command Center to immediately check on her physical condition. The werecats of her family line didn't always conceive immediately after the initial mating with their chosen, but it wasn't unheard of either. Though they had used protection, they both figured it was better safe than sorry. Since that would put definite dampers on her life at this point in time, they wanted to make certain it hadn't happened.
IT COULD HAVE SIMPLY BEEN A FLUCTUATION OF POWER, Zordon said. SUCH THINGS ARE RARE, BUT IT HAS HAPPENED ON OCCASION. IF THIS IS WHAT IT IS, THEN YOU WILL HAVE LITTLE TO WORRY ABOUT.
Kat nodded, then took a deep breath, deciding to take the plunge. "Could it relate in any way to my...condition?" she curled her fingers like feline claws for a moment to inform Zordon of what she meant.
IT. ..IS POSSIBLE, Zordon's voice was unsteady only for the briefest of moments. She hadn't told any of the others except Billy about what she really was, and she'd only told Billy because she had to. Of course, he'd already known, but that was rather a moot point.
Tommy frowned. "Condition?" he knew Billy and Kat were a close, if rather unexpected, couple, but just how close were they, he wondered suddenly. "What condition?"
Kat turned to the others, moving Billy's hand off her shoulder gently. "I know what I'm doing," she whispered softly to him in response to his unspoken query. They'd only been together a couple of weeks, but they knew each other very well already. "Guys, there's something I haven't told you about myself. It's not that I didn't trust you. I just wasn't certain how you'd take it."
"Kat, what are you talking about?" Rocky wondered. He'd seen a lot of weird things in his time as a Ranger, and he was fairly certain that whatever Kat was referring to wouldn't rattle him at all. After all, once you've seen a guy with no skin, a flying monkey, and you regularly turned into an armored superhero, what was one more thing?
She took a deep breath. "You remember how I was P.C., back when I worked for Rita?" at their various nods, she continued. "Rita didn't give me that ability. I was born with it."
Adam's eyebrows were in his hair. "What?" he asked simply. Tommy looked unbelieving, and Rocky and Aisha shocked. Billy alone was undisturbed, for obvious reasons. She decided just to explain it the easy way.
"Oh, crap!" was Rocky's rather shocked reaction to her transformation. She changed back quickly, and looked at them.
"I'm a werecat. It crops up roughly every other generation in my family line. My grandmother was one, and so am I," she decided telling them Billy was her mate was a bit much at the moment. Finding out she wasn't true human was enough of a shock.
Tommy blinked several times. "Why didn't you say anything?" he asked, his mind working to comprehend the facts thrown suddenly in his face.
"I'd just gotten free of Rita's spell, and I wasn't really certain of what was going to be happening," she explained. "Then after Kim left, I had to deal with being a Power Ranger, and finding out I'm still somewhat mentally connected Rita, and a few other things, such as Master Vile, the Zeo Crystal, and everything else that's been going on lately, not to mention not knowing what you'd say, I just never did!"
The others all glanced at each other, not quite certain what to say or think. Billy stepped up. "In case you're wondering, I already knew about her being a werecat. When I medi-scanned her just after Kim transferred the powers, it showed up. Zordon, Alpha, and I figured that since it's really her secret to tell, it wasn't our right to say anything. I did tell Kat I knew a short time ago," there was the faintest of blushes on his cheeks, as he remembered what else had happened that night, but nothing that could be remarked on.
Silence was the rule for a few moments, then it was broken by Tommy. "It's your secret. If we can deal with being Power Rangers and fighting aliens, I think having someone who turns into a cat on a regular basis won't be a problem."
"Now I know why we kept finding cat hairs in your house!" Rocky giggled, and Kat felt more release at that than anything else; she'd been worried about him.
"You're a cat," Adam grinned. "That's cool. I wonder what else we're all hiding," he glanced around at the others, to see all of them looking a bit uncomfortable for who knew what reasons.
Aisha looked calmly at her friend for a few minutes, then asked, "So what's it like having fur?"
Kat couldn't help but laugh at the perfectly straight expression on the Yellow Ranger's face, then told her, "It has it's moments, Aisha. It has it's moments."
The shock of finding out Kat was a werecat slowly faded over the next few days. If they hadn't already known her so well and known she just wouldn't do anything at all to hurt them in any way, they might've been concerned that she would spy on them in private moments or things like that. If anything, she seldom transformed during the day and never around anyone but Billy.
The Blue and Pink Rangers had kept their true status from their fellow Rangers for some time, but they were both considering revealing how closely connected they really were. Their relationship wasn't quite as physical as it could have been, since they had certain things to concern themselves with such as pregnancy, fighting for the freedom of the planet, that sort of thing, but they would have liked to have been able to kiss in public with a bit more heat than they were used to.
Just when they were ready to 'go public' with the fact of their mating, however, what they'd all been fearing happened.
His words echoed back in her mind, over and over again, in what could be an endless cycle. "I'm sorry, Kat. But all the tests are showing the exact same thing. It didn't show up on the initial ones because I hadn't added in the fact that your Spirit Animal isn't the Crane. Because you have a different one, the Pink Power is suffering a reaction to your possessing it, resulting in your demorphing. The longer you have the Coin and use it, the more unstable the Power is going to become, until it self-destructs. ..and takes you with it."
"What can we do?" her question had been quick and to the point. She wanted to get to the bottom of this, to stop it from happening as soon as she could.
Billy's answer had been what she'd expected since she'd taken the Coin, actually. "You can't be the Pink Ranger anymore. It's the only way to save the Pink Power. ..and your life."
She hadn't stayed long after that. Just long enough to tell them one thing, and then she had left. She still had the Coin with her; only when she was morphed would it start to go unstable. She pulled it out for a moment, staring at it. Hard to believe such a small thing could be so dangerous. But it's not really the Coin. It's the reaction that's caused by me not having the Crane as a guide.
"I know how you feel," it was Tommy. She'd heard him coming, and had hoped he would pass her by. She didn't really know if she felt like talking to him right at that moment. But she didn't have a choice unless she wanted to be rude, and that was something she would never be.
He nodded, coming to stand beside her instead of behind her as he had been. "I've lost my powers a few times," it appeared Billy had told the others, or at least him. "Three, actually."
"Green twice, then temporarily white when Rito blew up the ThunderZords," he managed to conceal a shudder only just barely as he remembered how it had felt to have the White power flowing out of him so swiftly. It had hurt, in ways he didn't want to remember.
She nodded quietly; Kim had told her some of the stories of the Rangers. "But did you ever have it happen just because you didn't have the right guide?"
"No, I didn't," Tommy shook his head. "But there's always an answer. Maybe Ninjor can tell us something. . .or Dulcea."
"No, Tommy," she sighed deeply, tossing her hair back and sliding the Coin back into it's proper place. "My pink days are over with. I can feel it. I've already decided who I'm going to give the Coin to, though."
The White Ranger looked a little startled. Wouldn't giving the Coin to another just put them in the same position they were in now shortly? He opened his mouth, when Kat kept going. "Billy's probably talking with her right now. I think you'll be happy, Tommy," a faint smiled curved her lips, and he wondered for a moment how she could look so happy in the fact of losing something she'd been so proud and pleased to accept. Then again, one of his biggest failings was his inability to understand women in the slightest. "They're getting in touch with Kim now. She's going to be coming home."
WE ARE AGREED THAT KIMBERLY IS THE ONLY LOGICAL CHOICE, Zordon said firmly. He had called in the other Rangers after Kat had left the Command Center, but they had only been told that she was no longer able to carry the Pink Power, and would be stepping down as a Ranger. That she had already chosen her replacement, and it was her predecessor, was something that Billy and Zordon had mutually agreed should be kept between them for right now. If Kat wanted to tell them, that was her decision. Kim still had yet to be asked.
"Correct," Billy nodded. "But what are we going to do about Kat? I'm not going to let her run around without some form of protection."
ONCE SHE IS NO LONGER A RANGER, ZEDD AND RITA SHOULD CONSIDER HER NO MORE OF A THREAT THAN THE AVERAGE HUMAN. This was where the crux of their disagreement was.
Billy kept his cool as much as he could. "She isn't an average human. She's a werecat, and she betrayed them. You know one of the reasons Kim gave her the Pink Coin in the first place wasn't just because she's an amazing Ranger. . .it was to protect her from them."
Zordon knew it, and Billy knew he knew it. There just was no answer to it, however. THERE HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE THAN SIX RANGERS, BILLY, AND THE NINJETTI POWER IS CONFINED TO THE SIX COLORS OF WHITE, RED, PINK, YELLOW, BLUE, AND BLACK. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY FOR KATHERINE TO BE A RANGER.
"Then we're going to have to keep a guard on her constantly," Billy's voice was flat and unemotional, and it almost scared Zordon. How in the world had the shy, quiet lad he remembered from the first day of Rita's escape become this wise, caring, loving, strong warrior-scientist? There was nothing wrong with the change; it had benefited Billy in many ways. But it had happened so gradually, it had never really imprinted itself on Zordon's mind until now, when he was clamoring for the defense of the woman he loved.
SHE WILL STILL HAVE HER COMMUNICATOR, AND ACCESS TO THE COMMAND CENTER, BILLY, Zordon told him. WE WILL WATCH HER TO MAKE CERTAIN RITA AND ZEDD TRY NOTHING THAT THEY SHOULDN'T. THEY WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO TAKE HER AGAIN.
Billy nodded slowly, knowing that was all he would be able to get from his mentor. He'd truly hoped that there would be a way for Kat to get new powers somehow, but Zordon had dashed those hopes rather effectively. I'd prefer the truth, anyway, he thought. I'd rather know she's a permanent civilian and be working on a way to protect her than think she could have powers and have them grab her when my back is turned.
"I think we'd better get in touch with Kimberly," he said at last, moving over to the communications consoles. All the former Rangers kept their communicators when they left town, in case of an emergency. Billy had hoped such a one would never happen. It appeared his hoping had been in vain.
Just as his finger was about to punch in the last code that would send a message to Kim's communicator, the alarms started blaring throughout the Command Center. "What's going on?" his voice was sharp and concerned. If they were already trying for Kat. ..
"There are Tengas in the park, near Kat and Tommy!" Alpha reported quickly, looking up from the tracking computer. Billy bit back words that would have shocked just about anyone who knew him, then punched in a different code of alert.
"Tengas in the park, Tommy and Kat need help," was all he snapped to Rocky, Adam, and Aisha before taking a deep breath. "I need Ninja Ranger Power now!"
"You know, she's kinda pretty when she bounces around like that," a voice spoke that she hadn't heard since leaving Angel Grove, and hadn't been one of the things she had missed about the place. She turned around, hoping it was just one of the other gymnasts doing a really bad joke.
She was wrong.
Rito Revolto and Goldar stood only a few feet away. How she'd ever missed that awful stench she didn't know, but it was striking with full force now. She suddenly remembered the communicator she'd left in her bedroom, and wished now she'd put it on. It seemed so unnecessary. . .now I can't think of a decent reason I left it!
"Stay away from me," she growled, backing up after taking a quick glance behind her to make certain none of their other little friends were behind her. "I'm not a Ranger anymore, why are you here?"
Goldar laughed, and she couldn't help but shiver at the sound. "Lord Zedd and Queen Rita want to see you, Kimmie! They've got something to discuss with you!"
She was about to throw something at him, to turn and run, when Rito did a short teleport over to her and grabbed her arm. The sudden proximity of his stench overwhelmed her nose and disoriented her long enough for Goldar to seize her other arm, and she felt the rippling effect of a teleportation.
She coughed for a couple of moments, trying to get her breath as Rito moved away after a sharp command from Zedd, and Goldar took a double grip on her arms. As her lungs cleared, she felt herself being forced to her knees and stared up to see Zedd and Rita in front of her; Zedd on his throne, Rita beside him, and both looking very pleased to see her. That scared her more than anything.
"What do you want?" she injected as much bravado as she could in her voice; she would at least appear brave if nothing else!
Rita laughed. "We want you! And we've got you! Congratulations, Kimberly, you're going to be the Pink Ranger again!"
"You've got to be kidding," Kim retorted flatly. "Kat's the Pink Ranger now."
"Not for long," Zedd gloated. "You're going to be contacted before long by Zordon, asking you to return to Angel Grove and resume your post as the Pink Ranger. You're going to do that."
Excitement, even in this situation, pulsed through her. To be home again, away from that nest of vipers. . .then panic surged through as she remembered who was telling her this! "Why would you want me to a Ranger again?" she asked suspiciously.
"Because you're going to be our Ranger!" Zedd proclaimed. "Rita, are you certain the spell will be permanent this time?"
His wife nodded. "I covered all the bases, Zeddy, don't worry about it! This is my specialty, after all!" Kim didn't like the way this was going, and jerked, trying unsuccessfully to get out of Goldar's arms. Rita stepped over to her, raising her staff. "You're going to be our secret weapon, Kimberly. You'll accept the Pink Power and fight against us just like a normal Ranger. But at the right time and right place. . .when no one can do anything to stop you. . .you will destroy the Power Rangers and Zordon forever!"
Kim was about to protest, when a beam of white-pink light streamed out of Rita's staff and surrounded her. She didn't even have time to scream as it overwhelmed her thoughts and imprinted one command on her brain: she was to obey Lord Zedd and Queen Rita Repulsa. Any resistance she put up was swept away by the power of the spell. Rita had researched this far more thoroughly than she had either Tommy's or Kat's spells. There were no holes in this one.
The light show ceased, and at Rita's gesture, Goldar moved back from Kim, releasing her. The young woman stood straight for a moment, blinking, then said, in a perfectly normal tone of voice, "I am at your command, my masters."
"Until ordered otherwise, you will fight us as you always have once you are back in Angel Grove," Zedd commanded. "Say and do nothing that will indicate your change of loyalties. If you do, you will be punished, is that understood?"
Kim nodded, it was only to be expected. "I will obey, masters."
"Excellent," Zedd approved. "Now, go!" he teleported her back to Florida, right back to where she had been taken from, and turned to Rita. He couldn't truly smile, but he was making the effort obviously. "And so the downfall of the Power Rangers begins!"
"Stay back," Tommy knew about how well she was going to take those orders: as well as he ever had in the days of his own fading powers. He was into his white ninja uniform almost before the words faded away, and hit his communicator to send the alarm to the Command Center.
Kat watched from the edge of the lake for approximately thirty seconds before throwing caution to the winds. Billy had told her she still had a few morphs to go before the Pink Power went critical. With all her heart and soul in it, she cried out, "Ninja Ranger Power now!"
For almost a full minute it was only the White and Pink Rangers in the battle, flipping, ducking, dodging, hitting, punching, kicking. The others joined them right after, and Kat had neither breath nor time to ask if Billy had gotten in touch with Kim just yet. She knew she couldn't last much longer; her grip on the power was already fading. Once she lost it, she would be vulnerable to the creatures. . .
Almost as if thinking about it had made it happen, she saw the pink material of her Ninja uniform fading away. Her eyes widened as she stood there in the shirt and jeans she'd been wearing, and she tried hard not to think about the day when she'd offered to trade herself for Ninjor and Billy's protection forcefield had failed. ...there was a Tenga heading straight for her. ...
A blue blur knocked the Tenga away from her, and she took a long breath, glad to see the rest of the bird-things vanish almost at the same time. The battle was over.
"Kat?" the blur turned back into Billy, and almost raced over to her. "Kat, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," she reassured him. "I think we'd better hurry, though. It's not going to be much longer."
He sighed. "I was just about to contact her when the alarm sounded. Do you want to be there when we do?"
She shook her head. "I want to think," she leaned against him for just a moment, not caring who saw or what they thought. "Come over later?" she whispered softly, and felt him nod just the tiniest bit. "Thanks."
"What was that all about?" Rocky asked, coming over to the two of them with the others following behind. "Are you okay, Kat?"
She almost laughed. She was starting to get tired of that question. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to give the Coin back. It would definitely be nice not to have to worry about being asked constantly if she were okay. "Yes, Rocky, I'm fine," she smiled. "I'm going home for a while, I'm getting a headache. See you later," her eyes were more on Billy than the others as she waved and left. She made a note to tell the rest of the team about her decision after they knew for certain if Kim would be coming back. Right now, she just wanted to rest.
"Let's hope she's where she can answer it," Billy said as he once again ran through the routine to send the message to his old friend. The time difference between Florida and California meant that since it was late afternoon here, it was about noon there. Several tense moments passed in the Center.
Tommy considered pacing, then decided he'd just get on everyone's nerves, and it would do no good for his either. He almost came out of his skin when Kim's cheery voice came back.
"Hey! Never thought I'd hear this thing go off again!"
Billy tried to stay calm. This was it. This was admittance there was nothing that could keep Kat a Ranger. But it was to save her life. And for that, he would do anything. "Kim, I don't know how to say this, I know being there is what you've wanted for years, but. ..we need you to come home."
"What?" Kim's voice was confused now.
"Can we just teleport you here and explain things in person?" Billy asked. "It's a little complicated. If you've got some time where no one will notice you're missing. . ."
She interrupted. "I'm clear now. I just got back from practice, and I don't have any classwork to do today."
A white stream of light turned itself into the former Pink Ranger as she appeared from across the country. Tommy caught his breath at seeing her; he'd forgotten how beautiful she was! "Welcome back, Kim," he breathed. She turned around to see him standing there, and smiled warmly.
"Tommy," the two of them would have embraced, if it had not been for Zordon's interruption.
I HESITATE TO BREAK UP YOUR REUNION, MY FRIENDS, BUT WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM, KIMBERLY, Zordon spoke. WHEN YOU PASSED THE PINK COIN TO KATHERINE, WE DID NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE FACT THAT THE NINJETTI POWERS ARE DEPENDENT ON THE SPIRIT ANIMALS OF THE RANGER. ONLY THOSE WHO SHARE THE SAME SPIRIT ANIMAL CAN USE THE SAME COIN. KATHERINE'S SPIRIT ANIMAL IS NOT THE CRANE, AND SHE HAS BEEN LOSING CONTROL OF THE PINK POWER.
"What?" Kim looked worried. "Is she all right?"
"For now she is," Billy replied. "But if she keeps using it, the power will destroy her and itself. We can't let that happen. . .but if you don't want to come back, we can find someone else who has the Crane as a spirit animal. .."
Kim smiled for a moment, and Tommy felt a double sense of relief flooding through him. She was going to come back, and Kat would be safe. As safe as she could be, anyway. "Of course I'll come back! You guys need me, and I don't back out on my friends! Besides. . .training isn't all it's cracked up to be. This is one dream I don't mind giving up."
She turned to look at Tommy, and did another of those smiles that made his knees go weak. "I've got others I want to chase anyway."
Kat told the other Rangers about Kim's return once she herself was told that Kimberly had agreed to come home. She hadn't left her house much in the two days that passed between Kim's agreement and her actual return. Billy visited as often as he could, doing everything he could to comfort her. It felt almost as if a death sentence was hanging over her head, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
Aisha's parents were preparing the room Kim had stayed in prior to her departure, and everyone around town had been told she was coming back. The responses were almost unanimous: glad. A welcome home party was even being planned at Ernie's. Even Bulk and Skull seemed glad to welcome the young girl home!
But before she was to be officially welcomed back as Kimberly Hart, the Rangers gathered in the Command Center to bring her back into the group as the full Pink Ranger. Kat had been placed on inactive duty almost as soon as Kim had agreed to come back, to be called on for combat only if things got absolutely dangerous. Which they hadn't. In fact, in the last two days, there had been no attacks at all. That was worrying all of the Rangers, Kat especially.
The seven stood in a loose semi-circle, with Kim and Kat standing facing each other. Kim's eyes were a mixture of sadness and joy, and Kat looked as if she hadn't slept in a while. Billy knew that she hadn't. He was hoping once this was over with, he could get her to rest some.
"Kim, five months ago, I stole this from you and almost cost you your life," Kat began. "I managed to break the spell I was under, and I got it back. You gave me the coin and I did everything I could to be the best Pink Ranger I could. But something neither of us knew at the time has decreed that only someone with the Crane spirit animal can use this coin. I'm not one of those, and thus I return your rightful property to you. You earned it, I didn't. You quested to Ninjor's Temple and to the Monolith for it, and I didn't. This is yours. Welcome back."
With no flourish at all, and a great sense of relief permeating her entire body, Kat held out her hand and the Pink Coin appeared in it. She picked up Kim's hand with her other hand, and transferred the Pink Power back to it's rightful owner. No one noticed the slight flash of pink in Kim's eyes, or if they did, they chalked it up to the returning of her powers.
"Thanks, Kat," Kim replied. "You did honor to the Pink Power the last few months, and I wish you could have kept the power. I'm glad to have you as a friend and fellow Ranger. . .but most of all a friend."
The two girls hugged, and Kat felt the dark cloud over her head and heart lift. She might not be a Ranger anymore, but she would always have their friendship. And that meant more to her than anything.
Billy was going to be staying with her for the weekend, and since his own parents trusted his good sense, they said nothing about what he and his girlfriend would be doing alone in the Hillard house for two nights. The implications Billy had let drop were that the rest of their group would be there and they would be celebrating Kim's return to Angel Grove. In truth, they would be visiting every now and then, and if monsters attacked, then Billy would be going into action and she would be going to the Command Center.
But most of the time, they spent curled up on the bed in Kat's room, in each other's arms. They didn't make love constantly, though they had several times. It was more for comfort and love than anything else, however. Kat had hardly ceased crying, and from what Billy had heard from Tommy, a mild depression like this was to be expected after a traumatic power loss like she had experienced. Though the actual transfer back to Kimberly had been painless, feeling the power that was there to guard her rebelling against her wasn't.
"It hurt so much," she said, her blue eyes almost vacant and dull as he held her. "It was almost as if my soul was being ripped out of me the last time."
"You didn't show it."
"I didn't want to, and it passed fairly quickly," she explained. "I just wanted the whole thing to be over with as fast as possible."
He nodded, pulling a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. "It is now, for you. That's one good thing."
She smiled for a moment, a sight he had wondered at times if he was ever going to see again. "Another good thing is this," she kissed him softly. "I might have lost my powers, but I still have you."
"And you always will," Billy said, returning the kiss. "I love you, kitty-girl."
"I love you, wolf-boy," the two of them had invented the pet names not long after their first night together. She leaned back against him, cuddling a little. "This is going to be weird. I've never really been normal before. . ."
Billy raised one eyebrow. "You're a werecat. You've never been normal. Besides, with looks like yours, even if you were human, you wouldn't be normal!"
His girlfriend blushed, almost no one saw this side of Billy, the tender and romantic lover. Fate had been quite kind to her in this situation. "You're so sweet," she murmured. The two of them almost seemed to melt into each other after that, and neither one cared a whit for the Rangers, for good or evil, for the forces on the moon, or anything else but each other.
She nodded quietly, holding his hand. In the cold depths of her soul, the depths made by the spell of control. She had been commanded to act as if she weren't their servant until told otherwise, and that meant hanging around with her 'boyfriend'. A deep part of her still loved Tommy, but that was a part that got no say in what she did anymore.
"I hope Kat's going to be all right with this," she said quietly. Tommy squeezed her hand a little.
"She will. She's got Billy to help her through it," at the raising of Kim's eyebrows, he remembered she might not know some recent revelations. "Well, Kat and Billy are sort of dating. ..very steadily dating."
Kim nodded, smiling a little. "I thought they were looking at each other back when I was here before. So they finally started going out?"
"Yeah," Tommy agreed; it had been sort of strange. One day they're just friends, the next they show up at school practically wrapped around each other! As far as he'd known, the night before Billy had been working on some project in his lab, and Kat would be at home doing her homework. Apparently somewhere in there, they'd found the time to fall in love, or at least start seriously dating. No one doubted the depth of their feelings, though. It was just too obvious in the way they looked at each other.
Kim sighed, snuggling back against his strong chest and trying to avoid wrapping her slender hands around his neck and throttling him until he couldn't breath anymore. Patience, Kimberly, she mused. The time will come.
Tommy smiled happily, putting an arm around her. It was so nice to have her back. He'd liked Kat a great deal as a friend, but there was just no one like the warm little armful he had now. It was such a hot day today, he thought as his eyes began to slide shut. They almost flickered open again when he felt something light and delicate on them, and he saw Kim's face over him. He smiled for a moment, returning the delicate kiss, then felt the most powerful feeling of lassitude wash over him. He closed his eyes again; it had been a hard and long day, and he could use some sleep. . .
Kim moved back from him, her eyes darkening and just barely able to stop herself from uttering a snickering laugh. One of the excellent perks to being Rita and Zedd's servant was she had the use of a few special abilities: not the least of which was the power to make someone go to sleep practically on command! She did chuckle a little, then jumped when Rita appeared next to her.
"Empress," she bent her head quickly. "I am at your command."
"Yes, I know!" Rita glanced briefly at Tommy, then turned her attention away from the helpless Ranger. She'd managed to temporarily block her presence from showing on the Rangers' scanners, so she could have this private conference with her pet Ranger. If this area was scanned, it would just show Tommy taking a nap, while Kim did something innocent near him. "You've done well so far, Kimberly."
"Thank you," Kim bowed her head again. "Did you have any more orders for me?"
Rita nodded. "You'll find Katherine walking in the park. Go talk to her, sort of rub it in that you're the Pink Ranger again, and she isn't. Don't go so far that she finds out you're working on our side now, though. I just want her hurt a little, not terrified into running to the Rangers. Oh, and you'll get jumped by Tengas while you're talking to her. I want to drive home the fact she's helpless and can't do anything to protect herself. Fight them just like you usually would."
Kim nodded. "As you command, Empress."
This is the first time since I gave my powers back to Kim Friday that I've been out of the house. Not that I don't MIND being in there if Billy's there, she chuckled a little. The two of them had gotten involved in a major bout of lovemaking and she had quite literally worn him out. She had left him a note that she was going for a walk, and had left after a shower and change of clothing, feeling more like being alive than she had in days.
"Hey, Kat!" she wasn't very surprised to see Kim walking towards her, though to see that the Pink Ranger was alone was a surprise. Tommy had been nearly attached to her at the hip since her return.
Kim's outfit almost was enough to thrust a dagger into Kat's heart. She was dressed from head to toe in pink, blouse, shorts, socks, and shoes. A pink ribbon held her hair back, and she looked absolutely adorable. But all of Kat's attention was held by the pink that almost glared at her, screaming, I'm the Pink Ranger and you're not! I'm the Pink Ranger and you're not!
Kat controlled her thoughts as quickly as she could. She'd explored her closet deeply before going out, no longer feeling the subconscious desire to wear pink that she had while the power had been hers, and now was dressed casually in jeans and a light gray blouse. "Hey, Kim," she responded. "Where's Tommy, I thought you guys were spending the day together."
"Oh, him," Kim giggled. She certainly seemed happier now that she was back. "He went and fell asleep! So I thought I'd wander around see what's changed while I was gone."
Kat nodded. "I'd probably be doing the same if I were back in Sydney," she admitted. Her eyes were drawn again to the pink that covered Kim, and bit back the comment that had threatened to rise to her lips.
"Have you ever considered going back?" Kim asked. "Of leaving Angel Grove? You'd probably be safer, you know, since you don't have any powers anymore."
The werecat tried not to feel the pain at that, but it twisted in her soul. "I've thought about it, but it's really in my parents' hands, and they're happy here," a slight edge touched her voice, and she didn't try to restrain it this time. "So am I."
Kim nodded quietly. "Tommy told me you and Billy were seeing each other."
"We're in love," Kat's voice was touched now by passion and romance, the way it always felt when she heard or even thought about Billy. "We have been for some time now."
"Congratulations," Kim grinned at her, and Kat returned the expression. There was nothing wrong with her friend, Kim was just happy to be home and see people she'd been away from for so long. "Have you set a date yet?" there was a slight teasing tone to her voice.
Kat chuckled, trying not to blush. "We're not that serious," in public, at least. I'd say you've still got about five or six years to wait. But I do want you there. "We're still in high school!"
Kim only grinned. "I know a sure thing when I see it, girl. You and Billy are an item," her eyes narrowed just the tiniest bit, far too small for Kat to notice. "I do hope you not being a Ranger anymore won't complicate things for the two of you."
Kat literally ground her teeth. For some reason, Kim was showing off the fact that Kat wasn't Pink Ranger anymore! She calmed herself with effort, then took a breath. "I think I'd better get back home. I've got something to take care of," like tearing my scratching post to bits.
She was about to walk off when there was a flutter of black feathers, and a half a dozen Tengas appeared in front of her and Kim, surrounding the both of them. "Oh, great!" she hissed, her fingers curving like her feline claws. "I hate birds!"
Then from behind her she heard a phrase she was beginning to wonder if she hated as well. Kim's voice rose loud and clear, "Ninja Ranger Power now!"
He almost literally skipped into the establishment, waving to everyone like a madman. "Hi guys!" he grinned, he had been right, Tommy and Kim weren't there. Rocky, Adam, and Aisha were, however.
"Hey, Billy!" the three of them waved almost in unison as he plopped down next to them. "So what have you and Kat been doing the last day or so?" Rocky grinned widely.
Billy's blush told them all what they wanted to know, and everyone giggled. "You two make such a cute couple," Aisha advised. "I'm glad you found each other."
"Kat sort of found me," Billy admitted. "She was the one who got everything started."
"Ohhh?" Adam wasn't normally a gossip-monger, but from the way the flush was growing deeper and deeper it did sound quite interesting! He wouldn't pry if Billy really wanted to keep it a secret, but he was starting to get curious. "Sounds interesting!"
Billy hemmed a little, not wanting to reveal the extremely intimate details of his relationship, then suddenly went stiff as a board. Those who were watching him were convinced his eyes doubled in size as his hands clenched into fists. Something between a gasp and a snarl escaped his lips as his teeth ground. "Katherine," he whispered. The feeling of intense fear poured through his body from some outside source, a source he identified almost at once. He didn't know what was going on or why he could suddenly feel what she was, but he wasn't taking any chances. His common sense said to get to a clear area and teleport. His instincts overruled and said run as fast as light to where his mate needed him.
"Billy?" Aisha sounded worried, and glanced around to see what could be causing whatever it was he was experiencing. "What's going on?"
"Katherine," he repeated. "Have to get to her. Danger," he was up and moving before any of them could say anything, heading out the door at least as fast as he could move. The three other Rangers looked at each other for only a second, then were going after him.
"Any idea what's going on?" Aisha asked Rocky. The Red Ranger shook his head, trying his best to keep the Blue Ranger in sight. For all his bookishness, Billy could move extremely fast when he had a reason to. And for some reason he thought he had a reason to right now.
I'm imagining things, Kat thought as she barely ducked under a Tenga's swinging wing. Kim's not like that.
Little did she know Kim was smirking at her, that she was enjoying the parody she was putting on, even if only she and her masters knew it. A force of evil, using the power of good, to decimate the lesser forces of evil. Of course, she was the only one currently on the battlefield who knew the sweet irony here.
The bird-things seemed to be seething more and more around Kat, which was only logical since she was the only one capable of being truly hurt by them. Kim half-considered standing and watching, then decided if the fight was being monitored on the Viewing Globe, that wouldn't do much good for her `good-guy' image. With a showy series of flips, she headed over to the blonde fighting off as many Tengas as she possibly could.
"You'd better get out of here, Kat," she said, panting a little from the exertion. "I don't know how much longer I can hold them off, and the other Rangers should be here at any second."
Kat glanced at the almost-solid wall of Tengas; there was only one thing she could do that would get through them. She'd told Kim what she was soon after returning the Pink Coin to her; but she'd never changed in front of her. I'm just glad of two things. . .birds don't like cats and my clothes change with me. "If you see Billy, tell him I'm going home," she said quickly, then morphed cat. At least I can still do THIS morphing thing, she half-grumbled to herself. As quickly as four legs could manage, she ducked through the swarm of Tenga legs and squirmed her way into the woods. The one pulsating thought on her mind was the need to get away: not just from here, but from everything. ..and everyone.
Kim was about to plunge back into the fray with the Tengas; she knew they didn't know she was working for Rita and Zedd, and it would take too long to explain to them otherwise. Therefore, her simplest and most effective course of action was to pound the living daylights out of them. Not to mention it was also fun, and would keep her cover from being blown.
But just as she turned, four figures burst through the trees, landing in various stages of readiness to fight. Rocky, Adam, and Aisha looked understandably worried and confused, Billy just looked furious. With a grin she was glad was concealed under her mask, she realized Tommy must still be under the sleeping spell. I'd better break it. If I don't, they could realize things they shouldn't. Luckily breaking it wasn't difficult, it just required a simple flexing of her willpower. The White Ranger should be joining them in moments.
"Where's Katherine?" Billy's voice was nothing but a low hiss, and for a moment, she panicked, thinking that somehow he knew about her. Then she regained her senses; naturally he'd be worried if he knew the two of them were supposed to be together, and all he saw was her.
"She got clear and ran out, she said she was going to home," Kim said, crouching low to kick a Tenga. She wound up not having to worry about it as it vanished, with it's feathered brethren, a moment later. She powered down and put on the most concerned expression she had. "Do you think we should go check on her?"
"No, you guys go check in with Zordon and see why we didn't hear about this attack from him. I'm going to go find Kat," without even waiting for a response, Billy was on his way again.
Kim watched him go, the faintest of frowns on her face. If Zordon didn't tell them, then how did he know what was going on?
"Ay-yi-yi, a sneak attack! Rita and Zedd are really getting serious!" the little robot fussed.
IT APPEARS THEIR GOAL MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE CAPTURE OF KATHERINE, AND THEY ASSUMED IT WOULD BE EASIER TO ACCOMPLISH THIS IF THEIR TENGAS COULD DISTRACT YOU, KIMBERLY, Zordon mused. IT IS GOOD THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO GET HER AWAY BEFORE ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN TO HER.
Kim nodded quietly, trying to stay as much away from their regard as she could. Rita had said that the spell binding her could neither be detected nor removed, but Kim preferred not to take chances. The very last thing she wanted was to be good again. The very thought of such a thing made her nauseous.
"How did Billy know what was going on if the sensors here didn't detect anything is what I really want to know," Tommy said, covering a yawn. He was rather embarrassed to admit he'd been sleeping while his girlfriend and one of his best friends had been dueling with Tengas.
Zordon debated the ethics of keeping the secret of Billy and Kat's mated status over a potential threat to the safety of the team as a whole. It was a debate that had only one real answer.
RANGERS, THOUGH NORMALLY I WOULD NEVER REVEAL SECRETS SUCH AS HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED TO ME, THIS IS A SPECIAL SITUATION. He could only hope Billy and Katherine would understand. Somehow, he thought they would. BILLY AND KATHERINE ARE NOT MERELY DATING ONE ANOTHER IN THE USUAL HUMAN SENSE. AS YOU KNOW, KATHERINE IS A WERECAT.
As he continued his explanation of the felinoid species and their search for the one true love of their life, Kim stepped back a little, looking as if she only wanted some air, but was still paying strict attention. She was, and she was storing every bit of it for future use against the Rangers. She didn't know how much, if any, of this that her master and mistress knew, but if she could find out something that would be of interest or use to them, then she could be rewarded.
Rocky glanced behind them to see Kim looking as steadily at Zordon as the rest of them were. Something about the intenseness of her gaze made him shiver, though. I didn't think she ever looked quite this . ..focused. . .before she went to Florida. Is it something that happened there? He didn't think so. If anything dramatic enough to change her like that had happened, they would have heard about it, he knew it. But she is different. Her eyes seemed to casually float around the room, and a ninja's instinct made Rocky relax and keep his main attention on Zordon, while with the back of one eye he watched Kimberly. What he saw chilled him to the bone.
Her eyes flashed pink. Not the pink of the Pink power, but a cold, icy pink that made him think of something slimy and evil and festering. It was all he could do to keep his composure. She's evil. I don't know how, but she's evil. And none of the others have seen it. To think he'd noticed something that Zordon hadn't made him shiver. Then, he corrected himself mentally. Maybe Zordon had seen it and for reasons of his own wasn't acting on it just yet. Until or unless Kimberly did something to hurt them, they really couldn't do anything; it was against the rules. But Rocky resolved in that moment he would do everything he could to keep an eye on the traitor in their midst.
I don't know what happened, if she went bad by herself or if this is Rita and Zedd's doing. But I'm not going to let anything happen to my friends. And if Rita and Zedd did it. . .I will release you, Kimberly. I swear I will.
"Oh?" he hadn't been following Rita's intricate plot with Kimberly that much. His attention was focused more on Billy and Katherine, the things he was learning were quite fascinating. Some of them had been very creative as well; once he figured out how some of those things worked, Rita shouldn't have any complaints. ..he checked that line of thought as he watched both Kat and Billy on what would have been termed `split screen vision' if anyone could see what he did.
Rita turned from her RepulsaScope. She couldn't see inside the Command Center, even with her spell on Kimberly, but from what she'd so eagerly observed during the fight with the Tengas, things were going absolutely perfectly. "Kitty-girl is going home in tears. ..if a cat can cry!"
Zedd chuckled. "I knew that. So what did Kim say to her?"
"The usual innuendoes," Rita swept her way up to her husband's side and perched on the arm of his throne. "That she was the Pink Ranger again, that Kat's totally helpless and can't do anything without her powers. All the fun stuff!"
Her husband laughed low. "And it's having one heck of an effect!"
Now it was her turn to look confused, turn to him, and say, "Oh?" it seemed at times they took irritating and keeping secrets from each other to the level of a fine art. Those who thought that sort of thing would be right. Very right.
"Look," he gestured with his staff for one section of the air in front of them to do the same split screen technique that his vision had, and showed them both Kat and Billy. Kat was stuffing clothes into a bag as fast as she could, and Billy was running through the streets, ignoring anything and anyone who tried to get in his way. "It appears the cat is going to be running away!" his voice held nothing but contempt.
Rita would've gotten up and danced for joy if her attention hadn't been drawn by Billy. "He'll talk her out of it."
"No, he won't," Zedd laughed cruelly, a sound Rita thoroughly enjoyed. "He's having a very hard time finding his way to her place. . .thanks to me!"
She looked eager, and he continued, "There's a confusion spell on the streets of Angel Grove right now. Keyed to him, so the Rangers won't notice any mass confusion and go and stop it. He could walk right by her and he wouldn't notice, and there's another spell so she can't see him, either!"
"Ohhh! How long are you going to keep them separated like that?"
"Not much longer, unfortunately," Zedd looked as disappointed as he could under his mask. "But by then, she should be already out of town and out of his sight, if I have anything to say about it. I've got a group of Tengas waiting to jump the blue boy if he gets too close."
Rita smiled very wickedly. Getting Kat alone, off-balance, off-guard, and too far for the Rangers to detect anything they might do had been one of their plans ever since finding out what was going on. Kim would be making certain the Rangers did nothing to find Kat too soon, if at all. "And how long will it be till she's back here?"
Zedd shrugged. "Not long at all. After that, we have our choice of things to do to her."
Something issued from Rita's lips that could very well have been a laugh if it wasn't so blood-chilling. "And some of those choices are very choice indeed."
She wiped her eyes of tears, forcing the last thing she had seen on the battlefield out of her mind. Kim's proud pink-clad form tearing into the Tengas without so much as a backwards glance.
The true Pink Ranger is back again, her every move had said. Kat, despite her natural grace and balance, felt ungainly and awkward next to Kim's flowing moves, and knew she didn't belong here. Kim had returned to take back all that was hers and more.
She wasn't going to leave a note. She didn't want any hints of where she was going, especially since she didn't even know herself yet. She was giving serious consideration towards just hitting the nearest big city, turning feline, and losing herself in the stray cat population for the rest of her life.
Zipping up her bag, she headed out the house and down the street as fast as she could. Through the tears that still blinded her eyes, she neither saw nor heard Billy calling to her and waving as she dodged into the trees and set forth for whatever might be her ultimate destiny.
Billy stared at where she had been only a second before. Then he was running over to it, staring and hoping he would see her. There was nothing, however, and no sense of her presence anywhere. He knew what it was that had sent him running to her side earlier; it was the bond of mates. If either of them were in peril the other would know about it. And apparently she wasn't right now.
"Come back, Kat!" he cried, his voice a broken howl, sounding very much like his own Spirit Animal. "Come back!"
He waited seconds, minutes, breaking heartbeats... Time stretched out painfully, turning each breath into an eternity. When it finally sank into his crushed soul she wasn't coming back, his heart crumpled in sorrow, and Billy crashed to his knees. His vision, last filled with Kat's precious visage, was now blinded, as his eyes filled, then welled over with a torrent of raw tears. "Don't go," he howled again, this time his voice a torn, mournful thing. "Please don't go... I love you...."
Billy listened, hoped, fervently prayed for a miracle, for Kat's voice to soothe his wounded soul. But the only sound that greeted him was the shattering of his heart. "Kat...."