Legal Disclaimer: You asked for it, it's here, the long-awaited {I think, if the e-mail I've been getting is any indication} fifth fic in the Home Guard series! You might want to read A Blue Christmas, The Great Power, Corruption of Innocence, and Black & Gold to know what's going on here. This fic will wait patiently for you to come back. Oh, before I forget, Saban owns the Rangers and their enemies, and Elizabeth Wegner owns Emmie, and came up with the idea of her Spirit Animal. The song "We are One" comes from the Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, and I really have no idea if that would even exist in this particular time period for the Rangers/Home Guard series. I put it in here because I bought the movie while I was writing this and the song seemed to fit certain parts of it, at least to me. Thank you all for being so patient with me. This is kind of short, but I'm planning a very LARGE segment of this series coming up, so that should make up for it, I hope.

Inner Strength
by Gael Filson

Phaedos was a beautiful world, full of primal forests and rushing rivers, of ancient ruins and power beyond mortal imagining. Not long ago, twelve young people had come here in search of the force of the Ninjetti to save their precious homeworld. And now, another had come, seeking the power that she might provide the Earth with a full defense force since the spell-forced defection of the Orange Ranger.

"What kind of Ranger am I going to be?" Emmie asked, her voice shaking just the tiniest bit. She wasn't quite certain if she really wanted to do this, but she knew from experience already that Ivan Ooze and the Machine Empire wouldn't let her just slip away into obscurity now that she had been marked as a potential Ranger. One attack had already forced her decision, the only options she really had now were either to go into hiding somewhere, and pray that she was never found, or join the Rangers in the battle against evil.

Emmie had never thought of herself as a fighter. She was a skater, and a good one. But she also wasn't going to hide. She waited patiently for the mysterious Dulcea's answer to her question, and hoped that the fear she still couldn't get rid of didn't disqualify her or make the beautiful woman upset.

"I don't know," Dulcea said honestly as they entered the ruins of the temple. They couldn't teleport directly there, there was an energy field about the Ninjetti Temple that prevented anyone, even Dulcea herself, from arriving right in it. They'd had to hike a short distance, and conversation had been sparse. Emmie was too busy taking in the glorious sights all around her, and Dulcea was praying that this young girl could handle the responsibility that would soon be thrust upon her. "Whatever you are, it will reflect your inner spirit and strength. The power of Ninjetti comes from inside, from the heart and soul of a person, and is a lifelong commitment. You won't have to actively fight as a Power Ranger your whole life," the Guardian was quick to add when she saw the flash of fear in Emmie's eyes. "But you will have the power itself. Hopefully once those Rangers in charge of the rescue of Zordon return, the home guard we have now will be able to return to semi-retirement: including you."

The skater nodded, making a mental note to research as much as she could, finding out the entire history of just what was going on here. She hated not working with full information. Dulcea gestured for her to take up a position on the far side of the fire, and as she made her way over there, the keeper of the Ninjetti power bit her lip just the tiniest bit.

She is in excellent physical condition, but fighting is something she knows little of. The others will have to teach her self-defense, she will be easier prey than they are if that is not done. I will speak with them on it when I have a moment. I think I shall have to train her some myself, in her current condition there is no way she could survive the Neola Jungle to reach the Monolith. But for now, it is time for her to meet her Animal Spirit.

Dulcea extended one hand with the sacred dust in it, and began the lulling speech that would allow the young girl access to her deepest depths. "Buried deep within each of us is an animal spirit waiting to be released. Close your eyes and look deep inside."

As Emmie did so, Dulcea blew the dust into the fire, causing it to pop, explode, and rise in a torrent of purest golden flames. Light danced around Emmie for a few moments, then total darkness engulfed her mind. For a moment she panicked, thinking something had gone wrong, that she was going to die, it was all a horrible trick and she would never see her home or family again. . .

Then light dawned. But it wasn't light as she was used to seeing it. She wasn't in her own body. She was in something small and light, that was looking around with eyes that saw the world in shades of black and gray, yet focused swiftly upon anything that moved or seemed to be moving. The motions of a piece of dust held her attention for a second, then all her focus was on a mouse that was scuttling by. She could feel her body pouncing for it, feel the coiled strength, perfect balance. . .

The name of her spirit animal flowed through her mind. .."I am the Cat!"

* * *

"I've called you together to inform you of some information I have received from my younger brother Ivan Ooze," Dark Spectre's voice was dark and forboding as always as he looked upon the faces of his minions. "As you are aware, Divatox destroyed the Turbo Rangers of Earth a short time before I summoned you all here for my banquet of victory."

The pirate Queen preened and smiled at everyone as they looked at her; only Astronema gazed on the woman with anything not like respect. "Yes, Dark Spectre, I did a fabulous job!" she simpered. The monarch of evil ignored her to continue speaking.

"Ivan Ooze has informed me that in the wake of that destruction, there have been many new developments. He chose not to join us, launching an attack on the Earth for himself," he glared at Divatox as she opened her mouth in protest; technically speaking, the Earth was hers, since it had been her forces that had destroyed the Rangers guarding it. It could be argued, however, that with her departure, that had left the field open for other invaders. "He was joined by Prince Gasket and Princess Archerina of the Machine Empire shortly before his first assault."

This time it was Mondo and Machina who were surprised. They had been reconstructed by Dark Spectre's command, and reinstated into the United Alliance of Evil, but their metallic oldest offspring had never formally been inducted into it, leaving them free to do as they would, even ally with Ivan Ooze. I'd like to have thought Gasket at LEAST had better taste than that! Mondo grumbled.

"However, the Earth is no longer defenseless," Spectre kept going. "It appears that the twelve former Rangers who still lived on the planet joined forces and went to the planet of Phaedos, claiming the Great Power there, and becoming Ninjetti Rangers." he could easily see the stir that was causing. "There is one bit of good news, however. It appears that one of the new Rangers is a powerful sorceress."

Zedd snorted. "Tell me how that is supposed to be good news!"

"Ooze was able to capture this one, one Tanya Sloane, and corrupt her with his own brand of evil," Spectre was somewhat proud of his brother for this. "She is now his espoused wife and is working along with him, his chief warrior Scorpina, Gasket, and Archerina to defeat the Rangers. That was the last I heard from him, I intend to keep myself updated."

Goldar looked a little curious about something. "My lord Spectre," he spoke up. "You said that the twelve Rangers who were still there became Ninjetti?"

"I did."

A cold and evil smile bent the simian features of the golden warrior. He had looked forward to something like this for several weeks now. "With your permission, my lord, I would go to Earth and join with your brother. I have. . .unfinished business with one of those Rangers I would like the chance to complete."

Rita and Zedd looked on the verge of fainting, which got even worse when Dark Spectre nodded his agreement. Of all the beings of evil, he alone knew just what Goldar meant. Then again, it was widely rumored that he knew everything. "Go, and perform well, Goldar. Ruin that Ranger, and with him, all his friends. Drag Earth into the fold of evil, and crush all opposition."

Goldar nodded. That, after all, was the standard contract any evil warrior entered into. And he was intent on resuming what he'd begun on Aquitar: the total domination of Billy Cranston's mind, body, heart, spirit, and will.

* * *

In a deep inner part of the Lunar Palace, Scorpina leaned back on her bed, and licked her lips, her eyes dancing with the darkest and most unholy of joys at the memory of her recent activities. Not only was she capable of releasing Tanya Ooze from the grip of evil, but she'd finally gotten something she'd wanted for almost four years: the taste and touch of Adam Park in and on her.

That was some sex, she mused, running her fingers through her long hair and smiling. Wonder if I should try it again. With him awake. I could actually take on the form of his Tanya and do it like that., he'd be too careful now, far too careful.

Something occurred to her as the thought of 'careful' struck her mind, and she quickly whispered one of the few true spells she knew under her breath. She relaxed as the sensations came screaming back to her that she was not pregnant. Sex was fun and fine, but she didn't want to have to deal with any sort of consequences to the act.

I do so hope that Ooze is taking some form of care with his fun with Tanya, she thought, coming to sit over at her dressing table and polishing her armor. The last thing this universe needs is another drooling Ooze idiot, especially when coupled with tainted human blood.

The thought of Tanya caused her to check the copy she'd made of the formula needed to release the imprisoned Ranger from evil. She quietly read off the ingredients to herself. Unicorn's milk, scale of a dragon, eye of newt, hair of a human frog, toe of a giraffe, skin from an apple, combine them all and focus the energy created through the Golden Star Crystal onto the enspelled one.

She frowned suddenly. "Golden Star Crystal?" she wondered. "What in the world is that?"

A quick check of the database that the palace was connected to revealed nothing, and she looked even more concerned. If I can't find that, then I'm going to be stuck with that simpering idiot for the rest of eternity! There has to be SOMEONE who knows what it is! And I've got to find them!

Scorpina did a little pacing, hoping the activity would clear her thoughts. All it did was bring them pleasantly around to Adam again. She almost hit herself for allowing herself to get distracted by him, then shook her head. It was worth it. A little fun before I get down to the real business of destroying everyone and taking this miserable little---

Her thoughts ran straight into a roadblock, and it was only by sheer strength she was able to stop herself from falling off the chair.I . ..I want to help her. .I don't want to hu. .hu. ..yes, I do. .I want to rule, to be supreme. .no, I don't. ..

It was almost an hour before Scorpina could get herself back under control again, and focused her thoughts on finding the Golden Star Crystal. She swore she would never lose control like that again. She couldn't. Too many of her plans depended on her perfect mastery of herself and her emotions. She had to maintain her evilness.

But even as she thought that, a silver tear flowed down one cheek, and was forgotten.

* * *

The eleven Rangers stared in shocked disbelief at the ship that had just crash-landed outside the Command Chamber. Billy was doing more than staring at the ship and the woman inside, whom he didn't recognize anyway, his eyes and mind were totally taken up by Alpha, who looked almost on the verge of collapsing.

"What in the world is going on here?" Kat wondered, holding tightly to her fiancé's hand. "Who is she?"

Tommy was smiling, and Justin looked an equal mix between shock, disbelief, wonder, and gratefulness, with a good dollop of the expression of someone seeing one whom was thought to be either dead or gone forever. "This is Dimitria," Justin said quietly, and for the first time, they heard his voice without even the slightest trace of pain in it. "She was our mentor after Zordon left, and went to Eltar to help out in the fight there."

They were all just staring at Dimitria, who stood still in the doorway, one hand on the frame of the ship. Adam looked at her, managing to rise out of the depths of his confusion and grief, and saw something they didn't. Before any of them could move, he jumped over to her and caught the white-garbed Inquirian just as she collapsed to the ground. There was a cut over one eye, her robes were somewhat torn and dusty, and she just gave off the general air of being completely and utterly exhausted.

"Thank you, Adam," she whispered, finally looking around and seeing who was there. Her eyes widened a little as she took in what, and who were around her. "Rangers," Dimitria stared at all of them; some she recognized, some she didn't. It was obvious that they didn't quite believe what they were seeing, either. She glanced around, and saw the familiar form of the Power Chamber's outer shell standing in it's customary place; but there was something different; something in the ebb and flow of the power around it. . .I've seen it before, but where. ..she couldn't really think that well right now; the cut over her right eye had opened up again, and she ached in many places.

"We'd better get them both inside," Billy said, looking over at where Adam held their new friend. "I need to go over Alpha with a fine-toothed comb, he needs to get inspected inside and out, and a major overhaul done on all of his systems."

"Dimitria needs some of the healing facilities too," Adam said, shoving his personal tragedy into a back corner of his mind and gently picking his old mentor up. She's so light. I think Justin said she's been gone about four months or so by now. It feels like she hasn't even eaten in those months. I wonder what's been going on, and where the Blue Senturion is, he was supposed to be with her, I believe.

A strange, almost expectant, silence reigned over that region of the desert as the Rangers carried Dimitria and Alpha back to the same place they had left so long before. Same, yet different in many ways, just like the Rangers themselves. They all wanted to know what had been going on, and none of them really looked forward to having to tell Dimitria that one of those Rangers whom she had mentored was now working against them, however unwillingly, or that the Power Chamber she'd left behind had been destroyed by Divatox and that four of the last five Rangers she had guided were now in the far reaches of space somewhere, doing who knew what. A lot must have happened to her, but quite a bit had happened here that the Rangers weren't all that certain they wanted a mentor and guide to know about.

* * *

"You know your Spirit Animal now, Emmie," Dulcea told her. "And your body is in excellent shape. But there is more to being a Ranger than that. You are going to have to learn how to fight. I know you never have, but you are capable of it, and you must learn, in order to survive."

Emmie didn't say anything right away, she was still in awe of both the gold-colored Ninjetti uniform that covered her and in the coiled, lithe power of the cat that pulsed within every cell she possessed right now. She found her hearing and eyesight had already sharpened intensely, within mere moments of having gained her powers, and she was starting to feel a fullness and confidence that she never had before, not even when in the depths and heights of the most perfect skating she'd ever done.

Dulcea smiled briefly, then reached behind a rock to draw a long staff out and toss it towards Emmie. She wasn't surprised to see it bounce off the young girl's head and land in her hand. "Come on, Emmie," she grinned. "We've got a lot of work to do, and not that much time to do it in. But believe me, by the time we're done here, you're going to have at least picked up on the basics of the Ninjetti Warrior skills."

"Did you do this for the other Rangers?" Emmie asked, weighing the staff for a moment and seeing how perfectly it felt in her hand. "Or just me?"

"Just you," she replied. "I do not know why the powers of Ninjetti chose you, Emmie, but I do trust them, as I always have. I'm certain that in time, their reasons will become clear. Now, on guard!"

Emmie was very very grateful for her ice skating training and the physical condition that had put her in over the next several days. Dulcea woke up every day before dawn, and got her out of her sleeping roll just as early, looking far too perky and alert for that hour. She was put through hours and hours of drilling, of katas, of learning the skills of the Ninja, the warrior, and the Cat-Spirit that now dwelled within her soul.

When darkness fell on Phaedos, but before they slept, Dulcea would speak to her new pupil, and tell her tales of the past and present. She was instructed in the history of the Rangers, of how Zordon had been trapped by Rita Repulsa eons earlier in his time warp, and how he had chosen the original five Rangers to fight against his ancient enemy when she had been released years earlier. She learned of the changes the team had gone through, how the last Turbo team had fought with all their heart and soul against the forces of Divatox, only to fail in the end, due to overwhelming numbers.

"But don't ever despair just because you're outnumbered," Dulcea told her. "Even in defeat there can be a victory. In this case, the Rangers never lost their courage and they journeyed into space to save Zordon, and thereby opened the way for the Home Guard to protect Earth in their absence. And you know what has happened since then."

Emmie nodded, staring into the fire. "Tanya Sloane, the Orange Ranger, was taken by evil," she felt a sort of sympathy for the Ranger she was replacing, and hoped the others wouldn't hate her for it. "And the power of Ninjetti chose me to take her place."

"Not so much take her place as join the team," Dulcea corrected. "Though I wouldn't have requested it's wisdom if she hadn't been corrupted. Emmie, one day Tanya's evil will be purged from her, and the two of you will fight on the same side. This must be remembered by all the Rangers: be careful what you do, fight with all your heart and all your passion. But remember, within Tanya Ooze there is and always will be Tanya Sloane, the Orange Ninjetti Ranger. Now rest. We have to get up-"

"Early," Emmie smiled, leaning into her bedroll and closing her eyes as the fire died down. "Good night, Dulcea."

"Good night, Emmie."

* * *

It had been four days since Dimitria and Alpha's unexpected arrival at the Command Chamber, and all four of those days had been spent in a heavy deluge of healing and repairing. Dimitria hadn't wanted to really say anything until Alpha was fixed, so he could give his story at the same time she did hers and the Rangers did theirs.

She used her time to observe what was going on around her, and had picked up a few things just from the count of who was there and who wasn't. She knew Ivan Ooze and his crew were now focusing on Earth, and that somehow Ooze had gained controlled of Tanya, though she wasn't quite certain how or why just yet. She knew that Carlos, T.J., Cassie, and Ashley were gone, and from the way Justin looked and acted at times, he was worried about them at times.

"Well, I think that should do it," Billy looked up from where he was putting the finishing touches on Alpha. "I've practically rebuilt him from the ground up, repaired everything that was broken, and given him a tune up."

Trini grinned as Billy punched something on Alpha's chest lightly, and the robot began to hum softly. "Ay-yi-yi, Billy!" their old friend waved his arms a little. "Thank you! That feels great!"

"My pleasure, Alpha," Billy smiled, and the other Rangers clapped as Alpha tried out his repaired and fully functional body again. "Now, I think we've all got a lot of talking to do."

Dimitria nodded; she hadn't taken her old place in the plasma tube just yet; she wanted to wait until she was asked, and until after the stories had been told. From what she had seen, the Rangers were doing just fine without a mentor. Though Tanya might not have been taken if they had one. And I must meet this Jerome Stone and take his measure. I am somewhat amazed that they have a friend like this.

"I shall begin then," she said, and watched as everyone drew a little closer. "As you know, the Blue Senturion and I traveled to Eltar once we heard it was in danger. We had hoped to arrive in time, but we never even made it. On the way there, we were intercepted by the combined forces of Lord Zedd, Rita Repulsa, and the Machine Empire."

She trembled at the memory of that battle, and began to recite, in a pale and shaking voice so different from her normal tones of only a few moments earlier, what had happened. Zedd and Rita had combined their magic to capture the two of them, and had imprisoned them on board Serpenterra, Zedd's flagship. Rita's servant Finster had taken great pleasure in devising bonds that not even Dimitria's powerful magic could shatter, and then had done even more vile things, dismantling the Blue Senturion and reducing him to spare parts.

Dimitria had been placed in a special cell that would drain off her magic and shunt it into Zedd, increasing his own power. She was blocked off from contacting the Power Chamber, and was beginning to despair of ever being free again. Her hope was restored, however, when the mysterious Phantom Ranger had arrived to fight his way through everything set between him and her, and had rescued her. On his ship he had a very battered Alpha Five, and he had asked that she return to Earth, which would need help.

"Your former students no longer protect it," was all he said. "They seek now for Zordon. That is our task, the Rangers of Space. Yours is the defense of the Earth, you and the Home Guard. Go, Dimitria, my friend."

She had been wounded in the battle, and knew he spoke truth anyway. Using a small ship he managed to procure for them, they had headed towards Earth, and managed to send out a signal, hoping against hope that someone would be able to pick it up, perhaps this 'home guard' that he had spoken of. They had almost lost control, and just barely landed properly outside the Power Chamber.

Dimitria looked up at them, tears streaming down her cheek at all the memories. Slowly she reached inside her robes and pulled out something that made Justin jump. "Before they took him away for dismantling, the Blue Senturion gave me this," she said, extending a hand out to him. "All he said was 'good-bye'."

There was not a dry eye in the Command Chamber. Even Alpha shed a few oily tears at the passing of a truly great warrior and enforcer of the peace.

* * *

Scorpina sighed as she sorted through the various ingredients in Ivan Ooze's magic room. She didn't care about the mess she was making; she just wanted this to be over with as soon as possible. She wanted her mind to stop being torn between good and evil, her heart to stop giving her problems over what was wrong and right, her soul to at last be at peace. If removing Tanya's evil was what it took to do that, she was willing. She was willing even to kill her if that was what was necessary, and as she searched for more and more ingredients, it seemed that death could very well be the only option open to her.

"Milk of a unicorn, where in the world is a person supposed to find milk of a unicorn?" she grumbled, throwing another empty container over one shoulder. "Why doesn't he ever label any of this stuff? There's dust on these things four inches thick, and he hasn't lived here a month yet! How does he do it!"

"Because these aren't my supplied," a voice came from behind her, and she whirled to see Tanya and Ivan both standing there, Tanya looking somewhat curious, Ivan looking very very annoyed. "These are Rita's old things, I was coming to clean them out. And just what are you doing here, Scorpina? Plotting something, no doubt."

She shook her head harshly, hoping he wouldn't notice the crumpled scrap of paper in one hand and trying to sidle out of the way before he did. If I can get to my room, I can hide it. If he knows I'm trying to free his little toy, I don't WANT to know what he'll do to me.

Her hopes were dashed when metallic arms circled her from behind, and she felt a sword on her throat. "It's just like I told you, Lord Ooze," Gasket's voice was harsh. "She's trying to free your beloved wife."

Scorpina almost hissed; this wasn't in the script! Gasket and Archerina were supposed to be thinking she wanted to work for them, they weren't supposed to betray her like this! She could sense the collapse of quite a few of her plans as Gasket dragged her over to Ooze. "I don't know what he's talking about, Lord Ooze!" she tried. "I have been loyal to you since you first hired me! I'm always loyal to money."

"You haven't exactly been around though," he pointed out. "You have been traveling quite a bit, researching into my private books, and going to Earth without my permission, meeting with a Ranger, even seducing him, which I do rather approve of, by the way. But you were looking into the spells that I have used to keep my bride mine, and on how to break them. I don't need you anymore, Scorpina, and for a time I thought you were just trying to keep yourself occupied. But now, thanks to my partner here, I know what you were really doing. You've gone soft, Scorpina, and I will not have that in my service."

Ooze glanced to Gasket. "Take her to the torture chambers. I'm going to take a great deal of pride in breaking her back to the side of evil."

Scorpina screamed as she was dragged out of the room, her eyes fastened on Tanya. "You don't belong here!" she declared. "Try to remember who and what you really are! Don't end up like me!"

And then she was gone, and only her screams echoed as she was carried to the dungeons. Tanya glanced after her, and shrugged. "Wimp."

* * *

Another sunrise broke over Phaedos, but this day wasn't quite the same as all the others that Emmie and Dulcea had went through. Today, Emmie's training was completed. In her full golden Ninjetti gear she stood before Dulcea, her eyes wide and eager with delight.

"The Neola Jungle is a very dangerous place," the keeper of the Ninjetti powers said quietly. "A very dark and very mysterious place, and not even I know everything that exists in it. You must be careful, more so than any ninja that has ever trekked through it in search of the Great Power. Of all who have tried, only you have ever done so alone. But you are a skilled pupil, and you have learned much. I have faith in you and in the wisdom of the power of Ninjetti."

Emmie smiled. "Thank you, Dulcea. I've learned a lot here, and I'm really grateful for it. I don't know what kind of Ranger I'm going to be, but I'll do my best to be a very good one."

"I know you will be a good one," Dulcea laid a hand on her young friend's shoulder. "One of the best. When you have reached the Monolith and faced down the dangers there, then you can return here, and I will send you back to Earth."

Dulcea took a deep breath. "Emmie, with you goes all the power of the Ninjetti, sealed into your heart and soul, with everything I have taught you. You are not a full Ninjetti Warrior, for that training takes many years. But you have made an excellent beginning. No matter what, know this: you are never alone. We are one,."

Emmie looked back at her, and was surprised to hear a strong, clear voice rising from Dulcea's lips. The very last thing she'd expected was a musical sendoff, but it did seem rather appropriate.

As you go through life you'll see
There is so much that we
don't understand.
And the only thing we know
Is that things don't always go
The way we've planned.
But you'll see every day
That we'll never turn away
When it seems all your dreams come undone
We will stand by your side
Filled with hope & filled with pride
We are more than we are, we are one.

The Gold Ninjetti smiled and waved as Dulcea beckoned her on to go, and she turned to the jungle, leaping off into it. As she did so, she could feel a few doubts gnawing her. Why am I the one picked for this, why couldn't I just be what I was? Why do I have to be the new Ranger? There's lots of other people out there better martial artists than I am, who could do this. Why me?

She was moving swiftly already, but Dulcea's voice sang out over it all, and she sighed a little, whispering words of melody under her breath that came to hear.

If there's so much I must be
Can I still just be me?
The way I am?
Can I trust in my own heart?
Or am I just one part
Of some big plan?

Emmie ran deeper and deeper, leaping over vines and trailing branches and fording a small stream. Why was she the one, why was she taken out of her calm and peaceful life to do this? What was the purpose in it?

Even those who are gone,
Are with us as we go on
Your journey has only begun.
Tears of pain, tears of joy
One thing nothing can destroy.
Is our pride deep inside,
We are one.

As she twisted and angled her way through the woods, and Dulcea's song still melted through to her ears, a heartstrengthening lilt of love and bonding, she realized why she had been chosen, why she was the one. For the simple and completely perfect reason that she had already been a part of it. She always was, and always would be. She just had been given a few extra things to do the duty she had been born for. She didn't know where the words came from, but she could sense not only Dulcea's voice singing with her as she did, but the faint, spirit voices of all Rangers everywhere, past, present, and future.

We are one, you & I,
We are like the Earth & Sky,
One family under the sun.
All the wisdom to lead,
All the courage that you need
You will find when you see we are one.

Emmie whispered the last words to herself as she stood on a small cliff overlooking the rest of the jungle, and began to head down the path that led to her goal at the Monolith.

"We are one."

* * *

Once the tears had ceased, Dimitria looked at Tommy. "What exactly has happened here since I have been gone? I know that much has changed, including all of you becoming Rangers again. What has brought the old team back together again?"

"Ivan Ooze, Scorpina, Gasket, and Archerina happened," Adam stated flatly, his eyes sparking especially harshly when he named Scorpina. "They attacked us while we were at what was the ruins of the Power Chamber, and---"

Dimitria put a hand up to stop him. "The ruins?" in those two words were put a wealth of questions that needed to be answered, and Justin sighed.

"That's my story," the Purple Ranger said, sitting nearer to Dimitria than he had been. "It started not very long after you left, Dimitria. I'd say only a couple of hours. Divatox found out where the Power Chamber was and she invaded with all her troops. The fight didn't take very long. I'd say about ten minutes. But we lost, and they destroyed everything in sight," he shuddered. "We lost the Turbo powers when the Power Chamber exploded, and then we found out that some guy named Dark Spectre has captured Zordon and is draining him of his powers. Carlos, T.J, Cassie, and Ashley went into space to find him. I stayed here to be with my dad, and met up with the others just before Christmas. Things just sort of snowballed from there."

The Inquirian sorceress's eyes were startled, one of the few times they'd ever seen her truly show an emotion other than gentle curiosity or all-knowing wisdom. That such had happened so soon after her departure wounded her deeply, and it showed.

Quietly they told her what had went on after that, how they had been attacked by the Oozemen at the ruins once they all came to visit, and how Ninjor and Auric had joined together to transport them to Phaedos, where they had gained the Power of Ninjetti from Dulcea. Adam couldn't bear to speak of what had happened to Tanya, so it was Trini who told of that disaster, and of how Dulcea had taken the young skater Emmie to Phaedos to get her own powers.

"I don't know why she was picked, only Dulcea does, and the power of Ninjetti," Trini finished. "But it's been a few days, and we haven't seen any sign of either of them."

Dimitria nodded. "I know Dulcea from a long time ago, and I know she would not choose without cause," she said quietly. "When this Emmie is ready, she will be brought to us, I have no doubt. But until then, we have things that must be done, arrangements to be made for the defense of Earth and the gathering of all the allies that we can."

"What do you mean, we?" Tommy's voice was gentle, and he did everything he could to draw all the accusation out of it, making it sound more like a question. "Are you. ..staying?"

She smiled quietly under her veil. "If you will have me, Rangers. It was my leaving for Eltar that caused the Power Chamber to be destroyed; if I had remained, I could have repulsed the invaders. For that, I cry all your forgiveness, especially you, Justin. I should never have done so. There was nothing we could have done on Eltar. It was destroyed even before we left to go to aid it, and Zordon taken captive. Phantom Ranger was there when it fell, and even his legendary skills could do nothing to prevent that. That is why he searches now with the Astro Rangers to find him."

"Astro Rangers?" the question came, as she'd known it would. She'd left out some of what she had been told, not truly on purpose, it just hadn't seemed relevant at the time.

"Not long after leaving Earth, Carlos, Ashley, T.J., and Cassie met with Andros, the Red Astro Ranger," she told them. "He gave them the Astro Powers, and now they scour the cosmos for Zordon. The Phantom Ranger has aided them as much as he could, but has come in actual contact with them only once," she glanced around. "But we have our own concerns, and our planet to protect. I ask again, will you permit me to remain and guide you as before. ..hopefully better?"

The eleven of them looked at each other, and slow smiles broke out on every face. Justin said it quietly. "Welcome home, Dimitria."

With a shimmer of light, Dimitria slipped into the plasma tube, almost as if she were going back to an old, familiar room. She looked down at her friends, her companions, and knew that under her veil, tears once more streaked her face, as they did the Ninjetti Rangers. But this time, the tears were those of purest joy.

Alpha Five looked up at her, and touched a button. "Scans to detect evil energy or teleportations to or from Earth have begun," he said. And all of them felt as if yet another piece of the puzzle that was their lives had slid into place.

* * *

"Hey, Bulky, you ever noticed how quiet it's been the last few days?" Eugene "Skull" Skullovitch asked, leaning against the wall in the small apartment the two best friends had managed to scrape up the cash to rent. They were both a year and half out of high school, having somehow squeaked by enough to graduate, and neither had done much, since they'd spent that first year as monkeys, and the six months since then picking up odd jobs here and there. They'd both tired of that however, and were trying to find something actually meaningful to do with their lives.

Farkus "Bulk" Bulkmeir nodded quietly. The two of them had spent so many years together they didn't really need to talk anymore, they almost seemed to share a brain at times, as most of their teachers would have agreed. "I've been thinking, Skull. Here we are high school graduates, we both have detective licenses, and we've had police training. We have to do something with our lives, a lot more than just chase around after the Power Rangers like we used to."

No one who knew him would have believed those words coming out of his mouth, but the two of them had done a lot of thinking over the time they were monkeys, and once they'd settled down after their transformation back and gotten over the 'job hunting' phase, they both knew the days of traipsing all over Angel Grove with the I.Q. of baboons were over. It was time they got back to what they were really the best at.

Ten minutes later, the two of them were out on their bike, a remnant of their cop days, heading out on the backstreets they knew so well. Both of them were deep in thought, an event a lot of people would have sworn wasn't even possible. Almost before they realized it, they were at the Youth Center. Jerome Stone was standing out on the sidewalk, setting up the trash to be taken away for recycling later that day.

"Hi, Lieutenant Stone!" Skull slowed the motorcycle down and waved at their former boss. "Bulk, is it me, or does he look a little down?"

Bulk glanced over, and saw a strange, sad expression on Jerome's face. "Let's stop and talk to him."

"Hi, boys," Jerome looked up as they came over, his eyes taking on a somewhat happier gleam when he saw them. "What have you two been up to lately?"

Skull shrugged. "The usual. Trying to get jobs, and figuring out that we were really happiest when we were being detectives with you."

Jerome's eyes widened a little, and they were almost positive they saw hope in them! "Are you sure, guys?" he said, trying to keep his voice calm. "I mean, I haven't been a detective in a while, and we didn't do all that well."

"I think we could do better now," Bulk said. Jerome took a long look at both of them; neither wore the somewhat punky clothes they had when he'd first met them or that they had been lately. They were in slacks and shirts, and both had combed their hair and looked. . .decent. He smiled a little.

"I think we could too," he said quietly. "Come on in, guys. We've got a lot of talking to do."

* * *

Deep in the depths of the lunar palace, far deeper than anyone had ever been before, in areas that hadn't been opened in centuries until Ivan Ooze had come to take possession of it, Scorpina hung her in the cell. Her eyes burned with the most unholy of fires as she thought of what was going on, and of the revenge she was going to take on each and every one of those who had perpetrated this outrage on her.

I'm going to render Ooze down into nothing but a bad memory, and recycle Gasket and Archerina into scrap metal. Then I'm going to free Tanya and let her live with the knowledge of what she did while she was evil. That should be more than enough punishment; once she's good again and realizes what she's done with Ooze, if I were her, I'd probably cut my own throat out of shame and disgust.

She shifted her chains and paced the few measly inches she could back and forth. I wonder if Adam would., he wouldn't help me, what am I thinking about? He's a Ranger, I'm the enemy, and I hurt his pride and his heart. He would just as soon let me rot here.

It looked as if rot there was just what she was going to do, too. She thought it hadn't been too long since Gasket had clasped the chains on her and left her with an Oozeman and a Cog as her guards. But one effect of the spells Ivan had placed on these cells was to warp a prisoner's sense of time to the point where she didn't know if ten minutes or ten years had passed by.

"Enjoying your stay here, my dear Scorpina?" she was pulled from her reverie to see Ooze himself standing in front of her, his purple robes glowing faintly, an indication he was just a hologram sent to taunt her.

She drew herself up as high as she could in the chains and glared back at him. "The accommodations are simply fine, the company could be better, however."

A cold smile was his response to her. "It is going to get much, much worse, my dear. I do not need you as the potential backstabbing traitor you were, endearing as that might be. I do, however, need you as the brutal, cold-hearted, ruthless assassin that you were advertised as and that I hired. And I am going to have you as that."

She snorted. "I knew I should've changed my listing in the Intergalactic Yellow Pages."

"Oh, no," Ooze shook his head. "I always get what I want, Scorpina. And if it crushes the very life and soul out of you to make you into what I want, then so be it."

She couldn't help but feel a sinking feeling as the glow around him faded, and she realized she'd been speaking to the real him all along. He grabbed her by the throat and quite literally ripped her from her chains, sweeping out of the prison and down a short hallway to the torture room. Scorpina couldn't even struggle, his grip was so tight it was cutting off her breath and her circulation. The first chance to breathe again came when she was tossed very unceremoniously down onto a table and strapped there spread-eagled.

"Now, the armor simply must go," Ooze said, snapping his fingers. She almost shrieked with the sudden influx of cold air as her armor vanished and the chill of the dungeon sent goosepimples all over her flesh. For the first time in centuries, she had absolutely nothing at all between her and the world. Ooze marched around her, and she most definitely didn't like the look in his eyes; a cold and brutal desire for pain gleamed there. Her heart sank when she saw the barbed whip in his hand suddenly. "I consider myself an artist when it comes to pain and torture. When I am through with you," the whip traced a delicate path down her body. "You will be a perfect creation. A perfect slave. Perfectly loyal. Perfectly obedient. Perfectly evil."

As he drew his whip back, Scorpina set her jaw. Defenseless she might be, stripped of her armor, weapons, dignity, and whatever scrap of honor she might've had left, she still had her soul, and it was still her own. She would not submit to this monster. I was once Ninjetti. Dulcea, my old mistress, you taught us the ancient ways and I was stripped away from them and turned away when I could choose otherwise. Now, in this hour of need, I wish I had not. May all the Gods forgive me.

She could feel a strangeness within her, a strength that had never been there until this moment: the strength of the Lion. Words she had heard long ago, when she and her companions had set out on their Quest for the Great Power, and which now came to her again, bringing hope where there had been none.

We are one, my daughter. We are one. May the Power protect you.

As the whip descended, she held onto that thought with all her soul. We are one.

* * *

"Ivan Ooze is a terrible enemy, and he has not yet even begun to show what he is capable of," Dimitria told them once she reviewed everything they had told her. "He has been toying with you so far, not believing you are a real threat. But I believe that will change very soon, and we must be ready for it. We must recruit as many allies as we can, both to assist in combat and to aid in non-combat when we can. Ooze has the most powerful weapon yet: he has inside information on us all, through Tanya, and can also use her to get to you, Adam, am I right?"

The Black Ranger blushed deeply, and that was the only answer that was necessary for any of them. Dimitria continued, "I know of at least one person whom I can contact for an alliance should it be needed, but I wish that to remain as a hidden weapon in case of last resort. But there are others. Justin, what was the fate of Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster?"

"I don't know," the youngest Ranger shook his head. "I haven't seen them since the last battle for the Power Chamber. I think they were caught by Divatox's Piranatrons, and I never found out what happened to them."

She closed her eyes for a few moments, casting out her magical senses to the two mysterious sentient cars that had allied themselves to the Turbo Rangers. Far, far throughout the universe her mind ranged, until she flinched for a moment, catching a glimpse of them. Her eyes flew open at once, stormy with rage.

"They are on the planet Cortosa, being held captive by Piranatrons who are using them as heavy labor," she reported, and saw Justin's muscles go tense, and Billy pale. Strange. He never knew them. I must check into that, she thought.

"We've got to get them out of there!" Justin almost shouted. "They tried to help us and that's what happened to them! We can't just let them stay like that!"

Tommy put a hand on his young friend's shoulder. "You're right, we can't. And we're not going to. How far is that place from here, Dimitria, and can we teleport there safely?"

"It is some distance, but with the current power levels we have," which were far in advance of those in the Power Chamber she'd known, she was beginning to like this new Command Chamber. "A few of you should be able to go. It wouldn't be a good idea for you all to go; that would present a too tempting target for Ooze to attack."

Justin was already jumping and leaping, his hand waving high in the air as if he were in school. "Yes, Justin, you will be one of those going," she smiled. "I do not believe I could keep you away if I tried. As for the others," she cast her eyes over the rest. Adam was looking off into the distance, with a sad expression on his face. He hadn't spoken very much the last few days, and while he had always been taciturn, this near muteness wasn't like him.

"Adam," she said. "Would you care to go upon this quest with Justin?"

The Black Ranger almost jumped out of his skin when she spoke, and half-stared at her. "Are . ..are you sure?"

"Yes," she nodded quietly. "Until we can regain Tanya's true loyalty, then you are a weak link we must protect."

Adam looked for a moment as if he were going to be angry, then sighed. "All right. I think I need to get away for a bit anyway."

"With your Ninjetti skills and powers, you should be able to free Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster," Dimitria told them. "Be swift and be careful, and keep in touch with us via your communicators. We look forward to bringing all four of you home safely."

Justin and Adam glanced at each other, and found a good portion of their old friendship in that traded look. "Let's do it," they spoke in unison. In double columns of black and purple, they were gone.