Legal disclaimer: And all hail the mighty Saban who created the Rangers and enemies and thus gave us the inspiration for this world we made, which as you may have noticed isn't exactly 100% accurate to the actual events of the TV universe.

Cynthia's Author's Note: How the heck long HAVE we been working on this thing? I think close to a year now. ..sorry about all the delays, people, but first: this turned out to be about twice as long as we thought it was going to, and second, every time we turned around something got in the way of the writing, be it lack of time, lack of inspiration, computer error, the vagaries of life...but in the end, we triumphed, and now we present to you...this fanfic. Oh, and for those of you who think we're focusing too much on our original characters, relax. The next few fics belong to the standard Saban's....

Kahva's Author's note: First off, thank you to everyone who has been so supportive during this time, whether or not you realize just how much you've done for us. Cynthia has explained much of what has happened during the writing of this fic {does NOT want to relive the day when the whole file disappeared from the disk, nor the month of computer repairs!}, and a lot has happened. I won't get too long-winded here, but there have been computer problems, writer's block, a fic that took a life of its own, a job in the "real world" that was beginning to ruin my health and state of mind, then getting a new wonderful job in the land of Teletubbies and Mister Rogers.

Mainly though, for me personally, there has been the lost of my father after an extended illness last summer, two weeks before my birthday, two months before I got my new job, something I know he would have loved to see me get, he knew how much it meant to me. It has taken quite some time for writing to hold any joy for me personally, and I would not have been able to make it through this time without my Sisters, who I love so dearly. Thank you to my Sisters: Cynthia, Liz, Ivy, Kathy, Kelly, Jessie and Grace for helping me through one of the hardest times in my life, something that I don't know how I would have made it through without all of you. Your love gets me through every single day. Thank you to those who knew what was happening, your love and good wishes have meant more to me than you can ever know. And for those who have simply been there with a kind word and a laugh, not knowing what was going on, thank you. Those moments are treasures that I will always cherish.

And a special thanks for all of his love and support to our newest Sisterhood member, our Brother, Jeremy Ray Logsdon. You have also helped more than you'll ever know. .. and be glad you didn't bet money on an August release, bro. . . you'd have to pay up right about now if you had. :)

Quest for Truth
by: Cynthia and Kahva

Sheena wandered about Zimmer's home sadly, only half-interested in the fine furnishings which populated every room, the exquisite tapestries and paintings that adorned the walls. Her heart was in far too much pain to appreciate his mostly impeccable tastes. Why did they do this to me? I gave them my heart and soul, my very life, and this is how they repay me?! Somebody tell me why, please! There was an urge to call upon a higher power for guidance, something Sheena felt she had done before, but she couldn't remember who or what that power was supposed to be. What do I believe in, who do I believe in? Everything is so mixed up...

Then soft footfalls sounded behind her, and Sheena knew who she believed in, who she followed, and who she would give her entire being to, if asked. "Zimmer... Please hold me..."

With a possessive smile, the wizard silently complied. Staring off through a nearby window at the distant stars that marked the Milky Way Galaxy, he chuckled triumphantly to himself. I hope you did escape my little prison, Cranston... I want you to live out your life with your friends, knowing you will never know the sweetness of Sheena's love ever again. Then he cast his gaze upward, knowing that those who dwelled in the hereafter could be anywhere and everywhere, and could hear anyone they loved, cared about... or hated. I've won, Kahva Kilanye... I'VE WON!!!

* * *
"Guys, I'm fine, Zimmer didn't really hurt me or anything, honest!" Billy protested as Alpha and Adam scanned him carefully, while Tommy brought Zordon up to date on the day's events at the carnival. "Like Tommy said, we need to get to work, we've got to rescue Sheena!"

"Not until we're sure you're okay," Adam gently rebuked him, making the Sapphire Ranger stand still for a few moments longer. "Hey look, we're checking you out here in the main chamber, not the infirmary, and that's the only concession we're giving you, okay?" A forced, half-amused snort from Billy answered the Green Ranger, but he offered no more resistance as Adam and Alpha finished up their medical scans. "Okay, you've got a clean bill of health."

"I could've told you that, and have been trying to tell you that," Billy grumbled. His tone changed immediately to one full of worry as he made fleeting contact with Kahva's eyes before she hurriedly looked away from him. I wish I could take the past few hours away from her... Heck of a way to spend a birthday... "Kahva is the one who needs to be checked over," he finished softly. Both Rangers looked at their older friend, who had been standing just out of the Rangers' cluster; arms folded tightly, her hands and wrists hidden beneath them, hiding the bruises that Rocky had spotted earlier. They all had seen the small purplish spots after arriving back at the Power Chamber before she could hide them though. "My clone... attacked her." The others don't seem to know exactly what he did, and Kahva needs to be the one to tell them, not me... But if she doesn't tell them, I will. I swear Zimmer Delnas, whoever and whatever you are, you are going to pay dearly for what you've done today!

"He certainly did something to her," Adam stated, beginning to move towards her. "She's not been this quiet since she first arrived here in our dimension. Wait... how do you know what the clone did - never mind, you will explain that later. I'm going to check Kahva over." It took a bit of convincing from Adam, Alpha, then finally Tommy before Kahva would agree to be scanned. Even during the scan, she tried to hide the bruises without being obvious, but couldn't. When Jason asked her what the clone had done, she retreated further into herself, not saying a single word to anyone. Wordless nods or shakes of her head as Adam and Alpha asked her questions were the only responses anyone could extract from her.

What did that clone do to her? Tommy asked himself over and over again, examining her with a critical eye. Little things were catching his attention now, such as her shirt, pulled out instead of tucked in, and the bottom two buttons were unfastened. Dirt and grass stains covered her shirt and jeans, and her shoes were scuffed up, as if she'd taken a bad fall... or had been in a struggle. You should have noticed these things at the carnival, Tommy! You saw her dirty face, how scared she was, but you should have noticed these other clues there, not here! How slow can you be?! You should have seen this all before!! You should have seen it ALL!! "What did he do to her?" he muttered under his breath, not intending for anyone to hear him.

A soft step sounded behind him as his girlfriend came up behind him. "She's safe now, Tommy," Kat slipped her arms about his waist reassuringly. "And so is Billy. As for Sheena, we will find her, and then we'll all be together again, so quit blaming yourself, because I know that's exactly what you are doing right now." Moving to his side, but keeping an arm about his waist, the Australian beauty smiled a little. "Don't try to deny it, I know you too well, Tommy Oliver."

Tommy let out a small, quiet sigh of admittance, gently hugging his girlfriend. "Yes I am... because I should've taken Kahva more seriously to start out with today. Maybe it would've kept Sheena from leaving with Zimmer, maybe it wouldn't have, but I'm sure that at least whatever that clone of Billy did to Kahva wouldn't have happened. We could have prevented it." Adam and Alpha were treating Kahva's bruises at that point, and it was all the Red Zeo Ranger could do not to growl with anger as her short sleeves were pushed up, revealing even more small bruises, and now minor scrapes and a few tiny scratches. She'll be fine in a couple of days, the bruises will go away in a week or so, she's safe here. Minor injuries, all very minor. Any of us could've gotten them from falling in a game of basketball, they're all very minor... But what the heck did that clone do to her? What did he say to Sheena to prejudice her so against us? What has happened here?! "I could have prevented it. Why didn't I see this all before? Why didn't I listen to her earlier?!" Tommy hissed at himself under his breath, jaw tightly clenched. "I know I tend to be forgetful at times, but I would've thought that I'm not this dense!!"

A gentle nudge and a worried look from Kat made him realize he was literally shaking with rage, and it took several slow, deep breaths before he could calm himself enough to take charge of the situation. "Okay team, our leader has been kidnapped, though she seems to think that she's been driven away from us, by us, that we have betrayed her somehow. We've got to figure out what has happened here today, and where this Zimmer Delnas could have possibly taken her, so we can find her, and make her see the truth." Tommy wanted to ask Kahva to recount her day's experiences first, but she wasn't looking anyone in the eye. I won't put you through all that again, not just yet. But I'm going to have to at some point, I'm so sorry... "Billy? Everything that happened today seems to have started in the Hall of Mirrors, tell us what happened to you starting from when you, Sheena and Kahva first went in there."

"Actually," Billy started, "from the way Zimmer gloated over me, it sounds like this may have started from the point where he first met Sheena a year ago. Today was just the climax." The Sapphire Ranger then launched into a careful account of what had happened to him, and what he had seen. He almost told the others exactly what his clone had done to Kahva, and what he'd felt the clone would have done to Kahva if not for Zimmer's summons, but thought better of it. I heard that summons myself through my clone, and he didn't want to leave Kahva right then, he wanted keep going... The older girl was listening intently to him, he knew, but she still wouldn't look any of them directly in the eye. Or she can't just yet. I'll give her a little more time to tell everyone what my clone did on her own, but if she can't, or won't tell, I will. The truth of his assault on her can't be kept silent. A few minutes later and Billy had finished his side of the story. "I don't know anything else that Zimmer Delnas was doing today, I wish I did," he sighed.

Why haven't we heard of this guy Zimmer Delnas before as a potential threat, why was he after Sheena? Why did he do all of this to us, wouldn't it have been simpler for him to just grab Sheena? Why the big elaborate show, what are we missing here? Jason shook his head in disbelief as at Tommy's request, Billy detailed his imprisonment, and then the wizard's silencing of him before creating his magical clone. "You couldn't even talk in there? Oh man..."

"Not at all," Billy replied. "I don't know what he did to me, but every time I tried to say something to him, I couldn't... Wait a minute," he stopped himself, thinking back through the day's events. "Whenever Delnas, Zimmer, whatever his name really is, wasn't in that place with me, I could talk. I don't think I imagined myself yelling at my clone when he was with you guys, or calling out to Sheena..." His voice trailed off painfully then, as the memory of Sheena teleporting away with Zimmer replayed vividly in his mind. It was all he could do not to cry when both Kat and Tanya hugged him, trying to comfort him. Sheena, why? What hold does he have on you? I love you, please believe that, wherever you are, please believe that!

"Then whatever he did to you only worked when he was near you?" Tommy asked gently, a faint trace of eagerness in his voice. Then maybe, just maybe... At Billy's nod, Tommy turned to face Zordon. "Could that mean Zimmer isn't as strong a wizard as Vile, Zedd or Rita?" he asked hopefully. "If so, then maybe if he's put a spell on Sheena, we can break it without too much trouble?" The long silence from their mentor quashed all of Tommy's hopes more utterly than any flat negative answer ever could.


"But they are permanent, aren't they?" Rocky interrupted, not wanting to believe that the Rangers might be facing someone stronger than the wizards they had fought before. "How powerful can this guy be, if his collapsed once he left with Sheena?"


I won't give up, there has to be some way to get my wife back from that slime! Billy took a deep breath, then strode over to the scanning consoles. "Then the first thing we have to nail down is just what kind of power this guy has; if he was using all magic, or some other kind of power - or even if he was using someone else's power."

"Whoa, wait a minute," Adam interrupted. "You don't think he could have been working with Vile or Mondo or someone else, do you?"

"I don't know, Adam... That's what we have to find out," the Sapphire Ranger answered without looking up from the scanning controls. "We have to know exactly who we are dealing with before we can save Sheena." The next several minutes went by with a maddening silence broken only by the soft beeps and chirps of the computers in the main chamber. No one could bring themselves to voice their shared fear: Zimmer Delnas was more powerful than any wizard they had ever faced, and he had their friend and leader at his mercy. Unable to stand it any longer, Tommy teleported out abruptly, without a single word to anyone. Only the sensors picking him up walking about the park, conducting his own search in the area they had seen Sheena and Zimmer come from kept the others from immediately bringing him back. The fact that no Cogs or any other threat was showing up on those same sensor sweeps was the only thing that kept them all from teleporting out to where he was. "Find something we can use, Tommy..." Billy whispered hopefully to the viewing screen, keeping anxious hands on the teleportation controls if any danger should appear before his friend. He had lost his wife that day, he was not going to lose anyone else! "Please find something that will bring my wife back," he breathed softly, watching Tommy go deeper and deeper into the forest.

"Please come back to me Tommy," Kat whispered, moving to stand beside Billy, watching her love intently. If anything dared to come within a mile of him that might hurt him, she fully intended to teleport out and rip the threat apart with her bare hands. "What's he doing?" she asked Billy as Tommy suddenly knelt down, picking at something in the grass.

"I don't know - wait, he's coming back." A flash of red, first on the viewing screen, then in the main chamber a half-second later signaled Tommy's return. Before anyone could ask him what, if anything he'd found, Tommy pressed something into Billy's hands.

"That's all I could find... They're all broken, three of them had been lit..." Tommy paused for a moment, then finished quietly, "They were all in a circle, at the cardinal points... Sheena must have been casting her circle so she could think, but something stopped her. The fourth candle was crushed and unlit, as if it had been stepped on. I'm willing to bet Zimmer interrupted her, he stepped on the candle and stopped her, maybe he even broke the others. Though I can't imagine Sheena letting him do that. I'm sorry Billy. I wish I could have found something more... hopeful." Tommy sighed deeply, moving to take Kat into his arms. "If only she'd been able to cast her circle... She's always said it helps her, that it shelters her from evil and lies..." he muttered softly, hugging Kat close to him.

Billy nodded in wordless thanks, clutching the broken candles tightly in his hands, refusing to let the tears that threatened to spill out of his eyes fall. Sheena... What did he do to you? I love you, please believe that, please! Wherever you are, please know deep within your heart that I truly love you, and always will! Oh Sheena...


"Wait a minute," Kahva softly broke in, speaking for the first time since they had all returned to the Power Chamber. The sudden sound of her quiet voice made nearly all of the Rangers jump with startlement. "Zordon, did you just say threads of energy?"

YES KAHVA, WHY DO YOU ASK? Instead of answering him however, Kahva moved to Alpha's side at the sensor controls, asking him to overlay a visual representation of the energy threads over surprisingly limited surveillance video of the carnival. KAHVA? Zordon asked again as the threads were now shown floating through the park as the young people had been enjoying themselves earlier in the day. At Kahva's urging, Alpha skipped forward in the records, showing the moments before Sheena, Billy and Kahva had reached the Funhouse. Billy gasped and Tommy uttered a low growl as the combined readings showed where the threads had fallen. THE THREADS SEEM TO BE WRAPPING AROUND SHEENA, RANGERS. BASED ON WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THIS SCENE TOOK PLACE, IT SEEMS LIKELY THE OTHER THREADS THAT FLOATED AROUND THE CARNIVAL AND THE WOODS WERE ALSO DIRECTED AT THE SILVER RANGER. KAHVA? IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO COMPARE THE RECORDS THIS WAY, BUT WHY DID YOU ASK ALPHA TO COMBINE THE SENSOR LOGS LIKE THIS? WHAT MADE YOU -

"It's pure fascination... Zimmer's got her bound up in a fascination trance, that has to be it," she whispered breathlessly, interrupting the great mentor. Looking up at him apologetically, she explained, "It was the only possible thing that was starting to make any kind of sense, but I had to be sure first, though."

"Wait a minute here... a 'fascination trance'? What is that supposed to be?" Billy broke in, a trace of disbelief coloring his tone. He had expected some kind of explanation of what Zimmer had done to come from Zordon, or maybe from Ninjor, if they were to call on him... but not from Kahva.

If his doubt bothered her, Kahva gave no sign of it, her realization bringing its own excitement and confidence. "A fascination trance is a spell that is woven very carefully, thread by thread, forming a 'net' around the victim, for lack of a better term. With each thread, the victim's responses are dulled ever so slightly, and gradually their perceptions are not are sharp as they normally would or should be. They can't tell that they are in any danger at all, and in latter stages of the spell, even scoff at any suggestion of the notion. As the 'net' gets larger, grows, then tightens around the victim, they are unable to disbelieve anything that the caster tells them," she explained quickly.

"In other words, Zimmer could tell her the sky is polka-dotted and she'd believe him?" Tommy asked in a worried, but skeptical tone. There I go again, doubting her when what she's saying feels right and true. Why do I doubt her, why can't I wholeheartedly believe her? We've heard and seen strange things from Vile, Zedd and Rita before, so why can't I believe Kahva in this strangeness now? I know I don't want to believe anything's really and truly so wrong, but... Tommy shivered suddenly as he found the answer within. We can't believe her... We've lost the ability to believe her somehow, at least the ability to trust in what she's saying that we used to have. Are we all enspelled? Dear God, if he's really done that, if Zimmer can pull off this kind of magic, what are we going to do to stop him? How do we stop him... Can we stop him?

"Basically yes," Kahva replied, deliberately ignoring Tommy's doubting tone and beginning to pace a little. "The base thread takes no real magical preparation at all to cast, just physical contact, and the skill and desire to do it. With constant physical contact, a fascination trance can be completed in two to three weeks, from what I know about it."

"Kahva... How do you know all this?" Jason asked lightly, not doubting her in the least. What Kahva was saying was making a kind of sense of sorts; it did seem to fit the facts as they knew them. It's the only answer we've got to work with. Why haven't we heard about Zimmer before? Why?!

"Just because I believe in God, not Sheena's Goddess Isis, doesn't mean that I haven't read about Sheena's religion, or magic and spells and other stuff!" Kahva snapped back. Their earlier doubting of her still hurt very deeply. Now Tommy's unconvinced tone, with Jason's question, though not a doubting one, had brought the hurt back full force. At the Gold Ranger's alarmed reaction, Kahva immediately apologized. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to jump on you like that Jason. You are right to ask how I know." Kahva took a deep breath to settle her nerves, then continued, "I read a lot, and there are very few limits I've placed on what I will read. Sheena always says it's one of the reasons I 'speak Billy' so well, I'm very well read," she replied, forcing a dry, humorless laugh. "Getting back to the point, Zimmer obviously hasn't had constant physical contact with Sheena, so he's had to do this from a distance, it's the only way left to him. Otherwise, someone would've noticed what was going on long before now and could've gotten Sheena to use her Silver Flame, or cast her circle to try and break it. Zimmer wouldn't want to risk that... Based on what Zimmer boasted to Billy, and from what Sheena has told me about Master Madas, he may would have sensed a base thread for a fascination trance, so Zimmer most likely cast it just before she left Eltar.

"She did say that someone wished her well and safe journey when she got back to Ladiska, but she couldn't remember who, that it was probably a Power Ranger fan. She did remember he had cold hands, though," Adam recalled. "Zimmer, maybe? I don't remember if she ever said a name."

Kahva nodded her head eagerly, convinced she was right far beyond a shadow of a doubt now. "That has to be when he did it. If he has a scrying crystal, and I'd be very surprised if he doesn't, then he could just tell it to find her and show her to him. After the first thread, the base, is cast, all he needs is line of sight to continue weaving the 'net'."

Billy nodded a little, a memory flashing before his eyes. "I think he does have one. At least, I saw him with a crystal, one not much bigger than mine or Sheena's." Billy moved closer to Kahva, there was still something that didn't make sense to him. "But why come here, Kahva? Why not finish the 'net' as you call it, from a distance, and when it was finished, simply command her to come to him?"

Kahva winced ever so slightly in seeming pain before she answered the Sapphire Ranger. "Because... because there must be two points of physical contact for a fascination trance to work. The beginning thread, and the ending thread." Kahva began to pace more rapidly now, her steps agitated. "At the end of a fascination trance, in the last day or two, there has to be physical contact, to prepare for the final thread. The caster has to be absolutely sure that the 'net' is tight before the last physical contact that casts the final thread. Casting the final thread takes a lot out of the caster, they'll be out of it for a few days."

"Could we try to rescue Sheena then, Kahva?" Tanya asked gently. The more Kahva had explained about the trance, the more she had been able to push her own doubts about what the older girl was telling them aside. "If he's not up to full strength, wouldn't we have better odds of rescuing her then? We could worry about breaking the spell on her later... right?"

A sad shake of her head was the answer. "I wish. Let me finish, please," Kahva begged. "You all have to understand the trance if we're going to have a snowball's chance in Hades of saving Sheena." The young woman took a deep breath, gathering her wits and nerve about her like a shield. Billy is going to absolutely hate me for this... "If the 'net' isn't secure, there's the chance the victim may be able to break free, no matter how unlikely that slim chance is. Zimmer can't take any chances, however, with Sheena. He can't risk Sheena breaking free of the fascination trance at a later time, not if he wants to keep her with him, as he seems to want to do. I think... or rather hope, based on what's happened today, that he's had to speed up his timetable. And I think I know why." Kahva indicated the Red Ranger then. "Tommy found Sheena's candles in the woods, broken, three had been lit. We know that when Sheena goes off to be alone, she's going to find a place to cast her circle and center herself. Zimmer may not have known what she was doing exactly, but he may have felt a barrier beginning to form between him and her. If Sheena had completed it, I don't think he could've crossed the circle."

Tommy nodded, "Sheena told us after a fight she had with Mondo shortly after she joined us that she didn't think he could cross it. That's how it appeared to her, anyway. So if Mondo couldn't cross it, and let's say Zimmer couldn't either... Maybe, just maybe, the circle might have broken the fascination trance, or weakened it?" he guessed.

"That's my guess," Kahva agreed, nervously shifting from one foot to the other. "Look, maybe Zimmer hadn't even planned on taking a day or two to get Sheena used to him being around before kidnapping her, maybe he had, but whatever his plan, the point is moot right now. Sheena's had the strength of will to try and cast her circle once, who's to say she won't try again? She always casts it when she's troubled. As far as she's concerned, she's been betrayed by her team, her friends... and her husband. I know Sheena, she will try to cast her circle again, unless Zimmer has her mind clouded up enough that she can't think to do it. Either way, he's not got the day or two he may have planned on to set up the final contact."

Billy shivered, rubbing away at the goosebumps springing up on his arms. I'm not sure what's scaring me more, what Kahva's telling us, or the way she's acting. Billy had found himself studying the girl's movements, watching as her pacing had grown agitated, nearly frantic and panicked, but still somehow keeping herself under a steely control, being as clear as possible, as if to make sure they all understood the importance of her words. Why do I feel like my world is about to end? he wondered as the older girl continued her explanation-theory.

"So I'm willing to bet that he's casting the last threads as fast as he can, so he can make the final contact and close the 'net' on her before she might possibly get the urge to cast her circle again... for once the final thread is woven, the fascination trance can never be broken. She'll be his forever. But with the last threads being so hurriedly woven, that part of the net won't be as strong," Kahva finished up in a rush. "It might be just enough for us to break it somehow. But we've got to do it before he... makes the final physical contact and casts the last thread." Kahva's voice had fallen eerily soft then, and her store of self-confidence and courage that had helped her to talk in front of all of them so empassionedly seemed to flee her abruptly.

It was Billy who finally pulled up the courage to ask the question that was left. "Kahva, what aren't you telling us? What do you not want to tell me?" Billy placed a hand on either of the brunette's shoulders, determined to have his answer. "She's my wife, tell me, please," he begged softly.

He is going to hate me forever... "B-Billy, the final contact has to be a... personal one. The closest way you can ever touch another living, loving being. At that point, she'll be his forever, mind, body, soul, heart... we'll never get her back. Sheena will never know that it's a spell, she'll think that it's all been her decision to make." Avoiding his gaze, she finished quietly. "We have to show her that it's all lies and illusions somehow, before that happens. We have to show her the truth, get her to see it for herself... Or we'll never get her back, ever." Kahva didn't, and couldn't look at Billy's face to see his reaction to her revelation, the not-quite bruising grip he had on her shoulders screamed out his understanding all too clearly.

"Kahva, you had better tell me you're joking," Billy growled softly. "I'll believe that he can cast threads of some wild magic on my wife, make her not believe any of us, only him... But I'll never believe that she'd go that far with him willingly!" At her silence, Billy's demand changed to an angry plea. "Tell me you're making a very bad joke! Please!" Kahva shook her head sadly, which only seemed to make Billy angrier. He released her finally, muttering dire threats under his breath at Zimmer, stalking over to the scanners red-faced, fists tightly clenched. At the light touch of her concerned hand upon his shoulder, his rage exploded. "Don't touch me!" he snapped, his anger flying out at the bearer of bad news.

The sight of Kahva's pale face, the trembling of her shoulders silenced the Sapphire Ranger immediately. The fear building in her eyes of him, one she considered near-brother and friend shamed him as she somehow found the strength to talk to him calmly, gently. "Billy, she's your wife, and she's my soul-sister. We have to find a way to make her see that Zimmer's fed her all lies and illusions somehow. We have to do that." Her voice cracking at last, she turned away from him then. "Zimmer is not going to get away with this," she promised softly.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have yelled at you," Billy apologized gently, reaching out a remorseful hand to her. "Zimmer is the one who did this, not you. You're just the one who had to tell me, I'm sorry, Kahva. Please forgive me?" he begged softly. After what seemed like an eternity, Kahva turned back to him, accepting his hand, then gentle hug of apology with a faint, but forced smile.


"Yes, the caster wants the will of the victim to be theirs for all time," came the nearly whispered, slightly shaky reply. Billy's outburst had frightened Kahva badly, though she was fighting herself not to show to the others just how seriously it had scared her. Billy's face twisted in pain at her answer, shamed further of the way he'd reacted to her bad news.


The Rangers glanced at each other a bit nervously, then up at Zordon. His voice had grown soft and extremely worried, a tone they had rarely heard from their mentor. Tommy found himself remembering the last time Zordon had sounded this worried: when Sheena had been under Mondo's evil hold, serving him as his ultimate warrior. Now this Zimmer wants to control her, he already has a hold over her. What happens if we're too late, and if he orders her to attack? If Kahva's right, and Zimmer casts that last thread, we won't be able to break his hold on her... I'll have to destroy my own cousin... NO! I won't think like that! The terrible dread and urgency tightly gripped all their hearts, as each of them fought down the fear of not knowing what to do to save their leader and friend, but knowing they had to do something, and fast. Billy was the first person to speak, forcing himself not to think of the horrible consequences of what Kahva had just told him, of all the myriad of things Zimmer could be doing to Sheena right now. The Sapphire Ranger's fists balled up tightly in steely determination as he spoke.

"The Crystal of Truth is our goal, then. How do we get it, Zordon? How do we save my wife?"

* * *
Zimmer stroked Sheena's long hair delicately, glad she was leaning against him and couldn't see the wicked delight in his eyes. It wouldn't be too long before she was his completely and forever, and not even those silly Rangers would be able to stop his plans. As if they could even find me. But they're too busy weeping and wailing over their loss of their leader, and trying to figure out what I've done. Ha!! By the time they do figure it all out, IF they ever do, there won't be anything they can do to stop me... because I'll have my long-sought bride at last!!

"Zimmer." The cold, evil wizard looked down into his prize's tired eyes and brushed a loose strand of hair away from her face almost absently. "T... this is a beautiful home you have here." She seemed to be groping for words to say, out of politeness and a desperate need to talk to someone who hadn't betrayed her more than anything else.

"Thank you," he smiled softly and tenderly at her. "My family has lived on and ruled over this planet for an extremely long time, and the people here love us," he lied smoothly. They'll love you too."

One eyebrow raised, as her mind caught on a word he'd spoken. "Ruled?"

He nodded. "Yes, I am a king here," he smiled briefly. "And before you ask why I didn't tell you before... Sheena, I wanted us to become friends without you knowing anything about who I really am. Also, I don't consider being king all that important. It's just a job I have," he shrugged, hiding his pleasure at her enspelled attention, "an ordinary job that has been passed down in my family for many generations. I much prefer wandering around the universe and meeting beautiful maidens such as yourself, though you are truly the fairest of them all, my dearest one."

Sheena blushed deeply at the compliment, shaking her head. "I'm certain you've seen much better looking women than I in the past, and I'm not a maiden. I'm a married woman... at least, I was..." Darkness filled her eyes as she remembered the pain of her betrayal, of the many treacheries bestowed upon her by those she had called friend and beloved. The darkness was followed by tears, until Zimmer slowly wiped them away.

"Please don't think about that," he whispered to her, taking her hand. "Come, let me show you my palace. It's a magnificent place, and I'm certain you'll love it. Don't think about your past anymore, it's over with, Sheena. Think about your future, our future, together forever."

To someone gifted with the ability to see magic, they would have seen several threads of magic extending from Zimmer, slowly wrapping themselves securely around Sheena, interwoven, locked together firmly about their prey. As they settled into place, the enspelled Ranger's shoulders fell just the tiniest bit, but it was enough for the wizard to know he had won again. "Yes, I want to see this palace of yours, Zimmer." Her voice sounded totally normal, not touched by magic in the slightest bit, but around her there was one of the tightest webs of magic in existence, continuously bending her mind and will to the thin man's dark desires. "If I'm going to stay here, I want to learn everything about it."

The wizard's lips thinned briefly as he smiled. "Come, then," he invited her, gesturing to the hallway they stood in. He had been gazing out over his royal city while Sheena had been coming to the decision she truly believed was her own. His personal bodyguards, constant companions except when he ordered them otherwise, fell into place behind the couple. "This is the royal palace; my home, and now yours as well, my lady."

"Sheena," she said firmly, touching his hand with hers. "I've told you that before, Zimmer. Just Sheena. We're friends, best friends, you don't have to treat me so formally. You've helped me more than anyone else ever has, and stuck by me no matter what. Call me by my name. Please."

He repeated it softly, barely holding back the dark pleasure that wanted so badly to flood into his voice. "Very well," he laughed gently, taking her hand. "It shall be Sheena then, always Sheena, my dearest one." Zimmer cast a veiled dark look at his bodyguards, a warning glare they knew all too well. "This is now your home as well, Sheena, and the servants here will treat you as they do me, or better." Or else!! he sent to them harshly.

The two bodyguards exchanged silent glances behind the couple as they wandered through the hallways. In all their years of service, never before had they seen their master so happy, or so nervous at the same time. Automatically knowing better than to dare speak a single word, they remained silent, hoping that whatever was making him nervous passed most swiftly.

Zimmer was not one who was known for his even temper.

* * *
Sheena's mind and few independent thoughts had almost completely shut down as Zimmer guided her through the palace, showing her sites of exquisite, if unusual, beauty and incredible wonder such as she had never thought existed before. As the colors, smells and sounds surrounded her, carrying her along as surely as Zimmer himself, the only thing she could solidly think about was how wonderful his palace was, and how supportive and friendly her companion was. I would never have imagined he was a king here... Since the only things she could think about were those which didn't hurt her, which all that was left of those painless thoughts was Zimmer, she continued to think solely of him, and of his wonderful care and kindness. He was her trusted friend from another world... No, it is my world now, she corrected herself automatically. I'm staying here. I don't have anything to go back to. My husband has betrayed me with my best friend, my soul-sister!! Willing herself not to cry, Sheena dove into the comfort of the one thought that eased her pain. Zimmer is my best friend, my only true friend, the words whispered in her mind over and over. He's the only one who hasn't ever hurt me, she remembered. He'll never hurt me... always be beside me, always love me...

She glanced over to him as they wandered through a wide, fragrant garden, and smiled softly. "You have such a lovely home, Zimmer," she said quietly. He seemed to blush a trifle as he touched her hand tenderly in silent thanks. The blush seemed to travel to her own cheeks at the contact, and she turned her attention to the exotic flowers and extravagant bushes all around them. Tears filled her eyes suddenly at the sight of a rosebush. White roses... No... White roses...

"Sheena? My sweet Sheena, what's wrong, you're crying!"

Zimmer sounds so concerned over me, how can I ever doubt his dedication to me? He truly is the only one who really ever cared... loved... loves me. She slowly wiped her tears away, accepting the silken handkerchief he offered her. "Those roses," she whispered. "I carried roses like that at my weddings. White roses... my favorite flowers. I'm sorry, I'm being silly, they're just flowers."

Her eyes widened suddenly as he reached out and plucked one from the bush, twining it into her hair so that the sweet fragrance easily reached her nose, encircling her with its wonderful scent. "Forget those painful, cold memories of that deceitful fool and all those traitors you've left behind, my dear one," he murmured. "I give you this rose, my lovely Sheena, in token of all I hope we shall have together, for all eternity, if you will only accept my love." And obey my every command, as you so blindly do right now!

She touched the petals of it gently, smiling and blushing at his attentions to her. "Thank you," she whispered, the memories of all she had gone through before leaving Earth with her wonderful true friend fading away at this reminder of his caring for her. Slowly, she reached out and took his hand, squeezing it with just the tiniest bit of care and compassion. "Thank you for everything, Zimmer."

As they walked through the garden, hand in hand and followed in solemn silence by the ubiquitous bodyguards, Sheena did not notice the rose bush Zimmer had taken the flower from wilting, then crumbling silently into dust from the wizard's lethal touch.

* * *

"Keeper?" Kat looked concerned. "Who is this Keeper?"


Rocky frowned deeply. "So other people have tried then? Zordon, how do we know they didn't succeed? What if your fears are true, and someone's stolen it long ago?"

"Yeah," Adam nodded. "Someone else could have the Crystal and we wouldn't know until we got through the trials, and by that time it could be too late to save Sheena!"


Everyone paled a little at that thought, and Billy went beyond pale as his fists clenched. He calmed himself as quickly as he could, invoking the ki-see mental rituals Sheena had taught him. We're coming, Sheena. Just don't let him touch you, please don't let him touch you. Keep your slimy mitts off her, Zimmer, Delnas, or whatever you want to call yourself. I really don't care. Just don't touch her!! Don't you dare lay a hand on my wife!! He looked up at Zordon again, then back to the others. "We have to go for it," he said softly. I have to go for it, I can't ask the rest of you to take this risk -"

"As if we'll let you go by yourself?" Tanya snorted, moving to take Billy's hands. "We're all going for this, we are not going to let him keep her! We're a team, and she's our leader and friend, so we're all going. Right, guys?"

Tommy agreed at once. "It's the only chance we've got to get Sheena back." His eyes flicked around to each of the Rangers, receiving nods of firm assent in return. When he got to Kahva, he took a deep breath, knowing she wasn't going to like what he was about to say. This isn't something for a non-Ranger to endure. From the sounds of it, we may not make it at all. But we have to try...

"I'm going with you," the older young woman asserted before he could try to speak. "Sheena is my soul-sister and my best friend, so you are not doing this without me." Her voice invited neither protest nor debate, completely flat with an unshakable determination. "I'm going."

Every word of protest that Tommy might have attempted died on his lips at the burning look in Kahva's eyes. It was a look he knew well, for it had been mirrored on his own face moments before when he feared Billy might insist no one help him in the quest. He took a deep breath, and nodded in resignation, hoping he wasn't allowing another friend to come to possible harm. "All right," was all he said in answer to her however, as he turned back to face Zordon. "How do we get there and what do we do when we get there?"


Sighing, Tommy nodded, glancing around at the team. "I'm sure that this is going take a while guys, right now I'd bet on it. I think we should all go home quickly and make some sort of excuse to our parents and anybody else we have to as fast as we can. The sooner we get started on this quest, the better." Tommy then made what sounded like to the others as a strange request: for all of them to be scanned for spells. The scans were quick and efficient, and though the readings for Tommy, Kat, Adam and Tanya were slightly off, Alpha could find no traces of spells upon any of them. When asked for a reason for the scans, all Tommy did was shrug his shoulders and say, "Just taking precautions. Let's go people," he quietly urged. "If Kahva's right, we don't have a lot of time here."

In various colored streams of light, the Rangers who had families to deal with teleported out, until only Kahva and Billy were left in the Power Chamber with Alpha and Zordon. The young shifter wasn't looking at him, being more intent on studying what looked to be the tips of her fingers, the ceiling, the floor... anything and everything but the Sapphire Ranger. Billy paced briefly, helping Alpha get the coordinates together for the planet where the Crystal was kept, once the anxious little robot had found the correct galaxy. Kahva simply sat there on the main chamber's floor; whatever she was thinking a mystery behind her shuttered eyes. Billy wanted for all the world to put his arms around her shoulders as he normally would, tell her that everything was going to be all right. Thanks to that evil clone, I can't. And from the way she's acting, I don't think any of the others can do it either, not now. In my case, maybe not ever again. But I've got to try and put things right, I've got to...

"Kahva?" The brunette jumped a little when Billy softly spoke her name, breaking the tense silence at last. "How are you feeling?" That had seemed to be a fairly safe thing for him to say, he had thought, until he saw the slight hint of fear and shock in her eyes. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare..."

His voice trailed off, not quite sure how to finish the sentence. She just nodded, not looking at him as she spoke. "We have to hurry, before Zimmer can put that... last thread into place." Her voice was tight as she spoke, remembering how he'd reacted when she had told him of it. "We just have to..."

Billy sighed, leaning against a console and taking several deep breaths, trying with all his might not to think about it too hard. "I know," was all he said, though. "I don't want to think about what could happen if we fail."

Neither of them said anything else for several minutes, though they both knew they were thinking about what had happened at the carnival, between her and his clone. I can't stand this just doing nothing, saying nothing!Billy moaned silently to himself. Maybe if I work on something. Tanya had given the Sapphire Ranger back his communicator soon after their arrival at the Power Chamber, so Billy decided to busy himself with patching it up. Fortunately, the pieces Kahva had found easily snapped back onto it, though they weren't really vital to the device's operation anyway. Well, that took all of thirty seconds. Maybe I should just dismantle the thing and put it together from scratch! he mentally growled. Go talk to her, for God's sake! Avoiding what happened isn't going to make anything better!

But even before he'd finished the thought, Kahva got up from the floor and moved almost woodenly down the hallway, heading for her quarters. Billy hesitated for a few seconds, then rushed after her, only to hear her door shut softly before he had even gotten close to it. Sounds floated out into the hallway, telling him that the young woman had gone into the small bathroom attached to her room, no doubt cleaning herself up and changing into clothes more suited for a trek through who knew what. Too slow, Billy, too slow!! the young man berated himself. Might as well take her lead, though, he decided, teleporting back to his own house to change as well.

Standing inside the house he had shared for so short a time with the woman whom he literally shared part of his soul, Billy Cranston, the Sapphire Ranger of Earth, had never felt so lost or lonely. Quietly, he sat down on Sheena's side of the bed, and picked up a picture she always kept on her nightstand. It was a dual frame, with one side holding a picture of the two of them on their wedding day, and the other graced with a photo of the entire Earth Power Ranger family: Alpha, Zordon, Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, Rocky, Adam, Aisha, Kat, Tanya, Kahva, Sheena, and himself. Even Tommy's brother David was in the picture, at Sheena's insistence. He smiled faintly, remembering how Kahva had protested firmly that she wasn't a Ranger or any other kind of superhero or skilled fighter like David, of no blood relation to anyone there, and really shouldn't be in the picture. Sheena had told her bluntly it was a family picture, and her soul-sister was going to be in it if she had to tie her down and sit on her!

Tears fell onto the picture as Billy stared at it, then slowly touched the wedding picture. His voice was harsh and firm as he spoke. "I will get you back, Sheena. I will free you from that monster. Wherever you are, whatever he's done to you, is doing to you, or is going to do to you, I hope that you remember somehow that I will always love you. That I will love you forever."

He stretched his mental link to Sheena to the very limit, trying to connect to her mind, only to find she was completely cut off from him. Billy could actually feel the net, now that he knew what to try and break through. But the web of lies and magic Zimmer had spun around his beloved was too tight and strong for him to tear apart. Billy dropped his head, tears flowing freely down his cheeks. "I will get you back," he whispered through his hoarse sobs. "I swear by all that's holy, I will get you back!"

* * *
Far from Earth where the Power Rangers and their friends worried, far from where Zimmer gloated and prepared and where Sheena walked in unthinking misery, the Keeper of the Crystal of Truth sat gazing into that which she cared for, a soft and mysterious smile curving on her face.

"So you have tried your tricks at last, old wizard," she chuckled. "And now those destined come for that which is theirs, prepare themselves for the trials they know nothing of. So it has ever been, so shall it ever be. I can only hope they pass the trials, for the sake of all that is."

She leaned back into her stone and earthen chair, then smiled again. "Good luck, my young warriors."

* * *
"You don't look as if you feel well, Sheena," Zimmer said carefully, looking at her with concern in his eyes. They had wandered throughout the palace and city for many hours. But now, Sheena looked as if she were ready to collapse right where she was standing.

She closed her eyes for a moment, putting a hand out to steady herself. "I... I'm all right," she whispered, not wanting to give in to the terrible exhaustion that was threatening to overwhelm her. I don't want to dream, she thought. If I dream... I'll see them again... and... She shivered, and Zimmer wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"You're tired," he whispered softly, turning her so that they were returning to the palace. "You need to rest. You have to sleep."

Sheena couldn't hear the magic in his voice, but as the words sank into her mind, she could hardly keep her eyes open for another second. "Yes," she whispered weakly. "I think I should rest. Do you have some place where I could lay down for a while?"

Zimmer only smiled and guided her to a bedroom she couldn't remember seeing on their tour earlier, one decorated in soft shades of red and silver. Situated on a small dais was a wide bed, covered in what looked to be pure silken sheets. Sheena barely noticed the look Zimmer cast around the room quickly as they entered and he guided her over to the bed, so tired and worn out was she, that she wavered badly if left to walk alone. He gently let her sit down, and smiled tenderly as she yawned.

"I'm sorry," she quickly apologized for practically opening her mouth in his face as she yawned, and he simply smiled at her again. "I really am tired, I'm so sorry Zimmer."

"I can see that," he said as she began to lean back onto the bed, "but you have nothing to be sorry for. You need to rest." He gently pulled the blankets over her, quite literally tucking her in as gently as if she were a baby. "Sleep now, Sheena. You've had a long day. Sleep, and forget your pain. Forget your betrayers."

He could just barely keep himself from laughing as Sheena slipped deeper and deeper, not just into the ensorcelled sleep he had not really needed to cast on her, but also into the web of magic wrapped tightly around her. So far, this has been well worth the waiting! Of course, once she's mine, talking to her will be like talking to my own reflection, since every thought she has will stem from a desire to make me happy. Oh, well. Conversation isn't exactly what I want her for anyway.

Zimmer leaned over her quietly and placed his lips against hers once he was certain she would not awaken. "Sleep well, my lovely Queen," he whispered. "For soon you will be mine... forever."

* * *
It was perhaps an hour or so later after they had originally left when the Rangers all returned to the Power Chamber, each outfitted as lightly, but as thoroughly, as they could be, since they had no idea of what they might have to face once they got to the Keeper's world. Billy was hurrying over to Alpha and the teleportation controls as fast as he could after he returned.

"Is everyone ready?" the Sapphire Ranger asked, all traces of the storm of weeping he had survived gone now. Receiving empathetic nods from all around the room, he glanced up at Zordon. "Let's hope this works."

GOOD LUCK, RANGERS, Zordon said. BEFORE YOU GO, YOU MUST - Before he could say anything else, Billy was hitting the teleportation controls. The small group shivered away into their usual columns of light, starting to rise out of the Power Chamber, when they suddenly collapsed back down into their solid states, spread about the room like fallen dominoes.

"What happened?!" Jason groaned. "If Mondo's got our teleportation blocked, I'm going to hurt him! Badly!!"

Billy was already checking for just that, rubbing a bruise he had acquired in the fall. "Nothing's being blocked," he reported moments later, confusion in his tone. "I don't get it!"

"That is because you aren't thinking clearly, nor being polite. But I can forgive that, under these circumstances, William Cranston, Sapphire Power Ranger of Earth, husband of Sheena Devereaux Cranston, Silver Power Ranger of Earth, leader of the Power Rangers of Earth."

Everyone went stiff at the soft, female voice that floated throughout the Power Chamber, hardly daring to breathe. Kahva frowned slightly. Where have I heard that voice before? It seems... familiar, somehow. Finally, like all of them, she simply listened.

"Rangers, I am the Keeper of the Crystal of Truth, and though I know the urgency of your quest, there are rules to this that must be followed. Your leader, Zordon, was about to tell you about those rules when you attempted teleportation, William. Still your rage, Sapphire Ranger." Everyone looked to see Billy's mouth was wide open as if he were about to protest against the delay. "First, you must summon allies to defend Earth, should it need to be protected, for I shall choose from all of those who know of your secret to determine who comes upon this quest. Only a few shall be called, and those who are chosen, and do have them, must leave all weapons behind, as well as any transformation tools they do so possess. Only your own wits, strength, intelligence and learned or natural born skills may gain you the right to ask for the Crystal, should it be your destinies to gain it for the freeing of your leader. I, and your quest, await you. Your time is short."

The voice then faded away, and everyone found themselves staring at each other in shock, then grudging acceptance. "I don't think we have a lot of choices," Tommy said quietly. "All right then... who should we call?"

"The Aquitian Rangers, and the Treys," Jason responded. "Maybe call in your brother too, Tommy? The Keeper said she would choose from everyone who knows about us, and he certainly does."

"What about the former Rangers, and Prince Dex, the Masked Rider?" Kat suggested. "Do you think she'd pick any of them?"

"Don't forget that 'all' the Keeper referred to includes my mother, as well as Ninjor and Master Madas, plus Telvok and Alacor," Billy reminded them. "Not to mention the others back in Sheena and Kahva's old dimension. Where are we supposed to draw the line? The Keeper also said that our time is short." Billy's voice was perfectly calm, but his anxiety was betrayed by his nervous shifting from one foot to the other, and the slight tremble of his hands. Tanya put a gentle hand upon his shoulder, which after a few seconds seemed to help him settle down slightly.

Rocky shrugged. "Let's just start with getting the ones we can get in contact with easily in here. As for the ones past the Aquitian Rangers and the Treys, I don't think we need to call them in. They've got their own things to be doing, and it would be very suspicious for that many people to suddenly take off so unexpectedly. I don't think she'd pick them anyway." Not that I wouldn't mind seeing Kim... and the others again myself.

Adam clapped a hand on Rocky's shoulder, smiling a little. "And who says you can only think of food, food, and more food. You're right, Rocko. Hopefully, we'll have all the people we need for the Keeper to choose from once the Aquitian Rangers and the Treys get here."

"Who knows," Tanya added, "if the Keeper can't find all the ones she needs here in the Power Chamber, she might just pull them in herself. Somehow, I think she has the power to do that. She did keep us from teleporting, after all." Tanya smiled and gave Billy a reassuring hug. "Look at it this way - if she can block teleportation that easily, then maybe the Crystal is still there, and safe. I don't think she'd bother to select people for a quest for the Crystal if it wasn't there anymore. We've still got a chance of saving Sheena."

"As long as this isn't her idea of a cruel joke," Billy muttered. Finally though, he nodded in agreement, for Tanya's logic was sound, and could not be easily argued with. "Let's get everybody in here, fast. My wife needs us."

No one noticed Kahva hanging to the side and out of the way as they made preparations to call in their friends from quite literally all over the cosmos. Please don't let her say I can't go, I have to go! This is all my fault somehow, I should've made the others believe me earlier. If I had, Sheena would be here with us right now, not with this Zimmer character! She'd be away from him, he wouldn't be in position to cast the last thread, and we could be trying to break the fascination trance right now! Or at least convincing Sheena to cast her circle. Please God, don't let the Keeper leave me out, please don't let her leave me out of this. Though she probably will, everyone else is far more qualified for this quest than I am, I'm sure. After what felt like an eternity, the Aquitian Rangers and the Treys were in the Power Chamber after a mere five minutes, and were quickly brought up to speed on the situation. Tommy slipped out somewhere along the line and came back with his brother David soon after. As everyone was told of Sheena's kidnapping, and the quest and the Keeper's instructions, Kahva silently moved over to Alpha. "Alpha? Can I ask you a question? A couple of them, actually."

"Ay-yi-yi, Kahva!" Alpha squeaked. "You snuck up on me!" In the next moment the excitable little robot was his normal fretful self. "Ask away, Kahva!"

"Umm... Alpha, why is there so little video of us at the carnival today? I thought the scanners always tracked us." Kahva bit her lip, hoping that she wasn't somehow breaking any rules, or insulting Alpha or Zordon somehow... and fearful of what the answer might be.

"Zordon decided long ago that when things are reasonably quiet, the scanners would not listen in on or visually record the Rangers constantly, as a courtesy to them. Zordon doesn't want anyone to feel like he's prying into their private lives, after all. That's the same reason he doesn't constantly record video in the Power Chamber either, or the Command Center before it. Nothing is recorded in the private quarters at all, unless a specific request is made to do so. It would be invasive. But our scanners are always on the lookout for unusual energy readings that could mean trouble." Alpha shrugged his shoulders sadly. "Until today, it's a system that has worked pretty well."

"It's not your fault or Zordon's that you didn't have the cameras on us all of the time, Alpha. Umm..." she started again nervously. "You - you didn't see much of the clone with me, I guess, then?" Kahva hoped that Alpha couldn't detect the slight hopefulness in her tone. I can't deal with the others maybe seeing that at some point, I can't! They'll think I'm weak and stupid... And I am, I should've known better than to believe that was Billy, no matter how much he seemed to be him, I should've been stronger. I should've fought harder, did something different... He was a creation, not a real person, I must have done something to make him target me. It's all my fault, and I can't bear for the others to see just how stupid I really am! They'll never trust me again, they probably don't trust me much now... If they did, they would've believed me sooner.

Alpha's answer was not exactly what she wanted to hear, however. "We might, but right now I don't think we do. Kahva, if we had seen the clone threatening you, we would've brought you back at once! I'm so sorry we didn't, can you ever forgive me?"

"Alpha, there's nothing to forgive!" Kahva softly exclaimed in surprise. "Nothing that happened today is your fault, nothing at all!" How can he blame himself? He didn't do a thing wrong, neither he or Zordon did anything wrong! I'm the one who screwed everything up somehow. After this quest, I'm going to pull away from the Rangers more when there's trouble, I'm just getting in the way. "Alpha, no one is blaming you or Zordon at all, you didn't do anything wrong. I should've tried harder to make the others believe me, that's all." Before the little robot could tell her differently, Kahva rushed out one more question under her breath. "Do you think the Keeper will let me go on the quest?"

"I don't know, Kahva. The Keepers of the past have always had free rein in their decisions. Whoever she chooses, and how many she chooses... There's no way to know for certain." Alpha watched his master's part-daughter walk away with a silent nod and slight smile of thanks, then turned back to his scans of the day's events at the carnival. How do I make her feel better? I'm not sure, but I think she's blaming herself for everything. Why didn't the Rangers believe her though, if she was telling them something wasn't right? They've listened to her before... Could that be why Tommy asked for the scans, to make sure they weren't under some kind of spell? My scans don't show any though, so why didn't the others believe her at the carnival? Why did they all seem so skeptical about what Kahva was telling them in here until Zordon spoke up? The sound of the Keeper's voice interrupted the thoughts and words of human, humanoid and robot alike as it crept back into the Power Chamber.

"You have chosen wisely and well, Power Rangers of Earth. Though there are others with equal right to be here, to bring them here at this moment would create alarm and difficulties that would be hard for them to explain." Everyone suddenly felt as if eyes were looking at, through, and in them all at once. "Everyone must lay aside all weapons and transformation tools before the choosing."

One by one, everyone laid all weapons and morphers into a neat pile in the center of the chamber. Jason called forth his Power staff and added it to the pile, then Billy brought his crystal out from inside his body, carefully laying it in the pile along with Sheena's. David had carried a small pocketknife with him that wouldn't have been of much use as a weapon, but he added it to the pile as well. Kahva was the last to come forward with her quarterstaff, recently repaired from where it had been damaged while they had been dealing with Sheena's dangerous sleepwalking episodes. "Kahva Briton and David Trueheart, you two may take back your weapons, for you two are not Power Rangers. The rules were designed long ago to prevent warriors with magical powers and magical weapons from circumventing the rules of the quest. You two are exempt from the rule of magical weaponry."

Silence reigned as neither David or Kahva would take back the pocketknife or quarterstaff. "Very well then. You both are noble and brave, and much stronger than you think. Look within yourselves, and you will find the strength you need for not only this quest, but throughout your lives as you meet the challenges of living in the light of right and good. Everyone here needs to do the same, for when magical powers and weapons fail, the heart that is armored in love and good cannot, and shall not be vanquished, not ever. Love is truly the greatest gift, and power, that will ever exist. Without it, no other power can ever hope to work, or stay on the course of good." There was a brief pause, then, "The selection shall begin in one minute. Once complete, the questors will be instructed."

Silence once again filled the chamber as everyone looked at each other nervously, wondering who would be chosen for the quest. David broke the stillness first. "I don't think I'm going to be chosen. I feel my place is here, until whoever goes gets back. I feel I should stay in the Power Chamber - though I'm not exactly sure why." He shrugged his shoulders and smiled a little. "I guess my Dad is rubbing off on me more and more. I'm sounding about as mysterious as he usually does."

"That you are," was all that Tommy could say before he vanished from sight.

"Tommy!! What happened to Tommy?!" Kat yelled in panic before she too vanished.

"What is going on?!" Adam demanded, trying to stay calm.

RANGERS, DAVID, TREYS, KAHVA... THE SELECTION HAS BEGUN. PLEASE DO NOT BE ALARMED, THE KEEPER WILL NOT HARM ANYONE WHO IS CHOSEN. PLEASE REMAIN CALM, came the soothing, deep voice of Zordon. Everyone looked about nervously as they tried to calm themselves from their collective shock.

"She certainly doesn't waste time. I wonder who's next?" Jason managed to get out before both he and Rocky disappeared. Tanya and Adam followed soon after, vanishing before either could comment on the selections prior to their own.

Several moments passed by without anyone else being chosen. "No... Don't leave me out of this, please! She's my wife, please don't leave me out of this!" Billy called out to wherever the Keeper might be. "Please!!" But he received no answer, and no one else disappeared. "Noooo..."

"Billy," Kahva softly put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. "I think we can trust her to choose who should go... though I want to go just as badly as you. But she's not said she's finished, so don't give up, please." Then Kahva looked up to the ceiling, not knowing if the Keeper could hear her, or would even listen to her, "Please, Keeper... I don't know why you haven't chosen Billy, unless you are trying to decide between him and somebody else maybe, but please let him go. You know Sheena is his wife, you've said so yourself. Sheena is also his life mate and soul mate. Please don't leave him out of this quest, please?" Kahva was afraid she had offended the Keeper somehow after two more agonizingly long minutes passed in painful silence. "I'm sorry Billy, I've made her mad or something, I'm -"

"Two more have been chosen, two who call the Silver Ranger family, and who truly are family," came the Keeper's voice at last. "My choices have been made." With that, Billy disappeared instantly, leaving Kahva, David, the Treys and the Aquitian Rangers alone in the Power Chamber with Alpha and Zordon.

"Be careful, David. And be strong on the Quest, Sheena needs all of you."

"Me? Kahva, what makes you so sure this Keeper has picked me?" David asked her in surprise. He had already started to move over to Alpha to see if there was anything he could do to help the little robot.

"You heard the Keeper: 'two more have been chosen, who truly are family'. Billy is Sheena's husband, you're her cousin by blood, however distant."

"But you're her soul-sister though, Kahva. I can't think of anyone who better qualifies as true family than you," David protested.

"The Keeper will soon show who she has picked, my friends," Trey of Wisdom came to the pair, laying his hands on their shoulders. "We must trust in her choice."

"Yes, we must trust that she has chosen the ones who can pass the trials and claim the Crystal of Truth," Delphine, the White Aquitian Ranger added. "Though I must admit, and I think I speak for everyone here... We all want to go. Sheena is a fellow warrior of the power, and a dear friend." Everyone nodded in agreement, then fell completely still and quiet as a light seemed to engulf both David and Kahva, then quickly began to shrink to surround only one of them. A second light formed in the ceiling, coalescing into a roughly human form.

"It is time to join the quest for the Crystal of Truth," came the Keeper's voice from the second light. "For those who are left behind, keep the Earth safe, be vigilant, for I sense King Mondo has detected the energies of those who have left, and you who have arrived. Should he realize the Earth Power Rangers have left the planet, he will attack. If he attacks, he must not be allowed to succeed." Then the second light floated down to David and Kahva, making it difficult to tell just which one of them had been finally picked by the first light.

"Please find the Crystal so Sheena can be saved," Kahva softly begged David, barely able to make out his form in all the light around them. She felt his hand start to touch hers... then felt nothing at all.

The last words of the Keeper rang gently throughout the Power Chamber as the lights blinked out as quickly as they had appeared. "The quest begins..."

* * *
Zimmer roamed about his throne room, pacing stiffly, snapping at his servants, growling at his ever-present bodyguards. Something's not right, I can feel it... But Sheena is here with me where she belongs, and my magic cannot detect the Rangers coming here. Sheena is completely mine... So what is wrong?! Arrgh!! What is it?! "Leave me alone! NOW!!" he commanded. His bodyguards and servants immediately scurried out of the throne room, all knowing better than to question their lord's orders. The bodyguards locked the massive double doors of the throne room and took their places outside. No one would be allowed to interrupt their master.

"I need answers... But from who?" Zimmer wondered aloud to the empty room. "Who?!" A large ornate wooden candelabra standing by his throne caught his attention then, and since it was getting dark, Zimmer waved a hand to light the many candles it held. He was not in the mood for the electrical lights in the room to turn on just then. "Who?" he muttered to himself under his breath over and over again as he gazed into the flame of the largest candle, centered in the candelabra. Zimmer let his mind drift into the hypnotic dance of the flame, falling into the rhythm and heat, his senses becoming one with the fire as together they grew higher, brighter, hotter... Then he let his mind float out of the flame, becoming one with the mildly stinging smoke that leapt from the flame tip, then curled lazily into the room. "Smoke..." Zimmer muttered softly, entranced now by the fragile, thin, grey path the candle-smoke traced in the air, rising, thinning more and more, until it vanished completely, never to return. "Smoke... That's it! That is who I need." Zimmer smiled a cruel smile, laughed, then quickly teleported himself with his magic back down to Earth, back to the very spot where his evil clone had collapsed into smoke. "There should still be the slightest hint..." Carefully sniffing, following a conjured scent only he could detect, Zimmer slowly rose higher and higher, floating high above the ground until he spotted the last minuscule particles of the magical smoke that had once been his evil clone. "There you are, my servant... what is left of you, anyway. Just barely enough of you left... Come," he commanded the smoke, magically drawing it into a small vial he always kept in his pocket, just in case he needed it for samples from nature - or victims. "You have not quite completed your service to me."

* * *
"Klank!! Have you nailed down those energy readings yet? KLANK!!!" the Machine King bellowed impatiently down the hallways of the SkyBase, as he lumbered with much clanking and groaning of gears and strained metal joints. Stupid can of bolts, not answering me when I call on the intercom, now I'm having to go to HIM for my answers?! If he doesn't have a good reason for not answering me, I'll turn him into metal filings and put his circuits into a trash compactor!! "KLANK!!!"

"Hmm? Oh!! Your Majesty, I dinna hear you call on the intercom if you tried to summon me," Klank lied as his master burst into the lab. How am I supposed to get anything done with him yelling at me all the time? I can't work with all of his constant racket! Rita Repulsa is quieter than him!!

"Then turn your intercom up louder! When I call you, I expect you to answer me at once! Do you understand?!"

"Yes, sire," Klank sighed with a tired metallic creak. "How may I help you, sire?"

That question was greeted with a powerful swipe across the face that propelled Klank all the way across the lab, sending him crashing to the floor. "How do you think?! I want to know what those energy readings you detected are!!" Mondo heaved his great bulk across the lab and yanked his majordomo back to his feet. "What do those readings coming to and from Earth mean? Has something been brought there, or sent away? Why was there interference with your scans? What do the readings mean, what are they?!"

Klank gulped nervously; were he human, his palms would be sweating. "I - I don't know yet sire. But I am working on it!"

Mondo growled, and knocked Klank across the room again. "You had better find out what those readings mean, or else!" he warned before storming out of the lab. "If the Rangers are planning something, I want to know about it!"

"Y-yes, sire," Klank groaned, carefully picking himself up off of the floor, his gears and joints grinding together noisily as he made his way back to the sensors. He couldn't deny that his master was right about one thing: if the Rangers were up to something, then they needed to know, and fast.

* * *
It took nearly an hour and then some, but at last, Zimmer had carefully recreated his clone of Billy from the scant traces of smoke he had recovered from the sky thousands of feet above the woods on Earth. "How do you feel, my servant?"

"Ticked off, that's how I feel, what do you think?! I couldn't take the Crystal!!"

"Well, I see you have your memories still intact, my servant," Zimmer emphasized the word. He stared at his clone, unblinking, until the double of Billy Cranston finally cowed a bit. "I know how disappointed you must have been when you couldn't take the Silver Crystal," he purred. "It must have been so heart-breaking to know that you couldn't stay real. I'm truly sorry, I didn't know that you wouldn't be able to touch the crystal," the wizard lied.

"Yeah, right, I can hear you crying now. If you're wondering, I didn't let on to anything before I went 'poof', I just shrugged my shoulders and ceased to exist quietly. The Rangers don't know anything about what you or I have done, at least not from me," the impostor growled. When Zimmer only stared at him silently in reply, he could barely control his anger at his creator. "What do you want, master?" the clone spat out in disgust. "Surely there's some reason you brought me back into existence. Are you finally going to let me get my hands on that girl for good this time? I want her Zimmer, I want her... Do I get her for good this time?"

"Perhaps," Zimmer nodded to the clone. "If you can help me with one last thing concerning the Silver Ranger."

"Perhaps? Perhaps?! I may have been created for the first time in the past few hours, but I'm no fool! You gave me the ability to tap into that wimp's genius mind, after all. No, master, you won't get any help from me this time. If I can't stay real so I can take that girl for my own purposes, then no deals!"

"If you don't help me, then I'll do away with you right now, my clone."

The fake Billy opened his mouth to protest, but found that he couldn't argue with that fact. Until he could somehow gain his freedom, he belonged to Zimmer, and Zimmer could get rid of him at any point and time. I've gotten rather used to existing, how do I keep this to my advantage? Then the clone smiled, his immorally gained intelligence allowing him to see a possible Achilles heel in his master. "You won't get rid of me... not yet, at least. You need me."

Zimmer growled ever so softly at that, his clone was starting to get on his few remaining nerves. That the clone was speaking the truth irritated him ever more. "Why should I need a being I created out of smoke and nothingness? A being who owes his every breath to me?"

The clone gave an exaggerated bow of false acquiescence to his master, "And I am so grateful for those breaths of life, my master. But why else would you bother to recreate me, with all that I know and learned on Earth intact? Surely you need me for something that only I can give you, or else I wouldn't be here." The clone sauntered over to the raised dais where Zimmer's throne rested and hopped onto it, sitting with one foot on the floor, and the other in the air as he arrogantly swung his leg over the armrest. "Get rid of me now, and whatever you need me for, whatever problem has come up, could come back to haunt you. If it hasn't already..."

"What do you want then, clone?" Zimmer rumbled softly, a dangerous color in his tone.

That was too easy... But it's my only shot at living, and getting my hands on that Kahva Briton again. I want to terrify her so much, own her, kept her as my captive for all time, MAKE her love me, fear me, obey me... I've got to take this chance, it's the only one I'm going to get! "It's simple, really. I want to live - on Earth. I think you can guess why." The false Billy stared at his master, waiting for his answer.

Zimmer smiled thinly, shaking his head. "Out of the question. You cannot live on Earth."

"Then there's no deal!!"

"Hear me out, my servant," Zimmer calmly said, holding up a hand to still the clone's shouts. "I said you cannot live on Earth. There is a reason for that. Earth has very little magic, almost none. If I make you real, you will need to live on a planet that has magic, so that you can stay real." The evil wizard chuckled a bit, "Any one of the worlds I rule should suffice. But don't worry, I'll let you go to Earth long enough to kidnap that irritating child. There's something about her... You can have her," he finished. "I'll be glad to know that she's out my way for good."

Kahva Briton scares him... Why? He doesn't even know her name, but she scares him. I wish that I could have tapped more of her background out of Cranston's mind, her background and Sheena's, he kept most of that from me somehow, I was only able to learn about the past year or two... It doesn't matter, once I have her as my captive, her past, no one's past, will mean anything - for she will be mine forever! But I don't, I can't trust Master Zimmer... ahh, that's it! he brightened up as he realized how guarantee his price for helping his creator. "I want it in writing, Zimmer. I want a contract. A magical one, that not even you can break," he added as Zimmer went to a nearby desk to pull out some paper. "And I want witnesses."

Zimmer growled and nearby ended the clone's existence right then, but instead bellowed out a call to his bodyguards to have a few prisoners brought up from his dungeons. The wizard was pleased to hear them report that there were none, all those who had been held there had died in the past month from either starvation, or torture... or both. "My bodyguards shall be your witnesses then. Agreed?"

"I don't care who the witnesses are, just as long as the contract is magical."

"It shall be done then." Zimmer quickly conjured up a magical scroll, with the terms of the contract burned into the paper with his own blood. "I'd ask for you to sign the contract with your blood, but yours isn't true yet, so I suppose ink will have to do," he told the fake Billy, handing him a magical quill. The clone quickly glanced over the contract, then eagerly signed it. Zimmer smiled, then signed his own name in an elegant scrawl, making the contract binding for both parties. "It is done, you have a contract."

The clone smiled, then gave his master another exaggerated bow. "How may I serve you, oh great evil Master?"

Zimmer's voice dropped so low and cold that the flames on the candelabra actually froze from his evilness, then slowly fell to the floor, shattering like so much glass. "I want you to break my future wife's heart."

* * *

"Ay-yi-yi!! I'm not sure, Zordon! All scans of the planet are being blocked! I don't understand it, we were able to scan the planet before, though we couldn't find any signs of the Crystal, I don't know what is wrong, -"

"Calm yourself, Alpha-5," came the Keeper's voice unexpectedly. "I am the reason you cannot scan the planet. I do this for every quest, to keep the trials honest, and the questors safe from prying eyes. I must also tell you that I tried to keep the arrival of those gathered here, and the departure of the questors cloaked as well, but even now, King Mondo is scanning the Earth, trying to find out the meanings of the energy readings his servant Klank detected."

"Then he knows we are here?" Cestro asked. "Is he planning an attack?"

"He does not know yet, but my magic here will soon fade. At that point, it will be only a matter of time before he discovers the source of the readings, and their meaning. You must all be prepared to defend the Earth," she warned. Then the voice seemed to almost sit on Alpha's shoulder, growing concerned and even softer. "I am worried that there is something wrong with the questors, for I detect tiny slivers of magic clinging to some of them. Dark magic. Please try to find out what it may be. It is too late to stop the quest now, for your Silver Ranger is in great danger of losing herself to Zimmer Delnas forever. But you must try to find out where these whisper-like dark threads have come from. Once the quest is over, they must be removed from the affected questors."


"Once the questors are on the planet, they cannot leave until the trials are over, or unless they are grievously injured. Nor can anyone talk to them, or come to their aid. As Keeper, I can appear to them, watch over them, even answer a few questions as they pass their trials. But I cannot assist them in any other way, not even to try to remove the dark threads. If I do so, now that they are already on the planet and due to start their quest soon, it will violate the rules of the Quest. Once on the planet, each questor must face their trial as they are from the moment they step onto my planet's soil. Any alteration attempted will be seen as a possible attempt to skew the results of the trial, and most likely will destroy any hope of their attaining the Crystal. I am sorry, Zordon. I did not detect the dark threads until the questors arrived on my planet. Until the quest for the Crystal of Truth is over, there is nothing that can be done for them... except to pray for their success." The Keeper's voice rose above them all, fading away, "Take heart, chosen defenders, I will watch over them and care for their well-being as much as the rules of the Quest will allow. I have chosen these questors for good reason. Now it is up to you to keep faith in them, as they must keep faith and believe in themselves."

An eerie silence filled the main chamber as those who were left behind looked at each other, wondering just what the Keeper could mean. "Ay-yi-yi!!!" Alpha screamed suddenly, shuffling over as fast as possible to the records they had of the park. "She said threads, she said threads!!"

"What is wrong Alpha?" Aurico asked, surprised by the outburst, then by Cestro's sudden gasp and own running over to the consoles to help Alpha. "What are you -"

"The Keeper said 'dark threads', Aurico," Delphine said softly, as the full impact of the words hit her as well. "The spell on Sheena is woven of dark threads of magic. Dark threads that keep her from seeing the truth."

"Rangers!!!" Alpha screamed out, a few sparks flying from his neck now. "It happened at the carnival!! Some of them were surrounded by dark threads at the carnival!! The records show it!! Ay-yi-yi, that is why they didn't believe fully that something was wrong!! This is terrible!!" Alpha started shooting out more sparks then, and spewing traces of electrical smoke, anything else he might be trying to say garbled as his circuits overloaded with worry. Cestro quickly shut him down, then went for a repair kit as the others all worriedly discussed this turn of events.


* * *
Like twin shadows of darkest night and evil, Zimmer and the clone of Billy entered the chamber where Sheena lay still and silent in deep slumber. So exhausting had her day been, thanks to Zimmer, he knew she wouldn't have awakened at their entrance, even without the spelled sleep. He watched her hungrily for a few moments, anticipating what would happen once he had finished the fascination spell on her. And there will be no other for her but me, for all time. I will be her master, her lord, her love, her lover, and her husband until the very cosmos themselves vanish and are no more.

Quietly he reached out and stroked her cheek, wishing with all his soul he could continue, then complete the spell right here and now. I can't though. To do so this soon would ruin everything I've worked for since that first moment I saw you in the museum on Eltar. Even then I knew it was you, he thought. Your face and form are the perfect mirror image of your ancestor. Kahva escaped me, first with that Dalien, then with the Power Rangers, and finally with her death. But you shall not escape me, not ever. For all time you will be mine!

"If you could possibly drag your mind out of the gutter and back to business, master?" the cool, mocking voice of the clone interrupted his thoughts, and he glared at the fake. He kept forgetting that he had crafted the clone to consider Sheena one of the most despicable beings in creation, though he would never harm her physically. But emotionally and mentally are two things that are altogether different, however. I will tolerate him... for now.

Zimmer straightened up and smiled wickedly at the copy. "You are a fine one to speak of a 'gutter', Billy-clone," he said frostily. "But we'll settle your half of the bargain later. First, on to this."

He held his hand out to the clone, who took it somewhat reluctantly. It would require both of them to cast the spells that would do what he wanted done to her. A faint silvery glow coldly shone from where their hands met, then floated down to wrap itself around Sheena, insinuating its amoral essence into her mind. Zimmer couldn't contain the laughter he wanted to break into this time, but managed to keep it reduced to a simple chuckle. "Sleep well, my future wife," he purred, stroking her cheek again. "And dream of the horrible things that your friends are doing while you are gone, and all that they did to you while you were still with them. Dream of how much I love you, how I am your only friend, how even your husband and so-called sister betrayed you, with each other no less."

The evil sorcerer wished he could let his caresses go even farther, but that was not yet to be. He licked his lips a little, deciding to risk just one thing. He could almost sense his clone rolling his eyes as Zimmer leaned over and placed a long, soft kiss on Sheena's lips. The sleeping woman smiled very faintly as she turned over, and Zimmer longed for so much more... that I will have in time, he reminded himself harshly, taking the clone by his arm roughly and dragging him out of the chamber. With a simple gesture he locked it behind him, he didn't want anyone interfering in Sheena's dreams before he was ready.

"And now," the clone growled. "It is time for my part of the deal. Remember? I get the child."

Zimmer smiled thinly. "Not just yet. I want to be certain Sheena's heart is shattered beyond repair first. After all," his eyes narrowed and filled with a mocking laughter. "You wouldn't want me to interrupt your little sojourn with that girl, would you?"

The clone said nothing in response, his eyes flaring dark blue with rage. Zimmer only smiled, gesturing for the creation to precede him down the hallway, the bodyguards still following silently. The wizard chuckled mentally, well pleased so far with how his plans were proceeding. The fool has no conception of my true plans, and he never will. He was as easy to deceive as the fool I based him on! Ah, what a wonderful day this is...

* * *
Tommy caught his breath as he was suddenly transported from the Power Chamber to what looked to be the rocky shore of an island. He looked around, wondering if this was where he and whoever else was chosen would begin their quest for the Crystal of Truth. He had barely thought the question before there was a wash of pink light in front of him, and Kat appeared out of thin air, literally falling on top of him.

"Well, gorgeous," he grinned at her, letting himself forget for just a few moments as to why they were there. "Falling all over yourself for me?" Tommy couldn't help the teasing tone of his voice, despite the seriousness of the situation. There was just something about being this close to the woman he loved that brought out the romantic in him at the very worst times, it seemed. Or is it because this quest is starting to scare me before it even starts? Get a grip, Tommy Oliver, Kat should slap you for that comment!

"Funny, Tommy, very funny," she half-groaned, getting to her feet. "Where are we?"

"Looked like you were about thirty seconds to lip-lock to me," Rocky's dry voice caused them both to look up and see the Gold and Blue Zeo Rangers standing side by side next to each other. "I could be wrong, though."

Jason shook his head, a small half-smile crossing his face. "I doubt it," was all he managed to get out before Tanya appeared with a small 'pop' of dislocated air, and Adam came into existence right behind her, the two of them steadying each other almost automatically. The six of them looked at each other almost nervously as they formed a small, tight knot, looking around for whoever it was would be next.

Silence reigned for almost a full three minutes with no more arrivals. "She wouldn't... she couldn't have left Billy and Kahva out, would she?" Tanya asked. It would be a travesty of the very worst kind of Billy didn't come along, with the very fate of his wife's life at stake, and though none of them wanted Kahva to put herself in danger, they knew she deserved to go just as much as any of them did. "Could she?"

Then another 'pop' sounded, and there stood Billy, looking around rather wildly, then relaxing slowly once he saw where he was, and that he wasn't alone. "Thank you," he whispered softly, starting to walk over to them. "Hi, guys." His greeting was somewhat subdued, but still carried a little warmth.

"Hey," Jason nodded. No one said anything more. They didn't really seem to need to. Without knowing how, they knew there was still one more to come. They didn't know who it was, they just knew the choosing wasn't yet complete. They stood in an open ended circle, waiting patiently for that last one of their team. "I wonder who's next? There is going to be someone else, isn't there?"

"The Keeper said, "Two more have been chosen, two who call the Silver Ranger family, and who truly are family," then I was teleported right after that. So there should be someone else," Billy answered him.

"Then we're waiting for David, sounds like," Jason stated, disappointment coloring his tone. He blushed then, and looked at Tommy apologetically. "I'm sorry Tommy, I don't mean anything bad by that, but - "

"I know," Tommy replied. "I was hoping for Kahva to come too. Though I'll be glad to have David here, I think we were all hoping for Kahva to be included on this."

"Families aren't always born or formed from blood," Kat softly pointed out. Silence reigned as the questors waited for their last team member, whoever it was. At last, they were rewarded with a now-familiar soft 'pop' as the last of their team appeared with the same displacement of air as had announced their arrivals. Their teammate landed gently in their midst, with eyes as wide as saucers from the trip.

"Glad you're here," Tommy greeted their compatriot. "And I'm glad that you had a much better landing than I did," he chuckled softly.

Kat smiled broadly, "I knew the Keeper would pick you, after what Billy told us," she said, crossing over to the newcomer and drawing her into a warm hug. "You're the best one for this, Kahva."

Kahva bit her lip a little, not having had a chance to move away from Kat's impulsive gesture. Something about it gave her a little more courage, however, and she smiled a cautious smile, a smile tempered with the knowledge that they didn't have a lot of time. Before she could say anything, the Keeper's voice sounded, and she was distracted both by what it said, and that same nagging sense of familiarity she'd had before. Why can't I place that voice? Why did she choose me, David is Sheena's blood cousin, and a much better fighter and all-around athlete than I am. Why me?

"The Questors have been chosen. Rest for the night, and with the breaking of the dawn will come the beginning of your quest." Blankets and bedrolls appeared on the ground a few feet away, far out of reach of the incoming tide. "Sleep well tonight, and may all that is good guard your quest on the morrow, my young warriors."

* * *

"Guys? Guys, where are you? I'm back, there's been some sort of misunderstanding, we have to talk. Guys?" Sheena's voice echoed eerily down the dark, empty hallways of the Power Chamber. "Where is everybody?!" she called out again. If there was an attack going on, then she needed to reclaim her Silver Crystal, they needed to defeat the menace, then talk out everything that had happened that day. "What's that?" she wondered softly to herself as voices drifted towards her, drawing her to the main chamber. "Billy? Kahva? Guys? Are you in there?" Sheena crossed the entrance into the main chamber, then froze in horror and pain. "No... It can't be!"


"Thank you, father," came the soft reply. "I only hope I can take the power now, that Sheena's holding of them hasn't tainted them somehow." Carefully, the dark-haired beauty took the crystal offered to her by Billy, then stood in the midst of the Power Rangers. "Here goes nothing."

"NO!! You can't take them, you aren't a Power Ranger, you can't possibly want this!" Sheena screamed, but no one heard her. Against all that she knew to be true about who could hold a power crystal, there stood her best friend and soul-sister, holding that which should be passing through her hands. The Silver Power Crystal. Sheena's Silver Power Crystal. "She's - she can't be meant to be a Ranger, Zordon would've said something before now, she can't possibly hold the Silver Power, can she?" Sheena muttered to herself in disbelief. "This can't be happening! Kahva, don't!! Please!!"

There were exuberant cheers in the Power Chamber, cheers of joy and relief as Kahva Briton held the Silver Crystal over her head and shouted out words that cut Sheena to the quick. "Silver Ranger Power!" With a brilliant flash, she morphed into the Silver Ranger, standing just as tall and proud as Sheena ever had. Billy grabbed her tightly in his arms and embraced her, a joy on his face that Sheena had only ever seen turned towards herself before.

"I KNEW you could take her powers, I knew it!" he grinned as Kahva removed the helmet and waved to them all. Everyone seemed incredibly happy over this new Ranger, far happier than they'd been when Sheena had arrived there the first time.

Kahva's lips thinned briefly in something that sort of vaguely resembled a smile. "Of course I can. After all, didn't the blood tests show that I'm the TRUE last descendent of Kahva Kilanye?" It wasn't a question, but a statement of fact as she turned back to look at their mentor, her near-father.


Tanya shrugged. "Well, at least this way we know she's not going to be coming back to try and attack us. We're rid of her, and we've still got the Silver Power on our side. No more worries about a traitor in our midst. Sheena is finally gone from us."

"True," Tommy agreed. "And I'm glad you guys still want me as your leader. I knew I shouldn't have given my spot to her. She just couldn't take it," he shook his head. "I don't think I even want to consider her a relative anymore. Thank God she's from Kahva Kilanye's sister's line, and not Tilrak's after all, like Kahva is." Tommy laughed at the arched eyebrow the new Silver Ranger shot him. "Tilrak's line, and Elysia's, you're doubly over-qualified for the position," he proclaimed with a happy laugh, giving their newest Ranger a bow. "Unlike Sheena, who was obviously under-qualified. In fact, from now on, David and I will no longer consider her a relative, nor call her one."

Billy looked down at his left hand in disgust, and jerked the wedding ring Sheena had picked out for him with such care and love off, tossing it to the side as if it were a thing of foulness. "I know I won't, not anymore, not ever again. I can't believe I was actually married to her for over a year!!"

Kahva placed a loving hand on his shoulder as she powered down. "We don't have to worry about that anymore," she said, smiling sweetly. "All we have to worry about is each other, and making some real progress in defending this planet."

The Sapphire Ranger glanced around and nodded. "And you and I can have a real wedding," he wrapped an arm around Kahva, drawing her closer to him for a tender and loving kiss.

The other Rangers cheered them on as the kiss continued. "NO!!!" Sheena wished with all her soul in that moment that she could get her hands around both of their necks and just squeeze them so hard... But all she could do was stand there in the Power Chamber and stare at the people she had thought were her friends and family, who she had trusted in and given her trust to, only to have it broken beyond belief.

Kahva nodded happily as their kiss ended at last. "Yes, a beautiful church wedding," she smiled, starting to describe the sort of elaborate ceremony that Sheena knew Kahva had always thought was pretentious and pompous, not at all what her soul-sister had desired in the past for her dream wedding. Her own religious beliefs had led them to the much simpler ceremony that they had gone through, but it was obvious from the look on Billy's face that he much preferred what Kahva was planning.

"How could you turn like this? How could you possibly want such a monstrous, conceited affair? Kahva, how could you want or do this?!" Sheena screamed at them, rushing into their midst, but no one seemed to even notice she was there. "Why won't anyone listen to me?!"

"I love it, Kahva! So much nicer and so much more appropriate than the little farce I had with her," he half-growled out the final syllable. "I never was all that comfortable with her beliefs, you know. They just didn't seem... right."

Almost as if they were puppets on the same string, everyone else nodded in agreement with him. Sheena could feel her heart being crushed under the weight of their words, tears filling up her already tear-reddened eyes. "How could you?" she whispered hoarsely. "Why didn't you ever say anything? Why did you all pretend? Why?!"

She crumpled to the floor, not wanting to see the others as they gathered around to welcome Kahva as they had once welcomed her, as the new Silver Ranger and Billy's bride-to-be; in the background she could hear the Aquitian Rangers and Prince Dex, then the Treys from Triforia sending their own greetings and welcome to her.

"My dear Rangers," came another familiar voice, as two columns of light suddenly shimmered into the Power Chamber, then quickly faded away to reveal two old friends.

"Master Madas! Ninjor!" the young people all exclaimed happily, rushing to greet their wise old friends.

"Kahva, Billy," Master Madas spoke again, his voice warm and full of love. "Congratulations on finally finding each other, and finding the truth of your love. I knew it would only be a matter of time before your destinies brought you two together at last."

"Thank you, Master Madas," Kahva and Billy replied reverently.

"Yes, congratulations, my dear niece," Ninjor joined in. Several more agonizing moments passed by for Sheena as she watched the two wise old warriors continue to congratulate and wish Kahva and Billy well.

"Kahva, after you and Billy return from your honeymoon, would you like to come to Eltar and train in ki-see?" Master Madas asked. "I think you're a natural, and have the potential to be a ki-see master, perhaps one of the best."

"I would be honored, Master Madas!" Kahva exclaimed happily. "Do you really think I could become a ki-see master? Oh wow, if I could, then I could teach the others, and then our enemies wouldn't stand a chance!"

"Yes, I think you not only can become a master of ki-see, I know you will," Master Madas smiled. "Something that Sheena proved to be a great disappointment in." Frowning, the ki-see master continued, "I once thought that she had the potential to be a minor master of the art, but she failed at even that task. Anyone of you here could become a minor master, I can see now that all of you have more skill and intelligence that Sheena ever did."

"Master, no!! How can you say that?! Master Madas, don't you turn on me as well! Master, please!!" Sheena begged. But her pleas were all for naught as Master Madas asked one last thing of Kahva: the honor of giving her away at her wedding. Casach was then teleported to the Power Chamber from Eltar, and included once again as a ring-bearer. The big cat seemed even closer to Kahva than ever before, and even growled at very mention of Sheena's name. "Casach?" Sheena whispered brokenly. "Even you? Why can't anyone hear me, why do you all despise me so? Why?"

Then the scene shifted abruptly, and somehow, some way, they were in a grand cathedral, a place that Sheena didn't think even existed in Angel Grove, and everyone she had come to know in this world was gathered there to witness the marriage of Kahva to Billy. A breathtaking figure in white rustled softly by Sheena, walking with queen-like grace on the arm of Master Madas. "Elysia's wedding dress," Sheena mumbled to herself in a daze. "Kahva no, please don't do this to me, please... Please don't take him from me..."

Sheena helplessly watched the ceremony, a piece of her heart shattering with every loving look, every caress Billy's hands gave Kahva's. "I now pronounce you man and wife," the preacher exclaimed with pleasure. "William, you may now kiss your bride."

The cheers from the congregation were deafening and painful, cruel hammers that pounded away at Sheena's heart without any mercy. Tears spilled down her cheeks, as she cried out with all her heart and soul for someone, anyone, who wouldn't turn away from her, who would always stand by her as she stood by them, no matter what...

But there was no one who would even look at her... Then suddenly, Sheena felt eyes upon her, familiar eyes, and a familiar mind touching hers. "Kahva?" she sent brokenly, hoping for some assurance that this was all some horrible mistake. The former Silver Ranger hopefully lifted up her head to look at the one person she'd always sworn to love and protect, and give her life for, if need be. The one person who had sworn to be her friend and sister, for all eternity. "Kahva?"

Her soul-sister stared at the broken-hearted Sheena, her lovely dark brown eyes a cold, bottomless pitch black, her warm features now frigid, void of any compassion or empathy. She gave a slight smile, and sent back only two words to the one she had once called friend and soul-sister.

"I win."

* * *
In a dusty circle of broken stone and ancient magic, the Keeper stood before a small altar, barely four feet tall, rough-hewn from solid brownish red rock. She waved her hand over the indentation in the top of the altar, then slowly closed her eyes, letting her senses flow all around her, out to the clearing where the young Questors were arranging themselves for a night of what was sure to be fitful slumber. She smiled as her mind's eye saw the young men carefully place the young women between them, the Yellow Ranger between the Green and the Blue, the Pink between the Red and the Sapphire, and the eldest of their number, the non-Ranger between the Sapphire and the Gold. The Blue and Red Rangers were side by side, talking over the day's events, trying to guess what the dawn would hold for them, carefully watching as their companions drifted off one by one to sleep. The Red Ranger waited until the Blue Ranger had fallen asleep beside him before he would allow himself to close his eyes, but finally, all eight young people were asleep.

"Please rest well, my young warriors. You will need all your strength renewed and your minds not fogged by sleep if you are to succeed, and save your leader." The Keeper's spirit rose out of her body and floated down to the sleeping young people, trying to determine just which of them had been tainted by the threads of dark magic, and whether or not they would interfere with their chances in the trials. If only I could remove these threads myself. But even if I could, the rules of the Quest prohibit me from aiding these brave souls in any way but to care for their basic needs, and to take them to safety if seriously injured. At least the threads were slight, and not all of their number had been affected by them. The Red, Pink, Green and Yellow seemed to be the only ones that the threads clung to; the Sapphire, Blue and Gold were free of all traces of dark magic. But you, my dear troubled child. You have been harmed by the source of those foul threads - no, I sense he was a carrier, not the true source. He borrowed those threads from his master, and cast them as he saw fit. The spirit of the Keeper hovered over Kahva, tapped into her mind, and saw the terror she had endured that day. Poor child. You mustn't keep this inside, you must talk to your friends.

The spirit floated to Billy next, and saw in his mind what he had lived through, and had just barely escaped. Zimmer Delnas is even more twisted than my incantations had showed me. These young people simply must succeed, they must! But her heart fell as she continued to read their slumbering minds. They have all been so badly betrayed by that monstrous, vile wizard. and they are all blaming themselves so harshly for not seeing his treachery, when none of them are to blame at all! Great Light, I cannot aid these brave young warriors, please keep them safe! If they fail, I fear for what evil may befall their world, and also many, many others.

Then the Keeper tapped into the deepest reserves of her power, and sought out the one who the eight questors desired to free. Her spirit found the sad, now-former Silver Ranger deep in ensorcelled sleep, lying in no less than Zimmer's personal bedchambers. A soft moan, followed soon after by a despairing cry, told the spirit without any magic at all that the young woman was caught up in a nightmare. Searching deeper, using what energy she had left to spare, the Keeper discovered that the nightmare was not purely her own, but one conjured from her fears, and the twisted mind of Zimmer's depraved creation. Fight it Silver Ranger, fight against the magic that clouds your mind and will, fight it! Your friends love you, they have not betrayed you! But the magical web wound tightly around Sheena kept the Keeper's spirit from reaching her. Suddenly, the Keeper felt a link powering up between the dreaming captive and her soul-sister so very far away. Even the distance and the magic that separated them now had not quite yet completely severed their precious link and bond. Yes, find each other, know that your love is true, do not give in - No!! The backlash of their combined pain repelled the Keeper's spirit fiercely back into her own body, knocking her against the sacred altar.

"No!! They were so close." Quickly the Keeper reached for the pouch of magical dust she always kept attached to her waistband, and poured a small amount into the bowl-like indentation in the top of the altar. The dust shimmered in the moonlight, then transformed into a watery mirror, showing her both Sheena Devereaux and Kahva Briton as they slept, trapped in their hurtful dreams. Their link had flared up instinctively in their nightmares, each seeking out the other for aid - but their awful pain had repulsed each other, throwing them both helplessly back into their nightmares. The images then faded, and the Keeper sank to the ground, tired, saddened, and close to tears herself from the terrible things she'd seen. "Great Light and Good, have you forsaken these children? Why must they endure this torment? Why?!" she screamed, even as her powers told her the nightmares were beginning once again for Sheena and Kahva. "Why?!"

Instantly a rapid series of visions assaulted the Keeper, as she was shown the barest of glimpses into many possible futures, tiny shards of the what-may-be. The Keeper closed her eyes and whispered a prayer of safekeeping over and over again for the nine young troubled lives, desperately hoping for the sake of all that was good and right that some how, some way, the eight on her world would be able to pass the trials, then answer her questions correctly. If they cannot succeed. May all that is holy save us all from the darkness to come.

* * *
"Sheena!! Sheena, where are you, we have to talk! Billy is acting very strangely, we have to talk! Sheena! Answer me, please!" Odd, mocking echoes shouted back at the scared young woman, sneering at her fear. Goosebumps covered her arms as the feeling of eyes upon her, peering out of the shadows, watching her every move, her very breath, sent waves of terror shivering up and down her spine. "Sheena please, where are you, we have to talk, now!" Kahva's shouts continued to go answered as her nervous steps took her behind the Haunted House ride at the carnival. "Oh God no, not here, how did I get here again??" she gasped, as she realized she'd seen and been through this same scene all before. "I can't go through this again, I can't - I've got to get away, I can't let him find me here, I have to get away - "

"Get away from who? Me?"

"Sheena!! Oh, thank God you're here!!" Kahva cried out, rushing to pull her soul-sister into a fierce hug. "How did you get here, how did I get here - nevermind. Sheena, something strange is going on here, Billy has been acting weird. No, wait, he WAS acting weird, but it turned out to not be him at all, but a clone, and we've been trying to find you, the others said you left with Zimmer, how did you -"

"What ARE you babbling on about, Kahva?" came the cold voice of Sheena, as she shoved the elder girl away. "What clone, and who on Earth is Zimmer? Wait, you can't possibly be talking about that guy I met on Eltar, can you? Why on Earth would I go anywhere with him?"

"But the others said -"

"The others? The others?! They haven't said a thing, except to tell me the truth about you!"

"Sheena, listen to me, please!"

"Kahva, I don't have the time for your filthy lies, especially not after what you've done today, so shut up! Your voice has got to be the most disgusting sound in the universe, do you know that?" Sheena roughly shoved Kahva against the Haunted House ride and angrily slapped her face, hard enough to leave the print of her hand on her cheek. "I don't know why I ever thought I could trust you, husband-stealer!"

Kahva timidly rubbed her cheek, fighting back the hot tears of pain that threatened to spill from her eyes. "No!! I haven't stolen Billy, it's a clone, -"

"So now you're trying to say you're a clone-stealer? Give me a break, stupid girl!"

"No!! Sheena please, you have to listen to me, -" Kahva started fearfully, her voice quavering as she tried to reason with her best friend.

"I don't have to listen to ANYTHING!!" Sheena roared, clamping her powerful hands around Kahva's throat, slowly squeezing it more and more, until Kahva's vision started to blur from lack of air. "You're a liar, and a pathetic one at that. There is no clone, there never has been a clone! You stole Billy from me, you lured him away from me! YOU BETRAYED ME!!!" she screamed at her soul-sister, slamming Kahva's head against the wall of the Haunted House ride repeatedly until Kahva could no longer struggle against her soul-sister's rage.

Sheena hurled Kahva to the ground then, kicking at her. "You're nothing but a slut!! A stupid, pathetic, lying little slut! I hate you, Kahva, I HATE YOU!!! You are dead to me, do you hear?! You are DEAD!!!"

"Sheena, please!!" Kahva croaked, too hurt and dizzy to move. "Don't say that!!"

"If she's dead, then I suppose I go to the victor?" came another achingly familiar voice, one full of desire. "After all, I don't date husband-stealers."

"Mmm. Yes, Daniel. You're mine now," Sheena softly chuckled, her voice all sultry-soft and desirous now. "I always did think you were more handsome than Billy. Though I have to admit, he's still absolutely gorgeous, even if he has betrayed me with my so-called sister." Sheena gently pulled Daniel into a passionate kiss, every second of it shattering Kahva's very heart and soul. "Enjoying the view, slut?" Sheena laughed at the helpless girl, lying unmoving on the cold, hard ground. "Where, oh where is your hero Billy when you need him? Or maybe Jason, for that matter? Emily's been right the whole time, you've been trying to steal him too."

"But she hasn't succeeded, though. I love only Emily, I could never care about that traitorous soul-sister of yours," came Jason's voice then, as he appeared from out of nowhere, followed closely by the other Rangers, and David Trueheart.

"You make us sick!" Tommy exclaimed, walking right past her with the others, ignoring Kahva's plight and heading straight for Sheena. "Congratulations on finding a better man, Sheena. We all like Daniel, and you two should make a perfect couple."

"Slut," Kat and Tanya both hissed at Kahva as they passed her by to join Sheena.

"How could you?" David asked, as he joined the others. "We all trusted you! Sheena trusted you! How could you do this?!"

"Slither away like the evil snake you are!" Adam yelled as Rocky kicked her in the ribs, then the two of them joined their friends around Sheena and Daniel.

"NO!! I haven't done anything wrong, please listen to me!! It's a clone, he's not the real Billy, I didn't do ANYTHING!!! Please believe me!!" Kahva screamed, sobbing brokenly. "I didn't do anything wrong, it isn't my fault!! Somebody please listen to me!!" But even as she struggled to sit up, all of her friends walked off, laughing coldly at her.

Kahva buried her head in her arms, huddled on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. "Why me, why??" she moaned, wanting desperately for someone to listen to her, to at least consider that what she was saying was true.

A hand rested upon her shoulder suddenly, and a surprisingly gentle male voice floated down to her. "Poor little Kahva," Jason clucked with false sympathy. "You want someone to trust you, is that it?"

"Jason, please, you have to listen to me, I'm telling the truth!"

"That's what the traitors always say in the movies, isn't it? We're not stupid, little girl," Jason laughed as he ripped her communicator harshly from her wrist, then spit in her face. "Even Zordon, your own father, hates you, he's taken your abilities from you. What, don't believe me?" he sneered, even as Kahva tried to stop him from leaving. "Then just try to shift with your new boyfriend, slut."

"My what? Jason, don't leave me, I'm telling the truth! JASON!!" But the Gold Ranger was gone, and Kahva was utterly alone. save for one other.

"Finally," came the voice of Billy Cranston. "Finally, we get to have some privacy, my dear Kahva."

"Get away from me clone, stay away from me!" Kahva warned bravely, but her voice betrayed her fear. "You're not Billy, and you're not going to touch me again! Guys!! Help!!"

"They won't help you now," he laughed evilly. "No one helps a husband-stealer, Kahva. I'm not the clone, by the way, I'm the real Billy. and once I get through with you, you're going to wish that I WAS the clone."

"B-Billy? No, don't, stay away from me, you don't mean this, you're not Billy, you can't be!" Kahva somehow managed to scramble to her feet and tried to run, but Billy tackled her easily. "Let me go!! Let me go!!!"

"Why would I want to do that, when I've got you right where I want you?" Billy purred into her ear, his hot breath dancing over her skin. Deftly he tossed her onto her back and kneeled over her, pinning her to the ground securely. "Tell me something, since you think you're so smart, little girl," he growled into her lips, forcing a deep kiss. "Just where do you think that clone of mine got his inspiration?" Billy waited until Kahva's face went dead white with terrified realization. "You got it. And now." he laughed, pulling Kahva tightly to his body, trapping her arms to her sides cruelly, "you get to see what an original can do!!"

"No, let me go, you don't want to do this, Billy! Sheena!! Help me!! Please!!!" the captive young woman cried, her frantic struggles totally fruitless as Billy's arms crushed her, his very body her prison now. "Stop this!! Stop it!!! Let go of me!!!" The voices of the others assaulted her now, cheering Billy on, demeaning Kahva in every way possible. "STOP IT!!!"

But her captor's cruel laughter was the only response to her pleas, his hands seemingly everywhere all at once, her defenses shattered, leaving her truly helpless to stop him. and those she had called friends and sister wanted even more. "Don't do this to me, please!!! Please!!!" she begged as his assault increased, and her entire being was wracked with horrible pain. "Stop it!!!" she desperately pleaded one last time as he forced another painful, deep kiss.

Billy's voice cut through the chaos triumphantly, his evil whisper deafening her. "I win."


* * *

"Kahva, wake up!! KAHVA!!!" Jason shouted, shaking the screaming, sleeping Kahva. "You're dreaming, wake up!!"

"Kahva, wake up!" Billy pleaded. He'd awoken to her screams and discovered he'd placed his arm on her side in his sleep; he'd been dreaming about Sheena, reaching out for his wife. Oh no, he thought, as the awful, painful images from Kahva's nightmare slammed into his mind through their link. Please let her wake up, please! Billy gently pulled his dreaming friend up, holding her in his arms, trying to comfort and awaken the young woman. "Kahva, please wake up!"

"GET OFF OF ME, LET ME GO!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! STOP IT!!!!!!!!" she screamed, struggling violently in Billy's arms, waking up in an instant. "DON'T YOU TOUCH ME!!!!" she cried out, striking out wildly, blindly behind her, accidentally punching Billy in the face. "I WON'T LET YOU HAVE ME, BI-!!!" she screamed, turning to face him, then stopped herself as full awareness set in. "Oh no, no, no, no, no, nooooo.." she moaned, crying as she saw Billy holding a hand to his eye, looking at her in shock. "Nooooo."

"Kahva, it was an accident, you were dreaming -"

"DON'T TOUCH ME, LEAVE ME ALONE, PLEASE!!" the distraught young woman shouted, breaking from his hold and scrambling to her feet. She attempted to run away from him and the others, tripping over her own blanket in the process. "Please, no more, please." she sobbed, drawing herself up into a tight ball on the ground, even as Jason gathered her into his arms. "No more dreams, no more dreams."

The frightened young woman finally drifted back into a troubled sleep after several minutes of gentle rocking and whispered reassurances from Jason. "What did that. clone," he growled out softly, so as not to wake Kahva up, "do to her?!"

"He. attacked her," Billy breathed, his face just as pale as Kahva's, except for the slight redness from where she had accidentally punched him. Heaven help me, I want to tell them so bad, they need to know!! "Guys, she needs to be the one to tell you what happened, not me."

"Billy, what do you mean, if you know what happened, tell us, man!" Rocky urged.

"It's not that simple, is it?" Adam asked gently, knowing the troubled look in Billy's eyes all too well. "That clone." Adam couldn't bring himself to finish the statement. "He made sure you saw what he did all day long, didn't he? Everything?"

"Yes," Billy replied simply. "Guys, I'll make this promise to you all right now: if Kahva doesn't tell you on her own what happened when we get back home, I will. But she needs to be the one to tell you, she needs to talk it out."

"But we don't need to push her, either," Tommy warned gently. "She has to tell us when she's ready, or we might do more harm than good. Am I right?" One by one, all the others nodded in worried agreement. After a long silence, everyone slowly settled back down to try and return to sleep. Billy took both Jason's and Kahva's blankets and covered the pair with them, as no one wanted to risk waking Kahva up; she needed peaceful sleep too badly. At least as peaceful as her sleep can be, under the circumstances. "Billy?" Tommy whispered as the Sapphire Ranger laid back down finally. "That clone. did he?" I can't even say it!

"He didn't," Billy whispered softly, so that the others wouldn't hear. "But he came close. That's sorta what Kahva was dreaming about. I don't know how much you saw -" A shake of Tommy's head told him that the Red Ranger hadn't seen the nightmare images through his part of the link they had. "In the dream, none of you believed her in the least, including Sheena, and you all were. cheering me on, so to speak. The 'real' me."

Tommy shivered as his mind conjured up all sorts of images that Kahva could have been struggling with, pleading with, in her nightmare, realizing that anything he could think of probably paled in comparison to what she had actually experienced in her nightmare. "Billy? What do we do if she doesn't talk about it? What happens then?"

"I wish I knew, Tom."

* * *
Zimmer's eyes were just barely touched by the smile that creased his face as he and his recreated clone of Billy watched the images of Sheena's nightmare. Such lovely pain, such wonderful heartbreak! My clone has tapped her fears very well indeed. They couldn't actually hear anything, but they could see Sheena's sleeping reactions, and they could see the images of what she was dreaming. I wonder why I can't see the child clearly, though. My clone attacked her, wants to possess her, so he knows exactly what she looks like. She is a friend of Sheena's, surely my entranced bride-to-be knows what her own friends look like, so why can't I get a clear image of this irritating child? "Clone, why are the images of that child so blurry? Who is she, I want to know what she looks like."

Billy-clone raised an eyebrow at that question, his curiosity at his master's unease about the non-Power Ranger increasing even more. Why does she make him so nervous? My original had some memories about Kahva having some kind of minor abilities. I wish I could have pried more out of his mind! But if my Master is afraid of her. "I can only do so much, my Master," he purred out the title sarcastically. "After all, I'm only a clone, made to be just as evil and sinister as you - just without the wizardly side benefits. In other words, I don't have the magical power you do. If I did. Well then, you wouldn't be asking me that question, now would you?"

"Shut up, if you wish to live," Zimmer growled softly, his eyes once again locked on the magical viewscreen.

Billy-clone wasn't sure if it was deliberate magic, or just from the growl of his master, but for a few seconds he could feel his heart literally stop cold. He really is afraid of that weakling. Maybe once she's completely under my control, I can use her against him somehow. After all, my master has a lot of nice things, worlds under his thumb. I could get used to those things quite easily. Kahva is my trump card. Whatever it is about her that worries him so, is power for me! The clone smiled grimly as the viewscreen they were watching Sheena's dreams on went dark. Time to collect!! He turned to his master, raising one eyebrow in a hideous mockery of Billy's questioning gaze. "I believe her heart has been well and truly broken. She was doing everything but screaming in pain just now. Pay up, Master. I want my prize."

"Quite true, quite true, she was almost screaming in pain and heartbreak." I don't really want to hurt Sheena, at least not for the pain it will cause. I only want to hurt her to drive her even further from her friends and more towards me. If by some chance they actually do come to try and rescue her, I want to be certain she refuses them as fiercely as she did at the carnival! I want her to break their hearts, I want her to come to me and ignore them for all time! Zimmer was just briefly honest enough with himself to know that he would have preferred it if she had come to him of her own free will, but with her as his unknowing prisoner and prize, he didn't really care anymore. Sheena was his now; only one final step remained, and that step would be have to be taken with the most extreme delicacy and care. The more carefully I do it, the stronger the final result would be. A good portion of his self control went into keeping himself from licking his lips; he had no intentions of looking too eager in front of his recreated clone. It might be just a clone, a construction of smoke and magic, but it thinks it has the upper hand. I shall not disabuse it of that belief just yet.

Billy-clone rapidly tapped his foot with annoyance. "I've done my part of our agreement, Master," the word was heavily laced with contempt. "And now I believe that it's time for you to do your part. It's time for me to go to Earth and take possession of the child."

Zimmer smiled very frostily, and for some reason, even having the contract tight in his fist, the clone felt a shiver of fear. He can't break the contract, he reminded himself, daring to glare at the wizard. "What are you waiting for? Let's go!" A small movement from the shadows near the chamber door caught his eye then. What? I thought we were alone in here.

"Master Delnas," a servant timidly broke in. "I have a report for you, my lord."

"I left orders that we were not to be disturbed!" Zimmer roared at the thin little man, backhanding him against the far wall with unnerving ease. "How long have you been in here, spy?"

"Oh sire, please forgive me, no!! I am not a spy, I swear it on my children's lives!" he cried out with a fearful squeak. The terrified underling dropped to the floor in front of his liege lord and master, prostrating himself. "I have only just entered, my lord, I swear! I - I have a report from your forces returning from Thelon 5. They have just returned, and with the prisoners you commanded. From what they've reported so far, it sounds like they have captured most of the royal family, including the King and Queen."

"Excellent!" Zimmer shouted, rubbing his hands together eagerly. "I shall go to the dungeons shortly, have them put in the deepest levels."

"Yes, sire!" the servant yelped, scurrying out of the chamber as quickly as his shaking legs would carry him. He knew he was fortunate his report had been important enough to save him from punishment, but to delay for even a moment now could cost him his life, or even worse, his relative freedom. The servants often whispered amongst themselves about the horrific screams that could be heard from the dungeons late at night, when their Master would pay a visit to certain prisoners. Whatever happened during those late night visits, they were all sure of one thing: death was surely more merciful.

"Keep her nightmares going, clone. I shall return in a few minutes," Zimmer announced, heading for the doorway. "Oh," he added, a sickly pleased smile curving his thin, cold lips, "and before you even try it, don't attempt to leave. I've not made your existence permanent yet. If you step outside of my castle, you'll cease to exist, contract or no. Stay," he commanded, leaving quickly, eager to examine the treasures brought back by his forces, and to terrify his new prisoners.

"Stay? Stay?! What does he think I am, some mutt?! Ha!!" the clone growled under his breath, kicking at the door his master had exited through. A twisted smirk wound around the clone's face, and a small laugh escaped. "Could a mutt do this?" he breathed, turning back to the viewscreen. Sheena's dreams started anew, more intense, and as the clone flexed his moderate amount of given magic, the image of Kahva Briton became crystal-clear. "You don't get to see her, or know her name, until you pay up your end of the contract, Master." Billy-clone watched Sheena's nightmare play out three times in painful clarity, tracing Kahva's features on the viewscreen each time she appeared. "Soon, my dear child, very soon. You'll just love being my captive for the rest of your life. And once I have used you to take away Zimmer's kingdom, maybe I can use you to take his powers as well. Then I can keep you with me for all eternity!" So enthralled was the clone with the object of his dark intentions, and his own cleverness, he almost didn't hear Zimmer return, and this time with his bodyguards, who locked the massive double doors behind them. Afraid I'll run away? Are you that nervous, Zimmer?

Billy-clone blurred the image of Kahva barely in time. "As you can see, your precious Sheena is in sheer agony, Master. I've held up my end of the bargain, now you hold up yours. I want the child!!"


"We have a contract!! A magical contract, even you have to obey the terms! I want the child, Zimmer, pay up! I've done everything on my end, pay up!!" the clone screamed, shutting off the viewscreen. If his master was going to attempt to deny him his payment, then he would deny his master the sight of his nightmare-plagued bride-to-be. "Now!!"

"No," Zimmer replied again, chuckling softly, darkly. "I don't think so. You have done your job, and quite well, I might add. I am very pleased."

"Then pay up!!"

Zimmer laughed long and loud, "No! You just don't get it do you? I will never pay my end of the contract. I don't do deals with mere clones."

"You have to! It is a magical contract, one you signed with your own blood, and that I signed with a magical quill! You are bound to the terms of the contract, you have to pay up, or you die!" the clone fairly screamed, waving the rolled up magical parchment under his creator's nose angrily. "Even I know that, you can't trick me into letting you out of the deal!"

Little created fool. "True, true, I can't do that," Zimmer admitted with an oily smile. "I'll make another deal with you, Billy-clone. Tell me who the child is. Tell me her name, and she's yours."

"No! I've already done my part, she's mine now! Take me to Earth, Zimmer!!"

"Tell me who she is, or you die."

"If you kill me, you'll never find out who she is! And," the clone added with a confident swagger and smile, "you'll have broken the contract. You'll not only lose everything you've worked for, you'll die knowing that you're the one who messed everything up! No, Master Zimmer, you don't find out who the child is until you've paid me! I want what I'm due!"

"Are you sure about that?" the wizard asked dangerously. "Is that your final word on the matter?"


"Well then, I suppose there's only one thing left for me to do then," Zimmer started, flexing his fingers. Billy-clone was smiling victoriously, already dreaming of the things he could do once his prize was in his possession. "Good-bye, my evil creation. You've served your purpose."

The clone's eyes widened as his creator leveled a hand at him, sickly green-white energy glowing, dancing around his fingertips. "NO!!" the clone screamed as the energy lashed out across the room at him, blasting him against the far wall. "You'll never find out who she is if you do this!!" the clone warned. Even as he felt himself begin to disintegrate, he still refused to say her name. "How can you do this?! It's impossible!!"

"I've not lived this long without having learned a few things along the way, clone," Zimmer growled nastily. "Last chance! Tell me who the child is, and I might let you live."

The clone howled in pain as his existence crumbled away faster and faster. "NO! You'll still kill me, I know you well enough for that! You don't win this battle Zimmer, I won't tell you her name!!" The clone laughed, coughed, then screamed. "You lose this one!! You're afraid of her, and I hope she's your worst nightmare! She will be your undoing, and you know it!!" he cried out defiantly, even as the contract fell to the floor from his non-existent fingers.

The evil wizard lowered his hand, stopping his attack for only the barest of seconds, almost seeming to consider the clone's words. In the next moment though, his wicked smile had returned. "You've more than outlived your usefulness to me," Zimmer hissed, raising one hand and pointing it at the clone. Those were the final words that fell on its ears before a jet of green-white flame reduced the magical creation to nothing more than smoke once again, smoke that was swept away by a mystical wind Zimmer easily conjured with a flick of his hand. And this time, there is nothing and no one that can reconstruct him, the wizard king chuckled darkly to himself. One annoyance out of the way, and I seriously doubt there shall be anymore. No one can stop me now; not that child, not the Rangers, no one!

"You might have had access to that wimp's genius mind, but you obviously did not use it very well," Zimmer chuckled coldly at the spot where his clone had last existed, and even his bodyguards stepped back at that sound. There was something in his tone now that reeked of pure, cold malice. "Cranston would at least have read the fine print on that contract before signing it. Something you failed to do." Zimmer levitated the charred parchment from where the clone had last stood, drawing it into his cold hand. Zimmer jerked the contract open, staring at the bottom of it with devilishly satisfied eyes. This contract can be broken at any point in time that Zimmer Delnas, King and Emperor of the Solvilan Galaxy, chooses and for any reason, or none at all. It is well within his rights to destroy the clone he created of William Cranston, Sapphire Ranger of Earth, at any point that he so desires, by any method that he deems fit. "You really should have read the fine print." With a darkly gleeful shout, he incinerated the contract, then banished his bodyguards from the throne room.

He gestured briefly, reactivating the viewscreen to watch as Sheena tossed and turned in the bed. In my bed, he thought warmly. She was already in his bed, though he wasn't with her. Yet, he amended to himself. The magnificent quarters she now graced were his own, at least in this palace. This wasn't the main center of his power in this galaxy, that castle lay somewhere in the outreaches of the oppressed realm. On every world of reasonable size, Zimmer maintained a palace and staff, as well as everything he would need for his spells and incantations. He conducted very few to his imperial palace, and had absolutely no intention of taking Sheena there until after he was sure she was completely under his power. He didn't know how her witch-ways worked exactly, nor if the Rangers weren't looking for some way to free her. Only when he knew the spell had been completely and perfectly cast, with no chance for her to escape it, would he escort her there and have her crowned as his Empress.

She will be your undoing, and you know it!! came back the clone's last words to the evil wizard's mind. Zimmer banished the warning from his thoughts; if the child had ever truly been a major threat to his plans, he was confident he would have felt it himself. All that mattered now was the dark-haired beauty in his viewscreen, tossing and turning helplessly in her painful nightmares, her heart tortured by the hurtful, merciless images.

"It won't be long now, my dear," Zimmer whispered, watching the object of his dark longings as she sat up suddenly, her heart racing and her eyes wide and streaming tears. "Not long at all." He put on a smile, and went to comfort the young woman who firmly believed him to be her sole true friend, her only friend, in all of the universe.

* * *
The sun rose early on whatever planet they were on, but Tanya Sloan was already awake. She had just barely managed to slip a couple of hours of sleep, or so it felt in the night before, but she hadn't been able to go much more than that. Her thoughts were simply in too much turmoil over what had happened in the past few hours, and far too anxious over was going to happen next.

How could I have let this happen? she berated herself silently. How could ANY of us have let it happen?! We're supposed to be more alert than this! This guy has a spell wrapped around Sheena for almost a full year and none of us NOTICE?! How did we not see this?!

She sighed sadly, watching the rosy-pink sun rise, a pinkish orange one peeking over the horizon not far behind it. How could we have seen it? The spell of fascination was so subtle, so cunning, that it had taken them until Zimmer made his final strike to realize that anything was wrong at all. I wonder if she felt anything, if she even had a clue, a hint of something wrong. But even as the Yellow Ranger thought that, she knew that Sheena hadn't. If she had, she would have done something about it long before now, she would've asked for help from somebody.

Tanya glanced behind her as the sounds of people stirring alerted her to the others waking up. Kahva looked a little wild-eyed, but that had been the case ever since that clone had attacked her. What did he do that has terrified her so? I want to drag it out of Billy so bad I could throttle him, he saw exactly what that clone did! Sigh. I guess I'll have to stick with our plan, and wait this out, but I feel so helpless, just waiting! There has to be something I can do. Tanya made a mental note to look into it as gently as she could. The shy, older woman had always seemed to stir up everyone's protective instincts before, and whatever the clone had done had kicked those instincts up into high gear now. She should really talk to someone, Tanya thought as she walked over to the others from where she'd been watching the sunrises. She has to talk! There's a whole lot of pain trapped inside of her right now that she's not admitting to us. I'm not sure she would even admit it to Sheena right now, were she here. If that's the case, if it's something she wouldn't even want to talk to Sheena about, then how on Earth are we supposed to get her to talk? But try as she might, Tanya couldn't think of a gentle way to get Kahva to talk about what had happened. And though I know for a fact that something happened, every time I look at her, I keep having doubts about what she told us yesterday. Why is that, what is wrong with me that I can't completely accept that something happened? More accurately, why do I still find myself doubting all the other things Kahva told us, why am I having such a hard time believing her?

"Everyone awake?" Jason asked, glancing around. Everyone was on the slightest edge, not knowing what they were to do or what was about to happen. All that they knew was that they would be tested. Just how that would happen... only the Keeper knew.

"Or a reasonable facsimile thereof," Rocky groaned, sitting up from his 'bed'. It was obvious he wasn't a morning person as he yawned fit to split his face open. As all the others started getting up, Tanya noticed that Billy was just sitting on his bedroll, a dark and shadowed look in his eyes. She winced a little at the thought of what his dreams must have been like during the night. Kahva's screams woke all of us up for at least a few minutes last night. Did Billy even dare to try and go back to sleep after what happened with her? Tanya took a small comfort in that Billy's face showed no signs of bruising from where Kahva had punched him in panic before waking fully. "Does anyone know where the food is?" Rocky asked, his still half-asleep voice breaking into her thoughts. "Or even if there is any?"

Kat glanced around, and shook her head. "Maybe we have to do some fasting or something, at least until we get back with Sheena?" The Aussie almost jumped to see the sudden looks both Kahva and Billy gave her; looks of gratefulness that she hadn't even hinted at the chance for failure. That possibility was something none of them wanted to think about.

"Umm, somehow I don't think so, Kat." Tommy's voice drew everyone's attention, his tone holding equal parts wonder and amazement as he stared at a small stand of trees a short distance away. Rocky's jaw hit the ground when he saw several bags of food hanging from the branches. Before any of the others could get over there, he was at them, checking them over hastily for edibility.

Billy's lips twitched slightly in a faint smile. "I hope he leaves some for us," he said softly. It was the first thing even vaguely resembling a joke that he'd said since the ordeal had started. In varying degrees of silence they all wandered over and started eating from the bags Rocky handed out. As much as they all joked about his appetite, Rocky was also a genuinely generous and kind person, more than one might expect from him. Not realizing how hungry they were until they had eaten some of the small, strange fruits in the bags, the young people soon were eagerly devouring their bags contents, each of which held just enough for one person to have a light breakfast. Everyone was making short work of their bags except for Kahva, whose appetite seemed to have been banished by her nightmares. It was Rocky who finally coaxed her into eating something that resembled a banana, only it tasted a little sweeter, and was more filling.

"The Quest for the Crystal of Truth will not be an easy one, my young warriors." The voice of the Keeper startled most of them into dropping their various bags when it spoke out of thin air, without any warning whatsoever. Kahva fought back once again the sensation that she had heard the voice somewhere before. Forget it, just forget it! It's not important right now, the only thing that matters is getting the Crystal and saving Sheena! "Each of you will be faced with trials that challenge your heart, soul, mind, and body. Only your faith, love, knowledge, and courage can see you through all that is to transpire here."

"And then we'll get the Crystal?" Billy asked, his eyes shining briefly with hope. I can't wait... Zimmer had better be keeping his hands off Sheena! I hope she smashes a fist into his face so hard...

His faint hopes were almost dashed by what the Keeper said next. "Once you have passed the trials, then you shall be presented with three questions. If you can answer those questions correctly, and with total honesty, only then shall the Crystal of Truth be yours. Thus has it been passed from Keeper to Keeper in each time of need, so shall it ever be."

"How do we get started on the trials, and when? Where do we go?" Billy asked quickly, trying to find where the Keeper's voice was coming from. "How long are they going to take? We don't exactly have a lot of time -"

"Your quest will take as long as it does," came the soft, unnervingly calm voice of the Keeper. "As for the how, when and where. the way will present itself to you. Have faith, young seekers. Have faith."

"Could you possibly be any more vague?!" Billy shouted angrily. But this time, no voice responded, the only sounds that could be heard were those of the wild animals deep within the forest that bordered the shoreline where they had slept. "Keeper? Keeper!"

"Billy," came Adam's gentle tones from behind him. "Billy, like she said, we have to keep faith. I don't think Zordon would have sent us on this quest, or allowed the Keeper to bring us here if -"

"Faith? Faith?! How am I supposed to have faith in something we don't even know we'll find, much less find in time, if it even exists? How?!"

"Faith is the essence of things unseen, the substance of things hoped for." All eyes turned to Kahva as her voice was heard for the first time that morning. "It's from a church song I learned when I was little, but it's true. Until we pass the trials, and answer the questions, faith is all we have. And if we don't make it." she started, then stared down at the ground, unable to voice their shared fear. "Faith is all we have, Billy. If we lose that, we lose Sheena."

Billy looked at her long and hard, but Kahva never looked back up at him or the others, instead retreating back into herself yet again. "You're right," Billy finally sighed. "All right then, I'll 'have faith', like the Keeper says. But why does this have to take so long?"

"Things worth working and sacrificing for, are worth waiting for, are they not, William?" came the Keeper's voice again. "If you rush in, you will not succeed. Patience is a part of the faith you must keep hold of, or that which you seek the most shall slip through your fingers. Your quest shall begin when it begins, and not before. Be ready, my young warriors, for starting the quest is but the prelude to the battle you face for your own truth."

* * *
Klank rushed about his workshop, doing everything within his mechanical power to track down and get all the information about the strange power fluxes and surges that had been recorded on Earth. He winced at the thought of what Mondo would do to him if he didn't find out what the Rangers were up to, if they were up to anything to start with. They have to be up to something! They have to be, or King Mondo will have my casings for getting him stirred up like this! Sigh. Okay, Klank, get a hold of your bolts and solders here. They ARE up to something, that is the only possible answer for your readings. This really isn't like them, though, he mused worriedly. They never attack first, they can't, not with those rules they live by, so surely it can't be that. And they usually don't teleport from and to Earth for mere pleasure. Yes, there was definitely something going on, and neither Klank nor his master liked mysteries like this. What can they possibly be up to? What?! Klank diligently continued to go over the readings, checking and rechecking every single minute detail. The answer has to be here, it has to be!

Surprise coursed through his circuits as suddenly his sensor sweeps began to show clear data, as if some sort of cloaking had been removed. But I couldn't detect any cloaking, what is going on here? Slowly though, with the new information, he began to make a little sense out of the readings that had been coming through fuzzily all day. Wait a minute, this can't be right! If these readings are correct, the Silver Ranger left Earth alone, or at least without the other Rangers... but the power readings on her are so low, I've never seen them this low. except once before...

As the realization came crashing in on what this could mean, Klank raced for the throne room. "Master! Master! You're not going to believe this! Master!!"

* * *
"All right, what do we do now?" Kat asked as the small group finished up the last of the food quickly and looked around. "Anyone have any ideas?"

If anyone had any, they weren't saying anything as they drew a little closer together. Tommy was glancing around nervously, Billy had his hands clenched behind his back, obviously thinking about various foul things he wanted to do to Zimmer if and when he got his hands on him. Rocky was trying to clean the last bits of food from between his teeth with an improvised toothpick, Tanya was clenching and unclenching her hands nervously while Adam was preternaturally calm and still. Kahva was just sort of staring into nothing, with Jason keeping a close eye on her, Billy, and Tommy; the three people most likely to snap in this quest.

"Keeper?" the Red Ranger raised his voice a little. "What do we do now? How do we get going on this?"

No answer seemed forthcoming as they stood together, uneasily waiting for some sign or hint as to what to do next. "Maybe you should have said 'please'?" Rocky joked tightly.

"The Keeper did say that everything would happen when it should," Adam added softly, looking all around them intently. "But it would be nice to know what we're supposed to be looking for. Wonder if we should ask about that?" Adam cleared his throat, then quickly queried, "Keeper, what are we supposed to be looking for?" After a few seconds he turned to Tommy sadly. "I'm sorry, I had hoped - "

"Whoa." Tommy's eyes widened with surprise as he looked over Adam's shoulders. "Guys," he whispered. "I think we've been answered."

All of them turned in the direction he was looking to see a clear and unblocked path laying out in front of them: a path that had not been there a few moments before. The Keeper's voice sounded at last, telling them what they wanted and needed to know. "Follow the path, young warriors of the Light. Along the way you will find your trials, and at the end, should you reach that far successfully, you will find me... the questions. and the Crystal of Truth."

Silence fell, and Tommy took a deep breath. "Let's go," was all he said as he started forward. Kat fell in behind with Kahva almost right on her heels, then Adam, with Billy beside his best friend. The others jostled together a little, trying not to look as if they weren't all scared out of their minds. No one said anything as they walked towards the path, every sense on alert, growing more and more nervous with each step they took.

As soon as her feet touched the path, Kahva gasped, stopping dead in her tracks. "Can any of you feel that?" she breathed, awestruck.

"Feel what, Kahva?" Jason asked from the end of their rough line, having just stepped on the path himself.

Her eyes were dancing with an excitement and spark they hadn't seen before, and her face was practically glowing with her discovery. "The power. None of you can feel it? Not any of you??" Kahva nearly pleaded with them. Every nerve in her body felt charged, her entire being feeling like a living live wire. "This planet is teeming with some kind of power, I can feel it! It's all around us, above us, below us, beside us - it's everywhere! This planet. I know this is going to sound crazy, but this planet. It's almost like it's alive!" Kahva instinctively reached for Tommy's arm. "Can't any of you feel anything? Something, anything, a tingle -"

"Alive?" Tommy queried, a now all too familiar doubt coloring his tone ever so slightly. "Kahva, are you sure you aren't overreacting?" Tommy's voice was perfectly calm and even, but the effect on Kahva was as devastating as a hurricane. The light in her eyes was immediately snuffed out, her face dull as she fled back inside herself. "Kahva, yes, this planet is new and strange, and I don't mean to be a spoilsport, but -"

"Never mind," she muttered, walking away from him and heading back towards the beach. "Forget I said anything." Her next words were soft, not meant to be heard by anyone, but they roared in Tommy's ears nonetheless. "Forget I even came, she should have picked David instead."

Tommy silently cursed himself as Jason caught the young woman's arm, preventing her from leaving the path or the group. There I go again, doubting what she's saying, when I should be at least considering it! Tommy Oliver, what is wrong with you?! A slight chill ran down his spine as he saw his own small doubting of Kahva mirrored on Kat, Tanya and Adam's faces. What have I done, now they don't believe her either! Tommy, get a grip, you're supposed to be the leader of this group, act like it! Quickly, he moved over to apologize to Kahva, instructing her to tell him if the power she was sensing changed in any way. A small nod was all he could get out of her, though. Where moments before she had been looking at him straight in the eyes, eyes dancing with discovery and excitement, now she wouldn't raise her head up to look at him or anyone else. Way to go Tommy, way to go. Great leader you've turned out to be! Tommy mentally shook himself, trying to clear his doubts and shore up his resolve to stop doubting Kahva, or anyone else for that matter. Might as well get on with this, standing around doing nothing isn't going to get us anywhere. Maybe I'll get lucky and I won't be tested after all, maybe there won't be a trial for each one of us. I hope that's how it will end up, because if I have to pass a trial right now, I'm sure I'll fail. and we'll lose Sheena to Zimmer forever. I'll never forgive myself if we lose her because of me.

But the Keeper's words kept haunting him: "Each of you will be faced with trials that challenge your heart, soul, mind, and body. Only your faith, love, knowledge, and courage can see you through all that is to transpire here." Tommy frowned inwardly as he led the group down the path. Kahva is right about that David should have been picked. but not in place of her. He should have been picked in place of me.

The planet, whatever its name was, was beautiful beyond compare, almost innocently seductive with its beauty. A crystal blue sky arched overhead, totally free of pollution from horizon to horizon and far beyond. Pure ivory-white clouds floated by, touched gently by glistening golden sunlight, with emerald-green grass covering every free inch of ground, along with fragrant flowers and the soft tinkling of a stream nearby. Paradise? Tommy wondered, as he noticed the group as a whole slowly starting to relax, even beginning to slightly enjoy the scene that lay before them. It would have been the perfect place for a carefree picnic or a blissful walk with the whole team.

Tommy shook his head a little as he walked along the path, following it mindlessly, becoming oblivious to the tranquil beauty surrounding them all. With every step he made, he couldn't seem to get his mind off what was going on between the members of their rag-tag team. He tried to think only of the quest, of finding the Crystal and making everything right again. Instead, his mind kept returning to how carelessly he had brushed Kahva's fears off, of how he'd simply been having a good time at the carnival instead of looking for Sheena or Billy, not realizing just how badly things were going wrong.

"Tommy, which way do we go?" Kat's voice suddenly broke into his mind.

"What?" Tommy looked at her, confused. Then he saw what she was asking about. Right in front of him the path split into two; one easy, smooth, well-marked; the other rough, rugged and steep. "Keeper?" Tommy questioned to the air, hoping for guidance, but none came.

"Maybe this is part of how we're to be tested, by how well we can find our way?" Rocky guessed.

"It may be," Tommy mused, looking at the two paths. "Let's take this one," he decided, choosing the smooth path. "I don't trust the looks of that other one. I think it's too rough for us to tackle right now," he finished, trying hard not to rest his gaze on Kahva as he said that. He was fairly sure the others could handle the rough terrain, but he didn't think she could, not in her current state.

The glare she shot at him let him know how badly he'd failed at concealing his concern, but Kahva said nothing until she stepped onto the easy path. "No... Tommy, we can't take this one," she said urgently, rushing up to the head of the group to stop him. "It's wrong."

"Why?" he asked, all the doubts springing up again in spite of his earlier promise to himself not to doubt her or anyone else outright. "Why is this path wrong?" Don't dismiss her, don't dismiss her. he told himself, trying to dam up the stream of doubt washing through his mind yet again.

Kahva sighed in exasperation, "I know you don't believe me about the planet being magical, but it is, Tommy. We all saw how the trail just suddenly appeared at the beach," she began. "You can't deny that was at least mystical, if not magical. I'm still feeling the power, magic, whatever it is, I'm still feeling it here. But right here, on this path, the magic feels wrong. Dark, if you will." The older girl nearly cried in frustration as she saw the doubt wash over Tommy's face in spite of her efforts to convince him. "Look, you said to tell you if what I was sensing changed, and it has! This path is wrong!"

"Look Kahva," Tommy began softly, "You're a bit overwrought right now with everything that's happened, and I don't blame you one bit. But this path is easier, more open, smoother. And, if there is anyone or anything that can harm us, we can see it in plenty of time on this path," he assured her. "Don't worry, we'll be okay."

"Tommy's right," Kat pitched in. "And now that you've sensed a change in the 'magic', or whatever it is that you're sensing here, we'll be on better guard." Adam and Tanya both nodded their agreement readily, while Rocky, Jason and Billy gave theirs much more hesitantly.

Kahva opened her mouth as if to protest, then resolutely headed down the path in the lead herself. "Kahva, what are you doing?!" Tommy called, rushing to catch up with her.

"This path is wrong, whether you want to believe it or not. I don't know why you won't listen to me anymore, or even notice that not everyone is following you as quickly as Kat, or even as fast as Adam and Tanya for that matter. But if this is where you want to go, then this is where we're going," she finished, not slowing down in the least.

"But I need to be in the lead, I'm in charge until we get Sheena back," Tommy protested, having a surprisingly hard time keeping up with the girl. "You -"

"I'm your guinea pig," Kahva tossed flatly over her shoulder. "I'm not going to let you or anyone else get hurt by whatever is wrong here, whether you like it or not. I'm taking the lead now, so whatever it is, I'll trip it first, and then you guys can get away from it in time," she told him firmly. "And if it turns out I'm wrong, you can call me stupid to my face, and not have to hide what you think of me any longer just because you're trying to spare my 'overwrought' feelings!"

"Kahva, you're not stupid, I never said that!" Tommy started, but the older girl refused to look back at him or stop in her determined charge down the trail. What are you trying to prove?! Tommy wanted to scream, but remained silent, concentrating instead on staying right on her heels. At least with her in front of me, I can keep an eye on her. Why am I still doubting her though? Why couldn't I stop myself from doubting her, what is wrong with me?! The questions kept echoing inside his mind, stoking his self-directed anger, setting his rage to a high boil.

"Tommy," Billy rushed up to him then, stopping him in his tracks. "Let's go back and take the other path. If Kahva sensed something wrong here, then we probably shouldn't be here."

"And take that torture test of a trail?" the Red Ranger retorted hotly, his anger finally finding a release and target in the Sapphire Ranger. "She wouldn't be able to make it! Billy, we've all got to make it through these trials if we're going to get Sheena back, and getting someone hurt on a trail that they're not cut out for isn't going to do it!"

"How do you know she can't make it?" Jason questioned softly, having run up to them in time to hear Tommy's words. The whole group had stopped on the trail now, even Kahva, who was several feet ahead of everyone else by that time. "She might surprise you."

"And what if she 'senses' dark magic, or something wrong with that trail too?" Tommy asked tightly, his rage finding a new target in Jason. "Then we still have to take the path we can get down the fastest, or we won't get through everything in time to get to Sheena!" Whirling away and throwing his arms up in hot frustration, he demanded, "Why is everyone suddenly questioning and doubting me all of a sudden?!"

"Doesn't feel too good, does it?" Rocky put in quietly, then looked at Kahva. The older girl kept quiet, staying out of the heated discussion entirely, refusing to look at any of them in the eye. "Look, you're the leader Tommy, and we'll follow you. But you're not listening to the team. That's all of us here, Ranger and non-Ranger, we're all in this together. Maybe you're right about this path, but still, you can't be so quick to dismiss what you're told."

"Rocky," Tommy growled softly, "Don't tell me how to lead!" The tension between the former and current Red Rangers was palpable as they suddenly found themselves squaring off with each other. Jason immediately stepped between them, ready to take a blow from either one to keep them from hurting each other, when Tommy's shoulders abruptly slumped, "I already know what I have to do." With that, he jogged up to where Kahva was waiting for the group to decide what they were going to do. "We'll check the other path."

"Don't do something just on my account," Kahva muttered under her breath as Tommy approached her. Her voice, though plainly holding some anger, was primarily full of hurt and pain. She wants to help, to be believed in so badly, and here I am shutting her out more and more, Tommy thought as he came up to her. I haven't attacked her like the clone did, but the pain I'm causing is just as bad. and just as undeserved.

"I heard that," he replied. "And I'm not doing it just for you." Tommy sighed, then put a gentle arm around her shoulders, tilting her chin up with his free hand to make her look at him. "I'm doing it for the team, and that means you too, and I'm doing it for me. Kahva, I don't know why I'm acting the way I am around you, but I should have listened to you before we started down this path. We need to check the other trail, then figure out which one to take." I just hope I haven't screwed up too badly and lost us too much time.

"Are you sure?" Kahva asked cautiously, somehow keeping her voice perfectly neutral. But her dark brown eyes showed her fear of betrayal all too clearly, knifing through Tommy's heart with the ease of a well-sharpened katana. The young woman's voice fell soft, sad, as the spark of determination to protect her friends washed out of her face disturbingly fast, self-doubt flooding into its place with a vengeance. "Tommy, I never wanted to make you guys mad at each other, I shouldn't have said anything, you are the leader -"

"Shhhh." Tommy silenced her with a lightly placed finger against her lips. "You did exactly what I told you to do," he assured her. "And it's exactly what you should have done even if I hadn't told you to do it. I'm the one who's being bull-headed right now, forgive me? Please?" Kahva's shy nod lifted Tommy's spirits a tiny bit. "And Kahva? If I dismiss you again for no reason whatsoever. do me a favor? Slap me?"

A soft chuckle and a slight, joking smile told him all was forgiven, but the doubting looks on Kat, Adam and Tanya's faces sent chills down his spine. It's not just me, they're still doubting her, regardless of what I've said or just done. Something's wrong with us. Guilt washed over Tommy's heart, crushing it as he and Kahva approached the others. I've done something to them, I've led them wrong, and now they doubt Kahva as well. What have I done to all of us? "Guys, I -"

"Tengas!!" Adam yelled, pointing back the way where Tommy and Kahva had come.

"They're behind us too!" Rocky shouted, as the powerless Rangers and Kahva were surrounded instantly. "Kahva was right, it's a trap!"

Oh God, what have I done?! "Form up!!" Tommy commanded sharply, putting Kahva in the midst of their number. "Stay inside the circle, Kahva!"

"No problem!" she called back to him, just barely escaping from the arms of two Tengas who had swooped down out of the trees. Angry at having lost their intended prey, the evil birds turned on Tommy in mid-dive and tackled him to the ground. Three more joined in and quickly overpowered the Red Ranger. "Tommy!!" both Kahva and Kat screamed, both girls jumping on the Tengas themselves, ignoring the risk to their own safety.

We're in trouble and it's all my fault! "Kat, Kahva, get away, they'll get you too!" Tommy yelled as he kicked and punched his captors viciously. I may not have the power to morph, but I'm still a fighter!

"Forget it!" Kahva and Kat both shouted again in unison, tearing two Tengas off of Tommy. "Leave him alone!" Kat growled at a third, as she and Kahva both struggled with the evil creature trying to pummel Tommy.

"We're surrounded!" came Tanya's yell above the din. Everyone was struggling with two or three Tengas, and more could be heard approaching from further up the trail.

"Hey, everybody!" came Jason's voice abruptly. "I've got the Crystal of Truth!!"

Several things happened all at once then. Everyone froze in shock for a second, every eye glued on Jason. Punches were frozen in mid-air, kicks were halted. Defensive blocks were forgotten, but unneeded, for the Tengas had stopped their attacks. As one, they all turned and looked hard at the Gold Ranger, then in the next second they were flying and running towards him in a mass of arms, legs and scattering feathers. The other Rangers and Kahva suddenly had no one to fight or escape from, as the Tengas were focused totally on Jason. "You can't catch me!!" he gloated in a sing-song voice before heading deep into the trees.

"JASON!!" Tommy screamed as his friend disappeared. Scrambling to his feet, he started to charge into the forest himself, but was pulled up short by Adam and Rocky. "Let me go!!"

"And lose both of you in there? No way!" Adam declared.

"We don't know where Jason is, we can't run in there blindly!" Rocky eased his grip on Tommy's arm a bit. "Besides, I think Jason's got a plan here."

"What, getting himself captured?!"

"No, distracting the Tengas and buying us some time. Remember, we don't have the Crystal of Truth yet... but the Tengas don't know that," Billy smiled tightly. "I think Jason's trying to get them lost in the trees hunting for the Crystal."

"And while they're lost," Tommy finished, calming down enough to see the plan, "that gives us time to get to the other path and put some distance between them and ourselves. Sneaky," he nodded, his smile matching Billy's. Very risky, but a good plan, assuming the Tengas are here for the Crystal, which from the way they took off after Jason, they must be. Why didn't I think of it? Instead of thinking of a way to get us out of this attack, all I did was get my butt kicked!

"Go get it boys!!" came Jason's voice from somewhere in the woods, a wild caphony of Tengas crashing through the trees and eagerly squawking drowning out anything else the Gold Ranger might have shouted. A minute or two later, a different, singular crashing sounded close to the path. Before anyone could react, Jason stumbled out of the woods and back onto the path, small twigs and leaves tangled up in his hair and clothing. He was also wearing a breathless, but triumphant lopsided grin. "They may be tougher than Rita or Zedd's old Putties, but they're still just as stupid!!" As he ran over to the group, he gasped out, "I threw a rock and they're chasing after it, they think it's the Crystal, at least for now." Taking a deep breath, he finished, "May I suggest we get the heck out of Dodge and hit that other path before they figure out what's happened?"

"Let's go," Tommy agreed, and the group set out on a quick run as one back down the path to where the original fork had been. Once there, Kahva immediately went to the rougher path first, cautiously stepping on it, then closing her eyes, seeming to almost be listening for something. "Kahva?"

She answered him after several long seconds, "It's okay, I don't sense anything dark on this path. Doesn't mean it's safe, but I don't sense any dark power or magic here."

"Then let's go," Tommy ordered, not wanting the group to stop moving any longer than they had to. As they hiked along, Tommy once again taking the lead, he was surprised at how much easier this path was than it had appeared to be at first glance. The terrain was rugged, and they were on a constant incline, but the footing was better than he had expected, and the trail wider than it had appeared at first glance. After several minutes of fast-paced trekking, he called for a halt to let everyone, including himself, catch their breath. I should have listened to Kahva to start out with, he thought to himself as the team found places to sit and catch a brief rest. And I should have thought of a way to get us out of that fight, we'd all be prisoners now if not for Jason's quick thinking. I've failed the team, I've failed as a leader, and I've failed Sheena.

Tommy sat down dejectedly as the events of the past hours all replayed back in his mind: Billy's capture and replacement, Kahva's fears and the clone's attack on her, then Sheena's giving up of her crystal and subsequent leaving with Zimmer Delnas. Finally, the ambush they had just barely survived played back, and Tommy's heart sank. It's all my fault, he sighed to himself. All of it... I should've known what was going on. I've been the leader before, I've been the target so many times, I should've known it was happening! Instead, we're trapped in this quest that is the only way to rescue Sheena, and I've blown it right at the start! If any one of us gets something wrong, she's with Zimmer forever. Now I've ruined our chances for the Crystal, I'm sure of it! Zimmer Delnas. Why didn't I figure out that he wasn't a friend to us sooner? Why?!

Cold chills were running all over his body, centering somewhere in the vicinity of his heart. I should have known. But that's just like me, to miss the obvious. I've screwed up everything from day one, when I moved to Angel Grove. Rita picked me to ruin the team and it looks like I finally have. Took me a few years, but it looks like I finally did it. Looks like the only thing I'm a true success at is destruction...

"Tommy?" he almost jumped out of his skin when he heard Kat's voice right next to his ear. "Tommy, is something wrong? You look like you're troubled about something -"

He couldn't have stopped the next words out of his mouth if he had tried. "I'm thinking that it's my fault that Sheena is in this situation, and we're in ours. If I hadn't made her leader, if I hadn't forgotten that just about anything is possible when you're a Ranger, even someone you think is your friend being your enemy, this wouldn't be happening, none of it. It's all my fault, and now we probably won't get the Crystal because of my mistakes. Everything is my fault, Kat."

Kat stared at her boyfriend in shock. "Tommy, it's not your fault! It's none of our faults!" She missed the quick flash of and guilt in Kahva's eyes as those words were uttered. "Tommy, please, you have to believe me, none of this is your fault!" The entire group came to their feet as Tommy leaned against a tree dejectedly, his shoulders literally slumping in defeat and pain.

"Yes, it is," he replied quietly. "We shouldn't be here! We should be back on Earth, keeping it safe from Mondo, and anyone else who tries to harm our world. But we're not, we have to go rescue Sheena, because I wasn't good enough to figure out Zimmer was plotting against us the whole time. There were a thousand different signs, and I missed out on all of them! I don't deserve to be on this team!"

Rocky's eyes narrowed as he studied the Red Ranger, then he shivered uncontrollably. "Something tells me we're right in the thick of the first trial," he said, just loudly enough for it to be heard. He took a long breath, and walked over to Tommy. "Yes you do deserve to be on this team, Tommy. You haven't done anything wrong. It wasn't your fault."

"Rocky's right," Billy agreed, coming over to his friend. "If anyone is responsible, it's Zimmer. He's the one who started this whole thing. You're right, we should be on Earth, and as soon as we get Sheena back, that's where we're going."

The Red Ranger shook his head, still blaming himself harshly. "But we should never have had to leave it!"

"You're right, Tommy," Kahva spoke up quietly. As the Red Ranger looked up at her, he saw not blame or accusation, but empathy, compassion, and understanding. "But we did have to leave Earth, and the sooner we get back there, the better. The best way to do that is to get the Crystal of Truth, and get to wherever Sheena is."

"This is no one's fault but Zimmer's," Adam put a hand firmly on Tommy's shoulder. "Kahva's right, we're all right. It's not your fault. None of us knew what was going on at the carnival, and we maybe should have, true. I know we should have believed Kahva when she told us about how odd Billy... or rather the clone we thought was Billy was acting. I still don't know why we didn't believe her, but that's something we'll have to deal with later. As much as I'd like to figure it all out right here and now, we can't. We simply don't have the time." Adam had both of his hands on Tommy's shoulders by now, in an effort to ensure Tommy's full attention. "The only person to blame here is Zimmer for starting the whole mess in the first place."

Tommy stared at the faces gathered around him, each and every one firm in the resolve they believed in so deeply. "I screwed up," he whispered softly. "I should never have made Sheena leader, that just got her in the line of fire..."

"You didn't screw up," Kat disagreed gently. "Zimmer would have done this no matter what. Her leadership had nothing to do with it, and neither does the fact she's a Ranger. Think about it, Tommy," Kat pleaded. "If he had wanted her Ranger powers, he wouldn't have made her mad enough to leave them behind, right? He wants her, God only knows why, and not a Ranger. You didn't screw up, Tommy."

She's right, they're all right... The Red Ranger took a long breath, slowly letting it out, sending out his self-doubts and guilt with it. "I didn't screw up," he whispered softly. "I didn't screw up. I made the right choices in the past; when I was leader of the Rangers, and when I stepped down to make Sheena the leader. Yes, I've made many mistakes in the past, and I'll make them in the future. Everyone does."

Tommy's eyes began to shine with awareness and truth, as the guilt he'd been carrying around was finally dealt with and laid to rest. "The only crime in making a mistake is if you don't learn from it. We may have made a few mistakes in what has happened in the past hours, maybe not. If we haven't we're going to fix what's wrong. If we have made a mistake, we're still going to put things right, no matter what it takes. We are going to put it right. I'm not to blame for what's happened, none of us are. Zimmer is the one who's made the mistake here, and we are going to set things right!"

As the words fell from his lips, he felt a warmth surge into his heart that displaced the cold, fear, blame and guilt he hadn't been able to let go of until this moment. His faith restored in himself, his head and shoulders both lifted higher. "We are going to do it," he repeated, louder. "We are."

* * *
Tanya was slowly falling to the back of the group as they got going again. The trail seemed to lead to a beautiful mountain, and all of them hoped that there they would find the Keeper and the Crystal of Truth. Nearly everyone was eager and anxious, and it was rather hard to tell what excited everyone most: the thought that the mountain may be their ultimate goal, or Tommy's success. After Tommy had conquered his trial, Kat had given him a warm hug, and everyone had congratulated him, happy at his and their first success. Even Kahva had actually hugged him in congratulations, seeming more like her old self for a few all too short moments. But after Tommy had quickly assigned everyone to their places in line, Kahva withdrew into her self again, appearing less and less inclined to talk with anyone as they started hiking again. Her face said it plainly: she was scared to death that her trial was going to be next, and whatever it may be, she didn't want to face it any sooner than she had to. Not even Tommy asking Billy and Jason to both second-guess him if it seemed he was doubting anything Kahva reported or said pulled her out of her shell.

I think I know how she must feel here, the Yellow Ranger thought, brushing her hair out of her eyes. Practically alone, even in a crowd, no one to talk to who really understands her... I was like that back in Africa, and again when I first got to Angel Grove. The only people I'd really been close to were gone, my parents. I lost them. then when I had the chance to do something REALLY incredible with my life, I turned it down to stay a Ranger. I could've been a singer. famous. And then I found my parents again, but I can't spend time with them like I want. Between their expeditions and my duties as a Ranger, it's almost like I never found them to begin with!

She sighed softly to herself, not wanting the others to hear her or suspect her sad mood. I've missed out on so much because I've cared about other things more, and I've just flat out LOST so much. I've lost my parents, I've lost my chance to go somewhere with my music, I've lost the normal life I had to the life of a Ranger.. I could've gotten it back, but I chose to stay with my friends, I was so selfish about losing them. but to go would've been selfish too, I would've been backing out on my responsibilities. Either way, I lost something again.

Tanya glanced up, thinking to see Adam in front of her, hoping he would talk with her about how she was feeling. Her heart skipped a beat, then froze in fear, as instead she saw Sheena struggling against several Cogs, with Klank hovering nearby with a syringe full of the hideously green mind control potion. Her jaw dropped at the memory, literally playing out in front of her, real as life. How can this be happening, what is going on?! Just as the syringe touched Sheena's skin, the image shifted, becoming this time Tommy hanging off the side of the mountain the Power Chamber was in, trying desperately to keep himself from falling to certain doom. Then things changed again and she saw Daniel, his eyes cold and flat like an evil beast, seizing Sheena's arms, dragging her off to Klank's lab on the Machine SkyBase. Next was Billy, spinning wildly off towards the sun on his way back from Aquitar, coming so close to death...

"No!" She backed away, trying to block the endless visions of all the times she had nearly lost someone she loved. She saw Jason being turned into a solid gold statue by the Midas Hound, Kahva and Daniel being kidnapped by Shifter, her own parents almost crushed by the falling of the cavern on Mysterio Island. "No, not again! Not again, go away!! Leave me alone, please!!"

"Tanya?" Adam turned around when he heard her screaming, and his eyes widened to see her backing away, her hands held out in fear, and her eyes round with shock. "Guys, I think we've got trouble."

Almost in lockstep, the entire team stopped and turned as Adam spoke. "One right after the other," Rocky groaned lightly. "Aren't we going to get a break?" In the next second, Rocky regretted what he'd said, throwing an apologetic look to Billy. "Sorry," he said quickly. "The sooner we get through all of these, the sooner we'll get Sheena back, I know. But I'd kinda hoped we'd get a little bit of peace between the trials." The Sapphire Ranger nodded in understanding, then hurried over to Tanya.

"I've lost so much," the Yellow Ranger whispered, obviously not seeing them or hearing them. "How can I lose again? I lost my parents, I lost my friends, I lost my chance to go into music. so much. so much. I can't lose any more, I can't."

Adam bit his lip and frowned. Tommy faced his fear of failing his friends, Tanya must be facing her fear of loss, of losing everything that's meant anything to her. She lost her parents for years, left behind everything she knew to come join the team, gave up her chance to become a singer to stay with us. "You can't lose us, Tanya," he said, reaching out swiftly to take her hand. "You can't ever lose us, even if you leave the team someday."

He wasn't certain if she heard him or not, but she did flinch away from his touch suddenly. "No, Adam," she whispered. "Leave him alone, you stupid machines! Don't mess with him!" Whatever she was seeing had to do with him, and he moved suddenly to fold her in his arms, a display of emotion he would almost never have done, if so much hadn't been at stake.

"Tanya," he whispered, hoping to get through to her. "You -"

KABOOM!! An ear-splitting explosion deafened them all, followed in the next heartbeat by a shaking that sent them all to their knees. "What's going on?!" Jason shouted, helping Kat and Kahva to their feet.

"Volcano!" Tommy shouted above the roar, pointing up the trail. All of them could see clearly now a volcano spewing fire, lava, and half-molten rock high into the air. Small flaming rocks began to rain down all around, narrowly missing them as the number of burning hot missiles quickly began to increase in number and size. "We need to get to shelter!" he cried as trees began to fall around them, some felled by the continuous quaking of the ground, others by the ever-increasing rain of hot rock.

"There!!" Billy yelled, pointing to a spot off of the trail, the way to it almost neatly lined by some of the stricken trees. "The way is clear, and I see a cave! Run!!"

The team of young people needed no further urging as they all began to make a stumbling run towards the cave. Adam practically dragged Tanya along, as she still seemed lost in her awful visions. "Everybody get into the cave!" Tommy shouted, right as another powerful quake sent them all to the ground again. Adam lost his precious hold on Tanya, and she immediately started to run back the way they had come.

"TANYA!!" Adam screamed, separately trying to get to his feet in the increasing quake to chase after his girlfriend. "Tanya, come back, please!!"

"I'll get her!" Kahva shouted from the end of the line, stretching her hand out to grab Tanya's arm as she ran by. "Got her!!"

"Kahva, watch out!!" Billy yelled in fear, as suddenly the ground heaved, shooting them up into the air nearly a hundred feet by creating a new steep hill from the ground he and the others were standing on. Tanya and Kahva were instantly cut off from them. "Kahva!! Tanya!!" Billy started to try to scale down the sheer earthen wall from the now plateau he and the rest of the team were on, when the full fury of the eruption railed angrily, sending huge flaming boulders at them.

"The cave!!" Jason shouted, yanking Billy away from the edge a second before a hot boulder plowed into the spot where the Sapphire Ranger had been. "We have to wait this out!" he told his friend. Hoping that the girls could hear him, he called over the edge, "Get Tanya to shelter somewhere, we'll find you when the eruption is over!!"

Any answer from Kahva or Tanya was lost in the volcano's horrible roar, as the six young people hurtled into the safety of the cave, only to be sealed in moments later by several burning boulders. "We're trapped!" Kat cried out, then coughed as a choking smoke and sulfur-like smell began to fill the cave.

"This isn't a normal eruption," Billy choked out. "Volcanoes on Earth just don't blow like that!"

"But we're not on Earth," Adam coughed mournfully. "At least we're safe in here, Kahva and Tanya are out there in that mess!!"

"We're safe for now," Billy coughed, leading the group deeper into the cave. "But those fumes are going to overpower us if we can't find another way out!"

"What about Kahva and Tanya? I think Tanya was still seeing that vision out there, she has no clue as to what's going on! What's going to happen to them?" Kat asked before a coughing fit wracked her body.

No one dared to voice their common fear as they felt their way deeper into the cave: that it may already be too late for their friends.

* * *
Kahva had no idea if she had been out for hours or seconds. The only thing she was sure of was that she had a splitting headache... and that she was utterly alone. Several yards in front of her was the newly-born cliff, at the top of which were her friends, and presumably, the cave. "Where did that volcano come from, I know I didn't see that before..." she wondered aloud, carefully picking herself off of the ground. "Tanya - Tanya?" she called, looking around frantically for the Yellow Ranger. "Tanya!! Tanya, where are you? Answer me, please - Tanya!!" she yelled, spying the unmoving girl.

"A - Adam??" the Yellow Ranger mumbled from several feet away from Kahva, half buried under charred tree limbs. "Adam??"

"Tanya, snap out of it!" Kahva commanded harshly, fearing the worst as she began to frantically yank the branches off of her friend. "What ever you're seeing happening to Adam, it's not true!! You have to wake up!!"

"I am awake," Tanya moaned, struggling to get up. "It was all so real... Where is everybody, what happened?" As Kahva quickly filled her in, Tanya found herself full of doubts at the story. "A volcano erupted? But we never saw a volcano, there was a mountain in front of us, how could there suddenly be a volcano there?"

As soon as she said them, Tanya wanted to bite back the words. As much as I'm doubting her right now, part of me knows that she's telling the truth. It's not just Tommy who's doubting her, it's me too. What is wrong with us? Oh please don't let Kahva clam up because of what I just said, I need her help to find the others, we all need her!

Fortunately, Kahva seemed to take Tanya's question as simply that, a question, not as doubting. "I know, I clearly remember the mountain too. I wonder..." her voice trailed off as she finally freed Tanya and helped her to her feet. "Don't go anywhere, I'll be right back." Kahva darted down to the trail and looked towards the way they had been heading before Tanya's visions and the eruption. "Ummm... Tanya? Can you make it down here? You're not going to believe this unless you see it yourself. I'm not sure I believe it!"

"What is it?" the Yellow Ranger asked as she made her way down to the trail. Then she saw what Kahva was staring at: the volcano was stopped in mid-eruption, an enormous boulder at its mouth, about to be hurtled into the air. "How on Earth... This can't be happening! Volcanoes don't do this!"

Kahva shivered suddenly, rubbing her arms. "What's wrong Kahva, has the magic changed or something?" Tanya asked worriedly. At that moment, Tanya couldn't help but be struck with just how much alike Kahva and Sheena looked, and at the same time how different they were. Flip sides of a coin, except that they are more like each other than that. But she looks so much like her... If I didn't know better, I would swear they were blood sisters! A shiver coursed through Tanya then as an awful thought ran through her mind. If Zimmer was attracted to Sheena because of her looks. Could he go after Kahva one day too? Tanya forced herself to stay calm as she watched Kahva, fearful of what her answer might be.

"No, it's not the magic, or energy," Kahva frowned holding her head, her brow furrowed both in concentration and evident pain. "I'm not actually seeing the others, but I'm getting Billy and Tommy's fear and worry. About us, about how they're going to get free - oh no!" Kahva cried, as she realized what must have happened. "Tanya! The others, I think they must be trapped in the cave up there!" she pointed to the rugged plateau back behind them. "We have to get them out of there!"

"Can you shift us into them?" Tanya asked, quickly taking Kahva's hand, ready to rescue her friends.

"I - I... I can't see where they are," Kahva moaned dejectedly, shoulders slumping in defeat. "I can't even talk to Billy or Tommy in the link, all I can get are their fears, and that's seriously muffled. It's like the link we all have is fading away, and fast." Kahva blinked back the tears of frustration that threatened to spill from her eyes. "All I know is that they're up there, somewhere, and we've got to get them out!" Then she brightened up with a sudden hope. "Maybe I can at least shift us up to the top."

"Do that," Tanya urged, a sense of dread clawing at her own heart. "I've got a bad feeling about them up there." Tanya watched as Kahva closed her eyes and concentrated, her face once again crossed with pain. Something's wrong, she can open portals much easier than this!

"Tanya! It hurts!!" Kahva cried, clutching her head. "My head..."

Tanya held the older girl close, fiercely burying any lingering doubts she had about what Kahva was saying. I'm not going to doubt her, I'm not!! This isn't something she'd lie about, I know that! Like Tommy, I don't know what's making me doubt her, but I'm not going to give in to it!! "Take a deep breath Kahva, try to relax. Don't push it." After a few moments Kahva's pain eased a bit, but try as she might, her head hurt too much to concentrate on forming the portal. "You can try again later, right now we need to find another way to them. Maybe we can climb up, let's try to find a place where we can get some good footholds."

"Okay," Kahva nodded carefully, rubbing her temple. "I'm sorry, I must've hit my head on something when the ground shot up."

Carefully picking her way around the still smoldering boulders, Tanya replied, "Either that, or something hit you. Maybe one of these rocks hit you, or a tree branch?" Kahva shrugged her shoulders and silence reigned for long moments as they anxiously searched the base of the cliff for a way up to the top. "Here, there's almost a path up to the top, looks like," Tanya finally broke the silence, once at the back of the earthen obstacle.

Kahva snorted and gave a short, dry laugh. "If that's your idea of a path, I'd hate to see your climbing footholds!" But she resolutely joined Tanya on her 'path', which was not much more than half a foot wide at the best, littered with rocks and cracks, all perfect for tripping someone, sending them crashing back down to the ground below. "I hate heights, I hate heights..." Kahva muttered under her breath as they got closer and closer to the top.

"If it makes you feel any better, I'm not all that crazy about them either."

"You're kidding! I didn't think you were afraid of anything, Tanya! Well, not anything like heights, I mean," Kahva grinned up to her. "Intergalactic monsters, evil overlords and wizards fall into a fright category all their own, you know?"

"That they do," Tanya laughed, pleased to hear some of Kahva's old humor creeping back into her voice. Maybe she's finally getting back to normal? I sure hope so, maybe we'll be able to get her to talk to us about everything that happened at the carnival once this is over, then!

"Are we there yet, Mom?" Kahva called up to Tanya after several minutes of hiking, climbing, careful jumping, and at times, even more careful crawling.

Tanya grinned at the half-joke. "Almost daughter, be patient." We're joking. So much like what she and Sheena would do. Sheena. I've lost more than a close friend, I've lost the only thing Kahva has left in this world that is anything like family. I know Zordon is her father, one of them at least, but they hardly know each other yet. I don't know if Kahva can even think of him as her father yet. But Sheena. Sheena is her sister, as surely as if they had been born that way. I've lost everything, and now I've made someone else lose everything! I've failed, and I'm going to fail my trial! Tanya reached the top then, and pulled herself onto the plateau. "Made it!" she called down to the girl. "And I think I've just spotted an entrance to the cave, it looks blocked up, but I'm sure we'll have them out of there in no time! Just a little more, Kahva, you're almost here!"

"Thank goodness!" Kahva gasped, gratefully taking Tanya's outstretched hand, hauling herself onto the plateau with the Ranger's help. "I don't care how much my head is hurting, when we leave this plateau, I'm shifting us!!" she declared breathlessly.

"Too late for that!" shouted two female voices, both all too familiar to both girls. "Say good-bye, wimp!!" came one of them alone, a mere second before twin rays of a sickly yellow hue blasted into the ground at Kahva and Tanya's feet.

"TANYA!! I'm falling!!" Kahva screamed in terror, toppling over the edge as the ground disintegrated beneath her feet, dropping out of Tanya's sight in an instant.

"Good-bye and good riddance to bad rubbish!" came the singular voice again, laughing in delight.

"KAHVA!!" Tanya yelled, flinging herself to the edge of the plateau, desperately searching down the rugged cliffside for her friend. But all she could see was the ground far below, which now seemed miles away. "Aisha, how could you?! You've killed her!!" Tanya railed, turning back fiercely on her predecessor. "You used to be a Ranger, how could you kill an innocent?!"

"Oh get a life, loser! As if you even know what it really means to be a Power Ranger! I should never have sent you back to the Command Center with my Zeo Crystal shard!" Aisha Campbell spat back.

"Or," spoke the pretty Asian girl beside her, "Billy should have taken the shard from you. He's strong, I think could have handled being both the Yellow Ranger, and the Sapphire. Though now that I know the origins of the colors, Billy would probably been blue anyway, along with Rocky." Trini Kwan stepped over closer to Tanya then, walking all around her, staring her up and down with disgust. "At the very least, he could have kept it safe for a much more deserving, and better owner."

"Yeah, I could've come back once time was turned back right and reclaimed it. And I wouldn't have lost the whole reformed Zeo Crystal to start with to Goldar and Rito like you did." Aisha joined Trini then in the predatory circling of the current Yellow Ranger.

"Yeah, I've been meaning to tell you what I think of what you did," Trini growled. "I hate you!" she yelled, punching Tanya in the jaw. "It's because of you that the Command Center was blown up, and it's because of you that my Billy got hurt! You lost the Zeo Crystal, you lost the Command Center, and you made the Rangers lose a valuable member when Billy felt sorry for you and stepped down!! It's all your fault, you can't keep a hold of anything!"

"You've lost your boyfriend now," Aisha laughed harshly. "And the whole team. Now you've lost that crybaby wimp!"

"Not that losing her is any great loss," Trini sneered. "Admit it, you haven't believed a single thing she'd said since you idiots went into the carnival! You don't care about her, you never did!"

"And speaking of the carnival," Aisha added, "let's not forget that you lost your precious leader there too. It's a wonder you didn't lose the whole team in there while you were at it!"

"Let's see if you can hang on to this!" Trini yelled throwing something at Tanya. The startled current Ranger caught the object: a baseball. "Good catch. You can catch a baseball, even pitch one, but you lost your then-boyfriend because of that stupid game. What was his name, Shawn something or other?" she taunted. The baseball suddenly vanished as Trini threw something else at Tanya, who automatically caught it as well: a microphone.

"You lost your chance to be somebody, you idiot! Do you realize how famous you could have become?" Aisha yelled at her.

"No, I chose not to sign -" Tanya started as the microphone faded away. She didn't even see the last object thrown at her, it just landed hard in her hands: the Tiki.

"You gave that to Jason for safekeeping, and through him, you lost Auric the Conqueror! Jason couldn't concentrate on keeping it safe because he was too worried about you trying to find your parents! And once you finally found them, you've basically lost them again! You're worthless!" Aisha shouted, slapping Tanya. "We should take your powers right now, you aren't worthy of being a Ranger!"

"We could go to Zordon, and have him choose which of us should take the power back," Trini suggested.

"Hey, thanks to this wimp here losing Sheena, you could go 'comfort' Billy, and let him know how you've always felt about him," Aisha hinted to her partner with a nasty smile. "Trini Cranston does have a nice ring to it."

"Shut up!!!" Tanya screamed at them both. "Shut up!! You can't do this, I won't let you!!"

"And how do you propose to stop us?" Trini inquired coldly. "Or have you forgotten that you have a friend hanging off of a cliff, and the others trapped in a cave? You have to choose what means the most to you, Tanya Sloan: your friends and boyfriend, the wimp, or your powers. Which can't you stand to lose the most?"

"If you had your powers right now, you could save your friends, or the wimp," Aisha whispered in her ear. Both former Yellow Rangers had closed in their circling of Tanya, both within inches of her by this point. "Or you could save Sheena. We could tell you where she is."

"But you have to choose what to lose, loser," Trini sneered. "Or you could do the very best thing of all."

"What's that?" Tanya asked warily.

"Give up being a Ranger, give up everything. You know deep down inside that the only way to save everybody, including Sheena, is to just give up everything," the Asian girl replied. "You have to quit, you know you have to give up. Just forget about this little quest, they don't need you. They'd all be better off without you. Just simply give up, Tanya."

"That should be easy for you," Aisha laughed. "You've given up so much in your life, quitting now would be easy! Just think, no Ranger responsibilities, a free life. your friends would all be safe."

"And they would finally have a true Yellow Ranger back in their ranks: once of us," Trini finished.

Tanya stared at them both open-mouthed, then abruptly squared her shoulders. "I won't give up being a Ranger!"

"Then the wimp stays dead. And your friends will all die, and you'll never see Sheena again. Zordon will make you an outcast!" Trini declared.

"I thought you just said Kahva was hanging on the side of the cliff, Trini," Tanya shot back, an odd smile slowly crossing her face. "You're lying about her being dead. Aisha didn't say anything to make me think Kahva was alive when you first blasted her off the plateau, but just now you wanted me to believe she was alive. You're lying to me, you're both lying!"

"So what if we are? That doesn't change a thing," Aisha snapped. "Besides, if one of us is lying about Kahva, then the other has to be telling the truth, doesn't she?"

Trini laughed maniacally then. "I think she thought we would simply vanish if she said we were lying! Sorry, it's not that easy, wimp!"

"No, it's not," Tanya calmly agreed, her smile getting a bit bigger.

"Confident little thing, isn't she?" Aisha snarled. With a wave of her hand in the direction of the volcano, she challenged, "Let's make this interesting. In a few minutes that volcano is going to come back to life, and that lovely boulder you and the crybaby saw is going to come flying right over here, right into the cave where your friends are. Give up, and we'll save them for you. Give up being a Ranger, Tanya, you can't handle it!"

"No!" Tanya shouted. "I won't give up! If I give up on being a Ranger, then I've given up on myself! And if I give up on myself, then I lose me." Tanya's smile grew broader then. "If I lose myself, then I'll truly have lost all my friends, my parents, and my dreams. I may not be the best Yellow Ranger that there ever has been, or will be, but I'm the best Yellow Ranger, and Tanya Sloan that I can be." Tanya could feel all of her self-doubts and guilt falling away from her heart and mind as she realized her truth. "And just for the record here: Shawn had his own problems with me not living in his shadow, but living my own life instead, and making my own decisions. I ended that relationship. And yes, the Trini I know admitted to me some time ago that she'd carried a secret crush on Billy for a long time, but she knew as well as the rest of us that Sheena was Billy's true love. She would never try to claim him as hers, nor try to take advantage of Sheena's being missing. Furthermore," she continued, her voice gaining confidence with every word, "Kahva is not a wimp, and I do care about her, just like I care about all my friends!" she threw back at her antagonists.

"Glad to hear it," came a breathless voice from seemingly out of nowhere. "Could I get a hand up this last part now, please Mom?"

"Kahva!" Tanya cried, rushing to the edge of the plateau as Kahva pulled herself up. "How did you - ?"

"I hiked up about half of that so-called path of yours," Kahva gasped. "Whoa, my legs feel like rubber." Anything else Kahva would have said was drowned out by a menacing roar, followed in the next breath by a quaking of the ground that nearly sent Kahva and Tanya both to their knees.

"So the wimp saved herself, big deal!" Trini sneered. "The volcano has come back to life, there's no way you can save your friends now!"

"We'll just see about that!" Tanya yelled. "Kahva, we've got to get to the cave now!"

"She can't shift you, you don't have your Zeonizer, therefore you don't have any power for her to tap into!" Aisha gloated. "You've lost, give up!"

"Never!!" Tanya shouted back at her predecessor. "I'm not giving up on Kahva, the others, Sheena, or myself! I still have faith!"

"In what?!"

"In the power of love and friendship! In my friends! And in myself!" Tanya declared. "Besides, who said anything about shifting? I can see an entrance to the cave right behind you! Come on, Kahva!" Tanya ran pell-mell past the two former Rangers, Kahva right on her heels.

"We can't move all the rocks, but all we need to do is roll this big one away," Tanya called back to Kahva. "We need something to get it to roll out of the way - that limb should do it, let's get it!" Tanya ran over to the limb and was already dragging it to the blocked up entrance before she realized Kahva wasn't helping her. "Kahva?"

"You think you can save your friends with help? Oh no, stupid girl, you have to do it all by yourself!" Trini cackled, her hand clamped over Kahva's mouth. The young woman was struggling helplessly in the grip of the two former Yellow Rangers, though they were not having such an easy time keeping her prisoner. "And you know you can't move that boulder without her help, so say good-bye to all of your friends, forever! Starting with the wimp!" she shouted above the roar of the eruptions, as she and Aisha started to drag Kahva back to the edge of the plateau.

"No." Tanya nearly froze in fear then. No, I can't lose Kahva, I can't lose my friends, I can't lose any of them, I can't. I won't!! "No!!" she shouted. "Let her go right now!!" Tanya threw all caution to the wind and charged at Aisha and Trini, knocking them away from Kahva, then grabbed the young woman and nearly dragged her over to the cave entrance. "We can do this!" she yelled over the roar of the erupting volcano as they maneuvered the improvised lever into position. "I won't lose any of you! I will not lose anyone ever again!!"

"You already have," Aisha's voice hissed.


"Yes, you've already lost them, it's only a matter of time. You can't get the boulder out of the way, even with the wimp's help. You're out of time now, you shouldn't have saved the wimp!! You'll lose everyone and everything now!!" Trini chuckled evilly.

Tanya rounded on them both in anger. "As long as I have their love, I'll never lose them! And I do have it! They love me, and I love them!" Tanya then set back to working on the lever with Kahva, both girls pushing on it with every last bit of strength they had, even as they saw the fiery boulder spewed from the volcano hurtling directly at them. "I'll always have them in my heart, no matter what you two do, understand? I'll never lose their love!! Never!!"

All at once, the largest boulder blocking the entrance to the cave rolled away, the fiery missile in the air disappeared, and the plateau was suddenly part of the forest floor again. Everything was as calm and peaceful as before Tanya's visions had started, and the cave-trapped Rangers were now spilling out into the open. "You did it, Tanya!" Kahva yelped excitedly. "You passed!!"

"I did? I did!" the Yellow Ranger exclaimed, hugging her older friend joyfully. "Oh man, that was just all way too intense!"

"You're telling me, I thought Aisha and Trini - hey, where did they go?"

"Would you two mind telling us what on Earth you're talking about?" Tommy asked with a cough as he exited the cave. "Neither of you are making much sense right now, you know. Hey, what happened to the volcano, and all the fallen trees?" he asked in confusion. "Everything's back to normal now? What is going on with this wacky planet?!"

Tanya and Kahva quickly related the events to the others as everyone brushed themselves off and made sure no one was injured. "I was so scared of losing you Adam," Tanya breathed into Adam's ear as she ended their tale with a fierce embrace of the Green Ranger.

"Tanya, you will never lose me, lose us. I'll always be with you, we'll all always be with you. As long as we are in each other's hearts, we'll be together forever," Adam declared gently, returning Tanya's hug full force. "Forever together, just like Billy and Sheena. I love you Tanya Sloan, and I'll always be here for you."

For a heartbeat she stood unmoving in his arms, as if doing anything at all would shatter the moment. Then her eyes shone full of love for him, and she almost collapsed into his embrace, her tears streaming freely. "Oh, Adam," she whispered. "I know that now, I truly do. Thank you."

He smiled faintly, pushing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. "Any time. I'm always here for you, you know that."

"Yeah," she smiled back at him, then leaned over to place a gentle kiss on his lips. "And I'll always be here for you. For you, and for my parents, my friends, and the team. And no matter where any of us are, I'll always have you all in my heart." Then Tanya placed a kiss on Adam's lips that drew a few teasing catcalls from Rocky.

And a pleased smile from the Keeper, as she watched the scene from afar. "Well done, my brave ones, well done." Two down, six to go. I only hope they can all fare as well as their companions before them.

* * *
Sheena sat up, tears coursing down her cheeks, her heart aching as if it had been stabbed clean through. The horrible, vicious images she'd seen in her repeating dreams were printed in stark relief on her mind, and her hand automatically reached out as if searching for someone, anyone, to comfort her. When she encountered nothing, a fresh outpouring of tears began. "Sheena?" The voice nearly startled her into jumping, and probably would have, if she still hadn't been so tired still. Troubled sleep thoroughly infested with nightmares had done very little to ease her mind.

Zimmer rushed to her bedside quickly, a very concerned look on his face, and took her hand worriedly. "Sheena, what's wrong?"

"Nightmares," she whispered, not able to bring herself to look at him just yet. "I saw. th." Sheena paused then, not wanting, nor able to speak of what she'd seen in her dreams. "Just nightmares."

She was a little surprised when he moved closer to her, but said nothing about it; he was just a friend, trying to help her during a difficult, almost impossible, time. "Sometimes it helps to talk about such things," he whispered softly in her ear. She turned to look at him, and suddenly was struck by two things: just how close together they were, and how incredibly handsome he actually was. I don't think I've ever seen a better looking man, came the thought unbidden to her mind. Not even... Not even Billy, I don't think. Yes, Zimmer is the most handsome man I've ever seen, of that there can be no doubt! He is the most handsome man in all the universe, and he cares for me!

Zimmer could see the sudden spark of interest in her eyes, and fought back the sneer of triumph. Control, control, I must keep control of my emotions! I want her so badly, but I mustn't lose control, not when I'm so close! Sigh... I'm going to have to do a lot of fighting back of my emotions and desires for a few hours yet. It's not time to cast my last thread and take victory just yet, he thought. But soon. Very soon... "You were dreaming about your old home and your friends, weren't you?" he asked quietly.

"They aren't my friends," she shook her head. "None of them are. They all betrayed me, even my old teacher Master Madas." She bit her lip, fighting back the fresh tears that wanted to fall. It was a dream, but at the same time, it all felt so real, so true... Something in the back of her mind whispered powerfully that it was real, that it had happened, that Kahva was now using her old powers, that already she had been betrayed to the utmost degree by everyone who had ever meant anything to her. They've all been lying to me for so long, how could I not see it before??

The wizard moved carefully, putting a gentle arm around her and smiling as she leaned back against him. "It'll be all right," he whispered. "I know you are hurting, I know it pains you to think of everything that they did, but you don't have to. Let me worry over all the thinking. let me deal with that."

Sheena closed her eyes, a few more tears escaping and slowly sliding down her cheeks. "Yes," she whispered, leaning into his arms. "I don't need to think with you around." The words seemed perfectly reasonable and logical to her. "I just need you," she murmured. "Please stop the pain, Zimmer. Please stop it forever."

"I will, my love," he whispered, holding her with a thousand times more tenderness than she could remember anyone else ever touching her with. "You will never be hurt as long as you are with me. You will never have to worry about anything or anyone again. I will take care of everything for you. I will never leave you, never hurt you in any way. We will be together, forever." Zimmer's words were rhythmic, hypnotic, comforting. Sheena fell into them and let them wash over her, gladly relinquishing her pain to their warm flow.

The very faintest smile touched Sheena's lips, as she looked up into his eyes. "Forever together," she murmured. "Thank you, Zimmer. For everything."

* * *
No one else was being, nothing else was happening except for the continuing of their seemingly endless trek through the forest for the last hour. Silence was the rule. Each of the young questors was searching their hearts and minds, trying to figure out what their test would most likely be, hoping to prepare themselves for it ahead of time. Without consciously planning it, they had all fallen into a rough marching order.

Tommy and Kat were in the front, keeping an eye out for anything and everything that might try to ambush them. Adam and Tanya were next; hand in hand and deep in thought, but with eyes still peeled for anything and everything out of the ordinary that might indicate another test had come. Rocky and Billy were next, both in a stony silence, Billy because his mind was imagining a thousand different scenarios that could be happening to Sheena, and a thousand more he was planning for Zimmer, if the opportunity presented itself properly.

Jason and Kahva were next, and last, in line, with the two of them bound in a silence that rivaled that of Billy and Rocky. Jason stole the occasional glance over at her, making certain he couldn't be seen when he did it. The last thing he wanted was for her to get nervous and upset because of him looking at her with anything but an honestly casual glance.

She is a really sweet person, Jason thought to himself. I wish she would talk more to us, though. I don't think she's ever sat down and had a heart-to-heart talk with any of us except for Sheena. And with everything that happened, whatever it was at the carnival, and the way things have been going here, I'm wondering if she'll even do that anymore. He thought back to the innocent question Kahva had asked aloud after Tanya's trial had been described to them, and they had been about to start out again. I wonder if all the trials will be like these two have been, long, drawn out, and scary? came her haunting words back to him. Everyone had gone stock still at the possibilities the question had dredged up. Could the rest of the trials be as bad as Tommy and Tanya's. or perhaps worse? The silence that had greeted her question had quickly sent Kahva back into her shell, and no one had been able to coax her out of it since. What I wouldn't give for this all to be over right now, and for us to be back on Earth with Sheena, for everything to be normal again. As normal as our lives ever get, anyway. Man, I think I'm going to go nuts! I wish my trial was already over with!

The Gold Ranger shook himself mentally; they all wanted the trials to happen so they would be over, but he wasn't quite certain he wanted to be next. It'll come in my own time, I guess, he thought. I just hope I can deal with it, whatever it is. Jason's musing was halted as he and all the others suddenly found the trail to be infested with knobby, gnarled old tree roots, just the perfect height for tripping someone up. If it's not one thing, it's another, this is just great, just great!

He flicked his eyes once again over to Kahva, and hoped that whatever trial she faced, she would be able to handle it. She had been so quiet and withdrawn, and so hurt recently, he didn't know if she was strong enough for it. But the Keeper must have thought she was, otherwise, she wouldn't have picked Kahva to come with us. Right? Or maybe that's part of the whole thing, to pick someone not suited at all, to push them to the edge? If so, then the trials are hardly fair! But the Keeper seemed to want us to succeed. No, she must feel that Kahva can do this, we have to keep faith in each other, or the rest of us will fail our trials. We can't fail, we have to save Sheena! But Kahva isn't a Ranger, so what could her trial possibly be? Somehow, worrying over what Kahva might face made Jason even more determined to see the whole team through, and to face his own trial. We will not fail, none of us will fail, we simply can't! The cost of failure is too high.

Jason was about to look over at Kahva again, when a strangled cry came from up ahead of them. Both of them looked up to see something that looked much like a hole in the air, except this one had long, thin tentacles coming out of it, reaching towards the others. Adam was the one who had called out, his eyes round and full of terror. "No!" the Green Ranger literally shrieked the word out. "No, stop it!"

More and more tentacles flowed out of the gaping wound in the heavens, and before either Jason or Kahva could do anything, they had tightly wrapped themselves around Billy and were dragging him towards the midair opening. "Let me go!" He valiantly tried to fight with the tentacles, but soon they were holding his arms tight to his body, rendering the Sapphire Ranger completely helpless. "I can't get free!! Run guys, get out of here!!" His warning was too late though, for the tentacles were lashing out at the others before he'd even yelled. As Billy's warning ended, Jason, Tommy, Kat, Tanya, Adam, and Rocky were all wrapped up in the tentacles inside of a moment of each other. Somehow Kahva barely managed to avoid them, diving headlong into the sinister tentacles, dragging and yanking at the appendage that held Billy with all her strength.

"Let him go!" she growled, wishing she had her quarterstaff, or some sort of special powers, as she pounded on the thing. If this thing gets him because I can't fight back. NO! I won't let it have him, I won't let this thing get any of them! But try as she might, the greenish-black, rough tentacles were slowly winning this high stakes game of tug of war. "Let him go, let them all go!!"

"Kahva, get away before they get you too!" Can't she see the danger she's in - what? What are these things doing with me?! Adam struggled fiercely as he was dragged slowly up to the wide hole, the tentacles waving him about in the air as if showing off a trophy. The helpless Ranger paled and his eyes went wide as the center of the gaping hole cleared just enough to reveal something inside. or rather, someone: Mondo.

"What's the matter, little Green Zeo Ranger?" the Machine King laughed. "Can't you do anything for anyone? I'm not surprised. you haven't been needed or wanted in quite some time. You're not important to anyone. especially not to your best friend!" he taunted, waving a hand in Billy's direction.

"That's not true!" Adam snapped, struggling to the best of his ability against the tentacles that were holding him tightly. "You're lying!"

Mondo laughed. "Am I? You know that ever since Sheena came into your lives, Billy just hasn't had time for you at all. He's been far too busy being with her."

The Green Ranger felt a bolt of ice freeze his heart. It was true; ever since Sheena had arrived so strangely into their world and lives, Billy and he hadn't spent quite the same amount of time together that they had before. As his face fell, he heard the Machine King's laughter. "But then again, she is his wife. You're just an old has-been. He's not the only one who doesn't need you, you know," Mondo chuckled nastily. "Kahva is doing a better job of trying to save him right now than you ever could. At least, for right now, she is. I like to torment my prey with false hope before I capture them," he sneered. "And what of Tanya and Tommy? They didn't need your help at all in their trials. Don't you remember? You lost your hold on Tanya, it was Kahva who helped your girlfriend. And if you look at her now," he almost smiled, waving a hand in Tanya's direction, "it's your other friend who's helping her now. It's Rocky who's trying to come to her rescue."

Sure enough, Rocky had one arm free, and a sharp rock he'd picked up from somewhere, and the tentacles were holding him close enough to Tanya for him to hack away at the appendages holding her prisoner. His efforts were in vain though, for as soon as he made any headway at all, another greenish-black tentacle would wrap itself around Tanya to ensure her captivity. "She doesn't need you anymore, now that she has a new hero. Face it, Ranger wimp! You're just not good enough to keep! You're not even worth the wasteful, piddling effort it would take to hold you or break you! Go back to where you belong. back to worthlessness and loneliness!! No one needs you anymore!! Especially not Billy!!"

As a gesture, the tentacle holding him captive dropped him to the ground with apparent disgust, while the others started dragging the Rangers closer and closer to the gaping hole that now seemed to represent the vacuum of his friendship with Billy. Adam stared up at it, his heart pounding and his eyes thick with tears. It can't be true, can it? Has Billy abandoned our friendship just because of Sheena?

The young Ranger sat there, watching helplessly as Billy was drawn closer and closer to the hole. The tentacles were finding their way to Kahva now, weaving over, under and around their kin to reach her. "Adam!!" Billy screamed. "Run, get out of here before they grab you again!! You have to keep going!! You have to keep going for Sheena's sake!!" The Sapphire Ranger could only writhe helplessly in the sinister tentacles as Kahva kept pulling at them, fighting desperately to keep him from being pulled into the gaping tear in the sky. The young woman seemed oblivious to her own danger as a tentacle snaked around a leg, then her waist, slowly dragging her in along with Billy. Somehow, Kahva managed to jam her hand into the coils wrapped around Billy and grab his hand, throwing out her other one in a desperate attempt to grab something, anything, to keep him from being pulled into the ever-widening hole.

"Kahva!! The trees, the trees!!" Adam shouted, hoping she would see what he saw. "Their roots!! They're sticking up out of the ground, grab one!!" He nearly collapsed with relief as she just barely managed to grab one as Billy and she were dragged past them. "Don't let go!!"

"I don't intend to!!" she shouted back, as she slowly pulled herself and Billy a tiny distance away from the opening, struggling to gain every bit of leverage against their enemy she could.

"Adam!! Don't let them catch you again!!" Tanya was the one who screamed this time. The others had seen the tactic Kahva was using by now, and all had managed to grab onto the roots with free hands, or by anchoring a foot or leg. Their efforts, though, were only delaying the inevitable. All of them were going to end up in the hole. As prisoners of the Machine King.

"Adam, run!! Get out of here!" Tommy shouted.

"No!! I can't leave you!! I won't abandon you!!" Adam tried to charge towards Billy, who was still the closest one to the growing opening. "Let him go, let them all go, Mondo!!"

"Just watch, Adam," the mocking voice of Mondo declared, not even giving him the honorific of Ranger anymore. "Just watch as your precious friend Billy comes into my control. and there is nothing that you or anyone else can do about it! The others will fall right behind him!!"

Billy said I had to keep going for Sheena's sake. Is she really the only one he cares about anymore? Could Mondo be right? Is it possible?? Adam found himself frozen in the waving jungle of malicious tentacles, helpless to save his captured friends. He could feel the blood drain from his face as in spite of Kahva's best efforts, Billy was slowly pulled closer and closer to the opening. The root she had grabbed onto with an iron grip was coming out of the ground, it too giving way to the power of the tentacles. I can't let them be pulled through, I can't let Mondo have any of them, I can't!!

The Green Ranger ran forward, trying to reach Billy, but several tentacles jabbed out in front of him, weaving together in an instant, blocking his way. "Adam!!" Billy shouted again. "Look out behind you!!" Adam instantly tucked and rolled forward, dodging a large tentacle that struck the spot where he'd just been with a jarring thud. "Whoever's doing this, leave Adam alone!!" Billy yelled.

They can't see Mondo. But why? he wondered. A cold, hard shiver quickly wracked his spine as he at last saw what was happening. This is my trial! That's why they can't see Mondo! Knowing that isn't going to stop this, though. I have to pass my trial to keep the quest going, to have a chance to save Sheena, but I can't leave my friends here to become Mondo's prisoners! But how do I save my friends? What do I do? "Thanks for the warning!!" he shouted up to Billy, even as he searched for a way around the tentacle wall.

"What are friends for?" Billy hollered back with a groan as the tentacles binding him squeezed him painfully. His moan was joined by Kahva's as her arms were stretched to the limit, trying to keep her grip on the root with one hand, and Billy with the other. It was a game of tug of war with Billy as the prize, and the tentacles were slowly winning.

Mondo's going to get him, I can't let Mondo have him, I can't. "Kahva, don't let go of him!!"

"I'm trying, Adam!" Kahva screamed back. "Get out of here before they get you, hurry!!"

"I can't leave you guys!!" What am I supposed to do?! Adam felt hot tears of fear, anger and utter helplessness threaten to well up and spill from his eyes, then some finally escaped, and Adam sank to his knees, shoulders slumping in defeat. "I can't, I can't do this, Mondo is right, I'm worthless, and when he has them, I'll be alone. I've lost my friends, my best friend," he whispered to himself brokenly. "I've lost him first to marriage, now Mondo." Then, like a lightning bolt, realization struck him. What was it Billy just said? 'What are friends for?' He's still my friend, he always has been! Mondo's wrong, Billy hasn't, and couldn't, and wouldn't abandon our friendship just because he got married. We might see each other less, but we're still friends! We'll always be friends!!

"Poor Adam," Mondo's voice floated down from the sky, ringing in Adam's ears. "He's lost the fight, the quest, his girlfriend, and now he's about to lose his best friend," the Machine King taunted him, laughing evilly. "And there's nothing he can do!! Nothing!!"

Adam stared up at the hole, slowly getting to his feet, the despair of utter defeat washing away as he felt a sudden calm invade his soul. "Not necessary to do something about it," he smiled abruptly, as the truth warmed him with its embrace. "Because you're wrong, Mondo! My friendship with Billy hasn't ended just because he's got a wife now. I hope to marry someday myself, and our friendship won't change because of that either," he stated confidently, looking over at Tanya with eyes full of love, and a fierce belief in his truth. "And just for the record, I've not lost the woman I love, I have not lost Tanya!" Adam allowed himself a tiny smile as some of the tentacles holding the other Rangers started to ease their collective hold on their prisoners. "Yes, my friendship with Billy has changed, but it has never been lost! It's just different. and in some ways better. We appreciate the time we have together, and it's a lot of fun. Billy is my best friend. and always will be! Do you hear me, Mondo? I still have my best friend!! I still have all of my friends, and their love, right here!!" he shouted defiantly, pointing at his heart. "And I always will!!"

Even as the last words fell from Adam's lips, the hole vanished and Rangers were falling abruptly to the ground all over the place. "Look out!" Billy warned frantically, as suddenly Kahva was the only one pulling on him. His words were too late however, as without anything to hold him back, he tumbled from the sky and into Kahva's arms, literally falling on top of her. As they hit the ground, he grunted at the impact, and Kahva moaned, her face wrinkled up in mild pain. Billy quickly rolled off of her, then bent over her, still on his knees, gazing at her with a lopsided grin. "Falling into your arms is getting to be a habit," he chuckled, remembering how he'd collapsed on top of her when he was released from the mirror prison dimension, and before that, when he'd landed on her coming off of the slide at the carnival.

Then the images his evil clone had sent him flooded his mind, and he shivered, the blood draining from his face. This is almost how he was looking down at her, almost the same exact position. What am I doing?! I can't joke around with her, not like this! Billy wanted to leap up and bolt away, but couldn't, the shock from the replayed images had rendered him immobile. All he could do was stare into her eyes as she grimaced, placing a hand over her stomach, propping herself up carefully on one arm. Everyone else bit their lips, staring at the small tableau before them. The way Kahva had been reacting and acting to everything since the carnival. they didn't know what she would do.

"Mind breaking that habit?" Kahva grunted out, arching an eyebrow up at Billy. "Your elbow in my stomach isn't exactly pleasant, you know. Sharp jabs do tend to hurt, most times." The relief in the air could have been cut with a knife, as the smile on her face told them all she was joking.

* * *
No one was much the worse for wear after Adam's trial, though everyone had bumps, bruises and minor scrapes in various places. As much as they might want to, no one even hinted that they should rest; they all knew time was of the essence here. The Rangers found their concern shifting from Kahva just the tiniest bit, and settling on Billy a little more. Kahva had discreetly let the others know what she had sensed from him through their ever increasingly erratic and shaky link. Billy was keeping himself going with thoughts of what he would likely do to Zimmer if he had hurt Sheena in any way, and at that particular moment, the Sapphire Ranger had a very broad definition of hurting. Billy was so tightly wound up, he would have been willing to punch the wizard out just for simply breathing on his wife. Tommy mentally took a bit of slight hope from these events, though. For the first time since the carnival, none of them had showed the least bit doubt in Kahva's words. Perhaps it was because Billy was so obviously agitated, perhaps not, but for whatever the reason, Tommy was very glad of it. I think just maybe we're beating it, whatever that is making some of us doubt her, I think we're beating it! I sure hope so, anyway. Whatever the reason is, I'll take what we can get!

The other sliver of hope he clung to was that Billy had not slipped into depression, nor had given into a feeling that they were not going to succeed. If he loses hope, we're done for. and so is Sheena. Tommy gave his old friend a worried glance as they continued down the trail. I just hope he doesn't let his anger at Zimmer blind him so much that he loses Sheena by accident.

The trail slowly widened as they trudged down it, eventually leading them to a small stream. Everyone paused gratefully for a quick drink and to put some of the cool water on the more painful wounds. The Red Ranger found himself studying both Kahva and Billy, noticing that Kahva seemed to want to say something to various members of the team, but would apparently think better of it before attracting their attention. Perhaps she was aware Tommy was watching her, for she seemed to make a point of not making any eye contact with him whatsoever. As for Billy, Kahva's words were being confirmed over and over again. He could see the Sapphire Ranger's lips moving, and upon moving closer, he was able to overhear parts of muttered threats against Zimmer. Calm down Billy, please!! If you lose your focus, you might lose Sheena! Not wanting to aggravate him further by calling attention to his agitation publicly, Tommy opted for laying a gentle hand upon Billy's shoulder to get his attention. Then he cleared his throat to alert the others. "As nice as this is, we've got to keep moving," he said quietly. "And I think we should rearrange our marching order a little, we've got what looks like a rough section up ahead.

"As if the going has been easy so far," Adam commented, giving a short, dry laugh. "How rough is it?"

For a reply, Tommy simply pointed to the trail that stretched out before them. Rising above the forest floor ahead was a series of cliffs, with the stream they'd been drinking from cascading down from it. The path wound up through the cliffs, narrowing until it went out of sight around a sharp-looking turn. "Rough doesn't describe it," Rocky breathed. "That looks like total murder!"

"I'll take up the rear," Tommy decided, his eyes glancing from one to the other of the team. "As for the lead." he started, his eyes settling on Rocky and Jason.

Rocky was about to offer to take the lead, when Jason raised his hand. "I'll take the lead, Tommy," he grinned, not noticing the slight disappointment and hint of resentment in Rocky's eyes.

Tommy grinned, nodding. "You're reading my mind bro, just like old times," he chuckled, patting Jason on the back as the two of them spread out into their positions, not noticing Rocky's shadowed eyes.

And here I am, Mr. Chopped Liver himself all over again. Why did Jason have to jump in so fast, I could've taken the lead, no problem! Oh, what's the use? The Blue Ranger had gotten over his initial resentment to Jason's rejoining the team, but every now and then, something happened that would just irk his nerves beyond reason.

"Rocky, I want you to hang right behind Jason," Tommy called out. As the team organized themselves between Jason and Tommy, Rocky bit down on his anger, trying to focus beyond it.

We're all friends, we're all on the same team, with the same mission, don't let it get to you, don't let him get to you, he invoked the mantra he had used ever since Jason had come back to the Rangers. As they headed up the path and towards the cliff, he repeated it mentally over and over, but for once, it wasn't having any effect. At least, not the usual one of calming him down. Instead, he was growing angrier and angrier with every breath, every step, that he took. Who does he think he is, coming back here? We didn't need his help, we were doing just fine without him! It's not like we needed saving or anything, we were doing just fine!

Not paying attention to himself, much less anyone else, Rocky rather roughly pushed his way beyond Jason, striding far ahead of the others, more to be by himself and muse over the vicious thoughts arrowing through his head than anything else. I'll show them who can take the lead, I'll show them all that Jason isn't all he's cracked up to be, somehow! I wish he would just go away for a while. Rocky smiled tightly, grimly to himself as thoughts of a Jason-free Rangers team danced through his head. No Gold Ranger, now that would be a nice world. The quest was forgotten, all the Blue Ranger could think about was taking down the Gold Ranger, watching him take his orders for a change. Show him who's boss for once.

"What's up with Rocky?" Tanya wondered, looking over at Adam and raising an eyebrow. "He looks kind of upset."

Adam bit one lip nervously; he'd only ever seen Rocky looking like this once before, and he didn't want to think it was happening all over again. Rocky, this isn't the time or place for this, please calm down! You're not thinking straight! The last time you acted like this, you nearly got yourself killed over this. The stakes are even higher now, you have to calm down!

"Rocky," Adam called out, as he started to try to catch up with his friend, but almost as soon as he took his first step, an extremely unmistakable sound echoed all around them. Adam jerked his head up, paling terribly as he saw what was happening. "Avalanche!"

Rocky whirled around at Adam's cry, and everyone stared in shock and fear as rocks pounded down the side of the cliffs, falling almost precisely in between Rocky and Jason and the rest of the group. Rocky stood stock-still, literally paralyzed with fear as they were neatly separated. He was about to head back, determined to push Jason aside to get to his friends, when another rugged, massive boulder landed on the ledge they were standing on. Shockwaves radiated outward from the strike, sending hard tremors through the ground, nearly sending Rocky and Jason both to their knees. Without warning, the ledge underneath Jason's feet crumbled away, crashing down the cliff. and trying to take Jason with it.

"Rocky!" Jason screamed as he fell, grasping onto the scant remains of the ledge with his fingertips. "Rocky, pull me back up! Hurry!"

The Blue Ranger stared for a moment, and time almost seemed to stand still. I could let Jason fall, and be rid of him once and for all. The others wouldn't, couldn't blame me. This is an accident, after all. Rocky smirked ever so slightly, indulging in the luxury of smugness, knowing full well Jason nor the others could see him. No more Jason, just like I've wished for.

But as quickly as the thought warmed his mind, a second doused his glee. No, then he would become a martyr, and you can't ever get rid of them. Dang it, even gone, Jason would still get me! It's not fair!!

"You could save him," came a quiet suggestion.

"Tanya?! Wh-what are you - how did you get past the boulders?" Rocky choked out. Great, I have to try and save him now, she's watching me!

"I have my ways," she smiled, striding over to him. "You do realize you could just simply save him, don't you?"

Yeah, I could save him, and just have to deal with it even more, Rocky thought angrily. He started to crawl carefully over to where he could just see Jason's fingers clinging desperately to what little remained of the ledge, but then turned around, giving Tanya a puzzled look. "I'd almost say you didn't want me to save him."

"Well. It's because I know how you feel," she replied. "You were replaced when Jason showed up. Yeah, you're still on the team, but you've been replaced. Tommy looked to you to help lead when we were just five Rangers, but when Jason showed up, you got shoved back." Tanya walked closer to Rocky then, placing a cool, caring hand on his shoulder. "That hurt, I know it did."

"You can say that again," Rocky muttered softly, his anger still burning deep in his heart.

"Then Sheena had to show up with such wonderful powers," Tanya continued sarcastically. "And she had to get Billy set up so perfectly to get powers of his own! Talk about getting shoved back, that was two shots in less than twenty four hours."

"But Billy's never wanted to lead -"

"But who does Sheena turn to all the time? Tommy, Jason and Billy. True, Billy doesn't try to lead, so I guess he doesn't really count, but there's still Tommy and Jason. And Jason is hanging off of a cliff right now. So what if you can't save him? I doubt we'll fail the quest just because of something naturally happening to one of us. Let him fall," Tanya suggested. "But like you were just thinking, that'll make him a martyr, and you can't get rid of them to save your life or soul."

"But if I save him, I'll have to deal with him even more!" Wait a minute. How did she know what I was thinking? Rocky wondered.

"True, but he'll owe you his life then. That will put him at a disadvantage. Come on Rocky, after everything he's done to you, don't you want him to owe you?" Tanya asked with a dangerous smile.

"It would be nice, I guess."

"You guess?! Come off it Rocky, you'd love it and you know you would!" Tanya laughed. "You would like to have him, Tommy and Sheena in your debt, probably Billy too! But right now, it's Jason who will die. Unless you, being the great hero, somehow save him. Think of the gratitude from everyone, think of how much Jason will have to bow down to you. You can't tell me that the thought of Jason groveling at your feet isn't appealing."

Suddenly Rocky's anger shifted, and there was an odd tremble in his heart as Tanya's words echoed in his mind. Jason groveling?? It would be. No, there's something that's just not right with that image. "I - I don't know." he mumbled, feeling very unsure of his thoughts and heart.

"Rocky, think back to all the times when your ideas were shot down in favor of the 'almighty Jason', and his 'I'm the hero, I can save you' act. Think about all the times Sheena's passed you over, and all the times Tommy has as well," the Yellow Ranger urged. "Let Jason die, or save him and rub his face in it! This is your time to shine, your time to take back your rightful place in the Rangers. Do it!!"

He would owe me... I'm being good enough to save him, he would owe me! Rocky thought, a cold delight filling his soul. They have passed me over so many times, never listened to me -

"Yes, take advantage of him, take advantage of all of this, do it!!" Tanya exclaimed. "Remember how they all acted at the carnival today, you were the only one who truly believed Kahva, you were the only one who noticed the bruises that clone put on her, right? Jason missed that; the great hero Jason, the 'I'm the original leader, I'm so wonderful Jason' screwed up!! You are the one they should all be thanking and bowing to right now!! Take care of Jason once and for all, get him out of your way permanently!! Do it, do it now!!"

Carried along by his darkest emotions and Tanya's fiery cold encouragement, Rocky was nearly to Jason's weakening fingers when something far back in his mind made him stop and stare hard at Tanya. "Wait a minute. Why do you want me to do this? I thought you liked Jason."

"After he nearly lost the Tiki for all time? Give me a break, don't make me laugh!! He's not my friend, he's not anybody's friend!" she scoffed. "Frankly, I don't see what Emily or Kahva see in him. He's a complete faker!"

"You're right, he's not to be trusted..." Rocky agreed. I could save everyone so much grief if I just let him fall, or saved him and took him down a few pegs. They've all passed me over so many times... So why am I hesitating? Past battles flashed in his mind as he tried to justify his jealousy and anger, battles where each one of them had saved each other time and time again, how everyone's ideas were heard out, and the best one or ones used. They... They haven't passed me over for Jason? Rocky froze, his hand hovering uncertainly over Jason's slipping fingers.

"What are you waiting for?!" Tanya screamed. The Yellow Ranger was at Rocky's side in an instant, fairly yanking him back up to his feet with surprising strength. "Either save him or let him fall, but take him down!! Take back your place!!" she raged at him, shaking him until his neck felt like it would snap in two.

"Save him or..." What in the WORLD am I thinking? Rocky shook himself suddenly. Jason TRUSTED me with the Red Ranger powers when I came to Angel Grove, he didn't have to, he could've asked Zordon to pick someone else or chosen not to go to Switzerland. He didn't come back to Angel Grove to be a Ranger. That was just a coincidence, he told us that himself, and we knew that beforehand anyway! He came back home because he was so homesick, he came back to be with his friends and family. Being asked to take the Gold powers was something he never counted on. He hadn't even heard about the Gold Ranger until Tommy found him, the existence of a Gold Ranger hadn't made it into the news. All the media knew was there was a new Ranger, nothing else! Rocky's jealousy shattered its icy grip on his heart as the Blue Ranger could finally let himself see the truth. Jason has always stood by me, by all of us, and I'm not going to let him down now! "I'm going to save him, and I'm not going to take any advantages of anything!" he yelled at the young woman who had pulled him up, who had urged him to give in to his unwarranted jealousy. "Jason is my friend, and always will be, just like everyone else is! They've never tried to replace me, I'm the only one who's tried to do that, by thinking of Jason as something other than what he is: my friend!! Get your hands off of me!" he snapped at the girl, whirling out of her hold and back to the ledge. Rocky dropped quickly to his knees and held his hand out to Jason. "Grab my hand!" he shouted. "I'll pull you up!"

The sound of their two hands meeting should have been the familiar smack of flesh on flesh, and to normal ears it was. But to Rocky, it was something more. It was the sound of jealousy being released at last, of freedom from self-inflicted mental pain and grief that didn't need to exist. Slowly, bracing his feet as best he could against two large rocks for balance, he lifted his friend up over the edge of the cliff. Side by side they lay there, panting with exhaustion.

"Thanks," Jason managed to get out. "Thanks for not listening to whoever that was you were yelling at."

"I was yelling at Tanya, she was telling me to - Where'd she go?! She was right over there!" Rocky exclaimed, trying to roll over to get to his feet, but he was just a little too tired to do so. "You say you heard all of that? So I didn't imagine it all?"

"I heard you yelling at someone, but I couldn't hear what they were saying," Jason stated breathlessly. "In fact, I didn't hear anyone else at all. I only heard you. That wasn't the real Tanya, Rocky. It had to be another illusion... Oh man, that means this was your trial..." Jason looked down at the ground, an unfamiliar awkwardness filling his heart. "Rocky, I know that you felt like I've -"

"Stop right there, Jason. I did feel like that," Rocky shook his head. "But not anymore. Jason, I've been acting like an idiot, and I'm sorry for it. I knew deep down that you weren't trying to replace me, but little things would happen, nobody meant for them to, and I let them eat at me. I should've talked it all out long before now. Can you ever forgive me?"

Jason smiled, slowly getting to his feet, then helping Rocky up as the others carefully picked their way to them over the boulders that had blocked the trail. "There's nothing to forgive, but if there is, you're forgiven," he chuckled.

Rocky smiled in return, and let the joy in his heart at his release from jealousy bubble out with his own laughter. "Jason... thank you. Because of you, I found some of the greatest friends in my life, and a real meaning to my life as well. Because of you, I became a Power Ranger. Thanks, man."

Jason smiled, squeezing the other young man's shoulder. "Not a problem, bro. Not a problem."

* * *
"I'm getting worried." David paced back and forth anxiously; he'd arranged with his father to be away for a few days once the Rangers and Kahva had left, just to be on the safe side, and had quite literally moved into the Power Chamber for the duration, whatever it may be. The Treys were there as well, while the Aquitian Rangers were relaxing in a pool of treated water on another level of the Power Chamber, keeping themselves fully hydrated in case of an emergency. Alpha had been successfully repaired from his earlier overload, and was softly 'ay-yi-yiing' to himself, fretfully shuffling from one console to the other in his normal fashion, scanning for any possible signs of danger. If Mondo tried to take advantage of the Power Rangers absence, then they would need to be at peak condition and full power. "It's been so long already," he sighed, fingering his half of the powerful arrowhead he and his brother protected. Please stay safe. All of you, please stay safe.


Trey of Wisdom nodded; he and the other two Treys were looking just a little weaker than normal. "When this is ended, Zordon, we must return to Triforia. We have been searching for ways to restore our unity, but as you well know, it has been well over a year since we were splintered. If we do not restore ourselves soon, then we could very well perish."


"Thank you, Zordon," the Treys spoke in unison. "We hope that your Rangers return soon; all our research so far shows that in some fashion, the Gold Ranger powers will need to be used our reunification."

As the conversation continued, with both Trey and Zordon perusing over various methods and possibilities of reunification, David wandered over to one side and stared at the floor. You guys better hurry, he thought. If Mondo attacks, I don't know what I'm going to do. I can't fight. The Treys and the Alien Rangers will handle that, but I guess I'll just stay here and watch. It's not like I can do much of anything else. I don't know how Billy managed to handle this helplessness for as long as he did. I'm just a 'temporary support staff member', and already I think I'm going insane with this! I want to do something, but all I can do is be a cheerleader!

He took a long breath, and sighed. Good luck, guys. Please come back safely. Please...

* * *
"Okay, now that everything's all lovey-dovey between the two of you, do you possibly think you could -" Kat's voice broke off in the middle of her sentence for two reasons: the avalanche and the damage it had wrought to the land and the cliffs about them were both suddenly gone. Not cleared away. Gone, as if they had never been in the first place. "Okay," she murmured, shaking her head. You'd think I'd be used to things like this by now. Then again, sometimes I think I'll never get used to all of it. "I've got to hand it to the Keeper, she's got one heck of a cleanup crew!"

As they started heading forward again, with Rocky and Jason side by side now in the lead, despite the narrowness of the path, she found herself thinking suddenly on just how she'd gotten involved in all of this. Her heart sank, as she realized from everyone else's descriptions what was already happening to her. We just finished Rocky's trial, don't we even get a little bit of rest before we plunge headlong into mine?

Despite her desire not to remember, her thoughts drew inexorably back to the beginning, her own entry into the Rangers lives. Her heart pounded faster and faster as she thought of how Rita had lured her with a disguised Tenga out into the woods and had placed her darkest and most evil spell on her. She had done such terrible evil as Rita's pawn; she'd attacked Billy and Adam while they were enroute to Billy's lab, she nearly killed Kimberly by stealing her power coin. She had also stolen the FalconZord, which had weakened Ninjor enough so he could be captured all too easily by Rita and Zedd. A crystalline tear shone in one eye as she remembered all of the appalling deeds that she had done in those horrible times. I wish I could change all that, she thought. I wish I could make it all right again. I hurt them all so badly, and all they ever did was be kind to me, try to help me fit in... I don't deserve to be a Ranger, I've never been a true Ranger.

"Hello, little Kitty-Kat!" A voice as familiar to her as her own shocked her to her core, as they all came to an alarmed halt. Kat looked up to see something, or rather someone in front of them that she had never seen before... but knew all too well anyway. A tall, muscular, feline figure blocked their path. Yellow-eyed with what could have been fur, or perhaps an extension of its tail wrapped about its torso, the beast hissed and extended deadly sharp claws. Covered from head to toe with ratty yellow and white fur, the creature was a sickening, fearsome sight. The Pink Ranger went stiff as a board as she stared into the face of the Cat Monster, her once-monster form. "What's the matter, Katherine, see someone you know?" it yowled. "Like, yourself, maybe??"

Tommy, Adam, Rocky, and Billy all stared as something they had never thought they would see again leapt out in front of them. Kahva had seen it before also, on television back in her old world. This thing is just like King Mondo, it's real here too! her mind shouted nervously. But back there, it didn't look anywhere near this horrible! Why do these monsters have to be so much scarier-looking in person, here in Ranger reality?! I'd give anything for them to be as comical as the TV series back there, just for once!! "Cat Monster." she gasped softly under her breath.

"What is that thing?!" Tanya looked revolted at the sight of the monster. "I don't think I've ever seen it before!"

"Remember when we told you about how Kat used to be evil? Before she took over Kim's spot as a Ranger?" Adam murmured. "Well, Rita and Zedd made that thing her monster form. Billy and I had to fight that thing by ourselves, we barely had time to morph. If the others hadn't gotten there..." He shuddered, remembering how easily she'd tossed them in the air, how she'd clawed at Billy's chest and stomach. Even through his uniform, she left some nasty scratches on him, he was sore for days. So was I, but he got the worst of it. Adam's back tensed, starting to ache from the remembered pain of being slammed into a tree. And now, none of us can morph, and one of us isn't even a Ranger to begin with. If this thing is even half as strong as last time... "We also had to fight it Zord-sized, and that wasn't pleasant either. I think it's safe to say we've entered Kat's trial," he breathed, barely nodding to indicate his friend. Adam was plainly afraid of drawing too much attention to Kat, though they all knew as well as he did that if this was her trial, it was far too late to worry about that. "It's got to be hers."

Jason glanced over to his pink friend, and from the look of sheer horror on Kat's face, it was painfully obvious Adam was right. "Kat? Kat?! Snap out of it, please!" This isn't good... It's up to her to deal with this, but she's not! The rest of us are either going to be gotten out of the way or separated from her in some fashion, that's been the pattern of the trials so far. Jason stared grimly at the furry menace that blocked their way. We all have to face our trials alone, but that doesn't mean we can't try to help her!

He took a step towards the monster, not quite certain what he was going to do. "Leave her alone!" he shouted. Okay Jason, that was stupid, if this is her trial, if she's going to pass it, she has to face it, it can't leave her alone! he berated himself. But she's just standing there, Kat's out of it! We've got to help her somehow!

Before he could call out to the Pink Ranger again, the monster hissed softly at him, pointing a sharp, yellowed claw in his direction. Somehow, Jason was not surprised when the ground beneath his feet suddenly vanished. As he dropped out of sight of the others, the last thing he heard was a shriek from Tanya. Good luck, Kat, he thought, before his mind faded away into blackness.

"Where's Jason?" Tanya stared at the ground he had fallen into, which had sealed over him completely. "What happened to him?!"

"I happened, you little yellow twit!" the Cat Monster purred. She curled up her body high around a tree trunk, staring down at them with baleful and hungry eyes. "And I'm going to happen to all of you little idiots, unless I get what I want!" An ominous rustling of leaves heralded the oncoming arrival of something, or someone else from the forest... and whatever it was, it had company.

Ignoring the noises for the moment, Adam took a step forward himself, growling and fists clenched in anger. "And what is it that you want?" he demanded. The rustling in the forest grew louder, whatever was coming to aid the monster was getting closer. "Answer me!!" the Green Ranger demanded.

The Cat creature lazily flipped her tail at him, and just as it had under Jason, a hole appeared and Adam was gone as well, the ground where he had stood sealed and whole as if it had never opened. "What I want is for me to know, and you to find out," it purred, not so much as moving a hair as it turned a gaze on all of them. "Of course, you won't find it out. You never will, and you never truly do figure anything out. You've all just been lucky this far..."

"Kahva," Billy leaned over quickly to the older girl, whispering so as not to be overheard by the monster. "Get out of the line of fire, hide somewhere before that thing tries to hurt you! I've tangled with that thing before, you know that from the show. Trust me, whatever you saw back there is nothing compared to what the real thing can do!" Billy watched the monster the whole time, who seemed to have its eyes glued on Tanya for some reason momentarily. "Go!" he hissed.

Unfortunately, the Cat appeared to have ears keener than any of them had ever suspected, or its brief fascination with Tanya had been a ploy all along. Whatever the case, the pair never got the chance to hazard a guess. "Talking about a kitty behind her back? How rude!! I simply hate bad manners!!" Before either Billy or Kahva could make a move, its tail lashed out sharply, using its powers to reach them. In the blink of an eye, it knocked Kahva out of sight, and pulled Billy down into another hole. Tanya, Rocky and Tommy almost 'eeped' at the same moment, a shiver of fear playing havoc with their hearts. In a matter of seconds, half their team was gone to who knew where, and Kat still had not moved so much as a muscle.

"Do you think we'd better try and snap her out of it, or will that do more harm than good?" Rocky whispered to the other two as they huddled together for a quick strategy session. The Cat Monster seemed perfectly willing to let them do anything for the moment; its eyes were now as focused on Kat as hers were on it. "Or is it one of those things where no matter what we try, we're still going to get taken out of the picture here?"

"Kat may as well not even be here, with the way she's just staring so. so mindlessly at that thing!" Tanya exclaimed softly, shooting furtive glances at the monstrous creature. "I can't believe she used to be that - that."

"I know. But she was, just like I was once Rita's evil Green Ranger." Tommy glanced over at Kat and the Cat Monster, who now were locked in an endless staring contest, neither blinking yet. "I hate to say it, but I think we're going to be taken out no matter what we might try to do."

"Tommy, you sound as if you're giving up!"

"No, I'm not, Tanya. Believe me, I'm not about to give up on anyone! But we've been through this before with the other trials, remember? Whoever is being tested isn't allowed to have help in any way. They have to do it on their own, and the trials ensure that." Tommy stared at his love with pleading eyes, willing her to snap out of her entrancement. Kat, please!! Snap out of it!! "It's a solo thing for each of us, no matter what."

"No, you're wrong!" Tanya protested. "You had all of us helping you in your trial, we all told you that none of this was your fault! We all helped Adam, Kahva helped me, and Rocky had help -"

"Rocky didn't have anyone, Tanya," Tommy pointed out gently. "And from the looks of it, Kat won't have any help either. Listen, Tanya. Except in Rocky's, we were all able to encourage the one in the trial, but they were the ones who had to realize a truth in themselves. I had to realize it on my own in mine, you in yours, and the same for Adam and Rocky."

"It's a revelation of the soul," Rocky nearly whispered, drawing surprised glances from his two teammates. "Hey, just because I tend to be the joker, it doesn't mean I don't have deep thoughts every now and then. Besides," he smiled tightly, staring hard at the still seemingly frozen Kat, "it's the truth."

"It may be the truth, but how is Kat going to face her trial if she's still totally zoned out?" Tanya asked. "It's hard to have a revelation if you're not conscious enough to have it to begin with!" With unerring aim, Tanya scooped up a rock and threw it exactly between the monster and her friend, precisely through Kat's field of vision. "Snap out of it!!" she shouted, desperately hoping the rock had broken the young woman's entrancement, or whatever it was that was holding her so terrifyingly still. "We have to do something!"

But all the Pink Ranger seemed to be able to do was stare open-mouthed at the vicious creature before her. Tanya was about to hurl another rock between the two when Tommy stilled her with a hand on her arm. "You're right about one thing, Tanya," Tommy agreed. "We do have to do something, we can't just let her stand there like that. You've got the right idea, we have to wake her up, or she'll never get through this. But," he finished, taking the rock out of the Yellow Ranger's hand, "though I trust your aim completely, that monster might decide to do something with your ammo other than harmless throwing. We have to try something else." Turning back to his love, he willed her to wake up with all his love, hurling it into his voice just as fiercely as Tanya had thrown her rocks. "Kat!!" he yelled at the blonde. "Kat, wake up!! Please!!!" Kat, please hear me, snap out of it!! I love you, please wake up!! Please!!

All their hopes sank however, when the Cat Monster turned to gaze balefully at them. "If you're not going to actually do anything, other than yak your heads off, yell and throw rocks, then it's time for you to join your friends. Give my greetings to oblivion! Spinners!!! Get them!!"

So intent had the remaining Rangers been on their teammate, the noises in the trees had been all but forgotten. Suddenly, nearly a dozen gray, featureless creatures, about five feet tall each, burst into the clearing, chittering and emitting soft, eerie, high-pitched howls.

"What are those things?!" Tanya managed to cry about before two of them tackled her down to the ground. Any further protest was cut off as the creatures spat out a web-like substance at her, rapidly encasing her in a cocoon even as they dragged her off into the forest.

"Rocky, look out!" Tommy shouted in warning, but too late to stop his friend from being captured. Tommy stood helpless as the Blue Ranger struggled vainly in the grip of four of the odd beings, then was rendered helpless as a fifth trapped his legs in the beginnings of a cocoon. Rocky was just as quickly and easily carried off into the woods as Tanya had been, with still more of the creatures spilling out from seemingly everywhere.

"Tommy!!" came a fearful shout from behind the Red Ranger. "Watch out!!"

"Kahva?! Where did you -" Tommy whirled around in surprise, barely avoiding a massive expectoration of the web substance being shot at him from the remaining creatures.

"I fell out of the tree that thing knocked me into, that's where I came from," she quickly explained as she and Tommy regrouped, trying hard to keep an eye on the Spinners, and Kat and the monster.

"Climbing down not fast enough?" Tommy joked tightly, quickly glancing back and forth from Kahva to the creatures.

"Not when those things are spitting gunk at you," Kahva growled lightly. It was then that Tommy could see a blob of the same substance stuck on Kahva's arm that the Spinners were spitting out and using to capture them. Frowning, she pulled at it vainly. "It's like a spider web almost, but a lot stronger. I can't get the junk off of me!"

"They're bound and determined to get us out of the way - look out!" he shouted, as the Cat Monster suddenly leapt at them.

"Spinners!! Capture the Red Ranger! You," it sneered, stalking up to Kahva, "are going to make a nice little lab rat for King Mondo, and your friends are now prisoners of my employers, Zedd and Rita!! Bind the child!!" the monster ordered some of the Spinners.

"Leave her alone!" Tommy roared, jumping on the monster, kicking and punching at it as hard as he could.

"Hahahaha!!! That tickles, Red Ranger!" the Cat Monster snarled sarcastically before easily shrugging him off of her. "Care to watch me take down your girlfriend?" it asked, even as the Spinners started to encase him in their unbreakable webbing.

"Leave Kat alone!!" Kahva yelled, running over to the Pink Ranger. "Kat, wake up, please!!" she pleaded with the still unmoving blonde. "You have to snap out of this!!"

"I've had enough of you, you annoying little pest," the monster snarled. In the blink of an eye, the monster pounced upon Kahva, yanking her away from Kat. "Mondo didn't say you had to be intact, wimp."

"Don't you dare hurt her!!" Tommy screamed helplessly as the Spinners struggled to imprison him in their webbing. Though his legs were completely encased now, his arms were still free and he was hitting and punching at the half dozen Spinners who were working on him for all his worth. "Kat, wake up and help us, please!!"

"Oh, shut up!" the Monster yelled, flipping her tail at him, knocking the breath out of him. "Hold him," she commanded the Spinners. "I want him to see this. and you too, Katherine. Turn and look over here, my other half."

Woodenly, Kat turned and stared at the Cat Monster with dull eyes, her face void of any expression. "Watch this Kat, you should remember this move. You used it on the former Blue Ranger, after all." Whirling back to Kahva, the beast bared claws and fangs, then raked Kahva's chest and stomach with blinding speed before flicking her tail, sending the injured girl flying through the air once again towards the forest. This time, however, a Spinner shot webbing at her in mid-air, yanking her out of sight in an instant. "Enjoying the show, Tommy? Or should I just call you 'Loser'? Take him away!!" the monster ordered the Spinners who held him. Walking back to Kat, the monster turned the still entranced Pink Ranger around to look at Tommy. "Wave bye-bye to the boyfriend, Pinky!" Cat Monster laughed, taking Kat's wrist and making her hand flop about in a poor wave. "You are going home to Zedd and Rita!"

"Kat!!" Tommy screamed even as the Spinners dragged him out of sight. "We love you!! I love you!!! Remember that!! We all love you!!"

"Don't make me sick," the monster growled as Tommy's cries suddenly ceased. "Finally," she purred. "Now it's just you and me, Katherine." She flipped her tail again, and Kat shook her head, finally coming out of the strange trance she'd been in. "What have you done with my friends, what did you do to them?!" Kat demanded. "You aren't real, you can't me!! You were created by Rita and Zedd's magic, and could only exist because I was their prisoner then! The Power Rangers destroyed you, you can't be real!!"

In answer, the Cat Monster knocked Kat flat to the ground. "Can't tell me that didn't feel real, kitty," she purred threateningly. "As for how I exist again, well, we can discuss that later," her nightmarish alter ego declared. "But as for where your friends are... they're right here!" Six hideous, pulsating cocoons appeared in a row in front of the Monster. "All ready to be delivered to Rita and Zedd... compliments of you and me, my evil other half!" the monster exclaimed triumphantly, leaping up easily into a nearby tree to stare down at Kat.

Kat recoiled from the very notion. "No way! I'm not evil anymore! I don't work for them, I won't work for them, ever again! I won't let you take my friends to them!! I'm not evil!!" she screamed at her former evil monster form. For some reason, however, Kat was finding it difficult to believe her own words. This is my trial, so she can't be real!! Can she??

"Ah, but you are evil," the Monster purred, leaping from its perch and slinking closer to her. "You are evil incarnate, my dear girl. I know, believe me, I know. I was a part of you, surely you haven't forgotten just how big a part of you I was? I was a major part of you, and I always will be."

"No." Kat breathed, not wanting to believe the hideous creature before her. "I broke Rita's spell." This isn't real, it can't be real. Please don't let this be real!! Tommy!! I need you!!

"Yes, that's what Rita and Zedd have always let you believe. But just to humor you, let's pretend you're really and truly not evil," the monster snickered. "You're still a bad apple. Think about it, little Kitty-Kat. You've always brought bad luck, and bad events, to the team. And of course to Tommy, though it's not as if he can't find enough personal ill fortune all on his own." Cat Monster flashed a sickly smile, and chuckled, "Yes, I know you want Tommy here so bad. 'Tommy, I need you, help me, oh help!' HA!! You're pathetic, always wanting 'Mr. Hero' Tommy to save you, so you don't have to break a nail. You are a complete failure as a Ranger!! But then, those who are evil, never can do the good routine right. And like I said. You've always brought bad luck to everybody and anybody who gets close to you. That's all you'll ever bring to those you pretend to love: bad, hurtful things."

"That's not true!!" Kat exclaimed, her voice shaking a bit now. No matter how hard she tried not to believe the evil creature before her, no matter how hard she tried to ignore its words, a small voice in the back of her mind kept repeating, She's right. And you know it.

"Oh yes it is," the beast purred nastily. "Are you forgetting your own history?" With a harsh laugh, the monster began to circle the young blonde. "Well then, let me give you a few examples to refresh your memory." The beast drew herself up with evil pride and smugness as she began to list certain bad events. "First off, weren't they were celebrating your birthday when Master Vile turned back time?" It wasn't a question, but a verbal stab, and the stricken look on Kat's face told the monster her blow had arrowed in clean and deep. "Just think, if it hadn't been for you, they could've stopped him in time. The Command Center would never have been blown up, The Rangers would never have lost their powers. Also, do you remember Aisha? Allegedly your best friend? If you all hadn't had to go on a quest for the Zeo Crystal fragments, she wouldn't have felt forced to stay in the middle of nowhere, sending back a mere novice to take her place. Billy wouldn't have been injured in the Command Center explosion. Who knows, Mondo and Machina might not have even attacked this world, ever!"

Kat made a few strangled sounds that might have been denials, but the monster ignored them. "But the past is the past, little Kitty-Kat, let's talk a bit about the present here, shall we? Kahva kept trying to convince all of you that something was wrong at the carnival, but none of you would listen to her. You, Kat, however, could've gotten through to Tommy, but you didn't. You didn't want him to believe her, you just wanted to have a good time, all alone with your boyfriend!" With each word the creature spoke, Kat flinched farther and farther back, her heart pounding and her soul feeling smaller and smaller. She wanted to deny it all, to say it hadn't happened like that, but she couldn't get the words to come out, nor stop the voice inside her head that was saying the Cat Monster was telling the truth.

"Because of you, who knows what really happened between her and that clone? Kahva will never tell, because she knows you will keep everyone from believing anything she says ever again! And Sheena, dear Silver Ranger leader Sheena. Because of you, because of your actions at the carnival, Zimmer Delnas was able to steal Sheena away without interference! Because of you, Billy will probably die a broken man, never able to love anyone ever again! All because you only care about yourself, Katherine. Just like all other truly evil beings." Kat's eyes blazed, and she finally managed to utter a sentence. "I am not evil!"

"Ah, yes, there it is!" the Monster laughed. "The classic state of denial! By the way, have I thanked you yet for helping me to capture all of your friends that you claim to so dearly love?" Rewarded with a flash of pain across her prey's face, the beast flashed a nasty smile, digging her verbal talons deeper into Kat's heart. "You just stood there and did nothing! It was child's play to capture them all! Face it Katherine, you're worthless!! You were never worthy to become a Power Ranger, because you never had what it truly takes to be one!! When the chips are down, you can't make any kind of true sacrifice of yourself for anyone but you!! You're gutless!! Why else would you have let your friends be captured? The only person you give a single care about is yourself!!!"

Let them go right now!! I'll rip you apart if you don't let them go right now!! Kat's mind screamed, but the words still would not come out. As she tried again to demand their freedom aloud, the monster laughed at her plight derisively. "That's not true!! I'm not evil!!" was the only thing Kat could get out through the tears which were beginning to well up in her eyes. This can't be real!! But if it isn't. why is she still here? Tommy, I need you!! Somebody help me, please!!

"Not evil? Not evil?! You've got to be kidding! You're me, remember? We're from the same litter, we're the same cat!!" the monster taunted her. Suddenly draping a motley arm about Kat's shoulders, the creature purred, "Do you know what I'm going to do with your alleged friends? I'm going to do the same thing you would've done to them back when you worked for Rita, if you hadn't failed her. I'm going to give them to her and Zedd. to be executed."

Kat shook her head harshly, her entire being focusing on the creature in front of her. "You're not going to do anything to them!" A tiny flame was burning in her heart and soul now, a light that embraced her with the truth of her nature: she was not evil, nor was she still serving evil. And I won't serve evil again, I won't!!

"Face it, Katherine!" the monster snorted. "You're not even good at being bad! You failed Rita, and now you've failed your friends! But this time... perhaps this time you haven't failed... you are responsible for all of this, after all, and you know it!"

"You're the one to blame for this, not me!" Kat countered, making a quick dash to the pulsing cocoons, only to have her way blocked by a full dozen flitting Spinners. "I won't let you have them!!"

"You really have to learn to get rid of that selfish streak of yours," the monster snarled out a taunting laugh. "Show her the ones she claims are her friends!"

One by one, the odd creatures the monster called Spinners pulled away a small amount of the webbing on each cocoon, revealing the face of an unconscious Ranger. "There's your precious Tommy," the monster snickered, even stopping to stroke his cheek with false tenderness, her talon tracing his handsome features. "The man you always wanted, but had to steal to get. Steal the pink powers, steal his love. He and Kim could very well be married by now, if not for your interference. Then there's Rocky, whose heart you've probably stolen over and over again, along with Billy's and Adam's, most likely. They probably ogled you from the moment you appeared on the scene. Now that Rocky and Adam have faced their truths, you steal their personal victories away from them, shame on you!!"

"No!!" Kat screamed. "Shut up!! I didn't do anything!!"

"Exactly," the monster sneered. "That's how I captured everyone, remember?? You've stolen everything the whole team has gained from passing their trials by doing nothing but to stare. How did Tanya put it?? 'So mindlessly' at me. Yes, you've stolen her victory, and Tommy's as well. Thanks to you, Jason nor Billy will even get a shot at theirs, which means Sheena is lost forever!!" With a flick of a claw, the beast ordered the faces of the helpless Rangers covered up again.

She hasn't shown me Kahva, if Kahva's free, then we still have hope, she can shift us all out of here, Kat thought wildly, her heart clawing for one last hope, frantically trying to keep the tiny flame in her heart stoked.

"Poor little Kitty-Katherine, you wouldn't be hoping for help from that wimp Zordon spawned, would you?" Kat's former evil monster self laughed derisively, doubling over with exaggerated mirth. "Drag out the child!!"

Kat's heart froze up as a cocoon was promptly dragged unceremoniously from the forest, and like the others, a small amount of webbing was pulled away long enough for Kat to see Kahva's still, unmoving features. Once satisfied the Pink Ranger had seen enough, they then spat out more of their vile webbing and closed the opening in the cocoon. "Toss the shrimp back into the forest, Mondo didn't pay me enough to leave her out where she'd be easy to find, much less bring the stupid idiot to him!"

"Shut up!! Don't talk about her like that!!" Kat cried, trying to reach Kahva's cocoon before the Spinners could discard it, but failed. The sound of her bound body thudding into the forest growth assaulted Kat's ears, weighing down her heart more and more as the tiny flame inside her began to dim.

Her monster half simply shook her head in amused disgust. "Why shouldn't I talk about her like that? You were the one who didn't let anyone else believe her at the carnival, so obviously you think she's stupid too!!"

"No I don't!" Kat shouted back at her former evil self, her words her only weapon now. "I don't know why I didn't really believe her at the carnival, but the only one who is stupid here is me, for not trusting and believing her to start with!"

"For once, we agree on something," Cat Monster purred. "Oh, I never did complete my list of all the things you've stolen, did I? How stupid of me!" she laughed. "Like human, like monster, I suppose. If you weren't stupid, maybe I wouldn't have forgotten."

"Shut up!!!!!"

"Let's see," the horrid beast continued, ignoring Kat for the moment. "You've stolen personal victory from the Rangers who've passed their trials, not to mention you've stolen freedom and long life from everyone," it purred merrily, delighting in tearing Kat down. "You've also stolen any chance Billy ever had of seeing his wife again, which means you stole her from him, basically."

"NO!!" Oh God, this is real, this can't be a trial, she's really going to take them from me!! But I can't stop her without my powers!! Somebody help me, please!!! Keeper, somebody, anybody, please help me save my friends!!!

"And then there's Zordon," Cat Monster smiled. "He finally finds out after fifteen thousand years that he does have a child, and you've stolen her from him. You've stolen all your friends from their parents, when it comes right down to it. But none of them ever had to wait fifteen thousand years in a warp tube to find out their family hadn't all died out, except for Ninjor and himself. When you do something, Kitty-Kat, you sure don't do it by halves! Congratulations, you're more evil and self-centered than Rita and Zedd ever dreamed you could be!!"

Katherine, how could you let this happen to your teammates, your friends?

Kat whirled around at the sound of the ethereal voice, blood draining from her face, the tiny flame of determination that had kept her going starting to sputter out. "Sh-Shada?? How is it that you're here - Shada, help me, please!! She's got my -"

You no longer have the right to call me by name, descendant. You have failed, and failed miserably! Cold eyes burned in the spirit of the Tourmaline Ranger. Cold, fiery eyes that threatened to burn Kat with their icy contempt right where she stood. I am ashamed to share blood and power with you! You should never have been given the Pink Power by Kimberly, she should have waited until some truly worthy heir of mine could have been found. Even if that meant the Pink Power would have to go unused for a very long time. You are a disgrace, Katherine! the spirit softly roared.

"No, Shada, please don't say that!! I've tried hard, I have!!" Kat sobbed. But the voice deep in her head laughed at her attempt to defend herself, echoing Shada's words until the Pink Ranger felt they would twist and crush her, break her soul into countless pieces. I am worthless, the monster was right! Even my own ancestor is disgusted by me!

You've tried? Tried?? Not hard enough. You have lost everything and everyone Katherine, all because you're too selfish, to cowardly to think of anyone other than yourself. It is good the Rangers will be executed, they will not have to live long knowing that you betrayed them in the end. The spirit started to rise and float away slowly then, her cold eyes stabbing into Kat's heart over and over again. You have never deserved anyone's love; certainly not mine. Don't even bother to ask me to help you undo what you alone have done. Then, in a moment of odd sympathy, the spirit finished, Only you can find the fire inside.

"Yeah, find a fire inside and burn yourself up, Kitty-Kat!" the monster snorted. "Even that old spirit hates you! Everyone will, once they learn what you've done today!!" The monster draped an arm about Kat's shoulder briefly, laughing triumphantly in her ear, "Think about it, remember everything that you've done today, little Kitty-Katherine... You know I'm speaking the truth. You've all lost, and everything is all your fault."

Kat!! Tommy's scream rang out from somewhere in her memory. We love you!! I love you!!! Remember that!! We all love you!!

"Tommy." she murmured, tears slowly falling from her eyes. "I've failed you all, and now I've lost the quest, and all of you." Sheena, I'm so sorry, this is all my fault, please hear me and know I am so very sorry. If not for me, they could have rescued you. I've failed everybody. Soft sobs tried to choke her then, but Kat was determined that if nothing else, she would not give the monster before her the satisfaction of seeing her fall into a total breakdown. I just stood there while they all tried to help me. I don't deserve such friends. The images of everything that had happened while she'd been helplessly locked inside herself, once blurry and fuzzy, except for Tommy's last shout, suddenly flooded her mind with painful clarity. One by one, each of them had tried to help her, knowing that their efforts might be in vain, but still more than willing to do it for Kat, because of friendship, loyalty. Love. because of love, they put themselves into danger. For me. Jason. Adam. Billy. Tanya. Rocky. Kahva. Tommy. Oh Tommy.

Only you can find the fire inside. came back her ancestor's words, mixed with the memories of her friends efforts to help her. Only you can find the fire inside.

How?! How do I find something I don't know if I've ever had?! Shada!! Kat could only stare as the beast continued to mock her while drawing the cocoons imprisoning her friends closer to itself. "Only you can find the fire inside." she breathed softly the words her ancestor had spoken, the spark in her soul flaring back up. That wasn't Shada, she would never have talked to any of us like that! But the fire inside. She was right.

It could've been seconds or an eternity, to the Pink Ranger they were all one and the same. Instead of breaking her down, the last words of her ancestor and Tommy, and the memories of what her friends had tried to do for her, filled her soul with strength, courage, love. Love. With love, one can do anything. The tiny flame burned brighter and brighter in her heart, finally showing her the truth she so dearly needed to learn. I CAN do it. I always have been able to do it. I can do it. And I will. God help me, I will!!

Kat's eyes locked onto the Cat Monster with an eerie intensity, the fire in her heart and soul fairly blazing in them with a truth and clarity that was nearly frightening. If the Cat Monster had turned to look at her, it would have actually been shaken to its malevolent core. The beast is close to the edge of the cliff... Kat had no powers to call upon, only the strength of her body, the love in her heart, and the courage in her soul. A desperate plan came into being in that moment. I never thought these trials would push us to this, but it doesn't matter. I don't care if this is a trial, or real any more. If this is what it costs, to get my friends back and to save Sheena, then I'll pay it. Any cost at all...

She didn't say anything, she didn't want to give the monster any hints. If it truly was her, it would know what she was doing anyway, and she didn't care. Every beat of her heart told her this was what she had to do...

She jumped. She jumped right at the Monster, taking it by surprise with her kamikaze-style assault. "YOU WILL NOT HAVE THEM!!!" The monster's reflexes were truly cat-like, and the Pink Ranger could feel its arms and tail tightening around her body as they both hurtled off the edge of the cliff, plummeting to the broken, rocky ground far below them. I wouldn't have done this if there were any other way, flashed through her mind. But to save my friends, so they can save Sheena, and together, they can protect the world... It's worth it. Good-bye Tommy... I love you, always...

Kat could hear faint voices calling from above, but they, and any other sounds, save the beast's angry, disbelieving howling, had long since ceased to have any meaning. Only the endless rush of air past her ears, and the need to grip the monster until the bitter end, to make sure it could never harm her beloved friends ever again, meant anything at all. Things are worth what they cost, she knew even more fully now, and death can be a small price to pay... but worth it for this, oh, so very worth it...

Shock radiated up her arms as the monster landed on the pointed rocks coating the ground... and she landed on the cliff top with the others. Her mind barely was able to comprehend the fact that Adam and Tanya were at the cliff's edge, staring down, and that Tommy had run over to her, and was cradling her in his trembling arms.

"Kat! Kat!" he whispered, his arms hugging her closer and closer. "Kat, are you okay?"

Slowly, Kat's senses returned to her. "T-Tommy?" she murmured. "W... what happened?"

"You passed your trial, young warrior. You were willing to sacrifice your very life to save your friends," the Keeper's voice sounded all around them. "Questors, I know this was the most intense trial you have all yet lived through, but this you must know before you go another step. These trials are, in the main, illusion: but only in the end. Until the moment the one who is being tried learns and grasps the essence of the truth hidden in themselves which is revealed by the trial, thus proving their worth. they are very real, and the consequences of failure are equally real. Certain parts of the trial are real, will be real, and certain are not, will not be. Which is which, shall be revealed only when the trial itself is intended."

Rocky shivered a little as the voice echoed. "Why are they so intense?" he murmured. "Why was Kat's so intense?"

"The trials have been and will be what they need to be, for whom they need to be, nothing more, nothing less, Rocky. Were they not, then they would not be true trials, would they? And how can one find the truth, if one is only led to lies?" the Keeper's voice was gentle. "Remember, you are fighting for the freedom of your friend, and freedom is never won without great battles, and sometimes, at great cost," the Keeper paused, her voice seeming to rest upon Kat at for a few moments. "Remember that, now and for always. I will see you at the ending of the trials... one way or the other."

As the Keeper's voice faded, everyone tried to take comfort in her words and relax a little. Each of them understood one thing the Keeper had said very clearly: the trials would be what they needed to be for the one being tested, but they would not be something impossible to pass for that person. if they found their own truth. Adam broke the silence first, looking all around them with a puzzled expression. "So where's the trail? Every time we've passed one of these trials, the next part of the trail has been revealed. Kat's passed hers, so where is it?"

For her own part, Kat had been quickly glancing over her friends, checking to see that they were none the worse for wear from their imprisonment, doing a mental automatic headcount at the same time. She blanched, and her heart skipped several beats when she came up one member short. "Um, guys, I've got a better question... Where's Kahva?"

Had the situation been vastly different, the sight of all the Rangers wearing identical blank looks would have been most comical. Everyone paused and stared all around them. "The last I saw of her was when she got knocked over there," Rocky pointed back the way they had come, frowning.

"The Cat Monster did toss her over there, I think," the Sapphire Ranger agreed. "Let's go check it out."

Tommy and Kat exchanged pained looks, with Tommy finding his voice first. "No, she got out of there, and went after the monster -"

"Trying to save me," Kat finished softly. All too painfully, the memory of the Cat Monster clawing at Kahva's chest and stomach played back before her eyes. "Do you think that this could be what the Keeper meant about, 'which is which, shall be revealed only when the trial itself is intended'? Could Kahva's not being here at the end of my trial be one of the consequences she meant?"

"But you passed," Adam tried to protest. Silence engulfed them for a few moments, then Kat hurried over to where she'd last seen Kahva's cocoon flying into the forest, when the Spinners had tossed her away at Cat Monster's command. "Kat? Kat?!"

"She's got to be in here, she's got to!" Kat snapped. "Come on, everybody!" she shouted, crashing headlong into the forest. The others needed no further urging, and rushed in after her, shoving and yanking aside branches and brush in a frantic search for their missing teammate.

They hadn't searched for more than a few minutes, when a severely vine-entangled Kahva, suspended in mid-air, met their eyes. Kat had to fiercely force down the shiver that threatened to paralyze her; the vines had Kahva trapped almost like the cocoon had. If she's hurt, I'll never forgive myself... At the look on Kahva's face though, Kat found herself holding back bubbly laughter of relief.

"What took you so long?" Kahva said almost dryly, arching an eyebrow at her companions. "Look, don't pull me out of here, guys. The trail comes this way, all you have to do is head out right behind me. It just appeared a few minutes ago, after the vines fell away from my face."

"Well, we do have to get you out of there first, at least," Jason said sensibly, starting to rip at the vines carefully. "Unless you like being tangled up in vines."

"Well, I had considered just 'hanging around' here," she deadpanned, earning groans from every one of the Rangers.

"That's worse than any of Rocky's bad puns!" Tommy shook his head, trying hard not to laugh in spite of himself.

"Just trying to live down to his example," Kahva came back, getting a good-natured raspberry from Rocky as a reward. Everyone welcomed the return of their friend's sharp wit, but as he watched her eyes, Billy couldn't help but feel that the humor was a show for their benefit, a show very well rehearsed indeed. He made no mention of his suspicions though, as they all worked to free Kahva from the numerous stubborn vines wound securely about her body. As Kahva's smile quickly faded during her rescue, and her shell visibly came up around her once again, Billy knew for a fact he was right.

It took a few minutes, but soon they had Kahva free enough that she could tumble safely into Tommy and Adam's arms. With their way now clear, they could see the next part of the trail leading ahead of them, winding away from the forested mountains and deep into a thick, vibrantly green jungle. A sparkling ribbon of crystal blue water stretched out beside it, and they all eagerly made their way to the river. All of them had gained a few more bumps and bruises from this last trial, and badly wanted to wash their injuries off, and get some water to drink. As they all tidied up as best they could, Billy mused aloud if the river was fed by the stream they had found earlier. Hearing him slip into his scientist mode relaxed everyone greatly, and all hoped that Billy's own spirits had risen a bit as well. Rather belatedly, the guys realized that Kahva and Kat both had moderately ripped up shirts, and very carefully averted their eyes from the girls to give them some measure of dignity. The ripped clothing served as a sobering reminder of just how real some parts of the trials could be, and the earlier tensions settled over the group again.

Kahva was carefully stretching out her limbs a little off to one side, working out some of the muscle pains that had come from being tossed around, then hung up like a smoked ham for several minutes, when she heard a soft gasp. She glanced up as Kat winced in pain, slowly moving out of the stretch she'd just tried to do with her back.

"Kat? Is something wrong?" Kahva almost flinched as the words passed her lips, What am I doing? That was a stupid question! Kahva could feel all of the eyes on Kat and herself just then, and the urge to run and hide was nearly irresistible. Why do they ever want to have me around? Why am I here, I always mess things up, why was I even brought on this quest? David was the better choice, why did the Keeper bring me? Kahva steeled herself though; she had to know for sure if something was wrong with Kat. I'll never forgive myself if she's hurt and I ignored it. "Are you hurt?"

The Pink Zeo Ranger nodded quietly, moving very carefully now. "I think I scratched my back up some in that fight." Kahva winced instinctively herself; she'd been brought up to date on what had happened while she'd been trussed up in the woods.

Moving over to their older friend, and away from the male members of the party, who were being sternly herded away by Tanya, Kat flipped up the back of her shirt a little, displaying several deep scratches, of which fortunately only a few were bleeding.

"I think I can take care of that," Kahva whispered softly, closing her eyes, putting her hands palms together in front of her chest, almost in a prayerful position.

"How?" Kat asked, looked back over her shoulder at Kahva, but the young woman seemed oblivious to everything and everyone now. It was all Kat could do not to jump with startlement when Kahva suddenly opened her eyes and stared intensely at Kat's injured back. "Kahva??"

Focus, let the power around you join you, join it, two are truly one. came Master Madas' words to her. Together you shall find the energy that pains, draw it out, encourage the energy that heals to take its place. Lose yourself, then focus together. Embrace the energy, embrace who you are, transcend the limits your mind and body, embrace, focus, let go, the singular is nothing without the whole. Kahva's hands first rested lightly on Kat's back, so lightly that Kat wasn't sure if the touch was real or imagined. After several moments, Kahva removed her hands from the Pink Ranger's back, but kept them close, hovering a few inches away from Kat's back.

Is she even breathing? Kat wondered, but something inexplicable kept her from speaking right then. All of the other Rangers seemed to be under the same influence, for none dared break the almost mystical silence. Kahva finally lowered her hands, breathing slowly and deeply, then simply looked into Kat's eyes and nodded quietly.

Carefully, Kat slowly stretched again, and to her wonderment, without pain this time. "Whoa!" She tried to wiggle around until she could see her back, and finally settled for Tanya's amazed confirmation: Kat's back was healed and whole, as if it had never been injured to begin with. The only reminders of the injuries were the rips in her shirt. "How'd you do that?" she gasped.

Kat's voice held nothing but pure admiration, but being the object of it unnerved Kahva nonetheless. "That was one of the things Master Madas taught me," she murmured. "I can't do it for everything, just minor stuff like that. I can't heal a broken bone or a major disease, but I can probably handle scratches and things, if there's enough magical energy to draw on, or if the right kinds of plants and herbs to use are handy, I can try to intensify their medicinal properties. Actually," Kahva finished up, her voice getting even softer, "I think the only reason I was able to heal your back completely was because there is just so much magic and energy here. It's a bit overwhelming."

"Why didn't you tell us you could do this?" Adam asked, his voice holding the same admiration and amazement Kat's had. "This is something wonderful!"

"I - I. I just didn't think it was something all that important, is all. I mean, I can't do anything like this back on Earth, there's not enough magic to draw on. This place," Kahva said, indicating the world they were on, "it's kinda like a magical source on some serious steroids, even Eltar doesn't feel like this, and it's a pretty incredible place in and of itself." Besides, I didn't want you all to think of me as some kind of freak, the thought came unbidden to her mind. Too many people freak out on Eltar at the sight of me as it is, I couldn't stand it if you guys did the same thing, even though I know you all wouldn't mean it if you did. At least, I hope not. With the way everyone acted at the carnival, now I'm not so sure about anything anymore.

"It's okay," Billy said, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. Instead of comforting her though, Billy's words only seemed to make her more ill at ease. He smiled, trying to break the tension starting to build back up again around them. "Too bad it doesn't work on shirts, though," he attempted to joke.

Before his comment even ended, two shirts, identical to the ones Kat and Kahva were wearing appeared by the riverbank. "I think someone heard you," Kat laughed nervously. "Come on, Kahva, let's go get changed." The older girl nodded silently and they retrieved their new shirts, heading a little ways down the riverbank to dodge behind some bushes to change, Tanya keeping guard again, just to play it safe.

Thanks, Keeper, Kahva sent mentally, not knowing if the Keeper could hear her or not, but wanting to thank her just the same. A shirt that's not ripped up will keep them from spotting this by accident, she thought to herself, carefully removing her shirt. On her stomach were three long scratches, about as deep as Kat's had been, and two more crossing just under her collarbone. Invoking the same healing ritual on herself as she had used on Kat, Kahva managed to get the scratches nearly completely healed. When she removed her hands from her stomach and chest and looked at her reflection in the river, she could see that the scratches were now very light and minor, though they still hurt quite a bit. Doesn't work as well on yourself, just like Master Madas warned, but it's good enough. My pain doesn't count anyway, Kat is the one who nearly died! No, the others don't need to know about this, my getting scratched up isn't important. Besides, if they found out, it would upset Kat too much, and none of it was her fault at all. I can't let anything spoil her passing her trial, we've come too far to let something upset or get any of them down now. As she put on her new shirt, her torn one disappeared without a trace. "Tidying up behind us even now, Keeper?" Kahva chuckled softly.

"I think she is," Kat smiled, having changed into her new shirt as well. "Kahva. Did the Cat Monster hurt you badly?" she asked gently. "Your shirt was so torn up, and. and I remember her clawing at you -"

"Just some light scratches are all I have," Kahva assured her. That's all that's there now. "Don't worry about it."

Kat didn't look completely convinced, but she took Kahva at her word as they headed back to where the others were waiting. "Thank you again, Kahva. You are wonderful," she smiled at the older girl. Kahva gave a small smile in return, but didn't say anything as they approached their teammates.

Tommy smiled as they came up, immediately putting his arm around Kat to give her an affectionate hug. "You're good to have around, Kahva!" he smiled at the quiet young woman. "Thanks for everything." Giving both Kat and Kahva quick kisses on the cheek, he called out cheerfully, "Come on, guys... five of us down, three more to go!"

As they all started down the trail after Kat and Tommy, the only three who had not yet been tested couldn't help but exchange worried looks. Jason, Billy and Kahva all bit their lips almost in unison, a universal sign of upset. Who's next, they all wondered. Who would have their deepest fear and darkest worries dredged up? Who would next feel the pain of the trials... and hopefully draw them closer to their ultimate goal?

* * *
"Hey, come on, cheer up everybody! It's a cinch to gear up for the last trials now," Rocky proclaimed rather confidently.

"How do you figure that?"

"Easy bro," Rocky answered Jason. "The second we see monsters, maniac evil plants, or get caught in an earthquake, landslide or volcano going ballistic, we're in another trial! It's a dead giveaway -" Rocky stopped, looking ahead at Kat with an apologetic look. "Whoops, sorry Kat, bad choice of words there," he apologized, as everyone thought back to her could-have-been-fatal plunge off of the cliff. "Forgive me?"

"It's okay," Kat smiled. "You can make up for it easily."


"As soon as we get attacked by monsters or some really bad natural disaster, you can jump into it first and clear the way for the rest of us."

"Oh gee, thanks Kat!" Rocky groaned teasingly. The banter kept up between the members of the group who had already been tried, but the last three kept silent for the most part, finding it difficult not to worry over what may lay in store for them.

As the Gold Ranger hiked along, he found his mind turning after a while to thoughts of Kahva, Sheena, and the differences between the world they had grown up in, and the world he'd always known.

It's so strange. Things seem to run fairly close from that TV show to our reality in this world, but there are vast differences. I didn't just reappear in Angel Grove with no explanation, I came home because I was sick and tired of Switzerland. We did a lot of good there, but it wasn't home. I belong in Angel Grove. The show never said anything about that, not according to what Kahva told us.

He moved a tree branch as they walked along, continuing along that line of thought, delving deeper and deeper into it. And that 'negative proton' crap with Billy and the Gold powers. That's not how it happened, that's not how it happened at all! Maybe in some other universe the laws of science are totally screwed up, but not here! Everyone knows negative protons don't exist. Even at their worst moments in grade school, Bulk and Skull would've been able to tell those people that. Well, at least, I'm pretty sure they could have. You'd just have to find them at a time back then when they weren't causing trouble. Man, they have really turned themselves around! Almost like what Kahva described from the show. but better over here, much better.

Jason smiled faintly, just faintly, to himself as he thought about how things had happened in this universe. Kahva had filled them all in on the "Zeo season" in their world, which Sheena had never seen. She had been brought into their world just after the world had been brought back into normal time after the Zeo Quest. Sheena had kept tabs on Angel Grove, but naturally hadn't known about the inner details of what had happened until her own ascension to the Power.

Several months before the Silver Ranger had been so suddenly spun into their lives, Pyramidas had crash-landed on Earth, in the desert. Trey had teleported to the Power Chamber, demorphing and revealing his identity to the Rangers in a desperate attempt to keep himself alive, but he had still been forced to split into his three selves nonetheless. Billy had teleported to the ship to repair it, while the Treys fought to keep hold of the Gold Power in the Power Chamber with help from the united Zeo Crystal to keep them stabilized.

But their efforts were only delaying the destabilization of the powers, not stopping it. The only solution was for someone to take the powers, but it couldn't be a Ranger who currently held a Zeo Power. The Rangers tried to call on Billy, to come back and claim the Golden power in place of Trey. What they hadn't known then was that Mondo had been watching everything, and that he had sent several Cogs and Klank to take the ship for his own. With most of the systems down, capturing it was relatively easy, and capturing Billy was almost as effortless, he didn't have any way to defend himself against so many Cogs. Klank had placed a device in the ship to block teleportation, then had the Cogs chain Billy to a bomb in the main control room, since they had failed at figuring out how to operate it. One thing about Mondo, he's fairly predictable. His basic motto is, if he can't have it, he'll destroy it. That time though, he decided he was going to take out the Rangers tech wiz at the same time. I never realized the villains we've battled against could be so cold. Granted, Billy wasn't a total innocent, he was a Ranger, in a non-traditional sense, but for Mondo or anyone to so coldly order the death - no, murder, of someone without powers. The memories sent chills racing down Jason's spine. That's when I came into all of this, that's how I was brought back in, not like the way they showed it on that TV show.

The Gold Ranger nearly stopped in his tracks as the memories played back in his mind with unnerving clarity. Without Billy to help them out, Tommy left to get me; I'd only just recently returned to Angel Grove. They all believed it would be easier to get a former Ranger for the power than someone entirely new, since that way the person would have some experience, which would make up for the unfamiliarity of the powers themselves. Jason sighed, then nodded to himself. As far as that goes, it was the right decision. Trey conferred the power to me, promising that he would return one day for them, when he had reunited his three parts back into a single, trifold being. It had seemed to be a simple, clear-cut mission then at that point: rescue Billy so he could take the Gold Power. He'd chosen to give up his claim to a Zeo Power, but had continued to work for the betterment of the team, he deserved to get the power so much. Together, the six Rangers had gotten on board Pyramidas, and while the others had fought to clear the Cogs out, Jason had made his way to the control room, guided by the Power that now coursed through his veins. I found Billy there, chained up, with that bomb on him. We came so close to losing him forever. The memory was so clear and vivid, it made Jason shake with fear all over again. He talked me so quietly and calmly through the disarming of the bomb, how on Earth did he stay so calm?! Once everyone and everything was safe again, I tried to give the powers, but he refused. His best friend had told him that they were his now, that Trey had entrusted the powers to him, and he wouldn't take them from him.

And I guess that was a good thing after all, he thought, stretching a little as he jumped over a fallen log, then turned to help Kahva over it with a gallant smile, reaching out to take her hand. Billy got his own powers in the end. But Trey needs these I'm using to defend his planet. I mean, he - they were so pale when they teleported into the Power Chamber. I think they might need these powers to live! Jason had always known what he would do, but thinking over everything reaffirmed his previous decision: as soon as it was physically possible to do so, he would give the powers back. They don't really belong to me, after all, and I can't keep them forever.

"Of course you can't keep them," a chilly voice spoke, and he looked up to see a familiar young man standing not that far from him. A young man, who were they anywhere else, Jason would have called him friend. But the tone of the newcomer's voice clearly denoted him as an enemy. "Then again, everything you've got now, you can't keep. Because none of it is yours. None of it ever has been, and yet you still want more! Aren't you ever satisfied?!"

Where did Kahva go, how did he get here?! Jason stared, first at the near stranger from another universe before him, then all around him, suddenly aware that the others were missing as well. Where is everybody, what is going on?! In the space of a heartbeat or less, he had been left utterly alone, save for the young man standing before him: Daniel Whitley. "I don't know what you're talking about, man!" he declared.

Daniel snorted with disgust at the Gold Ranger, stepping closer to him. "Oh, sure you don't. That's just like you Jason, all muscles, no brain. And quite frankly, your muscles aren't all that impressive anymore," he snickered, favoring Jason with a mocking stare. "Zordon did a little research into your past after you guys left, and he found out a few interesting things about you. That's why he sent me, he couldn't send any of the defense force. They're too busy doing your job, protecting the planet. Zordon finally found out the truth about you, and he sent me to stop you. Heck, after the Keeper heard the truth about you from Zordon, she herself gladly reached to my universe and brought me over. She doesn't like people who hide things either."

"You're lying!" Jason growled, clenching his fists in anger. "I haven't done anything!"

"Oh, haven't you?" Daniel tossed his head in contempt. "Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Back to when Tommy lost his powers the first time, perhaps? You weren't really trying to get the Green Candle back, now were you? You knew Tommy was a threat to your leadership, to your control over the team. You'd wanted to get rid of him for months, and you just couldn't find a way to do it. But then Rita did it for you, didn't she? All you had to do was just be a little slow at the right moment. I have to hand it to you, Jason. You're a better actor that anyone would ever suspect. No one has ever been none the wiser. until now."

Jason wanted to shout denials to the skies, but just as Kat had been before during her trial, he was mute as Daniel continued his vicious litany. "When Zordon recalled Tommy to service and made him the White Ranger later on, you knew your time as leader was over with. You had to watch Rita's handpicked Ranger taking over your team, your friends, your warriors. and there was nothing you could do about it. Nothing at all."

Daniel smiled as Jason's face suffused with blood, and he stepped even closer to the angry Ranger. "Then when you came back, Tommy was even stronger than he'd been as White Ranger. You liked the fact he had to come running to you for help, and you plotted to pay Rocky back for taking your place, your rightful place as the Red Ranger all that long ago. You wanted his spot as the current second in command, if you couldn't be leader again. Either leader, or leader's best friend, that was what you wanted. You couldn't, you wouldn't settle for anything less." Jason's accuser leaned forward a little, a smirk on his face. "Face it, you never intended to give the Gold Powers to Billy, and you will never give them back to Trey, the deserving man who truly owns them. You don't intend to do anything but keep them... and abuse them!"

No!! I tried, I really tried to get the candle. I won't keep Trey's powers from him. them. Still, the feelings he'd buried so deeply that even he had forgotten he'd ever felt them came bubbling up to the surface. The twinge of jealousy he'd felt when Tommy had joined the team. It had been so easy to invite him in, to welcome him with open arms, and he truly had done that. But when it seemed that they were constantly having to run to their newest member to bail themselves out of trouble, or either were having to rescue him from some dark plot of Rita's, then later on, Zedd's. And Kim just went so completely head over heels for him, never realizing the crush Billy had always had on her. or mine, either, for that matter. But I did try to get the candle, I didn't want anything bad to happen to Tommy, I didn't want him to lose his powers!

The Gold Ranger wasn't sure if the images he saw next were real, or all playing out in his mind, but they hurt just as much as when they had happened. It was just a school dance, one of who knows how many... Kimberly had promised two weeks earlier to go with me, she was so excited... I was excited, even though we both told everybody it was just two friends going out, nothing more... Nothing more to Kimberly, at least. Then Tommy came into our lives. Kim said she wanted to go with him, if I wouldn't mind. How could I tell her no, she couldn't go with Tommy, when I could see in her eyes how bad she had it for him that quickly? Even though she couldn't see how bad I had it for her... I went with Trini and Billy, it was the right thing to do... wasn't it? Zack had his own date, Kim and Tommy were happy, Trini, Billy and I were just friends having a good time at the dance, having fun being with all our friends... So why does it hurt so much now?! God, I haven't thought about this in... in... Then the images swirled, and all the times Tommy had to rescue them played back over and over, all the times they had to save him from Rita, then Zedd, with the memories of the dance and the Green Candle playing out front and center. Things were so much simpler before Tommy came into our lives...

Jason tried to force the images and emotions down, tried to say something in his own defense, but even as his mouth moved, nothing came out of it. All he could do was listen helplessly to Daniel's voice. Darkness suddenly welled up out of nowhere, surrounding them both. The extradimensional visitor was the only thing he could see. "Let's jump to the here and now, shall we? Be honest, Brass Ranger. You don't want to rescue Sheena, you never have! You were delaying everything in the carnival just so Sheena would leave with Zimmer, you probably knew about him all along! You knew something was up... and you did nothing about it! You wanted Tommy to feel guilty over the loss of his cousin, Billy's heart to break... and then you would walk in and take back the leadership. Jason Lee Scott, the conquering hero, back to save the day and the team once again!"

Now, it was the memories of secret doubts and fears that attacked Jason; secret doubts of how well first Tommy, then Sheena would do as leader of the Power Rangers, fears that at any moment, either one of them could be turned evil again, and be free to tear apart the team from the inside. It's already happened... The doubting of Kahva has torn her away from the team. Ranger or no, she's one of us, and we've lost her trust... I've lost her trust... Billy is so torn up over losing Sheena, I don't know if he'll ever be the same again if we can't get her back. And if we don't, then it's my worst nightmare come true: Sheena, lost to us, and possibly our worst enemy all over again.

A new image played in front of him then, an image of himself, morphed, his armor gleaming with the air of invincibility, standing at the fore of the team as the ultimate leader, his Golden Staff upheld mightily... all the other Rangers looking at him with sheer adulation, gratitude... love... Yes, there was Kimberly, looking at him just like she used to look at Tommy. Before she realized they weren't meant for each other... came the thought to his mind. Kim was on one side, Trini the other, back in their original uniforms, Tanya and Aisha, even Kat, right behind him, cheering him on. Tommy was back in his place as the Green Ranger he used to be, waiting like all the other Rangers for his orders. Rocky was back there too, eagerly awaiting Jason's orders, dressed in his Blue Zeo Ranger uniform, not a single soul was wearing the original or Zeo red uniforms, which seemed oddly comforting to Jason. That uniform was mine... Now I'm the Gold Ranger... Me, back in charge, things like they used to be... Whether he wanted it to or not, his heart felt warm at the sight, good. Yes...

There was a blinding explosion of light from his staff, and the Treys were united, begging him to keep the Gold Powers. Another explosion and Sheena was running up to him, thanking him for her release from Zimmer, and from the burden of leadership. Billy was practically at his feet, pouring out his heart in gratitude for the salvation of his wife. There was Zordon, beaming down at him from somewhere, Jason wasn't sure exactly where, congratulating him, and sending someone to him, someone running to him with open arms... Kahva... his heart moaned with so much... love? No... This isn't what I want, it can't be... The images beckoned to him though, tempting him, and he couldn't deny that the sight of himself standing so proudly before this most incredible team, his team, felt good... He focused in on the figure running towards him with those loving, open arms, a smile whose light seemed to come from the sun itself. Kahva... Jason reached out to embrace her -

And the vision shattered into glass-sharp fragments, diving straight into his heart. Only his accuser stood before him now, his visage twisted with outright rage. Daniel's eyes burned with an unholy fire, as if about to bore into Jason's very soul. "And now you've stooped to the lowest of the low, Jason. You're trying to steal Kahva from me, you are trying to take away the woman I love! I won't let you have her!!" he roared. Jarringly, Daniel abruptly started to laugh, he even smiled at Jason, placing an almost friendly hand upon his shoulder. "But, with all that power, with everyone adoring you, following you, you won't be lacking for company, now will you? You know you want it. You have to have it. It tastes sweeter than honey, more potent than any fruit from the vine... Power... You know you have to have it, Jason..."

The words toyed with Jason's heart and soul, twisting inside him, preying on his mind, buried emotions... No, I'm not like that, I can't be like that. But there have been times when I wondered what would things be like if I'd never stepped down, if Tommy had never been made leader. Good Lord, have I done everything he's said?! The Green Candle had been so close, so close. Fear, agony, heartbreak, mental pain, sadness and grief all tore into Jason's soul with every word Daniel spoke. The horrifying prospect that they could be the truth, the truth he had never known haunted him, draining the blood from his face. Am I guilty of all this, and never knew it? Do I really want what I've seen? It all felt... so good... But I never tried to get rid of Tommy, I didn't want Sheena to run off with Zimmer!! But... Did I do everything that I could have done? Do I want what I've seen? Heaven help me, I don't know what I feel anymore, what do I do?!

"Not fun to have the truth slap you in the face, is it, Jason?" Daniel laughed harshly. "Think about everything you've done, former Ranger leader. You've tried to sabotage Tommy from the very start!" Jason's accuser scowled at him angrily then. "I'll bet you're trying to tell yourself that you didn't realize what you were doing, that everything that has happened has been an accident, but I know better. I watched you and Tommy when I was here. I watched you around Kahva with Kahva. Do you have any idea how much I wanted to wipe the floor with you at Billy and Sheena's wedding? Do you?! I should have saved the Rangers and Kahva a lot of grief and cleaned your clock that day!! You are a miserable thief, that is all you have ever been, and all you will ever be!! I hate you!! They all hate you for what you've done, they're just scared to admit it!"

"No." Jason tried to protest, but couldn't make anything else come out of his mouth. The words stuck in his throat, as if trying to choke him. I didn't steal anything, they don't hate me... do they? Angry voices buffeted him, yelling and screaming at him, accusing and condemning him for his failures, jealousies and crimes against them. No!! PLEASE!!! I didn't do it!! I didn't mean for Tommy to lose his powers, I didn't want Sheena to leave with Zimmer, please believe me! he screamed at them in his mind, but his denials were hurled back at him, mocking him.

Thief!! Thief!! THIEF!!

NO!! I'm not a thief!! I didn't do anything!!


Silent tears nearly blinded Jason as he became dimly aware of Daniel stalking, prowling around him. "Then why aren't they here, helping you, trying to save you from me?" Daniel taunted. "They've all tried to help all the others before, but they have abandoned you. Even my sweet Kahva can't find it in her heart to help you anymore, she's finally seen you for who you are! You are a thief, and a faker! You should never been made a Ranger. I'm just glad Zordon finally saw through your act. By having me sent here, maybe there's still a chance to save Sheena. Give up and go home, Jason. You're a thief, and thieves don't belong here. True heroes, true leaders never steal." Daniel laughed cruelly at the anguished Ranger before him. "Search your heart, if you can find it, and you'll know I'm speaking the truth. You can't deny what's truly in your heart, thief."

I didn't steal anything!! his mind screamed. The Gold Ranger wanted to scream out his denial until the very mountains on this foreign planet shook and crumbled, but he still couldn't get the words to come out. Search your heart, search your heart, Daniel's words echoed in his mind, taunting him endlessly.

Search my heart... Jason's lips twitched for a moment; the words were tickling another memory, one older than all the others. I've heard that before... He reached deep inside his mind and soul, searching... then he remembered where he'd heard the words before. Search deep inside your heart, reach into your soul, his first sensei had taught him, almost ten years earlier. Know your heart, Jason, and all else will follow. Trust in yourself, and you will never go wrong. Believe in the right and the true. Believe in yourself. Know yourself.

That's the answer, that's my truth. I've doubted my own actions for far too long, let what I couldn't control weigh on me. "No," he said quietly, firmly, and the force of the word shook them both. "No. You're wrong, Daniel. Yes, it has been hard not leading the team. I got very used to it, and I think I did a good job - no, I know I did a good job -"

"Sounds like a conceited thief to me!" chuckled Daniel, his features taut, eyes studying Jason very carefully.

"In my time," Jason continued, undeterred. There was a warmth building in his heart, a warmth that was much more satisfying than what he'd felt with the images of him as an ultimate leader. It was the warmth of his own truth, and of finally being able to be honest with himself. "Yes, there have been things that Tommy and Sheena have done that I would have done differently, but my time as leader ended the day I left for Switzerland. I'm not the person I was then, I've grown and changed, and so has everyone else. It's not my time anymore, I'm not the person for the job anymore. I didn't steal the Gold Powers from Billy, if he had ever asked for them, I would have given them to him, but he didn't. He couldn't have taken them anyway, it's a family legacy, even though none of us knew it back then. He has his own heritage now, his own power, and I wouldn't want that to change for anything.

"As for when I came back... yes, it made Rocky uncomfortable, and I found out today he still had some problems with it. But we've talked all that out now, and I don't want anyone's place, and I haven't ever tried to take it. Besides, anyone who has the title of 'leader' isn't any more important than any of the others. We're a team, we always have been, and we always will be."

"Tall talk for a pile of walking muscles," Jason's accuser glared at him. "You know you love the power -"

"Yes, I did, and I do... But it is not my time anymore. I did get jealous of Tommy for a little while, but not seriously. Yes, it did feel like he was trying to take my place... like Rocky felt I was taking his. But I didn't hold anything against Tommy, not ever! Rocky and I just happened to have made the same mistake all this time: we never talked out how we felt, and we both weren't truly resentful of anybody... But we both buried how we felt, instead of talking things out. I just buried mine so deep I forgot I'd ever felt anything. Rocky's feelings were just a little closer to the surface. Maybe it was because he became the Blue Ranger when they took the Zeo powers, and Billy was suddenly no longer a Ranger, maybe it's another reason entirely, but we both made the same mistake in never truly talking about how we felt. So for the record: I did feel a little jealous towards Tommy, about a lot of things... once. But he is my friend, and like me, he was the best leader he could be in his time." Jason was the one who laughed a little now. "Maybe wisdom comes with age or time, but I can honestly look back now and realize that the changes that happened needed to happen, and that all of them, no matter how rough they may have been, have always been for the best. We're a team, not a bunch of ego-stoking individuals. As for Kim, though I don't know if you meant to bring that memory up or not, but yes, I carried a secret crush for her for a very long time... but I know that I don't love her, not in that way. I realized that soon after she and Tommy started seriously dating, and I learned it over and over again each time I would seriously date someone else. My only mistake there with Kim was never telling her how I felt. A mistake, though not my only or most serious one, is one of which that I intend to rectify once this crisis is over."

Jason took a deep breath, looking Daniel directly in the eyes. "As for Kahva... Yes, I care about her a great deal, I do love her... as my friend. I love Emily, am in love with her, even though I'm not so certain if she loves me anymore right now, or ever will again," he sighed. "I would never steal anyone from the person they loved, even if I did love them myself. If I were in love with Kahva, I still respect her relationship, and I respect them as friends far too much to do anything to interfere in their relationship," he smiled faintly. "Her relationship with the real Daniel, that is. Not you. The real Daniel knows that I would never do anything to try and take Kahva away from him, nor will I ever hurt her." Jason stood up straight, unflinching, as he felt his inner strength returning full force. "Power, love... They are both very strong, wonderful things to feel, I'll admit that in a heartbeat. But I've never stolen them before, and I never will steal them. I did do my best to get back the Green Candle, and Tommy knows it. I did not, and never will, try to take Rocky's place on the team. I didn't let Zimmer take Sheena away from us, and I'll do my best to get her back for the team, and for Billy and Kahva's sakes, even if it kills me. And I'll never try to steal someone away from who they love, no matter what. I never tried to steal Kim, I've never tried to steal Kahva. You can't steal a person's heart, not when they truly know their own. And," he finished, smiling at last with triumph, "I will keep my word to Trey. As soon as he is physically able to take back the power, united or not, I will immediately give the power back to him, no matter how much I wish I could keep it. I do like being a Ranger again," he admitted, "but when my time is over, I know I can look back now and say that I did what was right, true and honest, that I did the best that I could. That is all any of us can ever do."

Jason steeled himself for another emotional assault, but there was none as the darkness blew away, and once again the jungle surrounded him. The Daniel in front of him bowed his head in respect, then smiled. "Good luck, Jason," he whispered, vanishing into mist, then nothingness.

"Thanks," Jason whispered back, not sensing the hand he held in his so firmly.

"Umm, you're welcome, but you can let go of my hand now, if you're back with us finally," Kahva's voice cut into his mind. "And if you can move now, just a bit, I can get over this log." Her dry humor hid her most of her concern, but not all. "Jason? Look, don't zone out again, you've been staring mindlessly for five minutes, wake up, please!"

"Huh? Fi-five minutes?" Jason stammered in bewilderment. "But it was all so real. You guys didn't see any of that? Nothing at all?" he asked. "And where were you guys, anyway? I looked all around, I didn't see any of you, and Kahva, you -" The young man stopped himself then, realizing for the first time that he was holding her hand. "How did this happen, you were gone." Almost absently, Jason backed up, helping Kahva over the fallen log as he had originally intended to do, then finally released her hand.

"We were all right here, Jase," Rocky replied with a slight grin. "You turned to take Kahva's hand and then just froze, you wouldn't let her go." Elbowing the Gold Ranger teasingly, Rocky joked more in relief than anything else, "Good thing Daniel isn't here, he might not understand.

"No, he does," Jason replied softly, looking first at Kahva, then to the others. All returned very confused looks to him. "Are you sure you guys didn't see any of that?"

"All we saw was you staring off into space, and not letting go of Kahva's hand. We were expecting a monster ambush or some kind of natural disaster at any minute," Tommy answered. "Jase. What happened? What did you see?"

It would be so easy not to say a thing, I've passed the trial. But they deserve to know, especially Tommy. "You're not going to believe this, but I saw Daniel, things from the past," Jason started, then smiled, some of his own good humor slowly returning, "myself surrounded by beautiful young women."

"Why couldn't I have gotten that kind of vision?" Rocky groaned in mock disgust. All of them were grim-faced soon enough though, as Jason very somberly told them everything he'd seen, felt and been through. Not a single one of them could suppress the shivers that ran up and down their spines as the full impact of Jason's visions hit them.

"Tommy, I -"

"Don't worry about it, bro," Tommy replied, clapping him on the shoulder. "What is past, is past. I just wish you had said something sooner, I never realized how you must have felt. All of you welcomed me so eagerly, you were all so friendly, caring and compassionate." Tommy sighed, then raised an eyebrow slyly at his teammate and friend. "Kim's not going to believe you actually had a crush on her, you know. She's always thought of you as a big brother."

"I know, but I have to tell her, and I'm going to just as soon as we get back home," Jason declared. Then he slowly turned to Kahva, taking her hands in his, praying that she wouldn't bolt away from him. "Kahva, I do like you, and I think everyone knows that, though I've never put anything into so many words. I can't imagine my life, any of our lives, without you in it. For the record: I'm in love with Emily, though she may not love me anymore. Whatever is going to happen with her will happen in its own time. I love you too, as a friend that I always want by my side and in my heart. If I wasn't in love with Emily, but found myself falling for you, I want you and everyone to know that I would never interfere in your relationship with Daniel. I love you too much to hurt you like that." Before Kahva could say anything, Jason finished, "I really don't care; I honestly don't care if Emily can't handle that I love you so deeply as a friend. But I do care that it hurts her, and that everything that has happened has hurt you so much. I love Emily with all my heart, but I will not sacrifice my friends for her. I don't know how to make her understand I can love many people, but I'm going to try and talk things out with her, help her understand. Maybe we can put things back together, I want so bad for us to set things back right." Jason took a wavering breath, then said with a rush, "I love Emily, and I never wanted to hurt her, nor have you get hurt in the crossfire. Can you ever forgive me?"

Kahva smiled a bit at long last, and actually looked Jason straight in the eyes, something she rarely did with anyone, even Sheena. "There's nothing to forgive. I love you as a friend too, Jason," she replied simply, then hugged Jason on impulse.

No one was quite sure which was more startling, Jason's unexpected sob as he returned the hug, nearly falling into Kahva's arms, or the sudden appearance of the next part of the trail. It took them all a few moments to recover from the emotional shock of the whole incident. It was Rocky finally, who broke the touching moment.

"What, that's it?! No monsters, no earthquakes, landslides or volcanoes?! No evil plants sucking you into a portal to who knows where? Jason just zones out, has visions, and pours his heart out like in a soap opera?" he overdramatically mock complained. "I feel gypped! Where's the action, where's all the razzmatazz?" He then started bouncing around, shadowboxing. "Come on, I was ready for some action!" he grinned.

"It's like the Keeper said, Rocky," Kat spoke up. "The trials are all what they need to be, for who they need to be. Nothing more, but nothing less."

"Yes," Billy spoke up thoughtfully. "Also, by trying Jason this way, it was more of a true trial."

"How do you figure that?" Rocky asked, frowning slightly.

"We were all prepared to some degree for 'action', as you just said. We weren't prepared for one of us to apparently just freeze up, and there not be any monsters or something else to deal with. Because we weren't prepped for it, and in particular Jason, since this was his trial after all, it was a true trial. There was no way Jason could have planned a way out of his own buried feelings."

Rocky mulled Billy's words over for a few minutes, then smiled and nodded in agreement. "Still though, I was ready to fight some more monsters," he joked, shadowboxing once again.

"Tell you what, Rocky," Tanya said, grinning like a Cheshire Cat as she sidled up to him. "We'll give you a chance for just what you want," she winked at him.

"Oh? How so?"

"Well, you can either go back the way we came and see if those Spinner things, or the Cat Monster is still back there for you to tangle with. or get tangled up by," she teased. "Or, we can let you charge well ahead of the rest of us and whatever monsters are waiting for us, you can fight them all by yourself, how's that?"

Rocky stopped bouncing around, blinked, then smiled at the group. "Like I said: short, sweet, simple and to the point, no violence, that's the kind of trial I like! Yep, yep, I'll take that, no problem!!" Everyone cracked up at Rocky's antics, finding a much-needed release of tension.

"Hey Rocky," Tanya smiled sweetly.


"Race you!" she blurted out before tearing down the trail pell-mell.

"Hey!!" he exclaimed. "No fair!!" he shouted, taking off at full speed right behind her, Adam hot on both their heels. Tommy, Billy and Kahva followed after them at a quick jog, while Kat hung back, slipping an arm about Jason's waist.

"I came so close to being tempted," Jason murmured softly. "Everything I was shown, it all felt so - so. I don't know how to explain it. For a few moments, I wanted that vision, I wanted it all. It felt like that if somehow I could have had that vision come true, everything would be all right. All I had to do was take over the team."

"I know something of what you feel," Kat nodded, giving Jason a one-armed hug, which he returned gratefully. "When Rita made me her evil servant, I felt that what I was doing was for the best, even though it was an evil best. I rationalized that I was doing Tommy a favor, trying to separate him from Kim. And I didn't care what happened to her," the Pink Ranger shivered. "Evil, greed, jealousy. They can all be so. seductive."

"Exactly," Jason agreed. "But to give in to the vision, to believe what Daniel's double was telling me, would have been to lie to myself all over again, and to the people I love. The double told me to search my heart, and I did. I remembered something I was taught a long time ago, about knowing yourself, knowing your heart." Jason smiled, hugging Kat again. "Once I did that, I knew my truth, and I knew what I had to do. You know, I think maybe telling everyone what happened to me. I think that may have been part of the trial too. You know, being honest not only with yourself about how you really feel, but everyone else? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, I don't know. But I do know I've finally been honest with everyone. Except for Kim, but I will talk to her as soon as this is over. I'm not going to hide my heart anymore."

"Feels good, doesn't it?" Kat asked knowingly, lightly tapping Jason's chest, right above his heart. "To finally let it all go?"

"Like I'm king of the world, Kat," he smiled, laughing as they spied Tanya, Rocky and Adam far ahead of them, all falling down in a giddy heap. Jason couldn't remember the last time his heart had felt so light. In spite of the seriousness of their situation, Jason felt free and happy, his heart surging with the hope that they would make it after all. The vision of all the Rangers, past and present, and Kahva, standing together as a team played in his mind again, this time with Sheena standing forefront like the leader she truly was, and deserved to be. This time, the vision felt good, not because it glorified him, but because it celebrated their teamwork, friendship and love. "No. Like I'm king of the universe..." Thank you, sensei. Thank you.

* * *
Sheena leaned against Zimmer for a moment, enjoying the strength and comfort he was so freely providing her. She knew he wouldn't turn his back on her, he wouldn't ever leave her for anyone else. She closed her eyes for a moment, reveling in the warmth of the bed all around them. For a moment, she had thought it a trifle odd to think of him and beds in the same sentence, but that had passed. He was conducting himself as a perfect gentleman would and should, and she felt no fear of him at all.

"It is a glorious dawn, my dear," he murmured into her ear. "What would you like to do, this first full day in your new home?"

I'd love to go hang out at the Youth Center or to go work out, she nearly said aloud, when it sank in that she was far from Earth and all the things she had done there. Then again, I've got far more here, she reminded herself. Glancing down, she almost winced. "The first thing I think I'd like to do is take a bath, if you could arrange it, please, Zimmer. I've worn these clothes almost a straight day, and I need to get out of them and into something clean."

"I believe I can arrange that," Zimmer smiled, pushing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes, gazing deeply into them lovingly for several moments before speaking again. "That door there," he gestured to one of pure rose quartz, "will take you to a bathing chamber. You'll find all the facilities you are used to and then some in there, and I'll have some garments sent in to you. Will you require any assistance with your bath? I could arrange that as well, my dear." I would be most pleased to help you out of your garments...

Sheena hesitated for the barest of seconds, then shook her head. "No, I can manage, thank you for the offer, though." She slipped out of the bed and headed for the door, more than ready to change out of her dirty, stained jeans and shirt. It seemed like a thousand years ago she had put them on for... her eyes darkened as she remembered how just the morning before, she had been in her and Billy's cabin, talking with Tanya about the flashbacks she'd been having.

I had thought I'd heard something then, she thought, frowning for a moment, trying to remember. For a moment, it seemed important to remember, it seemed the most important thing in the universe that she should remember... then it was gone. She shrugged. "Nothing that happened there is important to me anymore," she murmured, smiling as she saw a wide ivory, old fashioned clawfoot tub in one corner of the magnificent bathroom, filling with steaming hot water, a lovely fragrance arising from it. With a gentle smile on her face, she practically threw off the remains of her clothes and nearly dove headlong into the tub. She resisted the impish impulse though, and settled for merely hopping into the inviting bath.

Soapy bubbles floated up all around her as she relaxed, sinking into the warm water's embrace, closing her eyes and letting her mind go completely off-line. I just feel too good to think right now, she mused. Too good...

It could've been hours or even days later when she finally emerged from the tub, vigorously toweling herself off and looking around for the clothes Zimmer had promised. She hadn't seen or heard anyone enter, but that didn't mean they hadn't. Indeed, not that far from her she found a small pile of dark clothing.

"Ohhhhh," she breathed in ecstasy at the amazing folds of silk-like material that cascaded all around her. In moments she had wrapped it around herself, then tied it tight with the sable satin belt that had come with it. She didn't see any shoes or anything else to go with it, but that didn't matter; the essentials were covered, and that was the important thing. Almost dancing, she headed back to the room, where Zimmer had also bathed in some other room it appeared, for he now wore a black tunic and trousers that matched her own new outfit in style and hue.

As she re-entered the room, she realized something that had skipped her attention before. "Zimmer, where is my jewelry?" she motioned to her hands and neck, whirling about in momentary panic. "My rings, and the necklace..."

"There," he motioned to a small box on the bedside table. "I didn't think you'd want them to remind you of the past, so I had them put away properly." As if to assure her he spoke the truth, he opened the box long enough for her to get a glimpse of the jewelry, then closed it again.

Sheena smiled, sitting herself down in a chair upholstered in pure red, impossibly soft velvet. The entire room was done in shades of red and black, and somehow was very pleasing to her. The largest item in the whole room was a bed that took up nine-tenths of the room. It looked very comfortable right now, despite the fact she had just awakened not that long ago.

It was from nightmares, and I didn't sleep well, she reminded herself. She glanced up as Zimmer came over to her and sat just in front of her. "And now that you are garbed appropriately as a Queen should be, my love, what shall we do?"

My love. He loves me. Sheena smiled warmly at him, then found her hand playing nervously with the folds of her gown for some strange reason. "I think... I think I need to think, Zimmer," she said softly. "That nightmare is still haunting me, and I think I need some air."

For a moment, she thought he looked almost annoyed by her statement, then he was all smiles again. "Very well. Where shall we walk?"

"I can do it alone." She couldn't explain the pulsating need for solitude within her. Please let him understand, even though I don't understand this myself. "I'll be fine Zimmer, your palace is safe, isn't it?"

"Of course," he nodded. "And you are more than a good enough warrior to deal with anything or anyone foolish enough to dare to interfere with the new Queen of my realm. Have a nice walk. I'll be dealing with matters of state, when you wish to speak again." He smiled warmly at her, and tenderly showed her to the door that led to the gardens. With a nod, she wandered out, her eyes showing more shadows than they had since she had first arrived.

Zimmer watched her go, his own eyes smoldering with barely suppressed rage. She shouldn't have wanted to leave. She should have wanted to plan her entire day, her entire LIFE around me!! What is going on here?!

* * *
Everyone was on edge once again as they continued to follow the path through the thick jungle region. Whatever planet this was, it had a wide variety of terrain, and they had a strong feeling they were going to see most of it. Already, in the time they had been there, they had gone from the shore to gentle forest, then rougher, mountainous terrain, followed by the jungle. At one point after Jason's trial, they had thought the trail was going to lead them into a desert, but at the last moment the trail had veered back into the jungle, which had only gotten thicker and more damp with each minute.

The initial outburst of merriment after Jason's personal victory had served to relieve pent-up fears and tensions, giving most of the group a badly needed release. But soon after, reality crashed back in on them, as they realized not all of their number could celebrate. The silence of their older friend and the Sapphire Ranger brought home the painful fact all over again that their quest was far from over. Everyone knew full well there were two trials remaining, and all kept worried, wary eyes on Kahva and Billy, not certain as to which of the two was going to be next.

Kahva was probably the more nervous of the pair; she would have been just as happy if her trial had been the first, so it could have been over with long ago. But for some reason, she and Billy had been 'saved' until the last. Every trial has gotten rougher, more intense. I don't know if I can do this! I don't like this, I don't like this at all, she thought, biting her lip as she walked along with the others. Everything feels too weird, too strange. But ever since I was pulled into this universe, things have been strange, so this place isn't something all that new, I suppose. Heck, strange practically defines this universe, she laughed silently to herself. I wouldn't trade it for any other, though, even if Sheena hadn't been here. This is where I belong, this is where my family came from. The only thing that ever really made me happy back 'home' was having Sheena for a friend. When she disappeared, I lived every day hoping and praying that either she would return, or that somehow, some way, we would be reunited.

Kahva looked up ahead of her, casting her gaze upon her friends one by one, her eyes finally resting on Billy. I got my wish, I got Sheena back, and she had already had her wildest dreams come true: she had become a Power Ranger, and had found Billy, the absolute love of her life, she thought, allowing herself a small grim smile as she looked back down at the ground, having to watch her steps carefully now to avoid being tripped up by the gnarled roots and coiled vines that suddenly littered the trail. Where did all this stuff come from? she absently wondered. Doesn't matter, I'll go through anything, go anywhere and do anything I have to do to get Sheena back. I'm not going to let ANYONE tear us apart ever again, or keep her from her friends, her true love. I don't CARE how powerful this wizard is, no one is going to separate me from her ever again! Do you understand that Zimmer?! You are not going to get away with ANY of this, so help me God!!! Nobody takes my soul-sister from me, NOBODY!!!

She couldn't have said what it was that caught her attention, a slight noise, a small movement. Whatever it was, she lifted her head just in time to see what looked very much like long, pale gray arms coming out of a bush near Billy, grabbing the Sapphire Ranger and pulling him away. Kahva tried to say something, to scream something, when a sight that made her sick to her stomach appeared: a monster all too familiar to her, Mondo's Shifter, standing where Billy had stood a mere second before. None of the others were watching Billy at that moment, no one but Kahva was a witness as Shifter literally flowed into a perfect duplicate of Billy, then immediately started walking along with everyone else.

"Guys!" she shouted, finding her voice after what seemed an eternity. "That's not Billy!" Kahva ran up and placed herself between Shifter and the rest of the team, keeping a wary eye upon him.

Everyone stopped, turning to look at her a bit oddly. Kat frowned a little, then asked quietly, "Kahva, are you all right?"

"Didn't you hear me?" the older woman half-snapped, feeling a strange and unaccustomed anger rising in her. "That's not Billy! I saw it happen, someone or something grabbed Billy, and Shifter took his place!" Gotta fight the anger, can't let myself feel anything, they'll think I'm hysterical or something, can't feel, can't feel.

Tommy shook his head, gently disagreeing. "We destroyed Shifter, Kahva, don't you remember?" he said tenderly. "It's just your imagination, but that's okay. Hey, we're all on edge, we know it's going to be either you or Billy who gets tested next. It's okay, we know how you feel."

Don't feel, lock it down, lock it down, they think you're losing it, lock it down! But try as she might, Kahva couldn't shove her anger down, almost literally snarling at Tommy. "I know what I'm saying!" she insisted. "I know what I saw!" Why are they doubting me again?! Why don't they, why won't they believe me?!

"Your nerves aren't what they should be, Kahva," Billy/Shifter said a touch too sweetly, reaching out to pat her shoulder. Kahva recoiled from the touch, not wanting Shifter to so much as lay a single finger on her. Of all of Mondo's monsters, she hated and feared this one the most. It had tricked her and Daniel into believing it was Adam and lured them into a trap, throwing her into a terrifying captivity and torment that she still had nightmares about. "You're just confused a little is all. This place will do it to you, it can warp your mind. Maybe you're thinking about what happened yesterday at the carnival, and you're confusing then with now," he suggested lightly.

It took a lot of effort not to completely lose her cool, but somehow Kahva stayed coldly calm, even managed to look Billy/Shifter directly in the eye. "I am perfectly aware of the time difference," she stated flatly. "I know you aren't Billy, you are Shifter, and you will not get away with this!"

Tanya tried to come over to her at that point, only to have Kahva leap away from her instinctively. "Kahva, just relax, you're overreacting again. Look, maybe you won't be tested, you're not a Ranger, after all. You'll probably just have to help Billy in his some way. Or maybe you're already through, you did sorta help me a little, after all."

"Just let us handle this," Tommy purred softly, his voice was low and persuasive, a tone which set Kahva's nerves on edge. Tommy didn't talk like that to her, not ever, much less anyone else. "This is our quest, really. It's like Tanya said, you're simply not a Ranger." Giving her a hug she couldn't escape from, Tommy smiled down at her, then at the others. "Come on, team," he said, the inflection in his voice most definitely not including Kahva, "I want us to get to Billy's trial fast. Sheena is depending on us, Rangers." As if that settled the matter, the young people once again started down the trail, leaving Kahva behind.

"Tommy, no, please!! You have to believe me!" Kahva pleaded, her anger changing into despair. "You guys started to believe me about stuff earlier, don't start doubting me now, please!! That's not Billy!!"

"Oh please, you're not going to start crying, are you?" Kahva could've sworn she heard Jason say. "You're the oldest of us, get a grip!" But Jason wasn't facing her, so Kahva didn't know for sure if he had actually spoken, or if she had imagined it.

"She's such a crybaby," Adam's voice sounded, though he wasn't facing her either. Every single one of the Rangers was trudging down the trail, none of them looking at her, none of them speaking directly to her, or even to each other. With every step they took, it seemed they were leaving her further and further behind, no matter how hard she tried to keep up with them.

"I still can't figure out why Daniel loves her," Kat's voice was whispering loudly. Kahva whirled all around, glancing wildly from one spot to the other. The voice seemed to be right on her shoulder almost, but Kat was with the others, well ahead of her, and still none of them appeared to be saying anything to each other at all.

"She's a sympathy case, he feels sorry for the little mouse," she heard Rocky's voice next.

No. Kahva moaned inwardly. He loves me, he told me he loved me, shut up Rocky, shut up!! She tried to break into a run to catch up with them, to make them stop talking so meanly about her, but suddenly Kahva couldn't make her legs move, no matter how hard she tried.

"Maybe that's the reason Sheena took her into her circle of friends when they were kids, maybe she felt sorry for her then, maybe she still feels sorry for her," Billy/Shifter mused. "Once we free my wife, that's the first question I'm going to ask her."

No! Sheena didn't feel sorry for me, you don't know anything about how we met, how we became friends! Kahva tried to shout to the others ahead of her, to the voices prowling around her, wherever they were truly coming from. But she couldn't bring herself to protest. because she had wondered the same thing herself long ago. and had never been able to make herself fully believe she deserved such good fortune in finding Sheena, much less having her as a friend.

"You know, I wonder if she's even really Zordon's daughter," Tanya wondered aloud. "After all, she's nothing like him. He's brave and wise, while she's a wreck all of the time."

"He and Alpha could have easily faked the records," Billy agreed. "Zordon could have felt sorry for her like Sheena must have when they first met. It would be just like him, taking in someone unworthy just to make them feel like someone cares or might actually want them."

NO!! Shut up, shut up, leave me alone!! Please!!

"I wouldn't be surprised," Tommy agreed. "You know, her abilities could be a fluke too. I mean, what good is a person who needs to use someone else's power, a Ranger's power, to do anything? For all we know, Kat's body healed itself; Kahva probably didn't do a thing but mumble over the scratches. Our bodies do heal faster because of our Ranger powers. Kat's body must have healed itself, Kahva just took the credit for it to look important."

NO!! That was real, I did do it!! Kahva mentally screamed at Billy and Tommy, her body still rooted to the spot, unable to move her legs to try and catch up with the others.

Isn't that why you didn't tell them what you could do, because you knew they wouldn't believe you? another voice taunted her, this one most assuredly in her mind. and unmistakably her own.

"Why won't they listen to me?" Kahva wept softly, still trying not to let her emotions break through to the surface, but not entirely succeeding.

Big girls don't cry, came a painful memory of a crackly voice, harshly rebuking her. You're older than all of the rest of the children here, why don't you be quiet and grow up?

But Ms. Caswell, the boys took my baby doll -

Big girls don't cry. That's probably why we can't get you adopted out, you cry too much. Adults don't want to be bothered with bad little children who cry all the time. They don't have the time to deal with silly crybabies, and they think a child who cries all the time must be a bad, troubled child. Stop your sniffling and be quiet, you'll drive off the adults coming today, and then no one will get a home. Do you want to keep the other GOOD children from getting a home?

N-no, but the boys -

Go to your dorm, and don't come out until you learn to not be a crybaby.

But I want a Mommy and a Daddy too!! Please, I want a Mommy and a Daddy, PLEASE!!

You don't get one until you learn to stop crying. No one will adopt a silly girl who cries all the time.

Kah-va, Kah-va, sounds like ca-ca!!

Ms. Caswell, they're teasing me!! That's not how my name sounds, -

Don't be a tattletale, young lady! Be quiet and stop that silly crying! You'll scare off the adults who want good little children.

Stupid girl, stupid name, sounds like ca-ca!! Who could want a girl named Kahva, sounds like ca-ca.

No it doesn't!!

Ca-ca, ca-ca, ca-ca, ca-ca.

Ms. Caswell -

Stop that silly crying! You'll never get a home, Kahva. No one wants a crybaby.

"No, no, no, no, NOOO!!" Kahva finally screamed, sobbing uncontrollably. "Leave me alone, please!!" Her legs responded at last, but instead of running to her friends, she turned and ran in the opposite direction of the others, unable to make herself follow them or try to reason with them anymore.

"How can I leave you alone when I haven't done anything to you. yet," came an all too familiar voice, followed by a solid human chest that she soundly bumped into. "Nice to see you again, Kahva," the voice purred, strong hands floating down from her shoulders to her arms, then pinning them tightly to her sides. Through her tears, Kahva saw her tormentor from the carnival: Billy's evil clone.

"N-n-n-nooo," she moaned softly, looking desperately behind her for the others. "Help me!! Please!!! Tommy!! Jason!!! Guys, please!!"

"They don't believe you, or in you anymore, Kahva. Or have you forgotten?" the clone laughed softly, not quite gently rubbing her arms. "I'm back, my dear little one, and here, I can stay in existence forever."

"I don't want you, leave me alone!! Haven't you done enough already?! Why did you make me remember the orphanage?! You did that, didn't you?!" she railed at him, squirming frantically in his grip.

"Orphanage?" The clone looked honestly confused at that. "What orphanage? Who cares about an orphanage?" Laughing, leering at her, the clone licked his lips, much like a big wild cat about to feast upon a fresh kill. "Who cares, when I have you finally, all to myself. With no one to save you, or interrupt me, this time."

"Th-th-the others w-w-w-"

"W-w-w-what?" he mocked her. "They don't believe in you anymore, stupid girl, don't you understand that yet?! They're smart enough to not care about someone who can't even believe in herself! I, on the other hand," he breathed against her lips, "don't care who or what you do or don't believe in. I've got you all to myself now. You're mine forever. Just like Sheena belongs to my former master now, forever."

No, no, no, no. I've got to get away from him, but how? How can I get away from him this time when I couldn't do it last time? Why won't the others believe me anymore?! "My friends will -"

"Friends? Friends? Did I actually just hear you say, 'my friends'? You are such a fool!!" the clone laughed, shoving Kahva against a tree. "Why on Earth should anyone ever want to be your friend, silly child? You aren't valuable to anyone. but me," he half growled, cruelly gripping her chin cruelly with one hand, grabbing her wrists and pinning them together in the other. "You have caused me a lot of trouble, my dear, but you're finally where you belong: with me." he gloated, before forcing a kiss on her.

You have caused me a great deal of trouble my dear, but you are finally where you belong, in my SkyBase, and you are about to become my slave forever! floated back King Mondo's words to her. The scene, her captor, and the intentions towards her were different this time, but it was the SkyBase all over again, and Kahva couldn't control the shaking of her body or voice. "I belong to no one, especially n-n-not you!! M-my friends will st-st-stop you!"

"Your friends. Such a trusting little fool you are, Kahva. Your friends don't believe in you anymore, hasn't that gotten into that thick skull of yours yet? Or are you more idiotic than I thought? It doesn't matter," he smiled, forcing yet another kiss on her. "I'm not after you for your mind. Try to think and remember, though. If you can manage it, that is. Your friends stopped believing in you a long time ago, didn't they?" he taunted. "Sheena was actually the first, wasn't she? She didn't believe you when you told her she would be taken to another dimension, did she?"

What, me falling into a big white light? That's a dream, not a vision. You stayed up too late watching TV, sister dear, came back the memory of Sheena's laughing disbelief. I lost her that day, now I've lost her again! It's all my fault!!

"Ah, yes, I can see in your eyes I was right," the Billy clone chuckled, enjoying her pain. "You never can do anything right, can you? That's okay, my sweet. I'll keep you anyway."

"You can't have me!!" Kahva screamed, kicking at her tormentor with all her strength, but with even fewer results than when she'd fought against him at the carnival. "Leave me alone!!"

"You say no, but I think you don't mean it," he purred, threatening to force yet another kiss upon her. "If you meant it, you would have been able to get away from me all on your own, now wouldn't you? You didn't do everything that you could to get away from me yesterday, just like you didn't do everything that you could to save Sheena. Face it, you know it's true. You're not a real fighter; you are just a wimp, a pretender at worst. You can't stand up for anything or anyone, because you don't have what it takes!"

"Leave me alone, please!!" Kahva screamed, trying to yank her imprisoned wrists free of his grip, but was still unable to free herself. The clone kept his bruising grip on her chin, forcing her to look directly at him. "I won't do anything for you!!" she yelled defiantly, struggling to stop the tremors wracking her body. "You can't make me like you!!"

"As if I care about what you feel," he laughed cruelly, carrying through on his unspoken threat of another kiss. "I'm quite sure you'll hate me for the rest of your stupid life, but I don't care. Anything I want of or with you. let's just say you'll never be in any position to stop me." The clone released her chin to caress her face, then chuckled, "Face it. I'm the only one who gives one single iota about you now; I'm the only one who wants you around. You might as well give up and accept your fate. That is what you do best, isn't it? Give up?"

"No -"

"Oh come on, you've never stood up for anything important, you've never truly helped your friends with anything that mattered. You're a wimp!!" he taunted her. "A beautiful wimp, though. My wimp." The clone caught her chin again and forced her to face the direction her friends had gone. "Look at them, all of them. They've been standing there the whole time, and not a single one of them has lifted a finger, or said a single word in your defense. They've been watching you do what you do so well: cave in and break down." The clone snickered as Kahva tried to scream to the Rangers for help, but couldn't make a single sound. "See? You're doing it right now, and quite well, I must say. I think you really do want to be with me, my sweet. What's the old line. 'Methinks the lady doth protest too much?' That's you, wimp."

"No!! Guys, please, help me!! Help me!!" Kahva cried, all the fears from the carnival encounter dwarfed by the fears consuming her now. Why don't they do something?! Why won't they help me?! Please, please, don't let them really hate me because I can't fight like them, please!! I can't do it, I can't be like them!! I'm not a Ranger, I can't be like them!! Why won't they help me?!

"Poor little Kahva, doesn't know what to do, can't do anything but cry like the wimp she is," her captor sneered. "Cry some more, I love your agony, my sweet."

As much as she wanted to not cry anymore, to lock down everything she was feeling and shove it away somewhere, Kahva couldn't, and she sank to the ground in a sobbing heap, her wrists now being held up above her by the clone. What do I do, what can I do?! I can't fight him, I've tried, I've tried!!

What troubles you, child? Kahva heard Master Madas' voice in her mind. She looked up and around wildly, desperately hoping the ki-see master was somehow nearby, and would rescue her. But no one was around save for the evil clone of Billy, and the Rangers further up the trail, who were all simply staring silently like statues at the tableau playing out before them. What troubles you, child? she heard again, and the memory of the master finding her roaming about the Power Chamber after Sheena and Billy's wedding drifted back to her.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do now, she had told him. She remembered wondering how she would fit in, if she ever really could fit in to this new dimension, and new friends.

Sometimes the answers lie not in darkness or light, but in the shadows of the heart,his voice told her once again. Trust in yourself, and you will find the strength to do it.

I don't know if I can, Master Madas, she thought to herself, staring at the ground through her tears, not even able to find the strength of will to try and yank her captured wrists free from the evil clone who held her prisoner. If it was anyone else, I'd tear apart Heaven and Hell and everything in between, but I don't think I can do this now. I'm not important, anyway.

"Get up, child," growled the clone. "It's time for you to start your life with me!" He yanked her up to her feet, dragging her over to some vines. "I'm going to tie your wrists together, and you aren't going to struggle or complain, do you understand, wimp? It wouldn't do you any good anyway, because no one has ever wanted you here, not ever, so make this easy on yourself."

Kahva immediately began to struggle again then, pure fear motivating her to fight one last time. "NO!" she screamed, her voice becoming hoarse from all her protests and her crying. Sheena, I'm sorry, I've let you down, you must be so ashamed of me, how could you have ever cared about me? He's right, I am a wimp, you should never have wasted your time on me.

I guess there was a part of me that hoped somehow, someway, you could be my maid of honor. Will you Kahva? Will you be my maid of honor?

"She-Sheena?" Kahva softly whispered, not knowing if the voice was a trick of the clone's, or another memory. She didn't have time to figure it out as more scenes played out in her mind, more events coming back to her memory.

Thanks Kahva, that thing would've sliced and diced me before I could've morphed, she remembered Tommy telling her in the Lunar Palace.

We could not have defeated Harvox without you, Kahva Kilanye had told her in the Power Chamber after Sheena had been rescued from Mondo.

You're stronger than you think, Kahva. That cut on your hand should remind you of that, Tommy had said to her back in the Power Chamber before they had all left to return the original Silver Ranger's body to Eltar. It may have been the combined attack from you and Sheena that took it out, but you fought off that thing all by yourself for almost two minutes, did you realize that? It took Sheena and Billy a while to get my foot free. Don't sell yourself so short."

Thank you, Kahva Briton, daughter of Elysia, and Zordon, my mentor and friend. I am proud to share my name with you, and honored.

Kahva shivered as Kahva Kilanye's words echoed in her mind. She is a ghost now, she was the original Silver Ranger, one of the best warriors ever. The good, honored dead have no reason to lie, and she's never lied to any of us. Kahva was proud of me. If no one else has ever been proud of me, I know that she has been, she has been inside of me, I've felt how she feels. Misplaced belief or no, she believed in me.

Trust in yourself, and you will find the strength to do it, Kahva heard Master Madas' voice again. Trust in yourself..

I love you too, as a friend that I always want by my side and in my heart.

Don't sell yourself so short.

Kahva, I do like you, and I think everyone knows that, though I've never put anything into so many words. I can't imagine my life, any of our lives, without you in it.

Will you be my maid of honor?

Trust in yourself, and you will find the strength to do it.

"I'll try," Kahva whispered to herself. Staring at the creation who still held her wrists in a vise-like grip, Kahva searched for anything different this time, anything that would give her the advantage she had lacked at the carnival. He's not got me on the ground, Billy's not on top of me - wait. He's not Billy. He's not Billy!!

A smile crossed her face then, as a warmth began to fill her being, giving her renewed determination. He is NOT Billy!

"What are you smiling about?" the clone asked, holding a length of vine in one hand. Instead of binding her wrists immediately, he was staring at her, frowning.

"I did do everything I could at the carnival," Kahva answered him, finding a wonderful calm in the warmth that was growing inside her. "I don't know why the others didn't believe me, I don't know why they won't believe me now, but I know this: I did everything I could yesterday, and that there is one thing that is different today." The clone shifted his grip on her wrists, seeming to be a bit uncomfortable at her growing confidence. "Today, I know you're not Billy. So I don't care how you'll feel when I do this!!" she shouted at the top of her lungs, vengefully punctuating it with a powerful kick to his most sensitive region. Much to her satisfaction, he immediately released her, dropping like a sack of potatoes to the ground. "You caught me off-guard yesterday, you messed with my mind by acting the way you did, to the point I wasn't completely sure of anything. You did the same today. but now I know you're not a friend, I know you're not Billy, and I seriously doubt you're even the clone."

"It doesn't matter if I'm the clone or not," her enemy grunted out through gritted teeth. "It doesn't change the fact that deep down inside, you're just a crybaby wimp that nobody loves."

"Kahva Kilanye is proud of me," Kahva countered. "Daniel has told me he loves me, and I believe him. Sheena hoped and prayed that I could somehow be her maid of honor, you don't want someone you hate to do that for you," she nearly snarled at him. "Maybe I am a wimp compared to a lot of people, but I try my hardest to do my best at anything and everything I try. Pardon me if I'm wrong, but somehow I don't think that makes me a total wimp. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got at least one more imposter to get rid of, if I can."

"You'll fail," the Billy clone growled at her before disappearing into a thin trail of smoke.

"We'll see," Kahva gritted out, charging down the path to the others. I don't care anymore whether they believe me or not, that is Shifter up there and I'm going to stop him!!

"Kahva, who was that you were wasting our time with?" Tommy asked, tapping an irritated foot on the ground. "We should have left you behind, Billy is the only one with a trial left. This is our quest, not yours, it never has been yours. You're not a Ranger, so you simply just don't count."

"Then answer me one thing, Tommy. If I don't count, then why were you so quick to try and convince me that this thing," she softly snarled at him, "was Billy, and not Shifter? And why did you talk to me with a tone of voice that is better put to seduction, not the gentle persuasion of a fellow team member? Somehow, I don't think you would need to convince me so badly, if I didn't count, Tommy."

"Kahva, we don't have time for this - "

It didn't even take a conscious decision on her part to know what she had to do. Before anyone could even blink, Kahva acted with a speed and agility more akin to Sheena or Tommy himself, moving faster than she ever had in her life. She'd spotted a long, broken off tree branch lying on the ground not too far from her and she dove for it, snatching it up quickly and coming back to her feet to face them all. "Maybe you're all monsters," she said, surprising herself with the perfect calm in her voice, "I don't know. But I do know what I saw, I know that Billy has been replaced by Shifter, and I think you have too, Tommy, because the real Tommy respects me enough to know that this is indeed our quest. Even most of you doubting everything I say hasn't altered that, or none of you would have been rooting for me to be picked, now would you?" The warmth inside her was growing, and she knew she was right, her certainty in her truth growing with every second. "I might not be a Ranger, but I am in on this, and I'm going to see it through, whether the rest of you like it now or not. Maybe this is my trial, maybe not, I don't know, but I do know I am not going to back down from what I know is right, just because you all think I'm wrong! Now give Billy and Tommy back to us!!" she growled at her opponents. She pointed the makeshift staff from Billy to Tommy, not letting her eyes go off either of them. I'm right about this, they're both fakes, they have to be! I know I'm right and I'm not going to back down!

Kahva almost jumped out of her skin when both of them suddenly glowed for a moment, then flowed into identical Shifters. I knew it!! I was right!! "Give Billy and Tommy back," she growled again.

"We are Billy and Tommy," they both said, their voices echoing eerily. "You're imagining things again, Kahva."

"NO I'M NOT!!!!" I am NOT giving up!! She kept her eyes and her weapon on them, refusing to move, refusing to let anyone talk her out of the truth, not for a single second... and then the Shifters were simply gone. Now what happens?

"Kahva?" It was Billy's voice, and she turned to see him and Tommy behind her. "Kahva, you did it!" he exclaimed, his face beaming with a smile that none of them had seen on his face a full day. "You didn't back down, even when everyone else thought you were wrong. You did it right, my friend." Her eyes filled up with tears again, happy tears that threatened to spill from her eyes, for the part of her mind and soul that had been trained by Master Madas told her this Billy and Tommy were the real deal. "We love you, Kahva. Thank you."

The love in his voice was so great, it was all she could do to keep herself from weeping with sheer joy. Don't lose it now, we're too close to Sheena to lose it now. We can celebrate after we've got her back. Forcing calm into her tone, she simply nodded. "Seven down, one to go," she said. "You're next, Billy."

Rocky wasn't about to stay quite so calm, however. The Blue Ranger rushed forward to Kahva, grabbing her up in a hug, fighting back a few tears of his own. "Kahva. I know what we said - what I said. Oh Kahva, I'm so sorry, I didn't want to say what I did, I don't believe in what I said at all. It's like I couldn't control anything I said or did! And then having to watch you and that copy of the clone and not be able to do a single thing."

The others all nodded in sympathetic agreement, each one taking a deep, uneasy breath. During Kahva's test, they all had felt almost as if something was controlling their voices, saying cruel things they knew weren't true. They had all seen Tommy and Billy being taken and replaced, but whatever it was that had controlled them wouldn't let them say anything in support of Kahva. The elder girl finally couldn't keep her tears back, returning Rocky's hug with a fierce one of her own, absolving every one of them with the wordless gesture. That act unleashed a whole round of hugs and tears from each of the young people. Though the ordeal had been unmistakably Kahva's, all of them hurt from its impact, as if they had been on trial with her. Tanya was the one who finally managed to find her voice. "We're almost there."

Kahva nodded, turning her eyes briefly to the early evening sky above as they began the last leg of their quest. "We're coming, Sheena."

* * *
Wrapped in her cloak, the Keeper of the Crystal stared out over the jungle that the questors were hiking through. Long masses of curly hair fell just past her shoulders as she watched them. You are almost here, she mused. But once here, then the real barriers rise up against you. Almost all of you have conquered the shades of darkness and fear within you, but still the final trial and the questions face you, before you are done.

She returned her gaze to the altar and poured a small amount of her magical dust into the indention there, reestablishing the spell that would show her the images she could see within the indentation. "Show me the one who has been blinded by evil's obsession," she softly commanded, and the spell complied. Her eyes widened slightly with surprise to see Sheena walking by herself. He is not with her? Has she refused his company? How can this be? She has not broken the spell, its threads still weave tightly around her, but I sense it is weaker... something has weakened it... what has done this?

The Keeper probed gently with her mental skills, testing the web woven around the last of the direct Kilanye line. Amazement flooded her when she recognized the taste of the power there. I did not know She could interfere directly!

"I cannot," a soft voice whispered suddenly all around her. There was no one there, but the voice filled the Keeper with something she hadn't tasted since seeing the link flare up so brightly between the two girls: hope. "However, she called for Me, thought without knowing. Although I cannot release her, I can, and have aided in what small fashion I can. The rest is up to her friends and to their love."

Awestruck, the Keeper found it necessary to sit down at the Power evident in the voice surrounding her. "Thank you, Lady," she whispered. "But... my Lady, why did you permit this to happen at all? Didn't You know?"

"I knew," the Other responded. "But since the dawn of time it has been forbidden for Those like Me to interfere in the affairs of mortals, save in the direst of need. Only if the Crystal did not exist, or if those questors were not capable of gaining it, would the need be dire enough... perhaps. Time is not My province, and I cannot see into all its different futures. This is the limit of My involvement, and even I do not know if this will be enough. Only Time can tell the tale... and Time has not told Me."

The Keeper nodded slowly as the Presence faded, and she was alone again. Slowly, as her heart rate returned to normal, she gazed at the Crystal again. For one moment, she gulped, as within the heart of the Crystal of Truth, an ancient symbol flared, and then was gone.

"Life," she whispered softly, clenching her fists around the staff she carried. "Sweet Beloved Stars, Zimmer, you know not what you have done... or whose wrath you could incur should you continue..."

For some reason, she found that thought very, very sweet.

* * *
Sheena wandered aimlessly through the gardens, letting her mind and heart float free. The aura of the nightmares she had lived through so many times during the night hadn't really lifted from her soul, and she was considering asking Zimmer for something to help her sleep without dreams that night.

I don't think he'll deny me, she mused. I don't think he'd deny me anything, not even his entire empire, if I asked for it. That's kind of sweet... I thought Bil- no, don't think about him, don't think about any of them! All they did was hurt you, and you made the right choice by leaving Earth, leaving them! They never loved you! Zimmer is your only true friend. true love, now.

Her fingers clenched around the edge of the gown she wore, and she glanced at her hands. For the first time, as far back as she could remember, she wore no jewelry, not even the silver rose earrings she'd bought only a few weeks prior to her arrival in this universe. I don't need any of them anymore, she thought firmly. Those belong to the past, and I have to look to my future. My future with Zimmer. But for whatever reason, she doubted her own thoughts and feelings towards her old life, and the new one that now lay before her.

She leaned against a tree for a moment, ruthlessly shoving all the images of times with those she had loved away from her. I belong here, she repeated to herself. I belong with him. He loves me, and no one else does. They all betrayed me, one and all. I belong here. She repeated the mantra to herself over and over again, trying to draw solace from it. After a few minutes, it seemed to work, and she found herself thinking of a wonderful future with her new friend. Oh, Zimmer. How did I ever get so lucky to deserve you?

That's it, just think of me, only me. Not far from Sheena, carefully cloaked in invisibility, Zimmer was casting spell-threads as fast as he possibly could. He'd sensed a Power somewhere in the area, one whose very essence opposed what he was and what he stood for. He couldn't be certain if it was just some wandering entity passing through on business of its own or not, so he had to risk something: possession of Sheena herself. Zimmer was putting everything he had into finishing up the spell, casting all the threads he was capable of, right up until only the final one remained. Once that was all he had to do, it would be effortless to convince Sheena they should 'celebrate' her new life in a very intimate manner.

He smiled briefly as she played with the folds of the gown he had given her, and did lick his lips in anticipation. It won't be long now, not long at all. An hour at the most, and then, no matter what the Rangers try, if they've even gotten themselves together enough to try ANYTHING, she will be MINE! I will at last have my revenge on Kahva Kilanye for refusing me... I told you I would have you, or one of your line... and I ALWAYS keep my word, my old love...

Zimmer purred quietly to himself as he continued to cast his threads. In sixty short minutes, all he had wanted for the past several thousand years would be his, forever.

* * *

I think I know how Kahva felt now back on Eltar when we brought Kahva Kilanye's body back, Billy thought, trying to hide a shiver of apprehension. I've never had so many eyes glued on me at the same time in my life! Not during my graduation party, or when I returned as the Sapphire Ranger, or the wedding party. Never had the Sapphire Ranger been the focus of such complete attention, and it was making him very nervous, to say the least. He tried hard not to think too much about it, efforting instead to think instead of the quest in general, to focus on how close they were to being done.

Just one more trial, just mine left, and then we can get the Crystal of Truth and go rescue Sheena. Billy couldn't help the surge of triumph that floated through his body at that thought. We're almost there, we've almost won...

"Whoa. what's going on?!" Rocky's exclamation cut into his thoughts. "What's happening to the trail?!"

"What do -" Billy started to ask, turning back to look at Rocky. Then he saw it. No. No, it can't be!! Not now, not when we're so close!!

In most of the trials up until this point they had simply run out trail, or one of their party had frozen up unexpectedly. But this time, as Billy whirled about wildly, his heart racing with a fear he dared not give voice, this time the trail was disappearing with breakneck speed from in front of them and behind them. Got to stop this, got to stop it! he thought frantically, but knowing in the same instant that there was nothing any of them could do. In mere moments, the trail was gone, and they were surrounded only by thick jungle. In place of where the trail should have been rolling out before them, a cliff now appeared, a somber, dark green mass of trees, vines and oppressive dampness. The Sapphire Ranger couldn't shake the feeling that the cliff, perhaps even the whole planet, was softly weeping. No. Please, no.

"Rangers, Kahva." The words floated down to them from the cliff-top, weighed down heavily with sadness. They all looked up to see a green-cloaked figure standing atop the cliff. Even though they still couldn't see her face, the voice was unmistakably that of the Keeper. "I am sorry, my dear warriors, but it is too late. Zimmer has completed his spell," she sighed sadly, "and Sheena has passed far beyond the power of the Crystal of Truth. She is his now, forever and always."

Billy heard the words like a thunderclap, they fairly deafened him with their heart-tearing sadness, his eyes filled to overflowing with tears almost at once. The Keeper leapt lightly down in front of them, every movement full of sorrow and compassion. "I am so very sorry," she said quietly, still keeping the hood well over her head. "I wish I could have done something more, but magic such as what Zimmer has invoked, is well beyond my reach."

Tommy, Kahva, and Tanya all wore stunned, grief-stricken expressions. With the natural exception of Billy, they were the three closest to Sheena. Hearing that their cousin, soul-sister and best friend was lost to them, beyond all hope, was a crushing, devastating blow. Kat, Adam, Rocky and Jason all looked sickened at what must have happened to their friend. Billy was beyond heartbroken, beyond grief. "I - I - I guess. I guess we'd better go home, then," Tommy whispered, brokenly, holding onto Kat for comfort and support. "We... we've lost her."

"I guess the good guys don't always win," Jason murmured numbly, putting a hand in comfort on his friend's shoulder. "We all knew it would happen one day, that we'd probably lose one of us. I. I guess we never thought it would be like this."

"I can't believe it." Kahva whispered hoarsely, her voice full of pain and disbelief. "We were so close. It's not fair!"

Rocky put an arm about her shoulders, trying to console her. "We did everything we could. Time just wasn't on our side this time."

Adam hugged Tanya tight to him, fighting back tears of his own. "Let's go home and tell the others. They're going to need us."

"And we're going to have to start preparing for whatever Zimmer has planned to use Sheena for," Tommy added. "Fighting my own cousin, though. I - I. I never thought it would ever come to this." He moved as if to go to Billy, but seemed to think better of it, and instead drew the others towards himself. "Let's give Billy a moment, he's got to be hurting like mad. We need to ask the Keeper how we get back home now, anyway."

As one, everyone turned away from Billy, looking to the Keeper, asking for directions back to Earth, or requesting to simply be teleported back there. Sheena. My love. No. Billy couldn't even see anymore for the tears falling down his cheeks, standing there with his fists clenched, white-knuckled, and heart aching. I can't have lost you. Not like this!!

B-Billy, the final contact has to be a... personal one, Kahva's shaken voice came back to him. The closest way you can ever touch another living, loving being. At that point, she'll be his forever, mind, body, soul, heart... we'll never get her back. Sheena will never know that it's a spell, she'll think that it's all been her decision to make. Billy could clearly remember Kahva's deliberate avoidance of his gaze, all the while trying to be as gentle and delicate with him as humanly possible. We have to show her that it's all lies and illusions somehow, before that happens. We have to show her the truth, get her to see it for herself... Or we'll never get her back, ever.

"Billy," drifted a gentle, soothing voice to his ears, trying to draw him out of his grief. It was the Keeper herself trying to console him, touching his arm gently. He vaguely noticed the calluses on her hand, telltale signs that seemed to say she was a fighter of some type. Minutes earlier, that detail would have intrigued him greatly, but now, it wasn't making that much of an impression on his conscious mind. Nothing was, except for the empty, gaping hole her announcement had blasted through his heart. "I am truly sorry, I know how much you must be hurting, but fate is fate -"

"Fate?" he growled, his eyes burned suddenly as he looked at her, his tears halted by sudden rage. "Do you really have any clue as to what I'm feeling?! Have you ever had the most important person in your life torn away from you by some wizard, and then had your only chance to save her ripped away too? 'I am sorry, my dear warriors, but it is too late', is all you can say?!" The Keeper didn't respond, and Billy bored on relentlessly. "Can you possibly comprehend what it's like to live thinking that the woman you loved more than life itself was just a dream, then when you finally find her and think you can settle down and live as happily as you can, you lose her again?! My fate, our fate was to spend the rest of our lives together, it was our sacred vow, so don't give me some half-baked cryptic garbage about fate!!"

Hands landed gently upon him, but he gruffly shook them away. How could they give up so easily, especially Tommy and Kahva?! How can they have so little faith in Sheena?! But Billy understood why, even as his heart continued to shatter into smaller and smaller pieces. They had all been through so much, and now their leader, their friend, had been cruelly ripped away from them, in spite of their best efforts. I guess I can't blame them. But his anger was not yet spent, and despite his best efforts, he lashed out at the ones who loved him most. "Leave me alone!! None of you understand, so leave me alone!!"

"Billy, please," Kat started, trying to calm him. "We're all hurting, but what you're doing to yourself isn't going to bring Sheena back."

"You heard the Keeper, Billy," Tommy broke in gently. "It's too late for her now."

"I don't believe that, I'll never believe that!" Billy roared, whirling around to face Tommy. "Why have you given up on her?! Why have you given up on my wife?!"

"Billy," Kahva spoke softly, not daring to look at him in the eye. "We all tried our best. I don't know, maybe if we'd passed all our trials sooner, or hadn't slept last night, just insisted on starting the trials then, maybe we could have done this, saved her." Kahva looked near to tears, her voice cracking, and Billy wanted to fold her up into his arms and hold her close, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it.

If I do it, I'll lose it. It'll be saying I give up too. But - but. I can't just let Kahva hurt like this either, or anyone else. Even me. Billy grabbed her and gave her the fiercest hug he'd ever given to anyone, including Sheena. His own tears burst forth again then, and Billy let them fall freely, releasing all of his pent up anger, anguish and pain, letting them all flow away with the tears. "We did everything we could, Kahva." he murmured between his sobs. "We all did." Sheena, how am I supposed to live my life without you? Why did this happen to us? Billy sniffled a bit, looking from one friend to the other, an odd sense of calm abruptly filling him, warming his heart and soul. "We all did everything we possibly could."

"So, what do we do now?" Adam asked hoarsely. "We have to prepare for whatever Zimmer might have Sheena do to us. She's our enemy now." The Green Zeo Ranger shivered and stared at the ground, not liking the thought at all. "I never thought it would ever come to this."

"I have to find Sheena," Billy stated simply, knowing deep within his core that it was the truth. His truth. "I can't stop."

"Come on Billy, you have to stop. We've lost," Rocky said dejectedly.

"There's nothing else any of us can do but try to protect the Earth now," Tanya interjected. "Come home with us, Billy."

"I have to find Sheena," he asserted again, not willing to give up the search.

"Billy, you're only going to end up hurting yourself," Kat interjected softly. "You heard the Keeper, Sheena belongs to Zimmer now, mind, heart and soul. Even if you did find her, she won't be our Sheena. your Sheena."

She's right, Billy realized, the warmth that had been building inside of his heart fading somewhat. There's no way to break the spell now, from what Kahva has told us.

"Billy, come back with us, please," Adam almost begged. "We've lost Sheena, we can't lose you too. We need you. Please, forget the quest, we've lost. It's time to go home."

"I - I." Billy's voice trailed off into uncertainty. Sheena, how could I have lost you know when I know we were so very close? How did this happen to us?

Faith is the essence of things unseen, the substance of things hoped for. At the sound of Kahva's voice in his mind, Billy looked down at the young woman he still held in his arms. Faith is all we have, Billy. If we lose that, we lose Sheena, Kahva's words from the beginning of the quest came back to him.

Things worth working and sacrificing for, are worth waiting for, are they not, William? came the Keeper's voice once again to his mind. Patience is a part of the faith you must keep hold of, or that which you seek the most shall slip through your fingers.

Billy paused, frowning at the memories. What his friends had just said to him was absolutely true; there was a very good chance that if he continued on his own, it would all be for naught. But to try and find her feels so right, even if she never will love me ever again. But can I really leave my friends? he wondered, looking from one teammate to the other. What do I do?

At last his eyes rested on Kahva's face. So much like Sheena, and so different at the same time. He found it frighteningly easy to substitute his wife's features for Kahva's, and nearly broke down completely right then and there. Faith. The one thing that everyone has told me I must have. Faith.

The warmth in Billy's heart grew and grew, as he finally was able to let go of the last of his anger and grief. I know what I have to do. He gently released Kahva from the hug he'd kept her in, then faced all of his friends at once. "Guys," he started, his voice cracking ever so slightly, "you can give up and go home if you want to," he spoke through his tears, the tears that were still slowly travelling down his cheeks, and the tears he had not yet shed. "But I'm not giving up. I'm going to find the Crystal of Truth, I'm going to find Sheena, and I'm going to drive Zimmer's head so far through his spine it's going to come out of his toes!" he swore. "I love Sheena, and I'm not going to give up on her, not ever!"

"Even if it means abandoning your friends and family?" the Keeper's voice cut in, quiet and firm. "Even if it means you could lose your own life in the process, and that Sheena could belong to Zimmer for all time, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try to win back her freedom and her heart? Are you willing to risk hurting your friends and family with the possible loss of yourself in addition to the loss of Sheena? Are you prepared to lose everything for this one you love, though all your sacrifices may be in vain?"

The Sapphire Ranger glared directly at the Keeper, a fast growing conviction and strength filling his tone. Yes. Even though it's too late now, I know this truth, my truth, beyond the shadow of any possible doubt. I will do this, no matter what. "Yes. I am not going to give up, I'm not going to just stop now and let Zimmer win outright. I'm not going to give up, not ever!! Sheena is the only one I'll ever love, and if it takes me until the end of time, I will find a way to free her, or I will die trying! I will not give up!!" His voice spiraled up high and firm, his conviction and determination unshakable.

In the next instant, a faint greenish glow surrounded everyone and everything around them for a moment, abruptly disappearing in the next. Billy looked around and saw they were no longer in the jungle, but on top of a mesa, surrounded on all sides by ancient, broken columns, standing in a circle around a fire pit, in which a small fire burned. An altar stood solemnly at attention by the pit, seemingly calling all there to a nearly reverent attention. Everything atop the mesa seemed to be waiting eagerly for something, or someone. "How on Earth. Where are we?" he asked, awestruck. The planet's suns were just now sinking below the horizon, one right after the other, setting the skies ablaze in a wash of reds, purples, oranges and rosy, wispy pinks. "Magnificent," he murmured, enthralled by the beauty. Sheena would love this place.

"Billy? Guys, he can hear us again, it's over! Billy!" Rocky shouted happily, leading the others in a happy race to the Sapphire Ranger. "Man, you did it!! You passed, you passed!!"

"I - I. passed?" he stammered, not quite realizing at first what had just occurred. "Wait. that was my trial? None of that was real?!"

"If you had given up, my dear William, the end result would have been as real as the trial you underwent. And before you ask. Sheena has not become fully Zimmer's. yet."

In stunned silence, the Rangers and Kahva all turned towards the voice they had come to know so well over the past several hours. Standing by one of the larger columns, where all of them could clearly see her, was the Keeper. Slowly, the woman who had chosen them removed her green cloak, tossing it off to one side, finally revealing herself to them.

She was lean and tall, over six feet, and very well muscled, in a strong, yet still feminine, beautiful way. Long, bronze hair sprinkled with blonde and coppery highlights fell past her shoulders, and her eyes glowed with warmth and caring. In one hand she carried a long staff, which seemed to be more than a simple tool or weapon, but an extension of herself, her will, even though it was riding casually in her hand, not threatening anyone at all. She was clad only in a green leather bikini, which fastened over one shoulder and led to a green leather gauntlet of sorts, which wound down her arm. Matching green leather, knee-high boots completed the image of a lethal beauty, and proud warrior.

All of the Rangers stared in wonder at the woman standing before them, completely awestruck. Kahva paled, however, gasping when she saw her. "It can't be. D-Dulcea?!"

* * *
"Klank! KLANK!!" King Mondo roared impatiently. "Are you ready with my monster yet?!"

I wonder if I can somehow 'accidentally' damage his voice board during one of his routine power downs, Klank mused to himself. Well, of course I could! Doing it without being turned into a fancy trashcan though, that's the trick. "Yes, sire," Klank called out to his master, who had taken to pacing back and forth in Klank's lab when he had grown bored with pacing in this throne room. "I shall be ready with your monster in a matter of minutes."

"It's about time, you clattering bucket of bolts!!" Mondo gave a metallic snarl. "Don't waste any more time!! The Silver Ranger has left the Earth, the other Rangers seem to have gone after her, I want that planet to be mine before they get back!! I don't want them to have a home to come back to!!"

"Yes, sire, I know, but the final adjustments on the monster -" Klank tried to explain.

"How much adjusting could a monster need when it's only going to be wrecking a defenseless planet and terrifying ordinary humans?!" Mondo bellowed, beginning to spew impatient smoke and sparks. "Quit wasting my time and get my monster down to the Earth with every Cog I have right now!!"

"Yes, sire," Klank sighed. 'Get every Cog down there right now!', he says! You give him an inch and he'll take a light-year! I'm a scientist, not a miracle worker! Klank grumbled mentally. Well, if he wants his monster down there 'right now', then right now is what he shall have! I won't be held responsible for anything that goes wrong! Klank's determination didn't prevent him from doing a last, speedy check on the monster's systems though. and plan a fast way out of the SkyBase should the whole operation blow up in the Machine King's face.

Stupid metal fool! Mondo growled softly as his thoughts grew darker and darker. He intensely watched Klank as the majordomo bustled about his lab, quickly checking this thing and that, rapidly driving Mondo's patience out of the observation window and far out into space. He doesn't realize what this could mean! Mondo decided to soothe himself with some of the comfort the readings that Klank had gathered from Earth had given him. Sheena's power readings haven't been this low since the time before she was a Power Ranger! That must mean she's left the team, and with the Rangers leaving Earth as well, they must be trying to get her to rejoin the team. That has to be what is going on! Mondo waddled over to Klank's computers, impatiently going over the latest interpretations of the odd readings. What?! According to this, when the other Rangers left, they apparently did not take their morphing devices, and the Sapphire Ranger's readings are as low as Sheena's. Has he left the team as well? Mondo started laughing softly to himself, earning a strange glance from Klank, but he didn't care. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. Neither he nor Sheena are bearing Ranger powers right now, the others have separated themselves from their morphing devices, they are all helpless! And, most importantly, not on Earth. Mondo frowned at the set of readings that indicated something had come to Earth before the Rangers had left. I wish Klank would figure out what these mean! Wait. Could it be that the Rangers have left because someone has run them off of the planet? Perhaps they have been defeated already, or replaced?

Mondo started to pace again, returning finally to his throne room, much to Klank's well-hidden relief. The prospect of new Rangers being on the Earth didn't sit too well with the Machine King, and the thought someone could have beaten him to the defeat of the Rangers irked him greatly. No, it can't possibly be that, I would be able to tell if it were. For whatever reason, the Rangers have left the planet, and have not taken their morphing devices with them. Sheena left first, I must assume they are chasing after her, or left at her request. Again, the other readings nagged at him, but after a few moments, Mondo shoved them aside, determined not to let them get in his way.

I don't care if they've left for training somewhere, a vacation, or if they have been ostracized by Earth or Zordon himself. For whatever reason, they are gone, and the time to strike is MINE!! The evil metal overlord gazed greedily out of the large, oval observation window in his throne room at the peaceful, blue-green orb floating in the sea of space. The bright, planetary jewel beckoned to him like a seductive muse, luring him into an attack, urging him to try his worst. Humans have a myth about the Sirens call. I will not let this little planet lure me into a possible trap. I've waited and worked for far too long to have something unexpected spoil my plans now! "Klank!" he bellowed over the intercom. "I have a slight change in plans for you. You'll not send all of my Cogs to Earth. but you will send a little something extra."

As he detailed the new plan to his servant, the Machine King barely managed to suppress the triumphant laughter boiling up inside him. Rangers, you should never have left home. because now, I'm going to make sure you won't have a home left to come back to!!

* * *
"This is impossible!! You can't be here, your storyline is different!!"

"Yet I am here, Kahva Briton, as are you," the Keeper replied, an amused tone to her voice. "And you are correct about my name, though I'm not quite sure how you could have known it." The Keeper's voice took on a puzzled slant then, but she did not seem angry or disturbed by Kahva's outburst in the least. "If you please. what is a storyline, and why do you say mine is different?"

"Oh my gosh, you're real," Kahva breathed in amazement, earning herself puzzled stares from the Rangers this time. "I knew I'd heard your voice before! I don't know who you are here other than the Keeper, but in my world, you are Dulcea, Guardian of the Ninjetti Temple on Phaedos!" Happy memories of Sheena dragging her to see the first Power Ranger movie briefly flooded Kahva's mind, along with the comments her soul-sister had made on how handsome Billy had looked in the body armor in the movie. Both of them had been very impressed with the character of Dulcea, and now, here was that very character. but here she was completely real, not an actress. Sheena spotted her ex-boyfriend Jay in the theater drooling over the actress; I wonder how he'd react to the real thing! The character in the movie handily trashed almost a dozen Tengas single-handedly, Kahva remembered. But how is she here?! The Rangers have never fought Ivan Ooze! "You were in the first Power Rangers movie where I'm from, but the Rangers here have never met the villain from that movie, so you shouldn't be here, you're in a different storyline - I think my brain is warping," Kahva groaned lightly. "This dimension just gets stranger and stranger."

The woman looked calmly at her, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "In this universe, I am Dulcea, Guardian of the Ninjetti Temple, and you are indeed on the planet Phaedos, my brave ones." Dulcea stood up even straighter and smiled at them all with great pride. "I am also the Keeper of the Crystal of Truth, and I have watched over you all during the time of your quest. I am very proud to say you have all passed your trials. You are to be congratulated, for none have passed the trials during my centuries as Keeper, until now."

She looked first to Tommy. "You have accepted that it was not your fault that Sheena was captured, that there was nothing you could have done ahead of time, or done differently to prevent the event. What has happened is the fault only of Zimmer, who you now realize has been planning this for quite some time." Placing a gentle hand upon his shoulder, she finished, "You have realized and finally accepted that you have done you best for the team at all times, and that mistakes are natural to all. You said it yourself, Tommy. The only crime in a mistake is failing to learn from it. You were, and still are, a fine leader and warrior."

Her eyes fell next to Tanya. "You have finally dealt with the many losses life has handed you, and accepted that you can have things and love people without losing them. You have conquered your doubts over the life choices you have made, and of your right and worthiness to be a Ranger. Though you know this in your heart already, I will state it now for the record, should anyone in the future that you deal with doubt your abilities: Aisha made exactly the right choice to send you back in her place with the Zeo Crystal fragment she had traveled back in time to retrieve, and you have more than lived up to the rigors of being a Ranger. As a Warrior of the Light, I tell you honestly and freely that Zordon himself could not have made a better choice." Tanya looked close to fainting at this high praise, but she centered herself and nodded with a very grateful smile of thanks at the Keeper. "You have learned not to fear loving, Tanya, or being loved. Some people go their entire lives being afraid to lower the walls around their hearts." Tanya smiled in wordless thanks as Adam hugged her close. The Keeper gave them a second, then looked Adam directly in the eyes.

"You, Adam, came to understand that you and Billy will always be friends, regardless of the changes your lifepaths have brought to you," Dulcea spoke, her warm eyes on the Green Zeo Ranger. "Some friendships become forever damaged when one of the friends enters marriage, and all because of a decrease in the time spent together. Some people are afraid to let go, because they are afraid that by letting go, they will lose the friendship, when in a true friendship, nothing could be further from the truth."

Wish Emily could learn that, Jason couldn't help but think, as he listened to the beautiful warrior state aloud what each team member had learned in their individual trials. Too bad the Keeper can't go talk to her. Somehow, I think she'd get through to Emily.

Dulcea's soft, accented tones broke into Jason's thoughts, pulling his mind back to the matters at hand. "Adam, you have learned that the heart that can love many, will be loved by many more, and will never be abandoned or forgotten or neglected by those who are truly friends. You have also realized you are worthy of such friendship, little frog," she finished, planting a gentle kiss on his forehead.

The seriousness of the moment was broken by muffled giggle from Kahva, who flashed Adam a lopsided, apologetic grin. "I'm sorry. but she kissed you in the movie too."

Adam blushed severely, though none were quite sure if it was from Kahva's revelation, or the actual kiss itself. Rocky gently elbowed his long-time friend and whispered none too softly, "Just your luck, you get kissed by a beautiful warrior woman in fiction and reality. You've got to tell me how you do it, man!"

Dulcea raised a quizzical eyebrow first at Kahva's comment, then Rocky's, then smiled and shielded Adam from any further embarrassment by placing Tanya's hands in his, then offered a blessing. "May the sun always shine on your love, and bless you for all eternity," she told the Yellow and Green Zeo Rangers, gifting them with a radiant smile. "As you both have learned, you are both worthy of love, and being loved. Never let this most precious of gifts out of your hearts, except to share your love with your friends. Love grows and becomes more precious and beautiful with giving, not hoarding."

Rocky blushed as the warrior walked over to him next, and he suddenly found it very hard to look at the Amazon-like beauty directly. "You, dear Rocky, rose past your feelings of inadequacy and sense of being replaced, to realize true friendship and respect where it was offered to you, and to accept it. You have come to realize that the jealousy and sense of being unneeded were natural reactions to the changes in your life and on the team, and that you should not feel guilty for having those feelings. You also learned that to properly deal with those feelings, the 'little things', you must talk about them, not bury them inside yourself and deny their existence. 'Little things' are trivial in their own time, that is true. But to ignore them, to allow the 'little things' to build up is dangerous, for if not dealt with honestly, they will one day explode, with potentially dangerous results. Do not ever deny your feelings, or your heart, my brave warrior. To do so, is to deny yourself your own truth, and happiness." She smiled at him just as she had the others, playfully ruffling his hair. "You have also shown in the trials of the others that you are not only quick with humor when needed, but logic and compassion as well. As you know now, you have always been, and always will be, a fine warrior for the light, Rocky."

"Katherine," the Keeper continued, turning to face the Pink Zeo Ranger, "You have conquered the darkness in your heart, and now know that sometimes, a life must be given to save others, though in reality, you have always known that." Dulcea beamed at her, eyes shining with pride. "Like Tanya, you have often questioned your right and worthiness to be a Power Ranger. You have also doubted whether or not you truly deserved the love of one who was once your enemy," she said, nodding towards Tommy. "Let me tell you all that these feelings are normal for those who battle for the light and the right. All warriors of the light feel guilty when they are called away from the ones they love, and sometimes cause pain in the leaving, no matter how hard they try not to. Sometimes, those warriors even wonder if they deserve love or close friendship at all. Believe me when I say that you all deserve all the love you are given, and so much more. Katherine," she focused in on the pretty blonde young woman, "you now know that you have not stolen anything from Kimberly or Tommy. Their lifepaths have taken their own course. Though your involvement in their lives did add a few twists and turns, what has happened is what was meant to happen. Though without your entering their lives as you did, they may have parted in a much different way, they both know in their hearts now that they are destined to be close, true friends. Nothing less, but nothing more. Kat, you never stole Tommy's love, you earned it, just as you earned your place on the Ranger team. What is to be in the future, will be, but keep in mind that the future never stands still in certainty, until it itself becomes the past. Lastly," she said, placing her hands on Kat's shoulders, "you have always doubted that you truly had the strength to make the tough choices, should you have to face them. You have always feared you didn't have the true heart of a Ranger, that you lacked the inner strength to make the ultimate sacrifice, should its weight be placed upon your shoulders. My dear Katherine. now you know that you are stronger than you have ever realized. You were willing to let go of life itself to save your friends. Know from this day forward, you are worthy of the Power, and always have been. The Power never makes a mistake when it chooses its new partner in the battle against evil."

"Thank you, Keeper," Kat breathed softly, even as Tommy moved to fold her up into his arms with pride. "You don't know what it means." Her voice trailed off, Kat was unable to put her feelings into words. Instinctively she looked over to Tanya, and their eyes locked together with understanding. Both had doubted their own worthiness, though for different reasons. To finally shed themselves of the last shrouds of self-doubt was a wondrous, joyous release for them, heart and soul. Their knowing smiles spoke volumes to all present, and to their eyes, the Yellow and Pink Rangers almost seemed to become taller with their new strength in their sense of self.

Dulcea smiled at both young women and nodded. "I think I do. You are welcome, Katherine, and Tanya, but know that I did nothing. The strength, and the answers, were always within yourselves," she said, motioning to all of them now, "as all of you have learned. Jason," she called the Gold Ranger's name next, her attentions now falling upon him. "You understand yourself now, and the wisdom drawn from that will guide you to the right path in the days ahead. You have finally dealt with the feelings of being replaced or shoved aside, much like what Rocky felt," Dulcea smiled, placing a hand upon his shoulder. "For far too long you have blamed yourself for something none of you could have prevented: Tommy's kidnapping and forced servitude to Rita Repulsa and the forces of evil, and also your failure to reclaim the Green Candle which stole his original powers. You have always known with your mind that you did your best, but your heart has never forgiven itself until now. You have finally accepted that there are some things you cannot change, but that just because you cannot change them, it doesn't mean that the end results are your fault. You have faced your demons of doubt and insecurity, and now know that your heart always has been true. Let it guide you, along with the lessons you have learned in past and present, and you will know the way you need to go. I leave you with a word of caution, however. A caution that all of you must remember, for there will come times in all your lives where your heart, and belief in yourselves will be sorely tested. The path of right, and the path that is right for you, will sometimes cause you pain, and sometimes to those you love. To fall from the path to end the pain is the easy way out. but wrong, and will only cause more pain in the end, because to fall from the path is to lie to not only those around you, but to yourself." To Jason, she whispered softly, "Keep your promise to yourself. Contact Kimberly and talk out your feelings."

After Jason's wordless promise to talk with Kimberly, the Keeper moved from him, with Kahva and Billy becoming the objects of her attention next. "Kahva, you stood up for what you knew was right, and would not back down no matter what. You have always been fiercely loyal and protective of your friends, and even total strangers at times, true?" Dulcea asked, though by the tone of her voice, it was clear she already knew the answer. "But you have never felt like you could stand up for yourself, as if you did not have the right, simply because you were a bit different from those around you. I do not know how you came to believe this on a subconscious level, or why. However, there has also always been the part of you that is the fighter. The one that fights always for your friends, but that can also fight for yourself. Now you know that there is nothing, not a single reason why you cannot, and should not stand up for yourself, no matter how appalling the odds are against you. You've always had the strength to stand for what you know is right, to stand up for yourself. Now you know there is nothing wrong in doing it." The Keeper placed her hands on Kahva's shoulders, looking her directly in the eye. "Kahva, sometimes the toughest enemy one must face is ourselves. What others believe of us, or have said of us, to us. those can be the deadliest, most crippling weapons ever used against us, because they find our deepest doubts and fears, and turn them into massive obstacles. You have always known you are loved, now you know that love can give you strength in your darkest hour, even when the ones who love you seem to be against you. Like in all the other trials, had you not passed, the consequences would have been grave."

If I hadn't passed, the Shifters would've had Tommy and Billy, and the clone would've. Kahva shivered as the full impact of what she already knew hit her fully, knotting her stomach terribly. The Keeper surprised her by hugging her, reassuring her.

"You are far stronger than you realize, Kahva Briton. You passed by believing in yourself as much as those who love you believe in you. Never forget that your friends not only have great faith in you, they love you deeply. That love will give you strength, never forget that."

"But if my friends believe in me so much, why have most of them doubted me ever since everything started at the carnival?" Kahva blurted out before she could stop herself. "I'm sorry guys, I shouldn't have said that -"

"No, it's a fair question," Tommy assured her, as they all turned to the Keeper expectantly. "Dulcea," he said, at last daring to use her name instead of her title, "why didn't we believe Kahva? Is there something wrong with us?"

"You shall receive your answer when it is the right time. Now is not the time, not yet," the Keeper said, her voice suddenly taking on a sad note. "You must believe me when I say that I cannot give you the reason why, but that you will know the reason soon enough. Billy," she started, ending the questioning before it could go any further, "you refused to give up, no matter the cost to yourself, to save the woman you love. In the hours before the carnival, you and Sheena both questioned whether or not your love was indeed true and pure, or induced by your ancestors. You know now that your love is of the purest of feelings, for only those who can love so deeply and fully would be able to risk so much, to give up so much, for the one who completes them, makes them whole. Love that is induced can never reach such a level, my dear Sapphire Ranger. Your greatest hidden fear is that something could happen that could weaken your love. You know your truth now: your love is pure, and not something created."

"Sheena and I told each other as much before the carnival," Billy replied, smiling with a warmth and self-assurance that buoyed the others' spirits tenfold. "Saying it is one thing. to have that commitment tried and tested to the extreme is something else though. Though I was sure in my mind that our love was pure, there was still that tiniest doubt that we were influenced, subconsciously coerced into our love." Billy twisted the wedding band on his finger, smiling as he remembered the moment Sheena had placed it there. "When I heard everyone trying to get me to give up for my own sake, I knew they were doing it only out of love, but I also knew deep down I couldn't give up, I had to keep searching for Sheena no matter what. Not because of obsession or revenge, but because of love."

Dulcea, the Keeper of the Crystal of Truth beamed proudly at him, her countenance proclaiming his personal victory. "Well done, Sapphire Ranger. Well done to all of you," she said, motioning for all of them to stand around her in a loose circle. "Each of you has learned something about yourselves and those around you, each of you has learned one aspect of your true inner being. Only those who have learned something of themselves, who have realized a truth of themselves and have accepted that same truth, can claim the Crystal."

Dulcea stood up even taller, her eyes burning with the fire of truth and light, and the flame of justice comforted the young people. "It is almost done now. Only three things remain: the questions of truth, of love, and of commitment. Only if you answer those correctly will the Crystal be yours."

In between them all there suddenly was a crystal, completely translucent, and shining with the brilliance of a miniature sun. "Only then will you have the chance to save your friend."

* * *
"What the - ?!" David nearly flew out of his skin when every alarm in the Power Chamber started going off at the same time. "What's going on?" he half-snapped to Alpha. "What's wrong?" Man, what am I supposed to do now? I told Tommy I felt my place was here, but what the heck am I supposed to do?

"There's a monster in downtown Angel Grove! It looks like Mondo found out we're a few Rangers short!" The little robot quickly turned the volume of the alarms down to a more manageable, less ear-splitting level. "Aquitian Rangers, we're going to need your help!"

The five Rangers were there almost before Alpha had finished the sentence, the Treys right on their heels, if somewhat sluggishly. "We will deal with the matter," Delphine said quietly. "Mondo may have attacked while the defenses of Earth are low, but they are not non-existent. Rangers of Aquitar, we need full power!" In five globes of light, the Alien Rangers left to do battle with Mondo's forces.

"Be careful," David whispered, surprised to find that he had been holding his breath. They're gone, doing what Power Rangers everywhere do: fight off the forces of evil. "Don't let Mondo trick you."

Which one of the Treys tried to teleport out to the battle, David wasn't sure. But the movement caught his attention, and he moved to stop the three selves of the Lord of Triforia before any of them could leave. "No. You are too weak to battle against Mondo's monster, you're not going anywhere," he calmly told them, addressing them as the one being they were meant to exist as. "The Aquitian Rangers will call if they need our help, trust me. In the meantime, you won't do anyone any good if you go out there and get hurt." David kept a firm, steady hand on the teleportation controls, preventing the Treys from leaving the safety of the Power Chamber, all the while hoping he sounded more calm and in control than he felt. What am I going to do if they challenge me? Even weakened, they know more about fighting Mondo's forces than I do, and would probably still do a better job!

The young man knew, though, that he was doing the right thing, and stood firm by the controls. Fully steeled for an argument, he was greatly relieved when the Treys agreed with him, if somewhat reluctantly. "You are correct, David," Trey of Wisdom conceded at last. "But we will still stand ready to assist in whatever way we are able, no matter our physical condition."

"I wouldn't expect less of a Power Ranger," David smiled, clapping a hand on their shoulders in turn. "Maybe you could help me make some sense of all these monitors and controls. If we can keep a close eye on things from here, maybe we can give the Aquitian Rangers the advantage." I hope that sounds like an intelligent thing to do, because I have no clue about what I can do other than that!

"A wise decision," all three Treys responded, smiling. David nodded his thanks, then followed Trey of Wisdom to the energy scanners, where they could hopefully spot any power surges or fluctuations which could mean a nasty surprise for their friends in the battle.

YOU CAN OBSERVE THE FIGHT ON THE VIEWING GLOBE, Zordon instructed the treys and David, he himself sounding mildly anxious. SO FAR, THE BATTLE HAS NOT INTERFERED WITH OUR MONITORING OF THE PLANET WHERE THE RANGERS AND KAHVA ARE WITH THE KEEPER. HOPEFULLY, THIS MEANS THAT MONDO HAS NOT YET FIGURED OUT WHERE THEY ARE. Thank the Great Spirit for small favors, David thought, silently whispering a prayer of safety for his brother and the questors as he turned to look at the crystal in the wall. Please keep them safe, keep them all safe, my friends here on Earth, and my friends who are so far away. Please look after my brother; bring him and all of my friends home safe and whole, and Sheena with them. He found himself holding his breath yet again, as now his attention was torn between the battle in Angel Grove and the far away quest for the Crystal. Be careful, all of you. Please.

* * *
I think I'm more nervous now than during the trials!Tanya thought anxiously, watching as the Keeper slowly turned in their midst, eyeing every one of them closely.

It has come down to the end, to three questions. Who will have to answer them? One of us? All of us? Adam found himself wondering. He reached for Tanya's hand, and realized she was trembling a bit, just like he was. Oddly enough, discovering that he wasn't the only one nervous and just a bit scared comforted him, and he gave Tanya's hand a reassuring squeeze as he watched the Keeper's movements closely.

Dulcea looked at them all in turn, her eyes landing at last on Tommy. "Have you ever been envious of your cousin's power or position?" she asked quietly, without any preamble. "She is a natural leader, something which you had to work towards, and in which you never truly had complete faith in yourself about."

Everyone stared in shock at both Dulcea and Tommy for a moment, not believing what the warrior had just asked of their former leader. In the next moment, everyone found their voice, and a cacophony of questions would have rung out, if Tommy hadn't put his hand up. "Guys, it's all right." He looked to the Keeper, his heart already knowing the answer without knowing exactly how he knew. "Yes, there have been times when I wished my powers were as strong as hers, and there have been times when I wished I could've been a natural leader like she is. But I also know that I did my best when I was leader. I made mistakes, but I believe I learned from them. When the time was right, I stepped down, just like Jason did when the time was right for him to step aside. I hope that one day Sheena will have the wisdom to recognize that her time will end, just like mine did, and will give the position to someone who is suitable. I have faith in her, and in myself. Yes, once I was jealous and envious. No more. I've always done my best, and that's all that I can do. That's all any of us can do."

The Keeper nodded, flashing Tommy a slight smile, then slowly walked over to stand in front of Billy. "If Sheena had left you of her own free will, and not because of a spell, would you still seek her out regardless?"

Everyone looked even more shocked at this question than they had at the last, but Billy seemed to be thinking about the question carefully, rather than getting upset. Finally, he replied, "If Sheena had left me because of her own free will, and for no other reason, then I would let her go. I love her with all my being, but I love her too much to try and keep her where she doesn't want to be. I can't stand here and say I love her if I tried to keep her from following her own heart. That wouldn't be love, that would be possession, just like what Zimmer's trying to do, possess her. I've never wanted to own her, just love her. If she ever does leave me, of her own free will, I'll let her go. But I'll never stop loving her. I'll love her until the day I die."

Dulcea smiled, nodded that he had answered correctly, then began her pacing inside of their circle again. All at once, the young people noticed the area inside their circle was getting brighter. Startled, each threw a questioning look at the others, then suddenly they all realized that it was the Crystal was growing brighter with each right answer. Seemingly oblivious to their surprise and wonderment, the Keeper stepped around inside the circle once more, and at last paused in front of Kahva. The quiet young woman caught her breath; she'd never thought that she would be asked one of the questions. Me? She's going to ask me?! Oh, please don't let me screw this up God, please! the young woman fervently sent her prayer winging up to the heavens. I hope I can do this... Only this question stands between us and the Crystal, between us and Sheena's freedom. Please let me be able to do this, please don't let me screw everything up!!

The silence was so thick it seemed that even time itself could not wade its way through the anxious group. Dulcea seemed to look at and right through Kahva all at once, and the young woman felt as though her very soul was being invaded, brought up and laid bare for all to see. In the next moment, or it could have been several minutes later for all any of them knew, the Keeper of the Crystal of Truth spoke at last. "Who is Sheena committed to the most?"

The question fell from Dulcea's lips and landed on Kahva's ears like a deafening thunderclap and she blinked hard, mentally reeling for a second from the impact. The Rangers went stark white at the question, then as one they all gasped in disbelief. Kat was the first to react, stepping forward with hands forcibly unclenched, but shaking her head in indignant anger nonetheless.

"How on Earth can you possibly ask her something like that?! That's not a fair question, Sheena is like a sister to Kahva and she's deeply committed to Billy! She would never try to choose between the two of them, she loves them both!" Dulcea didn't seem to pay any attention to Kat's protest, instead focusing her complete attention upon the young woman she was questioning. "She loves them both!!" Kat shouted again.

Instead of acting angry at the Keeper's question, though, Kahva merely nodded slowly, deep in thought. "Yes, she does," she murmured in agreement with Kat's statement, her voice trailing off softly.

"Kahva Briton, the question has been presented. Do you have an answer?" Dulcea prompted with a calm, expectant tone.

Kahva's eyes closed in thought for a few moments, then she looked up smiling. "Sheena is committed to every single one of the Rangers on the team. She's committed to me as a soul-sister, Tommy as a cousin, and Billy as the love of her life. She would never choose between any of us. But who is she committed the most to? None of us. She is committed the most to upholding the responsibilities of a Power Ranger. Protecting the innocent. Fighting for good. Seeking out the truth. She would never knowingly hurt anyone who is innocent, nor would she ever hurt any of us on purpose. She is first and foremost, the Silver Ranger, and just like all of the Rangers, she will defend the side of good, knowing the enormous risk she takes in that battle. If we can break the fascination trance Zimmer has woven around her, she will continue to do so. We've gone through tests for her, and answered questions for her. She would the same for any of us, or even for a complete stranger. So who is she committed to the most? She's committed to the cause of justice and the defense of the world the most. The side of good."

Dulcea smiled at that, and held out one hand. The Crystal, almost like an obedient pet, floated over to her, hovering brightly over her outstretched palm. "My young warriors, I congratulate you. You have passed the trials most admirably. You have truthfully, honestly and correctly answered the questions of truth, love and commitment. You have earned the Crystal of Truth with the greatest of honor. Rangers, you have only to place it in Sheena's hand to have it destroy the web of lies Zimmer has woven about her. But be careful, for once I transfer temporary guardianship of it to you, Kahva Briton, it will be known to all in the cosmos that the Crystal moves about in the universe once more, and in your hands. All powerful entities of good and evil shall be aware you possess it for the here and now... including Zimmer."

"Then maybe one of us should take it," Jason interjected. "Kahva isn't a Ranger, and if the Crystal is going to make her a target -"

"It will be as safe in her hands as any of yours," the Keeper assured them gently. "When I say that all power entities shall be aware she possesses it, I do not mean that they will immediately know she is the one who has it. All powerful entities will feel the passing on of the Crystal of Truth, and the very powerful will be able to determine where the Crystal is moving. But until they can actually see any of you, they will not know who exactly has the Crystal." Dulcea frowned a bit then, and continued, "Some beings are powerful enough though, to be able to sense or divine that the Crystal moves in the midst of the Power Rangers of Earth. Therefore, your passage to your friend must be very quick, to avoid the risk of detection for as long as possible. Until the Crystal is safe with its Keeper, all those who carry it are at risk." Dulcea gave Kahva a long look, as if offering her a chance to back out. "Until the Crystal is safe with its Keeper, you are its temporary Keeper, Kahva. Rangers, you are considered to be guardians of the Crystal and its Keeper as well, until it is safely with its Keeper again. Do you accept the risk?" she asked of them all, looking at Kahva the whole time.

"I accept the risk and the responsibility. We all do." As each Ranger nodded firmly in solemn agreement with Kahva's words, Dulcea smiled and motioned to the Crystal, as if she was in silent communication with it. Kahva took a very long breath, as at the Keeper's beckoning, the Crystal floated slowly over and hovered in front of her. The young woman put one hand out, and the Crystal of Truth dropped lightly down into her palm. As it made contact with her skin, she could literally feel the power pulsating in her heart and soul. Oh, man... this is INTENSE!!!! She could see everything so much clearer now... she could see that Dulcea did indeed guard the Ninjetti powers on this planet, but they had never been needed in this universe, which was why the Rangers hadn't known of her or Phaedos. She could also see that they had little time, for even now Zimmer was stepping up his timetable.

"I'll bring this back when we're done, Dulcea, I promise. I won't let anything happen to the Crystal. We've got to go," Kahva said, closing her hand around the bright, pulsating orb, then turning to look at the others. "Sheena's time is running out."

* * *
"Zimmer?" The almost-drugged sound to Sheena's voice was purest nectar to his ears as he looked up from his desk to see her standing there before him. She was swaying ever so slightly as she looked at him, and he knew it was because of his spells.

Clarity will return to her once this is all over with. My clarity, none other! Zimmer favored the object of his obsession with a frosty, greedy smile. "Yes, my love?" He stood up, coming over to her and automatically putting his arms around her. He was rewarded by a soft kiss on the cheek, and a stroke of her fingers across his face. "I hope you enjoyed your walk," he fairly purred, brushing her lips with the lightest of kisses.

She nodded slowly, her eyes half-lidded and almost sleepy looking. He pulled her quietly over to a wide chair and sat down, pulling her down to sit on his lap. "Good," he smiled, running his fingers through her masses of dark hair. I have timed this precisely, and now only the final thread remains to be cast! With a mere flick of his hand, he ordered the bodyguards out of the room. I will have no witnesses to this; I will not risk any possible interference! "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in all the universe," he breathed into her ear, smiling as she blushed faintly. Though he knew Sheena was accustomed to male attentions, he was going to have a great deal of fun indulging in some of the more exotic things he had in mind. I do hope the rest of my empire can run itself without me for a few weeks, he giggled wickedly in his mind, shutting out all other thoughts and sensations, focusing entirely upon his prey. Perhaps even for a few months. After all, I have fifteen thousand years worth of fantasies to catch up on.

Slowly he bent his head down to kiss her again, ignoring the warning tickling at the edge of his senses. Nothing in all the universes mattered now, save for the completion of his dark, obsessive hunt of Sheena. Oh yes. This is going to be a grand day indeed!!

* * *
"We are not doing well, Delphine!" Tideus exclaimed, as he and his leader were thrown next to each other in the middle of their battle. The Aquitian Rangers were fully engaged in the fight against Mondo's minions. Almost fifty Cogs had been sent to Earth with the Canisbot, a fierce canine robot armed with two swords and a very nasty attitude. For the moment, the monster seemed content to deal out potshots, as each Ranger currently had ten Cogs to deal with. Canisbot laughed mockingly at the Aquitian Rangers, attacking them whenever it liked. "We are not doing well at all!! And we cannot summon our BattleBorgs unless Mondo makes the monster grow!"

The White Ranger nodded, kicking away a pair of rather determined and annoying Cogs. "I am aware of that, Tideus. We must dispose of the Cogs, and then deal with Canisbot, before that event happens!" she shouted a tad breathlessly. "This would be much easier if we had the Zeo Rangers with us!"

"Well, you don't!" Canisbot charged them in that moment, and in the next he was tossing both the White and Yellow Rangers around fiercely, almost ripping tears in their special suits with its deadly sharp blades. "And I'm going to make you wish you'd never come to Earth before I'm through with you!"

As the monster boasted, Aurico and Corcus both blasted through several of the Cogs that had kept them corralled on the far side of the park-turned-battlefield, and launched a counterattack on Canisbot, sending the creature sprawling to the far side of the clearing. The Red and Black Rangers stood side by side, their swords still in their hands, ready to defend their friends as Cestro ran over to help them back up to their feet.

"We must try some other method of attack, Rangers," Delphine groaned, wincing as what was surely a large bruise that had formed underneath her uniform throbbed painfully. "If we do not hurry, I'm afraid our friends could find naught but a defeated world when they return with Sheena."

It had become almost an unwritten law that they absolutely would not speak of the Zeo Rangers returning without their leader; hopelessness and a sense of defeat were simply not things they would permit themselves to feel right now. They had to keep a positive outlook, or the grimness of the situation would overwhelm them.

"I might have an idea," Cestro said quietly. "I will summon the Aquitar Waterfall, and then as Canisbot attempts to recover, we can hit it with all our power combined."

Delphine thought it over quickly, then nodded her approval. "That should be successful," she agreed. "Should Mondo follow his standard procedure and send Klank and Orbus to enlarge the monster, we can then summon our BattleBorgs to deal with that."

"One thing at a time," Aurico advised his friend. "Let us be ready to attack once Cestro has unleashed his Waterfall."

The Blue Aquitian Ranger nodded as he stepped ahead of his friends, focusing his inner energies as the Canisbot managed at last to get back to its feet and turned around to face them again. The Cog troops around it weaved and bobbed, no longer wanting to get near the Rangers and their deadly swords. Now they were perfectly willing to let the monster take all the damage. "Leave this place, Canisbot, or pay the consequences!"

"Do your worst!" the creature hissed menacingly. "I can take it!"

The words had barely left the creature's mouth when Cestro unleashed all the power within him into the Aquitar Waterfall, summoning thousands of gallons of pure water to wash over the creature in a seemingly endless stream. As the other Rangers watched, Cestro did all he could to stay on his feet, as a rather pointed demonstration of the effects of water on electronics occurred, gifting them with an ear-splitting explosion.

"It blew up," Cestro said wearily, his eyes widening in amazement. But as the smoke from the explosion began to clear however, he regretted saying anything at all. True, the Canisbot was no more... but in its place were five Zord-sized monsters, standing where he had been, and none of them looked happy. Mondo had sent a nasty little surprise for the Rangers: monster reinforcements. "We're going to need more help."

But the only help the Aquitian Rangers had was currently in another galaxy.

* * *
Zimmer's heart pounded fiercely as if caught up in the heat of combat, though what he was caught up in was the heat of spell casting and his own twisted version of romance. His lips caressed Sheena's delicately, his hands slowly reaching to the belt around her waist. He had designed the gown for just this moment, so that all he would have to do was unfasten it, and then everything would be his to explore. Mine, all mine!! I have won, I just need to cast this last thread! So involved was he in his evil enterprise, he never noticed the sensation of someone teleporting into his private sanctuary.

"Hey!" he heard a vaguely familiar voice shout suddenly. Zimmer had almost a full second to turn his head before a powerful fist knocked him onto the floor and away from Sheena. He looked up to see all seven of the Power Rangers of Earth standing in a row, every last one of them absolutely livid. Cranston was the one who had hit him, and Zimmer wasn't surprised to see the Sapphire Ranger's fists were still balled up, clenched so tightly as to make his knuckles white. What a total fool! How dare he strike me! Does he actually think he can stop me? Zimmer forced down a shiver though, as his attention had been finally pulled away from Sheena enough to recognize a warning tickle in the back of his mind. No. I refuse to believe it, they are merely children! It simply isn't possible that they could have succeeded. Even if they did succeed, it cannot break my magic!! he told himself, forcing his fears out of his mind.

Zimmer's train of thought was broken though as Billy stepped forward, trying for now not to look at Sheena, who had fallen to the floor the moment he had punched out Zimmer. "Keep your hands off my wife," he growled menacingly, glaring at the wizard. "It's time for your lies to end!"

A different, passionately angry growl caught everyone's attention then, one that was all too familiar to the Rangers. "Can't you take a hint, Billy?!" Sheena snarled, leaping up in front of him, her eyes almost glowing faintly. "I don't love you anymore! You destroyed my heart and abandoned me for that sleazy little tramp of a so-called 'soul-sister' of mine! Leave me and my true love alone and get out of here! I'm staying with Zimmer forever!!"

Zimmer smiled nastily at the Rangers, barely suppressing an evil cackle of triumph. I won't have to do a thing, Sheena will do it all for me, and I haven't even finished casting the final thread yet! This is too perfect, I've won!! I've beaten not only you, Kahva Kilanye, but the Power Rangers as well!! I've won!!

Billy winced a little, looking at the revealing outfit Sheena was in. Black as a starless night, slit up to the hip on both sides, long hanging sheer sleeves, with side slits in those, a neckline that almost exposed everything else, and the entire garment was only held on by a loose belt. It was nauseatingly obvious what Zimmer had in mind for Sheena, and it took all of his self control for Billy not to become violently ill right on the spot. "Sheena, please forgive me," he whispered, seizing her quickly by the shoulders and doing something he'd never thought he'd do: he threw her to the far side of the room, knowing that the others would be going on with the rest of the plan at that point.

"We know exactly what you did to her, Zimmer," the Sapphire Ranger hissed dangerously, focusing all his attention on the evil wizard. "I know what you've done, and I'm going to take it all out of your hide!"

Zimmer snorted, scrambled back up to his feet, looking across the room at Sheena. She was coming back to her own feet after Cranston's somewhat unnaturally rude toss of her, shaking her head, trying to gather her senses. "You will do nothing, you insolent boy!! Sheena is mine for all time, and you are nothing but a bad memory for her! You will never get -"

Zimmer shivered suddenly, as the warning tickling in his mind abruptly blossomed into a massive wave of pure truth-based magical energy. There is only one thing that could put off such energy. The evil wizard could feel his heart literally stop, as the one thing he'd feared could be true stepped without invitation into his carefully laid out plans. Not the Crystal, they can't have possibly gained it, they are only CHILDREN!! But try as he might, he could not deny what his senses were screaming at him, and an unaccustomed fear began to gnaw at his heart. No matter how much he tried to believe his power was greater than that of the Crystal of Truth, he knew its very essence was the opposite of his own magical powers. His powers, his magic, were based on lies, manipulation and deception. If the stories about it are true, the Crystal could banish and destroy all such things. If it touches Sheena... NO!! I refuse to believe one simple crystal can ruin me!! It simply can't happen, not now!! Not when I am so close to all I've ever desired!!

He caught a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye, made by the Yellow Ranger, and whirled around barely in time to see she was throwing something towards Sheena. It must be the Crystal! "Sheena, look out!" he shouted, moving with startling speed. I cannot let anything, no matter how minor it may be stop me!! Not now!! Zimmer threw up a magical shield in front of Sheena, and was rewarded with the soft 'thump' of whatever the Yellow Ranger had thrown at his captive landing on the ground. "Nice try, Rangers!" he mocked, not caring what he said. He could easily convince Sheena of whatever he wanted her to believe later, once the intruders were gone and he'd finished his spell. "But Sheena belongs to me, now and forever!!"

"You might want to rethink that," Tanya said, chuckling as she motioned to the object that had fallen on the floor. Zimmer glanced down, his eyes growing to the size of saucers when he saw not the legendary Crystal of Truth, but a small, ordinary baseball, an item from Earth. No. NO! He turned, almost in slow motion, dreading what he was almost certain he was going to see.

Sheena had been staring angrily at the Rangers during the incident, wanting nothing more than to throw them all out of Zimmer's palace. I don't want to see any of them anymore, I want to be left alone with Zimmer! I quit the team, why can't they understand that?! She started to step out and stop everything when gentle fingers grabbed her right hand from behind, uncurling her fist, and placing something cool and crystalline in it. As the smooth surface of the object touched her skin, pure power washed into her from it, and she became oblivious to everything but the sensation of whatever it was she'd been given. Sheena slowly drew her hand around from behind her, and saw a cool, pulsating, round crystal resting in it, glowing softly. Who? How? What is this thing?

Everyone's attention turned at once to her, and Zimmer growled when Sheena began to glow faintly, just like the Crystal in her hand. The Rangers could now see the tightly drawn net of shadows around her, all of them instinctively knowing these were the threads of dark magic Zimmer had cast upon her. Any remaining doubts about what Kahva had told them about the fascination trance flew away instantly, as each spell thread seemed to nearly catch fire from Sheena's contact with the crystal. The crystal's glow grew steadily brighter with every second, until they could no longer see her, just the crackling web around her. Zimmer snarled furiously when he saw the strands beginning to snap, first one, then several more in rapid succession under the Crystal's influence.

Sheena closed her eyes and saw herself in the Power Ranger Museum on Eltar, meeting Zimmer for the very first time. She saw now how surprised he had been, and the possessiveness that had entered his heart in that moment. She saw how the first thread had been cast when he had kissed her hand before she had left for Earth. She saw how he had cast a spell on the pendant Master Madas had given her so that he could have a constant contact with her, no matter how far apart they were, and could cast his dark threads at his leisure this way. Her throat tightened as she saw how every time he had met her again, he managed to touch her again and increase the power of the spell, weaving more threads about her while in her presence. These threads joined those the pendant had helped him cast from his hidden sanctuary, as over the months he made certain the web was tight and strong around her.

I have to know the truth, she thought, throwing her mind back into the recent past. I have to know what really happened yesterday. Concentrating, she saw the real events that had happened at the carnival, how his illusions and his clone had driven her into his arms and away from her friends. I fell for it all, how could I have been so blind?! Sheena couldn't be absolutely sure, but she had a gut feeling that the clone and Zimmer had caused her nightmares too, playing upon her hurt feelings that they had been responsible for to start with. I have to know one last thing. What really happened between the clone and Kahva? Was what I saw between them an illusion, a total lie, a twisting of the truth? Sheena recalled the memory of Kahva and who she now knew was the clone behind the Haunted House. and gasped in pain and guilt. NO!! How could I have been so wrong?! How could I have ever believed Kahva would betray me?! Oh Goddess, my blindness was nearly her. Sheena shook terribly, not even wanting to think of what could have happened. She knew full well now what Zimmer had done to her, that his fascination trance was why she had acted the way she did, had believed just what he had wanted her to believe. The knowledge did nothing to ease the ache in her heart at all of the pain that had been caused, though. It took all of her self-control not to race over to the man she'd thought she could trust implicitly, and tear him apart. I won't lose control, not now, not again! Not after practically being a puppet for a whole year!

Even as her mind was clearing, everyone was simply staring at Sheena, holding their collective breath. No one was quite certain just what was happening to her, or how she would react. None, not even Zimmer dared approach her, while the crystal glowed. Finally, the glow faded, and they could see her face clearly again, a twisted mask of pain and anger. No one could read her expression, and all feared the worst.

It was Zimmer who regained his voice and spoke first. "My love?" he asked softly. "Please, come to me."

Woodenly, Sheena turned to him, her eyes full of tears. One of them slowly dripped down her cheek, and she clenched the Crystal of Truth even tighter, her knuckles turning white, her hand shaking. She took one step towards him, causing the hearts of everyone there but Zimmer to sink. "Zimmer," she gritted out, her voice thick with sorrow, grief and rage, "if you ever come near me or my friends again, I'm going to rip your head off and stuff it so far up your rump you're going to be looking out of your mouth! I don't know why you did this to me, but I don't ever want to see you again!!" Still clenching the Crystal tightly, she ran over to Billy and threw her arms around him, her tears falling freely now. "Oh, Billy," she whispered. "I'm so sorry... all of you. I'm so sorry..."

"It wasn't your fault," Billy held her tightly, on the verge of tears himself. "It was his," he snarled softly, sparing a brief sideways glance at the evil wizard, then burying his face into Sheena's shoulder, fighting back the tears that were so close to falling. "I was so scared I would lose you forever."

An outraged howl pierced the air, and everyone turned to see Zimmer glaring at the reunited couple. He then pointed somewhat over-dramatically at Sheena and proclaimed defiantly, "I will have you, Sheena. You are my property, and though all the universes stand between us, you will be mine one day! You will be mine!!"

"Don't even think about it," Tommy growled.

Zimmer merely smiled, stepping away. "Enjoy your victory for now," he said softly. "But I promise you, I shall return."

Then he was gone, leaving only the echo of his taunting laughter behind.

* * *
"This isn't going very well, is it?" David asked.

"Ay-yi-yi!! No it isn't, David!" Alpha yelped. "The Aquitian Rangers need help, badly!"

Tanya told us they had the Crystal of Truth, then asked us to teleport her favorite baseball, plus their morphers, Jason's staff and the Power Crystals, surely that's a good sign, right? David thought, trying to reassure himself. There's been no sign of them since then, however. Where are they? She asked for both Power Crystals, do they have Sheena back, or were they wanting the Silver Crystal just in case. David, stop it! he scolded himself. You'll drive yourself crazy like this, you have to keep faith in them! Don't even think about them not coming back with Sheena, don't do it! "Are there any weapons, gun turrets, anything at all here at the Power Chamber that we can use to help the Aquitian Rangers?"

In response, Alpha jabbed a robotic finger at a control panel to David's left. "That is the automatic defense system Billy installed two months ago, but it's only been tested in simulations, never in actual combat. I'm not sure how much power he has put into it either, he's still perfecting the system. Plus, it only defends the Power Chamber if it comes under attack, it isn't programmed for this kind of combat!"

"Does it have the power to reach the battlefield if it were put into a type of manual mode?" Trey of Wisdom asked. "From what I know of Billy, he wouldn't have made the system purely automatic, with no way to manipulate it manually."

"You're absolutely right David, he did put in a manual control!" Alpha-Five shouted excitedly, shuffling over quickly and frantically punching a code into the control panel. "I know it won't have the firepower of the automatic defenses, but it will give us something we can use!" David, Alpha and the Treys all clustered around the defensive control panel as a section of it slid away, allowing a small joystick-like device to rise up, along with a small targeting display. The rest of the panel adjusted accordingly, bringing up constant readouts of the Power Chamber's defenses, and real-time scans of the current battle. "It will take all of us to keep giving the Aquitian Rangers the readings we're getting, and to man the weapons, but it should work."

The initial excitement died down however, as the limitations of the system quickly became apparent. The strength of the system was the powerful punch it could deliver against forces attacking the Power Chamber, but that power could not be maintained over the distance they needed to cover to aid significantly in the battle. "We'll only be able to fire the laser cannon intermittently," Trey of Wisdom said sadly. "I mean no slight to Billy's great intelligence at all; it is simply that this system, as Alpha warned us, was never programmed for offensive action, only defensive. That, and it was designed for relatively close battle, not something as long range as what we are dealing with. We won't be able to do any great damage to the monsters at all from this distance, just annoy them."

"Then let's annoy them," David gritted out, grabbing the control for the laser cannon. "Somebody start giving me some readings, please?" he asked tautly.

"We won't be able to do much - " Trey of Wisdom warned again.

"I don't care what we can't do," David nearly shouted at the alien lord and warrior. "I just know that right now we've got friends out there who need our help; whatever it is that we can do."

Trey of Courage shook his head, smiling. "You are truly Tommy's brother, and of the line of Kahva Kilanye and Tilrak Kilanye. David, if Tommy had never become a Power Ranger, you would have been an excellent one. Who knows," he finished, clapping the young man on the shoulder, "You may ever still be called upon to take the Diamond Power one day."

"David is right," Trey of Heart spoke up. "We may not be able to provide much assistance in the battle with the defenses here, but we must join together and do what we can until the Earth Power Rangers return." With that, Alpha, David and the Treys set about to 'annoy' Mondo's monsters, as David had put it. They were only able to attack for short periods of time, and their attacks were only minor distractions at best, but they gave the Aquitian Rangers time to regroup and try new tactics. With every shot David fired, guided by instructions from one of the Treys, with every bit of new information Alpha, Zordon and the Treys were able to send the Aquitians, a little more time was bought. but the losing of the battle was only being delayed, not prevented.


Alpha was already on the communicator before Zordon even finished. I sure hope that what Tanya asked for earlier means they've rescued Sheena, Alpha thought worriedly as he put out the call for help. Yes, the Rangers had the Crystal of Truth, they knew... but what about the Silver Ranger?

* * *
Sheena had turned around to look behind her almost as soon as Zimmer had left, peering into the shadows. There is only one person who could or would be there. In spite of everything I've done, she's still there for me. She forced herself not to cry at the memories of what she'd said and believed about her best friend while under Zimmer's power, and walked over to hug Kahva as her soul-sister emerged from her hiding place. "Sister," she whispered softly. "I'm so sorry! I should never have believed him, believed in him, over the most important people in my life. I should have come looking for you, instead of just falling for his lies."

Kahva shook her head, tightly holding her own emotions in check, struggling to throw the mental block back up between herself and Sheena to keep her from picking up on the turmoil inside herself. "It's all right," she told her. "You're back, you have your own mind and will now, that's all that matters. We'd better get home, though," she shivered involuntarily, unable to hide the chilling, unsettling effect Zimmer's palace was having on not just her, but on all of them. "I don't like the feel of this place, or the idea of staying around here for very long."

She has to be hurting, I know her. If she doesn't want to talk right now, I'll let it go, but only for right now. I don't like the thought of staying here any longer than I have to either. "Let me get my clothes and things first," Sheena said, going over to where Zimmer had said her belongings were, mentally sending up a quick thank you as she found Zimmer had been truthful in that one instance. "There is absolutely no way I'm showing up in Angel Grove dressed like this!"

A quick dodge into the bathroom later, with Kahva, Tanya, and Kat going along for privacy defense purposes, Sheena stepped back out, a slight frown on her face from having to put on the same dirty clothes she'd removed earlier. Even as she frowned, though, there was at the same time a light in her eyes that they hadn't seen shining in over a year: the light dimmed by Zimmer's spell. "Let's go home," she whispered, putting her necklace and rings back on. "Wait, my pocketbook! I can't find my pocketbook -"

"You never had it at the carnival, sweetie," Billy assured her. "It's probably lying on our bed, relax," he smiled, hugging her. "Everything's all right now."

If Zimmer had taken that, I would rip him apart! Sheena swore to herself, even as she tried to relax and calm her racing heart. I can't replace -

Tommy's communicator went off sharply at that very moment, cutting abruptly into her thoughts. "You were saying something about everything being all right?" Sheena half-teased Billy. "I thought you knew better than to do that, my dear."

"Just what we didn't need," Tommy groaned, half-wishing Billy hadn't been able to modify their communicators to reach over half the universe. Raising his wrist, the Red Ranger tapped the communicator. "What is it, Zordon?"


Sheena took a deep breath, feeling the call to arms rising up within her. Part of her new clarity of mind said very plainly that she was a warrior, and she was now being called on to go into battle. All right Mondo, you're about to learn not to mess with us at times like these!! A sudden mischievous impulse took hold of her in that instant, and she motioned for Tommy not to indicate she was there with them yet. He nodded silently, feeling the mischievous imp rising in his cousin through their recovering link, then responded to Zordon's summons. "We'll be there as fast as we can, Zordon. Tommy out."

As he closed the channel, Sheena smiled quietly. "Thanks for doing that. I'll have to stop by the Power Chamber to pick up my Crystal, I guess, or wherever you guys left it, and for some reason, I just want to surprise them. I'm not being too bad, am I?"

Tommy chuckled and smiled, reaching into his pocket and holding out something to her. "No, but you're really going to surprise everyone now. I believe you're going to need this, Sheena. After all, we can't go into battle without our leader."

Sheena was never certain after then just which crystal she had been happier to see, the Crystal of Truth that freed her, or the Silver Crystal that was a part of her heritage. "Thank you, Tommy," she whispered, taking it in her free hand and almost caressing it delicately with her fingertips. "Thank you everybody! But how did you know to go ahead and bring it?"

"Call it the power of positive thinking," Kat grinned.

"We knew there was a chance this wouldn't work," Rocky added. "We also knew we weren't going to give that chance a chance. Did that make sense?"

Sheena laughed happily and startled Rocky by giving him a quick peck on the cheek. "It makes wonderful sense. Just like this does too: Silver Ranger Power!" As she spoke the three words, the familiar silver glow enveloped her body, but something was different about it this time. Sheena nearly fainted at the rush of power through her soul. I. What?! It was NEVER like this before!!! "What's happening?!" Sheena's voice was strangled, then her eyes widened and she stood ramrod straight.

Billy stepped towards her, fear plain in his eyes. "Sheena?" he whispered. "Sheena? Are you all right?"

"Yes, Billy," Sheena smiled at last, her body finally relaxing as she stood before them as the Silver Ranger. There was so much relief in her voice it wasn't funny. "I don't think I've ever been more all right in my life!" she exclaimed as she removed her helmet, tucking it under one arm.

"What are you talking about?"

"She is simply experiencing the pure joy of truth that comes from being the new Keeper of the Crystal," Dulcea's voice echoed all around them suddenly.

Kahva paled, as Dulcea's words drew her eyes to Sheena's hands. Where did the Crystal go? I promised to bring it back, what's happened?! What is Dulcea talking about? "What do you mean?" she managed to get out, her eyes glued to her soul-sister. She almost didn't see the astral projection of the Keeper appear in their midst, but once she realized Dulcea's image was with them, she nearly jumped out of her skin. She could never do that in the movie! she wanted to shout, but Kahva couldn't get the words to come out. What's going on here, what is happening to Sheena?

"Once every generation, if there is a worthy individual, the Crystal of Truth is passed to a new Keeper. You, Sheena Devereaux Cranston, have been deemed worthy. You are the Keeper for your generation."

Sheena's face went even paler than Kahva's at that proclamation. "But - but I didn't earn it! My friends brought the Crystal of Truth to me, I didn't do anything to deserve it. I was..." It had always been hard for Sheena to say she wasn't in control of herself, and she still couldn't bring herself to say it even now. "I - I was under a spell."

The Keeper shrugged. "I do not choose who is to succeed me. The Crystal makes the choice, not I."

"Wait a minute here. How do you know it chose her?" Adam asked.

"Because I am the Keeper no longer. The Crystal is a part of you now, Sheena," the Keeper smiled softly at her. "Never again can you be deceived by illusions or lies of magical origin. Spells that bend and twist the truth can never be successfully cast on you again. But do not grow overconfident, for you are still vulnerable to all other types of magic, and your enemies will not be long in learning how to strike beyond your new protection. Zimmer Delnas especially will not give up his pursuit of you. But your world needs you now Sheena, you and your friends. Go, and may the Power of Truth protect you all."

The Keeper's voice and image was beginning to fade away, but Sheena still had one last question. "Wait!" she called out quickly. "Do you know why Zimmer wants me?"

"I do not know," she replied as her image faded from view. "But I am certain you will learn in your own time, Keeper of the Crystal. Farewell." Dulcea's voice floated away from the young people then, leaving them all staring at each other, overwhelmed by the turn of events.

Billy was the first to find his voice, smiling faintly. "Let's go home," he murmured, hugging his wife close. "I think it's time to show everyone that you're back... to stay."

* * *
As the columns of red, yellow, green, blue, pink, gold, sapphire, silver-white, and pure white lifted out of his palace and vanished into the sky, Zimmer watched them, his eyes literally flaming with a cold fury.

"I was so close," he growled softly. "I was so close to having her forever. Blast those Power Rangers!"

You're afraid of her, and I hope she's your worst nightmare! She will be your undoing, and you know it!! Even Zimmer couldn't help but whirl around in surprise as his destroyed clone's words came back to his mind. The wizard shrugged off the warning, even as every fiber of his being told him that the child must have been in the shadows behind Sheena, that she had to have been the one who slipped his prize the Crystal of Truth.

His eyes narrowed, following the trail of teleportation beams, counting the lights and realizing that was the only possible answer. The rumbling growl in his chest joined with his dark power, making the very ground beneath his feet quake with his barely controlled anger. "I won't ever stop, Sheena," as his rage cooled slightly to a simmer. "I won't stop until you belong to me, and no one will be able to stop me next time! Not your husband, not the Rangers, and not that stupid child, whoever she is! No one will stop me, do you understand?!"

"Though it take me another fifteen thousand years to claim you, I will, Sheena. I will have you."

* * *
The Power Chamber was as silent as a tomb once everyone returned from the battle. The Alien Rangers were suffering from moderate dehydration, and returned as quickly as they could to Aquitar, after giving Sheena and the others a warm welcome home, and heartfelt congratulations on their success in the battle, and the quest. David was still in the Power Chamber where he had watched the battle with Kahva. He had been every bit as surprised as Zordon and Alpha when all eight Zeo Rangers had teleported into the fray. Only Kahva's tight, worried expression had kept him from teasing her about keeping Sheena's freedom from Zimmer and subsequent return to the Rangers a secret.

He had not been surprised, nor remotely disappointed in the serious damage and chaos the Power Rangers, fighting alongside the Aquitian Rangers, had proceeded to wreak upon Mondo's evil forces, however. You don't mess with ANY world's Power Rangers when they're ticked off, you metal freak! he had wanted to shout to Mondo's face. But having been face to face with the Machine King once before was one time too many, and David was very glad to see his friends, cousin and brother back home and doing what they did best: defending the Earth.

But now that it was down to just him, the Treys, Kahva, Alpha, Zordon and the Power Rangers, it seemed no one knew exactly what to do or say. They've all been changed, David thought, as he studied each one of the Rangers in turn, then Kahva. What happened to them on that planet? David quickly averted his gaze from Kahva as she began to stare down at the floor, then attempted to hide in the shadows, as she did far too often, in his opinion. What the heck has happened to them all?

IT IS GOOD TO HAVE YOU HOME AGAIN, SHEENA, Zordon finally broke the uncomfortable silence that reigned once they had all demorphed. He seemed to want to say something more, but in a rare moment of unease, Zordon was at a loss for words.

"It's good to be home, too," Sheena replied at last, not looking directly at any of them, but with her arm tight around Billy's waist. Like Zordon, Sheena seemed to want to say something else, but the words wouldn't come out for her. Billy hugged her close and kissed her tenderly, intending to comfort her, but nearly sent his wife to tears instead. "Guys," she choked out at last, her grief and pain at last escaping, "I - I. for everything I said before... I'm sorry. I didn't mean any of it, not really. I - I. thought I did... but now I know the truth." Sheena frowned and bit her lip, fighting to retain control of her emotions. At last she chuckled quietly, tightly, "I know more truth now than I ever thought was possible. It really hurts though, some of it... especially the parts about Zimmer. I honestly thought I had a good friend in him. A bit odd, yes... but still a friend." The Silver Ranger let out a long, shuddering sigh as she finally trusted herself not to break down in front of everyone and cry her eyes out. "How could I have been so blind."

Tommy squeezed her shoulder. "We all make mistakes. It happens, it's life. As for being blind, Zimmer is the one who caused that, but now we at least know he can't do what he did again. The Crystal prevents that."

"Yeah," Sheena nodded sadly. "I'm its Keeper now. I'm the Keeper now. How in the name of all that is holy am I supposed to be a guardian for something that I didn't earn?! You guys were the ones who had to go do whatever you had to do to get it!" She took another careful breath, gathering her self-control together, battling herself to stay calm and collected. "I know from having the Crystal in me now that you all had to go on a quest to earn the Crystal for me to be freed. You guys did all the work. What did I do? Got myself enspelled and took off with an obsessed creep, that's what I did," she snorted in self-disgust. "Any one of you is far better qualified than I am to be the Keeper of the Crystal! Why me?"

"You shall receive your answer when it is the right time. Now is not the time, not yet. You must believe me when I say that I cannot give you the reason why, but that you will know the reason soon enough," Kat softly repeated the Keeper's words. "She was referring to something else at the time, but I believe it applies here too. Sheena, maybe the reason why the Crystal chose you is because it either needs you, or it senses you are going to need it. Maybe you're the best one to protect it for this generation, who knows? But it picked you, and that can't be denied, or changed, I don't think."

All of the Rangers nodded their agreement to Kat's words, and Sheena gave them a thankful smile in return, though still doubting her worthiness to be the chosen Keeper. "Kat, what did you mean by, 'she was referring to something else at the time'?" Trey of Wisdom asked, speaking up for the first time since he and his two other selves had welcomed Sheena home. "I am assuming something must have happened during the trials all of you faced?"

"Something did," Tommy answered for them all. "Something that actually started back at the carnival." The Red Ranger cast his gaze about the room, searching for the one they'd hurt so badly, spotting her hiding in the shadows near Sheena, his brother David trying gently to coax her back out into the open. "Kahva, I don't know who or what is supposed to tell us why we didn't believe you at the carnival, but for all of us, I want to apologize again. If we had only believed you when you told us something was wrong, maybe none of this would have happened."

"Zimmer would have gotten her anyway, later on," Kahva shook her head, reluctantly letting herself be led back to the group by David. "If that had happened, we might not have found out what was happening, or how to rescue Sheena before it was too late," she finished softly, looking at the floor and shivering.

"I'd still like to know why we didn't believe you though," Tommy pressed on. "It's not like any of us to be so distrusting of someone else, especially of a friend. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm having to fight myself right now to make myself believe what Kahva just said. We can consciously fight it now, now that we're aware something's wrong, but whatever's wrong with us, it hasn't gone away."

"Rangers!" Alpha yelped anxiously. "I may have the answer to your questions! The Keeper said that she discovered a few dark threads of magic attached to some of you once you were on Phaedos. She couldn't remove them after you were on the planet, but asked us to find a way to remove them once you got back."

"Dark threads?" Sheena asked. "The others were tainted? When did this happen?" Alpha quickly launched into an explanation, showing the Rangers and Kahva the results of his scans of the records at the carnival. Each one of the Rangers tensed as they saw the dark magic chase them, much as Zimmer's spell threads had pursued Sheena. As for the Silver Ranger herself, a soft, low growl started to emerge from her throat, but then stopped, a quiet, thoughtful look on her face taking its place instead.

The other Rangers were not quite as calm, however. "If she knew something was wrong with us, then why didn't she tell us?" Adam demanded, as they all focused their attention on Alpha and Zordon, not noticing Sheena as she seemed to simply stare at the readouts of Alpha's scans. "We should have been told!" the Green Ranger shouted angrily. "If we had gone into the trials knowing we had handicaps -"

"The trials would have been for naught," Sheena said, her voice taking an odd, slightly otherworldly tone.

"What do you mean?" Tanya asked. "If we had been told before the trials started, we wouldn't have doubted Kahva so much, or at least we could have fought it better -"

"And you would have risked questioning your own judgement at times when you may have been right to doubt her, or anyone else, for that matter," Sheena continued, her voice getting softer, her tone becoming more and more ethereal. "No, once on the planet, you had to face the trials as you were for them to be true trials. To overcome not only the truth you hide from yourself, but also the truth another wishes you not to see, is one of the greatest challenges of all, although the truth you hide from yourself will always be the hardest trial to face, triumph over, and more importantly, learn from. Had the prior Keeper tried to remove the dark threads from you once you were on the planet for the trials, the trials themselves would have been compromised, and this vessel before you, this one you call Sheena, would have been lost forever. We could have been lost to the future as well, for rarely can someone be found worthy to take the trials more than once."

Billy cautiously stepped towards his wife, at first reaching out to her, then thinking better of it for the moment. "You mean, if the threads had been removed on the planet, we would have possibly been facing the trials as -" Billy stopped, trying to find the right words, then said, "not quite our true selves?"

"But we weren't our true selves if we all had dark threads on us!" Tanya protested. "It wasn't fair to make us face them like that, and especially not to even warn us!"

"Not all were tainted," Sheena continued in her odd tone. "True, had all of your number been tainted by the dark threads, then the trial would have to have been delayed, perhaps cancelled altogether. To remove the dark threads of doubting magic cast upon you would have required us to become involved directly, which is not against the rules. But," Sheena paused, as first her eyes, then face slowly began to glow softly, "to take the trials right after that would have been cosmically unfair. You would have been touched by us too soon, and given an unfair advantage in your trials, which would have tainted them. You would not have faced your own truths fairly, and therefore not have truly learned anything. To face your own truth is hard, to admit to it, even harder. But to truly learn from it, and grow in the knowledge of your truest self, is the hardest trial of all. That is where so many others before you have failed. Those chosen for the trials this day were the best candidates we have seen for countless years. To risk condemning you all to possible failure, to risk costing you all this one who guards us now. such risks in the past have always been unacceptable. In the past several hours you have all persevered through, that risk was even more unacceptable. We may have survived until suitable candidates for the trials, and for a new Keeper to have been born, and matured enough to take the trials, claim us. but the universe as it is known now may have not survived long enough for those possible worthy few. Earth Power Zeo Rangers, Kahva Briton. the universe needs you all too badly to have risked losing any one of your number in the here and now."

No one, not even Zordon, knew what to say to that grave prophecy. "Lord Trey of Triforia, David Trueheart," Sheena's voice came again, "you are also needed by the universe, just like the Aquitian Rangers and Prince Dex of Edenoi, though your individual callings are not exactly like the callings of the questors and the Keeper who stand before you now. Time is not our province, and the future is always in motion, as it must ever be. but we have been shown slivers of visions of the future throughout our long existence. Though we cannot say for a fact of things that will or will not happen, we can say this: each of you here is needed greatly in the battle for light, good and justice. To do anything that would have risked losing even one of you, would have been a travesty not only of our long standing rules of the trials, but a true tragedy for this universe, possibly others as well. To feel like you were unfairly handicapped in your quest is true, for you were, thanks to Zimmer's evil. But unfortunately, it was necessary to let the handicap exist. It was a trial in and of its own self, though not one of our designing."

Sheena's entire body was glowing at this point, an intimidating sight to behold. No one felt frightened, though, as there was a warmth and comfort to the glow. The light of truth? Tommy found himself wondering. A quick glance at the others proved he wasn't the only one being so effected by what they were all witnessing. Then a bolt of understanding shot through him, as he fully realized who and what was talking to them. It's the Crystal itself! It's. sentient?! he mentally exclaimed, not daring to believe the evidence before him, but knowing in his soul it was true. Is that how it was able to get inside our hearts and minds so well?

"To have passed not only the trials of the Quest," Sheena's still-odd voice broke into all their thoughts, "but to have learned on your own how to circumvent the obstacles placed in your way by evil is a feat unparalleled. Now, however, it is time to remove the evil threads from those who have been tainted, for if left upon you for too long, they will strengthen of their own accord, and all you have learned will be lost, and so will you yourselves be lost. Not only to the side of good and light, but also to your own selves. That cannot, and will not, be allowed to happen."

Sheena's gaze rested upon them all in turn, quickly moving from the Treys and David to the Rangers and Kahva. As their turn came, each one felt as though she, or the Crystal, or perhaps both were looking into their very souls. Every one of them shivered involuntarily as Sheena's gaze moved from them. Jason and Rocky were the first of the Rangers to be gazed upon, then Billy. Each young man was left slightly pale by the experience, but quickly recovered, anxiously staring at the next person Sheena was heading for: Kahva.

"You have not been tainted by the dark threads of doubt," Sheena's voice came at last, after what had seemed like an unbearably loud and long silence. "But you were hurt deeply by them nonetheless. You know deep within your heart without our showing you that it was not your fault the events at the carnival happened, but the next step, we cannot help you with: accepting it was not your fault. Only you can do that."

Leaving a trembling Kahva behind, Sheena turned to Tanya, Adam, Kat and Tommy, staring at each in turn, then motioning for them to step towards her. "You are the ones who have been touched by the darkness, and must be brought back from the shadows of doubt to the light of trust. You all saw the power of truth when you gazed into our light on Phaedos. Now, you must be touched by it to be freed." Before anyone could move or say a single word, Sheena touched Tanya's forehead, and the light surrounding the Silver Ranger's body instantly concentrated itself to just her hand, the brightness of the glow almost blinding in this state. In the next instant, the light flowed into Tanya, and the Yellow Ranger herself began to glow, much like Sheena had in Zimmer's palace when she had stared into the Crystal of Truth.

"Look!!" David exclaimed, pointing in awe and just a tiny bit of fear at the Yellow Ranger. "You can see them!!"

Tiny lines, though few in their number, were lighting up all around Tanya, all of them gathered around either her head or over her heart. One by on, in rapid succession, they all caught fire, and were burned away, just as the threads in the net of the fascination spell around Sheena had been destroyed. The process was repeated on Adam next, then Kat, and finally Tommy, who seemed to have the most strands hanging about him, the only difference being that some of those threads seemed almost limp, in comparison to the ones that had surrounded the Pink, Green and Yellow Rangers. "You are strong, Red Ranger," Sheena's voice congratulated him. "You were the most severely handicapped by the threads, yet your inner strength gave you the power to actually defeat some of them. That is something that should be impossible, according to all evil wizards who dare to cast such a spell as this. Your strength, and that of those around you, only proves what we knew to be true: you are all needed here to fight for the light and truth."

Stepping away from the now freed, though shaken Rangers, Sheena removed her necklace and stared at it intently, then concentrated all of her attention upon it. "He who would have taken this vessel used this gift of honor to taint her. His evil shall be removed from it so that he cannot any connection left with her." The glow wrapped around the pendant quickly, and a dark shadow was lifted from the pendant moments later, then destroyed. "Rest well, defenders of truth and good," Sheena's voice spoke again, putting the necklace back around her neck, even as the glow rapidly began to fade into her body. "You have all earned it."

No one dared to speak or move for nearly a full minute after the glow disappeared, for all had been stunned by the indescribable experience. Then, as if coming abruptly out of a dream, Alpha jumped and squeaked, badly startling everyone but Sheena. After grabbing a few small scanners, the little robot rapidly scanned the Silver Ranger to determine if there were any side effects from the Crystal being within her, or from the manifestation they had all witnessed. "I feel fine, Alpha," she smiled as he waved one of his devices over her. "Better than I've felt in a long time. The Crystal isn't hurting me, and I can take it out any time I want to, just like the Silver Crystal. See?"

She held out one hand, and the Crystal glittered on her palm for a moment before vanishing back within her body. "But I think I won't let it stay outside of my body, at least not at this time. It's in my trust now, and I think the safest place for it is within me for the time being. Dulcea was able to keep it safe out in the open because she lived on an isolated planet. I live right in the middle of Angel Grove, thought, and I can't, I won't risk anyone stealing this. Earning it from me is one thing... stealing is something I won't let happen."


"He's right," Adam agreed, wrapping an arm about Tanya's waist. "Let's all go home and get some sleep."

In tired little bunches, everyone teleported out to the parking lot of the carnival, where their cars had been left, except for the Treys, who went straight home to Triforia, and David, who was sent directly to the reservation. Kahva slowly made her way down to her room after they had all left, too tired to even think right then, as the shock of everything that had happened crashed down on her. It had been a very, very, very long pair of days.

* * *
"Almost home!" Rocky shouted as the Rangers teleported into the parking lot of the carnival, well out of sight of curious eyes. As they all walked together towards their various cars, Billy suddenly started to laugh. "Hey, I've not done anything yet, what's so funny, Billy-boy?"

"It's not you, Rocky," Billy chuckled. "It's Sheena and me." Arching an amused eyebrow at his newly freed wife, he grinned, "We ran over here from the park, our car is still over there."

"That's right!" Sheena exclaimed softly, then blushed as the memory of their afternoon together vividly played back in her mind. "I guess we, umm, got a little distracted. My pocketbook!!!" she yelled, clapping a hand over her mouth. "That's where I left it, I locked it up in the trunk of my car!! Oh man, Kahva's birthday present from Daniel is still in my pocketbook!! I am such a dolt!!" she groaned. "I don't know who's gonna kill me worse, Kahva or Daniel, for forgetting it!" Sheena berated herself, slapping her forehead repeatedly with her hand.

"They'll both forgive you, sweetie," Billy assured her, catching her hands and planting a soft kiss upon her lips. "As Kahva well knows," he whispered in her ear, brushing her cheek tenderly with his lips, "we sort of had other things on our minds in the park."

Sheena only blushed all the more, then giggled. "Can we hitch a ride with you and Tanya, Adam? Since you're going to be heading down that way, by the park?"

"Sure!" Adam grinned, then pulled Tanya into his arms suddenly, kissing her passionately, holding her close in spite of her playful struggles. Releasing her from the kiss, but not his hug, he laughed, "I just hope you won't mind if we relegate you both to the back seat. Tanya's sitting up front with me."

"Oh, I am, am I?" the dark-skinned beauty questioned him sharply, hands on hips as she neatly spun out of his hold. "What makes you think I want to sit up front with you?" she asked, an impish smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

"Easier to kiss me? Please?"

Tanya pretended to mull the thought over for a little while, as one by one, all of the other Rangers started giggling, then completely cracked up as Adam used his best 'puppy-dog eyes' look on his girlfriend. At last he ended up on his knees, as if begging her to say yes, while everyone else gasped for breath between peals of laughter. "Oh, all right!" she sighed exaggeratedly, giving the Green Ranger a sweet smile. Petting his head like a puppy, she softly, but firmly informed him, "If you are a good little boy, I'll sit up front with you."

"Yes ma'am!" Adam yelped, hopping up to his feet quickly, stealing a quick kiss before going to his Tracker and opening the door gallantly. "Ladies first! You can get your own door, Billy."

"Oh gee, thanks. Just because I'm not a woman." his friend teased back.

"Ugh!!" Rocky groaned teasingly. "I was going to ask Adam for a ride to my place, since I gave Lisa my car keys to drive herself home, but there's no way I'm gonna ride with those love-sick, mushy people! Jase, can I catch a ride with you? Tommy and Kat are bound to be no better!"

"Sure," Jason smiled. "Hop on in, I'll save you from the love-struck masses."

More good-natured teasing flew back and forth between the vehicles as Adam and Jason drove away with their friends, leaving only Tommy and Kat in the parking lot, leaning against Tommy's red Tracker. "I guess this means it's time for us to go," the Red Ranger said finally, absently fingering his car keys with one hand, holding Kat's with the other.

"I guess so," Kat replied softly, but she didn't make a move to get into her boyfriend's vehicle.

Tommy looked into her face, a puzzled expression crossing his own face. "Something wrong?"

"Yeah. How come we're the only couple who've not gotten in a solid lip-lock in the past several hours?"

"Wh-wh-what?!" Tommy stammered.

"By my count," Kat stated quite seriously, "I only got one kiss from you on this little adventure, and that was only on my cheek. After you kissed Kahva on the cheek, if my memory serves," she said with an arched eyebrow and hands firmly on her hips. The little smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth told Tommy she wasn't mad or jealous, but that she was definitely up to something. "If Tanya and Sheena can get some serious lip-lock from their beaus, then why haven't I gotten some, Mr. Oliver?"

"Are you jealous because I kissed Kahva first?" the Red Ranger teased. "You're beautiful when your eyes flash like that, you know," the young man joked, playing along with the spirit of her tone.

"Of course not!!" Kat exclaimed, stamping her foot in frustration. "And don't you go and try to change the subject with backhanded compliments like that, Mr. Thomas Oliver!!" Then her mood became clearly as impish as Tommy had suspected it was, as Kat practically purred, "I just think that your girlfriend should get something more than just a peck on the cheek. So I am jealous. I'm jealous that I'm that I'm the only girlfriend in the couples who were just here that hasn't gotten a serious kiss from her man."

"You mean, something like this?" Tommy whispered, brushing her lips with a tender, loving kiss, emboldened by her impish mood.

"Mmm. Not exactly," she answered softly, an almost predatory look crossing her features. Before he quite realized what she was doing, Tommy found himself being backed up slowly against his Tracker, until his back was pressed against the door.

"Umm, Kat?" he asked, a slight crack in his voice betraying his nervousness. "Kat?"

"Now then," she continued, placing one hand to his right on the Tracker, then slowly putting the other to Tommy's left, gently imprisoning him between her arms, "Tommy, does this remind you of anything from the past several hours? Say, as in back on Phaedos?"

Tommy gulped, trying to keep his calm and wits about himself. Kat isn't normally this forward, what is she doing? "Umm, if I was on the ground, I - I'd have to say, when we first arrived there, when you pretty much landed on me."

"Mmm hmm." his girlfriend practically purred, moving ever closer to his trembling body. "And this?" she asked, her lips temptingly close to his own.

"We weren't this close together," Tommy whispered huskily, Kat's nearness sending him into a fit of nervousness and excitement combined, "but back on Phaedos, I think this is when Rocky said we were thirty seconds to lip-lock."

"Very good," Kat whispered, her lips almost brushing his. "But we're not thirty seconds to lip-lock."

"We're not?" Tommy asked, completely confused by the beautiful blonde who had him totally at her mercy.

"Nope. We're one second away. Time's up," was all the warning the Red Ranger got before Kat planted a fiery, passionate kiss on his lips, powered by an intensity that he'd only dreamed they would ever reach before. As she continued the kiss, his breath was taken away, and Tommy was too stunned, too overwhelmed to do anything but let the seemingly endless moment continue. knowing in the same moment that he didn't want it to end, not ever.

Finally, Kat ended the passionate kiss, pulling away from him just a bit. "Your turn," she smiled, still almost purring. "Too late," she said a heartbeat later, pulling the bewildered Tommy into another passionate, burning kiss.

It took a few seconds, but Tommy was able to recover this time, and began to return the kiss with the same wondrous passion his girlfriend was bestowing upon him, every nerve in his body on fire. On fire, not just with heated passion, but a flaming love for this incredible woman than ran even deeper than he had ever realized. Kat. Kat.

Neither one of them knew how long the second kiss lasted, but when it finally ended, Tommy was very glad he'd been backed up against his Tracker, because the vehicle was the only thing keeping him upright. "Oh wow, Kat." he breathed heavily, trying to catch his breath, hoping desperately that his now rubbery knees didn't completely give way on him. "Kat, that was."

The Aussie merely smiled lovingly at him, placing a finger upon his lips. "That's more like it," she said, an impish grin crossing her beautiful features. "I've been waiting for you to kiss me for far too long this day. But, I think we'd better stop it right here, before this goes further than either of us are ready for right now."

"Good idea," Tommy gasped, still quite breathless from the kisses. "Oh God, Kat. That was incredible!!"

"You're welcome," she giggled, taking her hands away from either side of him at last, then standing before him, arms folded loosely, seeming quite satisfied with herself, and the effects of her kiss.

"K-Kat," Tommy breathed, leaning fully on his Tracker for support, "I think Sheena may have been right about what she said yesterday." Taking a deep breath, then chuckling, he continued, "I'm going to have to learn how to block certain things if the links get stronger! Whoo boy! That was some kiss!!"

"I'll take that as a compliment," Kat chuckled at first, then frowned slightly, a troubled look crossing her face. "Tommy? Can you sense them at all right now?"

"Sheena and Billy? Yes, I think I can, and they seem to be all right, but things are little fuzzy. Then again, that's normal for me," Tommy told her.

"Things are bound to be a bit strained between them for a little while, Sheena's blaming herself for falling under Zimmer's spell, I'm sure of that," Kat said distractedly. She bit her lip, as if debating with herself about whether or not to say what was bothering her. "I - I. I was actually wondering more about Kahva. Tommy. We all had agreed last night that we would ask Kahva once we got back what really happened between her and the clone at the carnival -"

"But with first the fight, then all of us being so on edge once back at the Power Chamber, then Sheena with the Crystal. Yeah, we all forgot," Tommy finished for her softly. Pulling Kat into a warm embrace, he murmured, "I can't sense Kahva right now, I think she has her block up. It's so hard for me sense her normally though, I'm never really sure when she's blocking and when she's not, though. Except when she's really upset, and not blocking. Then I can pick up on her better."

Kat muttered a soft curse at herself under her breath, then pulled Tommy closer, seeking comfort in his arms. "Tommy, we shouldn't have forgotten! We all saw how frightened she was at the carnival, we all woke up because of her screams last night -"

"We can't force her to tell us, though," Tommy reminded his girlfriend gently. "Besides, Billy said he would tell us if she didn't, remember? We can ask him. after he and Sheena have had some time to straighten things out. Like you said, things are going to be strained between them for a while. Sheena has to learn to trust in herself all over again, to not be afraid to listen to her heart."

"Could you listen to your heart, could you trust it again if you had been through what she's been through? What if you thought that I'd told you to go away, that I didn't love you anymore? What if you had been told hurtful lies, like what Billy's clone told Sheena?"

Tommy shivered ever so slightly, hugging Kat even tighter. "I hope that day never comes, Kat." Gently, he cradled her face in his hands, gazing deeply into her eyes. "I came too close to losing you forever today."

Kat nodded, closing her eyes, drawing as much comfort from Tommy's touch as possible. The events of the past several hours raced around in her mind once again, the vivid, disturbing images whirling wildly about. "We all nearly lost so much. Tommy. I'm pretty sure Tanya and Adam, and you and I are going to be all right. I think we've all been drawn closer together because of everything that's happened. I also think, that if given enough time, and if she'll learn not to blame herself for what happened, Sheena and Billy will be okay too." Sighing and pulling away from Tommy a little, the Pink Ranger continued, "Jason and Emily. I'm sorry, but if she can't get her act together, then as much as I hate to say it, I think Jason will be better off without her. Rocky, on the other hand," she smiled, allowing herself a small chuckle, "I think he's part duck, trouble just seems to roll right off of his back."

A small frown crossed her face just then, marring her features a little. "Kahva, though. Tommy, I just can't shake the feeling that if we can't get her to talk to us about what happened, she'll never be completely all right. With everything that's happened over the past few months, it seems like she's getting quieter and more withdrawn around us. After whatever happened today, I'm not sure when, or even if we'll ever see again the Kahva we were getting to know shortly after she settled down in this dimension."

"I know," Tommy agreed somberly. "But still, we can't force her to talk to us. If she feels like we're ganging up on her, we'll do more harm than good, I'm afraid." Tommy tenderly caressed Kat's cheek, smiling at her. "Give her some time."

The beautiful young blonde woman nodded, hoping Tommy was right. A silence settled down on them heavily, neither one of them quite knowing what to say next. After nearly three minutes, Kat finally broke the stillness. "So what do we do now?"

"We wait. Everything is going to take time, whether we like it or not," Tommy replied. Suddenly he chuckled, fingering his long since forgotten car keys. Somehow, he'd kept hold of them the whole time, though he didn't remember doing it. "As for us right now, time is something we're running out of. I did promise your parents I'd have you back by tonight after we all got back from our 'trip', remember?"

"Oh my gosh!" Kat gasped. She had completely forgotten the promise made to her mother and father. "We don't have much time, I've got to get home, or I'll never hear the end of it!"

"Neither will I," Tommy laughed, still leaning heavily on the Tracker, unmoving. "Kat?"


"Umm. Can you drive to your house?" he asked rather sheepishly, a faint blush starting to color his face.

"Sure Tommy, but why?" she asked, even as she neatly caught the keys he gently tossed her.

"Umm. I still can't stand too well right now, and." Tommy's blush flared full force, and the Red Ranger was very red indeed, living up rather well to his Ranger color. "I don't trust my legs yet for walking, much less driving!" he admitted in a rush.

"Did my kiss leave you that shell-shocked?" Kat giggled, embarrassing Tommy further by helping him into the front passenger seat.

"Yes. Both of them did," Tommy told her. "I'm glad you trapped me against the Tracker, that was the only thing keeping me standing!"

"Good," Kat purred into his ear, sending a shiver racing up and down her boyfriend's spine. "They were meant to." The Aussie couldn't resist skipping a bit as she rounded the back of the Tracker, a grin covering her face from ear to ear. She stopped for just a second, behind the rear mounted spare tire where Tommy couldn't see her, and gave in to the urge to pump her fist in triumph.


* * *
"Think they'll all be able to keep their hands off of each other long enough to make it home safely?" Rocky joked, as he and Jason drove away from the carnival parking lot. Adam, Tanya, Billy and Sheena were driving off in the other direction in Adam's green Tracker, while it looked like Tommy and Kat were taking the time to talk over by his vehicle.

"I think so," Jason smiled faintly, forcing a small chuckle.

The Blue Ranger was about to crack another joke when he caught the tightness of Jason's forced smile, and the strain in Jason's short answer fully sank in. Me and my big mouth!! I am such an idiot sometimes! "Sorry man," Rocky apologized, slapping his forehead. "I'm sorry, I totally forgot you and Emily. I'm such a dolt sometimes."

"It's okay Roc, really," Jason assured him. "As much as I love her, I have to face the fact that she may not love me anymore. Right now, I'm not sure if she ever truly did."

"But she wanted to go out with you so badly, she had to have loved you!" Rocky protested. Trying to lighten the mood, he added, "Heck, if I were a girl, and I thought I had a chance with you, I'd want to date you."

"Would you like to go out next Saturday night?" Jason half-heartedly teased.

"Can't make it, take a raincheck?"

"You are such a tease."

Rocky laughed, glad to see his friend and teammate joking around again, even if his heart wasn't completely into it. "Jase, I'm not exactly the best person to ask about keeping a steady girlfriend, but. Maybe you should give Emily another chance." At Jason's surprised expression, Rocky quickly said, "I know that right now her name is mud, and I certainly don't like the way she's treated you, but. I can remember when you guys were really happy, you know?" Jason's sigh a few seconds later told Rocky that Jason not only remembered all too well the love he and Emily had shared, he still felt it, even after everything that had happened. "Jason, if you don't give this thing one last try, you'll kick yourself forever, wondering if you gave up too easily. Give her a day or two to cool off, and then try to talk to her one more time."

Jason mulled it all over, he'd already almost decided to give Emily one more chance even before Rocky had suggested it. "I did promise to talk with her, to try and get things cleared up." The next few minutes went by in silence as Jason wrestled with what his final decision should be. Sighing as he reached Rocky's home, he spoke again at last. "I'll talk to her in a couple of days, after she's had time to calm down, and I'm willing to give her one more chance. I still love her Rocky. Even after everything she's done, I believe I'm still in love with her."

"Then that settles it," Rocky said, starting to get out of the car. "You'll never know for sure until you talk to her."

"Just like you'll never know about Kim. If you don't talk to her."

Rocky simply stared at the ground for a few seconds, wordlessly nodding his head. "Yup, that's one promise I'm going to keep, don't worry about that." The Blue Ranger closed the door, then almost as an afterthought, leaned back in through the open passenger window before Jason could start to back out of the driveway. "You need to call her too. Which of us should call first?"

Jason looked at the rapidly setting sun, then grinned slightly back as his teammate. "My call won't take long, think you can wait for about an hour?"

Four hours later, Rocky was still pacing back and forth in his bedroom, trying to figure out just what he was going to say to the former Pink Ranger. He'd come up with dozens of opening lines and stories, and had dismissed them all as far too corny, even for him. With the hour getting later and later, he finally started to get ready for bed, figuring that the hour was too late to call by that point.

"I'll call her in the morning, first thing," he told himself, turning down the covers on his bed. The sudden jangling of the phone on his bedside table in the next moment nearly sent him through the ceiling. Clutching his racing heart, he picked up the receiver before it could ring again. "Jase, what are you trying to do, give me heart failure? Before you ask, I've not -"

"I'm not Jason. But he did tell me you wanted to talk."

Rocky could feel the blood racing through his veins, heating his face, his hands suddenly very sweaty. His heart was pulsing so hard and so fast, he expected to see it jump out of his chest and fly about the room. "K-K-Kim??" Oh man, I hope I can do this. "H-Hi. Kim? I need to. tell you something."

* * *
"I never thought I'd see this place again," Sheena said quietly, sitting on her side of the bed, quietly running a brush through her long flowing hair. She closed her eyes and sighed softly, keeping the steady rhythm, one stroke right after the other, slowly continuing her nighttime ritual. She and Billy hadn't come straight home after Tanya and Adam had dropped them off at their car; Sheena had simply felt too tense, too wound up to go home right then. For whatever reason, she hadn't been able to bear the thought of being in their cabin again, though she wanted to go home so desperately at the same time. Billy hadn't forced the issue, driving them all around Angel Grove, and even Stone Canyon for a few hours, neither of them saying much at all. He is too good to me. "You know, for a while I wasn't sure if I wanted to see it... well, Zimmer made sure I didn't want to. But deep inside, I knew I always wanted to. No matter how much it hurt to think about it then, I knew I had to."

She's still so tense, so upset over everything, but none of it is her fault! How do I help her see that, truly believe it? How do I ease her guilt and pain? Billy watched as his wife continued to brush out her luxurious mane of hair, something that he longed to do for her at that moment. Heaven help me, I'm afraid to hold my own wife! I don't know how she'll react. He had stopped only once in their drive, at one of their favorite spots. Together, they had watched the sunset, both trying to put their unease aside. She looked so glorious in the fading light,he thought to himself, picturing her sitting there again, crimson and orange light bathing her face, a gentle breeze toying with her hair. Billy had complimented her on how beautiful she looked in the setting sun's light, but his words had fallen on deaf ears; Sheena had simply stared at the horizon until the brilliant sun sank completely from their view. They had left silently, windows rolled down in the car, as if the wind could swirl in and blow all their troubles away. Now, in the safety of their own home, it seemed more like they were very friendly strangers, rather than man and wife. I can't lose her. Dear Lord, please help me do the right thing. Please let me find the right words to comfort her, to let her know that I still love her. Billy dared at last to still his wife's hands, taking the brush from her and doing the task himself as he so often did. Please don't let her run away from me, please God, Billy prayed.

Sheena jumped slightly at first at her husband's soft touch, but Billy's gentle strokes soon relaxed her, her taut shoulders finally slumping as she gave in to the rhythm. Billy stopped a few minutes later, putting the brush on their nightstand, then slowly, he gingerly wrapped his arms around her, holding her with all of his deep strength and love. "For a while there, I was afraid I'd never see you again. Sheena, I was scared to death that I had lost you forever. While Zimmer was holding me in that pocket dimension of his, what kept me going was hoping that somehow, some way, I could escape and save you from him. Or that somehow, you could break free of him and save me. I tried so many times to touch you through our link." Billy shuddered as the images of his imprisonment played back in his mind, chilling him to the bone. "I don't know what I'd do without you, Sheena. You are my love, my heart, my soulmate."

"I'm so sorry." Sheena had forgotten already how many times she'd said that since her rescue. "Billy, I'm so sorry, I wish I'd never met him!" Sheena's eyes were shining with the need to cry her heart out, to bare her soul to her husband, her soulmate. but even now, in the privacy of their own home, she couldn't let herself do it. I can't lose control, I just can't! But all I want to do right now is cry like a baby and let Billy tell me everything will be all right! Sweet Goddess, what is wrong with me? "I wish I'd never seen him."

Billy hugged his wife slowly closer, sending all of his love to her through their link, mentally embracing her with it, trying to push aside her guilt and pain for the events she'd not been able to control nor stop. "In a way, I'm glad you did meet him," he said, gently placing a finger on her lips when she tried to protest. "Because now we both know there's nothing that can come between us, nothing and no one. Zimmer tried it, and he failed. Just like everyone else will fail who dares to try and tear us apart."

For what could have been an eternity, or merely a heartbeat, they sat together on the bed, Billy holding his wife, with all of the love in his being flowing to her. At last she finally relaxed, sinking into his hold, her love for him flowing back to him through their link, the warmth of their love enfolding them both into its own embrace. It was all Billy could do not to sob in relief as he could finally touch his wife completely again; mind, body, heart and soul. "I love you, Sheena." he murmured into her ear, his lips lightly brushing her cheek. "Never forget how much I love you, and always will." Billy kissed her lips softly, once, twice, and again, several times over, until Sheena trusted herself again to kiss him back the same way. "No one will ever be able to keep us apart. I swear it. I love you, Sheena. Till the day I die, and beyond."

Sheena smiled, snuggling into the warmth and safety of his arms. "I love you too," she responded, breathing deeply of his wonderful scent, then yawned in spite of herself. "Sorry," she chuckled lightly. "Long day." She had wanted to talk with him more, to maybe talk some of what she was feeling out, but there was just too much that had happened to them both in the past couple of days. As badly as she needed to talk, she needed to rest even more. She pulled her hair back into its usual nighttime bun and settled down onto their bed, feeling the warmth of her beloved husband next to her as he pulled the covers over them both. "I love you," she whispered again, holding his hand as he pulled her close, and they started to drift off to sleep together.

"Billy?" Sheena whispered a few minutes later, much-needed sleep seeming determined to elude her. "I." she started, just as the memory of the Hall of Mirrors played back in her mind. Just make sure you've got the right Billy with you, I'm seeing about fifteen of them right now myself! And that one was a mirror! I love this place! One down, fourteen more Billys to go!! Make sure you get the right one, Sheena! came back Kahva's joking comments. As if I wouldn't know my own husband! Sheena had replied to her at the time. "Oh Goddess." she moaned softly, burying her face in the soft down pillows.

"Sheena?" Billy asked, unsure of what could still be bothering his wife. then fully aware of it in an instant, as he sensed her thoughts and memories through their link. "Sheena, don't blame yourself for what he did, please. Don't let him win this battle by blaming yourself. Sheena," he said firmly, but tenderly, in a voice filled with limitless love. "I love you, for now, and for all eternity, and there is nothing that you have done wrong. With the spell Zimmer had on you, there is no way you could have known about the clone, trust me. I love you, I love you," he repeated over and over, determined to end her pain with his love. Gently kissing her, slowly, tenderly, he gradually showed her in the oldest way possible the depths of his love, nearly crying with joy as she at last forgave herself enough to respond in kind. We are, and always shall be together forever, forever together, until the end of all time. I love you. echoed in both their minds, as the two of them at last became one again. neither of them feeling the pain of a carefully concealed aching heart, hiding on the porch just outside their bedroom window.

They didn't see or sense the trembling figure watching them, nor did they see as it walked slowly off the porch and down towards the lake; body, heart and soul wracked with held back tears. How can they be so happy so soon?! How dare they - he. God, WHY?!

"How do they get to be so happy and I don't?! How come they get to be so normal, as if nothing has happened?!" Kahva screamed to the skies when she was certain she was far enough away from the cabin as not to be overheard. "WHY?!?!" Then she collapsed against a tree, shaking in fear of her own emotions. "Oh good Lord, what am I saying, what am I feeling?! They deserve to be happy. But he was so - no, that's wasn't Billy at the carnival, it was the clone, there's no way Billy could ever have done that to me." Kahva ran to the lake, stopping at the water's edge, completely unsure of what she should do, or was going to do. All she knew for sure was that she couldn't get the clone's face out of her mind, his touch off of her skin. How on Earth can I angry at them for getting their lives back, am I insane?! I have no right to feel hurt!! Sheena is the one who was kidnapped, she's entitled to feel pain, not me!! Kahva slowly started to wade out into the calm of the lake, still not sure of what was drawing her or why. Perhaps the stillness of the water was what she desired, the serenity of the waters that was so opposite of her emotions and current state of mind. Deeper and deeper she slowly waded, lost in the turbulence of her pain. Because of me, because I didn't stand up strongly enough for what I knew was true when I should have, they came so close to not being with each other again. I don't deserve to be their friend, and yet they refuse to see how this is all my fault! I - I. I think I need to start keeping to myself more, I need to stay out of their way, all of them. They don't need me in the way. All I am is a bother to everyone, all I've done is either cause or get into trouble, most of the times, both. Kahva looked down into the waters gently lapping at her legs, staring at her distorted, shadowy reflection visible upon the lake's surface in the pale moonlight.

Big girls don't cry,that hated, feared voice from the past again, taunting her. "M-Ms. Caswell??" she asked hesitantly, trembling, looking all around her for the source of the voice, but finding no one out in the night save for herself. "Who's there?"

Kah-va, Kah-va, sounds like ca-ca!!

You're older than all of the rest of the children here, why don't you be quiet and grow up?

Kah-va, Kah-va, sounds like ca-ca!!

Go to your dorm, and don't come out until you learn to not be a crybaby.

"I wasn't a crybaby, I was a good girl!" Kahva sobbed softly, flailing at the air, trying to chase the voices away. "I was a good girl!!" But I want a Mommy and a Daddy too!! Please, I want a Mommy and a Daddy, PLEASE!! "I was a good girl, Ms. Caswell!! A good girl!!"

Be quiet and stop that silly crying! You'll scare off the adults who want good little children.

"I just wanted someone to love me, I just wanted a Mom and Dad!! I was a good girl!!"

Stupid girl, stupid name, sounds like ca-ca!! Who could want a girl named Kahva, sounds like ca-ca.

"Leave me alone!" Kahva wailed, thrashing in the water wildly, fighting off the demons from the past only she could hear. "Leave me alone!!"

Ca-ca, ca-ca, ca-ca, ca-ca.

You'll never get a home, Kahva. No one wants a crybaby.

"Stop it!! Leave me alone, please!!" the distraught young woman shouted, then froze in the water, as a newer voice, one from a more recent memory came creeping into her troubled mind.

We're going to have a very long life together. and it starts once I get rid of my soon to be extremely ex-wife.

P-please. St-st-stop... she had begged him, but only his master's summons had stopped his actions. "Leave me alone, leave me alone!!!" Kahva screamed again, then tripped over something in the lake bed, and crashed into the water completely. Seconds later she shot back up to the surface, sputtering and splashing madly, then abruptly calmed down and made her way back to dry land. Wandering mindlessly, Kahva eventually found her way to a small thicket and curled up in the middle of it. She was too tired to care if anyone had seen or heard her, though somehow she had managed to keep her mental block more or less sound and solid. It wasn't Billy at the carnival, it just looked, sounded like him. That wasn't Billy. she kept telling herself over and over, knowing it to be the truth. Still, she was unable to shake the pain of seeing him so happy with Sheena, seeming from where she had watched them outside of their bedroom window to be as at ease with each other as if nothing had happened to anyone at all. I don't deserve to feel hurt, I have no right to feel hurt, no right. Kahva shivered in the light breeze that had sprung up, wrapped her arms around her legs, pressing her knees into her chest, refusing to let herself cry her heart out, denying herself release from the pain. I'm not worthy, I don't deserve to feel hurt, I have no right to feel hurt. Sheena and Billy are the only ones who truly deserve that, and the others too, but not me. I'm just a stupid girl. stupid crybaby. stupid. stupid.

Back in the cabin, one single crystalline tear trickled down Sheena's cheek, as her heart responded to the grief of her sister. Had she been awake, she would have sensed Kahva's pain even through the block her soul-sister had so carefully constructed. Even though the block had been build so strong and high, her soul-sister's pain was great enough to ram tiny cracks through it. Sheena would have sensed the pain, or heard Kahva's screams and cries in the lake and rushed to her soul-sister's side, comforting her as best she knew how. But now that Kahva had hidden herself physically, forcing herself not to feel anything, those cracks were sealed tight, as if they had never existed to start with. Kahva was very clever and adept in hiding her heart when she needed or wanted to, and in burying her emotions where they wouldn't touch her, and in time, she could even forget she'd had them to start out with.

Neither of them noticed the Other Presence watching over them. Daughter of Mine, Kahva. Sleep. Sleep, dear ones, sleep, My Daughter, sleep, Kahva. The Presence repeated the mantra softly, sending Sheena into a deeper, healing sleep, nudging Kahva's troubled mind gently to return to the Power Chamber for much needed slumber of her own. I wish so desperately that I could to do more, that I could open their eyes to the ache they each carry in their hearts, but My kind has been restricted from doing such things without being asked. And no one has asked Me. Not the one who believes in God instead of me, nor my own Daughter. I can help none of my Daughters and Sons who do not first ask Me for it.

I can, however, guide all of the Rangers towards the sleep they need, and make certain that nightmares stay far away from these brave ones tonight. In the days and months to come, nightmares enough will haunt them all. But for now, My only gift can be deep sleep. Perhaps, for now, that will be enough. The One who Sheena knew as the Goddess sadly left those who had fought so hard that day to return to Her place where she saw all. Only Time will tell.

And Time will not tell Me, nor anyone else Its secrets...