This is the first story in a series called "No Way Out". It is rated PG for language and mild nudity. No, nothing naughty happens, get your mind out of the gutter. Just as a warning, I sometimes get graphic and don't realize it. If anyone gets offended by anything in this story, they can go stick their head in a bucket.
I don't own the Power Rangers, Saban Entertainment does! Don't sue me, please!
Twenty-three-year-old Raven Cohen was not a remarkable person. She was only five feet tall, her hair was short, dark, and frizzy. Her classmates had described her as a bitch on more than one occasion, due to her slightly pushy manner and keen intellect. She worked a part-time job as a production assistant in a silk-screening shop, attended six-hundred dollars worth of classes at a community college, and baby-sat for her neighbor's kid on the side.
The only thing she minded was the baby-sitting part.
Six-year-old Mandi was bouncing on the sofa, chanting, "Power Rangers! Power Rangers!" as a sort of pre-adolescent mantra. It was all Raven could do to keep up with her. But when the TV went on, things got worse.
"Today," Mandi babbled, "Lord Zedd has attacked the Power Rangers with an evil magnet monster, an' just when Billy was going to get a girlfriend, too!"
Raven sighed. Today was going to be worse than normal. "Does Billy really need a girlfriend?" She asked the kid.
Mandi nodded enthusiastically. "Even more than Kimberly did."
"Aha," Raven said. "So Kimberly needed a girlfriend. And here I thought this was a children's show."
Mandi rolled her eyes. "That's not what I mean!" She frowned and pouted. "You're just upset cuz you're not a Power Ranger."
And so Raven said the words that would change her life forever. "I'd rather be the bad guy."
Before the words had finished leaving her mouth, Raven knew she had a problem. No longer was she sitting on a couch in a middle-class two-room apartment. Instead, she was sitting in a lawn chair among a rocky landscape. Hovering high above her head was the earth.
I'm on the moon! she thought, sitting up in panic.
A gauntleted hand shoved her back. The hand belonged to a muscular red-skinned creature with a metal skull. Standing behind it was a silver-haired Asian woman.
"Welcome to your moon, Human," the red-skinned thing said. "I am called Lord Zedd. And you?"
"Lord Zedd?" Raven repeated. This thing looked--and sounded--nothing like the pathetic bad guy she had seen while watching TV with Mandi. "This has got to be a dream," she told herself. "I've fallen asleep on the couch while watching Power Rangers."
"I assure you, this is no dream," the red-skinned thing, Lord Zedd, purred.
The silver-haired woman smirked. "And to prove it..." Pain exploded into Raven's skull as the woman slapped her. "I am Lady Rita, Zeddie's 'blushing bride.'"
Raven rubbed at her cheek. "I'm Raven Cohen. What am I doing here?"
Lord Zedd chuckled. "My wife and I have had some difficulties ever since our rivals, Mondo and Machina, moved in."
"So," Rita continued, "Zeddie and I created a 'search and find' spell. We needed an ally who was intelligent, strong-willed, and unable to resist our offer."
"We hardly expected someone from a parallel world," Zedd said. "And a human at that." He shrugged. "But beggars can't be choosers, and right now, you are our only choice."
Raven thought for a moment. "What makes you think that I'll go along with this?" she asked.
Rita smirked again. "Because you don't have a choice, either. We've infected you with a magic virus. Do what we say, and you're fine. Disobey, and you're dead."
"So," Zedd purred again, "Are you in?"
Raven sighed. She had decided that she wasn't dreaming, but the alternative was too uncomfortable to think about. Parallel earths, magic... it couldn't be real, could it? But facts were facts, and the fact of the matter was that she breathing on a planet that had no air and an alien witch had almost knocked her senseless. Gritting her teeth, she extended her hand to Zedd. "Like you said, I don't have a choice."
Raven watched Rita pace. "The first thing we need to do is destroy the Power Rangers. Then we can destroy the Machine Empire."
Raven interrupted the witch. "That will never work."
Rita turned toward the human, eyes glittering with anger. "Are you questioning me?" she hissed.
Raven sighed. "No, I'm not. But I don't think you've thought your plan through. If you kill the Rangers, the Machine Empire will know of our existence and launch a full-scale attack. But if we destroy the Machine Empire first, the Rangers will only know that they're gone."
"What about Zordon?" Zedd asked.
Raven thought for a moment before replying, "Zordon only knows what his sensors detect, right?"
"Right," said Zedd.
"And even his sensors can't detect everything, right?"
"Right." Zedd was getting curious.
"So," Raven concluded. "All we have to do is make the sensors think nothing is wrong."
Rita jumped in. "And how are we supposed to do that?"
Raven shrugged. "I don't know. Cast an anti-scrying field, or something."
Rita turned to Zedd with a wide-eyed look. "That's so simple, it just might work!"
Zedd looked at Raven. "What about the Machine Empire? How do we dispose of them?"
Raven shook her head. "I don't know. I don't have enough information to devise a plan, yet. Give me some time."
Zedd looked very thoughtful. Suddenly, he turned and bellowed, "GOLDAR!"
The golden-armored creature hastily snapped to attend his master. "Yes, Milord?"
Zedd gestured to Raven with his staff. "Assist this human in everything she requires."
Goldar sized her up. Small, pathetic, and weak. Why would Lord Zedd and Lady Rita's spell select her? "Come," he rumbled at her. As he left the presence of his master, Goldar found himself thinking, She is cute. For a Human.
Surprised at his own thoughts, he looked back at her. She was so... small. Even the original Pink Ranger was larger that this girl. Goldar himself towered four feet above her head. One accidental slice of his sword could disembowel her. And yet, he sensed an aura of power around her. Best keep an eye on this one, he thought.
"Are you all right?" Goldar asked.
"Huh?" Raven said distractedly. She was still wondering at the ramifications of her actions. She was now working for the "bad guys." Gimme a break, she told herself. There is no "side of darkness." I'm not evil, I just have another unpleasant boss. Shaking all guilt aside, she returned to the task at hand.
"What do you know about the Machine Empire's base?" Raven asked.
"They're using the Moon Palace that Lady Rita built when we were released three years ago. The only major modification that they've made is the mineral mines."
Raven nodded. "And obviously they use animatrons in the mines."
Goldar suddenly acquired a puzzled look.
"They use mechanical workers," Raven rephrased. Continuing, she said, "We could always sabotage the mines, but they would only rebuild. What we need to do is destroy the Palace itself."
Goldar thought for a moment. "Lady Rita could cast a bomb spell."
Raven shook her head. "Mondo and Machina would be able to sense the magic, divine its purpose, and counter it. What we need is Machine Empire technology, something they won't know about until it's too late."
Goldar snapped his fingers. "Mining charges!"
Goldar explained. "When the Machine Empire finds a large deposit of minerals, they use charges to blast the stuff out. We could use those charges."
"Do you know where they're stored?"
He shrugged. "They should be in the armory."
Raven pondered for a moment. "Does the Moon Palace have a defense system?"
Goldar shook his head. "Zordon's Ranger's have never attacked the Palace," he said.
"Then we have a plan. All we need now is a distraction, and we're set."
"You may be getting that distraction sooner than you think." At the sound of Rita's voice, Goldar and Raven turned. "The Machine Empire has launched an attack on the Rangers."
"Good," Raven said. "Rita--"
"Lady Rita," she was corrected.
"Lady Rita, this virus I have, will it allow me to teleport?" Rita nodded. "Good." Raven turned to Goldar. "Are you ready?"
Goldar only grunted in reply.
Raven watched the world around her vanish in a blur of red and orange. When her vision cleared again, she was standing in a hallway. She looked around, noticing Goldar appearing in a flash of fire. "Where to?" she asked him. He cocked his head to one side, as if listening to something.
"Someone's coming," he told her.
Hastily, she joined him in the shadows, and hoped that who--or what--ever was coming was hopelessly nearsighted. Raven held her breath as the tmp-tmp-tmp of boots marching in unison assaulted her ears. There's more than one, she thought with panic. Goldar and I won't be able to hold them off, and the mission will fail. The sound grew steadily louder, and Raven could see gray and silver shapes advancing on their position. "They're gonna see us," she whispered to Goldar.
"I know," he whispered back.
"What are we gonna do?"
"The only thing we can," he replied, reaching for his sword. "Die in combat."
She put her hand on his arm to stop him. "No. You know where the armory is. Go, get the mines. I'll deal with these... things."
"And when I have finished planting the mines..?"
"Then you get the hell out of here."
Goldar looked uncertain for a moment, then nodded. With the ease of a master ninja, he vanished back into the shadows.
Raven bit her lip and looked at the squad of cogs rapidly approaching. Now or never, she told herself. With a rush, she threw herself out of the shadows and into the hands of the enemy.
_Intruder alert! Intruder Alert!_
Well, thought Goldar, as he raced through the halls towards the armory, she sure didn't waste any time. He shook his head in disbelief. Only a Human would do something so noble. He dodged another squad of cogs by ducking into an adjoining hallway. As the metal figures passed him, he realized that the patrols were getting weaker as he neared the armory at the base of the Palace. Raven, he thought in surprise. But how could she have known..?
Shaking his head, he resumed his journey.
The bruises on the Human's face were evident as she was hauled into the main hall. His distaste was obvious as Mondo gripped her chin in his hand. A defiant glimmer in her eyes made him knock her away in disgust. Machina gave the Human a similar treatment, punctuating her revulsion by slapping the Human with her fan. The Human responded by spitting on the floor.
Finally, Mondo faced the Human and told her, "We have connected your nervous system to a lie-detecter. Tell the truth, and you will die painlessly. Deceive us, and you will wish that you were never born. Is this clear?"
The Human just glared at him.
"I asked you a question!" Mondo roared. Angry silence ensued. "Very well," he said, and gestured to one of the cogs. Her face contorted with the pain of a severe electrical shock. When it was all over, she was laying face-down, gasping for air. She took a few shuddering breathes, and pulled herself to her feet. Mondo continued. "We can detect no traces of the Zeo Crystal in your physiology. Why is this?"
"I'm allergic to Zeo energy," she gritted out. Mondo gestured again and the pain resumed.
"May we assume that you are not a Ranger?" Machina asked.
"Go ahead," the Human growled. "I don't look good in spandex, anyway."
Mondo and Machina exchanged a look. "If you are not a Power Ranger, then who are you?"
"Either Mary-Kate or Ashley Olsen. I never could tell the two apart."
"Your insolence will not prolong your puny Human life," Mondo informed her coldly.
She looked up at him with cool fire in her eyes. "Whether you kill me or not doesn't matter. Either way, I still die. Death," she stated, "is inevitable."
"So wise for such a pathetic creature," Machina noted. She turned to her husband. "I doubt we will get any information out of her. Shall we dispose of her?"
Mondo considered. "No. Send her down to the organic experimentation lab. Our scientists may discover something interesting." The satisfaction in his voice was evident.
But Machina couldn't shake the image of the slight smile the Human wore as cogs dragged her away.
There, Goldar thought to himself as the last of the charges had been laid. The armory had been exactly where he remembered it, for that he was grateful. All the way there, he had been worried that Mondo and Machina had the good sense to move it somewhere far, far away.
With care not usually found in a nine-foot creature of his stature, Goldar programmed the charges to go off in ten standard minutes. He then straightened, preparing to teleport out.
He stopped when he remembered Raven. She was still captive somewhere inside the palace, and while she was Human, he still thought of her as an ally.
I can't believe I'm doing this, he thought as he ran back the way he had come.
The robot scientist looked up as the cogs brought in the bound Human. Her dark eyebrows were knitted together and her black eyes were fixed in an angry glare. The scientist ignored it and instructed the cogs to strap her to an examination table. As soon as he was sure she was completely bound, he ordered the cogs away and began his examination.
"I've never actually seen a live Human," the scientist said, chatting away amiably as he methodically removed her clothing. "I've studied cadavers we collected, but that's nothing compared to the real thing."
"I'm sure," the Human stated icily.
The scientist nodded, and reached for a long, metallic probe. Turning back to the Human, he explained, "Now, I'm going to place this inside your nasal cavity and take a cartilage sample. It's important in my study."
"What," she asked. "You're wondering what happens when you stick a metal rod up someone's nose?" She made a face and turned away. "No thanks. I've heard enough about alien abductions to know the result."
"Which is?" The scientist asked, intrigued.
"I get a nose bleed, you return my clothes, and the government tries to cover it up."
The scientist chuckled. "I don't believe I'll be getting those exact results. You see, I'm trying to create a new type of metalloid base which will regenerate itself over long periods of times. It's based on your human ability to heal."
"I see one fatal flaw in your plan," the Human pointed out.
Puzzled, the scientist asked, "And what is that?"
She smiled. "I don't plan on being around long enough for your study."
As Goldar passed the room that used to be Finster's lab, he heard voices. One, obviously a robot, was droning on about some scientific property of regeneration. But he stopped when he heard, "It's based on your human ability to heal," Goldar paused, wondering if he had indeed found his human, and if he had, what he should do about it.
"I see one fatal flaw in your plan," he heard Raven say.
"And what is that?"
"I don't plan on being around long enough for your study."
Goldar burst through the door, growling and brandishing his sword. With one swipe, the robot was lying in pieces, and Raven was looking up at him in total shock. "I thought I told you to get out of here!" she yelled. Then she stopped, shook her head, and continued, "Okay, we can work around this. Get me off of this table and hand me my clothes."
Goldar suddenly noticed her state of undress and quickly undid the straps, trying to touch as little of her as possible. As soon as she was free from her bonds, she scooped up her garments and quickly put them on.
"How much time do we have left before the charges go off?" She asked as she pulled on her jeans and zipped them.
Goldar made a quick calculation in his head. "Less than three standard minutes. We must hurry. Once the Machine Empire realizes that you are gone, they will erect an anti-magic field."
Raven blinked. "Can't we teleport from here?"
Goldar shook his head. "Too much cold iron."
"Gotcha." And the two fled.
If they had stayed to watch, they would have seen the disassembled robot scientist twitch as it tried to reach the alarm panel.
Rita looked up from her meditations. Her husband was pacing back and forth, radiating distress, and it was affecting her concentration. But, she realized, Goldar had been his aide for almost two hundred years before she had come along. In that time, they had bonded as Master and Servant. Sure, Rita was certain that Goldar feared her power, but he respected Zedd's.
And love potion or not, if Goldar died, Zedd would take all of his mourning out on her.
Obliquely, Rita wondered if she and Raven would someday bond to that degree. Rita shook her head at that. Her patience would never allow it. Besides, humans lived for such a short while. Surely the Human would die long before either one trusted the other.
Oh, yes, she had trusted a Human before, Thomas Oliver, during his short time as her evil Green Ranger. Look what happened there. He made it less than a week before Jason destroyed the Sword of Darkness. But even before that, she had noticed Tommy's attempts to break through her control. Every time he broke through a layer of the spell, she had to bind him with another six.
Maybe that was why she didn't trust Raven, even though the Human had been infected with darkness rather that bound by it. Humans had a tricky way of finding their way out of spells. Idly, Rita wondered if their resistance to magic had anything to do with the large amount of cold iron on Earth.
Idly, she wondered what was taking the two so long.
Goldar was practically dragging her along, he was running so fast. And when he'd come to a stairway, he flew, rather than jumped down. Raven didn't blame him. Despite everything she had said to the mechanical monarchs, she had no desire to die, and she figured that she and Goldar had under sixty seconds before the whole palace was blown away. The problem was that
the Machine Empire had a nasty habit of lining the corridors with metal, cold iron, if she judged Goldar's reaction right.
Goldar rounded another corner, muttering what sounded like alien swear words. He lunged forward again, wrenching her arm. Raven gritted her teeth against the pain and hastened her pace. "I sure hope they didn't paint the walls with iron," she muttered.
She stopped suddenly as they passed a hallway intersection. "Wait!" she told Goldar. "I recognize this corridor! This is where we teleported in!"
Goldar looked impatiently at her. "I don't see any resemblance," he rumbled. "Now, come!"
"No," said Raven. "It's the same corridor, I'm sure of it!"
Goldar paused. They had only moments before the charges detonated and destroyed everything within the palace. "All right," he said. "But if this fails, we're both dead."
"Believe me," she said. "I realize that." And she concentrated her entire person on being somewhere else, feeling all the little hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. It felt like she was standing too close to high voltage wires. She dismissed the feeling and concentrated harder on teleporting.
And then she watched the world dissolve into flames.
Zedd looked up as a tower of flame erupted where the palace was located. Used to be located, he corrected himself. Mondo and Machina were probably blown back into trace elements by now, and within hours the Machine Empire would dissolve into chaos.
A familiar surge of energy asserted itself in Zedd's mind, and he turned to see Goldar and Raven materialize. Goldar's normally bright gold armor was dull, almost orange, and had soot smeared across some places. Raven looked haggard, her frizzy hair standing straight up in some places. Her face and arms were covered with ugly purple bruises, and she had a black eye.
"Goldar," Zedd ordered. "Report."
Goldar stood at attention. "Mission was a success, Milord."
And off to the side, Raven smiled.