Disclaimer-Saban owns. Rated highly PG-13. I've toyed around a bit with certain characters' histories and locations and things, and some of this is borrowed, with appropriate modifications, from MMPR: TM. The word si-kathe is pronounced 'see kay-thee', and it's meaning will be explained in the story. If anything is similiar to someone else's story, I did not do it on purpose and am not trying to copy.

Deepening Shadow
By: Phillip Peterson

Karayan's eyes glowed a faint shade of angered gray as she leaned back on her throne. She had never had something disappear from one of her space pockets before, and to have the first thing that vanish be the Zeo Crystal she had stolen was quite a shock to the evil queen. With a breath, she banished away the anger, and refocused her mind. The Zeo Rangers were no more, and there was no one capable of re-infusing them with it's power anymore, since she had broken the link between them and the crystal's power. Such a link, once broken, absolutely could not be reforged.

Absently she ran fingers through her hair and turned her thoughts to something else. With the Rangers now unempowered, they would be on the search for some other method of stopping her. She would have to take care of that, and quickly.

"Scorpina, stand before me." She spoke quietly, and the female warrior at once presented herself. "Take a troop of Lamia down to the Rangers' headquarters and destroy it. Make sure you bring me the heads of the Rangers while you're at it."

Her servant looked a little nervous, then bowed low. "With respect, mistress, I can't do that."

Karayan frowned. In the half-year they had been together, Scorpina had never disobeyed an order, or even said she couldn't. Occasionally she had failed, but she had always tried first. "And just why can't you?"

"The Power Chamber is guarded by a force field," Zedd spoke up from where he and Rita were plotting to themselves in a corner. "Only someone who has a Zeo Crystal or Power Coin can enter, unless directly teleported in from inside." He still felt a slight shudder at the thought of how it had hurt when he'd been teleported inside the Command Center that one time. He hadn't shown it, naturally, but it had still hurt.

The dark sorceress nodded slowly, remembering that she had heard of Rita and Zedd destroying their original Command Center with an implosion device. Apparently the force field was a protection against that sort of thing happening again. She approved of that; she hated enemies who couldn't learn from their mistakes. Despite having stripped their powers from them, these Rangers looked as if they might possibly be a worthy challenge, the likes of which she had never before seen.

"Very well. Work on seeing if you can get rid of that, Finster." She commanded lazily, then ran a hand down the edge of her crystal sword. "Rita, Zedd. What's the turnaround time on Rangers getting new powers? You've ruined their powers at least twice. How long does it take them to get new ones?"

Zedd considered. "Two days, maximum. Though when I drained Tommy's Green powers it took a couple of weeks for him to pop back up as the White Ranger."

"Special case," Karayan waved a dismissing hand. "So, we have possibly two days in which to wreak as much destruction as possible. Not bad. I've brought down entire civilizations in less time."

She glanced up at Earth through the balcony, a considering and calculating expression on her face. Scorpina felt like chuckling, she had seen that look before. It usually preceded the utter annihilation of a planet. The emerald-haired sorceress toyed almost absently with a long strand of hair, then she whirled on those behind her.

"Who wants to have some fun?"

"Ninjetti..." Trey's voice almost seemed to linger over the word. "It has been quite some time since I last saw Dulcea."

The others looked at their Triforian friend in minor consternation. "You know about this place?" Tommy asked. Even as he did so he made a mental note to himself; he was going to have to have a very serious and long talk with Trey one of these days!!!

"I've visited Dulcea, the guardian of the powers, a few times," he admitted. "But never to gain power, it was simply a friendly visit. This will be as new to me as it is to all of you."

Rangers, we must not waste any time. Zordon told them. Karayan will not hesitate to attack Angel Grove while you are powerless. The sooner you can regain your ability to fight back, the better.

Alpha shuffled over. "We can teleport you directly to Phaedos, but it will be dangerous. Karayan will be able to detect the teleportation and she will be trying to stop you!"

Tommy shook his head. "We'll do what we have to do." he said simply. "Keep an eye on the others, would you, please?" he asked Zordon, who simply nodded. The ex-Rangers would be taken very good care of, he knew. The team's leader looked at the others. "Let's do this."

All six of them waited in tense anticipation, then caught their breath as the familiar energies of teleportation wrapped around them, lifting them into the air, out of the Command Center, and shooting across the galaxies to a far distant world.

As they went, Zordon sighed deeply. He wished sending them wasn't the only way to get their powers back, but it was so. When he had given them the Zeo Crystal, he had known that there was that chance they could be ripped away from them. Yet the ancient interdimensional being had devoutly hoped that it would never happen. I should have known better, he mentally berated himself. Rita and Zedd do not have the power it would take to shatter the link I forged between the Rangers and the Crystal, and Mondo and Machina simply didn't know about it. Karayan had the knowledge and the power: and she did it as easily as I could have once snapped my fingers.

He directed his gaze upward briefly, and sent a silent prayer to the gods of his youth that the Rangers would be all right.

And that there would be an Angel Grove for them to come back to.

David Trueheart slowly walked through the streets of Angel Grove, feeling just a little bit scared.

No, that was an understatement. Scared was what you felt if you were dealing with Rita and Zedd, or Mondo and Machina. He was almost in a state of shock after his brief encounter with Karayan. His heart thudded a little more than it usually did when he remembered those merciless, emotionless pearl-gray eyes staring into his own. "There is nothing they can do. Your brother and all his friends will fall to me, David Trueheart. This world will be added to the list of all I have destroyed. It is only a matter of time."

He shuddered again, trying to shove the calm, frozen memories out of his head. Karayan hadn't been threatening, either. She had been stating a perfect fact, or what she believed was a fact, at any rate. And even with all the faith he had in the Rangers, it was impossible for him to deny that she had removed the Zeo Crystal from them with barely a flick of a finger.

"This really doesn't look like the place Tommy described." A quiet voice spoke, and David looked up to see two young girls, just about his age, standing off to one side and looking up at the damage to the buildings, the near-empty streets, and the general aura of shell-shock the entire town had after an attack like this one.

His jaw almost dropped to his knees when he got a good look at the one he thought had spoken. Except for the fact her hair was longer than his and Tommy's, and other obviously female traits to her body, she bore a remarkable resemblance to them both! Not as much as a twin would, but he would have taken a solid bet than they were related somehow. Her friend was slightly taller than she was, with a short crop of golden blonde hair and sapphire-touched eyes. Both of them looked around as if trying to figure out where they were and what was going on.

"Um, excuse me?" he stepped over to them. "I don't mean to pry, but. . .you mentioned a Tommy. Would that be Tommy Oliver by any chance?"

The dark haired girl nodded. "I'm Netis Oliver, his sister. Adopted sister, but you get the idea. Why do you ask?"

David couldn't help but smile. "I'm David Trueheart. Tommy's twin brother."

Netis' eyes widened, and she smiled. "I've heard about you! Tommy told me all about you when he wrote me! It's nice to meet you!"

The two of them shook hands, and then David glanced over at his semi-sister's companion. "And who is this?"

The blonde blushed deeply at the look in his eyes, then said softly, "Lindsey Switcher."

"Lin has relatives here in Angel Grove, so when she heard I was coming back here, she decided to tag along and pay an extended visit to them." Netis spoke with the ease of practice, and in the back of David's mind warning signals flew up. Things were going on between the two of them that he wasn't quite certain of. He took another look at them, and saw something that hadn't quite registered the first time: despite the summer's heat, Netis was wearing a long coat, and keeping it wrapped rather closely about her.

If I didn't know better, I'd guess she was hiding something in there, he thought. He nodded acceptance of her words, however. "Tommy mentioned something to me about his sister coming back a few days ago, but I thought you weren't due for another month or so."

The two girls looked at each other for a moment, then Netis said, "We finished up things early, so we decided to come ahead. I hope that won't be a problem."

"I don't think it will be," David remembered Tommy saying that he was really looking forward to seeing his sister again.

Lindsey glanced around the street, her eyes full of worry. "What's wrong here? Why is it so quiet?"

"Oh, the Power Rangers just got finished with a battle against a monster," David almost shrugged; they didn't need to know that the Rangers had won the battle, and lost their powers. "The people will be coming back shortly."

Netis and Lindsey exchanged curious glances, then both looked back at him. "Power Rangers?"

"Go down to Earth and do some serious damage to the city," Karayan rolled her eyes slightly at the dumb looks that Rita, Zedd, and the rest of her henchmen were giving her. Didn't they have any conception of what fun was? She sighed. "The Rangers can't stop you right now, so go do damage! Teach these idiot humans what it is to fear the minions of evil!"

At last, comprehension dawned in their eyes, and Rita, Zedd, Goldar, and Rito all vanished. Scorpina alone remained, and Karayan sighed as she leaned back and closed her eyes. "What is wrong, mistress?" the golden warrior female asked quietly.

"Nothing, Scorpina. Send some more Lamia and whatever other kinds of cannon fodder these morons have around here down too. Spread them out over the whole city, have them cause as much damage as they possibly can. When the Rangers come back, they're not going to have a home to defend any more."

Scorpina hesitated briefly. "You could flood this world with your creatures." she suggested. Karayan shook her head.

"No challenge in that. And I want a challenge, Scorpina." She reached out once again, as she had for the Zeo Crystal when it had vanished, only this time something appeared in her hand. A tiara, with six glittering crystals set into it. She touched it briefly, then sighed. The plan had been used before, by those rejects who now she dominated. Could she really make it work?

Not just yet, she decided, flipping a hand and having the tiara vanish. And she would have to choose those carefully. Former Rangers had been done, and she knew that such a plan would ultimately end in failure. No, she would have do something far more interesting than that. But she made a mental note to learn as much as she could about everyone who had been or currently was a Ranger. Information like that could come in very handy in the future.

She barely noticed when Scorpina left to carry out her orders. Her gaze instead was suddenly captured by six beams of light soaring past the palace. "The Rangers." her voice was a dark whisper. She could tell where they were going; by their trajectory it could only be one place. "Phaedos."

Karayan growled for a moment, then touched the hilt of her sword for a moment. A dozen Lamia appeared before her; all she could manage at the moment, the rest were down on Earth. She made a note to revisit their homeworld when she had a moment, she would have to stock up on them. They weren't exactly magical constructs, which would have required far more energy to sustain, but a natural species that existed in the Deviran quadrant, several thousands of light-years from Earth. Away from their homeworld, however, they became vulnerable to super-powered attacks such as those of the Zeo Rangers. And I have been using them up fairly quickly. Well, I can attend to that later. She looked at the Lamia before her. "Go to Phaedos and destroy the Power Rangers, and Dulcea." she ordered frostily. "Don't come back until you have either."

The Lamia all bowed before her, then vanished, teleporting off in the same direction the Rangers had. If she was lucky, they would arrive there before the so-called superheroes. The only thing she regretted was she wouldn't have the chance to personally witness the destruction her creatures would cause.

Ah, but such was life. She would have to content herself with ruining this miserable mudball that they called home. After all, you had to start somewhere. And her start was going to be wrecking the residential areas of Angel Grove.

Six columns of light, all in the purest shade of white that marked the unpowered human, landed on a rocky beach on a world that only one of them had ever before seen. Trey glanced around, getting his bearings.

"Dulcea's compound is to the west," he said, his eyes flicking to where the sun was slowly reaching towards the horizon here. "It should take us some time to reach it, she does not welcome intruders, nor many visitors."

Tommy nodded quietly. "Let's hope you can convince her that we're friends."

"I believe I can." the Triforian prince chuckled quietly as he started to lead them along the beach. "We shall see, however."

The six of them headed away from the beach, and Tommy noticed almost at once that Kat was looking rather sad. He moved up closer to her, and put a hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"

"The others." She said it quietly, softly. "Did you notice, Zordon didn't even suggest they come with us. We could need all the help we can get, and he was acting as if they didn't exist."

He nodded. "I'm certain he has his reasons, however. They all chose to leave, for one reason or another, and if things get any worse, then I'm sure he can send them here too."

"I guess so." His girlfriend sighed again, leaning her head for a moment against his hand as it rested on her shoulder. "Tommy, I'm scared." There was no real fear in her voice, however, and he caught one hand in his.

"I know what you mean." Tommy agreed. "This isn't like anything we've ever had to deal with before. I mean, when Rita and Zedd destroyed the Power Coins, it didn't feel anything like this."

Kat shuddered at the double memory, of the Pink Coin being shattered to dust and of the Pink Zeo Crystal almost literally being ripped out of her. She took a long breath as she navigated her way over a particularly bumpy patch of ground and looked around. Adam and Tanya were walking hand in hand not that far away, and Rocky and Trey were deep in conversation at the front of the line. For some reason, she couldn't help feeling as if something were wrong. Then she knew what it was.

Billy. . .of all of them, Billy is the one who should get these powers along with us. Jason, Zack, Trini, Kim, Aisha, they all chose to go on to other things. That had not been the case with Billy. But even as she thought his name, she felt a strange sense that something was waiting for Billy, something very special, that would be his for all time.

Another concern entered her mind. "Tommy, what do you think Karayan is going to do with the Zeo Crystal?"

"Who can tell?" was the reply. "Master Vile wanted it to power the destruction of Earth, but who can tell what she wants it for. It could be to power her own Ranger team, or maybe she needs it for some other spell or who knows. We can try and get it back from her once we've got our new powers."

She nodded. "I wonder if we're going to change colors," she thought aloud. "This Ninjetti powers sounds fairly different from the Zeo Crystal."

"There's a lot we don't know yet." Tommy agreed as they entered what appeared to be a deep stretch of forest. "I guess we'll find that out whenever we find Dulcea." He paused briefly to look behind them, and frowned at something. Was that a shadow moving up there? A high ridge, perhaps a mile or so behind them, would provide a perfect viewpoint for someone to watch them. He shrugged briefly, and headed on into the woods, following the others.

Back on the ridge, a woman clad in a cloak watched them from hiding, her eyes wary. Visitors to her world. . .but one looked familiar. She shrugged to herself, then started back down the trail. She would meet with them in her own fashion, once she had taken their measure. No one came to Phaedos without some reason. Dulcea wanted to know what their reason was.

Emily Roper ducked under a beam and leaned against the wall of a building, trying to catch her breath. She had recovered quickly from the attack on her previously by Karayan, and was feeling a lot better. Well, as much better as a person could feel who had looked into what she'd been convinced was the very face of death itself. She closed her eyes, wondering where Jason was and if he was all right. She had went back home after waking up, and insisting to Ernie that she was more than fine. Jason hadn't been at his home, or at least he hadn't answered the phone if she had.

She hadn't thought anything of it, however. He was going to pick up his friend Kimberly, and they probably had some long-lost friend things to discuss. Emily knew if she ever ran into John, her best friend from the days before she got to Angel Grove, she'd probably be spending all of her time with him to for the first couple of days. Maybe I'll run over later and meet her, she had thought, just before the window of her bedroom had shattered inward. The first thing that had went through her mind was that there was a sonic boom of some sort, the second was the fact something large and disgusting had just entered her room and was glaring at her with a pale face.

Emily's first reaction, and the one she was still having, had been to run like all the hounds of hell were after her. She'd gotten out of the window, grateful that her parents were away for the weekend, and ran straight for town, hoping that with more people, whatever the thing was would forget about her.

In a sense, she was right. That particular one she hadn't seen again, not that she could be sure of anyway. There were, however, quite a few others scouring their way through the city, along with the Tengas she'd seen a few times around. Once she'd even caught sight of Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa, and had quickly avoided them. The last thing she wanted was to meet those two minions of evil.

She closed her eyes for a moment, then jerked them open when she heard the sounds of two sets of footsteps coming down the alleyway she had taken her refuge in. Down the corridor came two people she vaguely recognized: Raymond Foster and Penny Smith. She'd seen both of them in school, though she'd never actually had a conversation with either of them.

Raymond obviously recognized her though. "Emily?" he asked as they drew nearer. Penny was holding onto the wall with one hand, feeling her way gently as well as having her other hand on Raymond's arm.

"Yeah. What's going on out there?" the young blonde asked. Raymond shuddered just a little.

"It's a madhouse out there. Monsters everywhere, and this green-haired. . .thing. .." the genius hadn't seen her as up close and personal as Emily had, but what he had seen was more than enough.

"Karayan." Emily remembered. "She's the new boss in charge of the moon villains."

The two newcomers shivered, not wanting to ask just how she knew that. "I think we need to get out of here. This place is falling apart, and there aren't any Rangers taking care of this anywhere." Penny suggested. Emily remembered that the other girl was blind, though one of the best martial artists they'd ever had in Angel Grove.

"Let's go," Emily stood up and looked both ways down the alley. From one end, she could hear the slithering sound of one of the gray snake-like things coming towards them. She remembered hearing someone call them Lamia, and looked up the other way. That was silent. "That way."

The three of them, Penny going so quickly it was easy to forget she was blind, hurried to the other end of the alley, not noticing the Lamia that slithered into the alley after them, catching their scent and undulating down their trail.

Zedd leveled his staff at a series of buildings, blowing each of them up with methodical precision. The one other time they had done this, they had been interrupted by Master Vile before getting out of the warehouse district. This time. . .they were starting in populated areas.

"Oh, Zeddy, this is so much fun!" Rita laughed as she zapped a few buildings herself, watching the humans inside run for cover. This was even better than being forty feet tall and trashing things! You could see them scurrying away in person now.

Her husband smiled behind his face grille. "I could get to like this." he admitted, then caught a glimpse of green hair as Karayan strolled past, her sword smeared with something he decided he didn't want to look at that closely. It wasn't that he had anything in particular against killing, but if you were going to enslave a planet, why destroy potential workers? Karayan doesn't want to enslave it. . .she wants it a ruined and crumbling heap, he realized. He trembled just the slightest bit; thinking of how her desires could very well be carried out. Then he remembered something else.

As powerful as Karayan was, someone was either more powerful or trickier than she was; they had plucked the Zeo Crystal right from the subspace pocket where the grass-haired sorceress had been keeping it. That worried him more than he was going to let on.

He cleared his thoughts quickly as his new liege lady turned slightly towards him, hoping that she couldn't read his mind as easily as she could a human's. As she headed over, he realized that either she couldn't, or she didn't care what she was reading from him. "Are you two having fun?" she asked, in the same sort of voice that a human would use with their three year old child.

"This is incredible!" If Rita was having the same worries as Zedd was, she wasn't showing it anymore than he was. "We've never had such fun!"

Karayan's lips bent briefly. "I thought not. You really have never had the heart for true destruction. Just as well. I would have hated to miss out on this." She lifted one hand delicately, pointing at the public library. A bolt of lightning shot from the tip of her finger, and zapped the doors apart. "Come along, I'll show you what real mayhem is all about."

Unable to resist her command, and possessed of a morbid curiosity, Rita and Zedd followed her. Karayan ripped the remains of the door off as she came up to them, and entered as if she owned not just the building, but the planet it was built on. Inside, the place was crammed with refugees and those who had been reading there. Karayan smiled coldly as she looked from one to another of them.

"If you want to live, run." she purred at them. "It won't last forever, since before I leave this mudball, there won't be a single living thing left on it. But it might save you some time to be with your loved ones or whatever. You have one second."

No one moved. They looked too scared to. Karayan smiled, then pulled her Crystal Sword out. Nothing like the personal touch for some things.

What occurred after that sent both Rita and Zedd out of the room, sick to their respective stomachs. From behind them, they could hear screams of horror and pain, as well as a high, caroling laughter that could only have come from one being. At a strong stench, they looked down to see a thin rivulet of crimson liquid running out of the door and down the stairs. A few seconds later, Karayan emerged, running her fingers along the edge of her blade. She looked far more energized than she had when entering.

"Where else do the people congregate around here? I feel like killing some more. . .even if it might not be forever." She asked casually. Zedd controlled his nausea with a fight.

"What do you mean, forever?"

The sorceress shrugged. "If the Rangers gain the Great Power of Phaedos, then they can undo time to a certain degree, and everyone I've killed or will kill can return to life. Assuming I don't slice them up like cheese before then. Now, where did you say people gathered around here?"

Zordon stared at the Viewing Globe, Eltarian swear words running through his mind in great detail. Karayan would choose now to unleash a truly major attack on Angel Grove, with the Rangers not just powerless, they weren't even on the planet! He felt like growling, but that would accomplish nothing.

Of course, there isn't that much I can do anyway. Only the Rangers and the Great Power can fix this. He found himself to be grateful as never before that it was the power of the Ninjetti that he had discovered for the Rangers. The research he'd done into it after they had left had told him that with all the Rangers combined, they would be able to use the Great Power to not just rebuild the city, but to bring those back to life who had been slaughtered by the power of evil. In most cases this was frowned upon, but this was a special case, as was every death caused by the power of evil. Fate wove her web carefully, and Zordon could easily sense that all this death and destruction was completely unplanned. As something unplanned, it could be rewoven and respun into what was truly meant to be.

"Ay-yi-yi, Zordon, look!" his little robot companion twittered suddenly. Zordon turned to see a column of glittering golden light standing between him and the back wall of the Power Chamber.

He frowned. Who are you? Even as he spoke the words, however, he could sense the powerful emanations of good coming from whoever it was. Zordon and Alpha both watched in shock as the light solidified into the white-wrapped form of a beautiful dark-haired woman.

"Do you not know me, Zordon?" a soft, gentle voice asked quietly. Zordon's eyes bugged out, even being in his tube.

Dimitria? I had not thought you were still around.

The woman chuckled. "Is it not always my way to conceal myself when I am not needed?"

"True, true." Zordon could hardly believe he was once again with Dimitria, one of the most powerful beings of good in the entire universe. It had been said she was the ultimate embodiment of good, the highest form that a living being could take, but no one knew for certain. All Zordon knew for certain was that she was very secretive, and still kept to her childhood home of Inquirius' speech modes. "But what are you doing here now?"

She floated a little closer. "Karayan stole the Zeo Crystal from your Rangers, did she not?"

"Yes, she did!" Alpha piped up. "We had to send the Rangers to Phaedos to get new powers!

Why do you ask, Dimitria?

The sorceress seemed to smile; behind her veil they couldn't be certain. Then something happened. Alpha's jaw would have dropped if he had possessed one, and Zordon's did, something that had never happened before.

The Zeo crystal, seeming to be twice the size it had once been, pulsed over her outstretched hand. "Are you not pleased to know it has been retrieved by it's rightful Guardian?"

Thank you, Dimitria. Zordon recovered his poise quickly. What will you do with it?

The sorceress glanced at the Crystal. "It is too dangerous for it not to have possessors. It's power has grown vastly, and I believe it should be granted to twelve warriors."

Once again shock ran through the other two, both from what she'd said, and that she hadn't spoken in a question. Twelve? Zordon asked in shock. When the Rangers split it before, it came only to five.

Dimitria smiled, and they could easily see it this time, despite the veil. "They were not the Guardian of the Crystal. I am. I can split it into a thousand shards if need be. But twelve will do. Six of the past. . .and six of the future."

When shall you do this?

The sorceress considered the Crystal. "When the time is right. Tell no one of my coming here, Zordon. You may inform the Rangers that the Crystal is now in safe hands, but say no more. For the sake of our old friendship, I ask this."

He bowed his head. "As you wish."

They weren't quite sure just how long they had been walking, but it had been some time. Night was falling, yet no one even considered stopping. This place was too strange, even for Trey, and they didn't dare risk sleeping in some place that might have wild beasts or who knew what in it.

"Are you certain we're going the right way, Trey?" Adam asked their friend. The Triforian looked quietly around.

"I believe we are. It should not take us that much longer to reach Dulcea's compound."

Kat glanced up at the unfamiliar stars shining overhead, and shivered a little. "I hope so. I don't like this, really. Earth is on the verge of total invasion while we're traipsing about here."

Tommy tried to comfort her. "Anything that Karayan has done, we'll undo as fast as we can once we get back."

She smiled weakly at him, then shrieked, an unaccustomed sound from her. He turned to see what it was that had frightened her, and felt like screaming himself.

A dozen Lamia stood, if that was what it could be called since they had neither legs nor feet, a bare foot away from the two of them. "Guys, we've got trouble!" Tommy's leader instincts kicked in without so much as a pause. "Big trouble!"

Six people scattered as far from the creatures as they could, knowing that they didn't stand a chance in Hades of destroying them. That little miracle could only be accomplished by Weapons of the Power, and that was something they no longer possessed.

The Lamia appeared to know this, and though their expressionless faces gave nothing away, the Rangers would have all taken a serious bet that they were enjoying it. The twelve of them split up into teams of two, each of which slithered after a particular Ranger.

"I don't think this is what I had in mind for my nice 'visit Phaedos for vacation' time!" Rocky shouted as he ran from the Lamia. It went against his gut instincts to flee from anything, but with the problems they had had with the Lamia before, he wasn't going to stand and fight them from the front, at least not without something that sort of vaguely resembled a weapon. He jumped up to a tree he saw with several low-hanging branches and scampered as quickly as he could to the top, turning to see what the Lamia were doing. Hopefully leaving, he thought.

Instead, the two that had been following him looked up for a moment, then began to entwine themselves about each other and the base of the tree, constricting like the snakes whose bodies they wore. Rocky gulped. The strength evident in those coils made him very afraid, with or without his powers. As they started squeezing, Rocky wondered if it were possible for him to find another tree before it was too late.

The other Rangers weren't in much better shape, as they seized on any opportunity to either get away from the Lamia, or somehow bash them around. Tommy and Adam had both taken up large sticks and were smacking on two of the things that were after them, while Trey and Kat had found themselves running side by side, and straight into a patch of rocky ground, which had provided them with some weapons, though they weren't doing that much good.

We need help. We need POWER! Rocky thought helplessly as he could hear the tree he was in starting to crack. He looked around, hoping for something that would get him out of this, for anything that would help. Nothing seemed forthcoming, and his eyes bulged out at the unmistakable sound of the tree doing a touch more than cracking: he could feel it starting to fall, and taking him with it. A shriek of fright and pain as a large shard of the tree stuck in him sounded throughout the woods as Rocky began to fall towards the open and waiting mouths of the Lamia below.

David almost literally scuttled past a troop of Lamia and Tengas, then peeked back to where he had come from. With a twist of his hand, he beckoned Lindsey and Netis to follow him. The two girls did, far more silently than he had imagined they could when he had first met them. It was obvious Netis had had some form of martial arts training, and that Lindsey hadn't. His semi-sister moved with a flowing grace that only years of training could provide, while Lindsey looked just a little. . .clumsy. Nothing that couldn't be fixed, with time and practice, but right now, it could be a liability.

Wish we had some more people with us. The very thought of that was almost terrifying, though. They had seen Karayan from a distance, blasting entire groups of people with her sword, when she wasn't carving them like cheese. It seemed the more people there were in a group, the more chances there were to draw her attention. So far the three of them had managed to get through without harm, but who knew how long that would last?

In a matter of mere hours, Angel Grove had changed from a safe city protected by the Power Rangers, into a screaming madhouse, with not a scrap of a defender in sight. David, of course, knew why, but he couldn't tell anyone. All he could do, and what he was doing when not trying to get his new friends to something that closely resembled safety, was pray that his brother and the rest of the Rangers managed to somehow either get the Zeo Crystal back, or get new powers.

Guess we'll know sooner or later, he decided. He hoped that in the meantime, there was still some form of city left to save. With the way the forces of evil were trashing every thing in sight, not even noticing the rescue forces of police and fire department moving in, that seemed less and less likely with very breath.

"Whoa!" his head jerked around at the unfamiliar voice, and he saw three other people coming towards his group. He didn't recognize two of them, but one he did know, as Emily Roper, girlfriend to Jason Scott. It was the boy with her who had spoken. "This is not looking good!"

"The Power Rangers will save us." It was the other girl with Emily who said this, and David realized with a start that she was blind.

David cleared his throat a little, glancing at his companions, who were looking at the newcomers with something that resembled curiosity and fear both, and a touch of. ..was it . . .welcome? "Who are you guys?" he asked, wanting to be certain of identities before they did anything else.

"Emily Roper," she introduced herself quickly. "This is Raymond Foster and Penny Smith. What about you guys?"

"David Trueheart, Netis Oliver, and Lindsey Switcher," Tommy's brother introduced them all. Emily nodded; she'd seen him in the Youth Center with the others, but hadn't ever been properly introduced to him. "Where are you guys headed?"

Emily shrugged. "Nowhere in particular. Just away from all of that craziness," she peeked out at the massacre going on in the main square of the city, and all of them shuddered. "What about you?"

"Heading out of town if we can. That could be the safest place until all of this blows over."

Netis bit her lip, looking back behind them. "Do you really think it will?" she didn't look afraid, more like. . .angry.

"We have to think it will." Penny's voice was quiet. "The Rangers have never let us down before, and they never will." There wasn't even a hint of doubt in her voice. She knew it the way she knew how to breathe. The confidence in the Rangers was a true part of her being.

David nodded, then stiffened when he heard a caw from outside. Only one thing sounded like that: Tengas. He checked the other way out of their hiding hole, and felt nauseous when he saw a pair of Lamia slithering up it. We are in DEEP trouble

Karayan had divested herself of the unwelcome company of Rita and Zedd; she'd sent them to destroy other parts of Angel Grove. She didn't think they'd do as good a job as she could, but it got them away from her. She preferred solitary destruction as much as possible. She didn't have to worry about companions becoming nauseated by her choice of death.

Those Rangers better not come back with the Great Power, she groused mentally. I don't want to have to kill all these people twice! Then she perked up a little, as another thought went through her. Then again, that could be fun! I could try out different methods of death on them, maybe make it long and lingering. . .That could wind up being a great deal of fun! Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if the Rangers did come back after all.

With a slightly lighter heart, she started off through the park, casually blasting trees and bushes and the occasional romancing couple as she went. The queen of destruction hummed as she ripped a tree up from it's roots and threw it aside. This was the sort of thing she lived for!

"Halt right there!" the sound of a male's voice interrupted her pleasure, and she turned to see several of Angel Grove's finest police officers in front of her, with weapons drawn and pointing. "You are under arrest!"

Karayan almost laughed. "You really don't mean me, do you?"

"Yes, we do!" the speaker declared. "Surrender and we won't hurt you!"

The dark queen smiled quietly. "Surrender, and maybe I won't hurt you!" before they could even begin to consider what she meant, she raised both hands. Double streaks of blood-red lightning lashed out at them, and each of them heard her voice in their ears in the moment before death. "Then again. . .I don't accept surrenders."

Karayan brushed her hands off, glancing briefly at the pile of ash that had been a dozen officers only moments before. She had always enjoyed hands on destruction, just like her ex. A smile touched her lips, a real smile, at the memory of him. Her first love, first lover, and only husband. Ivan Ooze.

When she had been just a young girl, barely pubescent, Ivan Ooze had passed through her tiny village. She had been captivated at once by his amazing good looks, though she knew as a morphological being he could appear as anything he wanted to. Karayan had run away from home when he left, and followed him. She'd managed to convince him to teach her dark magic, and as the years had went by, the two of them had fallen head over heels in love. When she had reached her maturity, they had been married. Together they had unleashed a reign of terror unmatched upon the universe, until the day he had been lured to Earth, and trapped in a hyperlock chamber by a group of Zordon's first warriors. She hadn't seen him since then, and eventually had gone on to take other lovers and conquer other worlds for their empire.

Wait. . .Earth. . .and this is. . .she could hardly believe it! She hadn't even thought about the fact this was the same world her husband was on! Could he still be here? She closed her eyes for a moment, concentrating, letting the wash of her evil will spread out over the entire planet. When she discovered what she wanted to know, she almost fell over. He wasn't just on Earth. . .he was in Angel Grove!

Quickly she teleported herself to an abandoned construction site and smiled. She could see deeper into the earth than their machines had dug, and if they had moved just a trifle more dirt, then they would have uncovered her beloved. Karayan found herself to be just as glad they hadn't, she wanted to unearth him herself. She extended one hand over the deep hole, and chanted softly under her breath, words no mortal tongue could have pronounced, nor mortal ear understood. A pale greenish glow came from the hole, then from inside a metallic, claw like hand emerged, holding a violet egg in it's clutches. A tap of her Crystal Sword caused the hand to open up, and she laid her fingers delicately on the egg itself. "Time to wake up, my love." She whispered quietly. "I've missed you."

Rocky didn't care how he sounded as he fell towards what he was convinced was his death. The scream felt perfectly natural, but getting caught on the way and safely deposited away from the monsters that had come to within a hair of eating him for lunch wasn't quite what he had expected to happen next.

As he looked to see who had saved him, his jaw dropped. A tall, sun bronzed woman with a emerald leather outfit on was standing there, carrying a long staff in one hand. "Stay here." she said firmly, then leaped back towards where the Lamia were twining.

"Who in the world is that?!" Tommy breathed as he and the others joined Rocky in staring at the newcomer. The ex-Blue Ranger shook his head.

"Darned if I know. She's good though!"

Good didn't begin to describe the actions they were seeing. Whoever she was, she moved with a fluidity and a grace that dwarfed theirs on their best day. Her staff seemed just as capable of destroying the Lamia as any of their Zeo weapons had been, as was proven when she slammed it into two of the creatures nearly simultaneously, causing them to melt away. With a backflip she landed in between another two fearlessly, and tapped the staff against them with incredible strength.

The Rangers could only, did only stare as the stranger easily dispatched the creatures. Kat was almost positive she didn't even break so much as a sweat while she did it, either! When the last of the Lamia had fallen to dust that blew away with a soft night breeze, the woman turned to them, her staff still in her hands. Her eyes narrowed briefly.

"Who are you and what are you doing on Phaedos?" she asked sharply. Trey stepped forward.

"Do you not remember me, Dulcea?" he asked quietly, his hands held out. She stared at him for a moment, then a wide smile broke across her face.

"Trey! I had not expected to see you here!" she looked a little closer, then frowned. "What has happened to your powers?"

The Triforian prince lowered his head briefly. "Karayan has attacked Earth. She ripped the Zeo Crystal from me and from the other Zeo Rangers."

The warrior glanced at the others. "I presume these are those others?"

"Yes. We need the Great Power. It is the only thing she cannot remove from us, Dulcea."

Dulcea shook her head. "Had the Zeo Crystal been properly bonded to you, then it wouldn't have happened. But the power of Ninjetti is both mine to bind to you, and seated in your souls, so that it is doubly impossible to remove. You will also need it to undo the damage Karayan has been doing to your world." She looked at the group, her eyes almost seeming to be luminously glowing for a moment. "You will need a Blue Ranger. You do not have one among you."

Rocky shook his head. "I was the Blue Zeo Ranger."

Dulcea smiled faintly. "But you will not be the Blue Ninjetti. I sense other colors within you all, familiar ones to you. Another shall join your team here, one who has been trained by me."

"Who?" Tommy didn't like the sudden addition of someone to his team without at least some prior notification. When Tanya had joined the team, they had went through a major change of powers, location, and everything else at the same time, it hadn't seemed quite like that. With this...he wasn't quite certain.

The warrior woman only smiled. "You will learn. Come along." She turned briskly and started off deeper into the woods, plainly expecting them to follow her. With a quick exchange of glances, they did.

Hands were the first thing Karayan saw, hands of a violet tint rising up from the ooze. Arms formed after them, then a body she recalled in perfect clarity emerged, forming from ooze into solid purple toned flesh. The face was shaped last, and Ivan Ooze lived, and moved, again.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Ooze is back in town!" he cackled, and Karayan couldn't help but laugh.

"Oh, my love, you have not changed a trifle!" she reached a hand out fondly to him, and Ooze took it, recognition filling his violet eyes as he did so.

He smiled briefly, leaning over to brush his lips against her hand. "What took you so long to come, Karayan?" he asked. "It's been six thousand years after all."

She shrugged. "I've been busy. And I wasn't powerful enough back then to release you. Besides, Zordon and his Rangers were here and I didn't want to risk them getting in the way."

Ooze's eyes darkened. "Zordon is still alive!?"

"Yes, though not for lack of half the universe trying to change it. Let me catch you up." Karayan touched her fingertips to his forehead, and a spark of violet-green light darted between them. Ooze absorbed it quickly, filing away all the knowledge and experience that his wife had went through since they had been parted.

He nodded quietly when he was done. "The Rangers will be returning, you know."

"Yes." Karayan shrugged. "But until they are back, we can have quite a lot of fun. And I want to introduce you to my flunkies. Some of them used to run things around here, and they keep trying to have unique ideas."

Ooze snorted. "You've got to be kidding. Rita and Zedd have unique ideas? The closest thing they've ever had to one of those was deciding what outfit to wear!"

The reunited evil couple chuckled, then Karayan finally helped him out of the egg he'd been in, and ran her hand across his head. "It's been quite a while, Ivan. I've really missed you." To anyone who knew Karayan, they would have been shocked to hear true and honest longing in her voice. Ivan Ooze was the one being who had ever been able to arouse emotions in her; it was one of the reasons she had fallen in love with him. Her other flings had all been ones of simple lust or convenience, something to occupy her spare time. Her time with him had been because they had both wanted and needed each other.

"You have kept busy while I was away, though, haven't you?" Ooze knew what she had been doing, thanks to the spark of knowledge she had given him. He was a trifle peeved that the single offspring she'd had wasn't his, but practically speaking, he simply wasn't capable of fathering children without extensive magic that neither of them had access to.

"Naturally." Her eyes glinted mischievously. "But it was just busy-work. Something to occupy me while I was learning more. I've been looking forward to someday finding you, though. And now that I have. . ." she let her voice trail off as Ivan pulled her closer to him, wrapping his arms around her in a hug that she had not known she had missed until it was with her once again. Once again she felt complete as their lips touched, and she felt a fire of destruction building up in her soul that had not been there for millennia. Her eyes danced with pleasure as they parted just briefly. "We have a great deal of catching up to do," Ivan told her, and they both knew that he was not talking about discussing what life had been like imprisoned in a hyperlock chamber or what sort of mischief she had been up to while traipsing around the universe wrecking various planets.

"That we do." Karayan turned slowly so he could get a full view of the city they were in; she knew better than anyone what got him thinking down the paths she herself already had in mind. Ivan nodded at the smoking holes where buildings had been, sobbing humans over the flaming corpses of their families, and shrieks of pain from those being lashed by Tengas or chased by Lamia. The city was almost completely under her control, and if she got really lucky, it would be too far gone for the Rangers to stop when they returned. The sweet irony. They go to all that trouble to gain new powers, but when they return...all they defended is mine already. And nothing they can do can stop it. Once she had Angel Grove firmly under her thumb, she would spread out over the planet, and once that was done. . .she would destroy it.

Tommy's eyes widened as they turned the final corner and they could see above them a spread of ruins, cloaked about in shadows and magnificence. He had never imagined something that incredible could exist on this planet!

"What is that?" he breathed. Dulcea turned around to look at him.

"These are the ancient ruins of the Ninjetti Temple." was her answer. She pointed across the pile, to a dark blot against the horizon, and something just barely visible as a darker shadow against the sky. "Beyond the Neola Jungle lies the Monolith. Inside lies the power of the Universe. In a hundred thousand years of my guardianship here, no one has ever survived an attempt to reach it."

Kat took a deep breath. "Can we do it?"

"I trust Zordon's wisdom in choosing you to do this," Dulcea told her. "And the Power will know if you are ready or not. We will call upon the sacred animals of the Ninjetti. And upon my last student."

She turned to something they had not yet seen, a shelter so deeply hidden in the vines and leaves surrounding this place that if you didn't know it was there, you would miss it completely. "Come out, please. These are friends."

There didn't appear to be an answer for a few moments, then a curtain of vines moved aside and a young person stepped out. It was impossible to define him as either boy or man. Tommy judged his physical age to be no greater than fourteen, at the greatest, but the way he moved and the evident strength made him certain that this young man was easily as good a fighter as he was, and there was a slim chance he might be his better. He wore a blue loincloth and boots like Dulcea's, and his eyes were calm and appraising as he glanced at each one.

"Who are these, Dulcea?" his voice was quiet and firm, and Tommy felt an instinctive bond between the two as their eyes met. It was something akin to what he had felt for Jason when they had met, but slightly different.

The warrior woman came over to stand beside the newcomer. "These were sent by Zordon, Karayan is attacking Earth." Quietly she introduced each of them, then put a hand on the blue-clad one's shoulder. "This is Justin Stewart. He comes from Earth, as you do. His parents were killed in a car accident some five years ago, and I brought him here as he had no living relatives." Her eyes flashed. "He would have been placed in one of your orphanages, had his mother not been a close friend of mine."

Rocky's jaw dropped. "I didn't know anyone on Earth knew about life on other planets! I mean, besides us!"

Dulcea smiled briefly. "It is not a common occurrence. But she found her way to Phaedos when young through an unusual series of circumstances, and we became friends. When she died, I was able to spirit Justin here, and have trained him as a Ninjetti Warrior." She looked at her young charge for a moment. "Do you remember that I told you the day would come when you would achieve the state of becoming a true Ninjetti Warrior and a Power Ranger, and would return to the world of your birth?" Justin nodded quietly. "That day has come."

She turned to the team. "It is truly your decision, and his, if you will join forces to bring down Karayan and her recently unearthed mate, Ivan Ooze. I cannot and will not force such a teaming upon you. But you could each use one another's help."

The Rangers glanced at each other; Justin was young, but they had seen Dulcea fight, and they could tell Justin had been trained by her. Another Ranger could always be of help, and in the situation they were in, help was always needed. One by one, each of them nodded, Trey first of all. He had not met Justin before, but he trusted Dulcea's judgment.

Justin glanced at each of them. It had been some time since he had been on Earth, but he had learned how to be a Power Ranger from one of the best warriors in the universe, and he had had it drilled into him over and over that you could quite literally trust any Power Ranger with your heart, body, mind, and soul until the very end of time. It didn't matter that they were strangers. They wouldn't be much longer. He nodded his own assent, and Dulcea turned as he did to the large fire pit in the center of the ruins.

"Let us begin." she said, throwing a powder into the flames as the Rangers formed a half-circle around it. "Buried deep within each of us, is an animal spirit waiting to be released." She intoned. "Close your eyes."

Seven pairs of eyes closed, and Dulcea began to concentrate herself, casting her will out to the differing Sacred Animals spirits. She had an idea of what Justin's was, after the years she had spent training with him, but the others. . .slowly each image formed in her mind, and the reasoning behind it. Her lips twitched silently as the seven were wreathed in light of varying colors, and as it faded, each was clad in a Ninjetti warrior's uniform. Tommy, Rocky, and Adam all stared at theirs as their eyes opened, with looks as of purest shock. She sensed that they had borne similar power at one point in time, and to have it once more like this was incredible to them. She started over to Justin, who formed one end of the half-circle in his brilliant blue garb.

"Justin, you are the Lynx, cunning and wise," she told him. He smiled briefly, knowing that their long relationship as student and teacher had ended at last. He might visit, but never again would Phaedos be his home. She went on to red-clad Rocky.

"Rocky, powerful, smart. You are the mighty Ape." the reborn Red Ranger couldn't believe this; it was so like when Ninjor had given them their Ninja powers, but so unlike as well.

Dulcea stepped over to Adam, who was frowning. "Adam. . .Adam, what's wrong?"

"I'm a Frog." The new Black Ranger said forlornly. Dulcea chuckled a little and nodded.

"Yes, a Frog. Like the one you kiss to get a handsome prince!" she leaned over and brushed her lips against his. He smiled a little, straightening his black outfit, and stepped over to Trey.

Of all the males who had come to Phaedos, Trey alone remained in the color he had arrived in. Dulcea glanced him up and down. "Trey, my friend, you are the Eagle, swift and skilled."

The Triforian prince nodded as she went on next to Kat, who was trembling with both nervousness and joy at the creature displayed upon the coin embedded in her pink uniform. The Ninja robes she had worn before had never felt as if they fit her quite right, since the power of the Crane wasn't hers. But with this, she felt whole at last. "Katherine, you are the Panther, sleek and strong." Dulcea told her. The young Ranger smiled warmly at the warrior, who clasped her shoulder gently, and then turned to the other female of the team.

"Tanya, you rise to the heavens with your voice, and your strength supports that of your comrades as well. You are the Hawk, brave and fearless." Dulcea told the Yellow Ninjetti. Finally, one and all, they turned to Tommy, who stood in the White he had always felt the best in.

She slowly walked over to him, smiling. "You, Tommy, are the Falcon, winged Lord of the skies." She liked the way his eyes lit up, then turned to face them all. "To be in harmony with the sacred animals is to have the force of the Ninjetti. To those who are Ninjetti, anything is possible. But you must do this on your own."

Tanya's eyes widened. "You're not coming with us, Dulcea?"

The warrior shook her head. "If only I could. But if I stepped beyond this plateau, I would age to the point of death. But be at ease. Justin knows the ways of the jungle, and your sacred animals will be your guides." She raised one hand to them, her eyes glowing a soft warm green at them. "May your Animal Spirits watch over you." With a flicker, she became a snowy owl and flew away.

"This is not good." Raymond muttered as he backed up a little closer to Emily. The two groups of semi-refugees had become one slightly larger group of people facing off creatures that had given the Power Rangers a hard time. None of them even felt a bit of confidence that they could do anything to keep themselves from being eaten, or whatever it was these things would do to them.

David's eyes were hard. He wished he'd been able to talk Tommy into giving him a communicator, he would have at least been able to try and teleport this group somewhere safe. Though explaining how that had happened would have been most interesting. No time for that now, he reminded himself. We have to get out of here.

He glanced quickly from end to end of the alley where they had all met in, judging what was going on. Tengas were coming in from one end, Lamia slithered up from another. They were boxed in. . .or were they? He glanced up, hoping. . .yes!!!

"Guys, up there!" he leaped even as he spoke, not giving the enemies a chance to do anything to stop them. His hands caught on the fire escape above, and he flipped to land deftly just above them. Moving as fast as he could, he hurried up to the next level, waiting for the others to join him.

Emily was the one who came next, and she bent down to give a helping hand to Penny, which turned out to be unnecessary. The blind martial arts did a flying leap up to the landing above David, then turned her face back down. "Are you people going to wait there all day, or are you coming?"

Raymond muttered something acidic under his breath as he started crawling up, and Netis and Lindsey said things even worse and louder. Their reasons weren't quite the same as his, however.

"Those things are getting closer!" Netis shouted as the young computer genius scampered up the fire escape to where the others were gathering. "Lin, go!" Lindsey scuttled after Raymond, and all five watched as Netis turned to where the Tengas and Lamia had coiled into one group and were edging towards them. The bird-things were cackling and taunting them all, while the Lamia simply slithered closer. Netis stood her ground firmly, however, her hands going slowly to the throat of her coat.

Lindsey looked down, paling suddenly. "Netis, no!" she cried out, the first loud sound she'd made since any of them had met her. Netis glanced briefly up, and they saw she was. . .of all things, smiling. "I'll be all right, Lin. And I'll be right up. I just want to clear some breathing room before I start climbing."

She looked back at the things, which had come closer, and her smile broadened. "I give you a fair warning," Netis Oliver said quietly, firmly, as she began to slide the zipper of her coat down. "Leave me and my friends be, and I won't harm you. Persist in this, and you'll regret it."

"Awww, she's trying to make us scared!" one of the Tengas squawked. "Let's get her!"

The creatures charged, Netis threw her coat open, and pulled out something from inside of it. The others couldn't see what she was doing at first, but then as she moved quickly through the ranks of her enemies, they could see what she carried, and was using with great efficiency.

A sword.

A long, sharp, two-handed sword.

She didn't kill with it as she slid and danced her way through the creatures. She didn't even maim. All she did was use the flat of the blade to get them out of the way, to get them to fall back just enough to give her the room she needed to grab onto the fire escape with her left hand as she slammed her blade back into the sheath David could now see. It had been covered by her coat before, though it obviously was designed not to interfere with her walking or running or movement of any kind. Then she did something he would have taken a level bet was impossible.

Hanging on by one hand, with a group of fairly angry Lamia and Tengas below her, she triple backflipped off the fire escape and landed neatly on both feet in front of the others. Four stared. Lindsey slowly, and a trifle sarcastically, clapped.

"Now that you've proven you're the finest si-kathe in Angel Grove, or at least the stupidest, do you think we could get out of here?" she said calmly.

The sun had just barely peeked over the horizon, but the Rangers were already making their way through the Neola Jungle. Justin had advised as early a start as possible, both to avoid the heat of the day and to time is to that the night-dwelling creatures had went to sleep, and the day-dweller had not yet arisen. They would cover as much ground as they could before things became too dangerous.

"Where did you live, before you came here?" Rocky and Justin had fallen in side by side together, and the Rangers had been telling their new companion of the adventures they had had since being chosen to defend their world.

The Blue Ranger smiled quietly. "Angel Grove. I think I'll be going back there, too, once this is over."

Rocky blinked in surprise. "That's where we're from! Well, except for Trey. He's going to need a place to stay, too, once we go home again and fix whatever Karayan's doing to the place while we're gone."

Kat's voice drifted up to them from behind. "I think I might have an answer for both of you. If you wouldn't mind sharing a room, that is. And participating in a small. ..lie."

The Gold and Blue Ninjetti both looked back at her, and the whole group moved closer together. "What is it?" Trey asked; knowing he would almost have to go along with it, if no better options were presented. He didn't want to live in Pyramidus; it wasn't really suited for periods of long-term habitation. The only solution was to find Earth-lodging, and how to do that, when he had no identification and no way of getting any, had been eating at the back of his mind of some time now.

Kat smiled. "My parents have a fairly large garage just behind the house, with a furnished two-bedroom apartment on the second floor. We could tell them you're a pair of brothers in need of a place to stay, and we could arrange something for you to pay for it."

The two semi-strangers glanced at one another. "I've never had anything like a family, not since my parents died, except Dulcea," Justin said quietly. "She told me I would have a new one someday, though."

Trey smiled faintly. "I have a family on Triforia. And though this might be a fiction for convenience on Earth, I think they would be glad to know that I have a family here as well. I trust Dulcea's judgment as I do Zordon's, and if she said you would have a new family. . ." the young prince glanced at the others quietly. "There is no better place to start than with the Power Rangers."

Justin smiled in return, but whatever he might have tried to say after that was lost in the harsh howling cries of a pair of things that attacked them. There was no other word for what they were, both were covered in gray hide, with sharp claws and bat-like wings on their shoulders, despite the fact they had four feet. Tommy shouted quickly, "Get out of the way!" even as they were all spilling to the sides and turning to get a good look at whatever it was that was attacking them.

The two creatures turned, one to one group of Rangers, one to another. Glistening sapphire-blue eyes stared at them, set under heavy brows of what looked to be solid bone. Tommy saw himself reflected in them, and stood still, all the will draining from him. The creature that had thus captured him literally licked it's lips, stepping towards him with a surprising delicacy.

Kat, who kept a constant eye on her boyfriend, saw what was going on. "They must be hypnotic!" she recognized the effect as similar to one that Rita had used on her. "If we can break the gaze, he'll be all right."

"How can we do that?" Rocky shouted from the other side of the other creature, where he, Tanya, and Adam were trying to avoid being caught the same way Tommy had been.

"Let's see if they're vulnerable to each other!" Justin cried out, dodging from a half-hearted swipe by the one that was gazing firmly at Tommy, who seemed completely held frozen by the creature. He exchanged a quick glance with Kat, who nodded, information and a plan passing between them with an ease and accuracy that belied the fact they had only met hours before. Together, the Pink and Blue Rangers charged in between the monsters.

"Hey, ugly!" Kat shouted, pounding on the hard shoulder of one of the creatures. "Look over here!" it wasn't exactly the most creative thing she could think of, but it seemed to be working as the creature turned it's head slowly. Kat moved quickly, jumping on top of it's head and seizing the neck in as strong a grip as she could manage. The Ninjetti power flowing through her helped, but she sensed that when they achieved the Great Power, that would make this look like this made their regular human forms.

Justin kicked at the creature that had Tommy in it's mental grasp, and pulled on a small thing that must have been an ear. "He's all stringy! I'm young and juicy!" the Blue Ninjetti taunted. They didn't know if these things understood, but either the pulling or the words were definitely causing both their odd enemies to do as they wanted. Kat's began to turn away, as Justin's followed suit. The two Ninjetti both leaped away from the creatures, then stood back to back for a heartbeat, their eyes closed and waiting for the right moment. . .

"Now!" Trey shouted, and twin forms of slender pink and blue leaped away from the monsters, who for the first time, stared into each other's eyes. There was a moment of absolute silence, then a massive explosion of breath as Tommy felt himself released from the prison of the creature's eyes.

"Tommy, are you all right?" Rocky touched his friend's shoulder with worry, and was relieved when the White Ranger turned back to him.

"I'm fine. Now. Thanks, guys," their leader's welcoming gaze touched Kat, and she smiled back at him. "Thanks a lot."

Everyone had to come over to give Tommy a warm hug welcoming him back to the world of those un-eaten, then he turned to look down the path to the Monolith, still rising boldly above them, clear and sharp in the light of the sun of Phaedos. "Let's get going."

Ooze liked the way Karayan's emerald hair fell all around him in a glittering cloud of evil as he held her close to him. He was quite proud of her; she had certainly grown and matured from the slightly callow and inexperienced sorceress he had married. He had been unaware of all that she had done during her time alone, but he approved of it all. Well. ..giving up their empire he could've done without, but they really didn't need it these days, and they could take it back at any point in time they wanted to.

"Look here," Karayan flicked a finger and the image on the viewscren changed to show six humans, two males and two females, running across the tops of the buildings of Angel Grove. One of the females was being helped by one of her male companions, and one of the others was in the back, a long-bladed sword in both hands as she kept a group of Tenga off their backs. "Quite amusing, isn't it?"

Ivan barely spared a glance. "Why don't the Tengas just swoop down on them and beat them senseless?"

"More fun this way, my dear," Karayan replied. "Besides, I do believe that the si-kathe there is more than capable of handling their defense. For now, at any rate."

"Si-kathe?" Ooze vaguely recalled the word, which translated roughly as 'warrior maiden' from a planet he and Karayan had conquered just prior to his incarceration.

His wife nodded. "I don't know how she's learned the art, but she's one of them. I thought they were extinct, actually." A slight frown marred the space between her eyebrows. "I suppose I'll have to fix that. If it becomes widely known that an enclave of si-kathe survived my purge, then my reputation will suffer."

Ivan tilted his head to the side. "Just what are si-kathe?"

"An elite band of warrior women. Well, that's not entirely accurate." Karayan told him. "The si-kathe are to elite what elite are to normal warriors. They formed an intregal part of the society where they began, always serving the leader of their people in some capacity or other. I managed to subvert their chief of their people, that was how I brought them down. I thought I'd disposed of them all."

The morphological being next to her simply shrugged. "Worry with it later. Even if she's tough, she's just a human, and we have more important things to worry about. Besides, how many centuries has it been since then? She can't possibly be anything like the ones we had to deal with then. We have something else to worry about." He reached out and switched the view of the screen to show the Power Chamber, sitting in perfect security in the deserts. "We have to do something about that. It's just waiting for the Rangers to come back again."

Karayan nodded slowly, her eyes narrowing as her thoughts turned over plan after plan. "The usual ways to destroy it won't work. They have some form of forcefield to protect it."

"So, we try something else." Ivan threw one hand out, causing two globs of ooze to fall off. They began to reshape themselves into solid forms, growing the whole time. "My monsters here, Scorpitron and Hornitar, can and will crush any sort of petty 'force-field' their headquarters is protected by and will bring it down once and for all. With that gone, the Rangers will be child's play to defeat."

Karayan's lips thinned briefly. "I do believe I shall set a new record for conquest. I've not even been here a day yet."

Ooze grinned himself as he pulled her over to him, then looked surprised when she pulled back. "We can play later, Ivan." the tone of her voice was quite serious. "I want to send your little toys out over to the Power Chamber and watch them stomp it flat." Her eyes glinted briefly. "I want to see Zordon broken, bloody, and bleeding almost to the point of death." Her sword appeared in her hand and she lifted it before her, gray eyes reflected momentarily on the blade. "Just before I slam this into his guts and pull them out on it."

They had traveled for perhaps half a day when it happened. It was totally unexpected. Since the confrontation with the creatures, which as far as the Ninjetti knew were still staring at each other in that clearing, they had traveled with eyes, ears, and every other sense possible wide open, ready and waiting for anything that could happen. Anything except what did happen.

The trees cleared ahead of them, and they entered into the presence of the Monolith.

"Whoa. . .we've found it." Tommy stared in purest shock and amazement at the structure rising so proudly ahead of them. It looked even more magnificent here than it had back on the plateau. Slowly the seven of them stood in a semi-circle, wondering just what it was that they were supposed to do next. All felt as if there were one last test to be passed before they achieved the Great Power. But what could it be?

Tanya slowly lifted her eyes up from the Monolith, pulled by something she could not name, and her jaw quite literally dropped when she saw what was hovering over the building. "Guys. . .I ..uh. .oh, wow. .I..."

Adam looked over at his girlfriend, then up to see what it was she was looking at. He almost felt as if he should drop to his knees at what was looking calmly back at him. One by one, the others looked, and the same incredible feeling of awe and majesty swept over them.

A magnificent silver dragon was sitting on a ridge over the Monolith, looking down at them with wise violet eyes. "Welcome to the Monolith, humans." a silken voice spoke from it's maw. "I would assume you are here for the Great Power?"

Tommy took a deep breath and stepped forward. "Yes, we are. Who are you?"

"I am Tilon, Watcher of the Monolith. Only those who pass the three Trials may claim the Power of the Universe. You passed the first when Guardian Dulcea looked into your souls and released your Animal Spirits. You passed the second when you combined skill and wisdom to defeat the Halfway Guardians. And now you face me: the third. Three riddles will I ask you, and if you fail to answer even one, you are my next meal." A full set of very large, sharp teeth gleamed at them. "If you answer them all, then you will be empowered with the Great Power, and return to your world to fight against the evil of Ivan Ooze and Lady Karayan. Do you agree to this, or will you leave now, and not attempt this any further?"

The leader of the Rangers didn't even have to look at his friends. "Ask your riddles. We'll do our best."

"Then so shall it be." Tilon spread his wings briefly, and then swiveled his head down to look directly into Justin's eyes. "This is my first riddle." the dragon smiled briefly. "They come at night without being called and are lost in the day without being stolen. What are they?"

The Blue Ninjetti could feel his mind racing. Dulcea had trained in logic puzzles, riddles, deep thinking, philosophy, and the knowledge of the Ninjetti as well as their physical prowess. He couldn't remember all the nights they'd sat talking about a thousand different things, lit up only by the stars overhead. ..wait. .that was it! He smiled. "The stars."

Tilon nodded briefly, approval glinting in amethyst eyes. "Quite wise, Lynx Ninjetti. And the next riddle goes to he who leads your team." Draconic eyes turned onto Tommy next. "Through wind and rain I always play, I roam the earth, yet here I stay; I crumble stones, and fire cannot burn me; yet I am soft- you can gauge me with your hand. What am I?"

Tommy gulped, thinking hard and fast. What could such a thing be? Contradictions within contradictions...things that weren't as they appeared to be. He could hear the dragon breathing, so close to him, and it had to be a long time between meals here, what if they got it right, and he ate them anyway? He'd never again see his family, the Earth would be destroyed, he wouldn't walk by the ocean with Kat.

And just as with Justin, his mind seized on a random thought. Quickly he ran it through the riddle, and then smiled. "The ocean. The answer is an ocean."

Once again the dragon smiled, and with deep pleasure. What might incite that pleasure, none of them dared think. "Very well done. And one yet remains." Slowly his eyes flicked from one to another. "Who shall answer the third? For upon them there rests success. . .or failure." Violet eyes darted from one Ninjetti to the next, and a blood-red tongue slowly slid out to lick across his lips. Rocky clenched his teeth briefly, and Tilon at once looked at him. "You. The Red Ape Ninjetti. You shall answer the last riddle."

It was all Rocky could do at that moment to keep himself from passing out. He knew he was brave, but this was a dragon staring at him, and the fate of the Earth resting in his brain. He steeled his nerves. "All right. Ask it."

Tilon gazed into his eyes, and the Red Ranger had a feeling as if someone was staring into his very soul. Then he spoke. "Some will use me, while others will not, some have remembered, while others have forgot. For profit or gain, I'm used expertly, I can't be picked off the ground or tossed into the sea. Only gained from patience and time, can you unravel my rhyme?"

The Red Ninjetti felt as if his brain stopped working. No one could answer that! It didn't have an answer! It wasn't possible! He opened his mouth to say it. . .and couldn't. He couldn't give up, not that easily, not without even trying to answer it. He closed his mouth and his eyes, his mind churning, repeating the words over and over in his mind, thinking. I wish Billy were here, he would have this thing solved in a second.

"Well, Red Ninjetti?" Tilon's breath was hot on his face, and Rocky's eyes flew open to stare directly into the orbs of the dragon.

"I. .." Rocky bit his lip, closing his mouth on the words. Billy. . .you were always good at riddles. What are you doing now? Is Karayan leaving you and the others alone? She could probably use someone as smart as y---his thoughts halted dead in their tracks. "Knowledge. Knowledge is the answer."

Tilon reared up suddenly, claws hovering over them all. For a brief second, Rocky thought he had answered wrong: until the silver dragon let loose with a mighty roar, and the Monolith began to open up. "They have touched the Sacred Animals. They have proven their strength, their courage, and their wisdom. Their world needs them. Let the Great Power bless them and the world they defend honor them, for they are the Power Rangers!"

Light poured out from within the Monolith, forming into small transparent images of their spirit animals that flew all around them. They all stared in delight and rising anticipation and need as the images flew into each of them, filling each with power and wisdom and knowledge and skill that so far expanded beyond anything they had ever known that it was completely indescribable. For a moment, their minds went completely blank, and then. . .

"Whoa. . ." Tommy uttered the first word as each began to return to wakefulness. He glanced down at himself and almost fainted. Each of them wore armor almost identical to what they'd had back in the Ninja days! It had been enough of a shock that their Ninjetti uniforms were like the Ninja ones, but this was something entirely different! He once again bore the white mantle, and Saba was by his side. He glanced over at the others; each but Trey wore a familiar uniform. Trey's was in the same shades of black and gold that his Zeo outfit had been, but now he wore no mantle over his shoulders. He didn't appear to miss it, however.

"This is incredible!" Justin breathed, sounding like the teenager he was.

Kat nodded, staring down at the gleaming Panther symbol on her chest. The first person who makes a Pink Panther joke is getting kicked...she thought, her lips twitching momentarily under her helmet. She glanced at the others, fond memories of other days going through her mind. For once, however, the power and uniform she wore felt completely natural to her, as if she were born to it. As if it were meant to be hers, completely. And she knew, that this time, it was.

Tilon spoke quietly. "It is time for you to go home. Your world is in deadly danger. Karayan and Ivan Ooze have struck hard and are slowly crushing all resistance to your people. Remember this: to those who are Ninjetti, all things are possible. And you are Ninjetti. Be well, Rangers."

Since the departure of Dimitria from the Power Chamber, everything had been quiet. Zordon had entered a meditative state, while Alpha had puttered about keeping an eye on the city and setting up something so they would know when the Rangers started back from Phaedos.

I hope they found the Power and could claim it, the little robot thought. He worried a great deal about the Rangers. As he thought that, he remembered the other Rangers on Earth. The ex-Rangers. Quickly he touched the controls, scanning the planet to make certain Billy, Trini, Zack, Jason, Kim, and Aisha were all right. The results that the scanners gave back shocked him straight down to his metallic core. "Where are they!?" he muttered. "They're not on Earth!" Thinking quickly, Alpha scanned the Lunar Palace, checking for any recent mass teleportations into or out of it. All he came up with was the journeyings of Karayan and the various other dark entities. No traces of a being of good entering or leaving it were detected. Could she fool the sensors somehow? he wondered, glancing up at Zordon's darkened tube and wishing his master were there. Zordon would know what to do. He always did.

Alpha glanced over to his recharging booth, wondering if he dared enter it. He could use a serious bit of down-time, but at the same time, he didn't want to miss anything if the Rangers did come back, or if Karayan tried something too dangerous, something they might have to stop from the Power Chamber, if possible. He checked the scans again; if nothing came up on them, then he would go ahead and rest, after putting a notice to Zordon that the ex-Rangers appeared to be missing. Perhaps Zordon knew something that he didn't; it wouldn't be the first time. Alpha still had no idea just how the wise wizard had known which five teenagers were to be the first Rangers. That was just one of the things that made Zordon what he was.

The robot suddenly went completely and utterly stiff. Fear filled him as it never had before, even when he'd seen the evil Green Ranger ripping up the Command Center. Quickly he slammed a hand down on a specific button on one of the consoles, sending a shrieking message directly to Zordon's private meditation chamber. The tube flared almost immediately into bright light, and Zordon's face appeared in it.

Alpha, what is going on? Zordon looked worried; his robot ally knew better than to try and alert him like that unless something was very wrong.

"Ay-yi-yi, Zordon, look!" No words would explain what he brought up on the Viewing Globe. It just was. Two huge creatures, Zord-size at least, possibly bigger, were casually marching through the desert, on a straight-line course for the Power Chamber. One looked like a giant scorpion, the other was a huge hornet. Zordon recognized them both.

Scorpitron and Hornitar. Ivan Ooze's favored battle machines. They won a thousand worlds for him, long before he ever met Karayan. No one has ever defeated them. Zordon's voice was calm. If he lost his cool, he knew they were doomed. Has there been any sign of the Rangers, Alpha?

"No, Zordon!" Alpha moaned. "And I don't know if I can reach them in time!"

The wizard nodded, staring at the Globe for a few moments, thinking. The Power Chamber hadn't ever really been designed for offense. It's purpose, like that of the Command Center before it, had been that of a headquarters for those involved in the fight against evil. But when he and Alpha had designed this place, they had put in a few extra things that should help. Power Rangers are sworn never to attack, always to defend. His eyes began to grow hard as his mystic senses reached out to sense the Rangers on Phaedos, and his heart warmed to feel that they were all right, and would soon be home. But until then. But Alpha and I are not Power Rangers. And we are defending our home. Alpha, charge the main weaponry. We will fight.

They had outrun the Tengas. The Lamia couldn't even follow them up on the roof, or if they could, they hadn't. The six teenagers, with Netis' sword now once more hidden under her coat, found themselves curled up in what they hoped was going to be a nice safe building, far from the destruction, and with everyone listening for any sound that the bad guys were coming.

David turned his eyes almost immediately onto Netis as soon as they thought they'd been safe long enough. "What in the world is a si-kathe, why are you one, and where the heck did you get that sword?" were the first things he asked. She sighed, her eyes flicking directly to Lindsey.

"You had to go and say that word, didn't you?" she half-growled. Her friend only shrugged.

"These are our friends now, and it was an emergency. Besides, in case you didn't notice, you were the one who was pulling out your sword and showing off your teachings."

Emily cleared her throat. "I'd like a couple of answers myself," she said quietly. Netis sighed and shrugged.

"Short version is, the si-kathe are a race of warrior women from another planet. Their world got ruined by some interstellar invader and the remnants of the group scattered over the universe. Five clans came to Earth, interbred with humanity, and refounded the race, teaching the si-kathe arts to their female children. A few thousand years passed, and my mother and aunt were born. Aunt Mina lives up in Oregon, and runs what looks like a girl's boarding school there. What it really is, though, is a camp for si-kathe trainees." She glanced at each of her new friends. "When Mother was fifteen, she and Aunt Mina had a severe disagreement, and Mother renounced her si-kathe heritage and ran away to Angel Grove. She met my father, they got married, had me, and later adopted Tommy, since Father wanted a son, and those of si-kathe breeding can only have daughters. Mother didn't intend for me to ever know about my ancestry, until four years ago when I was in a car accident. I was. ..fairly well banged up." her eyes flashed at the very memory, and Lindsey touched her hand gently. At the contact, Netis continued. "Regular doctors healed my body, at least most of it. I would live. But my mind, my heart. ..my soul, in some cases. . ." she took a long breath. "Those were things that no doctor trained solely with Earth methods could possibly have figured out how to fix. The only ones who could were those trained in si-kathe. Mother wanted me to live. So she contacted her sister and made amends. I got sent there, supposedly to heal up. That was the public reason, and part of the private one. While I was there, Aunt Mina didn't just heal me. She trained me."

Slowly, Netis pulled out her sword and held it so they could all take a look at it. "This was given to me the day before we left. It's well over fifteen thousand years old, and has been handed down from generation to generation in my family ever since it was founded. It's called Eltival. That translates roughly into, liquid light." She tilted the blade briefly to let a flash of sunlight blaze off it, then thrust it back into the sheath. "I really wasn't supposed to leave for another month, but I got rather eager to see my family again. Besides, Lin was leaving and I wanted to go with her."

Everyone's attention turned to Lindsey, who looked calmly back at them. "The short version is, I'm si-kathe too, only not from the warrior class. I'm a healer. My mother helped Netis recover, and the two of us trained together in some things. We're partners, which is why she came back with me. si-kathe partners aren't separated. Ever. Except by death, and there are legends that say that can be fixed to."

Quiet reigned briefly. Finally, Raymond spoke. "So . ..what are you doing in Angel Grove?"

"We're not here to take over, for one thing," Netis replied. "We'll help fight, if it were absolutely necessary. The only fight the si-kathe clans ever lost was the last one." Her eyes darkened, remembering something it seemed. "But we fight only if we have to. Lin has a mission of her own, though, and I will help her with it."

Lindsey nodded quietly. "I'm to find the Lost Children. Our legends say that though five known clans came to Earth at the same time, certain others landed later. They didn't know that the original five were here, and they blended much deeper into human society than our ancestors. There's a chance that by now they've forgotten where they came from. Our job is to find them and reintroduce them to their heritage, if they want to learn."

Penny was about to say something, when they all stopped, hearing the sound of slithering scales. The six leaped up and headed out without another word, David in the lead, Netis behind, sword out and ready to defend her newfound friends against anything.

The trip back to Earth was nothing like the trip from it. For one thing, there was one extra member on the team this time, and the power they had made the Zeo power feel cheap and tawdry in comparison. Tommy felt almost like laughing, if the situation they were going back to wasn't so darned serious. Dulcea and Tilon had both told them that Karayan had more than Rita, Zedd, Goldar, and Scorpina in her service now. The descriptions they had been given of Ivan Ooze made all seven of them just a trifle chilly.

Scared out of our minds is more like it, the White Ranger thought to himself as they neared Earth. One thing he had noticed was that while point-to-point transport on Earth took less than a second, going anywhere off-planet took anywhere from five minutes to hours. Between Earth and Phaedos was a half hour trip, and combined with the time they'd spent there, he figured they had been gone from Earth roughly twelve hours.

Somehow, that just didn't figure with the amount of destruction that they saw as they materialized back in Angel Grove, unmorphed. No one noticed them arriving, however. No one could. No one was there to notice. The entire square of the city where they landed was completely deserted, except for a few burning vehicles.

Justin glanced around, looking nauseated. No one could blame him; this wasn't exactly the best way to see your old hometown after a few years away. Trey put a hand on his shoulder to steady him.

"Why did we land here and not at the Power Chamber?" Tanya asked, clenching Adam's hand tightly. "We need to check in with Zordon and Alpha."

Tommy nodded. "Well, it was Tilon who sent us back, so he probably didn't know just where to aim. Let's teleport." he raised his communicator and touched it. The moment he did, a crackle of static flickered through, and they heard Zordon's voice.

Rangers, you have returned!

"Uh, yes." Kat said, her voice a little confused. "What's going on, Zordon?"

Ivan Ooze and Karayan have sent two monsters, Hornitar and Scorpitron, to attack the Power Chamber. We are defending as best we can, but we cannot hold out forever. Various teams of Tengas and Lamia are rampaging in the city. The evil leaders were there as well, but appear to have left by now.

Tommy thought fast. He immediately dismissed the city, for now. They could deal with the Tengas and Lamia later, one on one. The defense of the Power Chamber, being immediately under attack, was what he as thinking about. His mouth opened and he started snapping out orders. "Kat, Tanya, Adam, Trey. You guys take care of Scorpitron. Rocky, Justin, and I will kick Hornitar's rump. Once we've got that out of the way, we can get back to town and start fixing things up here."

Rocky rolled his eyes sarcastically. "Not a problem, leader-man. And what are we going to do after lunch?"

Tommy grinned back at him; it had sounded rather simple. "We'll figure that out after lunch. After all, you're cooking."

"Oh, great, we're all dead then," Adam teased. Justin and Trey glanced at one another; not having been privy to how the Rangers would tease one another on occasion before a battle. Tommy took a long breath suddenly, and turned to face all of his team.

"We've got new Zords. We've got new Powers. Let's send these creeps packing." He flicked a hand and his new Power Coin, brilliant gold with the image of a falcon emblazoned on it, appeared. "It's Morphin' Time!"

For the first time in forever, they called out their new morphing phrases.

"White Ranger Power!"

"Black Ranger Power"

"Pink Ranger Power!"

"Blue Ranger Power!"

"Yellow Ranger Power!"

"Red Ranger Power!"

"Gold Ranger Power!"

It was time to kick some butt.

From the top of the mountain on which the outer shell of the Power Chamber rested, where once the Command Center had been, something slid out from one of the openings. A laser that was as far beyond the things the governments of Earth were capable of as those were beyond a matchstick emerged, and turned to the north, taking aim at one of the two monsters that was slowly marching towards them, causing the terrain to shake uncontrollably. From a similar porthole on the other side came a second laser, and this one sighted on the second monster.

"We are ready to defend, Zordon," Alpha's voice held no unsteadiness whatsoever. Neither of them could afford it. Despite the Rangers racing towards them at top speed, there was still the chance that something fatal could happen before then. The only way to stave it off was to keep calm and do their level best to get these two creatures down before then.

Fire, Alpha. Zordon had never liked ordering troops into combat, but when it came to defending himself and his home, he had always believed in 'the best defense is a good offense' theory. They had failed once when Rito and Goldar had destroyed the Command Center. In the silence of their hearts, and he knew that Alpha had such a one, despite being an automaton, they had both sworn that there would be no more destruction of their home. Once had been more than enough.

Alpha manipulated the buttons and controls, firing one shot after another at the creatures, which had just entered their range. Not one laser missed, but Alpha, if he were a betting robot, would have wagered they didn't even scratch the surface! "What are those things made out of!?" he grumbled uncharacteristically, triggering a scan. He was remembering programming that he hadn't used in thousands of years, back when he had been a war-aide for Zordon during the Great Wars. Back when Rangers had numbered in the thousands of thousands, and those thousands had fallen by the scores to the talons of. . .he forced his mental processes away from that part of his memory bank. It would do him no good now. Instead, he scanned with one side of the control panels, while firing on the others with the other.

Zordon watched, wishing he could take part in this. I don't know if I could do anything to help, if I were fully in this dimension, but I could at least try. That was one reason he hated what Rita had done to him. Trapped like he was in this time warp, he could just watch as his students and trainees lived, fought, and died. If the Command Center was destroyed, he would be fine, just unable to speak with any of them, and unknowing if they were alive, dead, or otherwise. When Tommy, under Rita's control, had wrecked the consoles of the Command Center, a minor version of that had happened. During the Command Center implosion later, he had come close to losing his link to their world, but was able to transfer himself to the Power Chamber before he did. If the Power Chamber itself was destroyed, he had no idea what would happen.

That won't be, he swore to himself as Alpha fired again and again. Somehow, in some way, they would save themselves this day, or the Rangers would get there in time. The Rangers always got there before things got out of hand. That was their job, and they were very, very good at it.

Zordon checked the sensors again, looking to see what sort of damage had been done to the monsters and how close the Rangers were. Words older than the planet he now called home formed in his mind as he cursed Ivan's powerful battle machines. They were damaged just a little. Just enough to annoy them more. But then, raw joy ripped through every particle of his being.

In a streaking blast of pure glittering power, seven Ninjetti Zords crossed the horizon and barreled towards the two monsters. Zordon could see three out of the seven were air-borne, and the four ground ones were zooming almost as fast as their companions could fly.

Then the ancient wizard quite literally did a double-take. Seven Rangers!?

The throne room had not quite been this crowded since the wedding of Rita and Zedd. This time, it looked a lot better. Karayan's redecorating had changed the place. Though she was a high monarch of evil, she did enjoy attractive surroundings, as humans termed the things. It was something she'd picked up over the last few centuries.

Just as on that wedding day, today was a day of celebration. They had caused enormous amounts of damage in Angel Grove, thousands upon thousands of deaths, and Ivan Ooze's monsters were about to start stomping all over the Power Chamber. Things just couldn't get any better than this.

Karayan was seated on her throne, casually ignoring Rita and Zedd as they did was Squatt and Baboo had done for years, huddle together and mutter to one another. She knew something about those two old, feeble-minded monsters that they didn't. In their own time, Squatt and Baboo had been mighty warriors and mages, lords of their own empire. They had been bound together since youth, to always protect and be with one another. Then they had made a mistake. A simple one, but a mistake all the same, and it had cost them not only their empires, but their magic and an enormous amount of pride and esteem. By now, thanks to the effects of their mistake, they had forgotten they were anything but the idiots they were.

She almost felt sorry for them. Almost. She took it more of a warning not to overreach herself, to always be certain she was capable of something before taking it in hand. They had tampered with the seals of the universe, and unleashed something that they couldn't control. It had taken a war to set things right again after that. Though it had ended a thousand centuries before Karayan's grandmother had been born, she had learned the story and the lessons behind it quite well. It was also one of the reasons she destroyed every planet she came to. She liked the feeling of people screaming and dying under her will, but she also liked knowing once she left a place, there wasn't anyone left to do anything else about her deeds. Not even raise a complaint.

A glance around the room showed everyone here was obviously enjoying the victory party. Well, semi-victory party. You couldn't really call it full out winning until all your enemies were nothing but dust underneath your feet and their very memory had been wiped away from the soil of the planet they came from. Which generally happened thirty seconds prior to the moment she crushed the world they had defended through various spells.

I could just destroy this world now. Cast the Infinite Destruction Loop and stand back and watch as this world tears itself apart. She replayed a few mental images of the worlds she'd ruined that way. Those were always fun to watch. She decided not to do that here, though. Amazing as it might sound, she was having too much fun to just wreck things.

"Your Majesty! Your Majesty!" Scorpina had been keeping an eye on Earth, and everyone turned when she called. Karayan lifted an eyebrow.

"What is it?"

"The Rangers are back! And they're going after Lord Ooze's monsters that are attacking the Power Chamber!" the warrioress declared. Karayan frowned. This wasn't good. Then something else occurred to her. Ivan had unleashed these things to destroy the Power Chamber. If the Rangers stopped them, then he would get a chance to see just how powerful she had truly become since their separation. He had seen in his mind the changes and events that she had lived through, but he still had no real idea of how she had grown because of them. Now could very well be a perfect time to show him.

She could see him looking at her, with everyone awaiting her command. Her lips twitched just the slightest bit. "Let us watch the battle then. Surely Ivan Ooze's fierce battle mechanisms can defeat a few paltry Rangers." The viewscreen shimmered into being, showing a panoramic display of the battlefield, and Karayan was thankful she had eliminated emotion from her life.

Otherwise, she might have been sporting a very wide smile of triumph.

Trey, Tanya, and Tommy sent their Zords flying higher and higher into the sky, reaching for the greatest height they possibly could. Like the three birds their Zords were based on, eagle, hawk, and falcon, they would strike from above for their first attack. Down below, the battle had already begun with the other Zords.

Kat felt herself growling in concert with her PantherZord as it leaped forward to fasten claws and teeth onto the back of Scorpitron. She could see Justin doing an identical movement with his smaller LynxZord on Hornitar. She bared her teeth beneath her helmet, her hands curling into claws within her gloves. For a moment, she remembered how it had felt when she was Rita's cat, when she would sleek through the night in her feline form and simply be an animal, neither good nor evil, just herself. ..

With a shake, she pulled herself back to reality, and punched the button to send PantherZord flipping away from the monster. "Missiles fire!" she snapped, thinking now only of the fight and of what they needed to do. She could save her daydreams for some other time. But are they daydreams? Kat couldn't help but wonder.

Adam touched a control, and his FrogZord's tongue shot out to wrap around Scorpitron's waist, holding it in position for Kat's missiles to land in perfect position all around the thing, just as Rocky's ApeZord got a powerful grip on Hornitar, doing his best to squeeze the ribcage into pieces, as Justin fired lasers of his own at it, just barely missing the Red Ranger. He couldn't help himself as he chuckled, "Tongue-tied and twisted!"

"Save the bad humor for later, Adam!" he heard Tanya's voice coming over the communications system. "And guys, you'd better get out of the way, air force coming in!"

Four Zords either released monstrous captives, or stopped firing on them. The monsters wavered in place, not sure what was going on. They were of minimal intelligence, like most monsters, aware of what was going on around them, but not much else. They knew that their target had fired on them, but had stopped when these things appeared. Now these things were backing away. Before they could reason their way to any more conclusions, something else arrived.

Something like approximately fifty tons of supernatural metal traveling at a speed that by all the laws of nature wasn't even possible. Of course, where Power Rangers are concerned, nature has a tendency not to pay that much attention to rules.

Trey and Tanya both dug their talons deep into Scorpitron; she hit it high, and he hit the monster low. Scorpitron howled in agony as its metallic skin was ruptured, and Tanya's HawkZord beak pecked all around its head and shoulders. Trey lifted off, flapping EagleZord's wings quickly, then diving again, from not quite as great a height, to pin Scorpitron's tail to the ground.

"I think the only way we can destroy this thing is to rip it apart!" Trey shouted to his flying partner. Tanya nodded, then set herself more firmly in her chair and got ready to rumble.

Tommy was having a much more difficult time as his FalconZord struggled with Hornitar. "I think I'm going to be sick," he muttered as he fought to maintain control. Then he flipped on his communicator. "Guys, I'm going to need some help over here, this thing is tough!"

"On the way!" Kat replied at once, firing missiles even as she started over. The shots soared over his Zord's shoulder, tearing a hole in Hornitar's own shoulder. All of them winced at the unearthly howl the thing let loose with, echoed moments later by the dying screech of Scorpitron as Tanya and Trey quite literally tore it to pieces.

Hornitar stared for a moment at where it's partner had been, and then turned a malevolent gaze at the Rangers. Tommy had the word out of his mouth before another thought had passed. "MegaZord!"

It happened in a moment. Only in a moment. Seven Zords shifted, merged, and combined. Where seven had been, now one stood. Lynx and Ape were the arms and hands. Hawk and Eagle were the torso and head. Panther and Frog were the legs. Falcon was the helmet and a pair if vast wings on the back. It was huge. It was dangerous.

And it looked extremely pissed off.

Hornitar, furious as it was over it's companion's death, had the proverbial snowball's chance in the flames of an evil afterlife. The Rangers had had enough. They had a city to take care of. Friends to check on. They were exhausted. To the extreme.

A single thrust with the NinjaSabre to Hornitar's midsection took care of it. Simple, undramatic, and noisy as the creature exploded. Tommy took a long breath. "Come on, guys. Let's go home."

The End. . .for now