Legal Disclaimer: Saban is their creator. Emmie belongs to Elizabeth Wegner. Any other original characters are mine.

Author's Note: Read all the other fics in this series first. Carefully. Take notes. You'll need them. The time and place notations are important, and with each part they might jump around some. Please pay attention, or you're going to get very, very confused. AST means Angel Grove Standard Time. Just Jill was nice enough to beta-read this for me, and it's a better fic for her help.

Answered Prayers
by Gael Filson

Part I: Emmie's Quest
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 4:30 p.m. AST; Neola Jungle, Phaedos

Emmie tried not to think too hard of what could be waiting for her in the Neola Jungle as she made her way through a thick patch of it. Dulcea had given her a long list of things to do and not do on the journey, most of them involving on how to fight the creatures that could attack her. The young skater kept her mind on her surroundings, every sense taut for anything that could possibly mistake her for it's evening meal.

I think she said there were things here like dinosaurs. . .not to mention how she described the guardians of the Power. A chill ran down her spine at that. They never took the same form twice; the things that the first team had faced would not be what she saw during her quest. But whatever it was, she knew that with Dulcea's training she could conquer it.

Light as a feather and sure-footed as her animal guide, she leaped over several piles of logs and checked the position of the sun to see how long she'd been gone. Only a couple of hours. I should get to the Monolith sometime just before sunset.

Something that might have been a noise sounded just on the outer edge of her hearing, and caused her to stop dead in her tracks. Emmie paused for a moment, looking around, a frown on her face. I know I heard something...she thought.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw it. A chill ran down her spine when she saw the creature there. It looked like a large wolf, normally a friendly creature. But even as she looked at it, she could see it's eyes were glowing red, and the sensation of evil intruded into her thoughts. She flinched automatically away from it, whimpering in overwhelming terror.

The moment she did, the wolf leaped straight up at her, and she found it's slavering maw hovering only inches from her face, the blazing eyes staring into her own. Emmie jerked her head from side to side, a terrified whimper escaping from her teeth, the only sound she found herself capable of making. She saw other creatures circling around her, bears, apes, cougars, leopards, lynxes, coyotes, vultures, hawks, eagles, snakes, and others she couldn't name. All of them were larger and fiercer than their normal counterparts were, and all had the same glittering red eyes.

What is wrong with these things???? she mentally screeched, backing away from the wolf in front, only to find a horse and a bear right behind her. "Get away from me!" she managed to howl out, jumping to the side and flinching away from the other creatures that were rising up there. "Leave me alone!"

A low, gravely voice spoke, coming from the wolf. "We cannot. You are our sustenance."

"What!?" she jumped as one of them slid near her, reaching out to run a paw down one arm. Her eyes filled with horror and terror as the creature put the paw in it's mouth. It almost seemed to suck it, draining something that it had leeched off her.

"You are our sustenance," it laughed low and darkly, and Emmie shivered. This thing was actually feeding off her. Whatever they were, they weren't normal animals. Normal animals that she might have not wanted to hurt.

Her eyes narrowed suddenly. Feeding off me. Feeding off my fear. Feeding off my fright. I wonder. ..She stepped forward, then leaped forward into a hard punch at the center of the wolf. Her eyes widened to see her fist pass through the creature. As her fist passed through it, she felt a chill, then the creature that had dined upon her vanished, uttering a howling shriek.

"No!" the Gold Ninjetti whirled to see the other creatures behind her crowding in, looking desperate and scared somehow. "You cannot do this! We must feed! We must live!"

Emmie shook her head. "You're not going to feed off me," she felt a jolt of courage fill her at the words, and the creatures seemed to sense it, falling back as well. "I have no fear of you!!"

Other animals began to crowd around her, uttering cries of pain and hunger. "Let us feed! We need fear...pain....hate...we need to feed."

"You guys want pain?" Emmie found herself smiling. "Well, far be it from me to deny you!"

If Dulcea had seen her just then, the Guardian of the Ninjetti Powers would have been very surprised and glad to see how smoothly and easily her student tore through the animals. As the last of them faded away, Emmie tucked her hair behind her ears and wiped away a line of sweat from her forehead.

"I hope the guardians aren't quite this bad," she shuddered a little, then started back down the trail. She still had quite a long way to go.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 5:30 p.m. AST; The Monolith, Phaedos

The sun of Phaedos was just starting to inch towards the final part of it's evening descent when Emmie stepped through the opening in the vines and saw for the first time, up close, the Monolith that she'd been questing for.

Her jaw quite literally dropped. She knew this place. She'd seen it in her dreams a thousand times over her life, and had always wondered what it was. When she'd seen it in the distance from Dulcea's compound, she'd thought there was something vaguely familiar and impressive about it. But now, this close, the dream-memories all crashed in on her, and she knew one simple fact: she'd come home.

"Who dares approach the Monolith of the Power?" from behind her, a harsh voice broke into her half-daze and she jerked back and around to see one of the most unusual things ever: a centaur.

He was large, with the lower body of what looked to be a Clydesdale stallion, and the upper torso of a powerfully built man. His face was classically handsome, and he carried a sword in each hand, light gleaming from the razor-sharp edges. He glared at her. "I say again, mortal, who dares approach?"

"E. .Emily Marie Picard," the young Ninjetti's voice trembled at the challenge. "Who are you?"

"I am Dovos, guardian of the Monolith," the centaur declared. "Why are you here, mortal child?"

Something about the condescending tone of his voice angered Emmie suddenly. She drew herself up as tall as she could manage and looked as much into his eyes as she could. Words poured out of her, she didn't know where from. "I am here to claim the Great Power of Phaedos, to become a Power Ranger and return to help the others of the team fight against evil on Earth. If you're here to aid me, then do so. If you wish to hinder me, I will not permit it. If you mean me neither help nor bane, then be you gone."

What in the WORLD am I saying?? she thought almost immediately as the words fell from her lips. She'd never said anything or even thought anything remotely like that in her entire life! For a moment, it had almost felt as if someone else were in her body. . .

Then the moment passed, and she was still glaring defiantly at Dovos, who was looking back at her with an expression akin to shock on his face. Then it smoothed out, and he raised his swords. "I cannot help you nor will I truly hinder you. I must, however, challenge you. Only if you survive a battle with me will you be permitted to claim the Great Power that you have come for." He looked at her. "And I must warn you, that in a hundred thousand years, no one has ever survived a battle with me."

Emmie nodded briefly, then crouched into a fighting stance. The centaur charged towards her quickly, galloping at top speed, and she barely had time to dodge out of the way. Her eyes flashed for a moment, then she shouted out in her most powerful voice, "Ninjetti! The Cat!"

A wash of light gold came over her vision for a moment, then she was fully clad in her Ninjetti uniform, and felt the strength of her power and training filling her. The transformation took only a second, and that was to the good, since Dovos was coming towards her again, even faster this time. She leaped straight up, her arms grabbing onto an overhanging branch, and she swung around like a gymnast, landing crouched on top.

"Dovos!" she almost laughed at the sight of the centaur pausing in it's charge and looking around to see where she was. "I'm up here!" The second sentence was punctuated by her jumping down and launching a straight kick at the back of Dovos' head. The centaur squealed and jumped forward a few paces, taken by surprise at the quick movements of the Cat Ninjetti, then whirled around, swords stabbing forward to where she was.

Or rather, to where she had been. Because of the centaur's size, his movements were easy to read, and she'd known the swords were coming. She'd had plenty of time to get out of the way, and had once again leaped off, this time into a thick patch of brush. Staying as still as she could, she watched as Dovos trotted around looking for her.

"Ninjetti!" he growled, sounding more like a neigh than anything else. "Come out! Is this the honor of a potential Ranger?"

She smiled briefly. This is battle tactics, the thought wandered up from her mind. As Dovos turned his back to her, she started to slide out of her hiding place, intending to get around him and charge from the front. But as she moved, her foot slipped against a branch, causing the very smallest of sounds.

It appeared that was more than enough, however, as Dovos whirled quickly, plunging a meaty hand into the brush and grabbing her by the shoulder. She stifled a scream as he dragged her out, his hands clamping down firmly on her arms. "You are defeated," he declared. "Admit it, and I will set you free."

Emmie growled out an obscenity that made the creature's ears turn red, then slammed a foot into his stomach as hard as she could. Dovos winced, the grip on her weakening just a little. You're a cat, use it! she thought, thinking about what cats could do. An image of one cat she'd had as a child came to her mind, being held when she didn't want to be, twisting out of the person's arms and landing on her feet. The Gold Ninjetti jerked quickly, squirming around until Dovos' hands could no longer hold her. Landing on all fours, she thought as fast as she could. She'd been gone a while; who knew what the other Rangers had had to go through while she was away. She had to finish this soon.

And finish it she did. She flipped back away from the centaur as swiftly as she could, then leaped up into one of the trees that surrounded the Monolith clearing. Dovos came after her, intending to grab her legs. Instead, her legs pistoned down at him, slamming into his face at full strength and speed. If a normal human had done this, the centaur would merely have laughed and shaken it off. But with a warrior powered by Ninjetti delivering the kick, Dovos paused in full charge. His eyes blinked for a moment, then he tipped over onto his side, crashing down like a rock.

Emmie stared in shock; she'd never actually thought such a thing would work! A strange grinding sound from the direction of the Monolith caught her attention, and she turned around to see it starting to open up. Her eyes widened as a clear golden light shone from within, and a duplicate of the cat-bearing coin on her chest appeared. A shaft of power burst forth, wrapping around her, and she saw the transparent image of a metallic cat swirling near. My Zord, she thought with pride as the image dived straight towards her, enveloping her with wings of power.

She knew absolutely nothing for a moment, then when her mind cleared, she found herself clad in armor such as she had seen on the news, with the new Ninjetti Rangers. Hers was in a gleaming shade of gold, brighter than the Yellow Ranger's, with silver highlights on her shoulders and skirt. She had never felt so purely energized in her entire life!

"Gold Ranger," a quiet voice spoke, and she turned around once more to see Dovos standing up now, shaking his head a little. For a moment, she was concerned that he would be angry at her, until he smiled. "Never have I been dealt blows such as you have delivered. The Power Rangers of Earth are very lucky to have you joining them. May the gods of your choice bless you and keep you, Emily Marie Picard. Go in peace and in strength, and protect your chosen world."

Emmie smiled briefly, lifting one arm in salute. "Thank you," she said, touching her belt and thinking of Dulcea's compound. It was time to go home.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 6:30 p.m. AST, Dulcea's compound, Phaedos

Dulcea sat cross-legged before the fire, her eyes closed and her mind searching. Ever since Emmie had left on her quest, she had been wondering just who the strange girl was. She had picked up the skills of Ninjetti faster than anyone the master warrior had ever seen before, with an ease that uncannily resembled Dulcea's own.

Who is she. . .what is she? Why was she, an ice skater, of all the people in Angel Grove and indeed the entire planet, chosen? She is a strong and good person, but so are many others there. There is more to this than I know, and I must find out what it is. Knowledge is power, and this is a weapon I dare not go without.

Fearlessly, she cast her mind into the ether, opening her soul up to the wisdom and peace that only the Great Power of Phaedos could give her. An observer would have possibly seen her eyes rolling back up into her head and watched as she collapsed in front of the fire, her spirit emerging from her body and soaring out to seek the answers she needed.

In the realms of the spirit she now inhabited, she could move swifter than light, at the very speed of a thought. Dulcea now moved faster than that even, touching Emmie's life-force, tasting it in all it's sweetness, reading it to discover what it was that made her different. What she discovered hit her like a bolt from the heavens.

Never have I known of this!! The knowledge staggered her very mind and soul. In twelve thousand years, she had never even considered that such a thing was possible. But as she slowly began to trace the evidence, she began to smile. Not only was it possible. . .it had happened. It had happened to Emmie.

A flicker of power in the material world pulled her back to her body, and she opened her eyes, sitting up to see Emmie standing in front of her, helmet in hand, clad in the uniform of a Gold Ninjetti Ranger. Dulcea nodded to herself, both her spirit animal and the way her uniform looked made sense now. "You have returned," the keeper of the power said quietly.

"Yes," Emmie nodded, a frown on her face. "What's wrong? You were...away when I got back." She'd instinctively recognized a deep trance state, but it worried her nevertheless.

Dulcea stood slowly, stretching. She absolutely hated the feeling of weariness that always overcame her after such deep trancing, but when compared to the knowledge this had won her, it didn't matter at all. She glanced at the girl before her, trying to decide if she needed to know right now. No. Not just yet. Open knowledge of this is too dangerous. It is enough that I know. . .for now.

"Are you ready to go home?" she asked. "I see you have won your Ranger power."

The skater blushed a bit, glancing down at the armor that covered her. "Yeah," she agreed. "I . . .I think I'm needed."

"And so you are," Dulcea smiled, then glanced at the sun, which had already set. "But it is late, and we both are in dire need of rest. It would not do to return home and collapse immediately. We'll sleep here one more night, then in the morning, we will go directly to the Command Chamber, and introduce you to your new teammates."

Emmie gulped a little, feeling prickles of nervousness going up and down her spine. The thought of meeting eleven strangers, or near-strangers, wasn't very pleasing. Those who share the Great Power are never strangers to one another, she thought.

Dulcea stretched again, working the last few kinks out of her body. She doused the fire with a wave of her hand, and watched as Emmie carefully made her way to the sleeping roll where she had spent so many nights before. So many. .. not even a week! But still. ..what a warrior. I shall have to have her return here for more training.

"Good night, Emmie," she said quietly.

"Good night, Dulcea."

* * *
Time and Place: January 18, 1998: 3 p.m. AST, Dulcea's Compound/Command Chamber

They didn't exactly set out with sunrise the next morning, however. Emmie's long physical quest and Dulcea's long mental one had taken their toll on both of the women, and they slept almost until noon, an unheard of event for the Master Warrior. She didn't seem to mind when she finally awoke, however. Indeed, her eyes had never looked happier to Emmie when the skater woke, to the most delicious scents of breakfast she had ever smelled.

"What time is it?" the Gold Ranger mumbled as she sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "It's kind of . . .bright. ..for sunrise, isn't it?"

"That's because it's noon," Dulcea said cheerily, testing the meat she was cooking and deciding it was done enough. "We both slept in, and I believe we needed it. Do you want breakfast?"

The young girl blinked a few times, waiting for the miasma of night to pass from her, then nodded. "Sure."

She stretched herself to her feet, turning the movement into first her normal morning exercise rituals, then the katas that Dulcea had taught her were good for working out the stiffness of night-muscles. "When are we going to be leaving?"

The rising scent of breakfast was making her stomach rumble, and she was eager to eat and return home. All night long Emmie had dreamed about being with her power-companions, the other Rangers, and she had dreamed other things as well. Dreams of Phaedos when it had been home to a thriving population, dreams of mighty warriors and bold wizards, dreams of tragedy and loss when the civilization had fallen, leaving only Dulcea as it's memory-keeper and guardian.

"After breakfast," Dulcea replied, slicing the meat and cheese and pouring a container of water for the both of them. This had been her usual breakfast for centuries, and she had rather enjoyed hunting down the biorn she'd caught for it. It was good to be able to provide for herself; she would never see why Earth-humans had to buy their things from stores, when they had woods and lakes full of all the most nutritious food possible.

Emmie nibbled on the meat, enjoying it's taste. She'd helped Dulcea catch a biorn once; it was a lot like a deer, only with claws instead of hooves, and it tasted quite a bit better. After almost a week of this stuff, I wonder what the food back home is going to taste like. Back home. . .such a way to think of Earth. ..who would have ever thought I'd be off it? As she swallowed the last bit of breakfast, she stopped suddenly. I left without telling my coach where I was going!

She winced at the thought of what Coach Tyler would say or do; he was a stickler for her showing up on time and doing the things she needed to do. I'll have to tell him something. . .but what? She shrugged mentally. That would be dealt with in the proper time. For now, Dulcea was looking at her with a curious expression.

"Are you ready to go home?" her teacher asked quietly, and Emmie smiled broadly.

"You'd better believe it," she put the remains of breakfast aside and stood up. Before taking Dulcea's hand, she twisted her own for a moment, and a gleaming golden coin appeared in it. Emblazoned with the image of the cat, it almost seemed to smile at her for a moment. Then she grinned, and it vanished. I'm a Power Ranger, she thought. And it's time to go home.

Dulcea touched her staff briefly, muttering phrases Emmie vaguely recognized as being a spell that would permit her to live away from the plateau for a short time. As the last words faded away, there was a sensation of movement, and then they were standing in a very crowded room. Emmie winced at the sudden eyes that were turned on her, and quickly looked around to see who. . .and what, in some cases, were there. Eleven people she instinctively felt a link with, those would be the Ninjetti Rangers. A strange purple car was there, something she couldn't understand, nor why a young boy was leaning on it, almost whispering to it. Two humanoid types, both in gold and black tunics with tattoos over one eye. A white-robed woman in a tube. A robot wandering around complaining at the sudden influx of people. Emmie took a deep breath as the woman in the tube spoke.

"Welcome home, Emily Marie Picard, Gold Ranger. Welcome to the Command Chamber, Dulcea of Phaedos," she smiled warmly. "Welcome to the Power Rangers."

* * *
Time and Place: January 19, 1998: 8 a.m. AST; Angel Grove Skating Rink

Emmie approached the rink confidently, her eyes bright and shining with strength and joy. She wasn't quite sure, but she thought she missed Phaedos already. She knew she missed Dulcea, who had gone home not long after Dimitria had finished the explanations. But she also knew she would see her again.

"Emily Marie!" her coach's voice crackled sharply as he stormed up to her. "Where have you been, girl? You know you need to practice!"

Emmie smiled over at him. It was a warm, friendly smile, something she'd seldom felt like doing before. She'd been nervous, but no more. Now, she knew her own worth extended beyond just being a skater, and that gave her a confidence she had never known before. "I needed some time to myself, sorry for not telling you," she said politely. "But I'm ready to get started now."

The coach blinked a little, never before had she responded so calmly to him. It had always been either half-terrified mutters or the occasional sharp word. He waved her towards the ice. "Umm. ..good," was all he said. "Glad to see you back."

Emmie chuckled to herself as she sat down to put her skates on. It was good to be home. One thought did slide into her thoughts, however. Where in the world am I going to find gold clothes?

* * *
Part II: Quest For Old Friends
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 8 a.m. AST; the Planet Cortosa

The sound of whips cracking in the chill morning air was something that Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster had slowly became used to over the last few weeks. The two sentient cars had been captured during the last battle for the Power Chamber, and ever since they had been kept here, dragging loads through the deserts and jungles of this vast planet. Divatox had officially added it to her empire eons earlier, but since there weren't any natives to dispute her claim, it wasn't as great an accomplishment as the domination of Earth would be. Most of the planet was uncharted, and the Piranatrons appeared to be taking a cruel delight in forcing the two cars to work five times harder than they were supposed to.

Piranatrons chittered in their fashion as they flogged the cars. A human couldn't have understood them, but these two vehicles had been in a thousand cultures throughout the centuries, and they understood what was being said.

"Drag, you lousy vehicles!" one burbled at them, the whip singing through the dry morning air. "If you want to remain in one piece, drag!"

"If I have to drag this load one more inch, I'm going to lose my sanity, Blaster!" Lightning Cruiser did not speak as humans did; his thoughts were communicated by the flashing of his lights and beeping of horn. But his companion understood them perfectly, and responded in kind.

"I know what you mean. How could we have been captured?" the blue truck had repeated the same phrase on a daily basis since they had arrived here. It was an enormous shame to them both.

Cruiser beeped loudly, his way of shrugging his 'shoulders'. "Bad luck. It happens to even the best. What is worrying me is T.J."

The two of them were the last survivors of a race of intelligent cars from a planet long since destroyed. In human terms, Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster were cousins, and they had sworn an oath to fight against the evil that had destroyed their world until the end of time. Together they had journeyed throughout various star systems, and on one of those, they had become bonded to the Power, allying with various Ranger teams throughout the cosmos. They had never stayed with them for very long, a century or two at the most, and when they left, they never missed whoever they had let drive with them.

Until now. Until they had been awakened after an eon of napping by the forces of evil, and had gone towards a world that had called them somehow. There they had met two. ..two unlike any other in the cosmos.

"I know," Blaster's reply was subdued. "I worry over Justin as well. We must get free and see how they are."

Cruiser said nothing, but began to strain more and more at the bonds that held him. Blaster did the same, then something occurred to him. "Lightning Cruiser! Hold fast!" The blue vehicle steadied himself as much as he could, then twitched one laser weapon around, straining against the chains, until a clear shot could be made.

T-seer!!! T-seer!!! The sound of laser fire superseded that of the whips for a moment, as Storm Blaster shot, aiming perfectly. He had been what is known as a crack shot on their own world, and now he shot to free his cousin. The chains fell off, sliding to the ground in a rattle that sounded sweeter than guzzling gas to both of them. "Get out of here, Cruiser!" Storm Blaster ordered as Piranatrons started piling on top of him. He shook back and forth, trying to get rid of them, but to no avail. "Go!"

Lightning Cruiser almost hesitated, until he saw a group of Piranatrons heading for him. He didn't have any choice, Blaster was being held down too much, and the only help lay in the Power Rangers. He revved up his engine, then floored his accelerator, clearing out of the area as fast as he could and heading for the stars. A part of his mind opened up that he had kept hidden for almost two months, the part connected to T.J. If Divatox had known that the two cars she'd finally captured were still linked to their Turbo companions, she would have been able to use that to harm them. Neither he nor Storm Blaster knew if she could sense the link, but they would put neither of their friends at risk.

As he soared out of the atmosphere of Cortosa, if he had had a face that was capable of smiling, he would have. He was going to find his companion, his partner, the other part of him. His race had once held the belief that every being had two with whom it was meant to be forever. One was a friend that would understand everything about them. One was a lover that would be everything to them. Lightning Cruiser knew that whoever his destined love was, she probably had died with his race.

But his best friend was T.J. Richardson. And he wasn't ever going to be separated from him again.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 9 a.m. AST; Traveling towards Cortosa

Twin columns of light were shooting through the universe side by side, one a deep black, the other a shimmering violet. This was the longest teleportation that either of them had ever experienced; even going to Phaedos hadn't taken this long.

Both Justin and Adam were nervous. Adam had never known Storm Blaster or Lightning Cruiser, he was mainly going along to keep his mind away from the fate of Tanya, and to avoid being a weak link that the united villains could use against them. Dimitria hoped by the time they returned, they would either have freed Tanya or somehow made certain that they couldn't use their past relationship somehow.

I'm coming, Storm Blaster, Justin thought, wondering if the teleportation would ever end. He felt a burning need to find the car, to make certain it was all right. It wasn't something he could explain, but it was something he felt was necessary for him, as necessary as breathing.

Adam was thinking nothing. He hadn't felt like thinking in a while now. Now, he let his mind roam free and unfettered, wherever it wanted to go. Thankfully, it stayed far away from the topic of his girlfriend. He refused even now to think of her as "Tanya Ooze".

"I think we're almost there." It was always a surprise to the Rangers when one of them spoke during teleportational transit, which usually was so fast they didn't have time. But now as a desert planet began to loom ahead of them, Justin felt the need to say something.

Adam wished he was a fully functional person right now, so he could nod. "Let's hope we succeed," was all he said in reply. As the planet grew larger and larger, the Black and Purple Ninjetti Rangers felt the rising anticipation of a new mission.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 8:30 a.m. AST, Astro MegaShip

A ship soared through the deepest depths of space, traveling in a search that had only been going on for a month and a half and yet to the people inside felt as if it were endless. There were five of them, clad in gray uniforms with undershirts of varied colors. Four were bonded closer than they could have ever imagined a scant year earlier, but the fifth had been doing all he could to remain aloof.

"Any luck on the scans for Zordon, Cassie?" T.J. Richardson asked, drumming his fingers on the panel in front of him.

The Pink Astro Ranger shook her head. "Nothing in the Vika galaxy. I'm shifting the scans over to the Kodos sector."

The two of them were the only ones who were on the bridge of the MegaShip right now. Carlos was taking a nap in his room; he'd had night duty and was catching up on his sleep. Ashley and Andros were on the Simudeck, probably practicing pool or telekinesis. Or both. T.J. cracked a small smile at the thought. He'd only known Ashley about ten months, but he'd never seen her so bound and determined to get a guy. Andros might be aloof, but he knew the Red Astro Ranger didn't stand a chance.

With a mental shrug, he turned his attention back to the scanners. Cassie was handling the long-range equipment for the farther galaxies, and now he was checking those that were slightly closer to them. He'd only been looking for a few moments when he spat out an oath that made Cassie's cheeks turn pink. "Teej? What's wrong?" Cassie sincerely hoped Astronema wasn't up to anything. That would be bad.

"It's . ..oh, man, this is incredible. ..," Cassie hadn't ever heard his voice sound this enthused! "Look!" As he pointed over to the monitors, her eyes widened in shock.

"It's Lightning Cruiser!" she breathed. To see the cars that they had thought lost to Divatox or destroyed was almost as good as seeing Justin again! "But. ..where's Storm Blaster?"

The Blue Ranger shrugged. "I don't know, but Cruiser's trying to contact us, I think." He touched the back of his head briefly, feeling a shiver go down his spine as he did. It was in the back of his head, the very back of his mind, where he'd always felt connected to the Lightning Cruiser, that one final touch and taste of the Red Turbo powers. Somehow, he'd known that both the sentient cars were 'alive' still. This didn't surprise him at all.

With a touch of a button, he'd called all the other Rangers up to the bridge. Andros looked concerned as he emerged with Ashley right behind him. "What's going on?" he asked quietly.

"We've got a guest," T.J. grinned, motioning to the monitors. Ashley and Carlos, who had just emerged from another door onto the bridge, both stared in shock. Andros just looked confused.

"Why is there a car outside the MegaShip?" he wondered. He'd never seen a car that could do that before!

T.J. grinned as he ordered the outer cargo bay doors to open, and closed his eyes for a moment. Lightning Cruiser. ..if you can hear me. ..please, come in. Along with that, he sent a mental picture of the doors so his old friend would know where to go. "Andros, my friend," he opened his eyes and smiled broadly at his new leader. "We are about to have some company."

He almost laughed as he headed down for the cargo bay, bouncing higher than he ever had before. Maybe the return of his old friend was a sign that things were going to start being better around here? Maybe they'd even find Zordon. Maybe they'd even see Justin again.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 9:35 a.m. AST, Cortosa

Cortosa was a beautiful world, but a harsh one. It was thick with greenery, with a flawless crystal-blue sky overhead that had only a few light, puffy clouds floating through it, pushed by the vagaries of the warm wind that flowed through the jungles.

Two columns of light, one a deep purple, the other solid black, touched down in a clearing in the center of a thick jungle, and formed themselves into Justin and Adam. The two Rangers glanced briefly at each other, then both froze when they heard the all-too-familiar sound of Piranatron feet.

"Hide," the Black Ranger murmured, motioning to a thick patch of shrubbery. They dove in quickly, concealing themselves flat on the ground.

Both of them listened intently as the fish-creatures walked by, and Justin found himself wishing that he could understand their squeaks and burbles. They probably know where Cruiser and Blaster are. His eyes widened a little as an idea occurred to him, and he could hardly wait until the last of the patrol had passed by to lean over to Adam. "If we follow them," he murmured, "they could show us where Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster are."

Adam nodded briefly, then gestured to the thickly gathered trees overhead. There was enough cover for them to hide from the Piranatrons' sight there, and the branches were wide enough so they could easily use them to travel on. They waited just another moment, just long enough for the patrol to get a little further on, then both were scrambling up into the high branches.

So this is Cortosa, Adam thought as they scampered like a pair of squirrels after their enemy/guides. It's not that bad of a place, really. Quiet and sorta peaceful. But I wouldn't want to stay here if I were a prisoner. He smiled briefly to himself at how easily Justin was squirming through the trees. He sure is taking to this. I'm not surprised, he's a Squirrel. Me. ...I'm a Frog. Justin's thoughts were somewhat different. Storm Blaster! Storm Blaster, where are you? Why can't I find you? The moment the sentient car had been captured, Justin had sensed something. It had been overwhelmed by the defeat of the Rangers almost at once, but once he'd had a chance to relax afterwards, always there had been the nagging sense of loneliness and achingness in his heart. Only when he had started off on this quest did he begin to feel even the littlest bit better.

Both of them froze when the Piranatrons ahead of them stopped. The jungle had come to an abrupt end, and there was a short swatch of grass ahead of them. When that ended, a broad desert spread as far as they eye could see, hard and baking. Both of them saw something ahead that spurted joy into their veins, especially Justin.

"Storm Blaster." Justin muttered quietly. Indeed, the blue jeep was there in chains, obviously fighting as hard as it could against somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty Piranatrons, most of them cracking whips as the valiant vehicle tried to drag a huge pile of rocks along. Justin gritted his teeth, forcing himself not to go down there, weapons blazing.

Adam touched his shoulder, and they both moved back from easy sight. Softly, the Black Ranger murmured, "I only see one. Where's the other one?"

"That's Storm Blaster," Justin's voice was just as low. "He was my friend. The other one is Lightning Cruiser, he and T.J. always flew together. I don't know where he is. But maybe Blaster does."

Adam's eyes widened briefly at the though of flying in a car. He'd done quite a few unusual things during his time as a Ranger, but that was something he never had experienced. He glanced back through the trees, trying to gauge just how far it was between them and the Piranatrons. "There's a lot of those things," he muttered. "It's not going to be easy getting to him."

Justin shrugged, his eyes flashing a little. Adam could easily see that he wasn't going to be back down from this any time soon. "We'll do what we can," the Purple Ranger said quietly, turning back to the desert and to his vehicle friend. I'll do what I can.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 8:35 a.m. AST; Astro MegaShip

Andros had only known T.J. for a short time, but in that time he'd never seen his friend so excited. The Blue Ranger was quite literally bouncing up and down with excitement as the doors to the cargo bay slid open. When there was enough room for him to pass through, T.J. darted in and ran straight over to the car sitting there beeping urgently.

"Lightning Cruiser." Cassie shook her head in sharp surprise. "I never thought we'd see him again. But where's Storm Blaster?"

None of the others knew, and Ashley quickly filled the Red Ranger in on the existence of the two cars that had joined forces with them while they were Turbo Rangers, and about how they'd fallen to Divatox's forces. Andros nodded, looking over to where T.J. was involved in some sort of deep communion with the car, something that went beyond words into simply emotive responses.

Almost half an hour passed before anyone could get anything that even resembled an answer out of the Blue Ranger. Every few minutes, Carlos or Cassie tried to find out what was going on with the sentient car they hadn't seen in so long, but T.J. never even looked up. When he finally did, Carlos noted at once that the shadows that had been in his friend's eyes since the day of the Power Chamber battle were finally gone. "We have to go to the planet Cortosa," he said quietly. "Storm Blaster is still there."

"How do you know?" Andros wondered. Though he could easily move things with the power of his mind alone, being able to feel another's thoughts was something he'd never experienced.

T.J. shrugged. "I just do," he said. There was no way he could ever explain to someone else what it was like to be linked to this car. Only Justin had ever truly understood it. "Storm Blaster needs our help, guys. Cruiser says he was the only one of them able to get away, and he came looking for me when he did. He figured we'd be able to get past the defenses Divatox had set up there and get him free."

The other former Turbo Rangers just nodded. They'd had time to get used to how T.J. acted around Lightning Cruiser at times, and they weren't overly surprised by it. Ashley turned to Andros, who was still looking a little confused. "Do we go?" she asked quietly. It was still his final decision in the end.

The Red Ranger frowned momentarily. He really didn't want to be distracted from their quest for Zordon or his search for Karone, but one never quite knew when a new friend would show up. It was obvious that this car, and probably it's companion as well, were close to his friends, and he just couldn't let a captive of evil remain that way anyway. "DECA," he said, turning his gaze up to the nearest camera eye. "Set course for planet Cortosa, hyperrush nine. The faster we get there, the better."

T.J. let out a wild whoop of joy, then slid back into the Cruiser, his hands running all over the various controls with the skill of long familiarity and the special touch only he had ever had with him. Though the car gave off a sense of pure masculinity, being back with his old friend felt almost as if he were being reunited with a long-lost love. "Remember when we first met?" the Blue Ranger murmured as the door shut. "You were trying to run me down. ..after Storm Blaster and Justin got kidnapped. Carnapped. Whatever."

The Cruiser blinked it's headlights and honked the horn at him, and he understood. "I had to practically tame you..." Once again the car sounded, and T.J. frowned. This was something they'd never really discussed. "A test? Chasing you down was a test?"

Once again his companion blinked the headlights, and T.J. leaned back in shock. Somehow, however, he wasn't surprised. He had felt as if he were being challenged. ..and he had risen to it. Slowly he began to speak of other times the two had shared, and talked of new adventures he'd had since becoming an Astro Ranger.

The others headed for the bridge, and only Andros noticed something happening as they left, when he took one last look behind. The formerly brilliant crimson shade of Lightning Cruiser's chaisse had begun to shift to a deep shade of blue, the same shade T.J. himself wore.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 12 noon AST, Jungles of Cortosa

Justin was quite literally fidgeting in place as he and Adam stared once more at the hordes of Piranatrons there. They had been about to swing down and do some serious fighting when a flash of golden fire had burst into existence in the center of the group of fishy things, and someone they were both uncomfortably familiar with formed out of it.

"What do you mean Lighting Cruiser got away?" Divatox shrieked at the top of her lungs. Rygog and Porto were with her also, but they were hanging back, trying to stay out of the way of her anger as she berated the Piranatrons.

Adam winced, this had to be the fortieth time she'd asked that since her arrival almost two and a half hours earlier. Both of them were feeling somewhat stiff from being so still ever since. She'd marched up and down, shrieking, yelling, and blasting the occasional Piranatron that said anything or tried to say anything to her. It was obvious she didn't want answers; she just wanted results.

"Get it back!" she finally said something different. "And I want it back now!"

"It looks like she hasn't changed a bit." Justin and Adam both went perfectly still; the voice that had spoken had not been one of theirs. It had come from below them, and quietly they both peeked down to see what was going on. Justin knew he knew the voice.

His eyes went wide with shock, though whether that was from who he was seeing or the fact that five people had somehow gotten there without either of them noticing he wasn't really certain. Some ninjas we are, he thought harshly, then pure joy filled him. "Cassie!" he half-shouted, stifling the word as soon as it left his mouth. Below them were five figures, but only four of them they recognized: Cassie, Ashley, Carlos, and T.J. The fifth was a young man, wearing the same odd uniforms that they were now, with striped blonde and brown hair.

All five turned around when Justin's voice sounded, and the two Ninjetti Rangers dropped down from above them. The one with two-toned hair dropped into a battle-stance until Ashley put a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, Andros," she smiled. "These are friends. I don't know how they got here, but they're friends."

"Justin! Adam!" T.J. was smiling broadly. "What in the world are you two doing here?"

"We came looking for Storm Blaster and Lighting Cruiser," Justin replied. "Storm Blaster's over there, but so's Divatox!"

Carlos' voice lowered quietly when he spoke. "Lightning Cruiser is with us. He got away and found T.J."

"Cool!" Adam smiled; he didn't know anyone but Carlos that well, but it was good to hear that these new Rangers {new in comparison to him, at least} were doing well. Behind the newcomers he and Justin could see a sleek blue car that had to be Lightning Cruiser, and he could almost bet that it's headlights were turned towards Storm Blaster.

Justin glanced over at Andros in slight confusion. "So who are you?" he asked. He could hardly believe that he was reunited with his friends; it seemed almost too good to be true! But here they all were.. .plus one! And if I'm not mistaken. ..I think T.J. is wearing blue!

"I'm Andros," he replied, and Justin noticed at once the red shirt underneath his jacket.

Ashley glanced over her shoulder and was relieved that none of the Piranatrons or mutants seemed to see or hear them. Quietly, she murmured, "Can we save the reunion until after we free Storm Blaster? They haven't heard us yet over there, but it might not be a good idea to advertise we're here just yet."

"So how do we get him?" Adam wondered. "And we do have a lot to fill you guys in on."

Andros peered through the trees, watching. Something occurred to him as he did, and a very tiny smile managed to find it's way across his face. "I think I have a plan," he said quietly. "Do you two have Ranger powers?"

Cassie was about to remind her leader of the explosion that had stripped the Turbo powers from all of them, including Justin, and that Adam had given up his, when both of them nodded quietly, and produced gleaming Coins the likes of which none of the Astros had ever seen before.

The Red Astro Ranger smiled. "This is my plan."

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 1 p.m. AST; Cortosian desert

Divatox growled several words in her native tongue of Inquirian as she paced through the ranks of her Piranatrons. Somehow, they had failed her. After that one glowing moment when they had destroyed the Power Chamber for her, her warriors had descended rapidly back into the complete stupidity that had so infuriated her over the last couple of years. They had even let her beloved flying car Lightning Cruiser get away! She'd been through so much to get it under her thumb, and now it was gone!

She paused, hearing a shout in a voice that didn't sound familiar, but the power of light running through it did. "Galaxy Gliders, hang ten!"

Five bolts of light began to surge towards them out of the jungle a half-mile away, and she could see five figures on top of them. A low growl issued from between her teeth as she saw who was on it: the Astro Rangers. They're ALMOST as annoying now as they were when they were Turbo Rangers! Her anger increased almost to triple when another flash of light appeared, and the car she'd longed for and kept so long appeared. Lightning Cruiser, now in a sleek blue color that she liked even better than the red it had been, zipped towards them, firing just as swiftly and accurately as the Astro Rangers were.

She was about to give an order for the Pirantrons to attack, when bolts of energy started to come from behind her. The evil pirate turned around, and her eyes widened to see two figures running towards them, blasters in hand and morphed into Black and Purple Rangers. I never knew there was a Purple. . . was all she could think before realizing that she was under attack.

"Get them!" she shrieked, waving her arms fiercely at her warriors. "Don't stand there like idiots, they're only Power Rangers!"

Her Piranatrons had always fought hardest against Rangers since her victory; they had been the only group of troops in the universe to successfully defeat the forces from Earth. It didn't matter that they had simply become Astro Rangers; her warriors had won, and that gave them an edge no other set of foottroops had.

It didn't appear as if these Rangers particularly knew that, or cared if they did, though. The Astro Rangers were swooping this way and that on their gliders, firing with perfect skill. She turned to the other two Rangers, her eyes glowing faintly behind her golden mask, and she growled out words that made ten of her own Piranatrons keel over in horror.

"It's not possible!" she hissed at them, seeing through their helmets to the faces beneath, and firing off a couple of her laser-bolts. "It's not possible, neither one of you had powers!" she completely and conveniently ignored the fact that Dark Spectre had told them that the ex-Rangers of Earth had earned the Ninjetti powers.

Adam grinned as he shot up the ground near her. "Wanna bet?" was all he said. Divatox glared at the both of them, then threw her arms up in the air in her traditional pre-teleportation pose.

"All right, take your silly little cars!" she growled. "I didn't want them anyway!"

With a burst of power she vanished from the area, going back to her real job: watching over the captured Zordon.

Justin laughed as the Piranatrons went with her, then angled his blaster at Storm Blaster. "Just a second, buddy, and you'll be out of there," he promised. Three shots later, the chains holding the truck down had melted away, and the Purple Ranger and Storm Blaster were together again.

"What do we do now?" Adam asked, looking over at his new friends. "I mean, Justin and I have to get back to Earth. Ivan Ooze could attack at any moment."

Cassie tilted her head to one side. There had been little time for the telling of tales with the plan needing to be made and implemented, but all of them sensed something unusual had happened after their departure. "First you guys need to tell us what you've been doing since we left," she said. "And then we need to figure out who's going with who. Look."

She pointed to Lightning Cruiser, who was now sporting the Astro Rangers' insignia and a new coat of sapphire-blue paint. T.J. looked surprised. "I . .think he wants to stay with me."

Justin's jaw dropped at the change, then he slowly turned to look at Storm Blaster. Instead of the same sky-blue he had been, his old friend was now a brilliant shade of royal purple, soothing to the eyes and matching his uniform precisely. Where the symbol of the Turbo Rangers had been, now gleamed the brilliant lightning bolt of the Ninjetti. "I think we're going to have to expand the holding bay," he said quietly. Storm Blaster beeped lovingly at him, and he caressed the hood gently. It was good to be back together.

"We do have a lot to talk about," Adam said quietly. "All of us."

* * *
Time and Place: January 18, 1998: 3:00 p.m. AST, Astro MegaShip/Command Chamber

It took more than just a few minutes to explain to the Astros just what had been going on in the last month and a half. Justin and Adam wound up sleeping on the MegaShip that night, after all six of them were up until the very wee hours of the morning telling what had happened since the last time they had all seen each other.

Finally, though, the last tale had been told and the last question answered. Justin had fallen asleep almost as soon as that happened, and Ashley gently tucked her former teammate into one of the spare beds.

"Looks like Earth is in good hands," T.J. said quietly. "That was one thing we were worried about."

Adam sighed deeply, sipping at the drink that had been provided for him by their Synthetron. "Once we get back to the Command Chamber and get everyone informed about you guys, we can keep in touch. If you need anything from us, let us know, please."

"We will," Andros smiled briefly. The thought of meeting all the old Rangers of Earth, whose exploits were practically legendary in the cosmos, was making him very nervous. Meeting these four had been quite enough, and they hadn't yet made quite as much of a splash in the defense scene as their predecessors.

Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster seemed to be perfectly happy to be split up, since they would both be with the Rangers that they cared for the most. Storm Blaster, looking rather spiffy in the new violet color, had appeared to bid a cheery farewell to his long time companion, who seemed just as cool in his blue coat as he had in his red, and looked satisfied to be staying with T.J.

"Ready to go?" Adam glanced at his young companion the next afternoon. They had planned to leave in the early morning, but after staying up until all hours talking the previous night, they had all wound up sleeping in. Justin smiled, seated proudly in the driver's seat of Storm Blaster.

"All set. You?"

The Black Ninjetti smiled briefly, then turned to the Astros, lined up in the cargo bay they were going to be launching from. "Thanks for everything. We couldn't have done it without you."

"You're welcome," Andros declared. "And likewise. We'll drop in whenever we get a chance. I'd really like to meet the rest of your team."

Adam nodded. "And they'd like to meet all of you. Keep searching for Zordon. We'll keep Earth in one piece while you're gone."

"Good luck." Andros extended his hand and the two shook warmly. The Black Ninjetti slid into the passenger side of the truck, and shut the door. "See you later, everyone!" both the Ninjetti called out. Storm Blaster beeped one final time to Lightning Cruiser, then the cargo bay faded from around the visitors.

"Think they're going to be okay?" Adam asked quietly. "They're all alone out there, you know."

Justin shook his head. "No, they're not. They have each other. They have DECA. They have Lightning Cruiser," he looked at the older Ranger seriously. "And they have us."

Silence held sway for the next few seconds, until they arrived in the Command Center. What they saw when they were capable of seeing again was a surprise. All the other Rangers were gathered there, and Billy looked absolutely exhausted. Adam's eyes widened when he recognized Trey in one corner, along with a lovely young woman he didn't know who resembled him a great deal, right down to the identical eye-tattoo. It was obvious things had been going on they needed to get caught up on. Slowly, the two of them slid out of the car and looked around.

"What happened while we were away?" Justin asked. Dimitria smiled at them, seeming very relaxed.

"Quite a lot, my friends. But where is Lightning Cruiser?"

Adam smiled almost weakly. "With T.J. It looks like we all have stories to tell."

Almost as soon as he finished speaking, there was a pair of flashes of light, and two new figures entered the Command Chamber. One was Dulcea, the other was a young woman dressed in a gold-colored Ninjetti suit. Dimitria spoke.

"Welcome home, Emily Marie Picard, Gold Ranger. Welcome to the Command Chamber, Dulcea of Phaedos," she smiled warmly. "Welcome to the Power Rangers."

* * *
Part IV: Golden Danger
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 11:30 a.m. AST, enroute to Earth

He didn't have the power to travel on his own. Dark Spectre had provided him with a ship. Nowhere near as powerful as the Dark Fortress Astronema used against the Astro Rangers, this was just a small transport, suitable for intergalactic travel. In human terms, it might be considered a Winnebago. Only a lot classier.

Goldar licked his lips as he headed towards Earth. It had been several months since he'd last seen Billy Cranston. He was looking forward to their reunion.

He had the nerve to escape from me once. It won't happen again. His eyes flared red when he remembered hearing about that. He'd considered taking his captive with him when he had left Aquitar for the council on the Cimmerian planet, but had decided to save him for later. Once he had crushed all of Billy's will to resist him and had the young genius firmly under his thumb, he would have taken him back to Earth.

It would have been child's play to crush all my old enemies as soon as they were caught off guard by my plaything. He had intended on training Billy to be a real fighter, a warrior worth facing on the battlefield, but also his plaything. He'd even had an outfit made for him, something that would show off what Goldar had molded him into.

But now Billy was away from him, was back on Earth and he had powers again. His training had been set back by who knew how long. Goldar fiddled with some of the controls as he sailed through the infinity of space. He would have to retake his pet as soon as he could. Of course I'm going to have to check in with Ivan Ooze. The space ape made a face at that thought. He despised the ooze-creature with every inch of his being, and having to report to him grated in his dark soul.

At least Scorpina will be there, he thought with a twisted grin. It had been years since he had seen his fellow warrior, and the reunion should be fairly interesting. Some of the more exotic techniques he'd used on Billy he had perfected on Scorpina. Perhaps she would help him finish the breaking and reprogramming of the Blue Ranger, he thought.

Goldar set the controls on autopilot and turned his thoughts to the beautiful golden warrioress that he hadn't seen in so long. The rumors that had been circulating through the villains' net had been that she wasn't doing as good a job as she had in the old days. Goldar was certain those were just rumors. The Scorpina he knew was a fierce, ruthless warrior-assassin, who could and would do anything she had to in order to get anything she wanted.

Suddenly he frowned. He'd never asked her, but what if Scorpina had some personal grudge against Ivan Ooze? It would be like her to take a job in his organization and use the 'work from within' method to bring his empire down. She, of course, would take control of the remains and thus bring herself up to more than 'henchman' status within the Alliance of Evil. That must be what she's doing. But why do it so sloppily? If she wants Ooze to be defeated, the easiest . . .and most distasteful. ..method would be just to temporarily ally herself with the Rangers and destroy his palace with him in it. Then again, that wouldn't work, they have 'ethics'. Of course, she could trick them and destroy both batches of enemies at the same time. . .

The warrior shrugged. Ooze was the brother of Dark Spectre, and his full powers were rather impressive. The brothers might not get along that well, but there was always the chance Spectre would seek revenge, or claim whatever was left of Ooze's empire as blood-legacy. There was no victory without the spoils of that victory.

He leaned back, thinking. Scorpina knew that as well as he did, so she was probably angling to make certain that she could inherit Ooze's empire. Goldar shuddered, then a thought occurred to him. Didn't I read that Ooze had gotten married recently? Curious, he went to the shipboard computer, tapping up the most recent news releases from Earth's sector of the galaxy. His eyes widened when the information flowed across the screen. Yes, I remember now. Spectre spoke of this. He and Tanya. . .Tanya Ooze.

Goldar chuckled a little, then settled back into the pilot's seat. It was going to be good to see Scorpina again, to find out what she was doing. Whatever her plans were, he would see if he could improve them, and reshape his own plots to accommodate her if she wanted in. If she didn't. . .he would just have to work without her. It would be more fun like that, at any rate.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 10:30 a.m AST, Female Rangers' apartment, Angel Grove

Trini flipped through the pages of Dragonsdawn, trying to think without success of things to do. It had been almost two hours since Adam and Justin had left on their quest for Storm Blaster and Lightning Cruiser, and days since Emmie had went on her own Ninjetti Quest. The Yellow Ranger was worried over both of them. She didn't know the two sentient cars like Justin did, and barely knew anything about the prospective new Ninjetti, but she did worry anyway.

I need to do something to get my mind off this, she decided, then turned her head to look out the window. She smiled suddenly at something she could just barely sniff: popcorn. "Perfect," she decided, reaching over to pick up the phone. The smell had reminded her about the circus that had hit town just the day before, and there was only one person she could think of who she really wanted to spend that much time with in that sort of setting.

She tapped a foot impatiently, waiting for the person she was calling to pick up. Finally, "Hello?"

"Hi, Billy!" she grinned, even though she knew he couldn't see her. "This is Trini!"

Her boyfriend's voice rose in joy by a good two notches. "Hi, Trini! I wasn't expecting you to call this morning."

"I know," she smiled, brushing her long hair out of her eyes. She was starting to wonder if she should get it cut, it was beginning to be a bit of a pest to take care of. "Are you doing anything today?"

The sound of rustling papers came over the phone, and she bit her lip, hoping that he wasn't doing anything very important. Even if he is, I'm going to get him away from it. We haven't done anything FUN in a long time together. "Well, I was going over some scans from. . .," his voice dropped a little lower for the next two words, "Command Chamber. I was looking to see if we could do anything to help you-know-who."

"Well, taking one afternoon off isn't going to hurt you," Trini said firmly. They had been looking for a cure for Tanya non-stop since it had happened, and Trini was beginning to be of the opinion that they would probably find something faster if they let their brains rest for a while. "Besides, we might get some more ideas if we get out into some fresh air."

She was almost positive he was going to protest, then a relieved sigh came over the phone. "You're probably right. What did you have in mind?"

"You know the circus just got into town, right?" Trini asked, reaching over to check her funds quietly. At Billy's affirmative, she continued, "Well, haven't you ever wanted to spend a day at the circus?"

"What, you mean go see freaks, mutants, misfits, wild performers in wacky costumes, and play games of chance?" the Blue Ranger said dryly, but with a touch of humor. "Trini, that's not a vacation. That's our life. Where should I meet you?"

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 11 a.m. AST; Rocky DeSantos and Jason Scott's apartment/female Rangers' apartment

Rocky DeSantos had been described as a thousand different things in his life. One of them was not nervous. But he was. His hands weren't quite shaking as he fixed his hair, but they were close to it. What am I doing? he asked himself for the fortieth time. He answered himself, too.

I'm going to ask Kim out on a date. So maybe the circus isn't the world's most romantic place, but we should have fun, and we'll find out if we're more than just friends. That was silly, he knew he was more than a friend to her. Or at least wanted to be. He'd longed to date her for years now, ever since before she and Tommy had broken up. Rocky had longed to at least try something with the Pink Ranger when she had returned to Angel Grove for the tournament, but she hadn't spoken to hardly anyone. When she'd left, he'd been disappointed, and now that she was back...who knew what could happen!

"You, primping??" Rocky glanced over at the sound of Jason's voice and blushed. The Gray Ranger had been almost insufferable since he had heard that his girlfriend was coming back to town. Rocky flushed deeply at the words, too.

"I'm not primping," he objected. He'd never thought when he first joined the Rangers that he would one day be sharing an apartment with the guy whose powers he had taken on. "I just want to look my best."

His friend rolled his eyes briefly, but didn't say anything to contradict him. "So, what are you getting all. your best for?" Jason asked after a few more moments of watching Rocky fiddle with himself.

"Kim," the Red Ranger stated swiftly, then blushed. "I. .I'm..going to ask her if she wants to go to the circus."

Jason raised one eyebrow, but said nothing. His first date with Emily had been to a carnival, after all. If that was what Rocky wanted, and Kim said yes, who knew what could happen? He watched with amused eyes as Rocky finished up his preparations and headed out. Those two are going to make one heck of a couple, he thought, settling down to start his practice routine.

Rocky wasn't quite as convinced as his roommate was. It was all he could do to keep his courage up as he headed to the female Rangers' joint apartment. Theirs was much larger than his and Jason's, since there were four of them sharing the bills. And a lot cleaner, too, he thought, wincing at the very thought of the pile of unwashed laundry in one corner of their place.

"Rocky! I wasn't expecting you!" Kim smiled when she opened the door after his tentative knock. "Hi!"

"Uh, hi," he smiled back at her. "A.. are you busy?"

"Not really," she stepped back to let him inside. "Why do you ask?"

He took a quick breath, focusing all his thoughts and energies on the task at hand. It's just like being in a tournament. Only the stakes are different. Maybe higher. . .definitely better. "Well, if you're not busy. ..there's a circus in town today. ..I was wondering if maybe you'd want to go with me?"

The beautiful brunete flushed just the tiniest bit, then nodded. "I'd love to, Rocky. I was starting to think I wasn't going to have any fun at all today."

The Red Ranger glanced around the apartment, noticing for the first time that it was preternaturally quiet for early morning with four females supposedly there. "Where is everyone else?"

"Trini is off with Billy somewhere, she didn't say where before she left. Kat and Tommy are being lovey-dovey somewhere." There was no trace of resentment at all in her tone at the love that the two of them shared. She had had her time with Tommy, and it was over with. She was looking to find her own niche in life now. ..and she thought she knew what it was. And who it was to be with. "And Aisha is off with Zack again."

Rocky smiled; he'd suspected that his long-time best friend had had a serious crush on the first Black Ranger for years. Hopefully this would give them a chance to talk about it.

Kim shouldered her purse, then turned around to look at him. "Shall we go?"

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998: 12:30 p.m. AST; Circus outside Angel Grove

It was everything that a date should be. The weather was perfect, as it almost always was in Angel Grove at any rate. There was no sign of their enemies. The circus was absolutely incredible. There was still some time before the main events started, so Billy and Trini were wandering around the grounds, checking out some of the other treats this place had to offer.

"Are you having a good time?" Trini asked quietly, touching her boyfriend's hand gently as they walked through the fairway.

"The best part of it is that I'm with you," he replied honestly, smiling at her. The smiles had come more frequently with him these days than they had when she had first returned to Angel Grove, and she liked that. It was going to be a long, hard trip to get him back to the smiling, laughing, strong person he had been and that she remembered.

Billy felt at peace right now. A certain nightmarish part of his life was over with, and even though Earth was again under attack, he had his friends with him to fight, and he had a woman he loved with all his heart to stand by him. He knew that he would never forget what Goldar had done to him, but he could learn from it. Maybe I'll look into some therapy. . .he considered. Talking with Trini about his experience had helped him a great deal, but he had heard that talking with someone who had experience and education in this sort of thing could help even more. Of course, finding someone he could talk to about the complete truth would be a bit difficult. But he trusted he could find someone.

He reached down to take Trini's hand, glancing around quickly. No one else was within sight of them, the main population of visitors had already headed off to the center tent to wait for the big show. He decided to surprise her with a deep kiss. ..and a little naughty part of his mind considered doing something a bit more interesting than just kissing.

"What a beautiful day for a reunion!" the harsh voice did more than startle him with it's unexpectedness, it almost made him leap out of his skin. It couldn't be him; he wasn't anywhere near Earth, he had gone to the Cimmerian planet to be with Rita and Zedd, he just couldn't be here!

Trini spoke the name he couldn't, both of them turning around to see the monstrous form behind them. "Goldar." Her voice was flat and uncompromising, tinged just the slightest with raw hatred for what she knew he had done.

"Well, well, well, little doggy, you slipped your leash!" the warrior ignored Trini entirely, his eyes focusing only on Billy. "I'm going to have to teach you better manners than that."

Billy said nothing, but Trini could see the trembling that was spreading all through him. He's scared out of his mind. She knew at once, and quickly placed herself in front of him. "Leave him alone, Goldar. You've hurt him enough, now let him be."

"He's my property, little girl!" Goldar laughed mockingly. "I will do with my little dog as I please. Of course, if you get in the way, I'll have to punish you too."

Trini growled softly, glad now that no one was around to see what she was almost certain she was going to have to do next. She knew Billy wouldn't be of any help, his eyes were rounded with fear and he was quite literally frozen in place. "Get away from here. You are neither welcome nor wanted."

"I will leave," her old enemy promised, then something that might have been a mocking smile touched his simian features. "But only with my doggy there."

Trini's eyes narrowed and she shook her head. "Billy's no pet. He's a person, with a heart, a mind, a soul all of his own, and I will not let you touch him ever again."

"And just what can you do to stop me?" he laughed, stepping a bit closer. Trini raised her head defiantly. This definitely came under the heading of something that could only be handled with her powers.

"This," she said calmly. "Ninjetti! The Panther!" in a flash of light, the Yellow Ninjetti stood there. Goldar's eyes widened; he'd heard of this.

"Am I supposed to be impressed?" was his reaction, however. He stepped forward, raising his sword, intent on swiping this upstart has-been out of his way and taking what belonged to him.

Two more flashes of light stopped that cold, however, one in red and one in pink, and both as fierce as could be. Rocky and Kim stood on each side of Trini, both in firm fighting stances. "I think you've worn out your welcome here, Goldar," Rocky growled, sounding like his spirit animal as he did. "Go."

Goldar frowned, not liking the way the odds had shifted so quickly against him. He thought he could take them all, but by the time he got through them, there might be more, and having to deal with another batch wasn't something he wanted to do at the moment. "I will return, doggy!" he pointed briefly at Billy, and then vanished. He still had to report to the Oozes and Machines.

The three Ninjetti powered down as soon as he was gone, and Trini turned to look at Billy. The Blue Ranger slowly crumpled to the ground, quite literally curling into a fetal position. Trini bit her lip as she dropped down next to him and touched his shoulder gently. "This is bad," she murmured. "Why did he have to show up now?"

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 1:30 p.m. AST; the Command Chamber

They were all there. Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, Tommy, Rocky, Aisha, and Kat. All the team that was active and there at the moment. Billy had said nothing since they had all gotten there, but they could tell he wanted to. Several times he had tried to say something, but then a look of such horror would pass through his eyes that he fell silent again.

The Rangers waited and watched. All they knew of events were that Goldar had somehow appeared and attacked, and for some reason Billy was taking this very badly. Rocky and Kim knew only that they had heard Goldar's voice and Trini's morph, and had run to help as soon as they had recognized what was going on.

"Billy," Trini's voice was quiet. She would never have pressed him to tell this, but this was something she'd never thought would happen: Goldar had come. "Billy, you have to talk about. ..we have to know what he did. . .all of us need to know."

The Blue Ranger shuddered deeply, then slowly lifted his head, his eyes red from silent weeping. "He. ..on Aquitar. .he ..."

Jason slowly reached out and touched his old friend on the shoulder. "We're all your friends, Billy," he reminded him. "And we won't ever hurt you. No matter what."

Billy closed his eyes for a moment, clenching his fists. "Cestria was working for Goldar." His words fell like bullets from his lips. "He was waiting for me when we went to her secret place there, and he. .." his voice trembled as he began to detail out just what had happened to him over those long months of captivity. He left nothing out, even things he had not told Trini when first admitting to what had gone on. Halfway through the recitation, Kim left to be audibly sick in another room, and it was plain by the look on Trini's face she was holding a similar reaction off by sheer force of will.

"And now he's back," Billy continued as Kim returned, taking Rocky's hand when she sat back down next to him. "He wants to take me again. ..break me again. ..." his voice had lowered almost to where he couldn't be heard, but all the Rangers, as well as Alpha and Dimitria, could feel the pain in it. "I won't go with him.. ..I won't let him do it again. ..but...I can't stop him. .."

"You might not be able to, but we can," Tommy's voice was firm, and the strength of it brought Billy's head up a little to look at his leader. "We're a team, Billy, and we will stand by you through anything and everything."

The Blue Ranger's eyes filled up with tears again, but these were tears of joy. He had suspected, he had hoped that the Rangers would support him, but to actually hear the words shattered a weight that had been holding him down. Tommy extended his hand to the young man who had been so badly violated by an enemy the White Ranger had always hated. Goldar will pay for this, he promised himself and Billy both. No matter what it takes.

Within his soul, he felt the touch of the Falcon's free spirit within him. Fledgling, the Wolf's cub will need your aid in future. But this will be his battle to end, and that end is near. Enough damage has been done to his heart and soul and body. To do more would destroy him, and that must never be. In this he is to lead.

Tommy only nodded quietly, then turned his attention back to Billy, who was slowly starting to stand up straighter. There was a determination in his eyes born of absolute steel, though. Tommy sensed something growing within his friend, and knew that when, not if, he and Goldar met again, only one of them would be walking away alive.

And as the dark-haired warrior watched Billy start to set up a scanning system to let them know when Goldar returned to Earth, he knew exactly which one of them it was going to be. I'll miss Goldar, he thought half-seriously. Then he reconsidered, thinking of everything that the evil warrior had done.

No, I won't.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 1:45 p.m. AST; the Lunar Palace

The throne room looked very different now than it had in the days when Rita or Zedd had ruled. The entire chamber was redecorated from the dark, depressing blacks it had been in, to a just as evil and corrupt style, but in red and purple, with strong metallic overtones, to indicate the presence of the Machine Empire. But since this was Ivan Ooze's castle, the single throne that Lord Zedd had ruled from was now replaced by a double one, where Ooze and Tanya sat during the few official functions they held.

Receiving this new visitor was one of those. A visitor...or a potential ally. At the least a temporary guest. Tanya's cold eyes drifted lazily over Goldar, not finding him in the least bit impressive. She had never fought him during her time as a Ranger, and she held no fear of him even now.

"And what are you doing here, Goldilocks?" Ivan asked, glaring daggers at the servant of one of his rivals. "I certainly don't think you're going to help with our conquest."

Goldar chuckled, bowing briefly in respect. Despite his personal feelings about any and all of them, they did outrank him, and it was proper politics to show that. "Actually, in a way, I am. One less Ranger to deal with would be a good assist, would it not?"

"What are you talking about?" Gasket asked. He and Archerina seldom attended these things, but Ivan had insisted. Ever since they had destroyed the hyperlock chamber, he had demanded they be together at all times. Whatever was going through that oozy head of his, the Machine Prince was positive he didn't like it one little bit.

Goldar chuckled again; he rather found he enjoyed broadcasting his deeds. It got him some odd looks from some of the more straitlaced beings of the cosmos, but Ooze was so depraved himself, he'd probably help Goldar take back his property. "The Blue Ranger is my property, given to me by one who owes me a great deal," his eyes glowed a feral red at the thought of just why Cestria owed him that. Technically speaking, he could call her before the Grand Council of the United Alliance of Evil and have her bound to the darkness she was born to by force. . .but he had settled for her eternal servitude to him instead. It was a fair enough exchange, to his way of thinking. He got a slave who would do anything he commanded, and she got to live without the stigma of the universe knowing just who and what she really was. "He was in my keeping for a time, but when I attended Dark Spectre's gathering, he managed to leave our little nest. I haven't fully trained him yet, so he didn't know any better. But once I get him back, I can fix that."

Tanya raised one eyebrow. She'd never known Goldar had depths of eloquence like this, but then again she'd never really known him outside the occasional battle. She supposed he had to do something with his spare time other than sit around polishing his sword. "And just how do you intend to get him back? There do happen to be about ten other Power Rangers there, plus one more they've got in training on Phaedos who'll be back any time now, not to mention Dimitria and evil knows who else. You'd be better off forgetting about your toy."

"What's mine is mine," Goldar's voice was a harsh growl of hate. "And he is mine. I will have what is mine, and there won't be anything or anyone that can stop me."

Ivan raised one hand, summoning a troop of Oozemen. "These will be yours to take your property with," He had obviously made his decision. "But in return, should you succeed, I will demand something of you."

Goldar frowned deeply. "And what would this be?" he was unused to the intricacies of bargaining. All he'd ever done as 'bargaining' was simply 'do as I wish or die'. The closest he'd come to being subtle were his threats to Cestria, and those didn't really count.

"Quite recently we have suffered a. ..loss," Ivan's eyes flashed at a recent memory. Just after destroying the hyperlock chamber and finishing the bath with Tanya, he had gone to check on Scorpina, to find her missing. The words and statements he'd used had been quite foul, far too foul to repeat, and he'd bent a good portion of his resources to finding her. "You will help us recoup that loss, by recapturing Scorpina."

Goldar frowned briefly. "Recapturing?" He listened as Tanya outlined what had happened recently with his old companion. His eyes flashed a deep red at the explanation. "I will do all I can to aid in the recouping of this treachery, once I have regained my property. And that will be very, very soon."

Together, the team of evil started to make their plans.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 9 p.m. AST Female Rangers' apartment, Trini Kwan's bedroom

Trini kept her arms around Billy as he leaned his head gently against her. No one had left Billy alone all day, not wanting to risk Goldar trying anything without at least one of them there. The Blue Ranger hadn't minded, knowing that they meant it well, but he really preferred just being alone with Trini right now.

"I'm scared," he murmured softly, his eyes shut. He didn't dare look at her, not certain of just what he would look like to her, and not really wanting to find out. "I'm scared, Trini."

"You have a right to be." She didn't bother with empty notions of holding no fear. She had seen his eyes when he had seen Goldar, and knew that whatever she felt towards their enemy could not begin to compare with what he did. "But you're not alone."

Billy smiled briefly. He wasn't certain if he could fall asleep that night. Even being with Trini wasn't enough to banish nightmares now that the source of those nightmares had returned. It wasn't just the dreams, however. I'm scared I'll wake up to seeing his ugly face looking at me. ..and there won't be anything I can do about it.

A shudder passed through him at that. He'd woken up to seeing Goldar far too many times already. When he'd returned to Earth, he'd done his level best to avoid everyone that he knew, not even telling them he'd come back to Earth. He had longed in the deepest sections of his soul to reveal the whole truth to someone, to hear them say he had done nothing but what he could have done in that situation. But at the same time, he'd been too scared to say anything, fearful that he would be called a wimp and a fool for letting Goldar terrorize him for as long as he had.

Pure serendipity had led him to bump into Rocky one early morning. He'd went out for a walk, wanting nothing more a nice quiet bit of time to himself. Instead, he'd found himself encountering Rocky, out for a walk of his own. Unable to get away without saying something, he'd made up a story about why he was back on his home planet and not on Aquitar. The two of them had started talking, and Billy had discovered that Rocky was no longer on the team as well. That had led to a discussion of other things, and eventually the first Blue Ranger had been caught up on as much of the recent history of the Rangers as Rocky knew, including the transfer of Power to the new generation. They had started meeting regularly, and Billy found that he liked having a friend. It was those meetings with Rocky that had led eventually to their pre-Christmas meeting with Justin, and that had started the cycle of Power Rangers all over again.

Billy sighed, closing his eyes as he leaned against Trini. He doubted he'd sleep, but maybe giving it a shot wasn't that bad of an idea. He knew he was going to face Goldar soon, and if he didn't get a decent night's sleep, it wasn't going to be the one in blue who survived it.

Survive. ..a chill ran down his spine. When he saw Goldar again, one of them was going to die. Or worse. There would be a battle, that was inevitable. If Goldar won it. ...Billy would kill himself before letting that foul beast touch him again. If Billy won. would only be because Goldar had died. Died by my hand, he thought, shuddering. He had never killed anyone before, but he'd fallen asleep a hundred times dreaming of how he wanted to kill Goldar. He'd cursed himself for it, thought of how unworthy of a Ranger it was. ..but at the same time, he thought of all the pain Goldar had caused him, and of how he would do the same to who knew how many others in the future; after all, Billy himself wouldn't live forever.

Something occurred to him, and he glanced behind to see what Trini was doing. She had fallen deeply asleep while was thinking. Quietly he slid out her arms, then wrote a quick note on a scrap of stationary telling her what he was doing. In a woosh of sound and blue light, the Blue Ranger teleported to the Command Chamber. He was going to find out just how many other beings Goldar had tormented in the past. He didn't think he could kill for himself. ..but for all the others who had never escaped Goldar's grip. . .

For those, he thought he just might be able to do it.

* * *
Time and Place: January 18, 1998: 2:30 p.m. AST Angel Grove Park

There was no one else there but him. Billy stood in the center of the park, where no one ever went these days. There was silence there. Billy was unmorphed, his eyes truly calm for the first time in months. He simply stood there, with no weapons. It looked for all the world as if he were daring Goldar to come out.

He was.

With a flash of burning fire and a glurping sound, Goldar and a troop of Oozemen stood in front of him. The armored warrior even had a collar and leash in his hands, instead of his usual sword. "Surrendering, my doggie?"

"Not on your life." Billy's reply was perfectly level. "It took you long enough to get here. If I weren't sworn not to, I would have had to go hunting for you."

Goldar blinked; this wasn't exactly what he'd been expecting when he'd come down. He'd thought maybe Billy had gotten tired of the Rangers hovering over him as he knew they would be, and had escaped their vigilance briefly. "Well, I am here now. Are you ready to go?"

"There is nowhere for me to go," Billy smiled quietly, frostily, and Goldar felt a chill. "However, I do believe the afterlife is holding your reservation for today."

His would-be master growled darkly, wanting to terrify his prey. Billy didn't look very terrified, however, as he simply gazed at Goldar. "One of us is going to die this day," the Blue Ranger said softly. "If this continues, that is. You can leave here now, forever, and we'll both live. Though you deserve death, or at least eternal imprisonment, for all that you've done; if you just leave now, I won't be the one who does anything to you. But I am certain someone will bring you to the justice you so richly deserve sometime very soon." He shuddered mentally at the memory of all that he had read of Goldar's past activities the night before. Prior to being trapped in the dumpster with Rita, Goldar had held the record for the largest harem available in five quadrants of space, and he did not care about species or gender, as long as it was able to pleasure him in the way he wanted from it. Rumor had it that the harem was still active, but no one knew for certain, since no official statements had been made. Billy didn't care; he was fighting now for all those poor creatures who had been like him, broken and tamed to the evil will of this creature.

Goldar roared out something vile, then waved an arm ahead, ordering the Oozemen into battle. He wanted them to overrun Billy and bring him to his knees, but he wasn't prepared for the Blue Ranger's sharper reflexes. "Ninjetti! The Wolf!"

As he morphed to his full armor, Billy could sense something a little extra, something a little familiar. He'd never considered doing this before, but as Goldar charged at him with sword upraised, intent on doing who knew what with it, he knew there was nothing else he could do. "Power Lance!" he cried out for the first time in years. A familiar weight filled his hands, and he blocked the blade rushing at him. He knew Goldar wouldn't kill him; his death would come only at his own hands, should the monster beat and take him captive. He would kill Goldar if he must. . .but he knew that he must.

The two of them sparred back and forth for several minutes, neither really noticing when the rest of the team teleported in to deal with the Oozemen. It was a silent battle, and one nearly even in skill. This surprised Goldar, thought it really shouldn't have, given the stronger Ninjetti powers Billy had in comparison to the last time they had ever truly fought, plus the extreme dedication he had towards winning.

Then it happened. When the Oozemen were destroyed by the Rangers, they left only minor patches of Ooze on the ground, easily seen and stepped around, and frequently vanishing within an hour or less. One of those creatures had left an ooze puddle, and now Billy stepped back into it, slipping and falling hard.

Goldar hovered over him, planting a foot hard on his wrist as Billy tried to get up. "I don't think so, puppy," Goldar laughed. "The game is over. . .and I won!"

A cold cruel smile lit up his face. "I'm going to so enjoy training you. . .you'll make such a fine addition to my harem." Goldar was plainly enjoying every moment of this as he reached down to haul Billy up by the back of his neck. "But you teach you better manners than to run away from your master. . .I believe I'll take along a little insurance policy."

He jerked Billy around until he could see the fight. Four Oozemen had Trini cornered, and she was putting up the fight of her life against them. "Of course, once you're trained, I can also add her to my contingent. She'll be easy to break, once she's seen what I do to you. .."

If Goldar had simply taken Billy instead of wanting to gloat and torment him with thoughts of what he would do to Trini, he might well have won the day. But when the Blue Ranger heard what his enemy had in mind, Billy moved faster than he ever had in his life. One foot slammed against Goldar's stomach as hard as Ninjetti-enhanced muscles could, and Billy called back his lance with a mere thought. "Farewell, Goldar," was all he said before he thrust the weapon through him.

For a moment, Goldar's eyes flushed a bright red, and a small trickle of blood ran down his mouth. Surprise filled his eyes, and then last words, no cries for revenge...Goldar was dead.

Slowly, Billy powered down. He barely noticed as the others came over to him. The fight with the oozemen was finished, and Trini touched his shoulder. "Regrets?" she asked softly. They hadn't had much time to talk recently, and she wondered how he felt.

"Yes and no," he replied. "If there was another way, I would have taken it. He could never have been kept in a prison, and he would never have stopped. He would have just kept on doing it...this was the only way."

Tommy put a hand on his other shoulder. "Let's go back to the Command Chamber," was all he said. In eleven flashes of light, they returned to what they all considered to be their second home. What awaited them there was a surprise: Trey of Triforia, and a strange young woman who bore a remarkable resemblance to him.

"Trey?" Jason lifted an eyebrow. "You're here?"

The Lord of Triforia nodded. "My sister and I are here to give you all the help we can, until it is no longer necessary," he declared, indicating the lady at his side. "What have you been doing?"

Before anyone could answer that, there was another flash, and a purple-toned Storm Blaster appeared, Justin and Adam in it. The Purple Ranger slowly looked out and around, as did the Black Ranger. "What happened while we were away?" Justin asked. Dimitria smiled at them, seeming very relaxed.

"Quite a lot, my friends. But where is Lightning Cruiser?"

Adam smiled almost weakly. "With T.J. It looks like we all have stories to tell."

Almost as soon as he finished speaking, there was a pair of flashes of light, and two new figures entered the Command Chamber. One was Dulcea, the other was a young woman dressed in a gold-colored Ninjetti suit. Dimitria spoke.

"Welcome home, Emily Marie Picard, Gold Ranger. Welcome to the Command Chamber, Dulcea of Phaedos," she smiled warmly. "Welcome to the Power Rangers."

* * *
Part IV: Double Triple
Time and Place: Royal Palace of Triforia, Triforia, January 17, 1998 9 a.m. AST

The royal palace of Triforia was a bustling center of activity that day, as reports and battle co ordinating missives ran through every section of it. The king had sent out troops to Eltar to aid in removing Dark Spectre's troops from it, and there were beginning to be rumors that ships of the Alliance of Evil were being spied near Aquitar. Triforia itself was relatively safe, with the Gold Ranger heading up the defenses.

Trey sat behind his desk that morning, reading through some of the more recent reports that had come in. It had been some time since he'd done much else. Once the Machine Empire had been defeated on Earth, the Gold Ranger had known there was no further need for him there. His people had needed him here as well, things had been just beginning to heat up.

I do miss it, though,he thought, his fingers drifting almost idly across the Golden Power Staff, sitting so proudly in it's holder near him. And I miss. ..With a quick jerk he pulled his thoughts back on track. That wasn't something he could safely consider, for many reasons.

"Lord Trey, a new message has just come in," he looked up when one of his ministers entered the room, a recorder in one hand held out to him. "It's from Earth."

The young man lifted one eyebrow as he took it. I wonder what they could be doing now. The last he had heard, the Rangers he had known had passed their powers on to a new generation, who had become Astro Rangers by now. That hadn't really concerned him much, he knew he could trust them to hunt for Zordon while he and his concentrated on other matters. As he triggered the device and listened to the playback, all the color drained out of his face.

It was a recording of Dimitria, once and apparently now current mentor to the Rangers of Earth. Quietly, she spoke. "Members of the United Galaxies, I am Dimitria of Inquirus. Recently I escaped captivity of the Alliance of Evil and returned to my post on Earth to guide the Rangers there. Yes, there are Rangers on Earth again, and the reason for this is the arrival of Ivan Ooze and Gasket and Archerina of the Machine Empire. A full account of all that has happened since they have formed their alliance will be going out once I have gleaned all the information I can from my Ninjetti Rangers. We are not currently in need of battle-assistance, though if anyone knows how to reverse the Elio Tanar spell, it would be of great interest to us."

The image faded, and Trey found his fists clenched tightly. He knew why Dimitria wanted the reverse of that spell, his spies had intercepted some transmissions from Ooze to his brother and the thought of the Yellow Ranger he had known being in thrall to evil nauseated him. He forced himself to be calm, then turned to the minister, who had been watching the entire thing with him. "Thank you very much. I will take care of this. You may leave me now."

"As you wish, my lord," the minister left, and Trey sealed the door behind him. Slowly, the Ranger of Triforia pulled a small cube from his personal pocketspace and activated it. A six inch high image of Tanya Sloan, as she had been in her Zeo days, appeared. I always knew you loved Adam. . .and I will never interfere in that. But this is one thing I will interfere in. This so-called 'marriage' to Ivan Ooze. His fingers trembled the tiniest bit as they stroked across the replica of her cheek. I love you, Tanya Sloan. And I'm going to come help your friends. And I will help you.

Slowly, he stood up, and began to make the preparations to go back to Earth.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 9:30 a.m. AST, Royal Palace of Triforia

Trey hurried along the corridor, glad he'd been able to ditch the ever-present servants that had an annoying tendency to follow members of the royal family around. I might have only spent a couple of weeks on Earth, but I most definitely enjoyed those weeks. I could actually go places without having to worry about being followed like I was an infant.

The door he paused at looked like every other door in the palace, but the room it led to was very different from the stuffy, stuck up places those doors concealed. As he slid it open, he was as always struck by the scent of flowers and grass that wafted out towards him. Trees and bushes filled the room, and the entire floor was carpeted by thick grass in a deep shade of gold. He'd always been surprised at the amount of green on Earth; it was a rare shade on his world.

She was in the center of the room, twirling a long staff in one hand idly. Facing her were four drones, one of which was just about to rush her. The dark-haired girl didn't hesitate a moment, stepping back, then whirling around to slam her stick into the center of the first drone. With one hand she pointed at the other three, and barked out a single word, "Fireball!"

From the tip of her finger, a ball of black fire burst out in a neat package, melting one of the drones; the other two dodged out of the way. That appeared to be a trap, however, as the girl gestured briefly and a trap door opened up beneath them. As the drones dropped out of sight, she sighed, sinking to her knees and trying to catch her breath, very exhausted.

"You're getting better," Trey said quietly. She flicked one glance over her shoulder, and nodded.

"Four drones almost wore me out though," she said. "I need to practice more."

The prince smiled as he reached a hand out to help her up. "That's sort of what I had in mind. . .if you don't mind leaving the planet for a while with me, Jenna."

"Leaving the planet?" The princess of Triforia looked up at her elder brother, frowning at the same time. She'd never left their world in all her years. "Where to, and why do you want me to go with you?"

"Earth," Trey told her. "They're having some problems with Ivan Ooze there, and they need someone who knows how to reverse the Elio Tanar spell."

Jenna's eyes went dark and cold almost at once, and she nodded briefly. "I'll be ready to go in a little while," she promised. "How long are we going to be gone?"

"As soon as I can make arrangements for Lion to be Regent while we're gone," he referred to their youngest brother. "Pack light, we'll probably be living out of Pyramidus for a while. Earth doesn't know there's life on other planets, so we're going to have to try and blend in."

Jenna nodded. "I'll only take what I have to. See you at Pyramidus."

She vanished through a hidden door, her coal-black braid bouncing as she moved. Trey watched her go, then turned back to head out to the more 'proper' portions of the palace. He knew why Jenna had agreed to come without even so much as a question once he'd told of the spell. Jenna was the Jet Ranger, carrier of one of the rarer Ranger powers in the universe. But she hadn't always been. Her best friend, Ryanna, had been the original Jet Ranger, but had been taken captive by one of the old enemies of Triforia, and turned to darkness by the same spell that bound Tanya Sloan now.

Jenna had been the one who freed Ryanna, but before they could celebrate her release, the evil overlord had managed to deal a fatal blow to the Jet Ranger. Ryanna had just had time to confer her powers on Jenna, who had been until then merely a sorceress. Ever since, Jenna had sworn that any who were bound by that spell would be freed by her if at all possible. . .and if necessary and possible, she would destroy it's very existence and power. Never again would she let someone perish who could be saved.

* * *
Time and Place: January 18, 1998, 12 noon AST, on board Pyramidus

It was a quiet flight, much like the one Trey had once taken to go to the aid of the Zeo Rangers some years before. There were differences, however. This time he wasn't alone, and this time he knew the warriors who were there. And even better, they knew him.

Some of the differences, however, weren't quite that nice. The enemy they would be facing would be harder than anything they'd ever gone up against before, and the Triforian wasn't quite certain he'd be able to bring himself to fight against Tanya. I will do what I must, and Jenna is here to break the spell in the first place, he reminded himself.

Thoughts of his sister made him glance over to the co-pilot's seat where she was sitting, her eyes as distant as the stars. She had hardly said a word the whole trip. He knew she had to be thinking about Ryanna.

"How long until we reach Earth?" Jenna spoke suddenly. Trey glanced at the various controls, translating it into Earth units of time, something they should both get used to.

"Another couple of hours," he told her. "That's about four triunes, in our time."

She nodded, still staring out at the endless starfields surrounding them. "What's it like on Earth?" He was glad she wasn't going to lapse back into silence. When she was too quiet for too long it started to worry him. He knew she had a tendency to brood where some things were concerned, but it still worried him.

"It's a very strange place," He started to describe what he knew about it, which really wasn't that much. He hadn't had a lot of time for socializing when he was there earlier. "But the people, the Rangers at least, are a very good group. I don't think we're going to have many problems with them."

Jenna nodded, touching the tattoo on her eye briefly. "What about these?" The marks were the sign of the royal family of Triforia, and she had studied enough to know not very many cultures had that sort of thing.

"I imagine we'll have to disguise them somehow. I never saw any of the Rangers wearing anything like that, so I would assume not many do. Our clothes will also have to be changed."

The sorceress-Ranger glanced down at the almost solid black outfit she wore, and shrugged. Clothing had never been a very high priority with her since she had become the Jet Ranger. She wore basic black constantly, with just a few touches of gold on it for her Triforian rank. Two reasons on that, she thought. Black for mourning and black for being the Jet Ranger. She had never wanted the power. She'd been perfectly happy being a sorceress. She wasn't the best, but she got by.

Or I thought I did, until Ryanna, she sighed, curling herself up into the chair. I broke the spell. ..but Lord Quin killed her anyway. I couldn't save her in time. . .I couldn't heal her. ..she was glad no tears came to her eyes. She didn't want to have to explain those to Trey. He never knew that the wound in her soul was fresh and raw still, and in all likelihood would never fade.

She pushed thoughts of the past aside, and turned her mind towards what was coming in the future. Earth. Fighting with the Rangers of that vaunted world against Ivan Ooze. I wonder what's going to happen. A faint smile touched her lips. I wonder if there are any attractive males there. It wasn't against Triforian custom to date or wed off-planet, even for royalty. Her own great-great-aunt had married an Eltarian who had been Zordon's fourth cousin twice removed. Technically speaking, that made them kin to the great mentor, and Jenna did find herself worried that the Astro Rangers would fail. They are of Earth, like these here we go to meet, she reminded herself. They will not fail.

A yawn escaped her, and she looked over to Trey. "I think I'm going to take a brief nap. Wake me up when we get there."

"Very well," her brother agreed, and she closed her eyes, drifting at once into the deep realms of slumber.

* * *
Time and Place: January 18, 1998; 2:55 p.m. AST The Command Chamber

Things had definitely changed since the last time Trey was here. Where there had once been five Rangers, a support staff of one, the Alpha-5 unit, Zordon to guide, and the Machine Empire to fight, there were eleven Rangers, no in-headquarters support staff, the same Alpha-5 unit, Dimitria giving advice, and Ivan Ooze had joined forces with the spin-off Machine Empire of Gasket and Archerina.

"We welcome you and your companion to the Command Chamber," Dimitria spoke softly and gently as Trey and Jenna teleported in after contacting her. The chamber was relatively empty; Alpha and she were the only beings there. "You have come at a very unusual time."

Trey frowned at once. "Is there a battle?" He mentally fingered the Golden Power Staff. "Is it something we can help with?"

"No, Trey of Triforia," Dimitria motioned towards the crystal globe. "It is a battle, but nothing you can aid in. This is a war that must be won by one alone."

The two of them glanced over to see Billy, the Blue Ranger, slamming his Power Lance into Goldar's body. Jenna's eyes widened. "That is Goldar of Nilon, is it not?"

"It was!" Alpha almost sounded triumphant, and none there blamed him. Goldar had been a thorn in the side of good for untold millennia. The odds were fairly good Billy would be awarded a medal, or possibly even wealth of some type, for this. He would at least be offered. The universe knew of Goldar's unsavory practices, and both Triforians felt that creation would be a better place without the golden warrior, whatever Billy's reasons for doing it. They must be good ones, however, Trey believed. Billy would do nothing without a reason.

The two Triforian Rangers watched in mute shock as the other ten Rangers did what they could to comfort their friend, then teleported in to the Command Chamber. Jason, unsurprisingly, was the first to notice them and speak as Billy leaned against Trini.

"Trey?" Jason lifted an eyebrow. "You're here?"

The Lord of Triforia nodded. "My sister and I are here to give you all the help we can, until it is no longer necessary," he declared, indicating the lady at his side. "What have you been doing?"

Before anyone could answer that, there was another flash, and a purple-toned jeep appeared, a young man Trey recognized from messages he'd been sent from Earth as Justin and Adam in it. The Purple Ranger slowly looked out and around, as did the Black Ranger. "What happened while we were away?" Justin asked. Dimitria smiled at them, seeming very relaxed.

"Quite a lot, my friends. But where is Lightning Cruiser?"

Adam smiled almost weakly. "With T.J. It looks like we all have stories to tell."

Almost as soon as he finished speaking, there was a pair of flashes of light, and two new figures entered the Command Chamber. One was Dulcea, the other was a young woman dressed in a gold-colored Ninjetti suit. Dimitria spoke.

"Welcome home, Emily Marie Picard, Gold Ranger. Welcome to the Command Chamber, Dulcea of Phaedos," she smiled warmly. "Welcome to the Power Rangers."

Tommy looked around, and was suddenly struck with something. We're all here now. ..except Tanya. He lifted his eyes to Dimitria. "I think there are quite a few stories to tell with so many of us gathered here."

"I agree," Dimitria nodded. "We shall begin with introductions. I am Dimitria of Inquirius, mentor and guide to the Power Rangers of Earth."

Dulcea nodded her greeting. "I am Dulcea, Master Warrior of the planet Phaedos."

"Emily Marie Picard," the girl with her spoke almost shyly, in awe of all those around here. "Gold Cat Ninjetti Ranger."

"Trey of Triforia, Gold Zeo Ranger," he bowed briefly to the other Gold Ranger, and gave her a warm and welcoming smile. Emmie could feel her shyness slipping away in the warmth of it.

"Jenna of Triforia, Jet Ranger," his sister introduced herself quietly, and the introductions spread around the room, even including Storm Blaster, and everyone marveled when he beeped his own horn in greeting to them.

Dimitria smiled once it was all done. "And now. begin."

* * *
It was a long tale in the telling, for it touched each of them, explaining the events of the last couple of months for all those who had not been there for it. Once again the sacrifice of Ninjor and Auric was mourned, and Dulcea informed them that for short periods of time, she could survive off Phaedos, if the proper spells were used. She told them that once Tanya had been taken from them, the Great Power of Ninjetti had chosen Emmie to join the team, but she kept the other knowledge she had of that to herself for now. It was best kept to herself, until she had had time to deal with it more. Emmie told of her quest for the Great Power, and how she hoped she would prove a worthy member of the team.

Adam and Justin told of how they had found Storm Blaster and Lightning Cruiser, and the meeting with the Astro Rangers. Storm Blaster nuzzled up against Justin, glad to be back where he belonged, and glad to know Lightning Cruiser was also with his dearest friend. The badge on his side that had been that of the Turbo Rangers had changed now, it reflected the symbol of the Ninjetti.

Billy spoke openly, without encouragement, of the horrors he'd suffered under Goldar's hands, and of how he'd researched what else the evil minion had done. With that knowledge, he had found the courage and the strength to do what Rangers almost never did, without just cause.

Trey and Jenna spoke of the message Dimitria had sent out, and Jenna assured them she would do everything in her power to heal Tanya's mind from the unleashed evil.

Slowly, they all came to know one another as best they could for now. Arrangements were made for Jenna to move in with the female Rangers, and for Trey to move in with Rocky and Jason, who had a spare room.

"We're almost all together again," Kim said softly, then held her hand out. "One more to go."

"And we will get her back," Adam's voice was strong as he put his hand on top of hers. "No matter what it takes."

One by one, each of the Rangers piled their hands on top of one another. Then, fourteen voices, Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, Billy, Tommy, Rocky, Adam, Aisha, Kat, Dulcea, Emmie, Trey, and Jenna, all merged into one mighty shout of triumph.

"Power Rangers!"

* * *
Part V: Scorpina's Fate
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 11 a.m. AST; Lunar Palace, Earth's moon

Scorpina's fingers twitched the tiniest bit, but that was the only sign of life in her entire body, other than the minor rise and fall of her chest. Chains easily powerful enough to hold down a morphed Ranger were wrapped around her wrists, ankles, and waist, and a strange sort of helmet was on her head. To anyone familiar with the mind-control techniques Ivan Ooze had perfected in his youth, they would have known what the helmet was: a device designed to wipe the subject's mind completely clean, and leave them in a state of suggestibility, so they would accept whatever was told them next as the complete truth.

It was similar in some ways to the Brain Drain device that Gasket had used on Tommy once, but the odds of a victim regaining their true memory were much less. Ooze had almost exhausted himself torturing Scorpina, ripping screams of pain from her that were as nectar to him. But he'd had an ultimate goal that went beyond the pain. He wanted her enslaved.

Now, calmly and clinically, he watched as she twitched faintly underneath his device. The Ooze Lord was very proud of this helmet, it permitted him to create the perfect slave, designed to do whatever he wanted. He licked his lips calmly, waiting for the signal that would indicate she had succumbed completely, and was waiting for her instructions and identity.

I should use this on Tanya, he thought, glancing from his subject to the door. He'd invited his wife to watch with him, but she had declined, going to practice more of her dark magery. He didn't believe she was escaping the evil; it wasn't possible in her case. But if she had no memory of her past, it would be all the much better.

A strange beeping sound slid into his ears, and he looked over to see the helmet smoking a little. "What in the world?" he growled, along with a few other insults that couldn't be printed in any language.

"Unit failure.. .," a synthesized voice spoke from the helmet. "Remove before irreparable brain damage occurs."

Ivan hissed darkly, then ripped the helmet from Scorpina's head, leaving thin tendrils of blood from where the item had been attached to her. The woman, clad only in the chains, winced, trying to wake from the deep trance she'd been in. "Stay under," Ooze ordered, reinforcing the trance-spell he'd laid on her before this had begun. Slowly, she relaxed, her face losing all animation, and even the mild finger-twitching stopped.

"This isn't going to be easy, is it?" he looked to the only other person in there, Gasket. The Machine Prince looked slightly amused.

"I'm going to have to do it the hard way," was Ooze's response. "I didn't want to do it, but it appears as if the impossible is happening."

Gasket tilted his head to one side. "Which is?"

"The spell Dark Spectre used on Scorpina to make her into Scorpina is fading," Ooze glared at the semi-comatose woman. "It's the same one I used on Tanya. I have to find out either how to stop it or reverse it, or I could be looking at a repeat of this in a few thousand years."

"Why bother if it's going to take that long?"

His erstwhile partner glared at Gasket. "Because I don't want it to happen, you imbecile!" With almost delicate maneuvers, he quickly took several blood, hair, skin, and magical samples of every part of Scorpina. They would be preserved in their current state until he had the chance to examine them more fully.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 12 noon AST; Dining Chamber of Lunar Palace

The ruling class of the combined Machine Empire and Ooze Empire always dined together. It wasn't because they felt anything for one another beyond the demands of the alliance. It was simple politics: it's not possible to poison someone's food and get away with it if they're sitting across from you. Add in the factor that Tanya and Ooze {the only two who actually ate, beyond the servants} never dined from the same dishes during the course of any one meal, and it was the next thing to impossible to get rid of them both. One possibly. . .which would only make the other triply determined to get rid of them.

Tanya nibbled absently at one particular dish, something she had never before seen until coming here. She'd asked Ivan once what it was, and he'd only told her "Never ask for the recipe. Hearing the names of the ingredients will nauseate you."

Naturally she believed him. She knew he wouldn't lie to her. In the short time they'd been together, he had taught her so much. A lot more than I ever learned from Angel Grove High. She snorted mentally at that thought. What they had ever taught her that was really useful? Nothing. That had taken her husband.

She glanced down briefly at the wedding ring on her left hand, and smiled. She'd certainly never thought she'd be married at this point in her life. Then again, she'd never thought she'd be a queen, or a sorceress, or be fast on the track to crushing all opposition to conquest of Earth. She'd been so stupid then. She'd thought that it was good to defend the Earth. How could she have known the raw power that came from conquering. ..from ruling and dominating everything around her. . .

In the middle of her mental speech of triumph, a gentle face appeared, kind and with eyes full of love towards her. A name matched it. Adam. . .for a moment, she went stiff, her fists clenching. What was she doing here. . .she had to be back on Earth, her parents needed her, she had to talk to Adam. . .

"Tanya?" Ooze's hand touched hers, and she felt a trickle of power flowing into her. She smiled at him warmly.

"I was just thinking. . .when are we going to launch a true attack against the Power Rangers? We haven't really done all that much since I came here." All her thoughts were at once turned towards her true purpose: learning dark sorcery and aiding in the conquest of the Earth.

Ivan chuckled. "I know. I've been waiting for something."

"And what might that be, dear ally?" Gasket looked over at them from where he and Archerina were recharging. Since they didn't eat in the traditional sense, they had set up a portable recharging area in the main dining hall. It kept them under the eye of the Ooze couple, and kept the Oozes under their eyes as well.

Ooze glanced over to them. He had meant to inform them all of his plan at the right moment, and it seemed the right moment was now. "I have five machines being built underneath the palace right now. The Ectomorphican Titans. Once they're completed, I'm going to unleash them onto the world. There won't be anything the Rangers can do to stop them!"

"If you hadn't noticed, Ooze, there are twelve Rangers, if you count that little twit who is on Phaedos," Gasket responded. "Almost all of them are experienced enough to deal with your monsters, too, and the ones who aren't will be supported by those who are."

Ooze snorted. "The most they could do is send two or three to each monster's place of attack. If they concentrate their forces on just one or two of the creatures, the others will be left free to wreak havoc on the world. They'll have to split up, which means my machines can easily crush them while they're weak!! Then my forces will spread out over the world, and bring it firmly under my control!!"

Tanya looked impressed and awed by his statement, while Gasket and Archerina looked merely bored. The Machine Princess giggled a little as she shot a sidelong glance at her husband. "How is the reprogramming of Scorpina going?"

"Slowly," Ivan spat the word out in disgust. "Extremely slowly. I have never seen such resistance to my power before!"

"Perhaps because she's been plotting against you all along," Archerina said off-handedly. "She must have built up a great deal of inner strength by now."

Ooze turned quickly. "She's what?" he'd suspected that Scorpina was doing that, but he had never had any proof, until now. "What do you know?"

"Oh, just something she was telling me about. I didn't think it was of any importance for a while," Archerina was more than accustomed to twisting the truth for her own uses. It was something she'd learned in her childhood. "I didn't think she really meant to use it, but I would never have let her. After all, we're allied with you, not her. I let her think differently however."

Ooze frowned darkly. "Explain what you're talking about," he growled. "Now."

"Oh, just something Scorpina made. A hyperlock chamber to trap you in."

The Ooze Lord stood up. "I want to see it. Now."

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 11:30 a.m. AST; Enroute to Earth

It was funny in a way. After all these centuries, he had fallen in love again. How could it be? It must be fate, he shrugged to himself as he sailed through the galaxy, getting closer to Earth with very passing nanosecond. Either that, or fate considers me a very nice plaything. To have me in love with someone else. . .right when my old girlfriend seemingly returns from the dead. . .or at least from the realms of evil.

The Phantom Ranger slowly leaned back, trying not to think of the vast gulf of time between the past and the now. Of the deception he'd practiced since then, hiding who he had been and how he had come to be what he was. Then, he sighed. He knew he couldn't do it.

"I'm sorry I let you think I was dead," he whispered the words he had ever since he had returned to life so many centuries earlier. In a sense, though, it wasn't a lie. He had died from his injuries. But his mentor Kyron had returned him to life, using a spell that was tied to a flawless ruby he had discovered. He had been the only survivor of the team. . .or so he'd thought at first.

Kyron had told him that Selena had done worse than die. She had been corrupted by Dark Spectre's power and transformed into an evil warrior. He hadn't believed at first. . .until he had watched as she had slaughtered a small village for daring to fight against Dark Spectre. From then on, Rolan, Ebony Ranger of Vyros, had existed no more. There was only the Phantom Ranger. And so he had remained.

Until the moment when his frozen heart had been thawed by a look from another. Until he had gazed at the Pink Turbo Ranger and fallen head over heels in love. Selena, forgive me, he thought, closing his eyes. It was something he couldn't stop, nor did he really want to. He didn't know how Selena felt, but he had begun to realize that what they had felt was mere 'battlefield romance', a set of compatible hormones on his side combined with a very good friendship.

If things hadn't changed, it might have become love, he thought, watching as Earth, and Earth's moon, his destination, grew larger and larger in his viewscreen. But they did change. ..and I changed. Phantom smiled frostily. And now they change again. Now I have a chance to get my Selena back. . .my friend, my teammate, almost my sister. ..never more my lover.

He felt a twinge at that. What if Selena still loved him? What if, once freed from the shadow of Scorpina, her heart still was his? What would he do then? Phantom shook his head. There was only one way to deal with that: to just wait and see. After all, he still hadn't told Cassie how he felt about her. There was a chance that she didn't care about him as anything other than a friend and fellow Ranger.

"Lunar Palace on viewscreen now," his computer beeped at him. He glanced up, taking a deep breath. He smiled very wryly beneath his helmet. If it hadn't been for Dulcea, he might never have known what was going on. But he had been about to check out another clue he'd picked up on his travels, one that showed a touch more promise to finding Zordon than the others when she had contacted him telepathically. To hear her voice again in his mind had been a shock, but a welcome one. As far as he had known, she hadn't contacted anyone off Phaedos in almost five centuries.

The news she'd carried had floored him. The spell that had bound Selena as Scorpina had faded, flickering almost into nonexistence, and her old Selena personality was starting to resurface. She was being held captive by Ivan Ooze, however, and he was doing all he could to destroy her free will, to recast her into the mold he desired. None of the Rangers could get to her; the spells blocking them from the palace were too strong, and they were still shaken up from the capture of one of their own. Things were slowly starting to come together for them, but they weren't in any shape to deal with a rescue just yet, much less a battle. If he went in and returned her, things would go much better for all of them. It would give them something that was in short supply at the moment: hope.

He had agreed the moment she had said Selena was returning. A quick check to see if the clue he'd had would work out had been all he'd done first, and once it had failed, he had headed back to Earth. He had an old, old teammate to rescue.

And now he was here. Phantom closed his eyes for a moment, sending a silent prayer winging to whoever would help him. . . and then he teleported out.

I'm coming, Selena. I'm coming.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998 AST, 1 p.m.;Earth's moon, Lunar Palace

It was a hideous thing. It looked a lot like a gigantic metal egg, with various designs all around it. Ivan stared at it, feeling nauseous at the various magical spells coming off of it. They were all designed to entrap and imprison something like him, a morphological being, and he was revolted by it. That Scorpina had had the audacity to design it and place the spells on it that were necessary infuriated him.

"How long had she been working on this?" he growled to Archerina. He wasn't quite certain he believed the Machine Princess' assertion that she'd only went along to get more information, and that she'd never actually intended to let his traitor fulfill her plan. But regardless of her original intentions, she was going to be helping him destroy this thing.

Archerina shrugged lightly. "I think possibly since we joined forces," she giggled. "I believe she had designs on your throne from the very beginning!"

Tanya snorted. "I wouldn't be surprised. She always struck me as that type."

"Regardless, this must be destroyed, and I will see to Scorpina's punishment personally," the evil ooze-creature declared. He raised one hand, then glanced to the rest of the entourage with him. "All of you join in on this. I think it'll take all of our power to make this thing completely unusable."

Tanya at once started to throw bolts of power out of her hands, and he was pleased to see she'd obviously been studying when not with him. The color he wasn't so sure of; instead of the bright purple that his own were, and that hers should have been {and usually were during practice}, her bolts were merely violet-tinged orange. I will have to run a complete magical diagnostic on her, he thought, glancing to Gasket and Archerina just long enough to be certain they were helping instead of hindering.

As the various power bolts lobbed into the hyperlock chamber, Ooze smiled faintly to himself. He didn't really need any of their help to destroy this thing, but it was an excellent way to test Tanya's level of skill, as well as to keep Gasket and Archerina usefully occupied. He had suspected this as a trap from the moment the female machine had told him of it, and coming to see it had been an act of sheer defiance. If Archerina wanted to try and trap him in it, she would have to face his wife along with that, and he didn't think that she was capable of that.

Ooze's eyes flicked over to Tanya, and he smiled again. She is coming along so very well. So much better than Scorpina. I don't even need to reprogram that traitor, really. Tanya is everything Scorpina was, and more so. Well. . .he amended his thought just a little. She's not quite as good of a fighter. I've neglected that aspect of her training. But where magery is concern. . .Tanya is supreme.

With a sudden burst of pure white light, the hyperlock chamber exploded into a fine dust that sprinkled all over everyone. Tanya spat out several vicious oaths she'd picked up from Ivan, which did manage to turn Archerina's audio-receptors a brilliant red. Despite coming from the background she did, it was obvious the Queen of Ooze could swear with the best. . .or worst. ..of them. "Now I'm going to have to take another shower," she growled. One of the changes she'd made on her arrival and ascension to Queenship and evil had been to install proper bathing facilities for the various humanoid servants that Ooze had brought with him or had imported later from some of his other conquered worlds. In their private quarters had been installed a truly impressive shower and bath system, and Tanya had a habit of using it several times a day. Everyone had their own theories as to why.

"Would you care for a companion, my dear?" Ooze smiled at her, and Tanya smiled just as evilly back.

"I do believe I would," she purred, and the two of them wandered off together, hand in hand.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 12 p.m. AST; Lunar Palace Laboratory

Scorpina's eyes fluttered weakly, and her fists clenched. Her mind was almost totally blank, something that she had never before experienced. She didn't like it. Something was urging her to get up, to move away from where she was, to flee this place.

Trapped. . .It was the first thought she'd had in who knew how long. Trapped. ..can't get out. ..can't get out. ..have to get out. ..have to be free.

Darkness had filled her mind, but suddenly a beam of light entered, carrying knowledge and power. She heard something that might have been a roar in the vaults of her mind, and saw a Lion staring at her suddenly.

Daughter, awaken! Rise! You cannot remain here! Your life and soul are forfeit if you do!

She knew instinctively it was the Lion speaking to her, and she wanted to respond with words. Only thoughts answered her will, however, broken and disjointed. Can't. . .trapped. ..

You are trapped only if you let yourself be. You were in shock by the loss of your one-time love, that is why you were trapped before. You can be free, if you choose to be. Choose it, my daughter, before it is too late!

Scorpina shuddered, her entire body convulsing in an attempt to get past the mental and physical barriers locking her down. Ivan had trapped her well, chaining her to the lab table and implanting commands into her receptive mind that she was to stay. The free spirit that had long lain dormant was starting to fight back, however. Trapped eons earlier by Dark Spectre's magic, the part of Scorpina that was Selena was struggling to awaken and take command once again.

You are Ninjetti! To those who are Ninjetti, anything is possible! That is what Dulcea taught you, that is what you LIVED for years! Do not give up on it! Scorpina-Selena twitched even more as the lion did it's best to encourage her. She knew it now for what it was: the living embodiment of her spirit animal, come to help her.

She took a deep breath, dragging in the air as if she were dragging a soul in along with it. Then, she did something that Ivan Ooze would have said was impossible: she sat up, breaking the chains that bound her. "I . . .will not. held. .."

As the words fell from her lips, she could see the Lion now, with her physical as well as metaphysical eyes. It seemed to be very pleased as she tossed the remains of the chains to one side, and started to drag herself out of the laboratory. It seemed Ivan had placed no guards, and she smiled wryly.

He must have thought I was too weak to escape. He was almost right. Scorpina was. Selena wasn't. With that, she dismissed everything Scorpina had been. The warrior-assassin existed no longer. As the woman lifted her head to gaze at the huge Lion before her, she felt a new strength and a new spirit rising up within her. She wasn't weak any more. She was exhausted beyond any definition of the word weak, but something like steel had taken the place of her heart and soul. Scorpina had never known such strength.

Selena knew it for the force of the Ninjetti. Slowly she began to make her way out of the laboratory, with the Lion pacing her at her side. It wouldn't aid her physically, she knew, but it would give her all the mental and spiritual strength she would ever need. As she had gotten into this mess on her own so long before, by being taken by shock and surprise at Rolan's death, so did she have to escape on her own, with only the support in her soul that it provided by merely existing. That would be enough, she knew. She smiled briefly as she touched it's mane.

Thank you, she thought, knowing it would hear her. Thank you for everything.

You are the daughter of my spirit, one I have long missed, the Lion told her. Welcome home, Selena, Gold Ninjetti Ranger. Welcome home.

* * *
Time and Place: January 17, 1998, 2 p.m. AST; Catacombs of the Lunar Palace

Phantom Ranger stepped like the very ghost he was named for through the darkness of the tunnels and catacombs beneath the Lunar Palace. The Caves of Deception, he'd heard they were called, where once the mighty Zeo Crystal had remained hidden, safe from the forces of evil and darkness. Now the caves were inert, but still they resisted the presence of evil.

He didn't know what had brought him here when he had docked his ship on the dark side of the moon. He only knew that a force he could no more deny than he could deny the air he breathed had told him to come to the catacombs. He wanted to stop it, he wanted to run to wherever Selena was and save her, to get her away from this awful place and never more look back.

But that was not to be apparently. Some other force had taken command of him, and there was naught he could do but obey. And so he obeyed, searching for Selena even as he walked through areas that it seemed she could not be.

It was a soft sound, so soft he might not well have heard it if these tunnels hadn't been so quiet. A cross between a moan of pain and a whimper of agony, yet still as soft as a whisper. At once his head jerked up, the scanners in his helmet detecting the source as being a human-shaped object several yards ahead of them.

His heart spasmed when he got closer and could see who it was there. "Selena," He murmured, and indeed it was Selena, almost as she had been on that long ago last day, when he had thought he had closed his eyes forever. The only difference was that now she was the one close to death, and he was capable of saving her.

Gently he knelt down beside her, touching her wrist. Thank the stars. . .a pulse. . .he thought. He didn't know what he would have done if there hadn't been. Glad he'd thought to bring the medical kit from his ship, he started on what first aid she needed, treating various cuts and scrapes all over her.

Physically, she wasn't very damaged. A few minor injuries that he could easily treat were all that he could see. It was her mind that he was worried about. The mind that he cared so much for could be damaged in ways he didn't know if he could fix.

"R. ..R..Rolan..." He looked away from the portable devices that were checking her out to see her eyes opening. He was still morphed, and she had no idea that Phantom Ranger and her old boyfriend were the same person. How could she be calling him?

"Rest," he decided he'd deal with that question when he had more time, and better facilities for this sort of thing. "We'll talk later. You need to rest."

Selena smiled briefly when she saw him. "Rolan," she murmured, then her eyes slid shut again. "You're alive...."

How in the world can she tell it's me? he wondered, slowly picking her up after he'd packed away the medical tools. He wanted to get her out of here before any of the native denizens he'd heard of came by. Putties. Oozemen. Cogs. Tengas. Not to mention other things I've heard about. Rumor had it that the rejects of Finster still wandered around in here. Phantom didn't want to find out the hard way if it were true.

As he carried her back to his ship, he found himself wondering just what Cassie would think if she saw him with another woman. Then he had to laugh. You know you're in love when you're wondering if your intended worries about you with an ex-girlfriend. . .especially if you haven't even told your intended how you feel. He glanced back down at Selena, and bit his lip. How is SHE going to feel about Cassie? Oh, please, don't let her have feelings still for me. . .he fought back all the emotions that threatened to surge up at that, then concentrated on just getting Selena back to his ship. He had to save her life. It was the only thing that mattered other than finding Zordon.

Well, those two things and Cassie.

* * *
Time and Place: January 18, 1998, 3 p.m. AST; Secret base in the Asteroid Belt

Selena's eyes slowly opened, and she glanced around. She didn't recognize where she was, but something inside her whispered that she was safe. She didn't question it; it was a sense of knowledge she hadn't had in centuries, and she had missed it.

"Rolan?" she whispered the name weakly, her voice unable to produce any louder sounds. Somehow, she knew that he was alive. Knowledge pulsated inside her, pouring in from the Lion as it never had before. She couldn't see the great beast any more, but she sensed the presence of her spirit animal, and that was enough. She knew that Rolan lived again, and was known in this place and time as the Phantom Ranger. . .and something else.

A tear trickled down her cheek as that knowledge sank in, and she wanted to scream and rage. But her body wasn't strong enough for that, and all she could do was accept it.

"Selena," it was a voice she'd longed to hear in her dreams for centuries. A familiar face appeared in front of her, and wiped the tear away gently. "You're awake."

She nodded. " long?"

"We came here yesterday. You've been unconscious for almost twenty-four hours. How are you feeling?"

"Weak. . ." it was the only word that even came close to describing the extreme lassitude that filled her. But she didn't want to close her eyes, didn't want to surrender to the deep blackness that threatened to take her over if she let her guard down. All she wanted was just to be here, with him. To forget that thousands of years had passed since the last time they had been together.

To forget that he now loved someone else.

But she couldn't. She wanted to with all her soul, but the thought that he didn't love her was blazing itself into her mind. Slowly, she lifted her head to look at him. "You. ..the Pink Astro Ranger.. ."

He stiffened for a moment, looking at her. A blush stole across his cheeks, and there was a strange look in his eyes. "Are you . . .all right with it? I mean. . .how do you even know? I haven't said anything, to anyone, about it. . .not even her."

"The Lion told me," Selena whispered, touching his cheek with a hand that felt heavier than lead. "He's told me so much. . .I have so much to make up for. And Tanya. ..I have to help her."

Rolan shook his head, laying one hand to rest against hers for a moment. "All in good time. You have to get better first. Ooze tortured you rather violently. Your body and mind need to heal."

Selena sighed, shaking her head just a little. "No sleep. ..not yet," she insisted. She wanted to talk about this. "You love. ..Cassie Chan."

"Yes," he admitted it freely. It was yet another aspect of oddity. To someone who had fought against evil by his side for years, then against good for centuries, and now was back on the side of good, he could admit how his heart beat just for Cassie. But when he was looking the beautiful Pink Astro Ranger in the face. . .he simply withdrew into the hard outer shell that had kept him safe ever since his return to life.

Selena closed her eyes briefly, searching her heart and mind for how to feel. "I. . .I wish you luck with her," she murmured at last. "Tell her how you feel, Rolan. Don't let her slip away. . .the way I let you slip away."

"You could have done nothing," he reassured her. "I did die that day, and I stayed that way for over a year. It was the power of Kyron that brought me back. I couldn't be who I was, though. He gave up his life to give me a power that would help me fight against Dark Spectre."

His fingers touched the ruby hanging from a chain around his neck. "Kyron's life force combined with that energy of the Puma to make me the Phantom Ranger, and immortal. I will never die, so long as the ruby remains in tact. If it ever leaves me for more than thirty-six hours, or if it shattered, I will die."

Slowly, Selena reached out to touch it. "I will help you," she promised quietly. "Once I am well again, I will help you in any way that I can."

He said nothing to affirm or deny his acceptance of it, only placed a hand on her forehead. "You must get well," he told her. "Sleep now."

* * *
Time and Place: January 19, 1998, 2 p.m. AST; the Secret Base

Phantom sighed a little as he brushed his deep blonde hair out of his eyes and leaned into one of the few comfortable chairs in this base. It was his secret place, where he went to go when he just had to be alone. It was where he'd spent his first week after leaving Earth, trying to convince himself to continue his journey away from Cassie.

And the only reason I finally DID leave was to go to Aquitar. There was a report that Goldar had been spotted. . .in some ways, the Phantom Ranger was a bounty hunter, capturing the evil minions of the universe and bringing them into justice. He preferred out and out battle to such things as that, however, which was why he had come to Earth to deal with Divatox. But the crimes Goldar was wanted for had him worth a great deal of money, and even with the high ideals of a Ranger that he still upheld and lived by, repairs to his ship and upgrades cost money. I do get a discount for being a Ranger. ..but the mechanics need to feed their families too. Bringing in one of Lord Zedd's chief henchmen would keep him in enough money to keep him in repairs for years to come.

He dismissed thoughts of that; by the time he'd gotten to Aquitar, Goldar had been gone, if he'd ever been there in the first place. After that, he'd been able to travel around a lot, helping in fights against evil whenever and wherever he got the chance. Then he had heard of Dark Spectre's strike against Eltar, and had run there as swiftly as he could. He had arrived with just enough time for Zordon to pass him the Battleizer and the location of the Delta MegaZord, then before he could be stopped, the evil monarch's forces had swept in and destroyed everything that lay in their path. He'd barely been able to get Alpha Five out of there in time, and had escaped to safety when there was nothing else he could do to save that world.

He glanced briefly over to where Selena was still sleeping, and checked her temperature. After she'd fallen asleep earlier, a light fever had sprung up as a result of her injuries. He'd treated it as best he could for now, and all he could do was wait to see if it got any better. He gently tucked the blanket around her a little more, and smiled. She has grown. . .she had always been a strong person when he had known her before, but now there were depths to her that he had never imagined possible. In a way I guess you could say being evil was good for her. It has given her an understanding that could come in very useful in the battles that lie ahead of her.

Phantom wondered how long he would be able to stay here with her. He was going to have to return to the search for Zordon someday. But until then. . .he would do all he could to watch over her. He would not leave until she was ready to go to Earth to join the other Rangers. Her powers still flow within her. She is still the Gold Ninjetti. Once she has recovered and trained some, she will once again be able to take up her duties to defend.

His thoughts turned to another being living under evil's yoke. And you will be freed from being Tanya Ooze as Selena was freed from being Scorpina. It will not be long, either.

The Phantom Ranger rose up quietly, going to prepare their evening meal. So much lay ahead of all of them. Healing. . .training. . .and waiting.

Author's Note: Did I leave anything out? Did I put too much in? Let me know, I'll let you know if it was an oversight on my part, or if I plan to fix it in a later fanfic. But I think I brought almost everything to a satisfactory conclusion. Please let me know your opinion on the matter. Thanks. G.F.