Legal Disclaimer: Saban got this whole thing started with "Day of the Dumpster", so pretty much everyone and everything here is his, or was inspired by something he did.

Author's Note: If you find anything in here similar to someone else's fic, I am not doing it to rip off anything, that's just how things wound up writing themselves, and I apologize.

Gathering Clouds
by: Cynthia

A few faint clouds obscured the panorama of stars over the city of Angel Grove. The two young people who wandered beneath it weren't all that interested in the stars. They were more intrigued by each other. For the first time in months they had a chance to just relax and truly get to know each other on a much more personal level than before.

"Tommy," Kat said quietly, enjoying the feel of his warm hand in hers. She hadn't ever believed that she would be here like this, with him, but now she was. "Are you sure about this?"

The Red Zeo Ranger nodded quietly, squeezing her hand just a little. It was larger than Kim's, the back of his mind noted. Kim's hand, like the rest of her, had been small and compact. Kat's was most definitely a feminine hand, but it was just. ..larger. He realized he liked that. "I want to talk to Kim if I can, but she was right to break up with me," his voice still held a bit of pain, and Kat felt once again the stirring of rage within her soul against her friend. How could Kim do that so cruelly to him? Tommy had been hurt so many times in the past, and then Kim had done it again, tearing at one of the few things he had thought would remain stable in his life: their relationship.

I won't do that to him, she promised herself. I love him, and I'm going to stay by him, no matter what. It was a strange combination of love and loyalty she felt to him, but she knew what she felt was real, and she prayed that what he felt for her was just as real. When they had kissed for the first time, not long after Rita and Zedd had destroyed the Machine Empire, she had wondered in the very back of her thoughts if he were kissing Kimberly in his imagination. In the weeks since then, the way things had progressed, she had begun to believe that he truly loved her, and not the mental image of Kim he had to have in his mind.

"We both should talk to her someday," she said out loud. "But tonight we don't have to dwell on the past. Tonight is the present."

"Tonight is for us," Tommy drew her closer to him and breathed in the deep scent of her hair. "Tonight is forever."

She smiled softly. I wish it were forever, Tommy. I really wish it was. But forever doesn't last. . .forever never does. A soft stab of pain washed into her heart as she remembered another boy who had told her they would be together forever. Tommy didn't notice the single tear that flowed down one cheek, but he did notice when she raised a hand to wipe it away.

"Kat?" he looked down at her. "What's wrong? Did I do something?"

He was rewarded by a smile as bright as the sleeping sun. "No, you didn't do anything. I was just thinking about someone I used to know, before I came to Angel Grove."

Kat was glad he didn't press for details; she didn't quite feel like thinking or talking about Bradley tonight. She leaned against Tommy, pulling his arm tighter about her shoulders, and closed her eyes. All she wanted for tonight was just to be with him, to enjoy the brief moments of peace, and to not think about what had gone before or what might come in the future. She just wanted to be tonight. Not to be the Pink Ranger or a high school student or any of that. She just wanted to be Kat Hillard, Tommy Oliver's girlfriend.

It was the last night for a long time that they would have such peace.

* * *
The room was hidden in what could be termed `pocketspace', a miniature dimensionette completely undetectable by normal means of finding things. It was set up as a throne room, a very hideous, Machine-Empire oriented one, but Mondo the Machine King knew nothing of it. He would have destroyed it if he had. This place was accessible only by a few people or beings. One was the creator: Gasket, Prince of the Machine Empire. Another was his wife Archerina.

A third walked solemnly through it, head down. She was dressed in a Zeo Ranger uniform of deep purple, with her hexagon-marked helmet in her hands. Where most Rangers tended to look happy or at least content most of the time, her face was marked with a sadness and regret that was far, far out of place.

Gasket was sitting on his throne as she came before it, with Archerina beside him. The evil prince looked approvingly at the Ranger as she slowly dropped to one knee before him. She had learned proper respect for him quickly, and he liked that in his servants. Despite what she had been in her past, that was all she was now.

"You summoned me, my lord?" her voice was quiet and firm, betraying none of the anguish she felt at having to be servile to this monster. It could have been worse, she kept reminding herself. He could be Zedd. That would have been a humiliation beyond bearing for her.

"Yes, Purple Ranger," Gasket nodded. "Your training is completed. Not only do you fully understand that I am your master," a sadistic tone filled his voice and she winced the very tiniest bit, more of an automatic reaction than something she thought about, "but you are an accomplished warrior now. It is time for you to make your grand debut."

She kept her head down, looking at the ground, as she nodded. Three months of training and careful conditioning of her responses had altered her a great deal. Though small, she was now filled with more strength and faster reflexes than she had ever been before, and she knew in her soul she would not be able to disobey Gasket even if she tried. Not only did her conditioning see to that, but the original reason she had submitted to him did

The Purple Ranger found her chin being forced up by metallic hands, and she looked into her master's eyes. "We will attack them tomorrow at noon. You are not to fight, you are there only to observe and to be displayed to them. If I decide to alter those orders, you will obey at once. Understood?"

"Yes, master," she would have liked to pull her eyes from him and whisper that, but instead kept her gaze on his and spoke the words clearly and loudly. Gasket's metallic lips moved the tiniest bit, she assumed that was supposed to be a smile.

"Very good, Purple Ranger," he declared, moving back to his throne. He made no indications that she should leave, simply watching her, so she knelt there, unmoving. Gasket liked to see her like this, it reinforced his mastery of her, and stated clearer than words that he ruled her destiny now. With the push of a button on his throne, a viewing screen appeared, and images began to flow across it. "Watch, my Ranger," he ordered silkily. "Watch what you were, and remember who you are now."

Almost like a puppet on a string, her head turned to see. Images of the Power Rangers in their Mighty Morphin days appeared, with one Ranger highly prominent. The Purple Ranger could feel a part of herself screaming in agony to see what she had been. A far larger part, however, the part in command, watched dispassionately, clicking off mistakes made in battle and ways to avoid them. Gasket watched gleefully, enjoying the mental anguish he was causing her. There were just too many ways he could hurt humans, and he loved them all.

* * *
POWER RANGERS! the crackle of Zordon's voice came across the communicators, stopping all five of them in whatever they were doing. Tommy stopped his karate practice, Kat halted her ballet recital, Rocky paused in his lunch, Adam looked up from where he was tutoring Tanya in kung-fu. IT APPEARS THAT GASKET AND ARCHERINA HAVE RETURNED TO EARTH. THE TWO OF THEM, ALONG WITH SOME COGS, ARE CAUSING TROUBLE IN DOWNTOWN ANGEL GROVE.

Tommy groaned, shaking back a flicker of fear and hate at the mention of Gasket's name. "We'll get right on it, Zordon!" he whispered into the communicator. The other four casually walked with him over to their usual area in the Youth Center. Looking as if they were doing nothing more suspicious than going to their lockers for something, once they had made certain that they were unobserved, Tommy made the call. "It's morphin' time!"

Five morphs later, the Red, Blue, Pink, Yellow, and Green Rangers were landing in front of the Prince of the Machine Empire and his troops. "I thought you'd run away forever, Gasket!" Tommy taunted his opponent for a moment.

"You only wish, Red Ranger!" Gasket retorted. "While my family is getting repaired, I'm the one running the show here, and all of you are going out of business!"

"Yeah, right," Adam snorted. "Heard that one before!"

Archerina giggled. "I don't think you've heard it quite like this, Green Ranger!"

"Cogs, attack!" Gasket waved an arm and the troops he commanded poured in around the Rangers. Tommy went straight for the prince himself, while Kat found herself tangling once again with Archerina. The two of them shared a special hatred and rivalry, spawned by the princess's belief that Kat just wasn't good enough for `pink'.

Long minutes droned by as Cogs, Rangers, and sentient robots fought back and forth. Tommy couldn't explain it, but as he traded kicks, punches, and sword-strokes with Gasket, he felt as if someone or something was watching him. And not a very friendly someone either.

"What's your game, Gasket?" he finally grunted, hoping to get some answers out of his foe. It was possible Gasket had a monster stashed somewhere, and he wanted to know about it if he did.

Gasket laughed. "One you're very familiar with, Red Ranger!" he pushed Tommy away with a powerful thrust, and flipped backwards, pulling Archerina and the Cogs with him. "I'd like you all to meet my latest and greatest creation!"

He pointed his sword a short distance away, emitting a blast of energy from it. As the smoke and dust it threw up cleared, the Rangers could see something walking towards them. All of them fell into a fighting stance, expecting to see some form of monster robot attacking. But as the dust finally fell, they stared in disbelief. Tommy, of all of them, felt nauseated. A part of the back of his mind wondered if this was how the first team had felt when he had first arrived. What walked towards them was a nightmare, one he felt was almost taken from his own past.

"A Purple Zeo Ranger?" he heard Tanya say the phrase, and could almost sense what would happen next.

Gasket laughed. "Not just that, Yellow Ranger. An evil Purple Zeo Ranger! Watch out for her. . .she's your worst nightmare!"

The Cogs, the Ranger, and the two leaders vanished then in a gear-shaped portal. Tommy had been transfixed in place ever since he had first seen the Ranger, doing all he could to keep himself under control. One phrase pulsed in his mind.

We are in deep trouble.

* * *
Zordon looked concerned as the Rangers told him what had happened. I HAD THOUGHT THE OTHER SHARDS WERE GONE FOREVER, he said softly, almost to himself. The Rangers glanced at each other in confusion.

"Other shards?" Tommy asked the question. He'd snapped out of his bemusement before they had come to the Power Chamber, though parts of his mind still rocked with the existence of another Ranger. Trey had been enough of a shock, and he had been on their side.


"Where have the other three been?" Adam fought back the desire to ask more, to ask why Zordon hadn't looked for them so that Billy could rejoin them. He reminded himself sharply that it had been Billy's choice to leave the team, that he had decided he was more important elsewhere, and ultimately, it had been his choice to move to Aquitar and be with Cestria.


"So apparently Gasket found out whoever had the Purple one," Tanya stated. "And he's got them under his power."


Tommy glanced up at Zordon; it appeared almost as if his mentor was sad about something. Probably another human being forced to serve evil, he decided. He wasn't all that thrilled over that himself. "So we'd better find out who it is and how Gasket's controlling them," he said out loud. "And the sooner the better."

Rocky nodded as he glanced down at his watch, and paled the tiniest bit. "You're going to have to start without me, though! I'm supposed to meet Keira for a late lunch!"

The subtle overtones of tension in the room relaxed; Rocky wanting to eat and be with his latest girlfriend at the same time was just too commonplace and ordinary for anyone to be tense about it! Tommy broke into a wide grin. "Well, you'd better hurry! You don't want to keep her waiting!"

Adam punched his friend on the shoulder a little. "Yeah, she might decide to find someone with a bigger appetite!"

"Who, a bottomless pit?" Kat grinned. Rocky flushed several different shades of red, then hit the proper button on his communicator, vanishing in a stream of blue. Tommy chuckled to himself a little, then glanced down at his own watch.

"Um, guys," he almost stuttered the words out, and everyone turned to look at him. "Is it my imagination, or is it Tuesday?"

Kat checked the calendar. "Tuesday," she agreed, then went stiff. "Are we in time?"

"I think so," Tommy glanced up at Zordon, who looked almost as disconcerted as they did! "We've got to go pick Kimberly up at the airport in two hours! She's finally come home!"

* * *
Kimberly Hart had been gone from Angel Grove for almost two years now. She had been training for the Pan-Globals for the first year, and after they had ended, with her taking the gold, she had spent another year there, more out of lack of any place to go than anything else. Since she had broken up with Tommy, she hadn't though she would be welcome back home.

Things had changed, though. The boyfriend she'd thought she'd loved enough to break up with a great guy for had turned out to mean less to her than she had imagined. Their break up had been much more vocal than her separation from Tommy, who hadn't even called to talk to her since she had sent him the letter. In the end, she and Winston had simply agreed to go their own ways. That was for the best, they believed.

I should never have sent Tommy the letter, she thought, peering down through the window of the airplane at Angel Grove as it grew closer and closer. I should have made an effort to come back here and talk to him in person. It wouldn't have made a difference when I found out, but at least I'd feel a little better about seeing him again.

She wished she could see inside the terminal as the plane coasted in several minutes later. To know who was waiting for her, if anyone. Her parents wouldn't be, she knew. Her mother was in France, her dad was probably working. She had mailed a letter to Tommy telling him where and when she would be landing, but not asking him to meet her. She wanted to talk things over with him, to settle the scars that both of them had.

We won't be getting back together, though, she knew. She truly had fallen out of romantic love with him, though the friendship they had remained strong and powerful within her. He's dating Kat now. She examined that concept for a moment, wondering if it bothered her. She finally decided that it didn't. When Jason had called her and told her about it, she had been surprised, yes. But only because it hadn't happened sooner. It had been nine months since she had broken up with him before Tommy had even worked up the courage to ask Kat out it seemed. She'd half-convinced herself that the two would be out together before twenty-four hours had passed.

In retrospect, she knew better. Tommy had loved her, perhaps still did in a way. But what they had was over. She took a deep breath as she gathered her things and started to deplane, not looking for anyone she knew. The only one who might possibly be there was Jason, since he had given the Gold powers he'd temporarily cared for back to their proper owner. The others were probably busy. At least there won't be an attack. I hope.

"Kimberly!" her head snapped up at the sound of her name on a female voice, and her eyes widened with unabashed joy to see Jason, Kat, Tommy, Adam, and a strange girl in yellow that she didn't recognize. That must be Tanya, she thought, rushing over to them.

"Guys!" she almost literally threw herself into Jason's arms, as he was the closest person to her, and the two hugged deeply. "I wasn't expecting all of you!"

Jason grinned widely. "Why wouldn't we come? We're your friends!"

"I missed you," she smiled at them all in turn, and paused when she came to Tommy. "I missed all of you," she said. As their eyes met, she realized something intrinsic to her soul, her heart, and every other particle of her being: she was home. No matter the real reason, she was home, and she swore to herself that she would never leave again.

* * *
Kimberly's return to Angel Grove was being observed, naturally, by Gasket and Archerina. The two of them were enjoying the sight to the extremes. "She isn't going to say anything, is she, Gasket?" Archerina wondered.

"No, she won't, my dear," the Machine Prince reassured his wife. "She knows better."

The pink robot nodded briefly, her yellow eyes flashing in the darkness of the throne room. "She knows the penalty if she does reveal our little secret!"

Gasket chuckled, pushing one of the many buttons that decorated the throne. The wall to one side of him slid away to reveal a recessed cell. Two humans were in it, one an Asian girl with long dark hair, one an African-American with dreadlocks. Both wore tattered garments in shades of yellow and black, and threw hate-filled glances at Gasket once they were able to see him.

"You'd better let us out of here, you mechanical nuisance!" the black teenager growled. He would have moved closer to the front of the cell to deliver his demand, if the thick chains around his wrists hadn't kept him against the back wall.

Gasket rose and with Archerina a step behind, walked over to the cell. "Why would I do that?" he taunted. "You're half the equation keeping my Purple Ranger under control!"

The girl looked as if she wanted to spit at their captor, or at least do something defiant. She was just as helpless as her companion was, however. Her voice held no fear when she did speak. "It won't last forever, you know. Plans like this never do."

"Oh, can't we please destroy them, Gasket?" Archerina looked with distaste at them both. "We don't have to tell the Purple Ranger we did it!"

Her husband shook his head. "The conditioning was very specific, as was the bargain. As long as we don't hurt them, then she's our property. If we killed them, I don't know what effect that would have on her."

The two captives exchanged glances, the same thought passing through both their minds. Almost as if they were linked, both shook their heads. It was an interesting concept, but both knew that it was too risky.

"What about after she's destroyed the Rangers?" Archerina whined. She'd always enjoyed practicing her archery on living, moving targets. It was so much more fun than doing it on Cogs or regular bull's eyes. "I really want to play with them!"

Gasket patted her hand. "I'll find you someone else to torment," he promised. "But for now, these two are to remain unharmed. Once my Ranger has taken out the others, then they will be given to you," he paused for a moment, considering. After all, he'd have to decide what to do with his Ranger once the others were disposed of. Well, I suppose I'll need someone in charge of the death squads, he decided.

"I can hardly wait!" Archerina's golden eyes gleamed as she stared at the two captives, who couldn't help but shrink away at the hate in her gaze. Both of them wished they still had their powers; just for the chance to fight back against their captors.

Gasket chuckled suddenly. "Well. . .perhaps unharmed isn't he right word. Unkilled would be better," the cell door swung open. "Just don't damage them too badly, my dear."

Archerina almost danced into the cell, eagerness filling every move she made towards them. Zack Taylor and Trini Kwan would almost given anything to be able to fight back right then. Then again, as Archerina began to lash at them, they realized it might be better if they couldn't.

It meant the torment would be over with that much quicker.

* * *
The reunion of Kim with her friends had left the airport fairly quickly and was now heading down the road in Tommy's jeep. Kim's luggage, what there was of it since she tended to pack light, was in the small trunk, and the rest of them were squeezed into various areas of the vehicle.

"So you're Tanya?" Kim found herself next to the one person she didn't know that well. "Nice to meet you, I'm Kim."

Tanya shook her hand, smiling. "I've heard a lot about you," she said, glancing at the others. Adam did his level best to look innocent, and succeeded admirably. "All of it good."

Kim blushed a little, leaning into the seat behind her. "Adam's told me about you too. Glad to see Aisha made such a good choice in her successor."

There was a faint awkward silence for a few moments. Tanya knew that Kim had been the first Pink Ranger, but it was still a little disconcerting to even faintly refer to Ranger-business with a near-stranger. "So, where are you staying?" she finally asked.

"I hadn't thought about it, actually," Kim's blush deepened, as did a faint spark of anger in the back of her mind. She hadn't exactly been given a lot of time to think things through before returning. "I've got enough money to get a hotel room for a few days while I make some arrangements, I guess," she started to reach for her purse when a delicate hand touched her wrist.

"I think we pinks should stick together," Kat said, smiling. "There's a spare room at my house, and I know my parents won't mind, as long as you don't."

Kim smiled in return. "Thanks, Kat. I really appreciate it."

"Not a problem," the Pink Zeo Ranger shrugged briefly. "To my house, Tommy!" she giggled for a moment. Tommy glanced over at them, mock indignation on his face.

"Am I just a chauffeur?" he tried to sound annoyed, but failed as too much merriment came through. He and Kim hadn't really looked at each other since she had arrived, though she had hugged him just as enthusiastically as she had the others. The hug had been different from all the rest they had shared during their time together, more reserved, but somehow proper at the same time. It felt more right.

Kim giggled. "Of course, why else would we keep you around?" she glanced around the jeep suddenly, trying to figure out who was missing. She knew Billy had went to Aquitar, but where was Rocky?

"He's off with his latest girlfriend," Adam told her when she asked. "He would've come to pick you up with us, but they've been rather involved lately."

Kim chuckled; Rocky had dated off and on for as long as she'd known him, this wasn't a real surprise. She did feel a tiny bit insulted that he hadn't brought his girlfriend to meet her, though. Then again, I haven't seen him in about two years now, and he's probably in that first delicate stage of a relationship. I'll scream at him later about it.

The faint prickle in her mind told her she'd be doing something a lot worse than screaming at him, and she almost winced. For my friends, she reminded herself. Always for them.

* * *
Once the Rangers had left, the Power Chamber seemed darker and smaller than it ever had. Both Alpha and Zordon looked at each for long moments, neither saying anything. A little fluid leaked out of Alpha's optic centers, what would have been tears if he were human. In his timewarp, Zordon could feel the wetness on his own cheeks.

"They're coming back," Alpha's voice was quieter than any had heard it in years. "You know it, Zordon."


The robot nodded. The two of them had known once the main part of the Zeo Crystal was united, the others would be drawn to it. That was how Trey had found them, and the rest of the crystal. ..what was left of it...would also be coming.

"Do you think. come too?" Alpha asked after several silent moments. Zordon didn't say anything for a few moments, and Alpha almost re-asked the question, thinking that the old wizard hadn't heard him.


Alpha nodded, and a little more fluid leaked out. He took an internal check, making certain all of his systems worked right, then looked back up at Zordon. "We should contact Trey and let him know about this Purple Zeo Ranger."

I AGREE, Zordon collected himself as much as he could, then started the transmission to Triforia. After all these eons. have them all back again. . .he couldn't stop the shudder that went through him. To have the entire Zeo Crystal back again was either a dream or a nightmare, he wasn't certain which.

"This is Trey of Triforia," the call was responded to quickly. The Gold Ranger appeared on the Viewing Globe, and Zordon spoke at once.

TREY, YOU ARE AWARE OF THE LEGENDS OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL, CORRECT? On Triforia, the tale of the first ever Zeo Rangers had always been passed down from one generation to the next.

The current holder of the Gold powers nodded. "Why do you ask?" he looked surprised for a moment. "Have the other shards returned?"

"One has!" Alpha exclaimed. "But Gasket is controlling the owner of it!"

Zordon explained the situation to Trey, who nodded quietly. "I understand, Zordon. I will be arriving shortly."

ARE YOU CERTAIN, TREY? Zordon's question seemed innocent, but they both knew the meaning of it. The permanent presence of seven shards of the Zeo Crystal would draw the other holders like a magnet. Without even knowing why, they would find themselves coming to Angel Grove, and something would activate the crystals they carried. They could be anything. ..with anyone. ..only when they are activated will they be shown for what they are. Only then will it be whole. whole as it can be.

"Yes," Trey nodded quietly. "And if we are lucky, then---" he stopped before finishing the sentence, as all those who knew the tale did. Zordon only nodded quietly. No one would ever speak of that last one. It had been a custom for eons.

A column of gold and black light lit up the Power Chamber for a moment, and then Trey stood there. "Pyramidus will be arriving shortly, he replied. "When would be a good time to inform the Zeo Rangers of my return?"

THEY ARE CURRENTLY AIDING A FORMER RANGER IN MOVING BACK TO ANGEL GROVE. ONCE THEY HAVE DONE THAT, THEN I WILL SUMMON THEM ALL HERE, Zordon decided. Trey nodded, then both he and Alpha started to scan for any indication of who the other crystalbearers might be.

* * *
"Where are all your clothes, Kim?!" Kat stared at the two small bags that were all her friend had brought with her. "I thought you left with a lot more than this!"

"Well, I didn't really need them all," Kim muttered, putting away the last few things in the dresser. Despite the extremely short notice, Mr. and Mrs. Hillard hadn't objected at all to Kim moving in with them; they remembered how close Kim and Kat had been when they had first moved to Angel Grove, and for the chance to get to know her better, they were willing to risk quite a bit.

Kat stared at her friend. This was not like Kim at all. "What did they do to you in Florida?" she murmured, half to herself and half to Kim.

"Nothing," a smile spread across Kim's face. "They just didn't have any good malls there, and I wanted a chance to restock!"

The Pink Ranger grinned, now that was more like the Kimberly she knew and claimed as a friend! "When should we arrange the shopping trip? This afternoon, or were you thinking more about setting aside a week or so for it?"

Kim thought for a moment, then shook her head. "Tomorrow should be good," was her serious reply. Kat felt again a trickle of unease. Something wasn't right here. Normally Kim should have responded with a jibe of her own about how a week wouldn't be enough, or at least giggled. ..not a serious, thought-out reply. Then again, it's been a while. She has changed. Kat wasn't quite certain just what to think...

"We'll make a trip of it!" Tanya grinned; it was Friday afternoon, which meant they would have a whole weekend before Kim would be going back to school with them. She'd already had things set up so that she would be re-inrolled already, she'd told them. This was going to be somewhat interesting. Tanya was looking forward to getting to know her new friend even better.

"Yeah!" Kat kept her eyes on Kim the whole time, and noticed something. Kim's eyes had always been lively and full of laughter when she had known her before. Now, while still being lively, they seemed also to have a faint hint of steel in the back of them.

Her thoughts were interrupted when the rest of the team wandered in, having been sidetracked by Kat's mother's dinner preparations. The parents of the various teammembers had grown used over the years to the fact that five, six, or even seven hungry teenagers might drop by at any point in time, and decimate food supplies. If Rocky was among them, it was best just to back away and let him at the food. It was safer in the long run.

She was about to suggest the shopping trip to the others, when something caught her eye. It hung around Jason's neck, looking like a pure white quartz crystal. For some unutterable reason, she suffered a flashback to when she had received her Zeo Crystal. That's ridiculous, she berated herself. Why would Jason have borrowed the Gold Zeo powers if he had one of his own? It's just a crystal. "That's pretty!" she declared instead, gesturing to the necklace that hung on a black cord. "Where did you get that?"

Jason shrugged. "Family heirloom. My dad gave it to me the other day, said his dad gave it to him, and so forth. No one can remember when it first got into the family, apparently."

Kim felt a chill in her heart, and clenched her fist for a moment. Please, no, she whispered in her mind. Don't let him know. ..

She almost flinched when a familiar beep sounded, and worried expressions spread all over the various teammembers. Zordon's voice came over Tommy's communicator. RANGERS, PLEASE REPORT TO THE POWER CHAMBER, he said. BRING JASON AND KIMBERLY WITH YOU, IF POSSIBLE, THERE IS MUCH THAT NEEDS DISCUSSING.

No one was looking at Kimberly so no one saw the blood drain out of her face for a moment. She shook her head quickly, leaning over to get to Tommy's communicator. "I can't, Zordon. I've got to finish getting my stuff set up here, then I want to get to know Angel Grove again. Unless it's an emergency. . ."


Not long enough, she thought wretchedly as the others made their way out the door, bidding her farewell. She sighed for a moment as the door shut behind them, and leaned back on the bed. From under her blouse she pulled a cord similar to the one Jason had been wearing, and looked at the amethyst crystal on the end of it. For one moment, she hated it and all that it now meant to her.

* * *
"Trini?" Zack's voice was low and almost weak as he raised his head. Archerina had finally let them be, and the two captives were alone in the cell. She had pulled the wall that kept them hidden from the throne room most of the time back, leaving them with just each other to talk to. Both of them were trembling with exhaustion and pain, though not a single mark showed on their skins. The energy whip that was Archerina's weapon of choice for torment left no physical marks, though they could and did feel the physical pain.

His companion's eyelids fluttered briefly. "Zack? How are you feeling?"

"Like I got the skin torn off my back," he groaned, shifting a little in his chains. Trini took several deep breaths, glancing around. They had slowly gotten used to this sort of treatment, though Archerina had never done it before. Generally Gasket would torment them for an hour or so a day, or let a favored Cog or other servant do it. He hadn't asked the Purple Ranger to, though, for which they were all three grateful. It was bad enough that she was being forced to submit to him just by virtue of their being captive. If she had to torture them, both of them knew the small part of her soul that was still free would vanish entirely.

Trini groaned, closing her eyes. "Do you think the others even know we're gone yet?"

"Probably not," Zack replied. "Gasket set up those puppets when he took us, remember?"

The former Yellow Ranger nodded, remembering how Gasket had done it. They'd been in Switzerland, enjoying some fresh air and sunshine after a long day of homework and meetings. A strange, bluish cog-shaped portal had appeared in front of them, disgorging several odd metallic creatures. Trini had vaguely recognized them as Cogs from the description Jason had given them in a guarded letter, and the two of them had started to run back to the dorms. Before they could get another two steps however, two other creatures had appeared in front of them. Gasket and Archerina.

The capture had taken only moments, and when Zack had declared that they would be missed, the Machine Prince played his trump card: identical robot duplicates of the two of them. Completely programmed to be exactly like them, and completely unaware that they were robots and that they had been made by Gasket. Held by the Cogs, the real Zack and Trini were teleported away, and the robots activated by Gasket's remote control. They had slid smoothly into their lives, with no one in Switzerland knowing the difference.

Zack and Trini had been shown their doubles' success frequently. They knew that while Gasket was just using them to control the Purple Ranger, he wouldn't lose the opportunity to casually torment them. Only his promise to their friend made him keep them alive. ..but as they tried to recover from Archerina's torment, both began to wonder if just maybe it wasn't worth staying alive. At least if they were gone. ..she would be free. Freedom meant everything to a Power Ranger.

* * *
"Trey!?" the surprise sounded loud and clear in every voice as the Rangers reappeared in the Power Chamber. They had almost expected there to be another attack, something by the Purple Ranger, but they had not expected to see their old ally there.

The Lord of Triforia smiled deeply, something they had seldom seen. "It is good to see you all again," he said. "I have had a discussion with Zordon, and due to the coming together of the Zeo fragments, I will be remaining on Earth indefinitely."

The Earth teenagers glanced at each other for a few seconds. "Only one other has shown up so far," Jason said; he'd been filled in on everything while they had been waiting for Kimberly's plane to arrive. "And it's not exactly on our side."

"We are going to change that, though," the Gold Ranger said firmly. "It might take us some time, and we must discover who they are as well, but we will do it. But with seven pieces already here, the others will be awakening soon."

Rocky, who had arrived with the others also having heard Zordon's signal, frowned darkly for a moment. "Awakening?"


Everyone went very still. The shock that filled the air was palpable. "Another Ranger?" Tommy breathed the phrase out. "Who? Where?"

In a gesture that was probably somewhat overdone, a white light similar to the one Tommy had emerged from when he had been revealed as the White Ranger shone suddenly downward: on Jason.

"What!?" the former Gold Ranger stared, not believing his eyes. "Me!?"

Trey stepped forward, reaching calmly out to pull the crystal on the cord around Jason's neck outward. "Yes, you, Jason. It appears that there were two reasons you could not remain the Gold Ranger. The first was that the powers, not being suitable for a human, were draining your life-force, as we said. The second was that the longer you carried the Gold power, the closer to awakening your own White Ranger crystal you came. It was carried by your father, wasn't it?"

Jason nodded slowly. "He gave it to me a couple of days ago."

"The crystals come to the ones who are most capable of using them when it is time. Your body has now fully recovered from the use and the loss of the Gold Ranger powers, and is ready to assume it's rightful place as the White Zeo Ranger."

Something began to stir deep inside of Jason, and his hands slowly reached up to touch the White Crystal around his neck. A blinding flash of light rocked everyone back, and when they could see again. . .

The uniform was every bit as brilliant as the one Tommy had worn in the old days. It had the exact style of a Zeo Ranger uniform, and the helmet design was that of an eight pointed star. Ranged on the belt were several things like shuriken. The White Zeo Ranger pulled off his helmet, his eyes sparkling with joy just as everyone else's were.

"I'm back."

* * *
The park hadn't changed. She doubted it ever would. All her life growing up in Angel Grove, the park had remained the same. Pristine, unspoiled, deep, wild in some areas, and flawlessly beautiful. She loved it.

How long will it stay this way? she wondered, biting her lip. She was deliberately walking in some of the farther reaches of the area, trying not to be seen. It wasn't that she was ashamed of being home, she just didn't feel like answering questions, and right now, she didn't want to risk being summoned where others could see her.

"Having a nice walk, my dear?" Kim wasn't surprised to look up and see Gasket in front of her. The moment her ears heard him and her eyes saw him, a strange sort of shifting took place as her conditioning won over her common sense. She dropped to one knee automatically, bowing her head.

"I am, master," she heard herself speaking, and cursed herself once again. Gasket had shown up one day while she was in Florida, and had bluntly told her either she served him or two of her oldest friends would be Cog practice dummies. She hadn't believed he had them: until he'd taken her to his dimensional stronghold and proven it. She hadn't known what he wanted of her, until he had told her that the amethyst necklace her grandmother had given her on her last birthday was in fact one of the Lost Zeo Crystals: the Purple Crystal. She hadn't wanted to believe that. . .until she had morphed.

From then on, things had crashed around her with blinding rapidity. Her spare time was split evenly between training with his Cogs to become a better warrior {he wanted no gymnasts, he wanted someone who could fight and fight well} and going through a conditioning process to implant a secondary personality in her mind, one that was totally bound to Gasket. Her real self was aware at all times of what she was doing, but when her conditioned self took over, she could do nothing but what she was ordered to do.

"Excellent," Gasket motioned for her to rise and she stood almost at attention. "You've done well so far in maintaining your secrecy, but it isn't an absolute requirement. It's at your discretion, but should you choose to reveal who you are to the Rangers, you are expressly forbidden to tell them who I have in my dungeons. Is that understood?"

"As you wish, master," the words tumbled automatically out of her, and she kept her eyes downcast. It had been drilled into her repeatedly that she wasn't worth looking at her master unless he wanted it so. "With your approval, I will keep my secret, however. I. not believe I could be as effective for you if I am known to them."

Gasket chuckled. "Of course, of course," he knew the real reason. She didn't think she could look them in the face if they knew she was the enemy. It didn't matter, her secrecy or lack of it wasn't that important to him. In a manner reminiscent of a human petting their dog, his metallic fingers ran through her brown hair, and he laughed. "We're going to be attacking again soon," he told her. "A very serious attack. I want the Rangers to hurt from this one, is that understood, Purple Ranger?"

Kim bowed her head lower than ever. "As you command, my master. As you command."

He laughed even harder as a crystalline tear flowed down one cheek, then knocked it away. "No weakness, my Ranger. I permit none. You will have to pay for this."

A snap of his fingers called forth a dozen Cogs. "Fight them," he said succinctly. "Now. Unmorphed."

The Purple Ranger sighed for a moment, setting herself, then whirled into the attack. She didn't even think about refusing. How could a slave refuse her master?

* * *
Everyone was gathering around Jason and murmuring over the strength and power of the newest Ranger. Jason himself was feeling somewhat overwhelmed by it all. "I'd just gotten used to not being a Ranger again," he murmured, demorphing and sitting down in the chair Alpha provided for him. "And now, I'm back."


"And now we've only got one more to find," Adam said. "I wonder who the Silver Ranger is."

Tommy shrugged, wondering in the back of his mind why Kim hadn't come with them. It just wasn't like her to act like this, and he was beginning to think that something was very wrong with her. "How did you find out Jason had the White Crystal, Zordon?"


Zordon was interrupted a few seconds after he had stopped speaking by the shrill call of the alarms. Tommy went absolutely white when he turned to the Viewing Globe, expecting to see Cogs, possibly the Purple Ranger, who knew what else.

He saw Cogs. He saw Kimberly. He saw Kimberly fighting the Cogs, with a deadly skill he had no idea that she had ever possessed. Just beyond the ring of the metal creatures was Gasket, watching and laughing as the tiny girl fought hard.

"We'd better get there," he said, flipping his wrists to summon his Zeonizers. He glanced over to Jason and Trey. "Are you guys coming or are you just going to stand there and look pretty?" he couldn't help the light barb, but the chance to test out the seven-member team was something he couldn't resist.

The White and Gold Rangers both chuckled. "Let's do it," Jason was looking forward to fighting beside Trey for the first time ever. Tommy smiled, then all of them fell into perfect position.

"It's morphin' time!"

"Zeo Ranger I, Pink!"

"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!"

"Zeo Ranger III, Blue!"

"Zeo Ranger IV, Green!"

"Zeo Ranger V, Red!"

"Gold Ranger Power!"

"White Ranger Power!"

Zordon felt a strong pang in his heart as the seven Rangers morphed out of the Power Chamber. Something truly amazing was happening here, and they didn't even know it. The past returns, he thought, and destiny draws them together.

Unaware of his thoughts, the Rangers landed fighting, kicking the Cogs as far away from Kimberly as they could, doing everything they could to protect her. For a moment, Tommy caught a glimpse of total anger on her face, then it was replaced by her normal expression, so swiftly he was convinced that he'd imagined it all in the first place.

Gasket met Kim's eyes quickly and unnoticed by everyone else. She heard his command in her mind, and nodded briefly. I will come to you again. Await my presence farther down this path, and be alone. Or you know the price.

"Another time, Rangers!" he growled aloud, then vanished along with the others. Kim quickly looked tired and relieved, feeling her normal self returning with the leaving of Gasket. She counted Rangers almost automatically, and her heart practically stopped when she saw two she didn't know.

"Um...hi?" she said experimentally. "And thanks."

* * *
Once again Gasket was perched on his throne, with Archerina only a step away from him. He wasn't all that upset by the Rangers interfering in Kimberly's fight with the Cogs; it gave her a bit of credibility. They wouldn't be so eager to believe she was against them now that they had seen that, and the strain of keeping the secret, of wondering just how much they had seen before coming would be very sweet to watch on his Ranger. Despite having almost total control over her, it was still amusing to him to do things to her that tested her self-control and his domination over her.

"How serious shall the attack be, my dear?" Archerina asked, settling herself on his lap and gazing into his eyes. "You haven't told me anything, you know!" she pouted just a little at that.

Gasket flicked a switch, and a viewscreen appeared over both their heads. It showed several dozen Cogs, plus the Purple Ranger, and one of Mondo's old monsters, Starroid. During Gasket's temporary sojourn on the Skybase, he'd stolen almost fifty monsters from Mondo's storage facilities. The Machine King tended to save the scraps from his defeated tools, and Gasket was more than capable of fixing them up and improving them. Starroid now boasted far more destructive capabilities than ever before, and was at the least twice as physically strong.

"I'm certain you noticed that there are seven on their side now," he stated. "I'm taking no chances in this fight. I don't really expect us to wipe them all out in one shot. That would be something like my father would plan," Gasket snorted at that, then continued. "Instead, this will see how strong they are and how used to working together as a team they can get in a short period of time. The Cogs will keep most of them occupied, while Starroid and the Purple Ranger take on the Red Ranger together."

"Why him in particular?" Archerina wondered. "Just because they used to date?"

Gasket shook his head. "Not exactly. She will know his weaknesses and strengths better than most of my warriors would because of their previous association, and that will make a lot of the difference. Also, he is their leader. If he is taken out, then there is no one with enough experience and skill to take command. They'll quite simply fall apart!"

Archerina giggled wickedly, her fingers stroking against Gasket's metallic throat. Though they didn't have emotions or nerves in the human sense, they were sensitive to things such as touch, and there was a peculiar form of eroticism in the way they touched one another. "Oh, you are so smart, Gasket!" she declared.

"I know, I know," he laughed, wrapping an arm around her and hugging her close to him. "I really should look into finding out where Mother and Father are getting repaired at. . .and destroy them! I am the rightful heir to the Machine Empire, and it's past time that they gave me my due!"

Archerina wasn't very interested in hearing her husband blather about how he was supposed to be the Machine King, and as he started to drone on, she reflected that that was the only thing about him that she couldn't really stand. Oh, she made the proper noises, and she was just as committed to having him become King {since that would mean she would be Queen}, but having heard him say that over and over for the last several centuries was starting to wear on her metallic nerves just a little.

* * *
The Rangers and Kim stared at each other for a few moments, and Kim prayed with all her free soul, what there was of it, that they hadn't seen her actually talking with Gasket. The last thing she wanted to do was have to explain to them what was going on. And she knew if they confronted her, the conditioned mind would take over and she would speak only to them as Gasket's Purple Ranger.

"Are you all right?" Tommy asked the question, and she nodded. "What happened?"

A lie, gotta think up a lie, and hope they believe me, she thought quickly. "After I got everything put away at Kat's place, I went out for a walk. They jumped me out of nowhere, I was doing my best against them."

"I am very impressed with your best, my lady," Trey was who had spoken, and as she looked at him, she felt her heart skip a beat suddenly. She had never before seen the Gold Ranger unmorphed, and she had most definitely not expected him to be that good looking. The tattoo across one eye was unusual, but she remembered one of Jason's letters describing his predecessor, and knew that it was part of Trey's cultural heritage. She liked it.

"Kim Hart," she introduced herself with a catch in her breath, and Trey remembered how to shake hands from his observations of human culture. With a smile on both sides the two of them shook.

Tommy couldn't stop himself from grinning; he more than recognized the slightly goofy grin on Trey's face as he gazed into Kim's warm eyes. Kim didn't look that much better herself. Both of them had the look that they all knew as `first crush face' on. I think they like each other! Who would have thought. . .

Kim pulled her eyes away from Trey for a moment, to look at Jason. "Jason? I didn't know you were a Ranger. . .again."

"Just got signed back up," he chuckled. "You really should talk with Zordon, maybe you've got one of the Lost Crystals too!"

She almost flinched at that, and shook her head, doing her best to look noncommittal and unhurried. "I doubt it. Besides, I was thinking more of practicing my music than Rangering." The acidity of the lie made her wince, and she actually managed to forget about how handsome Trey looked in the face of the lie she was speaking.

Tanya brightened up. "You play music?" Kat looked almost as surprised, though she wasn't as talented as Tanya was, she had some skill with it.

"Yeah, guitar," Kim shrugged. "Why do you ask?"

Kat chuckled a little as the Pink and Yellow Rangers came over to Kim, and she slung an arm around her friend. "Girl, we've got quite a lot to discuss."

Kim smiled just the smallest bit. "Maybe later. I've got some things I want to think about, and I think I should alone."

Tommy nodded, he had been wanting to ask her about the letter and so much more. She's only been in town a few hours. Give her some time, he reminded himself harshly. "Take this," he handed her the red communicator he was wearing. "If they show up again, you can call us."

She almost laughed at the incongruity of it, the Purple Ranger wearing the communicator of the Red. The evil Ranger wearing the communicator of the leader of the good Rangers. This is got to be one of the strangest days of my life.

"Thanks," she said aloud. "Tommy, we do need to talk. . .when would be good for you?"

His eyes widened just a bit. "I. ..I guess whenever is good for you."

Kim nodded and started through the ring of Rangers, which parted for her. She turned around at the touch of a hand on her shoulder, and looked up to see Trey looking at her. "Until we meet again, Kimberly," he said, and she felt a flutter in her heart. It took iron self-control to only nod and turn away to continue her walk.

* * *
Emily Maddison was almost skipping through the park. She had never felt happier in her entire life. She had a wonderful boyfriend in Jason Lee Scott, she had left behind her punk friends, and she had an excellent job with Ernie. Things were absolutely wonderful.

Things were also a bit weird, as she noticed when she saw a cog shaped portal go flying through the air and land not that far away from her, on the other side of a batch of trees. She told herself that she should keep going and not pay any attention to it, that sort of thing only caused trouble and she should avoid trouble.

Of course, even as she told herself that, she was walking quietly and carefully over to the treeline and peering through it with far more care than she'd ever done anything in her life. Jason had been giving her a few lessons in self-defense, and she knew a few things already from her days hanging around with Eddie. Combining that, she was able to squirm through the trees and see what the portal had deposited.

Gasket! The robot was familiar to her, vaguely. During his attacks on Earth, she had seen him from a distance a couple of times, though thankfully he'd never seen her. She watched as the robot prince stood there, surrounded by a few Cogs, which seemed more of an honor guard than anything else.

She remained silent, hoping that they couldn't hear her, then turned her head slowly as the sound of footsteps came closer. Emily's jaw almost hit the ground in shock as she saw who it was. She'd never before seen her in person, but she had seen a picture of her in Jason's house before, and remembered him saying something about his friend Kimberly coming back to Angel Grove that day. That was why she wasn't with him; he was spending the day with his friends.

Emily expected Kim to shriek and run at the sight of the Cogs, possibly even fight them if she were strong enough, which she didn't seem to be really. She did not expect to see the young girl drop to one knee in front of Gasket and say in a voice just barely audible, "I am here, master."

"Excellent," Gasket nodded his approval, and Emily concentrated on just listening, on nothing but that, on her entire body acting as a gigantic ear to hear with. "The battle that I told you of is to begin shortly, as soon we are finished here, actually. You and my creation Starroid are going to attack the Rangers and do as much damage as you can, as per my previous orders. The Cogs will handle the other Rangers, but you and Starroid are to attack the Red Ranger personally."

Kim's impassive mask faltered a little, and Gasket found himself almost hoping that she tried to deny the order. There was a little something she didn't know. . .

The calm, ordered face returned, and she spoke. "As you command, master. Do you wish him killed?"

Emily's jaw did the ground this time. Kim was evil. . .Kim worked for Gasket. . .Kim was wanting to know if she should kill another living being. ..Emily felt nauseated.

Gasket shook his head. "I doubt you could get through his armor. It doesn't matter, really. I just want him severely damaged, physically as much as possible, emotionally and mentally with whatever weapons you can use. Feel free to lie, but you know your restrictions."

Kim nodded, bowing her head. "Your will rules, my lord."

Gasket nodded, gesturing and vanishing in another portal, which deposited several more Cogs and Starroid in front of her. Kim glanced calmly at them, then flicked her wrists. Two things Emily couldn't quite see appeared, and she clearly heard Kim calling out, "It's morphin' time! Purple Ranger Power!"

In a flash, the Purple Zeo Ranger stood there. Then another portal swept down, carrying them all away to places unknown.

* * *
Trey had never before been part of a circle of friends, especially not one who considered it their sworn duty to investigate every last aspect of his life in exhausting detail.

But all of a sudden, because of a casual exchange of glances and a few words, the six others were all looking at him with giggling expressions and teasing voices.

"Have you ever had a girlfriend before, Trey?" Kat asked, and wasn't surprised when he shook his head. "Well, you could get one now without a lot of problems!"

The Gold Ranger blinked a little, trying to figure out what they were talking about. "We just talked. ..not even exchanging a dozen words!"

"That's just a first conversation," Rocky waved a hand in dismissal. "It's all the rest that are important. Be honest, Trey, you think she's cute, don't you?"

Trey blushed, something he'd almost never done before in his life. "I. ..yes, she is," he admitted swiftly and silently. "She is very beautiful."

Tommy smiled a little. "That she is. I think you two should talk some," Preferably after I talk with her, but that's just me. Who knows what the courtship rituals are on Triforia.

Trey smiled, thinking about the tiny sparkling beauty that had almost literally wandered into his life and heart in the space of a moment. Mother and Father would like her, he thought. They've been wanting me to get married, but there haven't been any suitable candidates for years. I wonder if. ..

He shrugged a little to himself as they started back towards the Youth Center. This would be his first real immersion in Earth culture, and he wasn't quite certain how to take it. He believed his friends wouldn't push him into anything he couldn't handle, though. I think I'm going to like hanging out with them, he was proud of himself for remembering the slang words even in his thoughts.

Tommy almost hummed to himself as he walked hand in hand with Kat. Except for this suddenly looming threat of the Purple Ranger, things looked absolutely wonderful. Jason, his best friend, was back on the team, and this time there was no danger of him losing his powers. It looked as if Trey and Kim could quite probably be on the way to at least a good friendship, though he knew basing a theory like that on just a short conversation wasn't good thinking. Kim herself was home.

The only thing that would make it perfect would be if everyone else was back here, he thought. He knew they were all happy where they were though. Trini and Zack were doing great good for the world at the Peace Conference, Aisha was doing her best to cure the plague in Africa, and Billy was deliriously happy on Aquitar with Cestria.

They were only a few feet from the entryway to the Youth Center when a sound they had heard all too often that day sounded. Tommy said a word that impressed Trey, who had heard the vulgarity of twelve different solar systems and two hundred and forty-three different species, then lifted his wrist. "Tommy here, Zordon."


Tommy sighed. When were they not needed? He stepped back and checked for company. As was usual, they were unnoticed, and he wondered if there was some cosmic rule that said they would be unobserved nine out of ten times they teleported, no matter how exposed the area was. Worry later, fight now, the warrior part of his mind said. Once again that day he said the words. "It's morphin' time!"

* * *
It looked like any other battlefield at the moment. The forces of good on one side, seven Rangers lined up in a row, with one of them having a racing heartbeat at the thought of being in true combat once again, this time alongside the Gold Ranger instead of as the Gold Ranger. The forces of evil on the other side, with a Purple Ranger gazing at them with a cold mien that leaked even through her armor and helmet, along with Starroid and a slew of Cogs that looked ready to tear into the Rangers just because of the fact they were Rangers.

"You don't have to do this, Purple Ranger!" Tommy shouted to the opponent on the other side of the field. "We know Gasket's controlling you, he has to be!"

The evil Ranger's response was calm. "My reasons for doing this are not your concern, be it mind control or otherwise. All that you need to know is that I am your enemy, and will be until time's end. Cogs, attack them! But leave the Red Ranger for Starroid and myself!"

Tommy barely had time to register what she'd just said before the Cogs were almost literally sailing by him, and the Purple Ranger and the monster were heading directly for him. Two opponents. One me. I hate odds like this.

That was about all he had time to think before he was the recipient of a very powerful punch from Purple Ranger and an equally strong kick that emanated from Starroid. Thanks to his powers all the combined attack did was just send him staggering back a few feet as he caught his balance.

"Is that the best you can do?" he growled, leaping forward and slamming both of them in the respective stomachs. "If you're going to be fighting us, you're going to have to learn to do a lot better than that!"

Purple Ranger ducked to one side as he swung a fist at her, then slammed one of her own into the meaty part of his thigh, glad for the armor that covered her fist as she did so. Tommy winced, knowing if her aim had been a little bit different, he would probably have been out of the fight for at least a couple of seconds, if not longer. And in their fights, sometimes a couple of seconds was all it could take.

I wonder if she missed on purpose, he pulled out the Zeo V sword as he leaped high up over both of them and prepared to slam it down on Starroid. The creature aimed a laser blast at him, firing as he rose up, and the Red Ranger almost laughed, deflecting them quickly.

"You missed!" he grinned, landing in just the right pattern to slam the blade into Starroid's stomach and jerk upward hard. He would never have used this technique on a human or any other living creature, but machines were a little different. Without Klank and Orbus to cause the creatures to grow, as Starroid blew up behind him, Tommy knew the thing was gone, and whirled at once to take on the Purple Ranger, whom he expected to be right behind him.

He found her laying on her side on the battlefield, little wisps of smoke rising up from her, and evidence of laser blasts on her armor. "Oh, my god," he whispered. "When I deflected Starroid's blasts, they must have hit her. If even the deflected ones were enough to knock her out. ..." he didn't want to think of what they could have done if they'd hit at full strength.

"Tommy," he heard Trey behind him and glanced up to the helmeted gaze of the Gold Ranger. The Cogs had all vanished, probably beaten to a metallic pulp by the others. "Is she alive?"

He nodded. "Unconscious it looks like. Think we should take her to the Power Chamber?"

"It might be a good idea," Trey nodded. "Perhaps from there we can find out why she works for Gasket."

Tommy touched his communicator. "Zordon, we're coming in, and we've got the Purple Ranger, she's hurt. Think you can set up some kind of forcefield when we get there?"


I doubt it, Tommy thought as he picked Purple Ranger up. I sincerely doubt it.

* * *
Gasket's eyes were flaring more colors than Archerina had ever seen them in all their centuries together. She knew what was wrong, too, and she didn't like it any more than he did.

"How could that fool have been so stupid as to get caught in the blasts?" the prince muttered, stomping up and down in his throne room in the finest evil villain fashion. "I thought she was smarter than that!"

"Not even the greatest of warriors can predict where stray shots will go," Archerina pointed out, trying to be logical in hopes he wouldn't start blasting at things himself. The far wall already bore the marks of his attack on it.

Gasket gestured briefly, bringing up the replay of the fight. Just as Tommy was about to slash through Starroid, the lasers bounced off his sword and ricocheted in all directions. Three of them almost magically converged on the Purple Ranger, knocking her flat on the ground. Gasket would have sent a portal to teleport her back, but something about the presence of so many Zeo Crystals in the same area was blocking him. He'd have to figure a way around it, he grumpily thought.

"They won't keep her, I think," Gasket said after watching the replay several times. "Keeping her against her will if she's not under a spell violates all manner of their rules. The most they'll do is find out who she really is, and that won't be that much of a problem, really."

Archerina chuckled, then a thought occurred to her. "What about the prisoners?"

"She shouldn't tell about them," Gasket mused. "But just in case. ..," he flipped up the wall that concealed their prisoners and almost marched over to glare at them. "Wake up in there!" the two had been keeping very irregular hours lately, due to the lack of sunlight and other external time regulators, and had been asleep. As their eyes came open, he glared even more harshly. "Thanks to your friend's idiocy as being captured by the Power Rangers, I'm going to be moving you two. I don't think she'll tell about my having you here, but if they can extract the information from her mind in some way that doesn't violate their rules, I don't want them getting you out of here!"

With a snap of his fingers, a dozen Cogs appeared behind him, and he gestured for Archerina to open up the cell with another of the controls on the throne. As the door slid open, he gestured this time for the Cogs to precede him in, and stood guard on the door himself. They weren't as tough as they might have back in their Ranger days, but there was no need to get careless.

His precautions, though well founded, were unnecessary. Neither Zack nor Trini had the strength to do any fighting against the weakest of Putties, much less the Cogs they were currently being held by. Gasket already knew a place where he could keep them, a place that not even his Ranger could find. And when she gets back, she's going to wish that Cogs were all she had to face if she's double-crossed me!

* * *
Everyone was watching as Tommy carefully placed the still-morphed Purple Ranger on the medical table in the Power Chamber. The devices were more than capable of examining her through the armor, but they all wanted to know who it was that was fighting against them.

"Should we take it off, Zordon?" asking their mentor was ingrained in them all, though. It wasn't like it had been with Trey when he had been injured; he had already proven himself a valuable friend and ally, and not revealing his identity had been a gesture of respect and trust. This was different.

ALPHA, WHAT DO THE SCANS SAY ABOUT HER? Zordon asked instead. Alpha checked through the results, and every last one of them could have sworn he was on the verge of fainting in shock. ALPHA?

"Ay-yi-yi," the robot shook his head. "She's going to be all right, she's just suffering from a bit of shock."

"There's something else, isn't there, Alpha?" Adam asked quietly. "Something you're not telling us."

Alpha looked as if he were about to say something, though it was hard to tell when he didn't have anything they could really identify as a mouth. Trey's gasp broke it off, however, jerking their attention first to the Triforian, then to where he was staring.

The Purple Ranger's armor was melting away. They all knew by now they could remain morphed for a certain amount of time while unconscious, but after that, they would automatically demorph. Billy had once called it `automatic safety device', something so if they were knocked out in combat, they wouldn't have to worry about someone removing a helmet to find out who they were. All anyone who didn't already know who you were would find would be a normal human passed out, and if your enemies had you, then you were already in deep manure to start with.

Trey felt as if someone had punched him in the guts as the last bit of the protective covering vanished, and the Purple Ranger lay unmorphed before them, clad only in the purple blouse and jeans she'd been wearing when they had last seen her. Her eyes were still shut, giving a measure of peace to her face, and her hair lay in artless disarray about her shoulders.

If Trey was shocked, the Rangers were paralyzed, and Tommy himself was sickened. Almost as if he hoped she would change into someone else, he walked towards her, hand held out and trembling. "K. . .Kimberly?"