Scorpina sighed. "He's been going on like that ever since the Rangers defeated him," she muttered to Archerina. "I hope he shuts up soon; I'm getting tired of listening!"
"I know what you mean," the Machine Princess moaned. "It's wearing out my audio circuits!"
The two young females both winced as Ooze grumbled even more. They stared suddenly as he stopped and turned to them. "Those Rangers will not defeat us again!" he declared. "They will be destroyed!"
I wonder if he's been taking lessons from Rita? Scorpina mused to herself as she leaned back, listening to the new tirade; which mostly consisted of various things Ooze was going to do to the Rangers once he had defeated them. Not once did she hear anything on how to do it. She sighed. "The way to destroy them is from within," she said at last. "Take them out one at a time. Start with one who is vulnerable."
"Ah, yes!" Ooze nodded. "That one who was evil to start with, the boy, Tommy! The White Falcon Ninjetti, the White Ranger!"
Scorpina almost audibly groaned. "No, Master," she sighed. "Tommy has been the target more times than even I can count. The Rangers expect it almost! Go for another, one who will not be on their guard."
Ooze actually seemed to think about that, then nodded. "A good idea; I'm glad I thought of it!" he browsed through his files on the new Ninjetti, inspecting each minutely.
Archerina quietly removed herself from the throne room, heading back to the Skybase and Gasket. She had to let her beloved know what was going on; he was definitely going to want in on this plan. Scorpina barely noticed that she was leaving; all her thoughts were on trying to convince her master to let her have a chance at Adam, the Black Frog Ninjetti. She licked her lips in contemplation, he had actually grown more attractive since the last time she'd seen him.
But that can come later, she reminded herself. It really would be the height of rudeness to seduce him while he's still on the side of good. Then again. . .I can be rude. . I can be VERY rude. . .
"Ah-ha!!!" she looked up at the cry of joy from her master. "I know just which one to attack, and it will be something the Rangers will never expect!"
"Which one?" she asked, hoping against hope that it was the one she really wanted it to be. "Which Ranger shall be the target of your plot?"
Ooze smiled, and she wasn't certain quite how to take that. "I know which one you want it to be," he teased her. "And if you serve me well enough, Scorpina, you just might have that chance with him you've been wanting."
She tossed her head proudly. "He's just a human," she denied. "They're all alike. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all."
Her master only laughed, and waved a hand, creating the image of the Ranger he was going after. "That one," he stated. "That one is the object of my first attack. And when it is ended. . .," a low and evil laugh sounded. "The Rangers will have lost, and I will have won!"
His chief servant looked at the Ranger he had in mind to attack, and nodded briefly. "Excellent choice, Master Ooze. This one will easily fall!"
Ooze's eyes glinted with craftiness. Oh, yes. Fall. For ME!!!!!
"What's in the box, Billy?" Trini asked as the Blue Ranger entered the Youth Center with a long wooden box in his hand. He grinned a little at her, then glanced around, mentally headcounting.
Tommy and Jason were sparring on the mats, a sight so familiar he'd almost felt physical pain when Jason had went to Switzerland and he hadn't seen that for months. Kim and Kat were practicing ballet across the room, with Kim paying strict attention to the more experienced dancer. Zack and Aisha were talking over a couple of sodas, while Justin was going through some katas with Tanya and Adam. Rocky was lifting weights, and doing very well at it; it was plain his back wasn't troubling him at all.
It's good to be all back together, and to all have Powers again. I honestly wish we didn't HAVE to have them, Billy mused as he headed over to a table. But it's still good to be with everyone.
"Guys," he said quietly, but with enough force to get their attention. "I've got some things for everyone. Somethings we're going to need."
The others slowly made their way over to him. "What is it?" Justin asked. Billy opened up the box and smiled to see their expression. "Whoa. . .they're beautiful!"
"It's almost like old times," Kim brushed her fingers gently across the communicators inside. Billy chuckled.
"It didn't take me too long to make these," he said. "I just had to color-code them properly," he glanced over to Tommy, a spark of mischief in his eyes. "And please, no more color-changing! I had to make three different communicators for you!"
"I'll try!" Tommy promised. Billy smiled, then handed the communicators out. As he strapped his own blue one on, he almost jumped to see Jerome Stone coming up behind them.
The former police officer nodded briefly, then leaned in closer. "How are things in the world of the Power Rangers, guys?"
Twelve faces stared back at him in shock. "Um, what are you talking about?" Justin asked gingerly. "The Power Rangers aren't here."
Stone laughed a little, glancing around. "Guys, I've been a cop and a detective, not to mention I'm not stupid. It didn't take too long for me to figure out your secret. I'm not really sure who's who, of course, what with the power changes and color changes you've been through, but when the same, or more or less the same, group of kids keep running off, and the Power Rangers show up shortly afterwards, you can make the connection."
"You're not going to tell anyone, are you?" Jason wondered. "We sort of like keeping it a secret."
"Don't worry," Stone grinned. "I've kept it this long. I just thought that you should know I know."
Billy frowned. "If you've known all this time, why tell us now?"
The owner of the Youth Center grew serious. "I saw what was happening in Angel Grove the other day. Those ooze-hypnotized people. If that's the sort of thing you guys are up against now, then you're going to need someone who can cover for you when you have to leave in a hurry, and a place to get patched up at. I don't know what kind of medical facilities you've got these days, but I did hear rumors that your headquarters was blown up."
Justin shivered. "It was," he whispered. "We've got it back now, a little different, but we still need a lot of help."
"What sort of help?" Stone asked, raising an eyebrow. "I'll do what I can; I'd be glad to help."
The Rangers glanced at each other, then Billy spoke up. "Medical facilities. We all know something about first aid, but we need more than that. Think you can help us set up something?"
"I think I might be able to," Stone nodded. "What else?"
The stars glowed over Angel Grove that night as if they were giving their very blessing to the young couple that wandered through the park. Tanya nestled her head on Adam's shoulder and squeezed his hand.
"I can't believe Lieu. . I mean De. .I mean Mr. Stone is going to all this trouble. And that he's known about the Rangers so long and not said anything," she said softly. "I mean, we've went to all this trouble all this time to keep it from people, and here he's known all along!."
He nodded. "But when Billy contacted Dulcea, she said that we could, and should accept his help."
"True," she admitted. "And it'll be good to have someone helping us out. It feels almost like old times. Just a little," she smiled and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips.
Adam hugged her briefly, feeling more at peace than he had in a long time. Being temporarily free of his Ranger responsibilities had given him a much-needed rest, but he, like all of them, had long since figured out their ultimate destiny lay in the defense of the planet. Despite the fact their world was once more under attack, the Black Ranger was at peace with his girlfriend, and with his restored duties.
Tanya lifted her head suddenly, a chill running down her spine. Is someone watching us? she wondered, tightening her grip on Adam's hand. She'd never had a feeling like that before, but at the same time, it felt a little familiar. "Adam," she whispered. "Let's go home. I'm suddenly very nervous. I think someone's watching us."
He looked around. "Who?" As if I have to ask. Now that we're back on the job, it's probably Ooze and his mechanical cohorts!
"I don't know," she shivered, clutching at him almost as a small child would clutch at a parent when scared. "But it's really starting to get on my nerves."
Adam smiled and kissed her lightly, trying to reassure her. "It'll be okay," he promised. "Come on, I'll take you home."
She nodded as they started back to her house, and glanced around, trying to find what or who it was that was arousing those instincts, or whatever they were. But when nothing showed itself, she began to wonder.
Maybe it's just my imagination. Should I let my nerves interrupt one of the best dates I've had with Adam in a long time? She smiled to herself; leaving her home in Africa hadn't been the easiest decision to make, but falling in love with Adam had helped her decide it was the right choice. She leaned against him, gazing up into his handsome face and wondering briefly what she might have done with her life if Aisha and the Zeo Crystal hadn't entered it. I probably would've continued my studies with Ashala. Maybe went on to become the shaman in time. Who knows?
She shivered again. Maybe I should try and take up those studies again. They could be useful. You never know. Something really strange is going on here, that's for sure.
Then Adam wrapped his arms around her tightly, holding her close. Whatever this is, I've got Adam and the others to help out. I won't be alone. I won't ever be alone again.
"I don't believe this," Ooze shook his head, his eyes wide in shock. "This can't be!"
"What is it?" Gasket peered up at his partner in evil. "What's going on? It's just two of those stupid Rangers!"
Ooze hardly looked back at Gasket. "I have never seen someone with as much raw magical energy as that girl has!" he and Gasket had come down to inspect the Ranger he'd chosen to destroy first, but he had never imagined that one, this Tanya Sloane, would have the power she did within her!
"Oh, magic," Gasket snorted. As a machine, he was somewhat immune to most magical energies, and most definitely wasn't impressed by those who possessed them. "What does that have to do with anything? I thought you were going to destroy her!"
Ivan glared at the Prince of the Machine Empire. "You fool! She's too powerful in magic to just waste like that! I can use potential like that!" he looked back to Tanya as she and Adam began to walk away. "And all she is right now is potential, those blasted Ninjetti powers she has won't let her full abilities awaken."
"So, she's useless," Gasket declared. "We'll just blow her away and that'll be the end of it!"
Ooze briefly considered ending their alliance right then and there, if that was all Gasket could think to do. He took a deep breath. "No, Gasket," he pointed out. "If I awaken her powers by my own magic, then she won't be able to use her Ranger powers. The Rangers will lose a member, and we will gain a powerful slave!"
"Oh," the prince shrugged. "But how to do that? She's with that other Ranger, and if we attack, all twelve of them will show up!"
"I will make certain she can't call for help," Ooze said firmly. "But we will wait until she is alone. I don't want that other Ranger to know we have struck until far after the fact!" he laughed a little. "I want him to know we took her practically from under his nose and he didn't even know it!"
Gasket laughed harshly. "Oh, Ooze, you're truly evil! That's what I like about you!"
Ooze grinned as the two of them, cloaked in a shielding spell of his devising, began to follow the two Rangers. And with my little sorceress by my side, I won't need you and that foolish wife of yours! I can let Scorpina run off and chase that Black Ranger as much as she likes, he might even be an easy catch! He'll be all broken up over the loss of his cute girlfriend here! That'll keep Scorpina occupied until we can put everything in motion to destroy all the rest of them. And from what I heard of her from gossip, she'll keep HIM occupied for quite some time!
As they trailed Tanya and Adam, Gasket let his mind explore the possibilities of this development. So, a neophyte sorceress. Someone of great magical power. Once Ooze has unleashed her powers, and turned her to the side of evil, I believe I shall see what I can do with her. She could be VERY useful. I wonder what Ooze shall do when she, at MY command, turns those powers on him and brings total victory to Archerina and myself!
The two minions of evil chuckled in gross unison, the only thing on their minds the corruption of one of the most innocent of the Rangers: Tanya Denise Sloane.
"Thanks, Adam," Tanya smiled to him as he escorted her to the front door. "I really don't know what I 'sensed' if anything, but I was just so nervous. . . ."
He smiled, brushing the hair back from her face with a tender hand. "Hey, it's all right. We need to be on our guard more these days, you know."
"True," she agreed. "I'm just wondering if there's a difference between being on my guard and being paranoid."
Adam shook his head. "It's not being paranoid if they really are out to get you," he chuckled softly. "And like it or not, people are out to get us. If you can call Ivan Ooze and Gasket people."
She smiled, glancing briefly to the house to see if her parents were still up. She wasn't quite sure if she was glad or not to see the house was dark. "I guess you're right," she said finally, then glanced down at her watch. "Oh, man, I'd better get to bed! I've got an early shift at the radio station!"
Adam checked his own watch and shivered. "Yikes, it is getting late! I'd better be getting going myself!"
"Yeah," she swallowed a few times, fighting back the anxiety that was sprouting up for some reason. "I'll see you tomorrow, Adam."
He stepped closer to her, pulling her into his warm embrace and kiss. Ever since they'd passed their powers on, he'd grown more demonstrative with his affection to her, and once more resuming their Ranger duties hadn't changed that part of him. She returned the kiss with all her heart, glaring at the part of her mind that was screaming for her to just get inside the house and hide. I am NOT going to spoil this kiss! Or any of his kisses!
Adam could feel a slight tenseness in Tanya, and wished he could soothe it away. Whatever it was that had her on edge, be it imagination or some sixth sense that something was going to happen, he would do what he could to help her out with it. As the kiss ended, however reluctantly on both their parts, he gazed deeply into her eyes. How in the world did I get so lucky as to have her for a girlfriend?
How did I get so lucky as to have him for a boyfriend? Tanya wondered as he walked backwards away from the house, staring at her as if he were drinking in the sight. She returned the stare, and she was drinking in the sight of him, storing it away in her memories for all time. "Tanya Park," she whispered under her breath as he went out of sight, "has such a lovely sound to it."
"I love you, Tanya Sloane," Adam whispered a few feet away as he started on his own way home. "I just wish I could say it to your face. But even being a Power Ranger doesn't give you that kind of courage."
He glanced back through the trees, watching as a light came on in the upstairs bedroom that was Tanya's. He deliberately forced his thoughts and gaze away, that wasn't what he needed to have going through his mind when he was trying to walk home in a state of relative alertness!
I wonder just what it is she's so nervous about. Ooze and Gasket haven't done anything since we stopped that little hypnotizing scheme last week. Not that I'm going to complain; if they want to just stew in their fortress, then so be it. But is Tanya somehow picking up something that none of the rest of us are? And if so, what. .. and how?
He shook his head a little as he reached the apartment he'd rented not long after graduating high school. It wasn't very big, but it held all he needed, and he was away from home as well. He'd quickly learned that he enjoyed the solitude in so many ways. His mind turned back To Tanya and her fears as he shut the door and started his usual evening preparations. I'll check with Billy tomorrow; maybe the equipment at the Command Chamber will be able to help us figure out what's going on. Couldn't hurt to ask, at least.
Once he was ready for bed, he picked up the framed photo of himself and his girlfriend. As he did every night, he kissed it gently on the representation of Tanya's lips. "Good night, Tanya. Sleep well, and I'll see you tomorrow," he whispered. "I love you."
"Night, Adam," Tanya whispered as she started to get ready for bed. "I love you."
As she ran a brush through her hair, she hummed a little to herself, avoiding with all her might the still-strong sensation of being watched. I'm safe in my own home, NOTHING is going to happen! she told herself over and over again.
She never knew what it was that made her look up just at that moment. Chances were that what followed would not have happened just as it did if she hadn't. But something, a tingle on the back of her neck, a sound not heard consciously, warned her to look. A scream erupted from her lips as she saw half a dozen Cogs there.
Or rather, she tried to scream, even as she was falling into a battle stance. Icy fear clamped it's fingers on her heart as she realized no sound had come from her. She touched her throat, trying to speak, to ask what was going on, but to no avail. Fine. I can't talk. Which means I can't morph. But I can still fight!
She whirled into action, taking out two of the Cogs with a scissor kick, then slammed a third into the wall, briefly grateful for the fact her parents were sound sleepers. Three down, three to go, she thought, then regretted it when a dozen Oozemen shimmered into existence. Oh, man, I hope I can take care of all of these!
Battle raged, and it was all the more eerie for Tanya, for not only did she make no sounds, neither did her opponents. It was almost as if they were trying to be quiet, as if they were going out of their way not to wake up her parents. This is what I was sensing earlier, she realized. This attack. I've got to get out of here, get to one of the others!
She almost slapped herself as she backflipped, kicking a Cog as she did so. The communicator! I can just teleport to the Command Chamber! She touched her wrist, then groaned inaudibly. Can this night get any worse?
Across the room from her, on her nightstand, was her new orange-banded communicator. In between her and it stood Oozemen and Cogs, all ready to fight her for her freedom. And this is one fight that I don't dare lose. I just wish I could TALK!!!
She shivered for a moment, then felt a tingle in her throat out of nowhere. Maybe the spell or whatever's gone. I'd better test it. She took a deep breath. "It's Morphin' Time!" she ripped the words from the throat. "Nightingale!"
A moment later, the Orange Ranger stood there, eyes blazing with fury even through her helmet. "Okay, guys, time to rumble!" she growled. Being able to morph had changed her plans a little; she still wanted out of here, but she was going to cause some more damage before that happened! "You want me, you're going to have a real fight on your hands!"
As they charged towards her, Cogs from the left and Oozemen from the right, she drew on her Ninjetti powers and faded into invisibility. Watching silently from a few feet away, it was all she could do not to break out into laughter when the Oozemen and Cogs crashed into each other. I didn't think that actually happened except in the movies! Oh, well, the things you learn!
Returning to full visibility, she slammed an Oozeman in the leg with all the morphed strength at her command. She was rewarded with the sight of the Oozeman falling to the ground in a little puddle, but didn't stop to enjoy her 'victory' for long. Moving as fast as was possible, and that was very fast indeed, she dispatched the rest of the Oozeman and Cogs.
"And stay out!" she growled as the last of them vanished. She powered down, and snatched up her communicator. Every sense she had was screaming at her to get out of there, and this time, she wasn't going to deny it for a second. In a flash of orange light, she was gone. If she had stayed only another thirty seconds, she would have seen Ivan Ooze and Prince Gasket disappearing from outside her window, both furious beyond measure.
"This place is magnificent," Justin breathed out as he, Billy, and Trini spent yet another night learning the intricate workings of the Command Chamber's systems. "I don't think we'll ever learn how it all works."
Billy pushed the hair out of his eyes and shrugged. "We're going to have to," he pointed out. "And it's not really all that hard. It's sort of the Power Chamber and Command Center mixed, that's why you guys are finding so much that's unfamiliar."
Trini agreed. "You're the only one who's seen both systems, you'd know the differences."
"We'll get it all figured out in time," Justin said philosophically. "Let's just hope we have time."
"Quite true, quite true," Billy stretched, working a cramp out of his back. The three of them looked up in unison as an orange teleportation stream appeared in front of them, transforming back into an exhausted Tanya, who very nearly collapsed on the floor. "Whoa, Tanya! What's wrong?"
Justin ran to get her some water, as she tried to speak and failed. Once her throat was moistened, she attempted it again, managing this time to spill out what had happened that night. Trini shivered at the thought of being attacked in what should be the safest place for anyone, their own room. "You're safe now," she whispered to Tanya. "Whatever it is they wanted, they didn't get."
"I know," Tanya took a long, deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. "I know." But WHY would they go after me in my own room? They've never done that before. No one who's ever attacked Earth has specifically targeted one of us like that. They wait till day, when we're out in the open somewhere. I guess they can change their tactics, it's not unheard of. But let's just hope they don't change TOO much!
"Tanya," Billy touched her shoulder. "You said that you couldn't talk for a few minutes?"
She nodded. "No sounds whatsoever, and they were doing everything they could to be quiet, I think. It's like they wanted it to be a silent attack. I don't know why, though."
Billy thought for a few moments, letting various possibilities run through his mind. I get the feeling I'm missing something. There's a piece of this puzzle missing. The answer to WHY they were going after Tanya, and I seriously doubt it's just cause she's a Ranger again. There's something more to it. Something I'm not picking up on. Finally, he just shook his head. "I've put up a barrier shield around your house," he told her. "Only someone with a Power Coin can teleport in or out of it right now. That should keep you safe until we can figure out what's going on. That's about the best I can do for now."
"Thanks, Billy," she smiled at him. "I really appreciate it."
Trini stood up, helping the other Ranger to her feet. "I'll teleport home with you," she offered. "If they try anything, two Rangers are better than one!"
"Thanks," Tanya repeated. "I don't know what I'd do without you guys."
In their teleportation colors of orange and yellow, Tanya and Trini left the Command Chamber.
"This shouldn't have happened!" Ooze stormed up and down his throne room, his face twisted into something that could've been a mask of rage, if it didn't usually look like that in the first place. "This simply should not have happened!" he glared at Gasket. "This is all your fault! Your stupid Cogs couldn't get her!"
Gasket's yellow eyes glowed. "Your Oozemen weren't doing much better!" he snapped. "And I thought you were supposed to be keeping her from morphing with that silence spell!"
"She broke the silence spell!" he snapped. "Her powers aren't completely muted by her Ranger abilities, she can do a few small things, but that's it. Breaking that spell was well within her capabilities. We're going to have to try something else!"
The Machine Prince glared at him. "What do you mean, we? Why should I help you any further in this mad scheme? Diversify, Ooze, attack all the Rangers, not just one! That's what will bring you true victory!!"
"Sure, that's why attacking all the Rangers at once got you so far when you attacked Earth before, while your dad was disassembled!" Ooze retorted. "You couldn't even keep their leader under your control!"
"Oh, don't even bring that up!" Gasket roared at him. "You didn't do any better; you had half the city oozed and all it took was a rainstorm to stop you!"
As the two males threw insults back and forth to each other, Scorpina and Archerina quietly stepped out of the throne room, shaking their heads in unison. "I love my Gasket," the Machine Princess said softly. "But when he gets into one of those fights with Ooze, I sometimes wonder why we even stay around here!"
My thoughts exactly, Scorpina didn't let a smile show on her face, she only said, "I'm glad you stay, it gives me someone intelligent to talk to! Ooze pays pretty good, but that's about all he does!"
"Then again," Archerina pointed out, "we haven't been fighting the Rangers that long together. Every alliance has problems in the beginning, we just have to figure out how to get rid of them."
Scorpina snorted. "Our problems are those twelve Power Rangers, and Ooze's plan isn't going to work. It's just too risky."
"What would be a good risk, you think?" the machine woman asked. This could be something Gasket could use to destroy Ooze! "I'm certain you're much better at planning than that silly Ivan!"
"I've got something in mind," was all Scorpina said, though. "Something very. . .amusing. . .," for me, at least. I don't know how anyone else is going to like it, and I don't really care.
"Amusing?" Archerina bounced a little. "Come on, Scorpina, tell me! Tell me!"
"Oh, no!" the scorpion warrior shook her head. "That's my little secret. It's not fully set up yet, and I don't want to spoil the surprise!" or have anyone else spoil it!
"Fine," the Machine Princess pouted. "Have it your way!" she flounced back into the throne room, and passed Scorpina a few minutes later with Gasket in tow, heading for their Skybase. Ooze came out right behind them, glaring at his chief warrior.
"Keep an eye on them," he ordered. "I don't trust either of those mechanical morons one little bit!"
She bowed her head, dark eyes smoldering at having to bow and scrape to this slime-infested jellyfish. Well, it won't be forever, she reminded herself. And when I'm ready, when all my plans are in place. . .she stifled a chuckle. Everything was going to work out just fine.
"Think you're going to be okay?" Trini asked as she glanced quickly around to make certain no Oozemen or Cogs had remained behind. Tanya poked her head briefly into her parents' room to check on them, then nodded.
"Sure, things look okay here, and with that barrier Billy put up, everything should be just fine," she told her friend. "And I'm glad of it too, trust me!"
Trini's cheeks flushed a little at the mention of Billy, and Tanya caught it. "Hey!" she looked to the Yellow Ranger. "You like Billy, don't you?"
"Of course I do, he's one of my best friends," Trini didn't look at Tanya when she spoke, but Tanya didn't need to see her to know her cheeks were flaming red.
"That's not what I mean, and you know it!" Tanya chuckled warmly, this was rather amusing. "You really like him! The way I like Adam!"
The other girl said nothing for a few moments, only stared out the window, eyes bright and shining. Tanya had to strain to hear what she said when she finally did speak. "I do like him. But he's got that girl on Aquitar. . ."
Tanya took a deep breath. "He's on Earth, Trini. And he left Aquitar for some reason, some dispute with her, I think. I don't know the full reasons, all he's ever said is that they were both mistaken on being in love. But I don't think that's true. He just won't talk about it."
Trini looked over to her, frowning. "What? Are you sure?"
"As sure as I can be when he won't tell," Tanya shrugged. "You know him better than I do, what would you say his silence means?"
Trini thought for a few minutes, remembering the Billy she had known before leaving for Switzerland, and the Billy she had met when they had returned. Her eyes narrowed. "I'll talk to him," she decided. "I'm going to find out just what is going on. If something's wrong, I want to know about it."
"Good luck," Tanya nodded. "But if he doesn't want to talk about it, then what are you going to do?"
She almost flinched back from the steel in Trini's eyes. "He will talk to me about it."
Somehow, Tanya didn't doubt that one bit. If that look had been directed at her, she would've spilled her entire life story, in as much detail as desired, in under two seconds. Billy doesn't stand a chance. And that's good. Whatever's going on, he needs to talk about it. A great deal.
Trini stood up straight, smoothing her hair back as she did so. "Whatever it is that's bothering him, I'll find it out," she murmured. "No one, but no one, bugs Billy and gets away with it while I'm around."
Realizing she'd spoken loudly enough for Tanya to hear her, Trini went far more red than she'd ever thought possible. "I . . . uh, think you'll be okay?" she almost stuttered. Tanya nodded.
"You go talk to Billy," she urged, glancing at her watch and wincing. "Justin will be home by now, I know Billy makes certain he gets out of there by midnight, at least."
"I know," Trini took a deep breath. Out of nowhere, her mind was suddenly turned upside down and inside out. One thing pulsed firmly in her thoughts: Billy needed her help. And he was going to get it. "I'll see you later, Tanya. Sleep well."
"Thanks," Tanya gave her friend a hug. "And let me know how things turn out, if you can."
The Yellow Ranger smiled briefly. "I will," she said, then touched the appropriate button on her communicator. In a flash of yellow light that was so very familiar to Tanya, she vanished. The Orange Ranger leaned carefully back into bed, grateful for her friends. Good luck, Trini. And I wish you and Billy happiness together. You both deserve it.
Archerina drew her bow back and fired, doing what she could to smile when the arrow landed on target. She was the finest archer in all the universe, good or evil, and not half-bad with the sword her bow could transform into either. Gasket laid a hand on her shoulder, and she saw approval in his glowing eyes.
"Dearest, should I use one of my love-arrows on Ivan Ooze?" she asked curiously. "That worked so well to get rid of Louie Kaboom, it could certainly get rid of this idiot!"
Gasket shook his head, after a long moment of thought. "As pleasant as it would be to see him groveling at your feet, there would also be Scorpina to worry over, and she is a mighty warrior. Your love-arrows won't work on a female, unfortunately, and I don't know how far her loyalty to Ooze extends."
"Not far," Archerina reported. "She has an agenda of her own, that she hasn't spoke of to anyone. Not even me!"
Her husband absorbed that, deep in thought for a few moments. Finally, he nodded. "We wait. For now. This new plan of his, to unleash those powers that the Orange Ranger seems to have potential, at least. If he can pull it off. . .," Gasket laughed. "Then we will have a tool of unparalleled power and destruction!"
Archerina toyed with one of her arrows, and looked up at her husband. "This is something I've been working on," she revealed. "A new little arrow. Not one of love. ..but one of domination. Anyone struck by this, when it is fully formed and perfected, will be my willing slave. And it works on anything and anyone, be it human or machine or what have you!"
"Ohhhh!" Gasket laughed evilly. "What a perfect idea! Once Ooze has released those powers she has, then we shall take command of her! If she has the skill and the power that Ooze believes, then she shall have more than enough to deal with him, and serve us well!"
Archerina nodded, starting back over to her small lab table. "But it isn't perfected just yet, my love. We don't dare use it before then, if there is any flaw in the formula, then she could break free at some time when we don't expect or need it!"
"We can have no flaws, dearest!" Gasket agreed with her. "But we must also have a back-up plan. If something goes wrong and Ooze's plan fails, we must have something that will prove to him that we are the masters here!"
Archerina nodded and kissed him along the arm, enjoying the wonderful sensations of being with her husband. "Oh, Gasket!" she whispered. "You truly are wise! I know you will come up with the most excellent of plans!"
The Prince thought as Archerina kissed for a little while longer, then returned to her work. Romance would come after she'd worked a while; he knew how she thought. He watched her for a few minutes, then whispered a promise to her for later that night, and left the practice chamber, deep in thought.
I must find a plan, I must MAKE a plan that will destroy both the Power Rangers and Ivan Ooze for all time! I will be the sole master of those conquering this world, or I shall be disassembled in the attempt! By all that's evil and corrupt, I so swear it! Gasket paced down the hallway, his mechanical brain working hard on a plan. Perhaps. . .if Scorpina is not truly loyal to Ooze, that could be used. . .I must speak with her. . .discover her real plans if I can. . .
He paused for a moment, gazing out at the Earth below. You, and all that dwell upon you, shall be mine, he promised. Now and forever. There is nothing and no one that can stop me. Ivan Ooze cannot. Scorpina cannot. The Power Rangers cannot. "I will be victorious," he declared. "I will."
He turned suddenly, and jumped a foot when he saw her standing there. "Trini!" he yelped. "You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"Sorry," she smiled a little as she walked over to him. "I didn't want to disturb you when I got back. You looked like you were really concentrating on something."
"I was. I'm done with it now, though," he started putting his tools away, moving away from her. "I need to get home and get some sleep."
She asked quietly, quickly, before he could get away. "Billy. . .what happened on Aquitar? Why won't you tell anyone?"
"There's nothing to tell," he shook his head. "Cestria and I decided that we didn't really love each other, so I came back."
"There's more to it than that," she refrained from snapping. "I know you, Billy, and I know when you're keeping something back. And you are."
He turned his back on her. "No, Trini," he said, his voice harsh. "There's nothing."
"Don't lie to me, Billy," her voice was every bit as harsh as his. "Please, tell me what happened!"
"No!!" she was taken aback by the fear and pain in his voice. "No, I can't!"
She was by his side in a moment. "Billy," she filled her tones with all the love, tenderness, and concern for him she had possessed all her life, and had never allowed to come through until now. "Billy, you're safe. No one's going to hurt you here."
"He can," Billy whispered, and she saw tears in his eyes. "He could come here. . .and if I tell. . .he will. .. "
Trini wrapped him up in her arms, and for a moment, he was as tense and stiff as a board. She smiled briefly as he relaxed into her arms, and leaned over to whisper in his ear, "You're safe, Billy. This is the Command Chamber. You're a Power Ranger again. Whoever he is. . he can't hurt you anymore."
He drew his head back and looked at her, and the depths of horror and pain she saw in them terrified her. "He can," his voice was still low and full of fear. "He can, Trini, and he will."
"Who?" she asked, holding him close to her heart, letting him hear how it beat with love she had suppressed all the time they had known each other. "Who hurt you, Billy?"
Her heart almost stopped when she heard the name he spoke, and her arms went closer around him. "He isn't here. He can't come in here, remember?" she told him. "Only someone with the Great Power can enter here, that's the way you set up the protection grid, remember? We didn't want anyone else hurting this place. We fixed it. . .we're all together again."
Billy took several deep breaths, as the tears he'd been blocking for so long suddenly exploded out of him. For who knew how long, the Yellow and Blue Rangers remained in a tight embrace, more for his comfort than anything else. When the storm of his weeping passed, he felt. . .different. . .at peace. Those tears were quite unlike all those he had shed during his time of captivity on Aquitar. Tears shed on the water planet had been those of fear and hate and pain. These, the first he had wept since then, save when they had all been at the ruins of the Power Chamber, had cleansed his tortured soul. He looked at Trini, and took a final long breath.
"I will listen, Billy," she had always known what he was going to say before he said it, it seemed. "I will always listen to you."
"I hope you don't regret it," he sighed, and snuggled against her, enjoying being in her arms as he had never thought he would enjoy being touched by someone else. "It all got started. . ."
"To meet me?" he asked. He'd been surprised when Cestria had asked him to stay, but when he'd thought it over, he'd realized the two of them had a great deal in common, more than he had with anyone else on Earth, except Trini. But she was in Switzerland, and probably would be staying there for a while, if not forever. He'd stayed. "Who?"
She didn't answer, as the vehicle stopped, and she showed him inside. He hardly noticed as she locked the door behind them, and pushed him gently towards a room. There was someone standing in it, someone incredibly large, with. . .his heart sank as they turned towards the light.
"Hello, human," Goldar growled, red eyes gleaming. "I believe the expression is 'long time no see'."
"Cestria!" Billy started to back away. "Get out of here, call the Rangers!"
When there was no sound of her moving, he turned to see she was quietly standing there, tears in her eyes. "I can't, Billy," she said softly. "I can't."
He found himself being whirled around by Goldar's huge hands, and drawn closer to the monster. "You belong to me now, human," Goldar growled, his foul breath revolting Billy. "You are mine, for all time!"
"NO!!" Billy screamed, trying to squeeze away from his old enemy. "Leave me alone! Cestria!"
"She won't help you, human!" Goldar taunted. "She is the one who brought you to me, remember?" he dragged Billy into another room, to a large bed, tearing at the young man's clothing as he did so. "And it is here you shall remain, until you DIE!"
Billy screamed, as Goldar threw him face-down on the bed, and tied him up, his arms and legs spread out and held down. "Your brains can't help you here," he growled thickly into Billy's ear. "And you have no Ranger powers, your friends won't bother to help you, they don't want you, they hardly even NOTICED when you left! You are useless to them. ..but not to me. . .I shall always use you, my toy. . .use you forever. .."
Cestria left before Goldar began his 'using' of Billy, but no one could have failed to hear the piercing screams of the tormented former Ranger, that devolved finally into small whimpers of pain, overpowered by the lusty howls of Goldar. He had ordered her to bring Billy to her secluded retreat, so no one would hear what went on in there. She was to do everything within her power to maintain the fiction that she and Billy were a happy couple. If either of them breathed a word to anyone that might hint things were any different, what Goldar would do in revenge would make what he did to Billy seem pleasant and agreeable.
Days changed into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. A year and a half of almost constant torture. Of having to bow and scrape to Goldar when not 'serving' him physically. Of having to call that monster 'Master'. Of never being able to speak freely to anyone, not even Cestria, who had no idea of everything that was being done to him. Of waking up every morning held in the arms of Goldar.
Of being terrified that something would happen, and he would begin to enjoy the torture he underwent on a regular basis. He knew if that ever happened, he would never be able to leave Goldar.
And he wanted to leave, more than anything.
"Billy?" Trini pushed the hair back from his eyes and looked deeply into them. "You're safe now. How did you escape?"
He took a deep breath. "A couple of weeks before Christmas," he said softly. "Goldar left Aquitar. Cestria and I took the chance when it was offered; we spilled everything to the Alien Rangers. They set up a watch for Goldar in case he, or any of the other villains, returned, and did what they could to help me, and I came back here to Earth. I couldn't stand to be on Aquitar another moment."
"And you decided not to tell anyone," she continued. "You didn't want us to pity you or to think less of you."
He could hardly nod, even though she was right. "It was the hardest thing in the world for me to start calling you guys for the Christmas party. Especially you," he paled as he spoke; it had been a very long time since he'd felt free to speak his mind openly about anything, and he was still getting used to the idea.
"I can only imagine," she said, still holding him close to her. Moved by something she couldn't name, she bent her head gently and brushed her lips against his. She regretted it for a moment; her research into this sort of thing had told her that often victims of abuse couldn't stand to have other people touch them, even when they were away from those who had hurt them.
Billy only stared into her eyes, then slowly returned the kiss. "I love you, Trini," he whispered the words she had waited her entire life to hear. "I hate Goldar, but you're right. . .he's not here, and he can't be here."
"You are safe," she told him again. "You are safe. . .and I love you."
With tender, infinite passion they kissed again, slowly sliding to the floor of the Command Chamber. "It's not exactly the most comfortable place to do this," he said, gazing into her dark eyes. "We could always go to your place, or mine."
"No," she shook her head, kissing with the pent-up romance of their years together. "This is the best. It's where our lives became bound together forever, when we became Rangers. And where we came back to each other, forever, when we returned. If Zordon were still here, I know he'd approve. He'd leave us in peace, but he would approve. I never knew this Dimitria that was here, but I think she would too."
Billy took a deep, and long, breath. "Before we go any farther," he asked. "What we are going to do? Date, just be lovers, or what?"
"I was thinking of something more permanent," Trini told him as she drew him down to her. "Something extremely permanent."
"Permanent?" was all he had time to say before there was nothing else that could be said. He had thought for a short time he would be with Cestria forever. Then his mind had been tortured by thoughts of being with Goldar forever, and that had nearly sent him into insanity. He had pondered being alone forever, but once returning to Earth and meeting with Rocky and Justin, and later the others, he'd realized that way lied madness.
But to be with Trini forever. . .that he could see. . .that he wanted. . .
As they came together in that most safe of places, the Blue and Yellow Ninjetti Rangers rejoiced in their love and in their safety and in the healing that their lovemaking was beginning in a soul that needed it, and had, for a very long time. And all the horrors that had gone on before, vanished for a time in the pure bliss of their newly discovered and fulfilled love.
Tanya tossed her clothes into the hamper and headed for the kitchen, yawning a little. Running a brush through her hair, she waved absently to her mom. "Morning," she waved briefly, sticking her head in the refrigerator as she sought out what could possibly pass for breakfast.
"Good morning," Mrs. Sloane nodded briefly. "How are you this morning, Tanya?"
"Sleepy," she yawned again. "Kept having the strangest dreams all last night."
"Oh? Like what?"
Tanya shrugged. "Can't remember any of them. I just know they were strange!"
"I see," her mother walked closer to her, a strange look on her face. "You're a big disappointment, Tanya."
The Orange Ranger's eyes went wide at the sudden accusation. "Mom? Is something wrong?"
Mrs. Sloane slapped her suddenly. "You will not speak unless spoken to! I demand respect, child!"
"Mom!" Tanya raised a hand to her cheek; as far back as she could remember, her mom and dad had never hit her without a good reason! "What's going on?"
Another crack of the hand against her other cheek. "Silence! I said you will not speak!"
Tanya stepped back, or tried to, when her mom grabbed her by the arm. "It's time to claim your destiny, Orange Ranger," a male's voice issued from her mother's lips, and a moment later, Ivan Ooze stood before her, holding her in a tight grip! "It's time to join the side of evil!"
"Hey!" Tanya tried to get away, only to find his arm might well have been an iron bar, for all the give it had. He drew her closer to him, his eyes glowing an odd shade of purple. "How'd you get in here?"
"I have my ways," he laughed, and she shivered. "And now you will become mine, Ranger! Of course. . .you won't be a Ranger anymore!"
"I'll never join you!" she swore. "I'd die first!"
Ooze's fingers began to crackle with energy and magic. "We shall see! Time for the real you to emerge!"
As the power he called up began to sink into her, Tanya felt something deep inside begin to respond. Pain ripped into her very soul, tearing a scream from her lips that seemed somehow to stop before anyone could hear it. Ooze's mouth widened in what might have been a smile. "Yesssss," he hissed. "Feel the power. . .feel the evil rising in you!"
She threw her head back, something dark and twisted in her soul rising up at his words. A soundless yell emerged, and her entire mind blanked out in dark light.
Ooze watched in anticipation, as Tanya sank to the floor, curling up into a fetal position and glowing a strong black. "Quite interesting," he mused, taking a seat and observing. "Quite interesting indeed."
The glow deepened until even he couldn't see her underneath it. Then, something seemed to explode, blinding him. When he could see once more, Tanya stood on her feet before him, her eyes flat and emotionless.
"Who are you?" he asked, almost nervously. He could tell that at least one thing had worked, her magical powers had been unleashed. But had the evil within her been magnified enough?
"I am Tanya Sloane," her voice was quiet, firm. "I was the Orange Ninjetti Ranger."
"And now you are?"
"I am Tanya Sloane," she repeated. "I am a magician in need of training in the ways of the evil magic I now possess."
Ooze laughed, and took her hand. "I will teach you," he promised. "And in return you will do all that I require."
A cold and twisted smile lit her face. "So be it," she gazed into his eyes, and he rejoiced. He'd hoped this would be the case!
"Welcome, Tanya," he pulled her closer to him. "Welcome home."
It was a morning like any other in Adam Park's apartment. He got up, yawned, did a few quick exercises to warm himself up, then headed for his shower, waving to Scorpina as he did so.
Scorpina? He paused in his tracks, staring at the half-animal warrior so casually leaning in his living room. Are they ALL going to start attacking us in our homes now? Where did I put my communicator?
"Oh, don't go trying to get away," she smiled almost nicely at him, and he was eerily reminded of when she had disguised herself as Sabrina years earlier.
"My apartment's been invaded by the forces of evil, and you expect me not to get away?" his eyes widened as she came over to him.
"I'm not going to hurt you," she promised. "I didn't come here to do anything to you that's painful."
Adam backed away, his thoughts immediately turning to the communicator on his wrist. One touch, and I'm out of here! He was reaching for it, when her hand flew out and snatched the device from his wrist. "You don't want to leave, now, do you?" her voice was low and sultry as she threw it to the far side of the room. "We're just getting started!"
"No!" he managed to squirm away just as she looked to be coming in for a kiss. "Why are you doing this?"
She laughed. "You owe me, Adam. All of you Rangers do, actually, but you're the one I'm going to collect it from."
"What are you talking about?" his eyes flicked over to the communicator on the floor. Wonder if I could get to that before she attacks. . .or worse. . .
"You'll know, one day," she leaned back suddenly, her expression changing from amused to worried in a moment. "Adam, I have something to tell you. Something you're not going to want to hear, but you have to. The life and soul of one of your friends is at stake here."
His eyes narrowed. "What do you care?"
"I have my reasons," her voice was far too low for him to hear her, unless he strained his ears. "This is one thing you can trust me on, Adam. I did come here to amuse myself with you, but I don't think either of us has that kind of time. And your friend most definitely does not have the time."
"What?" he grunted. "What's going on?"
"Tanya Sloane," she told him, getting his attention at once. "Is going to be attacked by Ivan Ooze this morning. He's taken the form of her mother, and will strike when she least expects it. He will cast a spell that will turn her against all of you, but is not going to turn her evil."
He shook his head. "Speak English!"
"Evil exists in every soul, Adam, it's one of the fundamental laws of the universe. Power Rangers have a tendency to have almost none, or to be able to come to terms with it. People like Ooze and Gasket, they have almost pure evil in them. But there are a few, a very few, with the capacity for pure evil, who simply don't know it. That evil can be unleashed, by certain spells. They aren't turned evil, they already had the evil in them, it's simply given dominance. That is what Ooze is going to do to Tanya."
"Why? Why her?" he managed not to stutter as he asked, not sure why he was trusting Scorpina. But if it would help out Tanya, he would trust just about anyone!
She sighed and walked away a little. For some reason, this was paining her, and he didn't't think it was because she was helping out a Power Ranger. "Because Tanya has more than just potential evil, she has potential magic. She's a veritable powerhouse of magical energy, one he wants to control. If he taps and magnifies her evil, then she'll be able to wield power such as most humans only dream of, but she will be almost the essence of evil. You must save her from that, Adam. You must!!"
Adam waited no more, he leaped across a sofa to seize his communicator and punch it, heading directly for the Command Chamber. Scorpina sighed as he left, and teleported herself back to the Lunar Palace. Save her, Adam. . .as I was not saved. . .
"You have succeeded?" Gasket stared at the woman who stood beside Ooze.
"No, I failed miserably, just like you!" Ooze mocked him. "Now, prepare the palace! There's going to be a wedding!"
Archerina and Gasket exchanged glances; Scorpina was off on some mission of her own, as she often was these days. "A wedding?" Archerina asked. "Whose?"
"Ours!" Tanya said, leaning against Ooze and gazing into his eyes. "I am to be Queen of his entire Empire!"
Both machines would've felt nauseous if they were capable of it. Ooze glared at them, then waved his hands, transforming the entire palace into a hideous mockery of a wedding chapel. "You, Gasket, shall perform the ceremony!" he commanded. "And it shall be held at once!"
"Why so soon?" Gasket wondered. "Surely the Rangers don't know so soon!"
"Better safe than sorry, Machine Prince," Tanya's voice had changed a little, become lower and huskier, more evil. "And I will have nothing to take me away from my love Ooze."
Ooze smiled, then glanced at Tanya, transforming her clothing into a white wedding gown, and his own outfit into a neat black tuxedo. "Are you ready, my beloved?" they had went from sworn enemies, to master and servant, to almost husband and wife all inside of thirty minutes. That was considered a lengthy courtship among his people.
"I have been ready since I was first born for you, my master and love," she purred, standing next to him. "Shall we be wed?"
Gasket shrugged a little, and looked to Ooze. "Do you, Ivan Ooze, Master of Ooze and Lord of the Sirdos Empire, take this woman to be your evilly wedded wife, for all time?"
"Do you, Tanya Sloane, former Orange Ninjetti Ranger, take this man. .er. . ooze. .to be your evilly wedded husband, for all time?"
"Then by the powers invested in me as Prince of the Machine Empire, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride," Gasket declared. As they embraced, he found himself shivering. I think the Rangers would be very, very glad they missed this! The thought of someone. .. ANYONE. .. being with Ooze like that is enough to make me sick, and I'm a MACHINE!!!!
As Ivan and Tanya Ooze headed for their private quarters, to begin a horrific honeymoon, Gasket and Archerina headed for their own. "I'm all for love and romance among the forces of evil," Archerina shook her head. "But that's Ivan Ooze! He's more ooze than he is anything else!"
Gasket hugged her tightly. "Just be happy they probably can't reproduce," he advised. "And if the Rangers can find a way to reverse it, then we don't have to put up with Ooze's gloating anymore! And he is going to be gloating, we both know that!"
"I know," Archerina sighed. "But remember our plan."
Gasket smiled and kissed her. "And it will work, my dearest! Let Ooze gloat for now. . we will be victorious in the end!"
"Say what?" the other Rangers stared at Adam as he leaned back from spilling out everything Scorpina had told him. Jason shook his head in shock.
"And you believe her?"
"I know you guys must think I'm nuts for it," Adam sighed. "But look around," he gestured. "Who isn't here?"
A communal shiver seemed to fill them as they realized Tanya was, indeed, missing. "So where is she?" Trini asked. She and Billy were standing very close to each other, arms wrapped around their waists.
"Where I should be," Tanya's voice, or a low, twisted parody of her voice, came from the Viewing Globe. "With my husband!"
"Husband?" came from eleven throats. Adam looked like he was going to throw up as Tanya appeared, her hand in Ooze's. "Oh, Tanya!" he breathed. "Please, tell me I'm having a nightmare!"
She laughed. "Oh, no!" Justin couldn't help but run and throw up as she kissed Ooze. "I just called to say. . .I quit. I'm not one of you silly Rangers anymore. I am the Queen of the Ooze Empire!"
"Tanya!" Aisha stared at her friend. "You've got to be kidding! You don't love Ooze, you and Adam have been in love for over a year!"
Tanya Ooze only laughed, and held out her hand. In it appeared her Power Coin. "This means nothing to me anymore," she snapped. "Do with it what you want."
A moment later, the Orange Coin appeared on a console in a showery glitter of light. "You Rangers have very little time left," her voice was mocking and hideous. "So enjoy it while you can. There is no more Orange Ranger. There is only. . .the Queen of Ooze."
"Tanya!" Adam shrieked, collapsing to his knees. "Tanya, no! Don't do this! Fight what he's done to you!"
Ooze laughed. "I've done nothing! It was all inside her, all along! I only let it out!"
"So put it back!" Jason growled. Tommy was too incoherent with anger to speak; to see another Ranger turned to evil was almost more than he could deal with. "You did it, you can undo it!"
Ivan chuckled, as Tanya leaned back and began to file her nails. "I could only do it if she wanted that evil and that power unleashed," he snarled. "And she doesn't want it undone! Farewell, Rangers! Until we meet again. ..on the battlefield!"
The Viewing Globe faded away, and the only remnant left of Tanya Sloane was the Orange Power Coin. Adam walked over to it, his entire body shaking. With trembling hands, he picked it up, and stared as if it held all the secrets of creation itself. "Tanya," he whispered. "How?"
"It was not her fault," they all turned to see Dulcea in the Viewing Globe. "Rangers, hear me. Tanya, the Orange Ranger, as you knew her, is no more. Ivan Ooze has tapped into the dark side of her soul, unleashing it's evil and the magical power inherent within her. Her Ranger powers blocked her magic, but the moment he pulled forth that evil, she lost her Ranger powers."
"Is there a way to undo it?" Tommy asked, his voice strangled. I won't let this go on any longer than possible!
The Guardian of the Great Power was silent. Only Adam and Tommy's pleading eyes finally urged her to speak. "I do not know. The spell has only been cast once before, and it never was reversed. The victim of it did not have nearly the magical potential of Tanya, either."
"Who was it?" Justin asked, returning to the others. Dulcea closed her eyes, wondering if she should tell them. Yes. They must know. Especially Adam.
She looked at them. "Her true name is Selena. But you know her as. . .Scorpina."
Scorpina turned away from the room, tears shining in her eyes as she saw Ooze and Tanya in their bed. Shutting the door silently behind her, she quietly walked outside the palace, forcing herself not to shed them.
"And another one is brought to the side of evil," she whispered, feeling no joy at that. She had never enjoyed seeing anyone turned evil by spells or trickery. Still within her there beat the code of honor she had grown up with.
She sat down in a small crater and watched the Earth rising overhead. Quietly, from a small chain around her neck, she pulled forth a coin with the emblem of a Lion on it. Tears dripped down her cheek. What a mockery I am. I was once the Golden Ninjetti, the Gold Ranger, bonded to the Spirit of the Lion. And now, I'm this. . .thing. .Scorpina. . .half-human, half-scorpion.
Scorpina raised her eyes to the Earth, and then glanced back to the palace behind her. "It is too late for me," she whispered. "But I swear, I will not rest until you are free, Tanya Sloane. Though it cost me everything, I will set you free. I swear it," she pulled a knife from her boot, and sliced her right hand easily, drawing forth green blood. "By my own blood, I swear it.
"You will have the freedom that I cannot."