But for the twelve people who were piling into three cars, they could never forget. It had shaped their lives, brought them together, forged them into a team. The youngest of them looked at them all for a few moments before getting in. He'd only met most of them two days earlier, at the Christmas party Billy Cranston and Rocky DeSantos had pulled together almost literally at the last minute.
They're my friends, though, he rather marveled at the near-instant bond formed by all the Rangers. It was as if the power, even though they didn't have it anymore, made certain they could all get along. He chuckled a little as Tanya tricked Adam into a kiss; those two had been nearly attached at the hip as far back as he could remember.
"Justin?" he looked up to see Rocky standing just behind him. "You ready?"
The former Blue Turbo Ranger nodded. "I. . .don't know what it's going to be like visiting that place, though. I haven't been there in weeks."
"I know," Rocky put a hand on his shoulder. "But we all sort of need to see it, you know. For the closure, I guess."
Justin sighed. "I guess so."
Quietly he and Rocky got into the last car, and started out. Seeing the ruins of the Power Chamber wasn't going to be easy on any of them, he sensed. But he needed this as much as they did.
"Did you say Ivan Ooze sent a message he wasn't coming?"
The servant shrank away from his master. "Yes, my lord," he shuddered in fear. "He. . he said he had a previous engagement to take care of!" I wish that WAS what he'd said! Good thing I destroyed the message container, my lord Spectre would destroy ME if Master Ooze's real words were reported.
"He did, did he?" Dark Spectre's eyes narrowed in anger. "Leave me," he waved the cowering creature out and turned to his communications screen. Two word were snapped out: "Ivan Ooze."
A moment later, the purple face of the Master of Ooze appeared on the screen. "What do you want, Spectre, I thought I'd told you to leave me alone! I've got plans that I've been putting off for six thousand years!"
"I have ordered a complete gathering of the forces of evil, Ooze, I expect you to be here!" Dark Spectre snapped. "No exceptions! Not even for you!"
Ivan Ooze laughed at him. "Darky boy, I go where I please and do what I want, remember? Go chew out General Havoc or something; someone who's afraid of you. But not me, little brother. See ya!" the communicator frequency was broken a moment later, and Dark Spectre leaned back in his chair, growling in several languages.
"Oh, forget him," he declared finally to himself, striking Ooze's name from the list of attendees. "All he'd do is ooze all over everything, and the staff has got enough to do keeping this place clean as is! Let him have his fun, probably conquering some fifth-rate planet. It'll keep him out of the way and out of trouble. I've got a universe to destroy!" Dark Spectre laughed as he stared briefly at the captive Zordon. Oh, yes, with no more Power Rangers to work with, things were going to go just fine!
He headed out to meet with his guests.
"Indeed it has, Auric," Ninjor returned the bow quietly. He and Auric were old friends; though they hadn't seen each other in centuries, not since Auric was trapped inside of his Tiki and Ninjor had taken up the guardianship of the Temple of Ninja Power.
Ninjor had changed somewhat since the Rangers had last seen him. Now, he was quiet and subdued, especially since he had heard of the destruction of the Power Chamber. "Take a seat."
Auric the Conqueror, released permanently from his Tiki by Jason Scott, sat. "I thank you. I will get straight to the business for my coming. The Earth is about to be under attack again. Ivan Ooze has broken away from Dark Spectre's allegiance, and is heading towards Earth."
Ninjor nodded. "I thought I had sensed a disturbance," he winced suddenly, as did Auric.
"He is coming closer," the defender of worlds sighed. "And Earth has no Rangers to protect it. They are all heading towards the Cimmerian planet to rescue Zordon."
"Not all of them," Ninjor said. "There are others."
Auric straightened up. "Yes, but they've went on with their lives? That was the reason Zordon and Dimitria relieved them of their powers, they'd done enough to protect Earth. Correct?"
"I am neither Zordon nor Dimitria," Ninjor almost growled. "Earth must be protected at any cost."
"And if they're unwilling?" Auric reminded him gently. No one had ever been forced to become a Ranger, at least not from the side of good. Ninjor sighed, wordlessly agreeing. Free will was a being's most precious possession, and he would never destroy that.
The Ninja Master raised a hand and called up an image of the former Rangers. He and Auric were both shocked to see them wandering around the debris of the Power Chamber. "Perhaps. . .they still will serve," he wondered.
"We can ask," Auric rose to his feet. "And we had best hurry. But what kind of powers can we give them? The Turbo powers were destroyed with the conquest of Eltar, and the Zeo Crystal was destroyed in the Power Chamber explosion. The Ninja powers you gave them were lost in the shifting of time."
Ninjor did something that might have been a smile. "Ninjetti."
Tommy leaned against the shattered remains of a pillar and cried. Command Center, Power Chamber, the name didn't mean anything. It had been more than a base for them, it had been a home away from home. It had been where they'd all first taken on the responsibilities of protecting the world, where they'd first met Alpha 5 and Zordon, then later Alpha 6 and Dimitria.
Where they'd become a family.
Kat wandered among the ruins, memories pouring through her mind of when the Command Center had blown up and the Zeo Crystal had nearly been lost. She remembered what she'd thought then. I always thought the Command Center was the one safe place Rita and Zedd could never touch. She shuddered; not wanting to think too much about their enemies now. She wiped away a tear; at least Earth was safe now.
Jason had seen both Command Center and Power Chamber, and foremost in his thoughts now was the first day he'd become a Ranger. That day, so long before, when he, Trini, Kim, Zack, and Billy had been teleported out of the Youth Center, and into the adventure of a lifetime. Ever since then, he'd done all he could to bring peace to the world, even leaving the time when the time was right, and returning when he was needed. He sighed deeply, taking in the destruction around him. Just for a slap in Divatox's face; I'd like to see this place rebuilt. Just to prove to her that she can't keep it down.
Zack was on the verge of total heart failure. He'd been through his own rough times as a Ranger, but nothing like what he could tell had happened here. Justin's tale of the last battle for the Power Chamber had shaken him to his core; and he could tell Trini was feeling much the same way. The two of them and Jason had left before anything truly destructive had happened to the Rangers. The worst they'd been through was the destruction of the DinoZords and the loss of Tommy's Green Powers, though that had been bad enough.
It was all Trini could do not to simply sit down and cry; and she could see Tommy was weeping already. This shouldn't be happening! We're the Power Rangers; this shouldn't happen! She'd always felt as if the Rangers, and their headquarters, would stay forever, and no matter how far she'd went from Angel Grove, it had always been in the back of her mind that they were there, defending Earth and keeping it safe. Somewhere, there were Rangers fighting for freedom, teleporting to and from the Command Center or Power Chamber or whatever they wanted to call it. It was what had kept her sane.
Rocky kept himself from throwing up by sheer willpower. Justin's story had been gruesome in detail, but none of that had come close to seeing this place the way it was now. He shook like a leaf, ignoring the stab of pain from his back as he did so. He had to; it was either ignore it or drop down in pure agony.
Adam took a deep, shuddering breath. I have never seen anything like this. Even seeing the ThunderZords blow and the Command Center explode doesn't compare. This is total devastation. This isn't something Billy can rebuild in a couple of days; this is beyond help. Adam sighed. I'm glad we came, though. I wouldn't have believed that story, I mean, I know Justin doesn't lie, but still. . .
He continued to walk, passing Aisha as she took in everything. Oh, man, Aisha thought, her eyes wide with horror as she took in the destruction. Divatox is going to pay for this somehow. She is. . .I don't know how. But SOMEHOW. She just can't be allowed to get away with blowing up everything we fought for for so long! She glanced to Tanya, to see how the girl she'd sent to take her place had reacted.
Tanya sat down on some ruins; she had no idea what it might once have been. It didn't matter; it was nothing now. She could clearly remember the first time she'd seen something like this; minutes after her arrival here, when the Command Center had exploded. Now, it was there again. In shambles. In ruins.
Former Ranger looked to former Ranger. Almost as one, they saw the same thing. Faces scarred by the loss of something they had thought would stand forever. Heartbroken at the ruination of a place that had been home and more than home to them. Tears coursed down each and every cheek.
"Nooooooooo!!!!!!!" they all looked up to see Justin standing in the middle of everything, his fists clenched and howling his denial to the world, to the universe at large. The Rangers converged from all over the ruins on him, hoping to help. From the very depths of his soul came the cry, again and again, denying everything that had happened, wanting it to unhappen, wanting the Power Chamber built again, wanting his friends in space back, and so much more.
The Piranatrons were everywhere outside the Power Chamber. Thousands of them. There was no way they could stop them all, but hey had to try. The five young warriors fought with all their strength, keeping the monsters away from their doors. Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster showed up, but were defeated far faster than ever imaginable. It was as if the Power no longer protected them, as if they had lost everything that made them the Rangers but the power themselves.
Evil was winning.
They were forced back in to the Power Chamber, and had only a short time of breathing space before the Piranatrons attacked again, this time inside the Chamber itself. Once more the Rangers fought, but this time there was no quarter given. This time, they lost.
The Chamber exploded all around them. The monsters left. The damage was done.
And the power was gone.
Justin collapsed, sobbing his grief out. He had held it in all this time, first because there was no time, then because he simply had no one to share it with. But now, in the company of those who were like him, Powerless Rangers, he released the sorrow he had lived with since seeing the MegaZords destroyed. The tears he had shed in the park that day he met Rocky and Billy had only begun to heal him. Now, he threw his head back and howled himself out again and again, barely seeing his new friends, but sensing at a deep level their presence. Knowing he was safe with them, that they would understand, he wept.
As did they all.
The Power Rangers cried. As a team they had lived, as a team they had fought, and now, as a team they cried, mourning the loss of everything they had fought for. Only the freedom remained, only that which they had fought for so long to keep.
And they grieved for all that had been lost to keep it.
He called up a visual of Rita and Zedd's Lunar Palace, and took a long look at it. "I think that will make a fine place to live," he decided. "It's a little grungy, but I can clean that up in no time. And quite soon, I'll have myself a wonderful palace on Earth, with thousands of humans to cook and clean for me," he chuckled. With his Oozemen and hypnotizing ooze, he could and would be the Supreme Lord of Earth in no time at all.
Then we'll see who the REAL ultimate Lord of Evil is, he promised himself. Everyone had always liked his brother better than him. 'Dark Spectre' indeed, he grumbled. Just who did he think he was, gathering together all the forces of evil? You'd think just because he'd captured Zordon and was going to drain away his powers for evil that he'd actually done something! Well, let his brother do all the work! As soon as he was done, Ivan Ooze would slide in and take all the credit and glory that was properly supposed to be his.
"And now to check on the Power Chamber," he smiled to himself as he switched pictures on the scanner. His eyes widened suddenly as he saw the humans wandering through the ruins. "Who are they?" he wondered. Curiosity seekers? Vandals? A flick of a switch had his ship scanning each of them in turn. As he waited for the results, he watched as one of them, a young boy, began to weep and wail over something. His companions rushed over to him, all of them crying, and did what they could to comfort him. Hmmmmm. So strange. Power Ranger groupies who found their base? Mourning the loss of their 'heroes'?
A beep alerted him to the completion of the scan. "Bring it on screen," he ordered. He watched as the results came in. In it's tinny voice, the computer reported, "Subject one: Jason Lee Scott, age 19 Earth years, first Red Ranger, second Gold Ranger. Gave up Gold Ranger powers due to incompatibility with human lifeform. First team leader. Cross-reference, Divatox's attempt to awaken Maligore.
"Subject two: Zachary Taylor, age 19 Earth years, first Black Ranger.
"Subject three: Trini Kwan, age 19 Earth years, first Yellow Ranger.
"Subject four: Kimberly Ann Hart, age 19 Earth years, first Pink Ranger, first Pink Ninja. Cross-reference, Divatox's attempt to awaken Maligore.
"Subject five: William Cranston, age 19 Earth years, first Blue Ranger, Blue Ninja. Cross-reference: Alien Rangers of Aquitar, sub-reference, Cestria of Aquitar.
"Subject six: Thomas Oliver, age 19 Earth years, first Green Ranger, White Ranger, White Ninja, Red Zeo Ranger, first Red Turbo Ranger. Team leader when Scott left. Cross-reference: Rita Repulsa's Evil Green Power Coin.
"Subject seven: Rockwell DeSantos, age 18 Earth years, second Red Ranger, Red Ninja, Blue Zeo Ranger.
"Subject eight: Aisha Campbell, age 19 Earth years, second Yellow Ranger, Yellow Ninja. Cross-reference: temporal instability caused by Master Vile.
"Subject nine: Adam Park, age 18 Earth years, second Black Ranger, Black Ninja, Green Zeo Ranger, first Green Turbo Ranger.
"Subject ten: Katherine Hilliard, age 19 Earth years, second Pink Ranger, second Pink Ninja, Pink Zeo Ranger, first Pink Turbo Ranger. Cross-reference: Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd.
"Subject eleven: Tanya Sloane, age 18 Earth years, Yellow Zeo Ranger, first Yellow Turbo Ranger. Cross-reference: temporal instability caused by Master Vile.
"Subject twelve: Justin Stewart, age 13 Earth years, Blue Turbo Ranger. Cross-reference: destruction of Power Chamber/Power Rangers by Divatox, Queen of Evil.
"Current Ranger status of all subjects: powerless/inactive. Possibility of reactivation due to approach of Ivan Ooze: 100%."
Ivan sat straight up, eyes blazing with an unholy light. This would not be. This could not be. "Oozemen!" he ordered. "Go to this location, and tear them apart!" he ordered. The purple creatures wandering around the bridge of his ship nodded briefly, then vanished. He settled back into his command chair and nodded. These Rangers, active or inactive, would not stop him!
Tommy bit his lip, wishing he could help out in some way. He looked around what used to be the Power Chamber and sighed. At least Earth is safe now, that's one thing. No one's going to be needed to protect it now. He was looking right at Adam when he thought that, and there was no way he could mistake it. The blood was draining from the young Korean's face, and terror was filling his eyes.
"Adam?" he asked softly. When his friend didn't move, Tommy turned to see what he was looking at.
Twenty large, humanoid, purple things were. . .there was no other word for it. . .oozing up towards them. "Rangers!" he snapped the word out by pure instinct, and eleven other faces looked towards him. At one time or another, they had all heard him use that 'leader voice', and knew he meant business. "We got trouble!" he pointed to the Oozemen sliding towards them.
Tanya and Kat stared briefly at each other, then to Justin; the same thought flowing through both their minds. Get him out of here! He was in no mental condition to be fighting. Both of them were shocked, though, when he let loose a wild karate scream and launched himself towards their new enemies like a torpedo. "Looks like it's back to action!" Kim shouted as she took a karate stance.
Twelve people were whirling towards the Oozemen in no time flat. And one and all, they relished the idea of being in combat again. Be it against Putties, Tengas, Cogs, Piranatrons, or whatever these things were, each accepted in that moment that their job, for all time, was the protection and defense of the Earth. That was why they had all been born.
The fight raged all over the ruins, with the Rangers using them for cover and for battle weapons. "Kim!" Kat shouted as she threw a rock at one of the creatures, distracting it long enough to get her friend's attention. "Need some help?"
The first Pink Ranger nodded as she backflipped away from the Oozemen. "Let's do it!" she shouted, landing next to a power cord. She grabbed it, thanking her lucky stars that no more current was running through it, and tossed the other end to Kat. Together, they ran a crisscross pattern that tied up three of the monsters firmly.
"They're good," Billy smiled to himself as he and Adam worked together in the same fashion they had in the good old days when both had been Rangers. "But try this on for size, ladies!" he grabbed one Oozeman, Adam seized another, and SMACK! Ooze flew everywhere. Billy shook his head. "You ooze, you lose!"
Tommy laughed at that; and it felt good to laugh in battle, it was like the old days again! Suddenly, his eye fell on a small figure in blue, tearing into four Oozemen as if he had something personal against him. He ran a little closer to Justin, spinning into a crescent kick that knocked one of them down, and turned to face his young friend.
Justin's face was pale, his teeth were clenched, and he was sweating. His eyes blazed with raw fury as he fought with the Oozemen. "I lost this place once to scum like you," he hissed. "I'm not going to lose it again! The ruins will be left in peace, if nothing else!"
Tommy nodded briefly; he understood just how the young boy felt. He was about to go help him fight off the Oozemen, when he saw Tanya and Trini back to back and surrounded by four others. "Go help them!" Justin sounded older than his years. "I'll be fine!" he proved himself right when he slammed into the creatures with all the force he had, knocking them all back. The former leader of the Rangers was heading towards the girls as fast as he could when he saw that.
The battle seemed to drag on and on, a few of the Ooze creatures were taken out, but not enough to make a difference. They also didn't seem to tire, but the humans did, and were fast. "We can't hold them off anymore!" Billy shouted, avoiding one as deftly as he could.
"They're too strong!" Aisha declared, dodging another three that seem to come out of nowhere.
"We need our powers!" Adam screamed as one nearly took his feet out from under him. The twelve of them were backed into a tight group, even Justin coming out of his near-insane attack to join with the others. Things did not look good at all for them.
"Rangers!" the voices spoke in unison, two voices they'd never thought they'd hear together. One and all, they turned to the source to see. . .
"Ninjor?" Tommy, Kim, Billy, Kat, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha chorused.
"Auric?" Jason stared; he'd always wondered what had become of the Conqueror once he'd released him permanently from the Tiki, shortly after he'd given the Gold Powers back to Trey.
Working together, the two warriors quickly dispatched all of the Oozemen, far faster than the twelve former Rangers had even dealt with two. Once they were gone, Auric and Ninjor came over to the small group. "Rangers," Ninjor said, a sternness in his voice. "Earth is once more under attack, and you are all to be called on to defend it."
"All of us?" Jason wondered. The most he'd ever worked with was six, there were twelve of them.
Auric nodded. "The force that threatens your world is called Ivan Ooze, a morphological being who was cast into space six thousand years ago. He is the brother of Dark Spectre, who even now gathers the forces of evil to drain the power from Zordon, and has broken away from his brother's minions in order to carve out his own evil empire."
"Earth is where he wishes to begin," Ninjor continued. "And without the twelve of you, he will be unstoppable."
He started paging through the Intergalactic Yellow Pages; he was going to hire some heavy help! And with my luck, all the really GOOD monsters will be at that stupid gathering of my brothers.
Auric looked over them all. "Do you all wish to once more take up the task of defending the Earth? Be warned, this will not be an easy war."
Tommy snorted. "Is there such a thing?"
"Yes or no, Rangers," Ninjor spoke sharply; something those who had known him had never heard before. This brought it home to them; if it was something that could make Ninjor serious; something that had never really happened even when Master Vile was around, it was worse than they could imagine. The twelve of them didn't have to look at themselves or each other. They knew. As one, they spoke.
Auric nodded briefly; his short acquaintance with the Zeo Rangers had taught him these young people didn't give up on anything. "Then we will send you to Phaedos."
"Phaedos?" Jason wondered. "Where's that?"
"A distant planet in another galaxy," Ninjor told them. "There you will find the Power that is to be yours to wield in the defense of the Earth."
Billy nodded briefly. "How do we get there?"
"We will send you," Auric said quietly. "And it will cost all of our life-energy to do so."
"Wait," Aisha stepped up. "What do you mean, all your life-energy?"
"Just what it sounds like," Ninjor's voice didn't even shake, not even now. "When Auric and I send you to Phaedos, we will die. But there is no other way."
Rocky shook his head. "What about the Temple of Power, Ninjor?" he asked. "I thought you had to protect that!"
"The temple's power was destroyed when your Power Coins were," he told them. Those Rangers who had known him during that time looked shocked, to say the extreme least. "I never told you because you didn't need to know; you had the Zeo Crystal; and later the Turbo Powers. I no longer have anything to guard; this will be my final act."
Trini couldn't believe her eyes or ears; she didn't know this guy in blue armor, but from the way some of the others were acting, this was going to be a major tragedy. "How can you just die like this? Either of you?"
Auric bent his head. "That is what must be," was all he said. It was plain he didn't want to die, but would.
Justin stepped forward. "I want to protect Earth," his voice was small. "But not at the cost of good lives."
Ninjor came over the youngest of them, and put a hand on his shoulder. "If there were any other way, we would take it, Justin," he said softly. "But this is the only way we can get you to Phaedos."
Auric stood beside his friend. "If you are to go, we must hurry. Ivan Ooze is even now seeking new help since you destroyed his Oozemen."
"Let's do it," Zack said suddenly. He'd doubted Zordon the first time they'd met, not wanting the responsibility of defending Earth. He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.
Slowly, the twelve of them made a circle around Ninjor and Auric. The two ancient warriors joined hands and lowered their heads. From in between them there rose a silvery light, that expanded to include all the Rangers. Words whispered within their minds.
Be strong, Rangers, the mental voice sounded like both Auric and Ninjor together. We will always be with you in your hearts, as will Zordon and Dimitria. Ivan Ooze is your strongest opponent ever. Be ready. Be warned. And be careful.
The ruins around them began to fade; then white light overwhelmed everything, completely unlike any teleportation they'd ever felt. A wash of love and respect and pride flowed through them all, and each Ranger sensed the passing of Auric and Ninjor, and knew that this feeling was their last gift and their legacy.
"Thank you," none of them ever knew who said it, and it didn't matter. They were on the way to Phaedos.
The viewscreen opened up to reveal a woman in scorpion-like armor, seated in a lotus position, meditating. Ooze snorted a little, then in his best commanding voice, screamed, "Scorpina!"
Rita and Zedd's former servant opened her eyes, glaring at the hologram of Ooze in front of her. "And just who do you think you are, disturbing me?"
"I am Ivan Ooze!" he declared. "And I wish to hire you."
She raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you do? And just how much are you willing to pay? I don't work cheap, you know."
"We can discuss payment later," he tried a smile; it didn't look good on him at all. "But how would you like to fight the Power Rangers again?"
Scorpina laughed. "There aren't any Power Rangers! Divatox destroyed them all, remember?"
"Oh, no, she didn't," Ooze retorted. "Let me show you the Rangers!" he shifted the hologram to show the twelve former Rangers wandering around the Power Chamber ruins. Scorpina was on her feet a moment later, eyes flashing.
"Where are you based at?" she asked, eagerness in her voice. "I'll be there as fast as I can."
His eyes glinted with craftiness. "And payment?"
"Will be discussed when I get there," she promised. "I'm itching for another chance at those Rangers! Zedd fired me after I screwed up one simple mission for him!" Though I must admit that Adam human was rather attractive. I might get another chance at him, who knows?
"I'm at my new palace on the moon," he told her. "I'm certain you know where it is. I'll be waiting!"
As the hologram faded, Scorpina started for her quarters, already thinking over what she was going to pack. She laughed. It feels so GOOD to be so BAD!
He was going over his first plans to deal with the Rangers, when suddenly the palace shook and the sound of explosions came from outside. Growling, knowing the Rangers wouldn't attack, they didn't have the capabilities, and it went against all their silly oaths anyway, he went to the window to see what was going on.
And saw Machine Empire Quadrafighters soaring over everything. He hissed; he knew Mondo and Machina were at Dark Spectre's conference. Who could this be?
"Who dares attack my palace?" he bellowed, making certain his voice was heard all over the moon. Whoever it was would know they'd made a fatal mistake!
"King Gasket and Queen Archerina of the Machine Empire!" came the reply almost immediately. "Earth is ours to conquer, remove yourself at once, whoever you are, trespasser!!"
Ooze laughed. "I am Ivan Ooze, and you are the ones trespassing, I was here first!" he paused for a moment. His Oozemen were difficult to create, though they were extremely powerful. The Machine Empire Cogs, on the other hand, were almost as strong, and could be made much faster. Perhaps. . . "Your Majesty," he spoke up. "Perhaps we can negotiate an agreement."
"Agreement?" a female voice asked. "What form of agreement are you talking about, Ooze?"
"Simple," he told them. "We form an alliance, working together to destroy the Power Rangers," he paused, waiting for what he knew inevitably would come.
"The Power Rangers are no more!" Gasket declared. "I've seen the reports, Divatox destroyed them!"
Once again, Ooze sent out the hologram of the Rangers, Ninjor, and Auric. He stifled a laugh as two balls of light suddenly flew into his throne room, transforming into the new rulers of the Machine Empire. "Welcome to my palace," he said dryly. "Would you care to discuss that alliance now?"
"Come on, guys, we've got to find this Great Power. Earth is counting on us."
Billy looked around. "It might be nice if we knew where it was. I mean, this is an entire planet. Who knows how close we were teleported to it? We could be thousands of miles from it, for all we know."
"Yeah!" Tanya nodded. "What do we do, split up?"
Jason shook his head. "That's too risky, we don't have any idea what's on this planet. We'd better stick together."
"Let's try this way," Kat started down the beach. For lack of any other way, they started to follow her, straggling along in a disorganized line.
Kim and Tommy found themselves walking close together. They hadn't really talked much since they'd seen each other at the Christmas party two days earlier, but they both knew they had to. Tommy had been dating Kat since just before Jason had lost the Gold Ranger powers, and he had known almost from the beginning that it was going to work out as it had not with Kim. There were bonds between he and Kat that just had not existed with him and Kim. But he did want to talk to her.
"So, what's it like in Florida?" Tommy asked finally. Kim shrugged.
"Warm," she told him. And boring. "What's it like racing?"
"Hot and tiring," he replied. "But I like it. For now, anyway. I'm going to be opening my own dojo soon."
They walked on in silence for a few more minutes. Tommy examined his heart as they walked, and was glad to feel none of the old fires stirring up in him. He'd honestly worried about that; he hadn't seen her long enough when she had visited before to really get a sense or not of what was between them. Now he knew better. Now he knew where his heart was. Something did occur to him, though. "How is being a Ranger again going to affect where you live?"
She shrugged again. "I'm moving back to Angel Grove. I was anyway, before the party. I'm not happy there, Tommy, I miss everything about Angel Grove." She looked at him with firm, clear eyes. "Tommy, I'm going to be blunt. When I was in Florida, I did meet someone, and I cared very much for him. His name was Sam, and I did fall in love with him. But he died about a week before I came back to Angel Grove for that karate tournament. I wanted to be with my friends, but I couldn't deal with talking about him just then. That's why I never said anything. I know you and Kat are together, and I'm glad of it. I didn't want to hurt you, Tommy, but I don't love you anymore. Not like that."
Tommy smiled. "I don't love you like that either, Kim. You're a very wonderful person, but you're not the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. That's Kat." He was going to be just as blunt as she was if he had to be.
"I'm glad. You two are very good for each other. Please don't feel awkward or as if I tried to push you two together. I didn't. Maybe I shouldn't have sent the letter the way I did, but I was scared if I faced you in person, I wouldn't have the guts to do it. That's why I sent that.
He touched her hand gently. "I understand. I honestly don't know what I would've done if you had told me in person. It's all right now, though. We had good times together, but I moved on, and you need to do the same."
Kim smiled quietly, her eyes flicking briefly to someone Tommy couldn't see. Zack, Adam, Rocky, and Billy were all walking in the direction she indicated, but so far as he knew, she'd never shown any romantic interest in any of them. He doubted it was Adam; he and Tanya were an item. Billy was also out of the running; he and Trini had been exchanging glances all day and then some.
"Whatever you do and wherever you go, Kim, I'll always be your friend," he told her. He smiled to himself; he had a very strong suspicion on something, but he was going to keep it to himself for now. She smiled quietly at him, then gave him a sisterly hug.
"I know you will, Tommy." She glanced up to where Kat was watching, and stepped quietly away, looking at her blonde friend. "You two be happy together. You belong together."
Kat wasted no time; though she trusted her own feelings for Tommy and his for her, there always had been that litle nagging doubt that wanted to bother her whenever she wasn't looking. She threw herself quite literally into Tommy's arms, their lips meeting in a kiss that was nothing but pure joy. From a few feet away, Kim watched, her heart dually singing for joy at their happiness, and weeping that she had no one like that. She felt a touch on her hand, and looked to see Trini standing there. It had been quite a while since the two of them had seen each other, and she smiled a little. "What is it, Trini?" she asked, wiping the tears out of her eyes quickly. No need for her to act as if she were jealous.
"You'll find someone," Trini promised. "It might take a while, but there's someone out there for you, trust me."
"Who?" she wondered. The yellow-wearing girl chuckled a little.
"If I knew that, I'd tell you," she promised. "But if I find him first, I'll be sure to send him on to you."
Kim smiled; Trini had always been able to make her feel better. "Thanks," she meant it too. Then, remembering something she'd seen at the Christmas party, her lips twitched. "So, when are you and Billy going to do anything about your romantic situation?"
"Us?" Trini blushed as red as Jason's shirt. "Um, what makes you think we have a romantic situation?"
"I'm not blind!" Kim teased her as they started walking again. "You two like each other; I could tell when he saw you at the party! And you wanted him under the mistletoe, didn't you?"
Trini just punched her playfully in the shoulder; there was just nothing that could be said. And maybe if I don't say anything, she won't figure out the truth! Trini glanced over at Billy unobtrusively and smiled. Maybe.
Ooze snorted. "You're obviously not well read. Haven't you ever heard of the Ninjetti Powers?"
Gasket shook his head. "Aren't those the same as the Ninja powers Ninjor gave some of them?"
"No," Scorpina, who had arrived not long after he and Archerina, explained. "The Ninja powers are, or were, based on the Coins. The power in them was linked to the Rangers' bodies, which meant basically whoever had the Coin had the Power. Ninjetti is different."
Archerina tossed her head. "And just how do you know so much about it?"
Scorpina's eyes flashed. "That's none of your concern!" she growled. "Ninjetti is rooted in the soul of the person, not their body or the coin. The Keeper of the Ninjetti powers will discover the Animal Spirit of the person, then create a coin that will enable only that person to access the power."
"Dulcea!" Ivan Ooze spat the name out as if it were distasteful to him. "That loathsome, she-devil of a witch! If she leads them to the Great Power, everything will be ruined!"
Gasket shook his head. "We'll stop them, then," he declared. "My Cogs will go to Phaedos and destroy the Rangers before they ever find this Dulcea! There will be nothing to stand in the way of our conquering this world!"
Ooze smiled. That was what he liked in an ally; enthusiasm! "Send your Cogs, Gasket!" he ordered. "Let's destroy these Rangers!"
"Your guess is as good as mine," he told her.
Jason and Rocky were a little ahead of the others; the two former Red Rangers had formed an instant bond once they were reunited. Rocky had completely forgotten the feeling of 'being replaced' he'd had when Jason had joined the Zeo team as the Gold Ranger. He knew better now. He'd actually been considering asking Jason to join him in partnership at his dojo when all this had started happening.
"You think we'll find it?" Jason asked softly. Rocky shrugged a little.
"I don't know," he replied honestly. "I hope so, though. I don't want to think about what's going to happen to Earth if we don't."
He glanced around at the other Rangers, keeping an eye on them. Tommy and Kat hadn't left each other's sides since Kim and Tommy had resolved things with each other. Trini and Kim seemed to be involved in a deep discussion that had Trini blushing a ferocious shade of red. Billy and Justin were talking over something; probably scientific from the fascinated look on both faces. Aisha and Zack were also talking, but he couldn't tell about what from where he was. Tanya had her back to a bush, talking about something. He watched for a second, confused, till he caught a glimpse of a green shirt back there, and chuckled to realize it was Adam.
"What in the world are those?" split the air suddenly. He glanced back around to see Trini pointing at...
"Cogs?" those who had spent time as Zeo Rangers and Billy shouted. "What are Cogs doing here?" the first Power Ranger genius asked.
"Who cares?" Adam growled as he came out of the bushes. "Let's just trash 'em!" as he passed Rocky, his friend heard him muttering something about how Cogs didn't have any concern for the calls of Mother Nature!
With a good will, they threw themselves into battle once more. The former Zeos called out what advice they could to their companions on how to deal with the metallic creatures they fought, but the best advice was one none of them could take.
"This isn't looking good!" Tommy yelled as he punched and kicked Cogs all over the beach. "We need some help!"
The fight had been raging for almost ten minutes, and the Rangers were most definitely losing. This was worse than the fight with the Oozemen, at least they'd been able to get rid of a couple of those. But these things just kept coming and coming and coming! There didn't seem to be an end to them, knock one down, two more popped up in it's place, and minutes later, the first one was back in the fight!
"Tell me about it!" Billy growled as he ducked under a Cog's swinging arm and slammed it into a tree. He'd only seriously fought Cogs once, and he'd had a magnet to help out then. Sure wish I had it now! I wish I had ANYTHING to help, I could use it, badly!
Justin fought quietly, not wasting energy in wild cries or fancy movements. He just wanted these things out of here. He didn't need this, he just needed to get to the Power, to go back and protect Earth.
A figure clad in a rough green cloak, holding a staff, suddenly leaped down into the middle of the Cog army and started to fight the mechanized menaces. The Rangers stopped and stared; whoever this fighter was, they were awesome! In far less time than the Rangers had ever taken to dismantle one Cog, they had disposed of all of them. Standing in the middle of the Cog scrap, the cloak was thrown aside to reveal a tall, beautiful bronze-haired woman in a green bikini-like outfit and boots.
"Thank you," Tommy approached her. "We were in serious trouble; thanks a lot."
She tripped him up easily and pinned him to the ground, her eyes blazing. "If you want to thank me, go back to wherever you came from!" she growled.
"Please, we were told there's a Great Power here!" Aisha stepped forward, hoping to get her away from Tommy.
"Yes," the warrior woman nodded. "The ground is littered with the bones of those who have tried for it and failed."
"We're different," Tommy told her. "We're the Power Rangers."
She laughed. "There are no Power Rangers; they were destroyed by Divatox!"
Justin came over to her. "She destroyed the Power Chamber, and almost killed the Turbo Rangers," he said softly. "T.J., Cassie, Carlos, and Ashley, along with Alpha 6, went to Eltar to try and save Zordon from Dark Spectre."
"Zordon?" the woman stood a little straight. "Did you say Zordon?"
"You know him?" Kim wondered.
"What has happened to Zordon?"
"He was captured by Dark Spectre," Justin told her. "But we were told that Ivan Ooze is attacking Earth now, and were sent here by Auric the Conqueror and Ninjor to get the Great Power so we can protect our world."
She stepped back and let Tommy up. "Ivan Ooze is a monster," she declared flatly. "I am Dulcea, Master Warrior of Phaedos, and Guardian of the Ninjetti Temple. If he is attacking your planet, then you do need the Power. Come with me."
The Rangers looked at each other, then started to follow her into the depths of the jungle.
"You said your Cogs would destroy them! All that did was bring Dulcea to them! They would've wandered around on Phaedos forever, died of old age, before finding the Great Power, now she's taking them straight to the Temple! What do you have to say for yourselves?"
Gasket pushed Ooze away a little. "Don't worry yourself about it, Ooze!" he snapped. "So they get the Power? So what?"
The Master of Ooze growled deep in his throat. "Then we have twelve Power Rangers to deal with in our conquest of this planet, you got that? You couldn't handle six before, remember? You ran off because your father came back, but that was just a convenient excuse. Do you really think you can hack twelve of those disgusting Rangers?"
As the two 'men' yelled back and forth at each other, Scorpina motioned Archerina out of the throne room and into the private quarters she'd been assigned. "Face it, Archerina," Scorpina cut right to the chase. "Ooze and Gasket are too caught up in assigning blame at the moment to do anything effective about the Rangers. It's up to us."
"And just what do you propose we do about them?" the pink machine asked. "I won't do anything to hurt my precious Gasket, you should know that right now!"
Scorpina laughed. "I know, I know. What I had in mind was something a little more subtle. Something the men don't know much about. I think handling the Rangers requires a woman's touch, and that's just what we both have."
Archerina's yellow eyes glinted with approval. "Explain a little further, please," she offered. Oh, she was going to make Gasket so proud of her with whatever this was, she could already tell!
"For full effect, we're going to have to wait until the Rangers get back to Earth. This is a long-range plan, one that could take weeks or even months to pull off," Scorpina began to lay it out, and as each detail came clearer, Archerina liked it more and more. This would truly be the end of the Rangers!
"Amazing," Rocky nodded in agreement. There was a magnificence about this place that dwarfed anything they'd ever known before. Even in ruins, it was awe-inspiring.
"These are the ancient ruins of the Ninjetti Temple," Dulcea told them, guiding them to the far end of the mesa. She gestured outwards, and they looked to see a broad green jungle out there. In the very distance, silhouetted by the setting sun, was a pillar like structure, huge and imposing. "There! Beyond the Neola Jungle is the Monolith. Inside awaits the Power of the Universe. The Monolith is heavily guarded against intruders. No one has ever survived an attempt to reach it."
Aisha shivered as she looked at it; almost as if she had seen it in a dream or something. "Then, how can we?"
"You were chosen by Zordon," Dulcea reminded them all. "I have faith in his wisdom."
Tommy looked at her. "Can you help us?"
"We will call upon the Sacred Animals of the Ninjetti for help," Dulcea explained, turning back to the ruins. She motioned for the Rangers to surround the firepit, then began to feed wood into it. She checked her supply of the soul-dust which would allow her to peer into their souls. If they had lied to her about anything, the soul-dust would let her know, and would kill them. Only those who were true and pure of heart were permitted to wield the Power of Ninjetti.
She forced her thoughts away from the other. . .she had something else to take care of now. Twelve someone elses. Taking a deep breath, she turned back to them as they stood in a nervous row. "Buried deep within each of us is an Animal Spirit waiting to be released," she instructed. "Close your eyes and look deep inside."
As they did so, she blew the soul-dust into the fire, causing it to nearly triple in size. The dust flew all over them, transforming their normal clothes into the robes of the Ninjetti, in twelve rainbow colors, with their animal spirits emblazoned on the front. She smiled to herself. They had all passed; she'd known they would. Picking up her staff, she started with Aisha, clad now in the Brown Ninjetti suit. "Aisha, you are the Bear. Fierce and unstoppable."
"Rocky, powerful, smart, you are the mighty Ape," she told him; red suited him well.
"Billy, you are the Wolf, cunning and swift," Billy smiled to see he once more wore the bright blue he loved so much.
Dulcea paused before Kimberly, now the Pink Ninjetti. "Agile Kimberly, light as a feather, you are the Crane.
"Adam?" she paused to look at the young warrior in black. "Adam, what's wrong?"
He sighed deeply, staring at the symbol on his chest. "I'm a frog."
She smiled. "Yes, a frog! Like the one you kiss," she kissed him on the forehead gently. "To get a handsome prince!" seeing he felt a little better, she went on to Tommy.
"You, Tommy, are the Falcon, winged lord of the skies," she declared. He looked good in white, she decided. Next was Jason, who looked far more comfortable in gray than he ever had before in either red or gold.
"Jason, you are the Dolphin, the master of the seas," she told him. He nodded to himself; he'd always loved the water.
Then came Trini, "You are the Panther," she told the first Yellow Ranger, now the Yellow Ninjetti, "strong and delicate."
Tanya was next in line, and Orange suited her more than most people might have thought it would. "Tanya, you are the Nightingale, sweet of voice and strong in mind and spirit."
At Tanya's smile, she went on to Kat, the Tan Ninjetti. "Kat, playful and skilled, you are the Otter."
Kat chuckled a little, then looked at Zack, who stood next to her, a trifle startled at both his Animal Spirit and his color. "Zack, you are the Snake, wise and quick and spirited," she told the young man in green. He nodded a little; now that he thought about it, it did fit him!
Last in line was Justin, who stood straight and proud in his purple Ninjetti gear. "Young Justin, strong and determined and full of the joy of life, you are the Squirrel."
With all of their Spirit Animals named, she stood a little to one side, gazing down in joy at them all. "To be in harmony with the sacred Animal Spirits is to have the force of the Ninjetti. To those who are Ninjetti, anything is possible. But I am afraid you must do this on your own."
Aisha's eyes widened. "You're not coming with us, Dulcea?"
The warrior shook her head. "If only I could. But one step beyond this plateau, and I would begin to age rapidly. The strength is inside you. Trust it. Your sacred animals will be your guide," she looked at them with love and care. "May your Animal Spirits watch over you!" she declared. A moment later, she had transformed into her own Spirit Animal, the snowy owl, and flew away.
The Ninjetti warriors looked at each other quietly after her departure. Tommy took a deep breath. "I guess we're on our own," he stated. The Rangers nodded, examining their new colors and Animal Spirits briefly. This brought up memories for Tommy, Aisha, Kim, Billy, Adam, and Rocky, as well as a few for Kat. But each of them could feel a difference between the Ninja and Ninjetti powers, felt a strength and permanence in their new powers that flowed all through them. These powers, they sensed, could never be taken away from them. They were theirs for all time.
It was a good feeling.
Gasket nodded sharply. "Since we can't stop that, we'll work on destroying them once they get back!"
The Master of Ooze tossed his head wildly. "I say we set our sights on that town they hold so dear! Angel Grove, I believe it's called! Once we've reduced that to smoking rubble, the Rangers will be too devastated to fight us, and will be easy pickings!"
Gasket was on his feet a moment later, pulling up a map of the town. "This is Angel Grove," he reported. "And this is going to be the site of our greatest battle ever, with no Rangers to stand in our way!"
Ooze laughed, producing a vial of his hypnotic ooze. "And with this, the very citizens of the town will stand against the Rangers when they return, as our slaves!"
The machine overlord threw his head back and howled with raw joy. "Oh, yes!! The Rangers won't be able to fight against their own friends and family!"
Together, they made their plans for the conquest of Angel Grove. This would be the ultimate strike against the Rangers!
"I wonder how long it's going to take us to get there," Jason mused as they trekked through the rough terrain. "I wonder what Ivan's going to be doing while we're gone."
"I'd rather not think about that," Justin shook his head. "Whatever he does, we'll fix it."
Billy glanced from side to side as they walked, he couldn't shake the feeling of eyes on him for some reason. I wonder what it is? Whatever it was, if it were anything, it kept to itself as the twelve of them traveled through the jungle pathways. The small trail they'd been following opened up before them suddenly into a wide clearing.
"Whoa," Tommy breathed at the sudden sight of blue sky over them. They hadn't seen the sky in almost two hours as they'd trudged down the roadway, and it was magnificent. He stared up at it for a long moment, drinking the deep blueness of it in. He wondered if the skies over Earth were still blue; or if Ooze had attacked while they were seeking the power to defend their homeworld.
"Incredible," Trini whispered. "Simply incredible."
None of the Rangers noticed she wasn't looking at the sky, but at Billy, who stood a few feet away from her. She almost licked her lips in contemplation; only Kim's presence right near her kept her from doing it. The two girls had hardly been apart since Kim and Tommy had talked things out while on the beach. Trini smiled to herself, finally admitting what she'd kept at bay for so long. I love him. Billy. I love Billy. For a moment, she was so lost in her own thoughts and a few daydreams she didn't notice the vine tendril wrapping around her wrist.
"Hey!" she shouted suddenly as the pressure registered on her mind. "What's going on?" she looked down to see a three-inch thick vine fastening itself firmly on her wrist and starting to pull at her. "Let go!"
"Trini!" Billy was next to her already, hacking at the vine with a convenient branch he'd picked up. "Let go of her!" he followed the vine with his eyes to see it attached to a wide, red-mouthed plant lined with sharp teeth. "What in the hell is that?" he growled, slashing as hard as he could at the tendril still wrapped firmly around Trini.
Jason and Rocky started towards them, only to find their ankles now had those vines around them! "Not good!" Rocky growled, trying get it away from him. Jason glanced around to see roughly half of them had been 'captured' by the plants, and the other half was trying to get them out.
Justin pulled as hard as he could at the vine tightening it's grip around Adam's waist, while Tanya started throwing sticks and small rocks at the plant, hoping that would distract and loosen it. "We've got to find another way," he spat the words out as he managed to step on one tendril that was attempting to seize him as well. He glanced up to see the plant didn't seem to be very well attached to the ground; it's roots were already coming up. An idea sparked in his mind. "Tanya!" he shouted. "Grab those vines and starting pulling! Don't try to get it off Adam, try and get it out of the ground!"
"You got it!" she wasn't going to argue with him right now; she'd seen that light in his eyes before when he'd figured out the answer to a problem. She set her heels in the ground, took a firm grip on the vine, and pulled with every ounce of strength in her. Justin joined her a moment later, and with their combined efforts, the plant was soon out of the ground.
"Whoa! That did it!" Adam grinned, pulling the tendrils away from his waist. "Let's help the others!"
Justin nodded; he was already on his way to help Trini and Billy. With the plants' weakness exposed, it didn't take long before they were all free and the plants were in a dying heap. The twelve Ninjetti stood in a loose circle, grinning at each other goofily. "Well, that was fun!" Zack laughed, only to get bopped on the head by Aisha, who'd been attacked by three of the vines. "Okay, okay, so it wasn't!"
"Is everyone okay?" Tommy asked. As they all nodded, a bit wearily in most cases, he continued, "We'd better keep going," Tommy had his arm around Kat, who along with Kim had just rescued him from the plants. "The faster we get to the Monolith, the faster we can get home and stop Ooze."
Without another word, they started out of the clearing. Things were only going to get more dangerous from there on out, they all knew.
And that was even before they got back to Earth.
"A little surprise for the Rangers," she told him quickly what the scorpion warrior had in mind. Gasket threw his head back and laughed.
"Oh, my, but that will be fun to see!" he declared. "Continue, my darling Archerina, but remember what we discussed before leaving the ship," he lowered his voice circuits a little. "Once we've taken over Earth, Ooze and any who support him must and will be destroyed."
Archerina nodded brightly. "Oh, Gasket, are we really going to conquer Earth this time?"
"Indeed we are!" her husband declared. "There's nothing to stand in our way except a few pitiful humans, and they won't for long!"
She laughed. "And that foolish Scorpina actually thinks she's going to survive our conquest of this planet!"
"As does Ooze," Gasket couldn't believe the foolishness of these organic beings. "But we don't need to tip our hands too soon. Plot with Scorpina, and if you can destroy the Rangers with her help, do so. I'll be working with Ooze," he chuckled. "Ah, this planet shall soon be ruled by the new Machine Empire!" Gasket had seized control of a good portion of the Empire after his father's destruction at the hands of Rita and Zedd. He'd known they'd be rebuilt sooner or later, and had decided to get what he could, while he could. Now, he had the Skybase, thousands of Quadrafighters, and all the Cogs he could handle. It was a start, at least!
Gasket sat down and stared out the window to the twirling Earth below. Rita and Zedd had failed; his father had failed; Divatox had only gotten rid of the Rangers, and maybe not even that. But now Gasket was here, and he would not fail! He would do what they had not, and would take this planet for his own!!!
Nothing would stop him.
I had NO idea it would look like this. . .it's. . . awesome. . .awe-inspiring! "Now that we're here," Tanya wondered. "Now what do we do? How do we get the Power?"
Tommy glanced around the clearing in front of the monolith's door. Ten statues were scattered around it, five set directly into the monolith itself, five in a line leading up to it. He took a deep breath, and walked up to it, examining both the statues and the door. "I don't think they can hurt us!" he called out, turning around and walking back to the others. Just as he passed the last statue, he saw Kim's eyes widen in shock.
"Look out, Tommy!" she screamed. He didn't stop to wonder why, he just dropped as fast as he could and rolled out of the way. He looked up to see that the statues had come to life, as intensively ugly gargoyles, all of them armed and coming towards him and his friends! He backed up until he reached the others, then barked out one single word.
The others responded quickly. "The Bear!" Aisha cried.
"The Wolf!" Billy was next to cry.
"The Crane!" came from Kim.
"The Ape!" Rocky's voice was bright and happy.
"The Panther!" was Trini's cry.
"The Dolphin!" snapped out Jason.
"The Frog!" Adam cried out his Animal Spirit proudly.
"The Snake!" Zack declared.
"The Nightingale!" came from Tanya.
"The Otter!" Kat was only a moment behind her friend.
"The Squirrel!" Justin's voice was no less serious than the older Rangers.
"The Falcon!" Tommy joined his call to the others. They stood fully garbed in their Ninjetti gear, ready and able to kick serious monster butt. "Whoa!" he yelled as one of the creatures almost took his head off with a swinging ax. He ducked and rolled, knocking the thing off it's feet as quick as he could. He winced at the pain; he had to have sprained something in there, that thing was hard! He didn't have time to spare a glance for the others as he dealt with his first opponent; all he could do was be grateful that they weren't outnumbered, at least.
True to his Animal Spirit, Justin scampered up a tree as quick as he could. He took a quick visual assessment of the situation, and came up with one answer: they were in trouble. The only good point was they outnumbered their opponents by two. The Purple Ninjetti gathered his strength, and leaped as fast and hard as he could onto one of the monsters, knocking it away from Trini and Aisha.
"Thanks, Justin!" Aisha waved at him. He nodded, then pointed to the waterfall a few feet away.
"If we can knock it in there, it'll be out of the fight," he told them. Trini grinned a little at that.
"Good idea!" she declared. "Let's do it!" she turned to the monster, just now lumbering back to it's feet. "Hey, ugly! Come on, come and get us!"
The gargoyle did it's level best to charge the two girls as they stood just a few feet away. It didn't notice Justin coming up behind it like a torpedo, and it couldn't stop the young Ninjetti as he knocked it past the two swiftly dodging Ninjetti and into the waterfall below. The three Ninjetti looked after it, smiling at each other. One was down, nine to go.
Adam and Tanya fought back to back, as they had before as Zeo Rangers, and it worked just as well now as it had then. The only difference was that they were fighting these stone creatures instead of Cogs. "What is this, pick on the frog day?" Adam wondered as two of them swiped at him at the same time. Tanya shook her head a little.
"Adam, you've got to work on your sense of timing for jokes!" she told him as she dodged out of the way of another pair. An idea occurred to her as she saw they were each fighting two. "Adam, when they charge, jump hard left!"
"You got it!" he agreed, just as the gargoyles headed for them again. He jumped left, she jumped right, and all four of them landed hard against each other: hard enough so that they all disintegrated. Five down, five to go.
Rocky and Jason teamed up, since that seemed to work fairly well against these things. Two on one might not've been the most fair odds normally, but this was most definitely not normal combat. "This thing's hard as a rock!" Jason grunted as he corkscrew kicked it, knocking it back several feet.
"Is that supposed to be some of insult to me?" the Red Ninjetti mock-glared at the Gray as he picked up a stick and started whacking the gargoyle with it.
"Tell you later!" Jason giggled. "Come on, let's get it over to the waterfall! That worked on it's friend!" even in the heat of battle, Jason kept an eye on his teammates, no matter what. Rocky nodded and started herding it back with the impromptu staff he had.
Which he didn't have a second later when the gargoyle slapped it away, and nearly slapped his head right off his neck. "Oh, man," he muttered, backflipping. "Jason, you got it?"
"You know it, partner!" the Gray Ninjetti nodded, then full out tackled the creature, overbearing it and knocking it into the waterfall to join it's companion. The two young men high fived each other. "Way to go, bro!" they chorused. Six down, four to go.
Zack and Kim ran side by side, dodging the strikes of the monster after them. Kim's eyes flicked all around, looking for something to fight with. Her eyes landed on a heavy rock teetering on a ledge above them, and grinned. "Zack!" she snapped. "Up there!"
He jerked his head up and grinned. "I like how you think, Kim!" he declared. Moving as fast as they could, they slipped past the gargoyle and headed for the rock. While he started pushing on it, Kim grabbed a stick and started to lever the rock.
"This'll work better," she muttered as he joined her on it. "Remember science class? All you need is just the right pressure!" a moment later, the rock slipped off the ledge and landed right on top of the gargoyle, squashing it deep into the soft ground. Seven down, three to go.
And those three were surrounding Tommy. The White Ninjetti dodged around several times, trying to get away, only to be smacked back again and again. Finally, he saw a way out: a fairly dangerous one. He glanced briefly up to see Billy and Kat both ready to attack; one on each side of the clearing. Moving as fast as his Animal Spirit could fly, he slid between the legs of one gargoyle, then turned around and kicked it with all his strength in the middle of it's back. It stumbled a little, just as Kat and Billy swung in on the vines they'd been holding, knocking it's two companions closer to it in eerie mimicry of the move that had dealt with four of them earlier. It proved just as effective now as it had then, as each clove the others with their own weapons, reducing them all to dust. Ten down.
"Whoa," Aisha shook her head as they all regrouped in the center of the clearing. "That was major trouble!"
"Glad it's over with!" Kim did her best to catch her breath, then suddenly the ground shook under them. "What the heck?"
They watched in awe as the doors to the Monolith opened and light poured out all around them. Small images of their Animal Spirits floated out and around them, circling them. "The Great Power," Trini whispered.
"The Sacred Animals," Billy couldn't believe his eyes. Then each tiny representation plunged into them, and they were lifted up in a great wave of light and sound and power and strength like none they had ever known before. When it ended, they all stared at each other in pure awe.
Where before their varied uniforms had resembled spandex, these new uniforms were armor-like, though they had the same freedom of movement as their others had. By their sides were laser pistols, and their minds pulsed with knowledge of their special weapons and new Zords. "Our morphers are online!" Billy cried out in joy, looking at his friends.
"We got the power!" Tommy felt the strength filling him once more. "Now come on! It's time to send that slimeball Ivan Ooze packing!"
"How do we get back to Earth?" Justin asked suddenly. "Auric and Ninjor sent us here; how do we get back?"
They all paused; they'd never really thought of that until now. Always before they'd had their communicators to teleport from place to place. Then Dulcea's voice drifted through the clearing. "To those who are Ninjetti, anything is possible."
"Let's do it," Trini said softly. "We've got a world to save."
The twelve of them touched their hands to the new morphers on their belts, forming the image of Angel Grove in their minds. . .and teleported. As the twelve streaks of light poured across the sky of Phaedos, a snowy owl watched approvingly. Good luck, Power Rangers, Dulcea thought.
"With Angel Grove under our control, the Rangers will be too devastated to fight!" Gasket declared. "And then we can move on to the rest of the world!"
Ooze snorted. That was the whole point of the plan; Gasket didn't have to keep on repeating it! "Yes, yes, yes!" he growled. "Get those Cogs moving, we don't have all day! The Rangers could be back at any moment!"
"Move out!" the Cogs' master ordered. "I want every person in Angel Grove our willing slave by nightfall!"
"Oh, it's going to take you that long?" Ooze grumbled. "I want them all in my power within the hour!"
Gasket glared at him. "Oh, shut up!" he snapped. "The important part is they're ours, not how fast it happens!"
Ooze shrugged and stared out over the town from their vantage point on top of a building. He smiled as he saw people running from the Cogs, only to be oozed from behind. "They're all going to be mine," he muttered. "Mine forever."
Scorpina and Archerina, standing just a few feet away, snorted at the exact same moment. That's what he thinks, both thought. Scorpina paced a little bit; wondering when the Rangers were going to get back was quite wearing on her nerves. She would never admit this to anyone, but she had hoped all along they would get their powers. She wanted a fair, honest, open fight against an opponent equal to her in skill and strength.
She flatly refused to let her mind wander back to a time before she'd been known as Scorpina. You've got better things to worry about than your past, she told herself. The Rangers will be here soon, and then the REAL fun begins! And who knows, you just might get yourself a chance at Adam again. She licked her lips; she hadn't had time to do some of the things she'd planned for him during that one mission for Zedd. That'll change, if I can get my claws onto him.
Archerina looked over at her friend, and chuckled to herself. That silly Scorpina! She's got a crush on that human. That could prove to be her downfall one day. My darling Gasket and I will destroy first the Rangers, then her and Ooze forever! The Machine Empire will reign supreme over the Earth!
Gasket put a hand on Archerina's shoulder, and together they watched the Cogs enslave Angel Grove. "As soon as the Rangers are dealt with, Ooze and Scorpina shall be destroyed, and we will be King and Queen of Earth!" he whispered into her audio receptors. "We shall reign supreme!"
Ooze ignored Scorpina, his mind whirling with grandiose plans for the conquest of the planet. It didn't bother him that the Rangers were probably on their way back already. He could defeat them; no silly pack of humans could conquer the great and powerful Ivan Ooze!
This was the scene the Rangers teleported into. People everywhere standing in clumps and rows, a vacant look in their eyes as if their minds were a thousand miles away. Tommy shivered as he looked around. "Looks like Ivan's been busy while we were away."
"He must've done something to everyone," Justin observed. He glanced around at the small groups scattered throughout the streets, then paled suddenly under his helmet. "No," he whispered. "It can't be!"
"Justin?" Rocky asked. "What is it?"
The Rangers stared as Justin ran over to one of the hypnotized men and pulled at his hand. "Dad! Dad!" he yelled. Doug Stewart simply stood there quietly. "Dad, it's me, Justin!" he screamed, not caring who heard him. "Dad, snap out of it!"
Billy came over to his young friend and put a hand on his shoulder. "He's been hypnotized," he explained. "If we defeat Ivan, he'll come out of it. I hope."
"How do we defeat him?" Tanya wondered. "I mean, usually we fight monsters, not something like this!"
Tommy nodded. "I know."
Justin was still tugging at his father's hand, when a harsh voice suddenly crackled throughout the city. "My slaves, the Power Rangers have arrived on Earth. Destroy them! Tear them apart, and bring the remains to me: if there are any! Let nothing stand in your way!"
Doug suddenly glared down at his son, and the Purple Ranger backed away, recoiling from the blankness and hate in his father's eyes. "Dad," he whispered. "No!"
Billy grabbed Justin and jerked him away, just as Doug's hand came down with incredible force where Justin had been only moments earlier. "We can't fight them!" the Blue Ranger shouted to the others. "These are just normal people; Ivan's got control of them somehow!"
Kim dodged away from the grabbing hands of a Angel Grovite as they started to surround the young people. "We've got to break that control then!"
"Any idea how?" Aisha wondered, backflipped out of a group of former classmates.
"Your guess is as good as mine!" the Pink Ranger retorted. "Does anyone have any ideas?"
Rocky raised his hand even as he jerked away from another set of citizens did their best to grab him. "I vote we get the heck out of here until we figure a way to free these guys!"
"Sounds like a plan to me!" Tommy declared. "Let's go!"
"I knew they couldn't stand up to their own townspeople as enemies!" Gasket mocked. "With powers or without, their hearts are their greatest weakness!" I am so glad I have only a central processing unit, not a heart! I will never be as weak as a human!
Scorpina's eyes tracked the Rangers through the city, giving no hint as to what might be going on in her mind. Her face was completely expressionless as she watched the Rangers scatter to various parts of the town. "Your ooze will grant you victory, master!" she concealed her distaste for this form of combat perfectly.
"Of course it will!" Ivan growled. "The Rangers can't do anything against my ooze!"
Gasket nodded harshly. "It's just what we needed to defeat them! Perhaps we can even bring them under our control!"
Ooze spat. "I wish I could! But as long as they're morphed, my ooze has no effect on them!"
"Can anything free the humans?" Scorpina asked.
Her master frowned briefly. "Believe it or not, water will wash off the ooze and release them!" he grabbed the microphone he'd used to speak to the people before. "Citizens of Angel Grove! Avoid all water sources, that is an order from your master!"
Scorpina's eyes narrowed. Water.
Jason nodded. "If we can break it, they'll go back to normal; but breaking it's the hard part!"
Billy closed his eyes in thought, a motion duplicated by Justin a few feet away. Helmets in hand, the two geniuses poured through various ways of spellbreaking. Finally Billy shook his head. "Without a sample of the ooze, we don't have a chance," he said. "And we'd need to get to my lab, and I don't know if we can, or even if it's still in one piece!"
"It is," Trini said, a little shyly. Billy glanced over at her curiously. "I went there to check it out just after I got back to Angel Grove," she reported. "There was dust and junk everywhere; like it hadn't been touched in weeks, if not months. I cleaned everything up, replaced what was missing, fixed a few things. . .," her voice trailed off as her eyes met Billy's bottomless blue ones.
"Thanks," he smiled at her, and her heart almost stopped. "But we still need a sample of the ooze to find out how to break the spell."
Tanya shuddered. "Only way to get that is to find Ooze."
"Maybe," a harsh voice crackled out of the shadows of the trees. "And maybe not, Rangers."
Adam felt a shiver run down his spine at that voice. "Who's there?" he asked, backing away instinctively.
"You don't need to know," the voice replied. "Just get the humans to water. The ooze washes off, and they'll be free. And a warning: Gasket and Archerina of the Machine Empire have joined forces with Ooze. That is why you faced Cogs before, and will again."
Tommy started towards the trees, only to see a slight form fading away even as he reached them. "Whoever it was, they're gone now," he reported back. "But at least they gave us some answers."
Billy shrugged. "Water? Seems sort of anti-climatic, but if it works, that's what's important. "
"How do we get them all in water?" Justin wondered. "I want to get my dad free as fast as possible!"
Trini thought for a moment. "We heard Ooze telling them to stay away from water sources, and if they obey the way they seem to, we can't lure them to one. We'll have to bring water to them, water they can't avoid."
"How?" Rocky wondered. "How do we bring water to the whole city?"
They were quiet for a few moments, then suddenly Justin jumped up. "I know how! Rain!"
"Rain?" Kim looked at him for a second. "How do we make it rain?"
Billy snapped his fingers. "Perfect! Cloud seeding!"
"Cloud seeding?" most of the other Rangers chorused. Justin and Trini nodded jointly, they'd grasped what he meant immediately.
"We seed the clouds, and make it rain," Billy explained. "And we keep the people out in the open by showing ourselves. They'll chase us, and we drench them!"
"This could work!" Tommy nodded. "Do you have any way to cloudseed, Billy?"
The Blue Ranger thought for a moment. "I think so, at my lab. Trini, you, me, and Justin'll have to get it. Those of us with flying Zords will seed the clouds, while everyone else gets the people of Angel Grove out into the open."
Trini was on her feet, as was Justin. "Let's do it!" she declared. "Back to action!"
"I have no idea, master," Scorpina frowned from behind him. "Perhaps they're giving up."
Gasket shook his head. "I doubt it very much! One thing I've learned is that these Rangers are persistent! It's the next thing to impossible to get them to quit!"
Archerina growled, "We'll just have to destroy them then!"
Ooze couldn't keep his eyes off the Rangers. "They're up to something, and I want to know what!" he declared. "Scorpina!"
"Yes, master?" she asked quietly.
"Take some Cogs and go find out what they're doing!" he declared. "And destroy them if you get the chance!"
Scorpina shook her head briefly and daringly. "Master, I would work better without the Cogs, they are somewhat noisy. . .I prefer stealth."
"Fine, take them, leave them, I don't care!" he growled. "Just stop them!"
Scorpina smiled to herself as she leaped off the top of the building and started towards the first batch of Rangers. Oh, I'll spy on them, not a problem at all. But I don't think I'll be STOPPING them! At least not this time. Some other time. In a true and fair fight.
No matter how much she had to cheat to do it.
Justin vaulted over a Cog and kicked it's head off almost absently. "Good!" he grunted. "I want my dad back!"
"You'll get him back, Justin," Trini promised. "We won't let Ooze win."
Billy threw open the doors to his garage, and grinned. Trini had remembered his organizational system perfectly. "It should be right over here," he muttered, diving into a box and searching through it as fast as he could. "Ah, here it is!" he pulled out a small bag. "This should be all we need; it's a special formula I mixed up at the Command Center a couple of years back."
"Why'd you want to make it rain?" Justin wondered. Billy turned a little red and muttered something under his breath so sheepishly the Purple Ranger didn't have the heart to continue the question. He quickly divided the dust in the bag into three smaller containers.
"This should do it," he said finally.
Trini glanced outside to see Tanya, Tommy, and Kim all standing outside, fighting off Cogs and avoiding enslaved humans. "Hit the skies, guys!" she called out, taking the bags from Billy and tossing them as high as she could.
Kim jumped up, her trained muscles taking her high, and snagged the bags. "You got it!" she grinned, looking at her friends, then tossing them each a bag.
"We need NinjaZord power, now!" they chorused. The Crane, Falcon, and Nightingale NinjaZords appeared in the skies, and their three pilots teleported up to them. Billy, Trini, and Justin stared up after them.
"It's all up to them now," Trini sighed.
"Not quite!" Justin jumped back suddenly as some of the hypnotized citizens started after them. "We've got to help keep these guys out until the rain starts up!"
Together the three of them started to run through the streets of Angel Grove, attracting all the attention they could, drawing the people out.
Hoping their plan would work.
She slipped a little closer to the tree and smiled again. The Rangers had no idea who had given them that little clue, and she had no intentions of ever letting them know, either. Unless I need something from them, she amended to herself. Then maybe. I'm not above a little blackmail and corruption of the innocent!
"You know it, Tommy!" Kim grinned to her boyfriend through the canopy of her CraneZord. It was so much like the one she'd flown when Ninjor had given her the Ninja Powers; she made a mental note to look into the similarities and differences between Ninja and Ninjetti one day. As soon as all this is over with, she told herself. For now: time to make it rain!
"We're at the right level," Tanya reported. "Prepare to seed!"
With a flick of a switch it was done. The seeds poured out of the storage areas and fed into the clouds. The three airborne Rangers dipped their wings in salute to each other as the clouds slowly began to thicken and grow darker. "We did it!" Tommy cried out.
"Let's get back to the others," Kim sighed. "We're going to have a lot to decide after this."
Slowly the three of them started back to the park. They all knew this was only the first battle in what would become an extremely long war.
When no answer came immediately, or indeed at all, he glared over to where Gasket and Archerina had been only moments before. Both of them were teleported out, and Gasket paused long enough to say, "We're machines, you idiot! We rust! See you back at the palace!"
"Ahhhhhhhhh!!" Ooze bellowed. "This is an outrage! Scorpina! Scorpina, where are you?????"
"Oh, what are you blathering about, Ooze?" she appeared behind him, a cocky smile on her lips. "What's the matter? It's just a little rain!"
He turned on his heel and glared at her. "You were supposed to stop the Rangers from freeing my slaves! Why didn't you?"
She shrugged. "I can't fly!" she reminded him. "They seeded the clouds; how was I supposed to stop them, sprout wings?"
"Oh, forget it!" he hissed. "Let's get back to the castle before those machines drip oil all over everything!" he turned to where they could see the three flying Zords landing in the park, and shook his fist at them. "I'll get you yet, Rangers! Mark my words, I'll get you yet!"
Scorpina stifled a smile as they teleported back to the palace. You will not. I will. You are simply a convenience. And one that can be discarded at will.
Two days had passed since their return from Phaedos. They had made their 'official' appearance as the Power Rangers, promising to protect the entire planet once again in the event of this new attack, and Angel Grove and the world had welcomed them with open arms. Those of their town who had been under Ivan's spell were now all freed, though none of them understood why they'd woken up in the middle of a rainstorm. They also didn't remember a thing that had occurred from the moment Ivan's ooze had touched them.
"We need some sort of base," Jason stated. "Somewhere we can meet and plan for Ivan's attacks, and take care of those who get injured in fights and things like that."
"Maybe Billy's lab?" Trini suggested. The Blue Ranger shook his head, sighing.
"It's not anywhere big enough, and we'd have to explain too much to my parents. It was bad enough trying to convince them I hadn't lost my mind when I went to Aquitar."
Tommy stood up suddenly. "What about here?"
"What do you mean, here?" Justin stared at him. "Tommy, this place is a wreck! A complete disaster! What sort of base can it make?"
"Don't you remember what we've learned?" Tommy smiled at them all. "To those who possess the Great Power, all things are possible."
The Rangers slowly gathered around him. "Do you really think it's possible?" Rocky wondered.
"The only way to find out. ..is to try," the reborn White Ranger suggested. Moving on some instinct they couldn't name, they stood in a circle reminiscent of when they'd been given their Ninjetti Powers. Fingertip to fingertip, they concentrated, forming the same image in their minds, each detail lovingly recorded in their memories. Though some had known only the Power Chamber, some only the Command Center, they all had called it home, and they all wanted it back.
It began slowly. A few pieces of debris flying through the air, surrounded by a glittering silvery light. Faster and faster things began to fly around them, reforming into something. . .something new. .something beautiful. . .
And then it was over. The Rangers stared around themselves; this was. . . "We're home," Trini whispered. "The Command Center."
Justin shook his head. "It's the Power Chamber."
"It's more like both," Billy breathed. "It's got the space of the Power Chamber, but the design of the Command Center," they'd even brought back the Viewing Globe! Thank goodness it's back on the floor, I kept getting a crick in my neck every time I stared at that thing!
The twelve of them smiled at each other. "I think we can call it. . .the Command Chamber," Justin suggested.
"The Command Chamber," Tommy tasted the words. "Yes. That's it.
Everyone flinched a bit at the sight of the rebuilt tube that had once housed either Zordon or Dimitria. "We'll get Zordon back," Rocky laid a hand on Justin's shoulder. "And who knows, maybe Dimitria will return."
The youngest Ranger looked up at him, and smiled. "I know," there was a peace in him they hadn't seen before. "We're the home guard now. We're going to protect Earth until the others get back with Zordon."
The others nodded. "Let's do it," Trini grinned. They spread out throughout the Command Chamber, starting to learn what they had made. Justin watched for a moment, smiling.
We're home at last. The home guard. We'll take care of things while you're gone, everyone. Go bring Zordon home, as he had every night since seeing his friends blast off, Justin wished his fellow Rangers well. Let Ooze and the Machine Empire do what they wanted. They had Rangers to contend with now.
The home guard was on guard.