Thick shadows surrounded her, to the point where she couldn't see anything. No noise touched her ears either. Every one of her senses were useless, she thought she had screamed at some point, but she wasn't certain. She wasn't even certain if she was there at all, without any outside influences to tell her.
"Are you enjoying yourself in my home, my dear?" a silken voice, like liquid shadow, spoke suddenly. She couldn't see where it came from, but as the only indication that anything besides her own confused perceptions, she latched onto it.
"W. .who are you?" her pounding heartrate eased when not only could she speak, but she could hear herself speak! Perhaps this living nightmare was finally going to end.
A chuckle echoed. "I have been called a thousand names throughout my existence. Some have not been that polite. You may call me Keir. For now. Other names will come in time."
"What are you?" she still couldn't see anything, despite now having someone, or something, to talk to. "Where are we?"
Keir's voice now seemed to come from another direction. "My realm. It has no name. It simply. . .is. Like me. To answer your next question, you are my captive. I have, as yet, no particular plans for you. Beyond your use as bait."
"Oh, you remember nothing as of yet!" Keir laughed, and again it came from somewhere else. "What an amusement! I could torment you so badly." Something claw-like appeared to touch her face, and she automatically flinched back. "Ah, little one. I could use you for a thousand things. Bait. A queen. A slave. Any of those. . .or all of those. Or more."
She felt herself sickening at the very thought, and the claw-hands cupped her chin. "I've seen a thousand universes, little one, and some of the entities in them have had such sweet fun with their female captives. I have often wondered what I would do should I have one in my clutches." Something slick and wet touched her lips, and as it did so, memory flooded back into her soul.
She had been being dragged down a corridor by Klank and some Cogs, heading for the dungeon of the Machine Skybase. The Cogs had kept her arms so tightly held she wouldn't be able to morph, and she'd barely been able to walk. Klank had been delighting himself in telling her of the various experiments he had planned for her, regardless of whether or not her friends surrendered to King Mondo. She'd felt like being sick.
Then an explosion had rocked the entire base. She had heard Machina's voice raised in query, and Mondo's rising in angered shock, speaking to someone. She couldn't hear who it was, but one phrase she remembered until the end of her life. "You have kept them occupied long enough, Mondo. Now I take the bait, and I will be the one, not you, who destroys the Power Rangers and the Avatars of Life."
Something like a living shadow had roiled down the corridor, engulfing everything in it's path. She could see nothing left behind as it passed: literally nothing, not debris, not stars, nothing but . . .nothing. She had wanted to run, but the Cogs were still holding onto her, right up until the moment they had been touched by the shadow. Then a voice had echoed all around her, the same that had spoken to Mondo.
Would you remain here and perish, Zeo Ranger I, Pink, Katherine Hillard, Kat, Pink Ranger? Or would you come with me and survive? If you would live. . .give me your hand.
The moment she had heard the voice, everything had become cloudy, indistinct. As if nothing was real around her. Nothing but the voice. Uncertain of what was going on, and hoping that somehow, despite what it had said to Mondo, this would turn out to be a friend, she lifted her hand up. A taloned hand took it, and everything in her mind had vanished, as had everything around her.
But now she knew who she was again. Kat Hillard looked around, her hands clenching and finding nothing underneath them. As far as she could tell, all that was around her was air, air and shadows. Nothing else was visible.
"So you know now," Keir's voice seemed to switch direction with every word he uttered. She wasn't quite certain if 'he' was the proper word to use, but it seemed to fit, at least for now. "Too bad. I had intended to torment you with lies and truth both." The creature seemed almost regretful, then sighed. "But not even I can get everything I want. Most of the time."
"What is it you do want?" she growled, trying to bring her wrists together. When she did, that was when she discovered she was bound to something. What it was, she couldn't tell, but something kept her from moving.
Keir's talon again touched her face, and this time she found herself unable to move away from it. "As humans go, you are attractive. I could reshape you so that I would find you desirable. . .but then your friends would not recognize you when they arrive." Keir chuckled. "And they will come. They are so predictable in that fashion, are they not?"
She said nothing, not wanting to give him any information. "Oh, you have nothing to fear from that," he taunted her, and she paled. "Yes, I can read your thoughts, such simple things as they are. I stripped your mind clean of information as soon as you were in my realm. I know everything you know, and more besides." The talon slid behind her head, and caressed the back of her neck. "You remember so vividly what it was like to be under the control of a petty queenlet like Rita Repulsa. I could show you what it is to be under true control, to have a master who dominates every particle of your soul and body. Wouldn't you like that?"
Kat flinched this time, pulling at whatever it was that held her, wanting to be free, wanting out of this nightmare! "No!" she shouted, straining. "Let me go!"
"No," Keir moved away from her. "I have decided on your fate, once I have cleansed the world of your friends. Or should I say, once we have cleansed the world of them."
She paled. "W...what are you talking about?" Suddenly she found that she could move again, her wrists were free. Reacting on instinct, she brought them together, summoning her Zeonizers. "It's morphin' time! Zeo Ranger I, Pink!"
Keir laughed, and suddenly light flared up all around her. She blinked, blinded by the unexpected influx of light, and tried to see what was going on. "What the. .."
"Welcome to my world, Pink Ranger," Keir's voice came from right in front of her now, and as her eyes cleared, her jaw dropped. Standing in front of her. . .was Curtis Taylor!! Zack's cousin! But. ..the voice had been nothing like this; she'd met him since Zack and the others had come back to Angel Grove, and she was almost positive there had been nothing evil about him!
"What the. . ." she murmured, and the being before her laughed.
"I see you're amazed at my shape," the Curtis lookalike slid closer to her. "I'm quite certain you know, or knew, the Avatar of Evil, that invaded the body of that mortal Kyle Lee, correct?" At her nod, the creature smiled. "That spirit was my son. It was a lesser entity of evil. But it learned a few things from me, such as how to invade a body."
Keir, she couldn't think of it as Curtis, turned around as if modeling. "I think I chose a rather appropriate one. I was able to remain concealed in here for quite some time. Years in fact. Waiting until I was ready, and so were my troops."
"You really must learn to speak in full sentences, Katherine," Keir mocked her. "It makes you look so limited when you use only one or two words of one syllable. You really don't want to perpetuate the blonde myth, do you?" As she glared, he chuckled again, and pointed towards a row of tubes she hadn't seen before. Each was at least as large as a person, and filled with a dark smoke that reminded her of the shadows she'd seen in the Skybase. As she watched, the smoke drained away, revealing five humanoids, one inside each. Kat went even paler as she recognized some of them.
Keir walked over, putting a hand on the first tube, with someone she didn't know in there. "I would like you to meet my Dark Zeo team. Not the most inspired of names, I grant you, but it serves my purpose. You see, my son foolishly believed that he, by himself, was powerful enough to take down two different teams of warriors. I will fight much more sensibly. My Dark Zeos will deal with the Zeo Rangers, while I myself shall take on the Avatars. They will be handicapped by the distraction of their leader, and he will be distracted by the fact you're nowhere to be seen."
Kat frowned, not liking the direction this was going in. "There's no way you can defeat the Rangers and the Avatars. Jason might be upset, but I don't think he's going to be that out of control."
"Oh, but he will be," Keir promised her. A column of thin smoke danced at his fingertip for a moment. "You see, my shadowsmoke has many properties. It can destroy, as it did with the Machine Skybase. It can give temporary amnesia, or permanent amnesia, at my discretion. It can enhance the dark emotions of anger, hate, fear, lust, to whatever degree I want." He smiled for a moment. "I could easily make you desire me, if I wanted to. But what my shadowsmoke does best is make slaves for me. That's what I've used it for here."
He looked at the tube he was touching, and smiled. "Let me introduce you to my slaves. This is Trey of Triforia, the Gold Ranger. He was coming to Earth with the other four Zeo Crystals in his possession, intending on joining your team to fight evil." Keir laughed. "Instead, now he serves me as leader of my Rangers." He stepped to the next tube, where a young woman Kat vaguely recognized as Penny, a girl Rocky had been interested in once, stood silently. "Penny Sharp, my Silver Ranger. When I captured and enslaved Trey, he gave me his Zeo Crystals, and I chose the four I felt were most useful to me."
Kat bit her lip; this was one of her darker nightmares come true! Keir continued the introduction. "This is Laura Summerson, the Black Zeo Ranger. She is almost as intelligent as your Wind Avatar, and they dated once or twice before you came to Angel Grove. Under my power, she will prove to be a force that should most definitely be reckoned with."
Next up was a blonde girl; Kat couldn't tell what color her eyes were since they, like all the others, were shut. "This is Emily Winston, recently a bully on the outskirts of your little town. I liked the darkness she had in her, and enhanced it into my White Ranger." He chuckled a little at the irony of an evil White Ranger, then stepped on to the last one. Somehow, Kat wasn't overly surprised to see it was Angela Clearfield, Zack's ex-girlfriend and Curtis' current one.
"She was easy to take and mold," Keir almost purred. "I've had her under my power almost since dear 'cousin Zack' left for Switzerland. She's been developing quite nicely into a slave warrior, and now she is the Purple Zeo Ranger."
Keir slowly turned to look Kat in the face, and the expression he had was something that sent a chill down her hardened spine. "I realize just how cliché it is to have a team of evil Rangers. That wimpy Rita tried it almost twice, once with Tommy and once with you. But there's going to be a few differences between that, and my team."
"And what might that be?" Kat asked, doing her best to give a proud, defiant look at this monstrosity. Keir smiled.
"We're going to win." He almost breathed out the phrase. "And my shroud of darkness will envelop all the starry universe. Starting with you."
That was all the warning she had as the shadows wrapped around her again, and she heard Keir's dark laughter following her down into the darkness.