Legal Disclaimer: Saban owns all the non-invented characters. Elizabeth Wegner owns Emmie. I own Jenna. That should cover everything.

Author's Note: This isn't as complicated as Answered Prayers was, but it's still got a lot going on everywhere. This replaces the defunct 'Thoughts' subsection, which no one appeared to like anyway. Oh, you had better reread the rest of the series before going on with this. I made changes, severe changes, that will not make any sense if you don't check the modified versions.

by Gael Filson

She was gone. He was going to have to get used to it. Oh, yes, they would try to get her back, and might even succeed. But even if they did, it wouldn't be the same. He wasn't quite certain just what she was going through, but he did know one thing: he didn't think they could ever be together again as they had been.

It was not her fault. Maybe it was his. He didn't know. But though he was as much her friend as he had ever been, this unwanted severing of their relationship was perhaps a sort of good thing. Though I wouldn't wish what she's going through on anyone!!

They'd been dating for almost three years, since about six months after her arrival in Angel Grove. It had been so great for so long....they'd loved each other so much....

He wasn't certain when it had happened. He'd been so certain she was the one, that she and he were meant for one another, and that it was going to be forever. Even when she'd been turned against them, he had sworn he would wait for her, that he wouldn't let her stay evil and with Ooze, that he'd get her back and that she would never again have to worry about being evil.

But every day that goes's like I just...don't want to be with her. It's not because of Ooze, I know it. I don't feel...revulsion...or anything, I'm not repulsed by her...I just...don't love Tanya anymore. Adam Park sighed, staring down at a photo of the twelve Ninjetti Rangers. He and Tanya had their arms around one another, and they looked so much in love. That was just after we got our new powers. We didn't know ...what was going to happen next.

His hand trembled a little as he remembered the moment he had learned that Tanya Sloan no longer existed, and that Tanya Ooze was in her place. He felt as if his heart had shattered apart. I was so convinced I loved her...I was positive it wouldn't fade...but that's what it's doing and I don't like it!

Adam sighed, taking deep breaths and closing his eyes. But I's for the best. He shuddered at the very thought. This is going to change can't help it. She won't be the Tanya Sloan I knew. That isn't to say that I won't care about the person that she will be...but I don't think I'm going to love her.

He brushed his hair away from his eyes and leaned back in his chair. The important thing is getting her back, really. After that..I don't know what will happen.

As Adam thought that, something else popped into his mind: an image that he had never really thought that much about. Three identical young men in black and gold, looking at Tanya when no one else was looking at them, or so he thought. Trey...the Treys..whatever...on Earth...they were ...his eyes flew wide. It was something he'd never thought about, that was for certain.

She never had feelings for him, I least not that she told me. But...Adam bit his lip. What if she didn't love the Triforian now...but she would later? His heart pounded hard. What if what she was going through...made her love Trey? Could the Gold Ranger truly be what she would need to heal from her experiences as Tanya Ooze.

His resolve hardened into steel. So be it. I don't know that's what's going to happen. But if it does...not only will I not stand in the way, but I will help them in every way I can. But all that won't happen until after Tanya is free.

Slowly he began to move around, pulling together the makings of a meal. It was the first time he'd actually felt like eating in a while, instead of doing it because he had to. Who would have imagined all this a few months ago...that we'd have our powers back, that....he shivered a little at a few of the other memories.

Can't think about those. He reminded himself of that rather harshly every time a certain memory crossed his mind. Scorpina really is going to pay for that one day. Adam wiped a tear away from the memory of what he had done with the female henchperson.

I thought it was Tanya....

Somehow, that didn't make the inner pain go away, though. If anything, it strengthened it. Am I that much of a moron that I can't even tell the difference between the person I was dating and one of my top ranking enemies? He shivered at the very thought. Scorpina's disguise had been all but perfect, and he had been more or less asleep at the time...but it still chilled him to think that the very first time he'd indulged in sexual activity, it had been with Scorpina, not someone he really loved.

At least there haven't been...results. She definitely would have been crowing if there was. He tasted the results of his cooking efforts and winced momentarily. I wonder if I can get a pizza at this hour....

Two hours later, curled up with a videotape and his odd morning pizza, Adam was feeling much more cheerful than he had been. A mental weight had been lifted, and he was able to actually think clearer than he had in quite some time. He nibbled briefly on a slice, then lifted the remote, turning on the TV and VCR almost simultaneously.

Images flashes across the screen, of the past and present. Tapes of the Rangers, as they had been in Morphin', Ninja, Zeo, Turbo, and now Ninjetti. A tear flashed down his eye as he watched the destruction of the Turbo MegaZord and the Rescue MegaZord. I wouldn't have done it any other way, he thought. Sometimes, you had no choice on destroying just had to be, for the greater good.

Then a new set of images began to show. The Ninjetti...he smiled to himself at the sight of the Black one. He'd never really thought he'd have powers again after giving his Turbo Green's to Carlos. But now...he glanced down at the black communicator on his wrist. It was like the best of both worlds. He was able to fight and keep on with his normal life. As much of one as any of them could, anyway.

What would have happened if we hadn't done this? If Ooze and Gasket hadn't attacked Earth? I guess we all would have went on without our powers...just went home from viewing the ruins and went on with our lives. He sighed. He was almost starting to get depressed again. Quickly he turned the video off, intending on going out and doing something martial arts related, when something on a news broadcast caught his eye.

Skater Emily Marie Picard performs one of the more difficult maneuver in skating history, the announcer stated. Adam stopped in his tracks, looking at the slender skater as she slid across the screen.

That's Emmie. The new girl. The newest Ranger hadn't really been around that much, but Adam had seen her over the couple of days since her return from Phaedos. She's sorta cute. Adam wasn't anywhere near to being ready to date again, especially since he hadn't even officially broken up with Tanya yet, but he wasn't averse, and never had been, to looking at an attractive female. He considered it in the line of looking at fine artwork. Everyone could do it, and it was never to be taken seriously.

He watched as she skated smoothly over the ice, and noticed a few points where martial arts training could have helped her. Dulcea taught her some things, I think she said, but she needs a regular trainer. His mind quickly ran over the rest of those Rangers who would be available and came up with something he wasn't certain if he liked or not. I'm the only one available. Tommy and Kat are all cuddled up with each other most of the time, Zack's already training Aisha in hip hop kedo, Aisha's learning from Zack, Billy's not feeling up to training, and Trini's taking care of him. Rocky might...but I think he said something about meeting back up with that girl Penny again. I'm not surprised things didn't work out with him and Kimberly. I don't think they were either. He blushed faintly at that; he'd almost forgotten about the blind martial artist who had made such an impression on his friend. It was rather apparent that Rocky hadn't forgotten, though. He wished them both the best of luck.

Jason's still out of his mind with waiting for Emily to get home, so that leaves just me as the only one really with enough brain cells together to help her. And she will need it.

Slowly he got up, heading for his room to try and find the scrap of paper he'd written the phone numbers of all his new fellow Rangers down on. It surely wouldn't hurt to call and ask. He needed to get to know her, anyway, since she was one of them now. He remembered how he'd felt when he first joined all those years earlier. Billy had reached out to him then. Now it was time he returned the favor to someone else.

* * *
Aisha tucked a strand of hair behind her head as she tied the belt around her waist and let it fall in the correct manner. Since her return to Angel Grove, she had gotten fully back into her martial arts, working with her old friends Rocky and Adam, but also with a new friend.

His face drifted into her mind, and she smiled. Before she had become a Ranger, she had seen him from afar, and she had fallen head over heels in love. The way things had happened, however, she'd never had a chance to really talk to him about how she thought she was feeling, before he'd left for Switzerland. She'd thought she'd never see Zack again. ..

Until the Christmas party. Until she'd bumped into him and it was as if they'd never been apart. The two of them hadn't been since then, either. Throughout the Ninjetti Quest, and afterwards, they'd spent as much time together as they could, and she was beginning to think of them as an item.

We haven't said anything, though. We're not like Billy and Trini. ..or Kat and Tommy. Somehow, she wasn't really surprised that the last two had gotten together. She'd known without even having to ask that Kat and Tommy were born for each other. With a smile, Aisha looked up briefly at her sparring partner, and felt her heart flutter.

Zack met her eyes with a smile. "Ready for your first lesson?" he asked. He'd been surprised when she had asked for lessons in hip-hop kedo, despite being a black belt in karate herself. But for a chance to be with Aisha, he would practically walk into fire. I never forgot how gorgeous she was. . .he thought as he started taking her through one of the simplest katas. When he'd first seen her in the Command Center, after she, Rocky, and Adam had discovered their identities, he'd almost fainted, and the mental picture he'd carried of Angela for the last year and a half completely vanished.

"You're doing good!" he praised her, and he meant every syllable of it. Her karate training was coming in handy for this; he'd never had a pupil who was this good, even one who had been trained in a martial art previously. Slowly he started her on one of the more difficult katas.

Aisha was starting to find it hard to concentrate on her lesson; not just because of the increasing complexity of the kata, but because of who her teacher was. "Ooof!" she grumbled something even more foul as her feet tangled up with themselves and she crashed down to the floor.

"Aisha, are you okay?" Zack looked down at her with concern, and she smiled a little.

"I'm fine," she told him, taking his hand as he held it down to her. As he hauled her up, the two of them found themselves staring directly into each other's eyes. . .

For a single moment, nothing else existed in the entire universe but the two of them. Zack pulled her a little closer, and Aisha didn't object, as he wrapped his arms around her in a warm, gentle embrace. She lifted her head gently, and he bent his head down to hers. For the first time, their lips touched in a tender, soft, sweet, and completely satisfying kiss.

"I love you," Aisha whispered when they moved apart. "I've loved you for a long time."

Zack smiled. "I love you, too, Aisha. I've always loved you."

They kissed again, and as they headed off the mats to discuss this new development, they both were wondering what had taken them so long to admit it to each other.

* * *
Jason Lee Scott, the Gray Dolphin Ninjetti Ranger, was quite literally dancing on air. His girlfriend, Emily Tesh, was finally coming home to Angel Grove. She'd been spending the last year on the other side of the country, being with her grandmother, who had been severely ill. Mrs. Tesh had finally gotten well again, and now the beautiful blonde he loved was home.

He cast his mind back to the last time he had seen her. It hadn't been that long after the Murianthus mess, and he had had to come up with an excuse for why he had vanished for two days. The only thing that had come to mind had been that he'd suffered another 'weak spell', such as he'd had during the loss of the Gold Ranger powers. She hadn't seemed convinced completely, but at least she hadn't out right accused him of lying.

I wonder if our relationship would be better if she knew about me, Jason wondered. Things had been going great after he'd transferred the powers back to Trey, but after Divatox had kidnapped him, and then with her being on the other side of the country, he was wondering just the tiniest bit if things were still going to be the same with them.

Nervously, he walked up the sidewalk to her house and tapped on the door. Please be here, he thought, glancing over to the garage. The family car was there, but that didn't necessarily mean she was; she could've went to the park, the Youth Center, any one of a number of places.

Footsteps sounded from within, and his heart almost stopped beating. They were so familiar. . .almost as familiar as his own heartbeat. The door swung open. . .

"Jason!" Emily's voice was a true squeal of delight as she flung the door open all the way and threw herself into his arms. "Oh, Jason, I missed you!"

"I missed you too!" he hugged her until both of them thought their ribs might be breaking, then stepped only a bare step away. "Welcome home."

Emily grinned. "I'm so glad to be back. I liked staying with my grandma, but Angel Grove is my home now. Angel Grove," she looked up at him almost shyly. "And you."

"Home is where the heart is," Jason knew those words were truer than anyone could have ever imagined. He had never felt of Geneva as if it were his home. Angel Grove, with all it's danger, was where he belonged.

Emily tilted her head. "Are the rumors I heard true?" she wondered. "Are the Rangers back?"

"Yes, they're the Ninjetti Rangers now," he could and would tell her things that the 'general public' knew. "Where did you hear the rumors?"

His girlfriend shrugged as they walked inside and took their usual position on the couch together, wrapped up in each other's arms. "The usual places. Coming out of the air, the newspaper, who knows where else."

"What else did you hear?" he kept his voice as casual as he could as he leaned his head against her waves of golden hair. "There's been all kinds of things going around that I've heard."

Emily's voice was cool, quiet, and firm, and she leaned back to look at him. "Well, I've heard a lot of things. But there's something I've been wondering for a while."

"What's that?" he looked down, meeting her blue eyes.

"How long were you going to wait to tell me you're a Power Ranger?"

* * *
His time running the Youth Center had changed Jerome Stone. He was calmer and more at ease now, and he had more money. The situation wasn't the best in the world still, but with what he had saved up, he was going to be able to set up a much more impressive detective agency. That had been his entire plan since buying the Youth Center from Ernie a year and a half earlier: to save what money he could from that place to reopen the detective business and actually make a go of it this time.

The only thing that had really bothered him was the fact he had no operatives. He'd considered hiring some of the kids around the place, but none of them really seemed to have what he felt he wanted. None of them really were like Bulkmeire and Skullovitch.

Screw-ups they might've been, but he cared about them. He had watched them grow up, had seen them change from gangling misfits into two young men he would've been proud to call son. He had never spoken of how much he cared for them, how scared he'd been when they had first hinted at going to France. He hadn't wanted them to go, but at the same time he'd not wanted to keep them from their dreams. When he'd managed to briefly get his job back at the force, and had talked the chief into letting them back on too, he'd hoped they would remain. That hope had been fulfilled, and for a short time, things had looked as if they would go back to normal.

But when they had vanished for several days, all of his old fears had came back. Jerome cared about those two, and wanted to be there if they needed him. When they had returned, the only explanation they had spouted was something about monsters. He knew they saw more of the creatures than anyone else, but it was still rather difficult to believe. Their second vanishing, which had covered the course of a year, had worried him so quickly to the point that he had given up the cop-job and bought the Youth Center, hoping that would somehow bring him closer to anyone who might have some word about them.

As the year had rolled by, he had slowly lost his hope that he would ever see them again. The two monkeys he'd adopted had eased some of the pain, but not all of it. He'd figured out who they were not long after Bulk and Skull themselves had reappeared, and the monkeys had vanished. He wasn't anywhere nearly as stupid as people might've thought. The only thing he didn't know was just how it had happened. By now, however, he had decided it really didn't matter. They were back, and he was ready to reopen the detective agency: if one little thing could happen.

If he could find someone who could or would take over the Youth Center. He would not just abandon the place; it was too important, for quite a few reasons, and he wasn't certain if he could hold both the agency and the center open. He wasn't going to go back on his word to help the Rangers one little bit, but the agency had been his dream for years. Abandoning it had been hard on him.

"So what do we do?" Skull asked, his face gentle and curious, not echoing Bulk's for once. Jerome smiled, remembering old times the three of them had had together. "Do you have enough to reopen things?"

Stone shook his head. "Not yet, that'll still require a couple of more months. But..." He glanced at the both of them. "I do kind of need some help around the place. I've been trying to get things working right since Emily left, and it hasn't been going that well. Jenny's helped out, but she's only one person." His offer was sincere, and both of them knew it. It wasn't the most glamorous job in the world, but it would feed them both and take care of those annoying bills, if they pooled everything they had as they usually did.

"Isn't Emily coming back soon, though?" Bulk offered. "I thought she was." He did remember seeing Jason bouncing around saying something about it a couple of days previously.

Jerome nodded. "She told me that she wasn't going to be coming back here, though. She's got another job lined up somewhere else, but she didn't say where it was."

Bulk and Skull exchanged a look. It was all they needed. Bulk nodded quietly. "We'll take the job."

Stone smiled. "Come on. Let's get things organized." As they headed to the Youth Center to get them familiar with the things, one thought went through his mind. Things are back to normal at last.

* * *
The sun was just reaching it's zenith. In the depths of the Command Chamber, where the heat of the great star could not reach, two figures were with one another, staring out from a hidden opening at the desert before them. Everything was quiet around them. Neither moved. No voice could be heard. It was as if the two were no more than statues.

Statues they were not, however. They were Justin Stewart, the Purple Ninjetti Ranger, and his recently returned companion Storm Blaster, still resplendent in his bright violet coat. Justin still could not believe how things had begun to look up. With the single exception of Tanya being evil, the Rangers were on top of everything. Storm Blaster and Lightning Cruiser were safe, every one of the Rangers had found or was on the way to finding inner peace, and there was nothing their enemies could throw at them that they couldn't handle.

I want to tell my dad. Justin thought it quietly. He wasn't certain if Storm Blaster was capable of understanding his thoughts, but the way it reacted sometimes, he thought that it could. He knew that it wasn't a normal Zord, certainly not like Squirrel or Mountain Blaster or Siren Blaster. It had feelings; it had certainly been glad to see him. He'd been equally glad to see it.

Storm Blaster rubbed itself gently against him, a motion quite like that of a cat. Justin put his hand down gently and drummed his fingers across the hood. "You can understand me," he murmured. "I want to tell my dad. He really should know. I think he's feeling bad since we started to get close when I lost the powers...and now that I'm active again, it's as if we don't live together at all, even though we do."

Storm Blaster watched silently for several minutes as Justin tried to figure out just what it was that he should do. Often had Blaster wanted to be able to get in touch with Justin's mind the way Lightning Cruiser could with T.J. He tried quite often, but it just didn't seem to work. Justin was aware in a small way of his thoughts, but he didn't believe in his heart that he could truly hear the mind of a car. Without that, he would hear very little beyond the occasional sensation from Storm Blaster.

I'll do what I can. Maybe he can overcome that block, and if he can... Storm Blaster could only imagine what would happen next. To truly communicate would be wonderful...even Lightning Cruiser couldn't fully speak with T.J. If Blaster could one-up his would be worth them being separated, just for the smugness he could have. Storm Blaster and Lightning Cruiser didn't think in the same way humans did, but the desire to do something that their fellows could not was quite strong. Perhaps if ...yes, that might work.

The car beeped a little, then rolled towards the opening of the cave. Justin watched for a moment, then followed his friend. As the warm sunlight broke over them, Justin felt a strange chill. It wasn't one of was more of the shock of the sun in comparison to the shadow of the cave. "It feels good." He knew they couldn't stay out here all that long; desert sun at noon wasn't the best thing for either cars or people. He watched as Storm Blaster rolled farther out, then slipped the driver's side door open. Justin only waited for a moment before leaping in, feeling the same warm feeling of comradeship and union that he always had while in the jeep.

Storm Blaster waited just until Justin was neatly wrapped inside, then together the two of them set out. There was no particular route to the jeep's path; they were simply going wherever he went. Blaster wanted Justin to forget about worrying, to simply be. In the silence of that being, he knew the Purple Ranger would find the answers that he sought. If Justin wasn't thinking about not being aware of Storm Blaster, then he just might become aware of him. If Blaster could get him to lower those internal defenses that had become so much a part of him, perhaps it would help strengthen the bond between them. So far as Storm Blaster was concerned, just about anything was worth a try. Justin needed a friend, someone he could tell anything to. Storm Blaster was more than willing to be that friend.

* * *
Rocky could hardly control his excitement as he stepped through the park. His heart had come near to stopping when he had received the note from Penny. He honestly hadn't known she could write, in other than Braille. The thought of seeing her again made his heart race as nothing ever had before. They hadn't actually gotten to dating when they'd first met, but he had never forgotten her.

She's so beautiful...that hair..those eyes...the way her legs can power-kick through anything... Rocky felt himself shivering at the very thought of sparring with her. The odds were fairly darned good that she would wipe the floor with him. I wonder if she could still recognize my voice even if I were morphed.. That had definitely shocked him, she had come closer than just about anyone else to discovering who the team was.

It had been over a year and a half...well, getting closer to two years actually, since he had seen her last. He wondered how...or if..she'd changed. She had written him infrequently, but the return addresses had always been different each time. Rocky was concerned, since at least one of those addresses had been for what looked like a recovery house for people who were sick. I hope she's all right.. The thought of her being harmed in any way sent his stomach churning and whirling with fear.

"Rocky?" the voice came from just slightly behind him, and he jumped automatically, falling into a defensive guard stance as he whirled. Behind him, clad all in white that contrasted the sparkling blackness of her hair and eyes, was Penny. The first thing he noticed wasn't the beauty of her unchanged, save for slightly more mature, features, nor the elegance of her garments. The first thing that struck his eyes was the fact her eyes met his! They didn't have the faint film over them that had always characterized her before! She saw him!

His jaw dropped. He was in shock. That would be the very mildest way to describe the emotions that rocketed through him. "P....Penny?"

She smiled, nodding. "It's good to see you again...or just to see you." At the way his eyes widened even more, she laughed. "Yes, I can see now! That's why I kept moving. I was getting my eyes operated on, and I had to go from hospital to hospital getting everything all taken care of, and recovering."

Rocky could hardly believe his eyes..or hers! "Why didn't you say anything to me? Didn't..didn't you trust me? I thought...I mean..." All the words he'd thought about using to her had completely deserted him. The only thing that he could think of was just how beautiful she looked with her eyes looking at him so clearly....

"Yes, I trust you," she said quietly, reaching out unerringly to touch his face. "But I didn't tell you because I wanted to surprise you once I got back to Angel Grove. I wanted to see you....before you knew I could see you."

As they stood there, it suddenly sunk into his mind that she was looking at him, that she could see what he looked like! He turned absolutely red. "Umm...Penny..."

She laid a finger on his lips quietly. "Shhh..." she silenced him quickly. "Rocky, I have been waiting a long time to see you, and I'm going to get a good look." Penny laughed at the blush that burned into his cheeks at that, then slowly began to walk around him, looking him up and down from every possible angle. Rocky got the distinct impression he was being judged as if he were a side of beef, and he wasn't quite certain that he liked that. As she slowly stopped in front of him, a smile was on her lips. "It was worth waiting for." She said quietly. Before he could ask just what she meant, Penny calmly pulled his head down to hers, and planted a kiss on his lips.

Rocky had to admit, she was right. That kiss had definitely been worth waiting for.

* * *
It was a beautiful day, warm, despite being the end part of January, and with a lightness in the air that had absolutely nothing at all to do with sunlight or clear weather. The lightness was purely and nothing other than the joy that filled the soul of Billy Cranston, free after years of emotional and physical slavery to Goldar.

But the lightness had not come without a price. Billy had done something that he had never done, that he had never expected to do, no matter how many times he'd thought about when being forced to serve that horrible monster. He had slammed his Power Lance directly through the destructive heart of the golden-armored creature.

I don't regret it, he'd long since discovered that, and made his peace with it. He would never change the action if he had an option. It had been a living nightmare that Goldar had put him through and the monster had only deserved death. But that hadn't really stopped his nightmares the way he had hoped removing his nemesis would. They had eased off, but still some nights were far too horrific for him to sleep.

It had been a week since the final encounter. A week since he had heard the sickening slurp that had been the last sound of the war between them. The Blue Ranger stared out the window, his mind far distant. He was aware of the fact Trini was behind him, her arms wrapped around him and her head snuggled into the space between his head and shoulder, and that his arms were around her as well, but the knowledge just didn't seem to reach beyond the level of awareness. His mind was on something else.

"What are you thinking about, Billy?" the question, accompanied by her warm breath into his ear, managed to reach the point where he could form a coherent answer.

"The others," he told her quietly, his arm tightening around her waist a little. "The harem that Goldar had." His voice trembled just a little in memory. "He told me once he was going to take me there, once I was properly trained."

She looked up into his eyes, concern touching her own. "You don't have to worry about that anymore." Trini had no idea why that was bothering him now; he hadn't even mentioned the fight or anything related to it since the end. She was hoping he was starting to heal...

Billy shook his head. "That's not it. It's the ones already there. Who probably are still there, and don't know he's gone. Who knows what they're going through."

The Yellow Ranger nodded slowly, understanding what it was he meant. "Do you know where it is, though? It's probably guarded..."

Her boyfriend's eyes were fixed on the stars, and when there was no answer for several minutes, she touched his arm, wanting to be certain he hadn't forgotten her. "I know where it is." Billy's voice was very low and very painful. "He showed it to me on a map. The day before he had to leave to join back up with Rita and Zedd, he showed me. He promised..." Billy's voice shook, he was still far from getting over what had happened. "He promised that once he got the time, we would be going there, to stay. Forever."

Trini touched his face gently, and Billy jerked back just a little. His eyes were suddenly like ice. "I'm going to talk to Dimitria, Trini. I want to go to that planet his harem is located on, and I'm going to free every being there and send them home." She had never heard his voice filled with conviction like this before.

"If you go, I go." Her response was just as firm as his declaration. "I'm not letting you go off this planet without me again." In some faint ways, she felt a little responsible for what had happened to him under Goldar's power. If she'd just had the courage to speak up a little more, a little sooner, then maybe he wouldn't have went to Aquitar in the first place, and he wouldn't be the emotional wreck she knew he was deep inside still. I won't waste time wondering over what might have been's. I'm just going to make sure there aren't any more.

Billy looked at her quietly, then smiled. "All right." After all, he didn't really want to leave her behind, either.

* * *
Emmie slowly twirled around on the ice, feeling her body moving and her muscles working together as they never had before. There was a fresh new well of self-confidence and courage that she had tapped into suddenly, and she knew that her skating, and her life, would never be the same again.

I'm a Power Ranger. The very concept of it had her in shock still. She had been to another planet and trained under someone who could probably trash half the armies of Earth one-handed. She had made her way through a dangerous jungle alone and unarmed, and came out all right. She had fought a creature that outmassed her by several times, and with her brains had won the day. Somehow all the things that had once seemed so unutterably crucial were now meaningless. She wasn't going to give up her skating...but she knew that if she ever chose to, she would have a lot of friends who would help her do anything else she wanted to do with her life.

That was probably the most amazing part of it all. She had friends. She had a lot of friends, and a part in saving the universe. She hadn't as yet fought in a battle, but that was coming, she knew. With her senses sharpened and enhanced by the Power, she could practically taste it in the air. Within days...less than a week, more than three days...she would face combat for the first time.

Emmie wasn't afraid to admit that she was already scared out of her mind at the very thought. She knew she was trained, but she had never fought before. She'd never even thought before about fighting. She'd gotten a message to come to the Rangers' weekly workout session that weekend, and she was going to go. She knew she was going to need help, and she really wanted to get to know the rest of the team. She'd been introduced, but she didn't know them, and it was clawing at her that she didn't. How could they protect the world if they were strangers?

"Emmie?" a quiet, half-familiar voice called her name, and she turned around gently to see someone standing on the sidelines looking at her. Her memory quickly supplied his name: Adam Park, the Black Ninjetti Ranger. The boyfriend of Tanya Sloan, the person she had replaced on the team. Funny, he didn't look that much like his girlfriend was now one of their worst enemies.

She quickly skated over there. "Yes. Adam, isn't it? Adam Park?"

"Yeah, that's me," he smiled sweetly, and she felt her insides doing sudden flips at it. "You look pretty good out there. I've never seen someone do some of those moves before."

Emmie shrugged. "Dulcea's training." She uttered the words quickly and softly, so that the few others around wouldn't overhear. "She's got to be the most gifted martial artist I've ever met..not that I've met many."

The Black Ranger looked at her for a few moments, then smiled just a little. "I'm not as good as she is, but I do know how to fight." She wondered just what he meant, she knew that he could fight! She'd seen him on the news, and watched him over the last couple of days in the Youth Center, those few times she could make it there. "I was wondering if you would mind a few lessons in kung fu? You're going to need to know..." His voice sort of trailed off, and he looked at her. "And I think you'd like to hang out with me and the others, maybe. We're a team, after all."

She looked at him; wondering just how he could be echoing the thoughts she herself had been having not all that long before. "I think I'd like that." She'd never even thought about getting one of them to help train her, and here was one offering it, and his friendship, and ...a way to be with the others without feeling as if she were an intruder. It felt heaven-sent. It felt better than that, it felt as if for the first time in her life, she was finally on the road to her destiny.

* * *
Side kick. Front kick. Back kick. Side kick. Front kick. Back kick. Side kick. Front kick. Back kick. An endless repetition, an endless cycle that she pulled her aching muscles through until they felt as if they would fall off of her very bones. But she didn't stop. She couldn't stop. She had to get back her strength and get back in shape.

An onlooker couldn't have told that she was out of shape, however. An onlooker would have seen her punches and kicks going by so fast they were literally invisible save for blurring arm and leg movements. To her, however, they were unutterably slow. She was in a state of siamun, a trance so deep that while she was aware of all that went on around her, it was as if it were happening in slow motion. A drop of water would appear to take hours to reach the ground to her mind, a conversation with another being would take days. Siamun was something she had learned to achieve almost at will when she was a child growing up, but during her time as Scorpina, she had forgotten it.

Now, as she healed, memories were returning that not only restored her old quicksilver wit and dedication to good, but her knowledge of the things of her past. Siamun was just one of them. All the old katas, the old ways of thought, the things she had believed and known to be true until the day Dark Spectre's mind warping had descended on her were returning, and she embraced them wholeheartedly once more.

Selena moved through the kata with eloquent grace, but a faint frown had formed in between her eyebrows. She knew she was doing this better than she ever had when she was young, but it wasn't good enough. Not to her, anyway. She knew she could be moving at almost a hundred times the speed she was, yet her muscles just refused to go any faster.

Easy, relax. She reminded herself. You're still healing. You've got time. Not much time, but time.

There was still the matter of the spell to break on Tanya. That had to be done, and done soon. If things went on too long, no spell would be able to be cast that would break the one binding Tanya Sloan as Tanya Ooze. Selena had lived too long under evil's reign herself to let that happen to someone else. During her time of healing, however, she had remembered in perfect detail the ingredients to the spell that would free the Orange Ninjetti, and she knew she was going to have to go to Earth soon to let the others know.

I could've already told them. She could be free by now if I hadn't been so cold-hearted. Her fingers trembled just a little as she continued to whirl through the workout. I could have just dropped the cure and been gone. No one would've been the wiser, and I could've made some form of excuse so that Ooze wouldn't have known I was the one who did it. She shivered. It was a hard choice to have made. If she had just given Adam the cure and left, Tanya would be free, but she herself would still be bound by dark evil. Since she had not, she was free, and Tanya was the spellbound captive. Perhaps this could be for the best, though. Selena reconsidered it suddenly. This way, not only am I free, but I have the means to free her as well. If I had just dropped the spell, then she would've been released, but I would've stayed evil forever. Now we can both be free.

Slowly she came to a halt in her exercise. It was time for a rest., Phantom, she had to remember, it was Phantom now, would be back soon. He didn't like to leave her alone, but she'd insisted he go out on another job. She needed the time to herself, and he needed the money. Besides, if Phantom Ranger doesn't pop up in some place or other, people might get suspicious. And the last thing either of us needs is someone finding out that he's got a base here.

A quick run through the base shower and a change of clothes later, Selena settled herself into her quarters for a rest. She was growing healthier and stronger day by day, but there was no need to tax herself. Slowly she began to inch towards sleep.

* * *
Ivan Ooze was feeling particularly pleased with himself today. In the last week, the only thing that had gone wrong was that Scorpina had escaped and there was still no sign of her from anywhere. Not that he really minded; she'd been a pathetic fool in the end, falling from the powerful being of evil she'd been. It was best this way; he didn't have to put up with her bumbling incompetence anymore, and the one who had taken her place at his side was far worthier at any rate.

He watched Tanya out of the corner of his eye as she observed the EctoMorphicon Titans. She appeared fascinated by them, her eyes glowing faintly as they were put together before the gathered evil leaders. Scorpitron and Hornitar were almost complete, Arachnoid and Draganar required only to be fueled properly, and the last one, Seldruar, was completely ready and waiting to go. His eyes rested on that for a moment; he was not positive it had been the best design to go for. A fifty foot metallic version of himself...oh, yes, the style of it was just perfect, but he wasn't positive how well it would do in battle. It will do what it must. He decided. The Rangers won't be able to stop them!

"When will they all be ready?" Archerina asked. She and Gasket hadn't gloated too much over Scorpina's escape; and he suspected that whatever plans they had weren't ready to be pulled off yet. He wasn't stupid enough to think that they weren't going to try and overthrow him at some point; to be treacherous and underhanded was part of their programming. It didn't concern him, though. He could handle anything they tried to throw at him.

"Within a few days." Ivan smiled frostily. "I've already decided where they're going to attack at."

Tanya raised one eyebrow. "And where might that be?" There was some sort of an edge to her voice, on that he didn't like all that much. He'd have to keep an eye on what she was doing when she wasn't around him. The last thing they needed around there was another traitor.

"Let me show you." With a flicker of his fingers, he called up a map of the planet below them, and five various points lit up. "These following places: New York City in America, Sydney in Australia, Paris in Europe, Cairo in Africa, and Tokyo in Asia. Five cities far enough apart so the Rangers can't possibly help each other in time! Oh, the destruction will be marvelous!"

Gasket didn't look very impressed, but his words held nothing to indicate why. "And if we launch a Cog attack in the centers of these three areas.." he touched three very close together areas. "Angel Grove, Stone Canyon, and Leawood." The Rangers can also be tied up close to home as well."

Tanya examined things, and nodded. "I think this has a chance of working. The Rangers are only twelve, they can't possible get to all the attack places in time, without splitting into smaller and smaller groups. The less there are in any attack, the less chances they will have to win!"

"I know." Ivan purred as he looked at the various battle sections laid out. "The Rangers have had it easy until now. I think it's about time they learned what it was to be under attack by Ivan Ooze!" He laughed shortly, the mirthful sound cut off by the dagger-like gaze of his wife and the Machine Empire. "I'll have you all to know that I was the one who first initialized this war, and I am the one who brought some of you into it!" His eyes burned into Tanya's, and she dropped her head slowly. "Don't ever forget that."

Gasket and Archerina merely exchanged glances, then left without another word. Tanya said nothing as she remained by his side, looking at the Titans with mysterious eyes. Ooze smiled to himself, feeling rather on top of the universe at that moment. Everything was working just the way he'd always wanted it to. He had everything he'd wanted, and the conquest of Earth was only days away.

So full of self-congratulations was he, he didn't notice when Tanya silently slipped away from him.

* * *
Angel Grove Park was beautiful, even when this part of the planet was in the winter season. Trey and Jenna of Triforia were amazed at just how lush and beautiful everything was. Their homeworld was amazing enough as it was, but to see all of this, so different and in some ways familiar....

"It's strange, but I think I like it here," Jenna said as she and her brother walked through the park. "The people are very friendly, and no one seems to notice that we're...different."

Trey shrugged. "Angel Grove is like that." He had walked among it's people many times when he had been there before, always in disguise, learning the ways of the locals and observing the Rangers from afar. Don't try and delude yourself, you were watching Tanya. He ignored the small voice in the back of his head and paid attention only to what his sister was saying.

"The only part of this I don't like is the waiting. We know Ooze and the rest are going to be up to something." Jenna frowned lightly, fingering the jet talisman at her neck. With a simple phrase she could transform into one of the mightiest warriors in the universe, and even without it, her magical powers were quite incredible. However, even with all of that, she couldn't tell when Ooze was going to attack. She knew it was soon; they all did, it was a Ranger's instincts. But she also knew it was going to be big.

Trey shrugged his shoulders lightly. "I think once they do attack, we'll find out it was worth the waiting. Do you think you'll be able to free the Orange Ninjetti, however?"

"I won't know for certain until I see her," Jenna had not forgotten the reason why she had chosen to accompany her brother on this trip. The power of the spell that bound Tanya to the darkness was not inconsiderable, but like any magic, it could be broken. Jenna was one of the few mages who knew both the spell and the counterspell. "But the ingredients, especially the last one, are next to impossible to find." She avoided thinking about her predecessor, her friend, the one who had been lost to it. Scorpina was freed from it. She had received a telepathic message from an old friend on that little score just a day or so previously. Therefore Tanya shall be too.

She glanced at her brother, wondering if she should inform him of what the Phantom had said. Many years earlier, Scorpina had done him a great harm, and he had sworn to one day avenge it upon her. He had never had the opportunity, however, and now, the Triforian princess wondered if he could. If he knew that she regrets it as much as he does now, how would he feel? She decided not to tell him just yet. Trey had never been one to easily give up his anger, any more than she was. Truly, if I learned that my lover's killer was no longer evil, I would still seek some form of justice. It is not mete that such a thing should go unavenged.

As the two of them crossed out of the park and came to stand beside the lake, Trey's eyes were far distant, as if he were looking into his memories. Jenna smiled. She knew what he was thinking about. "I shall release her, brother." She told him quietly, laying a hand on his shoulder. "I know how you feel of her."

He looked down, plainly shocked. "How could you, I never told anyone!" His cheeks were turning as red as fire, and she chuckled just the faintest touch.

"You told me a thousand times. Whenever you described the Earth Rangers, you always spoke of her as if she glowed, as if you saw things in her that you saw in no one else. I knew you loved her before you yourself knew."

Trey sighed, turning his gaze away. "Yes, I do love her. But she loves someone else, and I would never harm Adam in that way."

She smiled at him. "I know. But that doesn't mean I won't do what I can to free her from evil. In fact, I shall try twice as hard, for there are two who wish to have her returned more than all the others combined."

The sorceress-Ranger looked out over the lake, and let herself sense the power that lurked deep within it's depths. Power that would sleep until she needed it, she felt. Power that would in the end, enable them to overthrow the forces of evil and restore a reign of peace to a universe that needed it so badly.

* * *
It was good to be home again. She'd only been there a year, not the eons that Zordon had occupied this place, but since he had asked her to take his task in guiding the Rangers while he returned home, she had felt as if she belonged there. She had not wanted to leave. Eltar had needed her help, she thought, and she would do anything for Zordon, but in the end it hadn't been enough. She hadn't even had the chance to strike a blow for justice before being captured.

But now she had been given another chance. To lead the greatest team that the universe had ever seen: the Ninjetti Rangers, the Home Guard of Earth, the mightiest warriors ever known. They were all there, all but one, and they would soon have that one back again. She could feel the power rising with every moment, the ancient secrets that surged in the air.

"Dimitria?" she looked down to see the little robot looking back up at her. Alpha Five was back in shape, having been repaired by someone who knew his every circuit inside and out, yet there was still an air of sadness to him. "Do you think Zordon is going to be all right."

It was not the first time, nor the last she sensed, that he would ask that question. "Yes, I do, Alpha. The Space Rangers are very skilled and there is nothing that Dark Spectre can do to destroy Zordon that would not result in his own ending."

Alpha Five nodded, despite the fact those words were not the most comforting. He missed Zordon, in ways he could not explain. Yes, he was a robot, but at the same time, he had emotions and he had a feeling that things were going to be all right eventually. But something that, had he been human he would've termed intuition, beat within him that said something was going to go very wrong before they went right.

He turned back to the controls, idly scanning for anything out of the ordinary in Angel Grove. Everything seemed normal. Everyone was all right. Jason and Emily were talking at her house. Tommy and Kat were in his apartment. Zack and Aisha were still at the Youth Center, working out. Trey and Jenna were at the lake, getting used to earth. Trini and Billy were...he quickly turned away from that, he was going to let them have some privacy!! Kim was in the woods with her kung-fu trainer, and he was surprised to see the tiny gymnast hitting and kicking with amazing force. I would never have thought she had it in her.

Many of the Rangers he had known had changed from when he had last seen them. Tommy and Kat were move in love than ever, and their plans were going full steam towards the wedding. Tanya was evil, and that was perhaps the worst change. Kim had deepened somehow; there was a sadness in her that he doubted the others had seen, even those who knew her as he did. He wanted to talk with her; something had quite obviously given her an impetuous to learn how to fight this way, and he wanted to know what it was. He had learned that the boyfriend she had in Florida had died, but how it had happened, she hadn't said. Something told him, just from the way she was moving and striking, that it had not been a disease or an accident. There was a darkness, a pain in her eyes that spoke of a deep personal wound, and Alpha was going to help.

As much as I am permitted. He knew the Rangers seldom thought of him as anything other than a little brother. But perhaps this little brother would be able to help one of his elder sisters. A pattern of lights ran across his forehead that would've been a smile in another lifeform, and he set the sensors to let him know if any of the Rangers needed help or if there was any hint of danger from the moon.

"I'm going to recharge, Dimitria," he told her. "Call me if you need any help, please." He wasn't as used to working with her as he had been with Zordon, but he thought he could get used to it. Being able to contact Alpha Six and exchange information when necessary would help, and his brother robot was glad to know that Dimitria was all right. He had been as worried over her as Five was over Zordon. Perhaps things weren't as they had been. But just perhaps, they were going to become better.

* * *
Jason stared at his girlfriend, his eyes wide and in shock. How in the world had she found out about the Rangers? Even more had she found out about him?

"I saw you morph once." She said quietly, looking at him. "It was just before you started to get so sick back then, and I mean just before. The same day. I was out for a walk, and I saw you out in the park. I was going to work, so I wasn't going to say anything, but then I saw these bird-things showing up all around you. I started to call out, then I saw you morph into the Gold Ranger...and I had to get out of there."

He could see the remembered terror and fear in her eyes, and laid a hand on her shoulder. "I'm glad you didn't stay around. I wouldn't have wanted you to be hurt."

She nodded quietly and glanced down. "But why didn't you say something to me? Afterwards, I mean. I kind of figured you weren't a Ranger anymore when you stopped running off at odd hours."

"Because I can't. I couldn't. It's a rule we live by." He touched her hand briefly, but she didn't look up. "When I became a Ranger, I swore three things. Never to use my power for my own gain. Never to increase the fight unless forced to. And never to tell anyone about my secret identity. We all promised it, and we always have. Every generation keeps that oath. It's what we are, what we do. The Power Rangers don't just fight random monsters, we keep the world...the from the forces of evil." For the first time, he was telling someone else why he was a Ranger, why he did what he did, and it felt good. To speak the words helped him to clarify his own thoughts, and to settle things in his mind.

Emily looked up at him, and saw how his eyes shone with joy. They had never looked like this except when he had been the Gold Ranger. Afterwards, he had looked...down. Even when they were together and having the best of times, he had looked depressed. Now he was practically glowing with purpose and the joy of being needed. "I'm glad you're a Ranger again." She murmured softly, reaching up to touch him on the cheek. "The only thing I wish is that I could share it with you. I know we're probably going back to the 'you have to run' thing with our dates, but that's all right. It's what I have to pay in order to be with you. And I do want to be with you."

Jason smiled as he pulled her a little closer to him and wrapped his arms around her. "I'm going to have to tell the others, and our mentor." He told her. "They have to know you know. It'll make things easier on us all."

She nodded. "I think I can guess who the others are. It's kind of obvious." Emily smiled. "You guys hang out all the time. But there are so many of you now."

"Well, that's kind of a long story," he leaned back, enjoying the feel of her in his arms. "And it all gets started way back before I ever knew you. Zack, Trini, Kim, Billy, and I were all in the Youth Center, just doing our regular thing." As he spun the tale, he could see her going back in her mind, seeing the things that he was talking about. He himself remembered each day of his Ranger career as if it had happened only yesterday. The things he had experienced, especially his battle with Tommy in the Dark Dimension, were acid-etched into his mind, and as he told the tale, he could see each emotion he had felt flickering across her face.

As the hours passed by slowly and he continued to talk, Emily remained in his arms, her ears open to all that he said. She was glad she'd said something, glad that she'd told him what had been eating at her since that day. She'd been so worried about him, and so glad when he'd healed and been all right. Being apart from him had been very hard, and from this moment on, she swore, she would never be without him again. She loved him, and he loved her, and all the powers of evil could never come between them, no matter how hard they tried.

* * *
The apartment was a nice one, with space enough for two. That was a good thing, since in a few months, there were going to be two people there. Tommy Oliver had never felt this absolutely happy in his entire life. Kat Hillard was in his arms, in his heart, and in his soul. They were going to be married, and they were going to spend the rest of forever together.

One thing kept nagging at his mind, however. It was something he couldn't get rid of, no matter how hard he tried. It just....refused to go away. It was the fact that his own ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Hart, still had no guy in her life. It wasn't mandatory that she have one, he knew that, but he couldn't help feeling as if she were lonely. As if she needed someone, and without someone to share her life, she was missing something.

I thought she and Rocky would work out, but it looked like he and Penny have something going. He'd seen the Red Ranger and the other young woman walking through the park earlier, and from the way they'd been holding each other, they weren't going to be apart any time that eon or any other. But I feel...well...kind of responsible for her. He knew it was the friendship they shared, but he wasn't really going to be content until Kim was happy, and he knew she wasn't.

"So who do you want to try and fix Kim up with?" Kat looked into his eyes with an amused look. "I know that's what you're thinking about. You have been ever since she and Rocky decided not to get together."

The White Ranger smiled. "Am I that transparent?"

"To me, yes."

He laughed, and cuddled against her. "She needs someone she can talk to. Someone who can help her with whatever to is that she's not telling us."

"I wonder what that is. It's got something to do with that boyfriend in Florida, the one she never talks about." Kat mused, thinking about the changes she'd seen in Kim since their return. Her friend seemed harder now, tougher, more intense and less inclined to spend her time shopping and hanging out. Of course, some of that could've come with age and being out in the world, but some of it...some of it seemed different. Some of it Kat had seen somewhere before, but she just couldn't place where. It nagged at her for a few moments before she finally just shoved it into the back of her mind to deal with later.

Tommy frowned; he was thinking much the same as Kat was. His days of romance with Kim were over, but the thought of her facing whatever it was that had hurt her by herself filled him with nothing but anger. She needs someone she can talk to. Someone who has been through the same type of things that she has. The problem with that was all the ones who had faced anything Kim had were already paired off themselves.

Well, there was always either Bulk or Skull....but even as much as those two had reformed themselves, he couldn't see her with them. Besides, he hadn't seen them around for a while, and he wasn't quite certain what they were up to. Maybe Richie, Trini's old boyfriend. He knew Kim had liked him, as a friend, maybe he would be someone she could talk to. Or he could try Heather Thompson, the skier who had Kat had tried to set him up with. It wouldn't be something romantic, but perhaps the two women would at least become friends. Or, that wouldn't work either.

Then something occurred to him. Something so perfect, so unutterably perfect that it made him want to laugh, cry, and grab the phone all at the same time. "I think I might have an idea, Kat," he grinned, reaching for his address book. "And this has got every chance in the world of working out." Quickly he dialed a number, and as the other end picked up, Tommy Oliver started to set up the process that could very well save the life and sanity of someone he cared for. Two someones, no less.

* * *
Tanya walked slowly through the palace, her mind in whatever measure of peace it could achieve. Unlike Scorpina and almost everyone else bound by the spell that kept her mind and heart evil, she was aware that she was under a spell. It didn't matter much to her, however. At least she didn't think it did.

I wasn't happy on Earth. I thought I was, but I wasn't. I wasn't truly capable of being me. That was one good thing the spell had done for her. Her Ninjetti powers had blocked off a part of her that was herself: her magic. Slowly she reached out a hand and let a small light dance on the flat of her palm. She could never have done that as a Ninjetti warrior.

The magic was a part of herself, a part that she had known from her childhood. When she was little, she had been able to start fires just by wanting them, and to read the thoughts of the animals and people she came in contact with. She had known ahead of time what was going to happen to her parents when they went to search for the Tiki of Auric, but she hadn't known they would come back. In some ways it had been that which had caused her to start repressing her powers. She had not wanted to appear different to the people she had to hang out with in the village, so she had begun to simply not use what she had. As the years had rolled by, she had forgotten how to do things, and by the time Aisha came into her life, she had forgotten she'd ever done them.

But now it was back. Now she knew how to use her powers and more. The light vanished as she closed her fist and she smiled, a cruel and viscious smile. Perhaps she would go down to Earth and visit some of her old friends. No, Ivan won't allow it. She sighed. Ivan had to be the worst dictator she'd ever experienced in her life. He was more annoying than Mondo and Machina, more pathetic than Divatox. Rita and Zedd just hadn't made that much of an impression on her, so she couldn't compare them to him. He was more dominating than her old boyfriend Shawn...though Shawn was infinitely cuter. But Ivan's got far more talent in certain areas. Not that I'd know anything about Shawn's, but I certainly wasn't impressed by what he would tell me.

She came to a rest in her walk by the balcony. Ivan would be staring at the construction of the Titans for quite a while yet. She had time to herself. The Machine couple were doing who knew what, she didn't know, and she cared even less. All she had to deal with right now was herself, her magic, and her thoughts.

And the ever-present, inescapable glow of the Earth outside the castle. She stared at it for several minutes in silence, not really thinking much of anything. For perhaps the first time since her arrival there, she felt at peace. Quietly she folded herself onto the floor, her eyes still on the crystal orb that had given birth to her. Because she had been born there, because she had come into being, because she had made a decision and a friend, she had ended up here. She had no regrets, and felt she would have none if the spell were broken. Her mind was at perfect peace, neither good nor evil in this strange state. Something told her it wouldn't last, that she would become fully Tanya Ooze once again. But neither was she Tanya Sloan, or the Orange Ninjetti, or any of that.

For now, she was simply Tanya, and that was good enough. For now.

She began to breathe, recalling exercises from when Adam had trained her in martial arts. It caused no emotional pain to think about him. He was her past. Ivan was her present. Someone else would be her future. In this strange state, she was aware of many things. Aware of both sides of her power, the good and the evil. She felt that she would somehow be able to tap into her Ninjetti power if she could achieve this balance on a regular basis during her evil time. If she could do it while she was good, then she would have both her Ninjetti and her sorcery. It felt strange to feel this way, but as she came to understand it, she came to realize something else.

She wanted that feeling to continue. She wanted it forever. And in that moment, the seeds of the future were planted within her.

* * *
Archerina fingered the arrow in her quiver, and smiled, glancing to her husband. Gasket had his eyes on the human as she sat and stared out at the Earth. Now was the perfect time to do what they had been planning for since the moment Ooze had brought here there. Both of their eyes glowed the most hideous shade of greedy yellow possible. It was time.

Slowly the pink robot raised her bow and took aim. The arrow glinted pink and red, with a tip of purest black. It glowed with the magic and the power it needed to destroy what self-will Tanya had left, and replace it with pure and unadulterated obedience to the darkness that was Gasket and Archerina.

"Now." He spoke the word softly, far too softly for any human to hear. Her metal flexed, and with a soft parting of the air, the arrow flew across the chamber and buried itself into Tanya's back.

With a cry she fell forward, her eyes glazing over and her ears just barely picking up the sound of Gasket and Archerina coming over to her. She shuddered, more magic than she was used to shocking it's way through her system. Then everything went black.

Archerina laughed softly as she turned the unconscious woman over with a foot and stared down at her. "When she wakes up, she will serve and obey only us."

"And we will use her to get rid of Ooze," Gasket chuckled to himself. This was almost as sweet as using Tommy to destroy the Rangers, but with one major exception: this plan was going to work! He glanced down at her and let his eyes travel over her. Soft and squishy, spineless like all of her kind. But her powers were immense. Magic was something that most of the sentient machines didn't concern themselves with, mainly because it and metal didn't mix all that well, with the occasional exception of the odd magical sword or other weapon. But he had seen how useful it could be to Rita and Zedd and some of the others, and just how pitifully his father had fared against the Rangers without it. And now I've got my own little pet sorceress.

A few moments passed, then Tanya's eyes slowly fluttered open. The first things she saw were Archerina and Gasket, and as the last bit of the spell took effect, she sat up, then moved herself carefully to one knee. "I am Tanya Ooze, your loyal and humble servant. What is your desire, my masters?"

"First, you will reveal to no one, especially your husband, that you are in our service." Gasket commanded. "We have a great many plans for you that don't involve him knowing about what is going on. Is that understood?"

Her head dropped lower, and she nodded. "As you wish, my master. Is there more?"

"Yes. You will train in your magic just as you have been. In fact, you will study harder, and you will work on ways to make our attacks on the Rangers more effective." Archerina added. "You will act in all ways as if everything was as it was before you came to serve us, including how you treat us. But if Ivan tells you anything that you think we should know, you are to inform us, unless we are there when you learn of it."

Tanya bowed again. "I am yours, masters. I will do as I am told."

The Machine Prince was feeling very happy; he should've had Archerina do this a great deal sooner! Perhaps this entire war could've been avoided, if they'd just made everyone obey them! "Archerina, could you make a few more of those arrows? I think we could use them to a very good effect in the future."

"I'll see what I can do, but I can't make them personalized, that takes too much time." Archerina motioned to Tanya to rise, and their new slave did so. "Tanya, do as you normally would. Remember, say nothing. All must be as it was: with one exception, and you know what that is."

The sorceress bowed again, her entire bearing giving no hint of what had happened. "As you will, mistress. As you will."

* * *
Tommy paced a little nervously in his apartment, wondering if this was going to come out the way he hoped it would. Kat had already went home, and he hadn't told her what he was planning. From the look in her eyes, he felt she suspected, though.

A knock came on the door, and he very nearly flew over to open it. Standing on the other side was someone who almost could've been his mirror image. Tommy smiled broadly.

"Hey, David."

"Hey, bro." David Trueheart grinned at his twin as he came inside. Tommy shut the door behind him and turned. Doing this wasn't exactly a last-ditch effort, but it was something he wouldn't have considered before.

"Been a while. What have you been up to lately?" He wasn't just going to jump into this; it would be better to sort of ease up to it. Besides, he had no idea just how David himself felt about Kim. For all he knew, his brother had a girlfriend of his own already!

David shrugged. "The usual. Working around the reservation. I've been thinking about moving into town, though." He appreciated his heritage, no one raised by Sam Trueheart could do anything else, but he had wanted to be closer to his brother ever since the two of them had first met. His brother, and his brother's friends. Especially that brunette... "I know you wanted something, Tommy. Come on, spill it."

Tommy blushed just a little, then motioned for them both to sit down. "Well, I know you've noticed the Rangers are back. Ninjetti now." David nodded; he noticed just about everything he could. "Well.." Quickly the Oliver twin launched into a thumbnail explanation of what had happened over the last few weeks, and of how Kim had changed subtly since the last time he'd seen her. "I'm not asking you to date her or anything, Dave, I just want ..."

"To find out what's wrong. She sounds like she needs someone to talk to, you're right." David frowned lightly. He had seen Kim from a distance, and had heard his brother talk about her quite a lot. He'd wanted to get to know her better ever since he had first heard about her, and since he had heard of how she had broken up with Tommy. It didn't quite mesh with the mental image of her that he had conceived from his brother and his brother's friends stories.

His twin's eyes lit up. "You'll talk to her, then?" Maybe she'll talk to him. I hope she tells him whatever it is that's bugging her, it's got to be bad. But she hasn't even told Trini about whatever it is, and I've seen her tell Trini about everything!

"I can try." David leaned back and considered. "But have you thought about something else?"


His twin looked at him, brown eyes meeting brown eyes. "We're twins, Tommy. If she's not talking to you, she might clam up around me just because I look like you." From the way his brother jerked, David knew he hadn't considered that. "But then there's the flip side: she might talk to me because I look sort of like you, but I'm not you. It'll be something familiar and different at the same time, and that might be what she needs."

Tommy nodded slowly. "David...what do you think about her?" He remembered how fascinated David had been by every story he could tell about Kim, once the pain of talking about her had eased. In fact, it had been telling those tales that had helped Tommy heal from the pain of the breakup. He had also noticed the unending interest in hearing of her that had glowed in David's eyes. The thought of trying to matchmake them had never really come to mind, however. That just wasn't something he did on a regular basis.

David considered. Ever since hearing the name Kimberly Hart it had echoed around in his mind until finding a comfortable niche and staying there. He had broken up with his last three girlfriends because he hadn't been able to keep her out of his mind, and he'd never even met her face to face. He had talked things over with Sam about it, and what he had been told had shocked him. Now he shook his head. "She's all right. I think I'll like her."

* * *
The place Adam had chosen for Emmie's martial arts lessons was beautiful; a long meadow with a river running through it at the bottom. This was part of Angel Grove Park, but it wasn't one most people came to. It was very hard to get to unless you either knew exactly where it was or you could teleport. Since Adam and Emmie could do both, he had chosen to lead her there.

"I don't come here very often," he told her as they set things up. "It's an out of the way place I use for training for special tournaments and things, or if I want to think about something. The other Rangers are the only people that even know this place exists, as far as I know." He smiled a little at her. "Consider this part of your initiation into the Rangers."

She laughed a little nervously, then glanced around. "It is beautiful here. I like it." She knew Angel Grove about as well as anyone else did, but this place was entirely new to her. The thought that there were little mysteries like this hiding all over the place rather excited her. It's like being a Power Ranger. If you don't know, one could be right under your nose. You can't tell where they're hiding unless you're shown.

"So do I." Adam spread out a blanket and motioned for her to get on the other end of it. Carefully he started to show her the first basic position, walking around her and correcting her stance until the sweat was literally dripping off her.

"I had no idea just standing could be so hard!" Emmie gasped. She had stronger muscles and more intense desire to learn than most beginning students, but Adam didn't appear to be all that impressed. He had slipped into 'teacher mode' and he wasn't going to hold back on her.

"It's important." Adam informed her. "Basic stance is the beginning of everything in martial arts. If you don't begin the right way, you won't be able to move the right way in order to fight."

She maintained that position for almost ten minutes straight. Dulcea had taught her similar things, but they hadn't been quite the same. What she had learned on Phaedos was more exhausting emotionally than physically, in truth.

Adam continued to circle her, dispassionately pointing out errors and flaws in the way she was standing. "You should always be ready for everything and anything." He instructed. "Don't assume because you're not ready for an attack that your enemies aren't. You could get ambushed anywhere, any time. By the time your training is finished, you'll be able to handle an attack at three a.m., in your sleep, wearing a tutu if you have to."

She looked curiously at him, uncertain as to if he were joking or not. "Trust me, it happened." A faint smile touched his lips. "Ask Kat about it someday. She's the one it happened to."

All that day the two of them remained in the clearing, taking only a short break for something to eat and the occasional run to the bushes for 'calls of nature.' But with every other moment, Emmie was learning either how to stand, sit, move, or breathe, or devouring the history of the Power Rangers and how things worked in their world. It was definitely one that was a little different than what she had been used to.

"I don't know if I'm up to this." Emmie admitted as they started packing to leave just as the stars were beginning to come out. "I think I like it, it's good to know that I'm doing something to save the world, to make a difference, but it's still terrifying. And you guys have all been training for years. I don't know if I'll measure up." This was no cry for pity, she honestly meant it, and Adam could feel it in her words and in the way she looked.

He smiled warmly at her as he zipped up his bag. "Don't worry about it. Dulcea and destiny don't make mistakes, and both of those are what make you a Power Ranger. You're going to do just fine. Trust me."

Emmie returned the smile, and as her lips bent, she realized, she did trust Adam. She trusted him with her life. Maybe, just maybe, she really could be a Power Ranger.

* * *
Praying mantis kung fu wasn't easy. Kim had already known that when she had begun to learn. She had seen how hard it was for Trini to do it, and her friend had been training to do it ever since she was a little girl. Kim's lessons had been on other things, and she had never dreamed in those innocent days that she would ever want to be the one delivering the kicks, punches, and other attacks that she was now learning to do on a regular basis.

Of course, back then she also hadn't had any idea of what the future had in store for her. Love, loss of love, power, loss of power, purpose, loss of that purpose, and in the end, restoration of it. But the loss of the love hadn't changed. She had lost them both. As she went through her exercises in her room, their faces flickered across her memories.

Tommy Oliver. That loss didn't ache anywhere near as much as the other, but he had been her first love, and though they had both grown out of it, he would always have a special place in her heart. To see him with Kat, her successor in more ways than the Power, caused no pain, but only the greatest of joys. If she had known how well those two would mesh, she would have given him up the day she had left for Florida, instead of hopelessly clinging to a love that had vanished.

It was the other love that caused a knife to twist in her soul and the fires of determination to grow within her as they never had before. The other loss of love. The one she could've stopped, if she'd only known how. The one that lent strength and resolve to her blows. The one she mourned every day.

Peter Logan. He had been the one she spoke to Tommy of in the letter. She hadn't had the courage to write his name then. She had met him while training, and it had been the most amazing moment of her life outside of anything Power Ranger related. When their eyes had met, she had felt a shock running all through her system, as if she were on fire somehow. She had denied it. She hadn't wanted it to be true, she wanted to stay in love with Tommy.

A faint snort echoed around the room as she thought that. I wasn't in love with Tommy. I was in love with what he represented to me, security, strength, the good parts of what make a man. He was everything that my father and stepfather weren't. I wanted to grow up, marry him, and give our children the things that I didn't have. To prove that I could beat the Hart curse. Another flicker of pain flashed through her eyes at that. For seven generations her family had been having what could be termed 'man problems'. Whenever they fell in love, something always happened to screw it up. Sometimes it was divorce. Sometimes it was death. Sometimes things just fell apart, and no one could understand why. But Kim had wanted to be different. She wanted the first man in her heart to be the one who was there the day she died.

I should've known better. It was as if fate wanted nothing more than to taunt her. On the one hand, it had granted her true love that would never die. On the other, it had taken away the person she had wanted to be in love with by the very fact of giving that love. The night after she had met Peter, she had cried herself to sleep on confusion.

It had been months before she'd finally accepted his offer of a date. She had wanted to keep it quiet and low-key, to just be friends. By the end of the date, she knew she was going to be with him for the rest of her life. It had been the first of many dates together. As the months had rolled by, her life was consumed by training and by love. She had sent the letter to Tommy, and everything had looked to be all right. Then the Hart curse had struck, and struck with a vengeance.

She and Peter were out on a date, again. They hadn't even as yet gotten to the restaurant, when it happened. A mugger, out of the shadows. There had been no words, only a knife pressed against Peter's chest. She had been too scared to move, feeling helpless and weak only for a moment. Then all the memories of her battles had come rushing back to her, and she had taken one step forward, her body balanced and ready. She was going to save him. Save the man she loved. But the mugger wasn't one of those who just wanted to rob and go. Peter was just handing over his wallet, and the crook repaid him with a quick, fatal thrust to the chest. She wasn't in time to stop it, nor could she stop the robber as he fled into the night, a cold and chilling laugh echoing all around him. Kim remembered that laugh. It still haunted her dreams at night.

In that moment, as she knelt next to Peter's rapidly cooling body, with blood on her hands, Kimberly Ann Hart had sworn a sacred oath. The gymnast she had been was no more. The warrior she had been was back. There could be no more fear. Once she had given in to fear and it had cost her the life of someone she loved. She would do so no longer.

After the funeral, she had searched out martial arts teachers in Florida. She wanted to learn beyond the basics she knew. She had to go beyond what Tommy and Jason had taught her, beyond what measly things she had known. She had thrown herself into it wholeheartedly, and she was learning more and more with each moment. Her shelves were now covered with books on the history and philosophy of the art and everything related to it she could find, right next to the books on gymnastics and the romances.

Kim was determined that she would never again lose herself to fear. She had done what she could then: she had identitified the mugger, and testififed at the murder trial. That had been only days before she had come home. Seeing him put away where he belonged had eased her pain a great deal. But she didn't want it to happen again to someone. The monsters she fought now weren't the same as the one who had taken Peter from her, but she would not let them win. Saving the world wouldn't bring Peter back, but the training she was putting herself through just might save someone else one day.

You never know what will happen next, after all. For all I know, true love is waiting just beyond the bend. Forever this time.