They had failed. Even as he ran with the other rangers out of the temple, the knowledge that he had failed Jason and Kim ate at him.
He could not rejoice in the defeat of Maligore, nor in the knowledge that Bulk and Skull had ended up saving Lerigot and his family from dying in the temple. He stood in the cockpit of the Turbo Megazord, watching Bulk and Skull make fools of themselves yet again but he could not find it in him to laugh. Yes, they had won, but his friends, his teammates, his family, had not made it off the island.
His head rebelled at the thought even as his heart mourned.
He knew he was worrying his team. He hadn’t broken down yet. He hadn’t cried, raved, threw a tantrum. He showed no emotion at all as he went back to training with Adam and Richie, a last minute replacement for Rocky. He gave the customary smile when they won the money, but his friends could see it held no real warmth.
Zordon was worried.. The old mage hadn’t said anything, but he could see it in his face whenever the rangers were called on to fight the returned Rita and Zedd. He knew the giant head, and Alpha as well, knew of his nightmares. Where Jason and Kim, the evil plain in their eyes, cursed him for their deaths.
It was Goldar, ironically enough, who finally got the Red Ranger to show emotion. It was the winged monkey, his bitter rival of several years, who finally gave him something to live for.
Goldar claimed Jason and Kim were still alive. Evil, yes, but alive.
And Tommy believed him.
One Week after Maligore’s Destruction It was shaping up to be the tournament of the century. Assassins and would-be warriors had turned up from all over the cosmos when it was discovered the Great Flame of Destruction had created two children on the eve of his wedding to Divatox. Evil, ruthless, and former power rangers, they swore to have their revenge for the death of their father. But first, they needed an army.
It’s like moths to a flame. The woman smirked as she heard her brother’s thought.
Yes, moths, drawn to the great flame of our heritage. She agreed.
Half of these half-wits are worthless. He sent back derisively. The woman’s lips twitched.
True, but we’ll need some of these half-wits to keep the rangers occupied. She reminded him. He growled, startling two wannabe’s nearby. Her snickering was cut short when the taller man grabbed her roughly to stare down into her red eyes.
“Focus, wench! We have things to do and not enough time to do it!” He snarled. The people around all froze at the man’s words, hardly breathing as the two flames stared one another down. Finally, the man formerly known as Jason snarled and let the woman go.
“We begin!” He roared. The warriors cheered in response. The woman slinked off to the side, her eyes raking over the gathered warriors. Feeling nothing but derision for those who looked less than human, they had excluded all monsters from this tournament; their court would be all human.
“You fight! The last 7 warriors left standing will be our generals!” He shouted and the crowd watching roared their approval. Leaving him to the fight, the woman formerly known as Kimberly made her way into the crowd of onlookers, searching for the pirate who had tried marrying her father. She finally found her screeching to Rita and Zedd.
“…and they won’t listen to me! I’m there mother, for Spector’s sake!” Divatox screeched. Kimberly’s expression hardened.
“We have no mother. We need no mother.” She snarled. Divatox whirled around in outrage.
“If it weren’t for me, you’d still be goody-two-shoes!” Divatox yelled. Without warning, the pirate was dangling in the air, Kimberly choking her.
“You are pathetic. My father would have never given you the time of day had he known what a moron you are. Now stop you’re screeching woman!” She snarled before throwing Divatox to the ground. Turning around, she found Zedd eyeing her appraisingly.
“I always knew you’d be wonderfully evil, Kimberly.” He smirked. She raised an eyebrow, looking him over.
“Call me Khetala.” She told him. Zedd’s visor glowed red in pleasure.
“And what of the former Red Ranger? What is he going by now?” He asked. Khetala smirked.
“He insists on being called Jereth.” She informed him in a bored voice. Rita frowned, half annoyed at the attention Zedd was paying the former pink ranger and half annoyed at the flippant attitude Khetala was showing them.
“What is your plan, Khetala?” She spat. Khetala smiled as the crowd cheered. Looking to the center ring, Khetala smirked when she saw the 100 warriors had been reduced to roughly 30; she could just see familiar gold armor flashing through the crowd.
“Why should I tell you?” She turned her attention back to the Empress. Rita sneered.
“I can give you pointers on being evil, my dear. I’ve been doing it for a long time.” She replied. Khetala rolled her eyes.
“I think I can manage, thanks.” She commented dryly. Rita pouted.
“My Lady Khetala?”
Khetala turned around, surprised to find a woman standing just behind her. Khetala raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”
“My name is the Lady Hecate, my liege. I’ve come to offer you my services.” She murmured, bowing. Khetala smiled, pleased at the subservient attitude.
“Why should I accept your services, Hecate?” She asked curiously. Hecate looked up, her eyes flashing green.
“I am a sorceress, my Lady. I can create monsters and footmen for you.” She replied. Khetala eyed her hungrily.
“What kind of footmen?” She demanded. Hecate smirked and waved her staff. With a flash of light, half a dozen female warriors and half a dozen male warriors appeared. Khetala approached them, looking the foot women and men over. Absently she heard Rita, Zedd, and Divatox gasp.
“Those are Keres, the spirits of the Dead!” Rita whispered, gob smacked.
“Where did you find them?!” Zedd demanded. Hecate eyed him disgustingly.
“Ah ah ah, now that would be telling. And you, Zeddie, do not have the power to order my court around.” Khetala broke in smoothly. Zedd growled.
“Why you little upstart!” He went to stalk towards her but the 12 Keres’ stepped in front of Khetala. To the side, Hecate smiled, pleased. Khetala watched, amused, as one of the male Keres’ stared at Zedd with contempt.
“You will not harm our Princess.” He snarled. Zedd’s visor glowed red but before he could say or do anything the crowd cheered again and Jareth’s voice could be heard congratulating the victors. Smirking at her rival, she waved a hand at Hecate.
“Let us go and introduce you to Jareth. He’ll be pleased with what you have offered.” She told her. The Sorceress smiled evilly as Khetala looked over her shoulder at the fuming Zedd and Rita.
“By the way, by order of Maligore’s children and by the decree of Dark Spector himself, I’m ordering you back to Earth to keep the rangers occupied. Do not tell them of our survival or you’re deaths will be long and…torturous.” She informed him before leading the way to the center ring.
Rita looked at Zedd, fuming. “That little bitch! She can’t order us around like some-some-PUPPY!” Rita screeched.
“Actually, she can.” A new voice broke in, amused. Rita and Zedd turned around to find them face to face with Astronema, Dark Spector’s adopted daughter. Zedd barely stopped himself from stepping back.
“What do you mean?” Zedd demanded. Astronema smirked.
“Have you forgotten who Dark Spector is? Maligore’s brother, and Khetala and Jareth’s uncle. He’s made them Princess and Prince of his court. Which means they can, and do have the power to order you around.” She informed them. If Zedd could pale, he would have.
“Now, I’d hate to have to tell my father that you, a mere Lord and Lady, had refused to obey my cousin’s command. He might just find that…traitorous.” She purred. Rita squeaked at the implication. Dark Spector did not tolerate traitors—they never survived.
“Let’s go Rita.” Zedd growled, motioning to Rito and Goldar.
“Where’s Scorpina?” Rita demanded. Astronema snickered.
“With her new Princess, Rita.” She motioned to the crowd of warriors surrounding Khetala and Jareth. Sure enough, Scorpina was with them, head held high as she swore her allegiance to the Great Flames of Destruction. Growling, Rita and Zedd stomped off in the direction of Serpenterra. Astronema’s eyes sparkled with glee as her protector came up behind her.
“Things are about to get very interesting Ecliptor.” She purred. He grunted and she slowly smiled. “Very interesting indeed.”
One Month After Maligore’s Destruction Tommy looked up at Zordon, his eyes alight with an inner fire.
“Is it true, Zordon? Did Kim and Jason survive?” He asked hopefully. Adam, Tanya, and Kat exchanged worried glances as Justin looked on silently.
Zordon sighed. “I do not know if what Goldar spoke is truth but I know someone who may. Alpha, open a communication link with Aquitar.” He ordered. The little automaton rushed to comply, his body nearly quivering with hope.
Within minutes, Billy’s familiar features filled the screen. “Aquitar here—Zordon! Guys, it’s so good to see you again!” He exclaimed. Kat and Tanya smiled.
“It’s good to see you as well, Billy.” The pink ranger responded. Billy grinned at her.
“Billy, we are calling for a matter most urgent.” Zordon broke in gently. Billy straightened.
“Should I get Delphine?” He asked. Zordon nodded as Adam and Tanya exchanged looks. Off to the side, Justin fidgeted. Soon, the screen was split in two, Billy on the right, Delphine on the left.. Zordon nodded.
“Introductions are in order. Billy Cranston, Delphine of Aquitar, I would like to introduce you to the newest member of the Earth’s Ranger team—Justin Stewart, Blue Turbo Ranger.” Zordon voice was proud as Justin straightened and nodded at the two. Billy frowned.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Justin but…what happened to Rocky? Is he okay?” The former blue ranger asked worriedly. Adam smiled at him.
“Rocky had a bit of an accident. He injured his back severely and couldn’t fight. We needed a blue ranger due to what we’re calling about, so Justin was asked to fill in. Rocky decided retirement agreed with him so Justin became the new blue.” The green ranger explained. Billy nodded, his expression thoughtful.
“Billy, have you heard from Jason or Kim?” Tommy suddenly blurted out. The Turbo Rangers turned to Billy hopefully but Billy’s frown quickly dampened there spirits.
“No, should I have?” He asked quizzically. Tommy swore softly.
“Damnit! I know Goldar wasn’t lying! But where the hell are they?!” He muttered angrily to himself. Billy frowned at the red ranger before turning to the others.
“What’s going on?” He asked worriedly. Kat sighed.
“Divatox came to Earth and kidnapped Kim and Jason along with Bulk and Skull. She intended to sacrifice them to Maligore.” Kat explained softly. Before Billy could say anything Delphine broke in.
“She succeeded.” She spoke softly, pityingly. Tommy froze while the other Turbo’s and Billy looked at her in surprise. The white ranger sighed.
“I received intelligence this morning that two beings going by the names Khetala and Jareth have joined Dark Spector’s Court as Prince and Princess. The report says that they call themselves the Children of Maligore.” She explained. Billy paled.
“Kim and Jason are evil?” He whispered, stunned. Adam nodded morosely.
“We thought they had been stuck on the island when it was destroyed but Goldar let slip that they survived. We were calling to see if you guys knew anything.” He explained softly.
“Guess you did.” Tanya whispered, her heart constricting. Justin’s brow furrowed as Billy’s expression suddenly hardened.
“Delphine, I regret to inform you that due to the matter of this emergency, I must resign as Earth’s ambassador.” He spoke quietly, confidently. Tommy’s eyes shot to his and Billy nodded. “My family needs me.”
“GOLDAR!!” Rita and Zedd both spun around, shocked at the fury in the scream at there assassin. When they saw who had screamed, however, they both stiffened. Glowing a faint crimson, her eyes flashing fire, was Khetala. Standing behind her, looking amused, was Jareth.
“What do you two want?!” Rita snapped. Khetala threw a hand out and a fireball hit the back of the throne she was standing next to. Khetala glanced at her.
“Next time you speak, I won’t miss.” She informed her before twirling around and holding another arm out. Goldar was lifted from the ground, his sword raised in preparation of a strike as Khetala kept him from moving.
“You disobeyed a direct order!” She snarled. Zedd came to his senses and stepped forward.
“What did he do?” He demanded. Jareth stepped forward, holding a fireball in his hand. Zedd eyed him warily.
“Your overgrown baboon told the rangers we were still alive.” He informed him. Rita gagged as Khetala methodically tore feather after feather from Goldar’s wings as the assassin screamed in silent agony. “For his disobedience, he must be punished. And as your assassin, your must be punished as well. Dark Spector has approved.”
“What?! Now wait just a—“ Zedd started, only to be silenced when Jareth threw the fireball at him.
"You dare defy the Prince of Darkness?” Jareth demanded as Zedd crumpled to the floor, holding his arm. Rita watched in morbid fascination as Zedd’s muscles began deteriorating from where the fireball had hit. Zedd himself seemed to be in shock, watching the destruction with horror.
Off to the side, Khetala dropped the now wingless and featherless monkey to the ground. She turned to Rita who whimpered and scurried back. Khetala smirked over at Jareth who nodded.
“We do not blame you Rita. You are under your husbands command and so the blame falls mostly on him. However, we can not let you go unpunished.” She told her almost gently. Rita whimpered again and Khetala and Jareth threw fireballs at her. Rita screamed as the fireballs hit her staff, causing it to turn to dust. She collapsed to the ground next to her husband.
“You both have been stripped of the magic afforded you by Dark Spector and have been demoted in the court. If you or any of your court disobey or hamper us again, we will not be so merciful. Good day, Baron and Baroness.” Jareth spoke softly, his voice at odds with the fire in his eyes. With that, the two turned and walked away.
Crying softly, Rita looked from Zedd, writhing on the ground in silent agony as the fireballs power fed on his flesh to her assassin who was unconscious at the foot of the throne, blood pooling around him from his wounds. She turned in the direction the two former rangers had left, an all consuming hate filling her very being.
“I pledge myself to this oath, that before I draw my last breath, I will see the death of you, Children of Maligore. I will feel and feed on your hearts blood. So mote it be.”
Being a new prince of Darkness has its challenges. Jareth thought as he observed the room he was currently holding court in. Once Zedd’s stronghold on Maldoran, it had been given to Jareth and Khetala when the former Lord was reduced to a Baron, the lowest noble title in Dark Spector’s vast network. Unfortunately, Zedd hadn’t actually been to Maldoran for quite some time and he throne room was less than hospitable. “My Lord, if I may inquire on your next course of action?” Dwyn, the newest member of the court, was a low level sorcerer and warrior. What he lacked in actual magical power, he more than made up with his fighting and tactical skills. Jareth smirked, glancing at Scorpina who leered back.
“We’re going to attack and capture Earth of course.” He informed him coolly. Lasair and Janus, the twin assassins, exchanged a grin while Sirona lay back against the wall, studying her nails.
“When do we leave, my lord?” Tyr, Jareth’s right hand fighter, asked politely. Jareth glanced at him, taking in the full crimson body suit he’d taken to wearing since swearing his allegiance to the Flames. Tyr was renowned in the cosmos as one of the deadliest fighters to ever grace Dark Spector’s court. He was also known as the most polite warrior many had ever met—Astronema had informed Jareth that Tyr would no doubt apologize to the Rangers before kicking their asses.
“We won’t leave for a few days yet. I have a plan that will greatly reduce the number of allies Earth can count on.” Jareth informed them. He suddenly frowned, looking around. “Where is Khetala, Hecate, and Eisa?”
“Here, Jareth dear.” Khetela said, stepping from the doorway on the right. Jareth raked his eyes over her, a slow smile crossing his face as he took in her new look. Calf high, crimson leather boots adorned her legs, stopping just under a black and crimson skirt. Her stomach was bare and her chest was encased in a crimson and black corset tube top. Covering her arms and back from the cold was a black floor length jacket with silver lining. Her once brown hair was now blood red and put up in two top knots, accenting her red eyes and small throat. All in all, Jareth approved.
“You like?” She asked, twirling. Jareth glanced at the others in the court and glowered—Dwyn, Lasair, and Janus were ogling Khetala and throwing her appreciative smiles. Glancing at Scorpina and Sirona, he was pleased to see both of them nodding in approval but nothing else. Without warning, Khetala sat down on his lap.
“So…have you filled them in?” Khetala asked, settling in so her back was against the arm rest and her head was on his shoulder. Rolling his eyes, he turned to his court, taking stock of the fact Hecate was sitting demurely on a chair while Eise had plopped herself in between the twins. Neither Lasair nor Janus appeared upset about this, as they leered the small ninja.
“Tyr! Scorpina, come forth!” Jareth growled, turning his head to nip at Khetala’s neck before staring his two chief warriors down.
“I have an assignment for you two. Using whatever resources you must, attack Triforia and Aquitar. Do not retreat until sufficient damage has been done. You are also to deliver a personal message to their King’s—this message.” He waved his arm and two scrolls appeared in a flash of flames. Tyr and Scorpina grasped them and nodded. Jareth glanced at Khetala who was staring at him, her eyes hooded. His pants suddenly tight, he glared at the two assassins.
“Go and make sure they know that anyone who helps Earth against us will not live to regret it.” He snarled, standing abruptly, cradling Khetala in his arms. He glared at the others as Scorpina and Tyr left quickly to do his command.
“The rest of you, prepare for our departure in two days; I want as many Keres as you can make and you five ready for battle.” He snarled before walking from the room, his lips crushed to Khetala’s. Eyes alight, Dwyn, Sirona, Lasair, Janus, and Eise shot to their feet and rushed from the room. Hecate stood much more slowly, taking care to smooth out her skirt. Looking around the empty throne room, she nodded. She was going to enjoy her employment with the Great Flames.
It’d been a week since he’d returned to Earth and Billy was still struggling to adjust to all the changes. Tommy was in a constant foul mood; Kat was struggling to help her boyfriend and failing miserably. Adam and Tanya were struggling to help Justin, Rocky himself wasn’t a ranger anymore, and everyone had finally graduated. To say Billy was feeling slightly out of place was an understatement. “Hey Billy.” Rocky greeted as he teleported in. That was another thing; Rocky was spending nearly as much time in the Power Chamber these days as Billy. The former blue took this as a sign that he missed being a ranger; something Billy could definitely relate to. Smiling at him, he went back to studying the computer. Rocky stepped up behind him, fidgeting.
“Anything I can do to help?” He asked hesitantly. Without pausing in his search, Billy pointed at another computer screen.
“Look for anything pertaining to Maligore. We have to find out as much about him as possible to figure out a way to get Kim and Jason back.” He said, eyes raking over the text on his own screen. Billy felt Rocky nod and move away. There was silence for a few minutes before Rocky finally caved.
“So, what did Cestria say about you coming back?” he asked. Billy smiled slightly; he’d wondered how long it would take one of them to ask.
“Seeing as how Cestria and I didn’t last more than a month, she was fine with it. She told me to be careful.” He added as an afterthought.
“You guys broke up?” Rocky asked, surprised. Billy glanced at him and nodded.
“I realized a few things while I was with her and…lets just say she wasn’t my type.” He put forth before going back to his computer. He could practically feel Rocky frowning.
“But…she’s a smarty. She’s pretty. How is she not your type?” He asked, confused. Billy debated on answering before finally deciding he needed to tell someone.
“First of all, I’ve been afraid of aquatic life since I was boy. Dating a half fish was a bit odd, even for me being a former ranger.” He told him, glancing over to see Rocky grin. Steadying himself, he prayed that what he was about to say didn’t cause any strife with his friend.
“Second, she’s female.” He said softly, and glanced at the former ranger. Rocky didn’t seem fazed; if anything, his grin had gotten bigger.
“I thought as much.” He nodded, his eyes twinkling. Billy gaped at him.
“Pardon?” He spluttered. Rocky shrugged.
“Billy, my man, you have had girls lining up for years and none of them ever ‘felt right.’ After Shannah and you fell through, I started thinking and finally decided the reason they didn’t feel right for you was cause they were the wrong gender.” He explained. Billy continued to gape at him, astounded at the insight his normally clueless friend had just displayed. Finally, when Rocky began fidgeting under Billy’s stare, the original blue gathered his wits.
“And why did you not see fit to explain this insight to me before now?” He asked curiously. Rocky, surprisingly, blushed.
“Billy, how do you think most guys react when someone tells them that they thing they’re gay?” He asked and Billy nodded in understanding.
“I would have undoubtfully denied it.” He sighed. Rocky nodded sagely.
“Been there, done that.” He waved a hand and Billy blinked. Before he could say anything to that, Rocky’s eyes began glimmering with mischievousness.
“So, any particular guy you like?” He asked innocently. Billy spluttered again, unable to reply. Laughing, Rocky went back to reading.
Triforia, Capital City of Tri The palace was in ruins as Trey, Lord of Triforia, stumbled from the smoke. The attack had come from nowhere in the middle of the night and the city was decimated. With no advance warning, Trey had been unable to morph and lead the troops who had been slaughtered by the black and crimson clothed warriors. And for every troop who had been killed, a new crimson and black warrior had sprung up. “I wouldn’t move if I were you, my golden lord.” A soft silken voice sneered as a sword tip appeared at his throat. Trey froze, unwilling to move as the smoke disappeared to reveal Scorpina, the assassin of Rita and Zedd. His brow furrowed.
“What are you wearing?” He asked, trying to stall so his troops can get to his side. She smirked as he took in her now black armor and crimson lined black sword.
“I now serve the Great Flames and so I show my allegiance.” She informed him coolly, pressing the sword to his neck as his troops closed in. She glanced at them.
“You move one more step, warriors of Triforia, and I will slit your Lord’s throat.” Scorpina informed the warriors as if discussing the weather. They froze and Trey glared at the assassin.
“What do you want?” He snapped. Scorpina smirked and a flame appeared at his feet. Trey watched the flames until they died down from the corner of his eye, leaving a small scroll in its place. Before he could say anything, a bright flame engulfed Scorpina and she disappeared. Wincing, he rubbed his throat and stooped down to pick up the scroll. As his warriors surrounded him protectively, Trey unrolled the parchment and read the missive.
“Lord of Triforia,
This attack is not random, nor is it without purpose. This attack serves to warn you and all others who would assist Earth against us. If you do so, this attack will seem like a small skirmish in comparison.
You’ve been warned,
The Great Flames,
Jareth and Khetala”
Aquitar, Throne Room of the King Light years away, Delphine stood before King Pontus of Aquitar as he read the same message. Once he was finished, he turned to look at the white, red, and blue rangers.
“I will not risk any more danger to Aquitar. No longer will we assist Earth. Go, mourn your losses.” He ordered before turning his attention to the destroyed city not a hundred meters away. Bowing, Cestro and Aurico left. Delphine alone remained.
“My lord, with your permission, I would send a message to Earth. The Flames were once Rangers there who have now been perverted by Maligore’s flame. The Peacemaker should know what his old teammates are doing and why they will not hear from us until the Flames are defeated.” She spoke quietly, convincingly. Pontus remained silent for a few minutes before speaking.
“As a Ranger leader, I know that I have no say in you informing the other team of this; it is your duty, as protecting this planet is mine. I only ask that you do so in the greatest of secrecy…I will not have this act turn against us.” He agreed reluctantly. Delphine nodded before leaving.
Triforia, Capital City of Tri Trey sighed as he sat in front of the communication console. After discussing the issue with his mother, his advisors, and his sister, they had decided that they would not risk Triforia until the Flames were defeated. Why these Flames were attacking and where they came from, he didn’t know; all he knew was that he wished his father was still alive to guide him through this obstacle. “Trey, hi!” Katherine greeted the Gold Ranger with a smile. Trey smiled back in greeting, pleased to see Tommy, Rocky, Adam, Tanya and Billy behind her.
“What can we do for you Trey?” Tommy asked, taking command. Trey was quiet as he studied the rangers, unsure how to tell them they would not receive help from Triforia again.
“I have some bad news for you rangers.” He began and was surprised to see all of them tense, wary, as if they knew what was coming but didn’t want to hear it.
“I’m afraid Triforia will not be assisting Earth from this point on.” He sighed. Tommy frowned.
“Why not?” He demanded, surprised. Trey sighed and pushed a button, showing the destruction of the main city, the palace still smoking from the blasts.
“Triforia was attacked twelve hours ago. Scorpina, who led the troops, delivered a missive promising worse destruction and death if we continued to assist you. I apologize Rangers, but I must protect my people.” Trey explained, switching back so he could speak to them face to face. He narrowed his eyes when Tommy swallowed and Adam swore softly.
“What?” He demanded. Tommy set his face and looked Trey dead in the eye.
“Scorpina is now serving the Flames of Destruction, Jareth and Khetala.” He told him. Trey nodded, knowing this. What Tommy said next shocked him so bad he nearly fell from his chair.
“Jason is Jareth and the original pink is Khetala. They’ve been turned evil.”
Earth, Power Chamber Trey’s message was a complete and utter shock to the rangers. Even knowing Jason and Kim were evil, it hadn’t fully penetrated their minds how dangerous the two of them could truly be.
“Rangers!” Zordon spoke, calling attention to him and Alpha. “We’re getting a heavily disguised message from Aquitar.”
The six young adults moved to the viewing panel and were unsurprised to see Delphine appeared. What did surprise them was the fact that the connection was horrible. Billy made a move to clear it up and Delphine shook her head.
“Don’t bother, I don’t have a lot of time and the more interference the better.” She spoke with conviction. Tommy swallowed and closed his eyes, knowing instinctively what had happened.
“They attacked you too, didn’t they?” He asked quietly, vaguely aware of the others looking at him in horror. Delphine nodded.
“King Pontus has declared that we will not assist Earth in any way until the Flames have been either contained or…killed.” She informed them. “I’m sorry Rangers.”
Maldoran, Flames Stronghold On Maldoran, Jareth and Khetala lounged in bed, naked and looking at the flame screen which was showing them the destruction on Triforia. Khetala smirked, licking her fingers of the chocolate strawberries she’d been eating. Jareth was rubbing circles on Khetala’s back as he hungrily eyed in the destruction on the screen.
“No worries babe. Soon, that will be Earth and you will stand as the victor as we begin the path to our final glory.” She assured him, handing the now empty bowl to one of the Keres who was serving as their servant. Jareth grunted and she smiled into his shoulder before leaning up to kiss him. He kissed her back, rolling to pin her beneath him. The kiss broke and Jareth’s eyes softened as he took in Khetala’s appearance. She smiled up at him. He bent down and nuzzled her neck.
“Finally, you’re mine.” He murmured, nipping at her throat and Khetala made an affirmative sound in her throat. A delicate cough made them tense and Jareth looked up to find Hecate in the doorway.
“What?!” he growled. Hecate stared above them as the two Flames glared at her, her cheeks pink.
“Scorpina and Tyr have returned sire and Dark Spector wishes to speak with you.” She informed him softly. Jareth grunted and rolled off Khetala. Growling, Khetala shot to her feet, accepting the black robe Jareth had handed to her. Dressed in a matching crimson robe, Jareth lead the way to the drafty throne room.
There, waiting in a screen of flame, was Dark Spector praising Scorpina and Tyr for the destruction on the Allied of Good planets. Once they entered the room, the two warriors stepped away in deference. Dark Spector smiled at them.
“You have done well, Jareth, Khetala. I am pleased with the destruction of Aquitar and Triforia. Though I wish to know why you have not deemed them yours.” He inquired. Jareth raised an eyebrow.
“Aquitar and Triforia are trifling when compared to the glory Earth’s capture will bring us, my lord Spector. Once we have Earth, Triforia and Aquitar will be nothing.” He assured him. Spector nodded in agreement.
“I have a gift for you.” Spector spoke and a vision of a black and crimson ship appeared in midair. Jareth’s eyes lit up. “She is called the ‘Crimson Pyro.’ As my family, you deserve only the best.”
“We thank you, My Lord.” Jareth smiled and Khetala nodded. Off to the side, purple sparkles lit up the room to reveal two Quantrons holding two lethal looking weapons. Spector nodded.
“Gifts from Astronema in honor of your victory. The sword is for you Prince Jareth and the staff is for you Princess Khetala. You’ve also been given the Lunar Palace on Earth's moon so you will have an easier time in capturing the planet.” Spector told him. Jareth eyes glowed with pleasure as the two quantrons stepped forward and handed the weapons to them. Jareth’s sword was nearly four feet long and blood red with the blade’s edge lined in silver. He swung it experimentally a few times, thrilled with how well it seemed to fit into his grip. Nearby Khetala inspected her new staff; all black with a silver crystal on the top that was held in place by what appeared to be crimson frozen flames.
The two turned to Dark Spector only to find him gone, as well as the two quantrons. Jareth grinned before turning to Khetala, the sword held high. She smirked up at him, the staff resting beside her.
“Let’s go celebrate Khetala.” He suggested. She nodded and then turned to Scorpina and Tyr.
“Go with Dwyn and Eise and prepare for our arrival on Earth. I expect the Lunar Palace to be much more…us.” She ordered. Tyr and Scorpina nodded and left to get two others. Jareth smirked.
“I like the way you think, Khetala.” He murmured as they left the room. Khetala smiled back at him.
“What can I say? The Lunar Palace has always been very…cold.” She informed him as they entered their room. Jareth chuckled.
“Which goes to show what cold-fish Rita and Zedd are.” He sneered before shutting the door.
The Youth Center was bustling with activity as various teenagers and preteens hung out. In a corner table Tanya, Kat, and Justin were eating lunch while Tommy and Adam pounded on two punching bags a few feet away. As Katherine watched, the Tommy’s bag fell from the hook for the third time in ten minutes. Grunting, Tommy and Adam hefted it back up.
“Where’s Billy and Rocky?” Tanya asked softly. Katherine turned to her, eying the cheeseburger Justin hadn’t touched.
“In the Power Chamber, where else? Eat your food, Justin. You have to keep your strength up.” She lightly admonished. The blue ranger looked up at her, his eyes shining with unshed tears.
“Are we going to die?” He asked in a small voice. Katherine was taken aback and before she could respond Justin took off. Katherine glanced around desperately and was surprised to see Adam immediately go after him. Slumping in her seat, Katherine allowed a small tear to fall from her eye.
"I hope not Justin. I hope not."
"Justin!” Adam called, jogging over to where the young ranger was curled up by Tommy’s car. He looked up, his face tear stained and Adam sighed. “Are we going to die?” He asked for the second time, looking at the green ranger for reassurance. Adam sighed and sat down beside him.
“No, we’re not going to die. We’re going to win, I promise.” He answered. Justin’s lip trembled.
“But Tideus and Corcus were Rangers and they…they…they died. It could happen to us, can’t it?” He asked. Adam swallowed a lump at the mention of the dead Aquitain Ranger’s names. They and Cestria had been among the casualties on Aquitar, murdered by Tyr.
“Justin, death is always gonna be a factor. But Tideus and Corcus…they died protecting civilians. It’s what they would have wanted.” He explained, running a hand through his hair.
“But Aquitar and Triforia aren’t going to help us against Kim and Jason! Look what they did to those planets, how are we supposed to protect Earth?!” Justin demanded, his body shaking.
“We’ll win, Justin.” A new voice said softly and Adam and Justin looked up to see Tommy standing above them, looking determined. “No matter what, we will win.”
Justin and Adam said nothing, simply staring at the stiff posture of the red ranger. As Adam watched, Tommy seemed to evolved right before his eyes. No longer was he a simple teenager who saved the world on a regular basis—now he was a man, willing to do anything to win the war between good and evil. And Adam knew then that no matter happened, in the end, they would win.
“Welcome home, my Lord and Lady.” Scorpina greeted Jareth as he walked into the castle, Khetala on his arm. Jareth didn’t answer, too busy inspecting the new throne room.
Gone was Zedd’s throne and the mist that seemed to constantly be on the ground. Instead, the room had been reshaped into an oval, with a rectangular pool in the center and a stream lining the walls and connecting with the pool at the center. The stream and pool were not filled with water, however but with living flame—lava. Along the walls were alternating black and crimson banners, each with the image of a three-flared flame. Two steps above the pool and stream were black marble walkways and three steps above the walk way on the far end, was Jareth and Khetala’s throne platform.
Jareth’s throne was made completely of rubies, the back resembling a flame with three flares. Khetala’s throne was the same, only made from black obsidian. Along the side of the wall sat 8 ornate chairs, 4 on each side. Made of alternating black and red marble, they had etched at the top the names of the court members. As Jareth and Khetala watched, their servants silently went to stand in front of their seats. On Jareth’s right were Scorpina, Dwyn, Eise, and Janus. On Khetala’s left was Tyr, Hecate, Lasair, and Sorina. The chair were on descending platforms, so that Scorpina, Dwyn, Tyr, and Hecate were a foot below Jareth and Khetala and Eise, Janus, Lasair, and Sorina were a foot below them.
Jareth turned his attention to the stream as a small battalion of black armored Keres entered the room from a hidden door, walking across rocks that appeared on top of the lava and holding black and silver scythes. When they stopped, a line of Keres lined the walls in front of the banners. Jareth smiled as six Keres, their armor crimson rather than black, placed themselves behind their Lord and Lady. Turning to the pool, he glanced at Khetala, who was grinning madly, her eyes alight with pleasure. Without a word, the two began walking. As they stepped onto the lava, he was pleased to see it condense into magma stepping stones, protecting his boots from the lava’s heat. His skin fairly hummed at the familiar presence—Maldoran had been much too cold for his tastes.
As they stepped up to the throne’s, their blackguard walked to the side so they stood in two lines of three on either side. Grinning, Jareth and Khetala slowly sat down, enjoying the warmth of the hot ruby and obsidian. Once they were settled, Jareth nodded and the court sat. Hecate made a motion with her hand and ten Keres stepped forward, holding trays on which sat silver goblets. Jareth accepted his goblet with a nod and was pleased to see it held lava juice. He held up his Goblet with one hand, grabbing Khetala’s hand with his other. Khetala, Tyr, Scorpina, Hecate, Dwyn, Eise, Lasair, Janus, and Sorina held their cups up.
“For four years, Earth has successfully defended itself from destruction and enslavement. Rita, Zedd, the Machine Empire; all have tried to conquer this backwards planet and all have failed due to their incompetence and idiocy. Now, a new era approaches, an era that will see the Great Flames standing victorious! Soon, the Rangers of Earth will fall! Soon, Earth will be ours! In Maligore’s name, we will wipe this planet of all that is good and proper!” He roared.
“In Maligore’s name!”
Jack and Sarah Scott were in their living room, reading and working on paperwork when they heard the front door open and the familiar voice of their son call out. “Mom, Dad, I’m home!” He called. Sarah jumped from her seat, elated that her son had returned from his trip to Florida.
“Jason!” She exclaimed as he appeared in the doorway. She rushed forward and hugged him. He gingerly hugged her back before turning to Jack and nodded.
“Hey dad.” He greeted and Jack nodded back, frowning a bit. Something was off with Jason; he seemed…different.
“So, how was your trip? How’s Kimberly?” Sarah asked, oblivious to the charged tension emanating from Jason. He withdrew his hand, smiling a bit.
“Why don’t you ask her?” He suggested and Sarah’s face broke into a wide smile when Kimberly stepped from behind him, her brown hair up in a ponytail and her eyes sparkling.
“Kimberly!” Sarah rushed forward and engulfed the girl in her arms. Kimberly hugged her back hard and Sarah leaned back to study the girl she’d watch grow up.
“Why aren’t you training? The Pan Globals are in a few weeks!” She exclaimed. Smiling wryly, she pulled up her floor length skirt to reveal a walking cast.
“I fell on the uneven bars and broke my leg about 5 weeks ago.” She explained softly and Sarah face fell.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry. I know how hard you’ve been working.” She sympathized and Kimberly nodded, looking uncomfortable. Shaking her head, she motioned at the two.
“Well, where are you staying?” She asked and Kimberly smiled a bit.
“I’m staying with an old family friend who has a place on the outskirts of town. I’m in the process of deciding what I’m gonna do after that; I got my GED in Florida.” She explained and Sarah grinned proudly.
“Oh that’s wonderful!” She exclaimed, turning to Jason.
“Well, do you want to take your stuff up to your room and rest a bit? I know cross-country flights are exhausting.” She suggested. Jason and Kim exchanged looks and Jason shook his head.
“Actually, Kim and I are gonna go to the Youth Center and see the gang, let them know we’re back.” He explained and Jack frowned at the small sneer that crossed Jason’s features as he said the last bit.
“Okay, well, you need to come for dinner at 6. Both of you.” Sarah ordered and Jason and Kim nodded in understanding. After a quick run up to his bedroom to drop off his duffle, Jason and Kim left.
Jack stood up and walked to the window. He watched as his son and his son’s best friend since childhood began walking towards the Youth Center, chatting about something or other. Something was up with those two and he was going to find out what it was.
“Hey Tommy, can I ask a question?” Ernie called and Tommy walked over to the bar. “Sure, Ernie, what’s up?” He asked. Ernie motioned to a group of fifteen kids in the center and Tommy’s stomach clenched when he realized it was Jason’s beginning Karate class.
“Have you seen Jason? He said he’d be back in time to teach the kids but I haven’t seen him all day.” Ernie asked in a concerned tone. Tommy throat suddenly went dry and he realized he and the others had royally screwed up; how the hell were they going to explain Jason and Kim’s disappearance? In desperation, he took a long swig from his water bottle.
“Sorry I’m late Ernie. My flight back was a killer.” Tommy choked on his drink, looking up to see Jason’s familiar face looking at him with amusement. “You okay, bro?”
Tommy, unable to form a coherent thought let alone a reply, simply stared at him. Jason smirked. “Someone’s been working out too much. You…no….reply?” He teased and Ernie laughed. Jason turned to him.
“By the way, guess who I brought back with me?” He asked and Ernie broke into a wide smile when Kimberly popped up beside Jason. On Jason’s other side, Tommy went rigid and could only form one thought.
“Tommy sounded frantic when he called and said to get over here. I hope everything’s okay.” Rocky commented as he, Billy, Adam, Kat, and Tanya walked into the Youth Center. He suddenly ran into Billy, who had froze. “Billy, man, what’s…wrong.” His question trailed off when he suddenly caught sight of what had so thrown Billy and more than likely, Tommy. There, standing in the center of the floor mats, fifteen kids surrounding him, was Jason. He was going through a beginning kata, showing the kids how it was done. Off to the side was Kimberly, watching the group and talking animatedly with Skull. Nearby, gaping at the two, were Tommy and Justin.
“Oh my God.” Kat murmured, shell-shocked. “What are they doing?”
“Come on.” Adam murmured and the group hurried over to where Tommy and Justin were sitting. Immediately, Tommy turned from the two former rangers to look at his team helplessly. Sitting next to Justin so the blue ranger was between herself and Tommy, Kat hugged him close. Justin grasped onto her waist, his head buried in her shoulder.
“What are they doing here?” Justin’s whisper was muffled but they all heard it. Billy swallowed.
“Making a statement.” He murmured hoarsely. All but Tommy and Justin, who was still hiding in Kat's shoulder, looked at him in confusion.
“They’re telling us that they can go anywhere, do anything, and we can’t stop them.” Tommy clarified. Tanya frowned.
“But…that’s not right. I mean, we can stop them.” She paused. “Can’t we?”
“Not without either blowing our covers or theirs. They know we can’t tell anyone they’re evil because that would blow the oath. We can’t reveal our identities to the public.” Billy explained quietly. Tanya frowned.
“But if we say something like they were kidnapped due to the fact they’re well known and physically able, we can leave the ranger issues out of it.” She suggested. Tommy shook his head.
“Then they’d just blow our covers as well. And how long would it take for someone to connect the dots about them? I mean, we’d get bombarded. It’s a lose-lose situation for us and they know it. They’re threatening us with one of our biggest issues: our identities.” He explained.
“Man. Jason and Kim don’t play by the rules, do they?” Rocky murmured. The others looked at him oddly and he shrugged.
“Think about it! Rita, Zedd, Mondo, they always did the same thing; they rarely altered or changed their attack strategies. Jason and Kim aren’t doing that. I mean, they haven’t even attacked yet and it’s been a week since Zordon told us they had lodged up on the moon!” He whispered.
“You’re wrong, Rocky.” Tommy whispered back softly. The others looked at him worriedly. He was staring at Jason and Kim who were talking as Jason’s class went to their parents and older siblings. As they watched, Jason bent down and captured Kim’s lips in a kiss. Tommy clenched his hand into a fist as Kim giggled and the two said goodbye to Ernie before heading out. He turned to the others, his eyes blank.
“It’s Jareth and Khetala who don’t play by the rules.” He said hollowly. He reached over and put a hand on Justin’s shoulder. He glanced at Kat who nodded back.
“So what do we do?” Adam asked softly. Tommy turned to the doorway where Jason and Kim had disappeared to.
“I don’t know Adam. I just don’t know.”
With them assuming their old lives, Tommy had come to the decision that no longer would he call them by their birth names when discussing them with the other rangers. Instead, he gave in to their new identities and called them Jareth and Khetala. Adam and Billy had refused, saying that Jason and Kim were still somewhere inside them and that the more they fought against Jareth and Khetala, the more strength they gave to Jason and Kim to break free. Calling them Jareth and Khetala was like giving up on them, Billy said, and Tommy had had to restrain himself from punching the former blue ranger.
Privately, Rocky and Tanya agreed with Billy and Adam but hadn’t said so out loud yet. Katherine and Justin had taken Tommy’s lead however, causing the team to divide itself. Rocky only prayed Jason and Kim didn’t notice the strain between the seven of them.
To add insult to injury, half the population of the Youth Center had seen Jason and Kim kiss and within the week rumors were flying left and right that the reason for the teens distance with Jason and Kim was due to the duo’s dating. It was not making for a happy bunny Tommy.
Even now, as he watched as Tommy stuffed the crap out of the sand bag, Rocky could feel the tension—Jason and Kim had yet to attack though they frequented the Youth Center constantly. From what Tommy had learned, they were essentially living on Earth—Jason with his parents and Kim with family friends just outside of town.
It was driving the rangers bonkers.
“Hey Rocky.” Billy greeted, sitting down, Adam on his heels. Rocky grinned at the two, glad to find a distraction from his musings.
“What’s up?” He asked casually, watching out the corner of his eye as Jason and Kim walked into the Youth Center. Jason headed to the locker room while Kimberly headed to the balance beam, shaking her leg out and smiling and chatting with various people as she went. It would have been perfectly normal but for the evil glint in her eye when she glanced at the three.
Billy pushed a box and two pieces of paper toward him and Rocky looked down before doing a double-take. “You don’t think…” He trailed off, uncertain and Billy nodded.
“I do and I can’t get a hold of them. I know you’ve wanted to help and since I have the PC under control, this is something you can do. None of us can afford to leave right now. All 3 of them have to be told, it’s not safe otherwise.” He explained and Rocky nodded, quickly pocketing the two pieces of paper and grabbing the box.
“I’ll see in you in a week then.” He told him, having seen that his plane would leave that night. Billy and Adam graced him with encouraging smiles and Billy tapped his communicator, essentially telling him to keep it close. Nodding, he headed out, unaware that Kimberly was staring at him.
Billy and Adam did notice however and the former blue ranger prayed he hadn’t just sent the other former ranger to his death.
“What is it?” Jareth asked lowly, coming to stand by Khetala who was frowning while staring at the green ranger and the tech support.
“They’re planning something.” She told him quietly and Jareth raised an eyebrow, watching as the red ranger went to sit with his teammates. He turned to Khetala, effectively brushing them off. He bent down and brushed his lips to hers, knowing how it irritated the red ranger.
“We’ll deal with it.” He assured her. Hiding a smirk, she kissed him back before turning to the balance beam. Jareth stood back and watched as she quickly flipped onto the beam and went into a half remembered routine that had people stopping to watch and stare. He smirked; being thrown into Maligore’s pit had enhanced all their strengths as well as given them awesome powers; which meant that Khetala had become even more flexible and agile than she’d been before.
It was something he was extremely thankful for, especially when they were alone in the bedroom. Smiling at the memories of the night before, Jareth went to an abandoned mat and went into the kata Jason and Tommy had created. He smirked as he felt the red rangers’ irritation grow as well as a stab of nostalgia. Coming to a stop, he turned to Tommy and raised an eyebrow in what would appear to everyone as a invitation to join him. He, Tommy, Adam, and Billy knew it for what it really was, however.
Tommy had never been very good at turning down challenges.
As the red ranger tightened his bandana and stepped onto the mat, Jareth mocking went into the bow. Scowling, Tommy did the same. Within minutes, they were fighting.
“It must burn you up, so bad, Tommy. Knowing I have her.” He whispered so only the two of them would hear. Tommy twitched but said nothing though he began fighting harder.
“To know that she allows me all the pleasures of her body, of her flesh. Her desire.” He continued, watching as Tommy’s eyes began glimmering with a mix of emotions, the strongest two being jealousy and hate.
“She’d never be with you, Jase, if she were herself.” Tommy hissed his name and Jareth smirked before punching him in the stomach.
“Really? Why do you think she broke up with you? It wasn’t for some random guy in Florida. It was because she was tired of you, tired with being Tommy’s perfect princess.” He spat and Tommy’s temper flared. As Tommy attacked him, Jareth smirked.
“Now, she’s mine. My dark princess and there is nothing you can about it. Soon, you and all others who would stand with you will die. You know that in your heart you can’t kill me. Why do you fight it, Tommy? Why do you fight the evil inside you? Give in and we may spare you. Khetala would love a little plaything.” He sneered and Tommy had had enough. Deviating from the kata, he flipped over Jareth’s head and snapped a kick at his back. The former red and gold ranger flew to the ground, grunting as the air was forced from his body.
Khetala rushed to his side as Adam and Billy went to Tommy’s. Jareth grinned at him before giving the three rangers a casual salute. “Being seeing you, bro.” he smirked and the two quickly left. Scowling and breathing heavily, Tommy silently dared anyone but Adam and Billy to approach him.
“Tyr, Scorpina. Go. Destroy.” Jareth ordered while Khetala smirked from beside him. “Have fun.” He added as an afterthought.
Tommy was sitting with Adam, Billy, and Justin in the Youth Center that day. Since Khetala and Jareth had arrived three weeks previously, they had been oddly silent, not sending a single footman or monster. The rangers had become jumpy, especially after the so-called sparing match Tommy had had with Jareth-as-Jason. A familiar tone was heard coming from the watches the four young men were wearing;. Exchanging worried glances, they got up and headed to the hall. Making sure no one was around, they leaned in as Tommy pressed the button to answer the page.
“Scorpina and Tyr are attacking the park, proceed with caution rangers.” He told them. Exchanging grim looks, Tommy pushed Justin to Billy.
“Justin, stay with Billy until we need you. This is your first battle and I’m not letting you near them yet.” He ordered and Justin nodded, looking relieved. Billy squeezed the younger rangers shoulder and the four rangers teleported away—the two geniuses to the Power Chamber and Tommy and Adam to the park.
When they rematerialized, they found a dozen black clothes guards terrorizing civilians as they ran for safety. In the center stood Scorpina, looking even more deadly than before with her armor black instead of the old gold. Nearby was a warrior in a full crimson bodysuit, a staff in hand as he watched the proceedings with no emotion.
“Rangers!” Scorpina cackled as Tanya and Kat ran up to them. The four rangers stood in a row as Scorpina and Tyr came forward.
“Leave these people alone, Scorpina!” He yelled, the red spandex shining in the sun. Scorpina laughed and Tyr raised a single eyebrow.
“Certainly. It was you we wanted anyway.” He told them calmly, bringing his staff up. “I apologize for this, rangers. You are a formidable enemy; I will make your deaths swift and painless.”
“Wha-” Tommy began but stopped when Tyr ran towards him, raising his staff in a strike. Jumping away at the last possible second, Tommy gaped behind his helmet as Tyr came to an abrupt stop and turned to face him again.
“Very good.” He praised before moving to attack again. Grimacing behind his helmet when the staff made contact with his chest, Tommy went flying. Struggling to stand, he wasn’t surprised to see Scorpina facing off against Adam while the girls fought off the new footmen. Bringing his attention back to the battle at hand, he flew out of the way as Tyr went to strike again.
Summoning his Lightning Sword, he lifted his arms to deflect the attack at the last possible second. Tyr’s face showed just a hint of approval before he swept his staff down and punched Tommy in the solar plexus.
With a loud oof, Tommy flew back and crashed into a tree, cracking it. Looking up, he dove out of the way with the last of his energy just as the tree crashed where Tyr had been. Demorphing, Tommy clutched his chest. He watched as Scorpina hit Adam so hard he flew back and landed with an explosion as he demorphed. The female assassin ran to where Tyr’s hand could just be seen poking from under the branches. The moment their hands touched, they disappeared in a flash of black flame. Groaning, he rolled over and saw Kat running over to him while Tanya went to Adam.
“Tommy?” She asked, her voice trembling. He looked at her briefly before his eyes fluttered close and he blacked out.
Tommy woke a few hours later in the Power Chamber to find two new warriors and a monster attacking downtown. Fighting against Janus and Lasair was just as bad as facing off against Scorpina and Tyr—they were evenly matched but eventually they hurt each other so bad the twins retreated. Jareth and Khetala didn’t stop there, however. That night, the rangers were awakened by Alpha to find a petite young woman destroying buildings and cars in the moonlight district alongside another woman and a young man—Eise, Sorina, and Dwyn according to Zordon. Tommy had returned home, holding back groans and aware that his chest was tightly wrapped—he’d broken two ribs facing off against Dwyn. He was in better shape than Adam, however, who had been knocked unconscious and suffered a broken arm and wrist courtesy of the female ninja. And so it went for the next few days, they’d fight two battles during the day, with the assassins and warriors alternating the location of the attacks and the attacking party but always refreshed and with backup, and fighting another battle late at night. Eventually, Kat and Tanya had been pulled in to face off against the warriors and even Justin had been called on for help.
Then, suddenly, the attacks stopped. Not a peep was heard from the newly christened Pyro Palace (the change in management came from an unknown source in sporadic contact with Zordon). The Rangers, while confused at the change, remained wary even as they healed.
“Wow.” Rocky muttered as he stepped from the cab and took in the majestic building in front of him. Quickly paying the driver, he grabbed his duffle and headed inside. Immediately he was bombarded with dozens of different languages, all being spoken simultaneously. Stopping to get his bearings, he spotted what looked like a sign in desk and headed that way. Eyeing the teens in various business suits and outfits, he grimaced. In his faded blue jeans, blue tank top, and red button down, he looked like a hobo in comparison.
“Yes, may I help you?” The woman asked in accented English. Rocky gave her his most dashing smile.
“I’m looking for two of the teen ambassadors, the ones from the United States—Trini Kwan and Zack Taylor?” He asked and the woman went to her computer. A few quick key strokes and she smiled up at him.
“You’re in luck, they’re free today and should be in their rooms. May I ask who’s visiting? And I’ll need two forms of ID.” She told him as he gave her his name and fished out his passport and drivers license. A quick scan and photocopy later, a young boy from Turkey was leading him upstairs, talking a mile a minute in heavily accented English. Rocky, unable to follow his speech, simply listened to the boy babble. Finally, he left Rocky in front of a dorm door with the US flag on it. Pushing it open, he was surprised to find himself in a circular room filled with plush couches and armchairs, a TV, a couples desks, and a fireplace. Doors lined the wall. Looking around, he saw several students working on what appeared to be homework before finding the familiar form of the original black ranger just as Trini came walking in.
“Zack, have you heard from—Rocky!” She exclaimed, running forward and hugging him. Zack, his expression one of surprise, quickly grinned and jumped over the couch to shake his hand.
“Man, what are you doing here?” He asked enthusiastically. Glancing at the curious teens watching them, he gave the two originals a serious look.
“Is there any place we can go that’s…private?” He asked and Trini and Zack exchanged glances before ushering him into a room that Rocky immediately knew was Zack’s. Black sheets and comforter on the bed, a poster of the Rangers, all fully morphed on the wall, and a pile of tapes next to a large stereo, it was exactly what he imagined the former black rangers room to look like. The room also had a second bed, dresser, and desk and Rocky remembered that Zack had shared his room with Jason before the former red ranger had returned to be the gold ranger.
“All clear.” Trini murmured and Rocky looked over to see her holding a small device that was beeping. He frowned.
“What is that?” He asked curiously and Trini smiled.
“Billy, Alpha, and I made it--it detects and alters any listening or video survelliance equipment in the room. This way we can talk without worrying about someone overhearing." She explained and he nodded, impressed.
“So whats up? We haven’t heard from anyone in weeks, man!” Zack bounced onto his bed. Trini sat down at the desk.
"First of all, the Zeo Rangers have changed to the Turbo Rangers. Tommy is Red, Adam is Green, Kat is Pink and Tanya is Yellow.” He explained. Zack and Trini nodded. Rocky took a deep breath.
“I was in an accident, I hurt my back pretty bad. They needed a blue ranger quick though so the decision was made to give it to Justin, a Billy-level, twelve year old genius.” He explained. Though Zack and Trini looked shocked, he could also see compassion and understanding in their eyes.
“Why did they need a blue ranger so quick?” Trini asked, understanding that what he was saying hadn’t even begun to cover the whole story. He sighed.
“A space pirate named Divatox showed up on Earth, searching for a small wizard named Lerigot—he held the power to release an evil demon named Maligore. Lerigot refused to help her though so she kidnapped his wife and baby daughter….not to mention Bulk, Skull, Kim, and Jason.” He explained. Trini gasped and Zack growled.
“Kim and Jason?” He asked and Rocky nodded, closing his eyes.
“She needed two beings of purity and strength to sacrifice to Maligore in order to free him. She captured them for that.” He explained and swallowed when he saw tears spring to the former yellow ranger’s eyes.
“She succeeded, didn’t she?” She whispered and Rocky nodded.
“Maligore’s power turned them evil and not even Lerigot and Lara, his wife, were able to bring them back. They’re going by Khetala and Jareth now and they’re attacking Earth. Scorpina has sided with them.” He explained. He waited, knowing it was a lot for the two rangers to take in. Suddenly, without warning, Zack punched the wall. Trini jumped up, hurrying over to fuss over Zack’s quickly swollen and bleeding fingers. Zack turned to Rocky, staring him straight in the eyes.
“When are we leaving?”
Rocky was startled. “What?”
“When are we leaving?” He repeated and Trini nodded, still fussing over his hand. “Evil or not, Jason and Kim are still two of our best friends, we’re gonna help get them back.”
“What about the Peace Conference?” Rocky asked faintly. Zack shrugged.
“They’re already in the process of getting some replacements for others who’ve decided to leave—they can replace us too.” He explained. Rocky nodded, mentally going over the plan in his head.
“I still need to get to Kenya and let Aisha know. You can leave here with me—my flight leaves tomorrow at three—or you can make your own plans and return to Angel Grove by yourselves.” He offered. Trini and Zack exchanged a glance.
“I’ll go make the flight arrangements to Kenya.” Trini said, rushing from the room. She poked her head back in, a stern expression on her face. “Bandage your hand.”
Rocky chuckled as Zack gave her a mock salute. “Yes ma’am.” He quipped. Trini threw him an exasperated glare before disappearing from the doorway. Rocky and Zack turned to each other, grinning.
“So, Kenya, huh?”
“They’re messing with our heads.”
Adam looked up, a puzzled frown on his face. “Who are?” He asked his friend. Billy gave him a tight lipped smile.
“Jason and Kim. Think about it, they waited for a few weeks before even attacking, they’re acting normal and hanging out here, then they attack non-stop for a week before stopping all attacks on a dime. They’re messing with our heads.” He concluded and Adam grimaced.
“But why? I mean, what could they possibly achieve?” Tanya asked. Billy smiled wryly.
“It’s a proven fact that when people get jumpy or paranoid they’re easier to beat in a fight. That, and Maligore’s flame twisted everything about them—instead of being amazingly kind, they’re now amazingly sadistic.” He explained as Kat came and sat down. Nearby, Tommy and Justin were working on the mats, the red rangers showing the young boy some moves.
“I’m not arguing that.” She muttered, flashing back to the make-out session the two former rangers had engaged in the day before that caused Tommy to destroy another punching bag.
“Great, so what, we don’t get jumpy? Cause I gotta tell you, I’m already jumpy.” Tanya informed him and Billy shrugged.
“We hope that we can figure out a way to release them, and soon. I have a feeling things are gonna get ugly sooner rather than later.”
It had taken four hours to go from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to the village Aisha lived in. And that was after spending about an hour arranging for a rental car that was nearly falling apart. Rocky vowed he’d never ever grumble about Adam’s rickety jeep again. “There it is.” Trini pointed between the front seats. On her lap was a map of the country; she’d acted as navigator. Zack, sitting in the drivers seat, grinned and gunned it. Rocky slapped his hand up and grabbed the trucks’s frame, glowering at the former black ranger. Behind him, he heard Trini curse and then her scramble to put on her seat belt.
“Never. Again.” Rocky muttered when he jumped from the jeep ten minutes later. Zack simply grinned, patiently listening to Trini’s lecture on proper driving and how he wasn’t allowed to drive anymore.
“Can I help you?” An older woman had approached them while they had gotten situated and Rocky smiled.
“We’re looking for Aisha Campbell?” He asked hopefully and the woman’s face brightened.
“You must be her friends from the States.” She smiled happily. “Come, I will take you to Aisha. But tell me, how is Tanya?”
Rocky smiled. “She’s doing well, ma’am. I know she wished she could have come.” He told her politely. The woman smiled, pleased.
“The stars bless that child.” She said as they approached one of the circular huts. Pushing the door in, the woman entered. Exchanging glances, they shrugged and followed her. It took a few minutes for Rocky’s eyes to adjust to the darkness. The moment they did, a very familiar squeal filled the air.
“ROCKY!!” Aisha pounced on him and Rocky, having been prepared for his old friend’s reaction, grinned and swung her up and around. When he finally put her down, Aisha noticed his companions.
“Zack, Trini!” She exclaimed, moving forward to hug both. Rocky just grinned, his eyes gleaming with laughter as Aisha fairly bounced around the room.
“I can’t believe it! I thought it’d be years before I saw you guys again! How are you?” She asked and Rocky looked around. Seeing that the old woman had left, he turned serious. Aisha’s smile slowly dimmed, replaced by that of worry.
A few hours later Aisha was packing her things and telling Ashala, the old woman, that her family in the states needed her and she had to leave. The woman agreed, saying that one must always follow their hearts. Rocky and Zack had been in the midst of squabbling over who was going to drive when they realized that the two former yellow rangers had packed up the car and were waiting for them to get in; Aisha was in the drivers seat. “I’m driving. I know how you drive Rocky and Trini told me about the trip here. I’m driving.” She repeated firmly. The two men grinned sheepishly before jumping in the back, Trini having taken the passenger seat.
“Hey guys, glad you got here so quick.” Tommy greeted the other rangers, Justin fidgeting at his side. Adam frowned, glancing at Billy for any clue what was happening and was startled to see him talking with David, Tommy’s brother. “What’s going on?” Kat asked curiously. Tommy glanced at Justin who nodded.
“Zordon, Justin, and I have made a decision. Justin’s stepping down as Blue Turbo.” Tommy informed them quietly. Tanya stared, shocked, while Kat and Adam glanced worriedly at the young boy.
“Why weren’t we told before?” Kat asked softly, hurt. Tommy went to answer her but it was Zordon who did.
“This decision was made by Justin and myself; Tommy was informed only today. While he has been an admirable ranger, the enemy we are dealing with requires those with more fighting experience to battle. Justin has also informed us of some momentous news.” Zordon spoke softly, gently and Justin nodded.
“My dad came back.” He announced proudly and Kat smiled, knowing how much he had missed his father. He continued. “I’m moving back in with him but we’re moving to Baltimore.”
Kat was surprised but nodded all the same. Next to her, Tanya and Adam did the same, giving the young boy proud looks. Justin grinned. Kat stepped forward and embraced him.
“I’m proud of you.” She whispered and he hugged her, hard. She stepped back and Adam and Tanya hugged him as well. Tommy motioned to David, who was shifting nervously off to the side.
“David’s agreed to take the powers.” He announced and Kat smiled, knowing how much having his brother on the team would mean to the red ranger. She caught sight of Billy monitoring readout and frowned.
“I take it Billy can’t take the power?” Adam asked what she was thinking. Billy looked up, startled. He gave a half smile.
“I’m not meant to be a Turbo. I don’t know how I know; I just do.” He explained. Kat nodded, slightly upset that once again he was getting passed over. It just didn’t seem fair.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine with it. I’m not meant to be a Turbo.” He reassured them confidently. Beside Kat, Adam stared at his friend and saw that it wasn’t an act—Billy really was fine with not getting the Turbo powers.
Within an hour, the powers had been successfully transferred to David Trueheart and the seven teens were at the Youth Center to celebrate. Tommy also talked to Ernie and explained about Justin leaving and between the two of them, plans to host a surprise goodbye party later that week were in full swing.
“Rocky is gone.” Khetala announced, moving into the throne room with Hecate. Jareth looked up, raising an eyebrow as Tyr, Scorpina, and Eise looked surprised. “What do you mean?” Jareth asked curiously. Had she killed him without discussing it first?
“He’s left California. Hecate can’t find him in the state.” She explained, plopping into her throne. Jareth frowned.
“Well that doesn’t make sense. Rocky would never leave California while the two of us are fighting against the rangers.” He glowered. Khetala shrugged.
“I told you they were up to something.” She reminded him and he flashed back to the day he’d “sparred” with the red ranger.
“So you did.” He murmured.
“My Lord and Lady, if I may make a suggestion?” Scorpina bowed and Jareth nodded. “What of the other rangers, the ones who’ve passed on the power? Could it be possible he’s gone to recruit them?”
Jareth and Khetala didn’t answer but their faces had become drawn. The original black and yellow rangers had known Jason and Kim the longest, it was them who would know some of their secrets, who would know what to expect. Jareth’s eyes hardened.
“Find him. Do whatever it takes.” He ordered but Hecate held up a hand; her head was cocked to the side and her eyes were misty white.
“No need. My Keres have informed me they found him—he’s at the Angel Grove Airport with three others, a man and two women.” She relayed. Jareth and Khetala scowled.
The former rangers were back.
“Aisha!” Three voices yelled loudly when Rocky, Zack, Trini, and Aisha entered the Youth Center a few hours after Jareth and Khetala had discovered them. Aisha grinned when Adam, Kat, and Tanya rushed over, each talking a mile a minute as they squabbled over who would hug the former yellow ranger first. Meanwhile, Zack and Trini were greeted by Tommy and Billy, both of whom wore large smiles. Rocky sat back, grinning as the defenders of earth were reduced to California teenagers once again. Justin and David sidled up to him and Rocky turned to smile at them. “It’s good to have nearly all of us together again.” He murmured and David nodded in understanding. Despite his initial reaction of jealousy and envy for his brother’s friendships, he’d learned over time that Tommy’s family wasn’t restricted to those who had adopted him and if he wanted to be part of his little brother’s life, he had to accept that.
“I’ve been looking forward to meeting them, especially now.” He murmured back. Rocky frowned, confused. Smiling slightly, he lifted his arm and twisted it slightly. Rocky’s mouth fell open as the Blue Turbo Morpher flashed in and out sight. He turned to Justin, still gaping.
“Wha--?” He asked and Justin shrugged, smiling slightly.
“Dad came back and we’re moving to Baltimore.” He whispered and Rocky nodded, finally understanding. David suddenly looked apologetic.
“If you want it, it’s yours. We didn’t know when you were gonna get back and we didn’t want to risk Justin having left and you not be back to take it.” He explained and Rocky nodded, then shook his head. David looked bemused.
“Keep it. Blue’s never been my color. No offense, Billy.” He added when Billy, who’d been listening to their conversation, gave him a look. Trini smiled and gave David a hug. David appeared startled for a moment but hugged her back.
“Welcome to the family. I’m Trini Kwan.” She introduced herself, smiling softly. David smiled back.
“I’m David Trueheart, Tommy’s brother.” He replied and Trini’s eyes twinkled as Zack thumped the taller man on the back.
“Zack Taylor. I can not wait to spar with you!” He bounced, did a little twirl and bopped. David chuckled; Zack’s upbeat personality was refreshing after the tension of the last few days, waiting for Jason and Kimberly to attack and discover there was a new blue on the scene.
“I’m Aisha Campbell.” The second former yellow pushed her way through the group, sidling up to give David a megawatt smile. David smiled back, pleased at the reception he was getting from some of his brother’s oldest friends.
“In honor of Aisha, Zack, and Trini’s return, drinks are on the house!” Ernie called and then disappeared as a half dozen teens rushed to the counter. The ranger group looked at each other and then burst out laughing.
“I knew it.” Khetala muttered when she and Jareth entered the Youth Center that night. Looking around, she scowled at the impromptu decorations and the loud music as a very familiar form danced in a ring of admirers. “This is not good.” Jareth murmured and Khetala nodded before assuming the upbeat personality of Kimberly. Squeeling, she dashed into the center of the ring and began bopping along with Zack. For his part, Zack didn’t appeared startled and simply moved with her, though his eyes had gone frosty. Khetala glanced over her shoulder and saw Jason in a whispered discussion off in the corner with Trini. A hand on her arm shocked her back to the former black ranger. Her façade slipped for a second, her eyes turning red before she reigned in the magic she used to uphold the illusion. Zack’s face hardened and she knew he had seen. Scowling, she snapped her arm from his gasp and marched over to Jason.
“I’m telling you, they’re going a little insane.” Jareth was insisting but Trini didn’t look convinced. Scowling, Khetala grabbed Jareth’s arm and all but dragged him from the Youth Center, leaving behind a subdued party.
“What was that all about?! I was working on her!” Jareth snapped as his illusion melted away to reveal the red eyes, black hair, and outfit of his true form. A crimson vest held together with silver chains and black pants under a black duster, he barely resembled the original red ranger anymore. With a face, Khetala allowed her illusion to fade as well.
“They’re not going to believe us, Jareth. I could see it in Zack’s face, and in Trini’s. They’re a lost cause.” She informed him tartly. Jareth scowled.
“They’re not a lost cause, Khetala, they’re a liability. They’ll have to be eliminated—they know too much about Jason and Kimberly.” He informed her hotly and she nodded in agreement, her thoughts already whipped in a frenzy as she schemed. With a last glare at the music, laughter, and light coming from the building, they turned on there heals and walked away. Three steps and they vanished in flashes of flame.
A figure stumbled into the light, staring wide-eyed at the spot where the two had disappeared. Wiping his face, he saw that it was scorched. Swallowing, he plopped to the ground, his mind going over what he had heard. “They’re not going to believe us, Jareth. I could see it in Zack’s face, and in Trini’s. They’re a lost cause.”
“They’re not a lost cause, Khetala, they’re a liability. They’ll have to be eliminated—they know too much about Jason and Kimberly.”
“They’re gonna kill Trini and Zack!”
“Rangers! Scorpina, Tyr, and Sirona are attacking downtown!” Zordon’s voice was urgent as the teens listened. It was a week since Zack, Trini, and Aisha had returned to Angel Grove and since the party, the moon had been very quiet. Unfortunately, that wasn’t uncommon these days but it was still unnerving.
“We’re on it Zordon.” Tommy responded, his voice hard. Zack resisted the urge to shiver—he hated it when Tommy got angry, it brought back unpleasant memories of a certain evil green ranger who’d kicked his ass. Shutting off the comm. link, Tommy gave Zack, Trini, Aisha, Billy, and Rocky a look.
“Get to the Power Chamber.” He ordered and the former rangers nodded in agreement. They quickly left as Tommy, David, Adam, Kat, and Tanya morphed and teleported to the battle.
Wide-eyed and thinking he should have seen this coming, a tall figure gazed at the spot where the rangers had morphed and disappeared from.
He’d been tailing Trini and Zack ever since his encounter with Jareth and Khetala. Despite his reputation for the contrary, he actually liked the two teens who’d left for the Peace Conference. If he could help keep them alive, he would.
As he left the area, he thought of how to tell the ten that not only did he know their secret, but he had overheard the two villains posing as Jason and Kim planning the deaths of Trini and Zack.
“And where are those two, anyway?” He muttered to himself as he realized that Jason and Kim hadn’t been seen in weeks. According to news, Kimberly had quit training in Florida to train closer to home. Now he wondered how much of that was the truth and how much was made up by Jareth and Khetala.
Tommy must know. He told himself. They’re his best friend and ex. Of course he knows. They better be okay or by God I’ll kill Jareth and Khetala myself.
Groaning, Tommy allowed Billy to assist him to a cot while Aisha, Trini, Zack, and Rocky did the same for the others. Swallowing, Tommy glanced worriedly at Tanya and David, both of whom were unconscious. The new blue ranger had been fighting with Sirona, the weakest of the three warriors. Despite that, David was simply unused to fighting for his life and had taken a sound beating before Sirona had hit him so hard he crashed into a parked car. Underneath the butt loads of worry and guilt, Tommy wondered absently if the owners had Ranger insurance.
“How are they Alpha?” Aisha asked quietly, causing Alpha’s lights to go crazy. If it were possible for a robot to look anxious, Alpha was looking anxious at the moment. And you'd definitely been rangering too long when you could tell a robot’s moods from the way their lights were blinking.
“They’ll live.” Trini answered him when Alpha began smoking. She gently directed him to a corner. “We’ll take care of it Alpha.”
“Rangers…too dangerous…she qualifies as a bitch…” Tommy blinked at Alpha’s muttering, wondering when the little automaton had started swearing and who he was talking about.
“Tommy, you okay?” Trini asked, grabbing his chin and forcing him to look at her. Jerking, he tried to get away but she held firm, staring into his eyes. Tommy swallowed, remembering why he’d always tried to stay on Trini’s good side—she was damn scary when she was angry.
“A little sore.” He muttered and the former yellow ranger snorted. Letting him go, she walked briskly over to the med kit, Zack and Billy eyeing her warily as they treated Kat and Adam.
“A little sore…I’d kill him if we didn’t need him…leader complex.” She muttered before turning back with a needle and rubber band, causing Tommy to pale. He scrunched up his face as she moved over and began cleaning his arm.
“Trini, I’m fine.” He tried arguing but clamped his mouth shut when she glared at him.
“You have a concussion.” She informed him coolly and he gulped, eyeing the syringe warily. After the first couple concussions he’d gotten when he first joined the team, Alpha had given Trini and Kim access to a medicine which helped clear up concussions quicker. Unfortunately, it had to be injected directly into the bloodstream. The male rangers had always hated getting the shots because Kim and Trini were always the ones administering them—and neither one had a very good bedside manner when the patient had done something stupid. He, Jason, Zack, and Billy had privately agreed that the two girls angry and with needles was a scarier image than Rita on Earth.
When she had finished stabbing him and injecting the meds, she turned around and Tommy was startled to see tears in her eyes. He hopped from the bed and gently grabbed her arm, forcing her to look at him. Her face was a mask of stone; he frowned.
“We’re gonna get them back, Trini. I promise.” He told her, knowing her anger wasn’t fully at him but at the situation and her inability to do anything about it. “If I promise not to do anything stupid for the next month, will you please dry those tears?” He pleaded.
She gave a soggy laugh, wiping her eyes. “You never could handle it when we started crying.” She whispered and Tommy breathed out a sigh of relief. If she was joking then the tears storm had been averted. She suddenly caught him in a firm look and he made his face blank. “However, the next time you get a concussion trying to fly, I’m going to give you a double dose.” She threatened lightly and Tommy made a face.
“Yes ma’am.” He mumbled, knowing his concussion was finally clearing up. “And I was not trying to fly!”
“You allowed Tyr to throw you into a tree…again!” She added and Tommy shot Billy and Rocky looks that screamed ‘traitor!’ Billy shrugged, a sheepish look on his face while Rocky moved behind Aisha.
“This is nuts!” Adam blurted out. The conscious rangers looked at him in surprise. His face was filled with fury as glared at his bandaged wrist; he’d sprained it fighting Scorpina.
“We’re never gonna get the advantage—we’re too evenly matched.” He insisted and Tommy felt something fill his chest; it took a few minutes before he realized it was dread.
“You’re right. Its gonna be a stalemate every time we fight them.” He murmured, causing the rangers to turn to him. Zordon remained quiet—he’d been letting the ranger deal with everything cause he knew he had too. This wasn’t something he could mentor them on.
“It’s the powers.” Billy snapped his fingers and Tommy blinked at him. The former blue ranger’s face was filled with realization.
“What?” Kat asked, puzzled.
“We’re fighting with science, they’re fighting with magic. Kinda.” He added. All but Trini gave him a blank look.
“Of course.” She murmured and Tommy turned to her, exasperated.
“Will the two of you explain to those of us who have no idea what you’re talking about?” He demanded and Trini and Billy shot him looks. He wasn’t backing down, however. He was sore, angry, tired, and in no mood to deal with their cryptic crap.
“When we fought Rita, we fought mostly with mystic powers—the Dino’s, the fantasy zords, even the ninja’s. When the Machine Empire came, you upped to the Zeo powers, which are based on science, cause the machine’s are based on science. But Jason and Kim are using magic as a base of attack. Pitting Science against Magic will always come out a draw, that’s why you have to change powers when the villains change. Otherwise, neither one will win.” She explained. Tommy frowned.
"Wouldn’t that be a good thing? I mean, if neither one will win, couldn’t we just fight until they give up or break the hold Maligore has on them?” He asked. Billy shook his head, his face drawn.
“A team of rangers tried that a very long time ago--it caused the total destruction of the planet and people they were protecting.” He told him quietly and Tommy swallowed.
“So what do we do?” Kat asked quietly.
The rangers turned to David and Tanya, who had awoken in the middle of Trini’s explaination. Tanya shrugged. “There has to be more powers than the, what, five we’ve had.”
They glanced at each other, uncertain.
“No new powers are available at this time that I know of.” Zordon spoke softly and the rangers frowned. Aisha’s face brightened.
“What about an old one?” She asked, pulling a semi-familiar coin from her pocket. The rangers stared at the bear embossed on the front, a replica of the one destroyed when time was changed. Tommy looked up at Zordon.
“Could we, Zordon? Could Ninjor turn us back into Ninja’s?” He asked his voice hopeful. Zordon frowned.
“I do not know but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Billy, summon Ninjor please.” He requested and Billy immediately went to work. Within a few moments, a very familiar form flashed into the Power Chamber.
“Who has summoned the Ninja Mast—oh, hello rangers.” He greeted them warmly once he saw who had called him. Tommy smiled slightly.
“Ninjor, this is Trini Kwan, Zack Taylor, Tanya Slone, and my brother David Trueheart.” He quickly introduced the Ninja Master to those who hadn’t met him.
“A pleasure!” he grinned, bending to kiss Trini and Tanya’s hands. The girls stifled giggles.
“Ninjor, do you know what’s happened with Kimberly and Jason?” Tommy got straight to the point and Ninjor bopped his head.
“The Crane has been greatly distressed on what has happened to her child.” He told them softly. Tommy swallowed a lump.
“Can you help us?” He asked, and Billy and Trini quickly explained their predicament. Ninjor stroked his chin thoughtfully before shaking his head sadly. Tommy’s spirits plummeted.
“I can not make you ninja again—once the power is gone from you, that’s it.” He told them, and the rangers slumped. “However, I may know of something else that you can connect to.”
Tommy’s head snapped up and the rangers stared at the Ninja Master in shock. He shrugged.
“There is a power greater than Ninja but one must have already been Ninja in order to attain it. Since you have, you can get this power. But it will be dangerous.” He warned. Tommy set his shoulder.
“Is it mystic?” He asked, going into what the others had dubbed leader mode. Ninjor nodded.
“Yes, the Ninjette powers are mystical in nature—they should suit your needs.” He agreed. Tommy nodded, glancing at the others.
“You said that we had to have been Ninja in order to get it—so Rocky, Billy, Aisha, Tommy, Kat, and I have to get this?” Adam asked and Ninjor nodded again. Rocky and Billy exchanged glances.
“I knew there was a reason I wasn’t meant to be a Turbo.” Billy murmured and Rocky nodded his agreement.
“How do we get the power?” Aisha asked. Ninjor looked up at Zordon who nodded.
“You will have to travel to Phaedos, where the power is located. As Ninjor has told you, this will be very dangerous rangers. No one has every survived the trials of claiming the power.” He warned but Tommy face had set.
“Being a ranger has always been dangerous. We can do this.” He told his mentor confidentially and Zordon nodded.
“I agree. If anyone can attain this power, rangers, it’s you. When will you leave?” He asked and Tommy looked at Adam, Rocky, Aisha, Billy, and Kat. All but Kat nodded.
“I’m not going.” She told them quietly. They started.
“Why?” Tommy asked quietly and Kat shrugged.
“It doesn’t feel right. There’s only one person I can see as the Pink Ninjette and its not me. I’m sorry.” She murmured and Ninjor nodded.
“It’s doubtful the Great Power would accept her--while she had the pink ninja powers, she’s not the Crane.” He told them. Tommy nodded, somewhat relieved. Despite everything, he would never be able to see anyone but Kim as the Pink Ninja/Ninjette. Kat smiled at him and he smiled back. He turned to Zordon.
“We leave as soon as possible.” He replied and Zordon nodded. Ninjor stepped forward.
“Find Dulcea, my cousin. Tell her I sent you and that I believe in you. She’ll help.” He told him and Tommy nodded. Quickly telling them good luck, he teleported out. Tommy looked down at his wrist, frowning. He glanced at Adam, who seemed to know what he was thinking. He hopped from the cot he’d been sitting on, twisting his wrists so his Turbo Morpher appeared. He quickly took it off. Kat and Tanya nodded when Tommy glanced at them and he took off his own Morpher. The others suddenly caught on.
“We can’t leave Earth unprotected while we go to Phaedos.” Billy murmured and Tommy nodded. Quickly conferring with Adam, Kat, and Tanya, Tommy stepped forward and grabbed Trini’s hand. As the former yellow ranger stared at him wide-eyed, he handed her the red Morpher. He glanced apologetically at Zack but found the former black ranger grinning in approval even as he accepted the green Morpher from Adam. Tommy turned back to Trini.
“There’s no one better to lead a ranger team than you Trini.” He told her softly and Trini swallowed, tears once again in her eyes. He gave her a small smile and then stepped back. Adam shared a grin with Zack.
“It seems only fitting I give you my powers after you gave me yours.” He murmured and Zack laughed.
“Sweet!” He exclaimed, examining the key. Trini nudged him and he looked up. Seeing her expression he nodded. Sharing one last grin with Tommy and Adam, they went into position. Knowing instinctively what to do, they grinned.
“Shift into Turbo!”
“Desert Thunder Turbo Power!”
“Red Lightning Turbo Power!”
When the light cleared, Tommy was amused to see that the power had added something to the red uniform. As the two new Turbo’s took off their helmets, Trini looked down at her armor in surprise.
“Well that’s new.” She muttered, smoothing the red skirt that was similar to Kat and Tanya’s.
“Somehow…it fits.” He told her and she smiled. “You’re the first female red ranger of Earth; best not let anyone forget it.”
“Definitely.” Kat, Tanya, and Aisha said and the four girls grinned at each other. Tommy glanced at his watch.
“Come one guys, its time to go.” He ordered and the other former ninja’s moved to stand next to him after quickly grabbing the Turbo packs. Kat, Tanya, David, Zack, and Trini faced them.
“Good luck.” Trini told them, staring at Tommy. He smiled slightly.
“You too. Be careful.” He warned and Trini nodded, eyes twinkling.
“I’m thinking needles are gonna be the new punishment for stupid stuff.” She told him causing Billy and Tommy to wince. Zack stared at her incredulously.
“Since what has that been a new punishment?!” he demanded Trini laughed. Tommy caught Kat’s eye and she smiled at him, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
“Come back.” She whispered and Tommy nodded. With one more glance, Alpha teleported them away.
“What the--? JARETH!” Khetala screamed. Jareth ran in, his face a mask to those who didn’t know him well but Khetala could clearly see worry in his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” He demanded and Khetala pointed out the bedroom window, five pinpricks of light glowing dim even as he watched.
“Five white teleportation streaks.” She told him hotly. He growled.
“Where the hell do you they think they’re going?” He demanded before stomping from the bedroom. Khetala followed him. Once in the throne room, he started giving orders.
“Hecate, find out where those teleportation streaks are going. Dwyn, Lasair, Janus, Sorina, disguise yourself and go down to earth to determine who has left. Scorpina, Tyr, Eise, prepare a dozen Keres for battle.” He ordered. When everyone remained frozen, his eyes flashed black and he bellowed “NOW!”
His court scattered like the wind.
Khetala was working on her hair later that day when a flash of purple heralded the arrival of her cousin, Astronema. Standing, she turned to face the purple and black clad woman. Without a word, Astronema plopped herself on the bed.
“I HATE reds.” She grumbled. Khetala raised an eyebrow.
“Red trouble, I take it?” She asked curiously. Astronema groaned.
“I took over KO-35, a small human colony a few years ago—destroyed the first two versions of the ranger team before getting all but that annoying red. He’s been making a nuisance of himself lately and Dark Spector wants him gone. And I can’t seem to track him down!” She let out an unintelligible screech just as the Prince walked in.
Jareth raised an eyebrow at the sight of his cousin lying on the bed, her hands on her face, screeching while his sister sat back, looking bemused and sympathetic. Catching his eye, she made a face.
“Astronema is having red issues.” She explained blithely and he nodded, suddenly getting it.
“Give it time, eventually all reds make mistakes that can be taken advantage of.” He advised her. Astronema peeked at him through her fingers.
“You think so?” She asked hopefully and Jareth nodded.
“Despite what many might think, Rangers are not Gods.” He told her before turning to Khetala. “Any word from Hecate?”
Khetala shook her head. “Not yet. They could be heading to any number of planets. She says she should have it within the day.” She answered promptly. Jareth nodded, glowering. Astronema sat on her arms, still lying on the bed.
“Whats going on?”
Jareth and Khetala exchanged looks but ultimately Jareth nodded. Khetala made a face. “Five of the rangers have left Earth. Lady Hecate is trying to determine where they’re going.” Se explained. Astronema nodded.
“Sounds like were both having issues.” She muttered. Jareth snorted.
“You two enjoy yourselves. I’m going to go train with Tyr.” He told them and they nodded. Once he was gone from the room, Khetala poked her head outside and ordered a Keres to gather all the women but Hecate, who remained working. Within minutes, Eise, Sirona, and Scorpina had joined them for a little girl time.
“That was just what I needed.” Astronema sighed later that night as Khetala showed her to a bedroom.
“Me too. Being evil doesn’t mean we can’t be girls.” She replied. Astronema snorted.
“Women, Khetala, we can’t be women.” She corrected. Khetala rolled her eyes.
“Here we are. Enjoy your stay.” Khetala swept open the doors and Astronema walked in, squealing. Khetala’s expression didn’t betray the fact she was surprised at the change in the room. She could’ve sworn the room had been done in reds and blacks, like the rest of the palace, not purple and black.
“You like it, I take it?” She asked dryly and Astronema nodded, falling onto the bed.
“Two Keres have been assigned to assist you. They’ll remain outside the door unless you call them in. Evil night!” Khetala called, backing out and closing the door behind her. Looking at the two Keres, she smirked.
“As I said before, assist her but do not let her in the restricted areas. Princess of Evil or not, NO ONE must know of Jareth and my projects. Understood?” She demanded and smirked when they nodded.
“Jareth?” Khetala asked a few hours later as they lay in bed. She gently traced patterns on his bare chest, gleaming with sweat from their love-making. He grunted, his own hand massaging her scalp.
“Astronema, Scorpina, and I talked about going to Onyx for the Dark Market. I was hoping to find a metal smith to make a new weapon for me.” She explained, lifting her head to look into Jareth’s face. He nodded, his eyes on a small parchment in front of him.
“Get me a new set of daggers as well, would you?” He asked. She smirked, leaning up to press a kiss to his cheek. Without a word, he turned his head and captured her lips with his own. Khetala moaned as she brought her hands up to tangle in his hair. Jareth, for his part, threw the parchment to the floor and rolled over so he was above her. As he began trailing kisses down her throat, he waved a hand behind him and heard the clear sound of the door locking. Looking into her eyes, he smirked.
“No interruptions this time.”
“Intriguing.” Khetala murmured, inspecting a silver blade. The handle was black leather with silver vines painstakingly etched on it. The owner gave a spasm of a bow. “Lined with razer sharp diamonds, my lady--can cut through almost anything!” He told her in a low whine. She raised an eyebrow, inspecting the edge more closely to find that he was right—it was lined with diamonds. She smiled.
“I’ll take it.” She told him, reaching into her purse and dropping ten coins into the mans greedy hands. Eyes wide, he hurriedly grabbed another dagger identical to the one she now possessed and handed it to her.
“The set, my lady.” He told her, slipping the coins into a pocket of his coat. She nodded, knowing that she had overpaid and he had compensated—the Dark Market was the only place in the galaxy where evil treated each other fairly and things they usually delighted in were frowned upon. At least, that’s what they were supposed to do.
“Theif!” a man screeched behind her. She turned slowly, eyeing the scene with distaste. Her, ehem, step-mother was standing in front of a small crowd of angry market-men and women, looking annoyed.
“I’m a pirate, what do you expect?” Divatox asked, rolling her eyes. “I also happen to be the Queen of Darkness, therefore—“
“Queen of Darkness? Hardly. Lord Maligore can’t stand the sight of you ever since you got his brother killed!” Khetala snorted. The marketers looked from the two women, confused. Khetala smirked—very few men and women seemed to know what she and Jareth looked like and the descriptions Astronema had given her were so far off to be laughable.
“Why you little brat!” Divatox screeched. Khetala looked at her new daggers thoughtfully, before looking up.
“You really want to be marked a traitor, don’t you?” She asked lazily as two Keres came up beside her. Divatox eyed them with envy.
“Why don’t you allow mommy-dearest to use some of your—“ What she was going to say was cut off as she screamed—Khetala had thrown the dagger at her, pinning her flowing cape to the wooden beam of a market stall. The crowd tittered quietly at the enraged expression on the pirates face.
“I have no mother. I need no mother.” The crimson-haired woman informed her. “By order of the Princess of Darkness, all items you have stolen this day will be returned to their rightful owners immediately. Fail to do so, and I give permission for these fine marketers to punish you for failing to honor the code.”
Divatox whimpered as two of the market-men leered at her. She glared at Khetala who was standing with Astronema, Scorpina, and the two Keres. The crowd whispered to each other in hush tones—it was now apparent to all who exactly she was. Astronema smirked.
“I, Princess of Evil, daughter of Dark Spector himself, add my order to my cousins—all items will be returned immediately or we’ll see just how creative these men and women can be.” She informed her haughtily. Divatox made a face but grudgingly motioned to Elgar who upended the bag he’d been holding. Over a dozen objects fell to the ground. Khetala, Astronema, and Scorpina watched as the marketers hurried forward and grabbed at the things that had been taken from them.
Smirking at the annoyed and flustered expression on Divatox’ face, Khetala turned and left with the two women. They’d barely taken three steps when a short, fat man stepped forward and gave her a bow. Khetala tilted her head back regally as Scorpina straightened and Astronema smirked at the man.
“My ladies, I implore you’re help. I had thought the pirate,” He spat her name and Khetala stifled a laugh. “Has stolen something from my tent but it was not among the items that were dumped. I fear someone else took it.”
“What was this item?” Astronema asked curiously. The man gave a nervous look at Khetala, twitching as he looked down.
“An ice dagger, Princess.” He mumbled.
Khetala went still, her eyes locked on the man’s form. Next to her Astronema glared and Scorpina stiffened.
“An ice dagger?” the black armored woman asked harshly. The man nodded miserably. Astronema was seething.
“Ice daggers are to be destroyed when found, that is Dark Spectors law—why wasn’t this one destroyed when it came into your possession?” She demanded. He swallowed, seeming to shrink in on himself.
“I only just found out, princess. Twas my father who found it originally and I never knew of the dark law until this morning. That was why I have come to you. I know the dangers it possesses.” He whimpered. Astronema snarled and backhanded the man to the floor.
“Divatox would not have stolen it for she would not have known what it was—someone else then, someone who knows the power it possesses would have taken it. Someone who fears and hates you, my lady.” Scorpina spoke up, her voice extremely hard. Khetala looked at her and instantly knew who she meant.
So far, she and Jareth had only made three enemies among the dark courts. One of them would have gladly braved the punishment of stealing at the Dark Market. Two of them knew of the dark law and knew what an ice dagger could do to Jareth, Maligore, and herself.
“Rita and Zedd.” She replied flatly and Scorpina nodded. Astronema’s eyes flashed fire and she turned on the market, sending a blast of energy high into the air. The crowd froze, turning to her.
“Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd are wanted for questioning by the High Court. A reward of a higher title and 10 thousand tokens will be given to the one who brings them before myself or my cousins!” She yelled. The crowd instantly began whispering in hush tones.
“Find them! Do whatever it takes!”
“THEY’RE WHERE?!” Jareth bellowed when Hecate finally approached him with the location of the rangers. “Phaedos, my lord.” She replied calmly, having grown use to Jareth’s temper. “Home of the Great Power.”
He turned to Tyr and Eise who had entered the room when they heard his bellow. “Tyr, gather a team of Keres and send them to Phaedos. Eise, go to Onyx and get Khetala.” He ordered before waving a hand to reveal a flame screen that showed the inside of the Youth Center. Trini, Zack, David, Kat, and Tanya could be clearly seen.
“We have rangers to destroy.”
“Woah.” “What a rush!”
“This place is incredible!”
“Anyone else feeling queasy from that little ride?”
Billy looked over to see Aisha bent over, holding her stomach. He smiled a bit as Adam and Rocky went and helped her. Tommy stood next to him, inspecting the area.
They’d landed on the kind of beach you only see in movies. The water was aqua blue, clear in the sunlight. The rocks seemed white-washed as they nearly glowed. The sky was clear of any clouds, and two moons could just be seen in the distance. His lips quirked.
“If that isn’t a sign we’re not on Earth anymore, I don’t know what is.” He murmured. Tommy followed his gaze, saw what he was looking at, and snorted.
“Aisha, you okay?” He asked, turning to the now upright former yellow. She made a face, rubbing her stomach absently.
“I’ll be fine. Let’s find this Dulcea woman.” She told him. Tommy nodded, glancing around.
“Which way?” He asked Billy who frowned, scanning the distance. Finally, he shrugged.
“I suppose we can follow the coastline, see if we can find paths or civilization.’ He suggested. Tommy nodded.
“Which way?” He asked again, motioning to his left and right. Billy made a face.
“Normally I’d say follow the sun’s movement but…” He hedged and Tommy raised an eyebrow. Billy sighed.
“We’re on another planet so for all I know, following the Sun’s descent in the sky could make us go North.” He said bluntly and Tommy nodded. He took a deep breath.
“Let’s go this way.” He said and began walking. The group looked at each other, shrugged, and followed.
Adam sighed, looking at his watch again. They’d been walking for about three hours with nothing to show for it except getting scared shitless when Aisha had tripped over a skeleton. To make matters worse, daylight was fast fading and he could see several stars peaking in the sky. He saw Aisha, who was walking directly in front of him shiver and he made a face. Shrugging out of his flannel, he gently placed it on her shoulders. She shot him a smile of gratitude.
After living in Africa for so long, Aisha wasn’t used the cold. Yes, it got cool at night but the village was smack dab in the middle of the desert and never got colder than 75 degrees. She wasn’t sure, but she believed that they had already gone below that.
Rocky smiled when he saw Adam’s act of gallantry. He’d been about to hand over his own flannel but the former black and green had beat him to the punch. Glancing over his shoulder he wasn’t surprised to see Billy studying the landscape intensely. Taking the chance, he studied the former blue’s profile in the fast fading light. His dirty blonde hair was shaggy, with little curls covering his neck and bangs falling into his eyes. His blue eyes were drawn together in scrutiny as he looked around. Rocky’s eyes traveled lower, taking in the black shirt tight across his chest and the blue vest across his wide shoulders. A commotion at the front made him stop his perusal of Billy’s physique. Hurrying forward, he found Tommy muttering curses as he shook out his leg. Seeing his audience, Tommy made a face.
“I tripped.” He explained. Rocky and Adam nodded while Aisha fussed over the former red’s ankle. Billy sighed.
“We need to find shelter and build a fire. We can’t keep walking in the dark.” He suggested. Tommy shook his head.
“We have to find Ninjor’s cousin. I don’t like not being on Earth right now.” He responded. Billy gave him a look.
“How are we supposed to get the Great Power if we’re all injured from trying to hike in the dark?” He pointed out. Tommy stared at him silently for a moment before his shoulders drooped.
“You’re right. Let’s find a clearing, maybe a cave. Also be on the lookout for food.” He ordered. The group nodded and got up.
Billy moved back to the end of the line, studying the surrounding area. Privately he was proud of himself for remembering to bring the Turbo packs-at least they’d have fresh drinking water that night and a small amount of food. He knew they could handle a couple days with rationed meals but water…that they couldn’t go without.
His thoughts suddenly strayed as he caught sight of Rocky looking him again. The former red and blue ranger had been doing that a lot lately. He hadn’t said a word but Billy felt funny every time he caught him at it. He swore that he’d have a permanent blush on his face if he kept it up.
Tommy was brooding. He knew he was but that didn’t seem to help. He hadn’t liked the idea of leaving Earth—despite what he’d said back in the Command Center about Trini’s abilities as leader, he worried for them. Jareth and Khetala were the hardest enemy they faced—and not just because they were former friends and rangers. They twisted everything they knew, played mind games with them, and he knew that if they had the chance, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill one of them. “Hey guys, check it out!” Aisha called, pointing. The boys looked over and saw a small opening, barely big enough for a person to fit through. Shrugging, they headed over. Tommy peered inside but couldn’t see a thing.
“Hey Billy, got a light?” He asked, looking over at him. Billy nodded, grabbing the red pack from Tommy’s shoulder and rummaging inside till he found the lighter. After returning from Aquitar, he’d redone the Turbo packs to include standard emergency equipment. While they had a limited water supply, the packs hadn’t had any first aid supplies or food.
Tommy accepted it with a smile and clicked it on. He quietly stepped into the cave, holding the lighter in the air in front of him. Rocky, Adam, Aisha, and Billy grabbed their own packs and found the lighters. With the five lighters in hand, they entered the cave to find it just large enough to hold the five rangers. They deduced that it must have been a camping spot before since the center housed a small fire ring and off to the side was rough firewood and kindling. It’d been a while since someone had actually been there, they realized, when Adam found a thick coat of dust over the wood and ring.
“When sunrise comes, we’ll head out.” Tommy planned as Rocky and Adam got the fire going. Billy cautioned the group not to eat too much since they didn’t know how long they were going to be on the planet with no viable source of food.
“Someone should take watch.” Aisha suggested. The boys looked at her in surprise before Tommy slowly nodded.
“You’re right. I’ll take the first watch.” He agreed. They quickly decided Adam would take over for Tommy in a few hours and then Rocky, Billy, and finally Aisha, who said she had gotten used to rising with the sun
“You guys get some sleep.” Tommy ordered, throwing the red pack towards Aisha. Smiling at him, she grabbed his pack and withdrew the emergency cloth that would be an extra blanket. Using the yellow pack as a pillow, she laid down and quickly fell into a light slumber. Rocky and Adam followed her lead and were soon sleeping as well. Billy and Tommy looked at each other.
“You should sleep.” Tommy told him and Billy snorted.
“I know what you’re gonna do Tommy and its not gonna happen.” He told him. Tommy made a face.
“What are you talking about?” He asked, avoiding the blue rangers gaze. Billy glared at him.
“All of us need rest, you most of all. You are not keeping watch all night.” He informed him coolly. Tommy fidgeted.
“But—“ he began only to get cut off by Billy growling—growling!—at him.
“In three hours, you are waking up Adam. If I find out you didn’t, I’ll send you back to Earth cause you’re not listening to the senior medical tech on the team.” He warned. Tommy made a face.
“That only works in the military, Billy, not among us!” He argued. Billy raised an eyebrow.
“Zordon himself said that we had the power to force you to leave battle or a situation if you were deemed too unhealthy enough to continue. He’ll back me up.” He reminded him. Tommy scowled.
“If Kim were here, she wouldn’t be yelling at me about this.” He muttered mutinously. Billy snorted.
“If Kim were here, we wouldn’t be, would we?” He pointed out. Tommy made another face.
“Fine, I’ll wake up Adam in three hours. Happy?” He snapped. Billy nodded, completely ignoring his surely attitude. He quietly made up his bed and laid down so his head was by Rocky’s. Ignoring the little voice in his head who was whispering that he had it bad, he gave Tommy one more warning glare before falling asleep.
“Billy!” Rocky hissed, gently shaking the blue ranger. With a groan, he opened his eyes to find Rocky’s face peering at him from above. With a start, he shot up in bed, banging heads with the other teen. “Damnit!” Billy cursed, rubbing his forehead. He looked over at Rocky, who was wincing as he held his head. “Sorry.”
Rocky waved him away. “No worries.” He told him. Billy yawned, glancing at his watch. 3am.
“My turn?” He asked and Rocky nodded, motioning to Tommy who was tossing and turning by the fire. Looking over he saw Aisha and Adam curled around each other. He raised an eyebrow and Rocky smirked.
“We used to do that all the time, the three of us. When we went camping, for extra warmth when it was cold. Aisha was always in the middle.” He murmured wistfully. Billy blinked, remembering the few times he’d gone camping with the three of them.
Most of the time they girls shared a tent and the guys would share. He remembered how at ease Rocky and Adam had been at sleeping around each other and in comparison how Tommy and he had been jumpy the entire first night. He also recalled the one time, when Tommy was unable to go on a trip with them. One of the tents had a hole in it and it had rained all three days. They all ended up piling into the bigger tent (the hole-less one). While Billy was used to curling around Kim, we’d been shocked with how at ease the other three were—and how at ease they’d been in adding Kim and Billy to the sleeping pile. When he’d woken up that morning, he’d been spooning with Kim, who had her head on Adam’s chest, inches from Aisha, who was curled on the former black and green rangers other side. Rocky had been spooning with Aisha.
“Billy, hello, you in there?” Rocky waved a hand in the former blue’s face. Billy blinked as he came back to the present.
“Sorry, got lost in my thoughts.” He muttered, not looking at Rocky. That camping trip had been the first time he realized that Rocky was rather hot.
“Hey Billy, can I ask you something?” Rocky asked suddenly. Billy looked at him, seeing the nervous expression. He swallowed.
“What’s up?” He asked. Rocky worried his lower lip; Billy tore his gaze from it to look into Rocky’s face.
“I was, well I was wondering if you’d thought about dating. I mean, since figuring everything out?” Rocky asked. Billy frowned, noticing the nervousness in his voice.
“I’m not sure actually. I’m not really up on the gay, uh, scene.” He told him. Rocky nodded, ducking his head. Billy may have been fairly oblivious when it came to Marge, but he had a feeling he knew where this was going. And if the growing ball of excitement was any indication, he welcomed it.
“Well, I know a few clubs. Maybe we could go, you know, together?” Rocky asked, nervously.
“Rocky, are you asking me out?” Billy asked, amused. Normally, he’d be a spluttering mess right about then, except for one simple fact. This was Rocky asking him out, not some random girl who didn’t know him.
“Yes he is, now say yes so I can get back to sleep.” Aisha muttered from where she lay. Rocky and Billy both jumped and turned to see that the others were all awake and watching them with amusement. The two turned red. The three just looked at them expectantly. Blushing, Billy turned and caught Rocky’s eye. He gave him a small smile.
“Ask me again when we get back to Earth.” He told him before standing up and heading out of the cave, barely keeping himself from trembling. He looked over his shoulder to see Rocky grinning like a loon and the three others rolling their eyes as they went back to sleep.
“Alright, this is getting ridiculous.” Aisha was the one who finally voiced what they all been thinking. It was nearly lunch time and they had been walking all morning with not a single sight of civilization. Aisha and Adam had tried keeping themselves amused by watching Rocky and Billy who’d been sneaking looks at each other and then looking away when their gazes would catch. Tommy had been focused on the mission so completely that he barley even noticed the other four. “What do you suggest we do?” Tommy asked, angrily. “Its not like Ninjor gave us a whole lot of help. Find my cousin, she’ll help. Oh yeah, thanks Ninjor!” He yelled. Aisha eyes flashed.
“Tommy, you are so not helping!” She snapped. “I was just thinking that maybe we should look at this another way.”
“Like what?” Tommy demanded.
“I don’t know, something other than following the coastline cause we’re lost!” Aisha shot back.
“If you have a suggestion, I’d like to hear it.” Tommy told her.
“Why the hell are you looking at me?! I’m not the only one here who can have ideas!” Aisha snapped.
“WHAT?!” Tommy and Aisha yelled, turning to Adam. He pointed to a small cliff. They looked over and saw a dozen Keres.
“Thought you might want to know we have company.”
“Shit!” They cursed simultaneously. Exchanging an exasperated glance with Billy and Rocky, Adam prepared for the onslaught as the Keres jumped down and attacked.
“You know the funny thing about morphing?” Billy called after fighting off a Keres who looked like aTriforian. Adam grinned over at him.
“What’s that?” He asked.
“You don’t appreciate it until you can’t do it anymore!” He yelled back right before getting tackled by a large figure in a very familiar headgear. Billy stared up in shock.
The eres scrambled to his feet, growling. Billy crab-walked backwards, looking around widely. He was surrounded. The Triforian Keres had reappeared as well as two more with the same headgear as the Keres that had tackled him. His heart in his throat, he instantly recognized them.
“Tideus. Cestria…” He whispered, heartbroken. The three Keres grinned at him maliciously. Before they could do anything, however, a blur of green leather and bronze skin had swept them away. As Billy watched in utter shock, the woman beat the Keres back until they finally disappeared in flashes of flames. Breathing heavily, she turned to Billy as the other rangers hurried over to help him up.
“Friends of yours?” She asked, her voice accented. Dumbly, he nodded.
“They used to be.” He murmured. The woman snorted.
“Why are you here?” She demanded. Tommy stepped forward.
“We’re here for the Great Power.” He told her confidently. Billy broke from his haze as Dulcea swept her staff out and tripped Tommy, causing him to fall onto his back.
“Leave Phaedos. The Great Power is only for those who have the strength of the Ninja.” She told him, keeping the knob on his chest. Aisha held out her hands in the universal surrender position.
“Ninjor sent us.” She began but was cut off by the woman, who was looking at them in puzzlement.
“Ninjor?” She asked, looking down at Tommy uneasily. “You know Ninjor? Then that would make you…”
Billy nodded as she trailed off, her eyes wide. “The ninja team from Earth.” He confirmed.
“We need your help, Dulcea.”
“You must first be reconnected with your animal spirit,” Dulcea told them the next night. After imploring her help, Dulcea had led the five rangers what she dubbed the Ancient Ninjette temple. Ancient was right, Tommy realized, looking around. The ruins were nearly gone, only the outer columns remained. The in the middle was a roaring fire, small enough to keep everyone in the limits of the ruins, but large enough to keep everyone warm. Across from them stood Dulcea, studying them intently.
“As you know, there is an animal within us all. You know your spirits but your connection has been lost. Look deep within to find it again. Reconnect,” she told them before gently blowing sand from her hand into the fire. It lept up, swirling madly. The rangers took deep breaths, closed their eyes, and did as she ordered.
From her spot opposite them, Dulcea could see the exact moment each of the five reconnected. One by one, they glowed brightly in their colors. Adam was first, reconnecting in a violent burst of black. Dulcea smiled as the Frog jumped onto his shoulder, studying the youth intently. Turning to his Priestess, Jadespring smiled.
“It is good to be back with my child,” he told her. Looking to the girl on his right, she smiled.
The bear Stronggrip had wrapped his arms around the young woman, holding her tightly. The bear looked at Dulcea. “My cub has returned.”
“As has mine,” Fleetfoot said, nudging Billy with her snout. Dulcea smiled, pleased to see Mightyfist with Rocky and Swiftwing with Tommy. Curiously, another spirit had entered the temple. She looked at Skysong quizzically.
“Skysong, why do you come?” she asked quietly so as not to startle the teens out of their trances. The crane looked at the Priestess mournfully.
“My child is lost, Lady. We too should be reconnected but cannot,” she cried. Dulcea frowned.
“There was a sixth?” she asked and the spirits nodded. Dulcea realized suddenly that Skysong was not the only spirit who looked melancholy. “Why is she not here then?”
“She has been possessed by the flame of Maligore, she and her mate of spirit. That is why the others have come; they seek a way to free the two without harming them,” Skysong explained sadly. Dulcea sighed. Everything made sense now; she had wondered why Ninjor had sent them. All they had said was that Earth needed them. She straightened as the five teens opened their eyes to inspect their new uniforms. Dulcea smiled at them even as the five spirits by their side leaped into their chestplates.
“You have reconnected. Congratulations,” she told them, watching the awe they felt at being with their spirits once more. “I send you know to pass the trials. I will not, however, send you alone.”
“What do you mean, Dulcea?” Billy asked. She smiled at him as she gently scooped some sand from the alter. Springling it over the crane, she watched as the pink animal became corporal. The five teens eyes widened.
“Your companion may come to the Temple once the hold upon her is gone. Until then, her spirit animal may accompany you while you travel,” she told them as the pink crane flew to perch on the White Ninjette’s shoulder. She nuzzled him slightly before going and doing the same to the other four. Dulcea smiled when she saw the tears in the teens eyes. Skysong had always been protective and motherly—the comfort of having their companions spirit animal would give them the strength to do what they must.
“Jareth?” Khetala called from where she stood in the hidden room. Jareth turned and inspected the warriors before him.
He and Khetala had known first-hand just how much mayhem a dark ranger could cause. With that in mind, they had come upon an idea. With Hecate’s magic, they had created what they saw as the ultimate fighting force. Five warriors, dressed in dark ranger gear, they were as strong, agile, and fast as a normal ranger. Additionally, all had the ability to mimic a true rangers fighting style. The colors were in honor of the team that inspired them—Red, Blue, Black, Yellow, and Pink. Jareth smirked.
“The Psycho Rangers,” he announced, showing off his force to Astronema. She eyed them hungrily.
“Psycho?” she asked curiously as she circled him. Jareth and Khetala exchanged smirks.
“Cause the rangers they’re based on were psycho’s to think they could beat evil,” Khetala answered.
“They can be programmed to fight any team, not just the Turbo’s. They’re currently un-programmed but we’re working on that,” Jareth told her.
“Eventually, they’ll be the personal assassin force for the Dark Family,” Khetala added, watching as Astronema’s eyes lit up.
“I’ll have use of these?” she asked eagerly. Khetala smirked.
“Eventually. They have to be field tested first. We had one test already—they destroyed the rangers of Argos before getting destroyed by Master Vile,” she made a face. Astronema eyes flashed.
“Did you tell father?” she asked and the two nodded.
“Uncle has given us permission to use them on Vile once they’ve been tested as punishment,” she grinned and Astronema smirked.
“Wonderful,” she purred. The three turned to Scorpina when the woman came in.
“My Lord, my Ladies, I have word on the Plan,” she announced. Jareth and Khetala turned to her sharply as Astronema looked on curiously.
“Well?” Jareth demanded. Scorpina smirked.
“The house and its occupants have been destroyed, My Lord. You needn’t worry about him returning to help his…friends,” she sneered. Jareth and Khetala shared a gleeful look.
“Khet? Jar?” Astronema asked, reminding them she was present. Jareth made a face at the nicknames.
“Its Jareth, Astronema,” he growled. She rolled her eyes.
“We needn’t worry about the former Blue returning,” he told her hotly. “He’s been eliminated.”
“He has?” she asked, shocked. It had taken her years to get rid of one of those blasted KO 35 rangers. Jareth smirked as six Keres walked in, holding the still body of a young, twelve year old. His body was covered in soot, his chest a bloody mess. He leaned over, inspecting the wound.
“Sword?” he asked and she nodded, handing the aforementioned sword to Jareth. He smirked at the blood before handing it back.
“Place it on a pedestal—the first weapon to kill a Ranger of Earth.”
“Oh wow,” Billy whispered as the great power filled him. The animated skeletons, the rock-warriors, they were fairly easy to handle with the familiar presence of the crane by their side. But as the power filled him, he felt a sense of loss—Kim herself should have been with them. Glancing at the others, he could see the others felt the same. “I missed this,” Rocky murmured by his side. Billy glanced at him and saw the familiar red form of the Ninjette and Morphin armor. He smiled behind his helmet as Rocky twisted, showing off the familiar planes of his backside. Billy shook his head to clear it of the unneeded thoughts.
“Let’s go home,” Tommy said. With a last peak at Rocky, Billy followed the others and teleported away.
As they traveled, Billy thought of the differences between the trip back. On their way to Phaedos, he’d felt sick, dizzy, and unbalanced. Without the power as a buffer, they all had felt disorientated upon dematerialization. Now, with the Great Power filling him, he felt slightly unbalanced but other than that he felt fine.
Which meant, of course, that when he landed in the Power Chamber he fell flat on his ass. Groaning, his face slightly red in embarrassment, he looked around and saw that all five of them had fallen. Looking up, he accepted a hand from David who pulled him to his feet. Once standing, he popped his helmet off and saw that the others were doing the same.
“Whats wrong?” Tommy asked sharply. Billy looked around and suddenly realized that Kat, Tanya, and Trini’s eyes were suspiciously red-rimmed. Feeling his stomach drop, he barely heard Trini as she answered.
“We got word yesterday that Scorpina and a dozen Keres attacked a house in downtown Baltimore,” she told Tommy matter-of-factly. Watching him, he saw Tommy’s eyes grow wide.
“Justin…,” he whispered. Kat led out a sob, burying her face in her hands.
“His father was found dead. He…he was cut in two,” Trini told him, her voice catching. Billy felt his stomach turn over and had to force the bile that threatened to rise back down.
“And Justin?” Rocky asked, oddly calm. Kat and Tanya were sobbing quietly into each others arms, unable to answer. David stood and motioned for them to follow. The five rangers followed him, Zack, and Trini to a room just off to the side. Walking in, Billy froze. Lying on a table was a a figure covered in white cloth. Alpha stood by the table, making notes. David went to lift the cloth but Tommy stopped him. Walking forward, Tommy stared down at the form for a minute before gently grabbing the cloth and lifting it to reveal Justin’s pale, unbreathing form. Billy watched as through a dream as Adam hurried from the room, his face as green as his former uniform; Aisha followed him. Tears fell from Rocky’s eyes silently as he stared at the former blue’s form.
“He was a kid,” Tommy murmured, gently placing a hand on Justin’s forehead, “He was supposed to be safe.”
“He was so happy,” Rocky whispered. Tommy knocked his head to the side, listening but not commenting, “He was finally back with his dad. This shouldn’t have happened.”
“No, it shouldn’t have. But it did,” Tommy answered, his voice devoid of emotion, “Jareth and Khetala knew we would call on him if we had to. Knew he would be a liability to them if something happened to one of us.”
“So they killed him,” Rocky replied flatly. Tommy nodded as Trini twitched.
“They were planning on killing Aisha, Zack, and me too,” she told them quietly. Tommy didn’t take his eyes off of Justin.
“Oh?” he asked, his voice hard.
“Skull overheard them talking. He told us he knew the truth when word of the attack reached Angel Grove last night,” she answered promptly.
“How come the sensors didn’t warn us?” Tommy asked. Trini sniffled.
“They only scan Angel Grove and the surrounding area. We never had to scan the rest of the world before,” she replied in a disgusted tone of voice.
“Billy, recalibrate them to constantly scan Earth,” he ordered. Billy frowned.
“I’m not sure I can--” he began but was cut off by Tommy who twirled around, his face filled with rage.
“THEN FIND A WAY!” he roared, “JUSTIN IS DEAD! DEAD, BILLY! THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN, UNDERSTOOD?!”
“Understood,” he replied meekly. Trini, Rocky, and Alpha watched the two uneasily. Breathing heavily, he stalked back to Justin.
“Get out. All of you,” he ordered, his voice quiet once again. Swallowing, Billy shakily walked from the room after Trini and Alpha. He was shaking and not just cause of the horror of Justin’s death. He’d never really faced Tommy pissed off before. It was…
“Scary,” Rocky answered for him. Billy glanced at him uneasily.
“Give him time,” Trini advised them as the reentered the main room of the Power Chamber.
“How did we get the body anyway?” Aisha was asking David quietly when they walked in. David’s face turned stony.
“They sent it,” he spat. Billy immediately understood who he meant.
“Jason and Kim are--” he began but David cut him off.
“Dead. This, out of everything, should prove that to you,” he told him hotly. Billy didn’t answer, slightly miffed that no one was letting him finish his own sentences. He inwardly smacked himself—we have worse things to worry about that your petty feelings, he inwardly scolded.
“The police have been informed. The President announced that anything Ranger related is off limits to everyone but us. The attack is officially under our jurisdiction; we’re to deal with everything, including 'finding' Justin. David and I went and talked to him,” Trini told them quietly. Billy nodded, moving to the scanning consol. Trini and Adam joined him.
“What are we doing?” Adam asked. Billy sighed.
“We need to find a way to recalibrate the scanners to engulf the whole planet. Tommy doesn’t want this happening again,” he answered. Adam nodded.
“Neither do I.”
A sudden flash of light lit up the room before fading to reveal Skull, dressed in washed out jeans and a black shirt with a skull and crossbones on it. He looked around, taking in the newly arrived Ninjette with unease before shaking his head to clear it of his thoughts. Billy watched in bemusement as he darted straight towards Trini.
“Can you bring up CNN?” he asked and Trini nodded, turning to do as he asked. Billy moved with the others to stare up at the viewing screen as CNN popped up. The screen showed hundreds, thousands of people holding candles and signs in silent vigil. Absently he realized Tommy had come into the room.
“Thousands around the world have gathered in parks, schools, and churches to mourn the loss of twelve year old Justin Stewart and his father Alan. The two were attacked by Scorpina, personal assassin of the current villains Jareth and Khetala who have taken up residence on the moon,” The reporter announced as the screen showed the inside of the Youth Center where a picture of Justin was hung up and hundreds of people wept as they stood with candles.
“The Rangers of Earth held a private meeting with President O’Neill recently and assured him that this attack was a fluke—Jareth and Khetala are possibly the worst of the villains they have faced as of yet due to the fact that they have intimate knowledge of the way the superhero team works. Blue Ranger informed the President that they were once rangers themselves and have no qualms of using their information to their advantage.
“Red Ranger assured the President that they’re doing everything in their power to keep this from happening again. This includes requesting the assistance of a former team that protected Earth as well as try to free the two former rangers—she admitted that the two were under the magical control of a more powerful entity and that their actions were not their own. The President has issued an immediate order that if any of the footmen appear around you, to run rather than try and fight, as Justin and his father did,” The reporter finished. The rangers were silent as they took this in. That is, until Skull spoke up, staring at one of the consols.
“Is that a Crane?”
“Jareth, it's time,” Khetala announced as she stood in the doorway to their bedroom. Jareth glanced at her, saw her expression, and nodded. “Have Hecate prepare the snatch team.”
The priest was halfway through the eulogy when the Rangers quietly filed into the back. Their appearance caused a bit of a stir but the priest didn’t stop “Justin believed that everyone had something to give—that everyone had a purpose. He didn’t care for people half-way and those who he considered friends were enriched by his friendship,” he finished. As Billy and the others watched, Tommy walked quietly to the front of the church, his back stiff.
“Justin…Justin was a friend of the rangers. He was intelligent, extremely so, and accidentally uncovered our headquarters and thus, our identities. He never spoke a word—he trusted us more than we often trusted ourselves. And he kept our secrets unto death—not even his closest friends knew what he knew. When he moved to Baltimore with his father, it was the happiest we ever saw him. He was a good boy, a smart boy. We miss him. Good bye Justin,” Tommy’s voice caught as he stepped away from the podium and made his way to the others.
Tommy had insisted he be the one who gave the rangers goodbye and no one, not even Rocky, had argued. Tommy had considered Justin a kid brother and Justin had felt the same—none could begrudge Tommy his chance to say goodbye.
“Rangers, may I ask a favor?” the priest came over and the Rangers straightened; the church was emptying as everyone went to the grave site.
“What is it?” Trini asked and the Priest smiled at her.
“Would four or six of you consent to be pallbearers?” he asked softly. The rangers froze in surprise, “It’s what he would have wanted, I think.”
“I will,” Tommy stepped forward, glancing at the others. Without a word, Adam, Rocky, and Billy himself stepped forward as well. The Priest smiled and motioned for them to follow him.
Watching them approach the casket, Trini turned to the others and motioned for them to follow her so they lined the exit of the church. Standing in lines of two, they waited until the four guys and the Priest came with the casket. Adam and Tommy were in front with Billy and Rocky holding the back. Kat and Tanya followed the Priest with the casket just behind them. Trini, Aisha, Zack, and David followed behind.
Within half an hour Justin was in the ground and the rangers were leaving. A young woman darted over to them, her hand gripping a voice recorder.
“Excuse me, Rangers, can I ask some questions?” she called. Tommy whirled around, his temper about ready to explode.
“No, you can’t!” he snapped. The woman raised an eyebrow.
“I think the public deserves to know if they have to worry about assassins coming to attack,” she replied smoothly. Trini and Zack jumped forward and forced Tommy away from the woman. Adam stepped up to the reporter.
“No. Justin had been targeted because he knew us. He was the only one who knew. Now, I suggest you leave before Falcon gets even more pissed off than he is; Justin was like a little brother to him,” Adam’s voice was so cold the others did double-takes. The woman seemed to realize she wasn’t going to get anything more and left. Adam turned to the others.
“Come on guys, lets go home.”
When they’d teleported back to the Power Chamber after the funeral, Tommy had immediately demorphed, given Billy his communicator, and left. He didn’t want to be bothered for the rest of the day and according to the scanners, the Pyro Palace was quiet. “Probably celebrating Justin’s death,” he mumbled staring out blankly across the water. He was at the beach, in front of the rock cave he and Justin had found. Justin had insisted on exploring the cave and the two had found that the cave acted as a tunnel that led up to a small rock ledge with an amazing view of the beach and ocean. Justin had named it Zeo Rock, after his heroes, the Zeo Rangers. This was before he’d learned the truth and joined them, back when he was just a kid they all looked after from the Shelter. Kicking the sand, Tommy turned around and made his way inside, completely oblivious to the dark figures following him.
“Hey Billy?” Rocky asked as the two worked on the computers. The blue ranger looked over at him. “Whats up?” he asked, wiping his hands on a piece of cloth. With the new/old powers had come some familiar zords. They were looking them up and down to make sure they were ready for a fight, despite the fact Jareth and Khetala had yet to turn any monsters big enough to call the zords out.
“Do you want to come to dinner tonight at mom’s? I know your dad’s out of town and…I don’t think any of us should be alone right now. Well, none except for Tommy,” he corrected himself. Billy frowned.
“I still think he should have kept his communicator. If something happens, we won’t know about it,” he told him. Rocky nodded.
“And I agree. But Tommy needs time to come to terms with whats happened. I was the same way when my dad died—no one was allowed around me until I was ready,” he admitted. Billy’s expression twisted.
“I felt the same way, when my mom died. Didn’t stop Kim from coming over and just hanging out in my room without saying anything, though,” he told him. Rocky smiled slightly.
“Are you sure your mom won’t mind?” Billy asked suddenly and Rocky nodded.
“She’s itching to cook for the group of us anyway. Ma’s way of dealing with grief is her cooking for everyone affected,” he told him. Billy smiled in understanding.
“She liked Justin, didn’t she?” he asked, sitting down so his back was against the ape-zord. Rocky ambled over and sat next to him, his shoulder just brushing the blue rangers.
“Yeah, she did. She warned me not to adopt him—she said she’s not quite ready to be a grandma yet,” he chuckled. Billy swallowed.
“You’re gonna have to adopt, aren’t you? Both of us are,” he murmured, not having considered that before. Rocky snorted.
“Actually, its likely we’ll not even be able to do that. Gays and lesbians are rarely able to adopt,” he sighed. Billy glanced at him from the corner of his eye.
“You always wanted a big family.” It was a statement, not a question, but Rocky answered anyway.
“Yeah, I did. I just can’t see myself with one or two kids, not with having helped raise the others,” he murmured.
“There are always surrogates,” Billy suggested. Rocky’s brow furrowed as he turned to the blue ranger.
“Surrogates?” he asked, puzzled. Billy smiled slightly.
“Basically, you would donate your sperm and you’d find a woman willing to donate eggs. The child would be created artificially and the woman would carry the child to term. Aisha would probably be willing to do it for you,” he explained. Rocky’s eyes sparkled.
“I doubt she’d want to carry that many kids,” he joked. Billy snorted.
“I can just see it now; 'Cheaper by the Dozen; The Gay Story,'” he snarked. Rocky chuckled. The two smiled at each other before turning to stare at random objects across the room.
“I miss him,” Rocky said suddenly, his voice soft. Gathering his courage, Billy reached over and grabbed the red ranger’s hand, twining his fingers through his. He squeezed and got a little thrill when Rocky pressed back
“So do I.”
“We have him, My Lady,” the Keres leader said when he walked in. Behind him, limp in the arms of four more Keres, was a young man in white, his long hair covering his face. Hecate twisted her lips in distaste. “I told you not to harm him!” she snapped, moving forward to lift the hair from his face. His features were unblemished, his face slack in unconsciousness. The lead Keres’s face was blank when she turned to him.
“He fought valiantly, but in the end, Lord Tyr was able to get close enough to knock him upside the head with a staff. He’ll have a splitting headache when he awakes, but other than that he’ll be unharmed,” the Keres told her in a monotone. Hecate nodded sharply.
“Very well. Put him over there,” she ordered, motioning to a long table. She turned from the warriors to move over to her worktable. Standing in the shadows, in sentry duty, were the five psycho rangers. They’re current programming was simple; she could utter one word and they would spring to life to protect her and the other members of the court, no questions asked. Eventually, she knew, they would be given more sophisticated programming so they would be able to act as assassins and infiltrators, thus appearing more human.
Shrugging them from her mind, she grabbed a box of black, inlaid with silver etchings. She picked it up and turned to the table and the body on it. Handing the box to a Keres standing at the head of the table, she opened it and took out a small instrument. Absently noticing the Prince and Princess had come into the room to watch, she ordered a Keres to lift the white rangers hair. Wiping the base of his neck, were his spine connected with his skull, she very carefully began drawing.
“What is taking them so long?” Jareth growled. It’d been two hours since Tyr and Scorpina had reported that Tommy had been captured and delivered to Hecate and so far they hadn’t heard anything besides Hecate’s initial order not to interrupt. Suddenly, the doors to the throne room swung open and a very familiar man, still dressed in his Earth clothing, strode into the room followed by Hecate and three Keres. Jareth, Khetala, and the other members of the court in the room straightened. Jareth watched, amused, as the white ranger came and knelt before the thrones.
“I am at your service,” he spoke quietly, his face to the ground in reverence. Jareth and Khetala smirked.
“You are, are you?” Jareth asked, looking at Hecate. The woman smiled.
“Essentially, he is a mole. The magic will keep him unaware of the fact he’s been compromised; the tattoo that now connects him to the fire of Maligore will sink into his skin and out of sight once you send him back. When you wish for him, call on the tattoo and it will reappear and he will be evil once more,” she explained.
“So while he’s with the rangers, he will be Tommy, with no memory of being attacked and taken, but when we need him, you can summon him and the tattoo will return him to evil?” Khetala asked for clarification and Hecate nodded.
“Yes, and he will have all the memories of when he was simply Tommy, our mole.” She replied. Jareth’s smile was chilling as he looked at Tommy.
“Welcome back to evil, my friend,” he greeted Tommy. He looked up, his eyes crimson. His eyes lingered on Khetala for a moment before he turned to stare directly at Jareth.
“It is good to be back.”
Tommy groaned, standing up. Looking around, he was surprised to find himself at the base of the ladder leading to the rock ledge. He glanced around and spotted what had caused his fall—one of the ladder rungs was rusted through. Sighing, he shook his head and gingerly made his way out of the cave, unaware that Jareth was watching him from the ledge.
“Hey Tommy!” Rocky called from his truck. Tommy turned around, his keys in hand as he stood at his parents porch. Tommy jogged over.
“What’s up?” He asked warily, taking stock of the fact Billy was in the passenger side.
“We’re heading to the Pizzeria for dinner, wanna come?” The red ranger offered. Tommy glanced at Billy and with that one glance knew the blue ranger didn’t want him to come on what could possibly be his first date with the red ranger. Tommy smiled at the two.
“Nah, I’m gonna cook some soup and catch some rest. The last two weeks have been murder on us,” he groaned. Rocky and Billy grimaced in agreement. It’d been two weeks since Justin’s funeral and Jareth and Khetala had renewed their blitz attacks, sending attack parties at all hours of the day and night.
“You two have fun,” he told them, moving away. Waving as they left, he headed back towards the house. Just as he was about to put the key into the lock, he abruptly changed his mind. Heading back to the jeep, he swung in and drove away.
After picking up some food from Taco Bell, Tommy had headed down to the beach. Within minutes, he was back at the entrance of the cave. Just as he was about to enter, he felt a tingle at the base of his neck.
“Report!” Jareth commanded as he and Khetala stepped from the darkness. Instead of dropping to a fighting stance as he normally would have, the figure now known as Tieran dropped so he was kneeling in front of the two.
“They are still in mourning over the death of the brat,” he replied. Jareth growled.
“Oh get UP! You’re our assassin, our mole, our personal warrior. Stop groveling, you’re better than that!” Jareth snarled, kicking the still kneeling man. Smirking, Tieran stood up.
“Of course. They bitch and moan about the brats death and speculate on what you two are planning. It’s exhausting,” he sneered. Jareth snorted while Khetala silently circled the evil ranger over.
“And you? What have you been doing, my Lord?” She purred. Tieran kept his face straight as she stopped just in front of him.
“I sleep while Tommy works at keeping the others up to snuff. Continue the blitz attacks and you’ll wear them down so much they’ll fall easily in a few weeks,” he answered, staring straight ahead as Khetala ran a hand over his chest. Jareth was smirking as he watched the two.
“We want them to beg for death. How would you suggest we accomplish that?” He demanded. Tieran growled as Khetala scratched down his chest with her nails.
“Continue the blitz attacks. Take out Zordon and Alpha, they will be mentorless. Kill Trini and recall me permanently, they’ll be leaderless. Capture the ones they love, their families, and they will hand over their powers easily. Then, capture them and torture them until they beg. Earth will be yours for the taking,” he outlined. Jareth smirked and exchanged a look with Khetala.
“That’s one plan. Plan B, as it were. Do you have anything else to report?” Jareth asked, watching in bemused silence as Khetala leaned up to nibble on Tieran’s ear.
“Yes. Skull overheard your plans to kill Trini, Aisha, and Zack. They’ve given him a communicator; he’s a liability to your plans,” he said, his voice husky. Jareth smirked.
“Very good. Let’s go back to the palace Khetala. We have work to do,” he ordered, pushing away from the wall where he’d been leaning. Khetala turned to him, her lips in a pout.
“No playing?” She asked prettily. Jareth hesitated, looking between the pouting woman and the obviously turned on man behind her. He crossed his arms and strode forward. Khetala immediately moved out of the way.
“I have a question and I will ask you only once. Answer as you will,” Jareth ordered, his voice soft. Off to the side, Khetala clapped happily, seeing where Jareth was going. Tieran stared down at him, silent. Without warning, Jareth surged forward and captured the other mans lips in a kiss. Almost immediately, Tieran growled and hungrily kissed him back. As the two made out, Khetala smiled wryly.
“Well, that answers that question,” she murmured. Finally fed up, she strode forward and gingerly placed herself between the two.
“Let’s go have some…fun,” she purred and the three disappeared in large flash of flame.
“This is not good,” Tommy muttered, flipping through his new log book.
After the third black out and a feeling that he’d just done something incredibly stupid, Tommy started getting paranoid. He became obsessed with keeping time, logging down where he was when and what he was doing. If his friends noticed anything off, they didn’t say anything but Tommy had been evil too many times to not realize when something was up. Finally, he started noticing a pattern.
Every Thursday, without fail, he’d go buy fast food, and head down to the beach. A few hours later he’d return to his house feeling hungrier than ever and often with the feeling that he’d just taken a shower. He often felt extremely sore and spent and so he figured he kept getting attacked but couldn’t remember them which didn’t make a whole lot of sense. He was fairly certain he’d remember getting into a fight, swiss-cheese memory or not, which meant only one thing.
He’d been compromised somehow.
He’d been taking the notes for 3 weeks, and could recall the feeling of missed time twice before that so he figured he’d been compromised for about five weeks. Tommy hated admitting to anyone he’d been compromised, especially since he couldn’t for the life of him figure out when it was. As far as he knew, he’d never been attacked outside of the random blitz and everyone kept on eye out on each other during those fights. Surely someone would have noticed if he’d been compromised during one of them.
“Damnit!” Hecate cursed, watching the magic flickering on the white rangers form. She was in her lab, watching her mole through a puddle of water in a stone basin. Waving a hand over the pool, it changed to show his face. The white ranger seemed resigned, annoyed, and worried. Another wave showed the magical rope that latched him to Maligore’s fire.
It was fraying.
“Of course I couldn’t get the ranger who’s never been evil, the one no one will suspect—I get the one who’s so obsessed with not being evil he can severe the rope without even realizing it,” she muttered, annoyed. “I should have used a chain.”
Even as she watched, the rope was fraying. Within a few hours the rope would break and he’d be good again—and she’d be in a lot of trouble with her Lord and Lady.
“I have to strengthen it. Turn it to chain,” she murmured, moving so she was directly by the flame that sat encased in an enchanted glass box. The rope was still visible to her, leaving the living flame and floating out the door and across space. She scowled. The distance the rope had to go didn’t help.
“Why couldn’t they have just thrown the blasted ranger into Maligore’s true flame when they had the chance? Then we wouldn’t have this problem,” she scowled. Setting herself, she reached out and grasped the rope. It was brittle to the touch; the smallest pressure could snap it. Taking a deep breath, she sent her magic out, gently, slowly, filling the link with her magic. As she traveled the length of the rope, she felt Khetala and Jareth approaching her body. Panicking, she put more power into the rope.
It snapped in her grasp.
“Woah,” Tommy gasped, bending over and holding his stomach. “Tommy!” Kat called, rushing over. They were in the Power Chamber where Tommy had just told the others his suspicions that he’d been compromised. Billy, Zack, and Trini hadn’t seemed very surprised, though they were worried. They had admitted they suspected Jareth and Khetala would try something like that, both of them having had deep feelings for the original green ranger. Now, as all of Tommy’s memories came back, he realized just how deep those feelings had actually went—particularly with Jason. Fighting back a blush, he stood.
“It’s gone,” he announced, still holding his stomach to stop it from revolting. The others looked at him oddly.
“Hecate was trying to strengthen the bond—it was fraying. She accidentally broke it instead,” he explained, adding that he could feel and recognize the touch of her magic, just like he’d always be able to recognize Rita’s. The rangers shifted uncomfortably, eyeing him warily. He frowned.
“I’m telling you the truth,” he insisted. They exchanged glances.
“What do you remember?” Billy finally asked. Tommy blushed, avoiding Kat’s eyes.
“Everything,” he mumbled. Billy eyed him before understanding filled his eyes.
“I see,” he said softly, coming over and gently laying a hand on Tommy’s shoulder.
“We’ll talk about it later. In private,” he whispered. Tommy swallowed and nodded, looking down at his feet.
“I didn’t tell them anything drastic—just how everyone is and what we’re doing. I have no idea what their planning but we need to be careful…and I want it made known that if anything happens to Trini or I, Zack and Billy are in charge,” he ordered, glancing at Trini who nodded in agreement.
“Get rid of the leaders—oldest trick in the book,” she murmured and Tommy scowled.
“And unfortunately, I put it in their head,” he grumbled. Trini gave him a wry smile.
“It probably already occurred to Jason—we learned about the tactics of war at the Peace Conference,” she told him quietly. Everyone but Zack looked at her oddly.
“You learned about war tactics at a Peace Conference?” Rocky asked, confused. Zack smiled wryly.
“One of the instructors insisted that the best way to prevent war was to study everything about it,” he shrugged, his expression saying that he didn’t entirely get the logic either. Rocky and Aisha both snorted.
“So now what?” Adam asked quietly. The others looked at Tommy who sighed.
“Call Skull, tell him it’s not paranoia when people actually are out to get you. And the rest of us…stay sharp,” he ordered. The others nodded, Rocky smirking at the white rangers choice of words. Within minutes, everyone but Billy and Tommy had left. Alpha had gone to do some checkups on the zords, and Zordon was meditating. Tommy looked at the blue ranger and sighed.
“Did you know? About Jason, I mean?” he asked quietly. Billy swallowed.
“Yeah. We’ve always known Jason was bi, but no one ever really thought it mattered before since he barely dated. He always said dating came second to saving the world and he wouldn’t do that to his partner. I know he entertained the idea of dating Trini for a time but I always knew that he was more attracted to Kim…and you,” he told him. Tommy ran a hand over his face, rubbing his eyes.
“He never said anything,” he admitted. Billy smiled wryly.
“Part of that was because he had no idea how you would react. There is a huge difference with being okay with your best friend being bi and that same best friend having a crush on you. He didn’t want to destroy your friendship,” he pointed out. Tommy frowned.
“Actually, I meant his attraction to Kim. I knew he was attracted to me—we got a wee bit too drunk one night and he admitted as much,” he told the blue ranger, who blushed.
Tommy took a deep breath, not looking at the recently semi-outed guy. “And out of all of the guys I know, I always knew Jason would be the one I’d probably date if it came to that.”
Billy blinked. “Seriously?” he asked, startled. Tommy nodded, smiling wryly.
“I think that’s why the thing with Kim and Jason and I…I was so open to it,” he replied, not entirely sure how he felt about it. Billy blinked again.
“Wait, Jason and Kim? Together?” he squeaked. Tommy glanced at him and snorted—the blue rangers cheeks were bright red.
“Oh yeah,” he answered, his mind flashing back to images of flesh on flesh. Shaking his head hard to get rid of the images, he glanced at the blue ranger and barely stopped himself from snickering; Billy’s expression was pensive as he gazed without actually seeing anything.
“How would that work?” he murmured, causing Tommy to stare at him. “I mean, I know the logistics but…”
His voice trailed off and he came back to the present to find Tommy eyeing him with amusement. He turned bright red again before mumbling something about the zords and fled. Tommy stared after him, his expression thoughtful.
When Jason, Zack, and Trini had left for the Peace Conference, Tommy had discovered the true hardships of being a leader—particularly with three new rangers. After a two hour long conversation with Jason over the phone, Tommy had approached Billy and asked if the blue ranger wanted to go and hang out at Tommy’s house that night. Billy had been surprised but nevertheless agreed.
Despite the initial uneasiness on both their parts, they had learned more about each that night then they had the entire year they’d known each other. They had talked about things Tommy couldn’t talk with Kim, Rocky, Adam, or Aisha about; his worries about the chemistry of the team, the danger they all got into, how his relationship with Kim was affecting everyone. In turn, Billy had shared his fears, his ideas, his observations, and his worry he’d never find someone to love.
After the success of that night, Tommy made plans to have one night a week with his teammates. It had worked so well that Billy began doing the same thing, spending one-on-one time with Kim, Rocky, Adam, and Aisha. Within a few weeks, they all had worked it so they all had one-on-one time at least once a month and once a week they all did something as a group—mostly they watched movies but occasionally they’d go to the beach, have a BBQ in the park, or some other random thing. It had helped them stave off several blow-ups, not to mention strengthened their friendships.
As the team changed, with first Kim leaving and then Aisha, the one-on-one nights had slowly changed. Instead of everyone meeting with everyone else, they’d paired off, especially when they turned Zeo. Tanya and Kat would spend a night a week just hanging out, while Adam and Rocky did the same. Tommy had continued his meetings with Billy up until Jason had returned. Then, he was ashamed to realize, they’d stopped. Tommy had become so obsessed with having Jason back, he’d ignored the blue ranger.
“No wonder he left,” he muttered to himself. Setting his face, Tommy headed down to the zord bay. Once he found the blue ranger under the Ape Zord, holding a sandwich, Tommy plopped down beside him.
“Let’s go play some pool tomorrow night and you can tell me how you and Rocky are doing.” Tommy suggested. Billy stared at him, surprised. Slowly, the shock wore off and his eyes filled with realization. With a twinkle in his eyes, Billy smiled at him.
To say Jareth and Khetala were displeased with the loss of Tieran would be an understatement of gigantic proportions.
They were furious.
“…I hope you enjoy your new accessory,” Jareth sneered as a Keres placed a collar around Hecate’s throat. Hecate flinched as the collar was snapped into place a low humming filled the room. Hecate she swallowed as Jareth held up the controller. She screamed as a large jolt of electricity shot through her body, centering from her neck. Collapsing on the ground, she gasped for breath as Jareth handed the controller to Khetala. Her eyes flashed and with a slight nudge, she moved the level. Hecate swallowed tears of pain as a low thread of electricity coursed through her body.
“For the next few weeks, you will live with this electricity constantly. Every time you make a mistake or error, the level will be increased. Know that we are being merciful; there are hundreds of other sorcerers willing to join our court,” Jareth told her coldly, Hecate shakily stood and carefully curtsied. Keeping her head down, she left only when Jareth dismissed her.
Once she was gone, Jareth gave Khetala a look. “Take a group of Keres and catalogue the lab,” he ordered.
The collar had been found by Khetala and Scorpina when the assassin was showing her around. Scorpina had told her the basic functions and how Rita and Zedd had deemed it useless. Now, the two planned on using as many of the old monster’s inventions as they deemed useful.
Grumbling darkly, Khetala grabbed the watching Astronema and dragged her out of the throne room. “Sometimes I just want to….” she grumbled.
“I know the feeling,” Astronema smirked. Khetala snickered, recalling their discussion about Ecliptor and Darkonda. Without warning, the pathway they were walking through crumbled beneath their feet.
“Damnit!” Khetala cursed, gingerly picking herself up as Astronema did the same next to her. Making a face at the cave they had fallen into, Khetala quietly made her way forward. She and Jareth hadn’t explored all of the castle yet; most of it was still largely unmapped. Still, something about this room was niggling in the back of her mind.
“This looks like a life extractor,” Astronema murmured from a wall. Khetala turned around and came face to face with a slab of rock. Instantly images invaded her mind.
Being held down by ropes as Finster fiddled with something; feeling her energy leaving her body as the extractor took her powers; Tommy coming and saving her, fighting off Zedd single-handedly.
“I know this place,” she muttered. Astronema raised an eyebrow.
“Zedd and Rita kidnapped me back when we were still ninja. They got my coin, Katherine stole it while she was evil; they nearly killed me,” she murmured, placing a hand on the table. Astronema remained silent as Khetala made her way around the cave. She bent down, picking up what looked like blanket.
“Scorpina was here when they did it; she kept an eye on me most of the time. She placed this on me when I got cold. She was so gentle…” Khetala trailed off, staring down at the cloth as if mesmerized.
“Tommy came to save me, even though he shouldn’t have. He loved me so much…” she murmured softly. Astronema just watched her as she scampered around, looking at everything. Absently, the young princess fingered her locket.
Her heart is pure. It’s only Maligore’s flame that’s keeping her evil. She realized. Glancing up at the hole they had fallen through, she frowned. Jareth too.
I never knew my own family; they were killed before I got the chance. Can I really let Khetala and Jareth kill their own family, even unknowingly?
“It’s time, boys,” Jareth announced. It’d been a week since Tieran had slipped their grasp and the son of Maligore had decided it was time he traveled down to earth and made his presence officially known to the populace of Earth as its Master.
“What weapon, my Lord?” Tyr asked politely. Jareth smirked evilly.
“The Sword,” he demanded and, smiling in approval, Tyr grabbed the sword Scorpina had used to kill Justin off the wall. He reverently handed it to Jareth who accepted it with thanks. Jareth’s eyes flashed as he stood.
“Let’s have some fun,” he announced, moving to the center of the attack group. His face covered in a black mask, surrounded by Tyr, Dwyn, Lasair, Janus, and half a dozen Keres, he felt assured of some form of victory.
“We hear you Zordon,” Tommy spoke into the communicator, the other four ninja’s and Skull leaning in at the table. With Bulk having moved away for a month to help his grandparents, Skull had been left to become friendlier with those he once considered his rivals. Now, as he watched, Skull finally understood them.
“Rangers, teleport to the park, Jareth, Tyr, Dwyn, Lasair, Janus, and a group of Keres are attacking,” Zordon’s voice was urgent as he relayed the news and for good reason; this was the first time Jareth or Khetala had come down to Earth in their new form.
“Lets go,” Tommy ordered, but he needn’t have bothered; Rocky, Adam, and Billy were already at the door, where Tanya, David, Kat, and Trini were waiting. Soon, all ten rangers were morphed and on their way to the park while Skull teleported to the Power Chamber.
“Stop right there!” Tommy bellowed when they rematerialized. Jareth calmly turned around, allowing the cowering man he’d been about to kill the chance to flee. Tommy glared as the four assassins spread out amongst a group of Keres. Tommy seethed.
“Jareth’s mine,” he growled before jumping at the still smirking flame. Trini didn’t hesitate as the two former best friends went at it.
“Zack, David, take the Keres. Rocky, Billy, take Lasair; Kat, Tanya, take Dwyn, Adam you have Janus; Aisha, we’ll take Tyr!” she yelled and the nine rangers spread out as they approached their opponents.
Nearby, Jareth landed a blow to Tommy’s midsection, sending him crashing into a picnic table. Shaking his head, Tommy stood up, “Jason, fight the evil!” he urged even as Jareth advanced on him again, this time with sword drawn.
“You know what sword this is, Tommy?” Jareth asked, swiping at the white ranger’s mid-section. Tommy jumped back, the tip of the blade less than inch from landing across his chest. “It’s the sword Scorpina used to kill that former blue. What was his name, again? Oh yes,Justin.”
With those words, Tommy saw red. The anguish, pain, and horror of losing one of his own in such a brutal way had been simmering just under the surface since it had happened. Now, as the sword that killed the young boy was waved in his face, Tommy forgot everything, even that the man wielding it had been his best friend. Now, all he saw was the man who ordered Justin’s death.
With a howl of rage, Tommy attacked. Punches flew fast and hard as Jareth laughingly defended himself. Jareth had planned on this, getting Tommy angry enough. For when that occurred, he was so angry he lost all thoughts, with nothing in mind but the battle and he’d make mistakes.
“A toast, Khetala?” Astronema inquired, holding up a tray with two steaming cups of a white liquid. Khetala accepted the one given to her without looking up from the viewing screen. On it, Jareth danced around Tommy as the white ranger once again brought Saba down and missed. Khetala tossed it down her throat in one gulp as Astronema murmured the toast to victory.
“Astronema, what was in that?” Khetala demanded a few minutes later when a light mist started rising from her skin. Astronema raised an eyebrow.
“Boiled Ice Juice,” she replied and watched as Khetala started choking.
“What!” Scorpina snapped, moving forward. The assassin stopped as three dozen of Astronema’s personal guard appeared around them, along with Finster. As Khetala continued to choke, Finster began chanting and Astronema thought back to the conversation that had led to this moment.
“I do not understand, Princess. What use could you have of the little weasel?” Scorpina asked as she and Eise dragged the simpering troll of Rita’s to Astronema. The Princess of Evil only had eyes for the cowering monster-maker.
“Leave us,” she ordered and the two women quickly left. Finster glanced around uneasily.
“I do not know where Rita and Zedd are,” he lied. Astronema frowned.
“Right now I don’t care about them. I need your help,” she told him. Finster frowned.
“What would the almighty princess need with me?” he asked skeptically. Astronema’s frowndeepened.
“How do you give someone their free will back?” she demanded. Finster started and stared at her, open mouthed. She raised an eyebrow and he swallowed.
“It would depend, you highness,” he replied.
“On what?” she snapped. He swallowed again as a crackling of purple lightning danced on her shoulder.
“On the magic used to block the free will and whether the person was of good or evil disposition to begin with,” he stuttered. Astronema frowned.
“They were good before they were twisted by the fires of Maligore,” she replied. He swallowed, realizing who she was talking about. Thinking fast, he realized this would work to his Mistress’s advantage. He drew himself up.
“If such a person were to drink a special brew of boiled ice juice while a person with the right incantation chanted over this person, then the person of stature would be given their free will back,” he told her, careful to keep any and all indications of who she was speaking of out of it. Astronema smirked.
“Make the juice. Do not speak to this to anyone. When the time comes, you will perform this chant and I will give the juice to Khetala myself. Understood?” she ordered and he nodded.
“Ego to order thee , solvo is nolens animus ex vinculum of incendia , tribuo suus solvo mos ut is may sumo ut is vota. SOLVO!" Finster shouted as Astronema returned to the present.
With a final cough, Khetala’s eyes faded to their normal hazel hue as she collapsed on the ground. Behind her and Astronema, Scorpina furiously fought the Quantrons. Astronema bent down over Kimberly, who was sobbing.
“Why?” she whispered, broken as she looked up at the Princess. Astronema frowned.
“Save your family,” she ordered before waving a hand and teleporting the girl away. Astronema slowly turned around and without a thought, blasted Scorpina into the wall, knocking her unconscious. A few minutes later, Jareth walked in and saw her.
“How went the battle?” she asked curiously. He snorted.
“I got bored. What happened to her?” he asked curiously as he allowed a Keres to strip him of his armor. Astronema smirked.
“She challenged me. She lost.”
Barely able to remain conscious, Kimberly heard the shocked shouts as she appeared in the Power Chamber. Curling into a fetal position, she felt someone approach her and gently place a hand on her back. She whimpered, tears in her eyes as she looked up into Tommy’s face. He swallowed.
“Kim?” he whispered and she let out a sob, curling into herself even more. Tommy picked her up, cradling her in his arms for a few minutes before gently laying her on one of the medi tables.
“Is she okay?” Trini asked as Tommy moved away and shot Billy a look. The Blue Ranger moved to the table and gently began inspecting the still sobbing young woman.
“It’s Kim,” Tommy answered, confident. Zack, Trini, and Adam appeared satisfied but the others were not as assured.
“How can you be so sure?” David asked suspiciously. Tommy shot him an irritated look.
“I dated her for close to three years; I think I can tell when she’s her and when she’s Khetala!” he told him hotly and David winced. “Besides, her eyes are brown.”
“And that’s supposed to mean something?” Rocky asked, confused. Billy shot his boyfriend an annoyed look even as Kat answered him.
“Khetala and Jareth’s eyes are red. Crimson, actually,” she said softly, her eyes sliding over to her predecessor. Her gaze softened as Kimberly’s sobs faded.
“Boiled Ice Juice,” Kimberly whispered brokenly. Billy froze, his eyes wide. Nearby, Rock and Adam appeared gob smacked. Tommy frowned.
“What is she talking about?” he demanded as he and Kat both moved to stand by the former pink’s bed.
“It was something we looked into to free them. It was how the Lairians originally regained their free will before Maligore was imprisoned. We dismissed it though because you needed a dark magic user to perform the chant on the person who drank the potion,” Billy said, his voice strangled. David’s eyes narrowed.
“Who would free them? I mean, they were obviously doing a splendid job, why stop them?” he asked suspiciously.
“Astronema. Finster,” Kimberly whispered. Those who knew the annoying little troll blinked.
“Why would they do that?” Adam asked, “And who’s Astronema?”
“Astronema is the Princess of Evil. Dark Spector’s adopted daughter. She was taken into the Dark court when her parents were killed by a ranger team,” Kimberly replied, her sobs having receded. She refused to look anyone in the eye, instead staring down into her lap as she lay down.
“So why would she help you, if she’s the Princess of Evil?” David pressed, ignoring Tommy’s glare.
“She never got to know her family,” she whispered. David paused, suddenly getting it.
“Why did Finster help?” Zack cut in, confused. Kimberly gave a strangled laugh.
“I pissed off Rita and Zedd…not to mention Goldie.”
“How’d you manage that?” Tanya asked, despite herself. Kimberly hiccupped.
“We stripped them of nearly all their magic, Jason smoldered Zedd’s muscle-skin stuff, and we can’t call Goldie the annoying Wizard of Oz reject anymore cause I kinda defeathered him,” she whispered. The rangers all winced.
“I just know I’m gonna regret this but…defeathered?” Rocky asked. Kim swallowed.
“Plucked his feathers out one by one until he was nothing but a bloody mess,” she replied meekly. Rocky made a face.
“I almost feel sorry for him,” Rocky muttered.
“I don’t,” Everyone turned from Kim to Tommy at that proclamation. He shrugged.
“Goldar has never been an innocent. Add the feathers together and it probably doesn’t even come close to the number of lives he’s taken,” he reminded them. Those who knew Goldar nodded in agreement.
“So she sent you here?” Kat asked, gently running her hand over the girls crimson hair. Kimberly muttered.
“She said ‘save your family’ and then teleported me here as Scorpina tried to get over to me. I don’t know what happened after that,” she whispered as a sudden weight fell on her hip. As the others remained silent, Kimberly gingerly peeked from where she was hiding her head to see a very familiar pink crane staring at her unblinkingly. She shot up, causing Skysong to squawk as she flew over to Tommy. Once certain her ninjetti wasn’t going to make another sudden move, Skysong settled back down on Kimberly’s lap, gently rubbing her head across Kimberly’s tearstained cheek. Kimberly looked up at Tommy.
“How?” she whispered. He smiled slightly at her.
“Dulcea sent her here,” he answered, causing Kimberly to frown.
“I know that name….I think,” she whispered, confused. Tommy frowned as Kimberly’s eyes suddenly widened.
“JASON!” she shrieked, causing Skysong to fly into the air again, screeching in annoyance. Tommy’s eyes sharpened on her.
“Is he okay?” he asked sharply. She shook her head frantically, struggling to get off the bed.
“I have to go to him, I have to get him to drink the juice, he’s so close to being lost, we have to help him! Please Tommy!” she begged as she Billy and Kat tried holding her down. Tommy swallowed as she stared at him, tears in her eyes once again.
“How?” he asked. Kimberly looked around, taking in the hopeful and suspicious looks. She swallowed back more tears.
“I don’t…no,” she suddenly froze, a plan forming in her head, “I know what can—can get him to break Jareth’s hold,” she whispered, the plan growing to include a better understanding of the ninjetti powers. Looking over at Skysong (who was sitting on Billy’s shoulder now), she could feel the information coming from the bird, as Skysong agreed with her plan.
“What do we have to do?” Tommy asked. Kimberly looked up.
“When Skysong gives the signal….shoot as much pure energy, white energy, as you can at Jason. Think only of freeing him, of purging the fire from him,” she instructed as she untangled herself from Billy and Kat.
“And that will work?” David asked skeptically. Kimberly nodded.
“Added with what I have planned? Yeah, it will,” she replied, not looking at him. She could feel the open hostility from the Blue Turbo and she really didn’t blame him.
“What are you going to do Kim?” Tommy asked, worried. He really didn’t like the look in her eyes. She stared up at him, imploring him.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” she whispered softly. Tommy’s face tightened.
“Kim, I…,” he trailed off as Kim placed a finger to his lips, effectively silencing him.
“I have to do this Tommy. If I don’t, Jason will be lost forever. I owe him too much not to at least try,” she told him. Tommy nodded, tears in his eyes. He didn’t know what she had planned but his gut told him it wouldn’t be good.
Kimberly looked around, taking in everyone. “If anything happens…know that I love you guys. Forever and always,” she whispered before disappearing in a spark of white flame. The group jumped, staring at the spot she had vanished from. David whirled on Billy and Tommy.
“I thought you said she was good again!” he yelled, pointing to the spot she had disappeared from. Billy frowned as Tommy glared at his brother.
“I said she had free will again, control of her body again. I never said she still didn’t have the powers she possessed as Khetala!” Billy shot back. David’s eyes flashed.
“Then how can we know she’s telling us the truth?!” he demanded, “For all we know, they could need this energy for some ritual or something!”
“It was white,” Adam’s voice was quiet as he spoke but they all turned to him.
“What?” David snapped, confused. Adam stared at him; he knew why David was reacting as he was but that didn't stop the black ninjetti from feeling annoyed with the blue ranger. They had been doing this a LOT longer than he; he should trust their instincts.
“The flame. It was white. And if anyone knows if Kim is herself again, it’ll be Tommy and Skysong,” he told the blue ranger softly. Tommy was filled with pride as Kat, Tanya, Billy, Rocky, Adam, Trini, Zack, and Aisha nodded in agreement. David looked around, taking in the full trust and faith the others had in Tommy’s belief in Kim. He deflated.
“I hope you’re not wrong, Tommy. This could easily blow up in our faces,” he warned. Tommy nodded.
“Trust me, I know.”
When Kimberly reappeared in the Pyro Palace, she fell flat on the ground. Grumbling about stupid landings and teleporting while sitting on a bed, she picked herself up and gingerly looked around. Absurdly happy no one had seen her spectacular crash, she drew herself up and walked down the nearest hall.
It didn’t take long for her to find a group of Keres and when she did she waved a hand and they scattered. Fervently thanking her parents for giving into her demands for acting lessons when she was seven, she descended into the depths of the castle.
What she had never shared with anyone, not even Jason, was that she knew exactly where Rita was hiding. The old witch had taken the old adage of hiding right under your enemy’s nose literally and had been squatting in the dungeons since Khetala, Astronema, and Scorpina had returned from the Dark Market. Deciding she’d rather have Rita where she could keep an eye on her, she had let the woman be. Now, she was thankful Rita had stolen the ice dagger; she needed it.
“Rita, come out this instant!” Kimberly called, her voice ringing in the small, enclosed space. She heard a slight shuffle to her left and saw the bedraggled witch come out of a small fissure in the rock.
“You rang, Princess?” she asked sullenly. Kimberly refused to be amused at the sight of Rita looking like she’d been thrown into the lion’s den at dinner time.
“The ice dagger. I want it,” she demanded, holding out her hand. Rita’s eyes flashed with defiance even as her hands twitched upwards. Kimberly’s eyes narrowed.
“I’m not joking Rita, I want it NOW!” she roared. Rita scuttled back, letting out a wimper as a flash of flame lit up the room. Rita swallowed before reluctantly pulling the dagger from her dress. She handed it to Kimberly, hilt first. Kimberly hissed as her hand made contact; it was COLD!
“Are you going to torture me before you kill me?” Rita asked despondently. Kimberly looked up, startled. Seeing Rita’s resigned expression Kimberly bit her lip.
“No. Tell Finster he does good work,” she whispered. Rita stared at her, studying her. Suddenly, the witch’s eyes widened.
“Not a word, Rita!” Kimberly cut her off. “I’m here to get Jason and get out. You stay out of my way and we’ll both be outta your hair within the hour.”
Rita didn’t reply at first. It was only as Kimberly slowly slinked back up the stairs that she spoke; “Watch our for Scorpina. Astronema is keeping her quiet, but that won’t last. She’s never been as devote as she is to you two.”
Kimberly paused on the stair, studying the witch. Finally deciding the witch was being honest for once, she nodded, “Thank you Rita. We’ll both be gone soon.”
Kimberly walked away as Rita slowly dropped to the ground. She knew what the original pink was planning, had seen it in her eyes. Jason may leave the moon alive, but Kimberly wasn’t planning the same for herself.
Despite being on opposite sides of an eons old war, the witch had always felt a certain amount of respect for the rangers of Earth, one she knew Zedd grudgingly agreed with. No matter what evil seemed to throw at them, the rangers always bounced back and they never faltered. They did what had to be done, they made plans that should not have worked and pulled them off with perfection. They had resisted domination for nearly five years, which was nearly unheard of. And they all did so before they were even legally of age by Earth’s standards.
Now, Kimberly was going to make the ultimate sacrifice to save one of her own. Rita could only feel admiration and respect for the woman the original pink ranger had become. And as Zedd came up to stand beside her, she knew what she, what they, had to do.
They had to help.
As Kimberly gingerly made her way to Jareth’s room, she thought of what she had planned. It was risky, dangerous, and probably very very stupid but it was all she had. And if it wasn’t enough to help Jason escape the flames, nothing would.
Absently she wondered if it would hurt; if her life would flash before her eyes. She hoped not. Despite her past as a ranger, she’d spent the majority of her childhood as a vapid valley girl who almost never showed her intellect. She didn’t regret her childhood, but she wasn’t proud of it either. If not for Jason and Billy, chances were she would have become just like Shawna: cold, detached, smug, superior. In short, a callus bitch.
Thinking of Shawna made her think of her friends. She’d grown up with Billy and Jason; Mrs. Scott and her mother had been college roommates and had remained close even after they both married. Billy was Jason’s next door neighbor and Mrs. Scott being who she was, had always invited Billy over to join her and Jason on their play dates.
She’d known Trini since third grade, when she was in her cootie faze and hadn’t wanted to hang out with Jason and Billy anymore. Thank God Trini had knocked some sense into her; the original yellow had told her that cooties didn’t exist and even if they did, it was doubtful Jason and Billy had them, seeing as how well behaved they were.
They’d met Zack in sixth grade when he’d moved to Angel Grove with his parents. Kim had only one class with him that year, but Angel Grove didn’t have many black families so the Taylors moving in had been big news. Kim had originally deemed him a bit crazy since he kept dancing in the halls to music no one else seemed to hear, but when a seventh grader had called Zack a couple of derogatory names, Kim had joined Trini and Jason in soundly chastising the older boy. From that moment on, they were a five-some. In seventh and eighth grade, they specifically chose as many classes together as possible so they could hang out more often.
High school had changed them all. No longer were they the goody-two shoes high school five-some; they were now adults, capable of anything and everything. As she approached the door to her and Jason’s room, the thought cheered her. No matter what happened here tonight, Jason and the others would be safe and that was all that mattered.
She wasn’t the damsel this time; she was the (lady) knight coming to save the day.
“Khetala, where have you been? Astronema said you were working on a project,” Jason’s voice felt wrong to Kim as she opened the door. She schooled her face into a mask.
“I was. Something that will change the tide of the war,” she responded softly. Jareth stared at her, taking in her tearstained face, the mess her hair was in, and the white and silver dagger hanging loosely in her left hand. Something was off.
“Who is it? Was it a Keres? Tyr? I’ll have them flogged!” he roared, assuming she had just come from a tryst and that Astronema had been covering. Kimberly would have found the whole thing amusing if she weren't so scared. She winced and stepped into the room, quietly shutting the door behind her. As Jareth prowled the room growling, he didn’t notice Kimberly walk up to him until she was an inch away from him.
“Jason,” she whispered softly as he stared down at her in confusion. She slowly stood on tip toes to kiss his lips. It lasted only a second but it was enough. Looking into his crimson and black streaked eyes, she smiled sadly. His eyes widened and she knew he had realized that she was not Khetala but Kimberly.
“What are you--” his demand was cut off abruptly as Kimberly lifted the ice dagger and plunged it into her chest. As she fell to the ground, Jareth’s eyes glowed briefly before turning brown again. He fell to her side, cradling her in his arms as a streak of white light struck him in the chest. He screamed as Kimberly stared up at him, her eyes filled with pain.
A sudden explosion of energy erupted from the original red ranger as the pure energy of the Turbo’s and Ninjetti cast the flames of Maligore out of him. The dagger clattered to the floor, covered in Kimberly’s blood, as the ice did its job and destroyed the evil still lingering in her body. The concussion of the wave of energy blasted the walls, causing them to crumble around the two original rangers.
As Jason continued screaming, this time from rage, horror, and fear for the woman in his arms, he never saw Rita and Zedd teleport in and then teleport out with the two young adults just as a slab of stone fell where they had been.
Tommy came out of his memories to find his four students and close friend in shock. Conner was gripping his soccer ball so hard he was afraid it would explode while Trent was extremely pale. Kira and Hayley both had tears in their eyes and Ethan was staring down at his closed laptop blankly. He swallowed. He’d never told Hayley the full story, how hard it had been, how painful. Telling these four; well, he hoped they learned something.
“But…what happened after that? Did Kimberly survive?” Conner demanded and Tommy was slightly surprised to find him staring at him intently. Tommy expression remained neutral though his eyes flickered to the back and saw Jason standing in the shadows. He’d called and told Jason he’d planned on telling the kids the whole story last night and Tommy had known Jason would be coming by. Raising an eyebrow, the former red and gold ranger disappeared upstairs before the others saw him.
“Jason regained consciousness a few hours later in the Power Chamber—Lerigot came and assured us that he was himself again and Maligore’s flames were gone forever. Jason eventually learned to live with what had happened, but he never forgave himself,” Tommy explained, smiling sadly at Kira and Hayley’s tears.
“We all decided to pass on the powers—staying Rangers after that was just too hard, emotionally as well as physically. I passed on the power to TJ and went to college. Kat ended up in London dancing and Tanya and Zack left for LA—he wanted to choreograph and she wanted to sing. Adam stayed in Angel Grove and he and Rocky opened up the dojo. David went back to the reservation after giving a high school freshman named Fred Kellman the Blue Turbo powers.
“Rocky ended up leaving the dojo after a few years to become a fire-fighter, which paid better. Billy remained behind as the technical support for the new rangers and he and Rocky ended up moving in together. When Rocky’s mother died 2 years after graduation, they took in Rocky’s siblings. Rocky and Billy have three kids, with Aisha, Trini, and Kat as the surrogate mothers. Last I heard, Rocky’s youngest sister Maria is preparing to graduate high school.
“Trini left for Stanford and was a year from graduating with two degrees when she was killed in a car accident--” he was interrupted by Conner, who was staring at him impatiently.
“What about Kimberly and Jason?” he demanded. Tommy glared at him but gave up when he saw Ethan, Kira, and, especially Trent, were looking at him hopefully. He sighed.
“Jason left a week after he was freed; I later found out he had returned to the moon with Trey of Triforia. He destroyed the entire place and, using the last vestiges of the magic he had from Jareth, he encased Scorpina and Tyr in stone and tore apart the magic that allows people to live safely in that area of the moon. It’ll take centuries before anyone can fill that area with enough spells to rebuild. The area where Serpenterra was buried was the only place left untouched, ironically enough.
“As for Kim…the ice dagger tore a hole in her heart that we couldn’t repair. If she had stabbed herself anywhere but there, she would still have destroyed Khetala forever but she hadn’t known that and she had wanted to make sure Khetala would never come back,” he explained and Kira sniffled while the boys sat back in shock.
“I was so sure...” Conner murmured. A few hours later, Tommy was alone, training having ended soon after he had told them about the worst six months of his life. As he slowly turned off all the lights upstairs, he walked down to the Lab. Moving to a section of the right wall, he gently pushed the lining in and the wall slowly slid apart to reveal a room that Hayley knew was there but had never been in.
Stepping in, he was vaguely aware of the wall sliding back into place as he took in the suits recovered from the destroyed Power Chamber. Standing in front of the Pink Morphin Ranger, he opened the glass and pressed a small button on the inside of the door. The case slid back, revealing a room that only he, Billy, and Jason knew was there. In the center, a single spotlight illuminating it was a six feet long coffin shaped box. Standing next to it was Jason who had come in through the entrance from Tommy’s bedroom. Tommy stepped forward and tenderly placed a hand on the glass surface. Underneath, her face perfectly preserved, was Kimberly. He felt tears come to his eyes as he remembered what had happened after Rita and Zedd had teleported inside the Power Chamber with the former villains.
Kim, near death, had apologized to them for not being able to stop herself before. As they all cried and told her it hadn’t been her fault, Delphine had teleported in. Rita and Zedd, despite their hatred of Jareth and Khetala, offered to repair her heart as much as they could. They’re healing was enough so that she was able to survive being teleported away to Aquitar with Delphine.
They’d found out later that the white ranger had convinced King Pontus to place the young human woman in a cyro tank. Eventually, Kimberly, still frozen, had been returned to Earth. She’d stayed at the power Chamber for a few weeks before being moved to the basement of Rocky and Billy’s house. When Rocky’s mother had died and he’d had to take his brothers and sisters in, she’d been moved to Jason’s house. Jason had kept her up until a few weeks before Tommy had started teaching at Reefside.
It would take years before the tank could fix her injuries, if she would be healed at all. They all knew there was a chance she would never revive. But they all kept hope that one day she’d wake up and life would be brighter.
For Jason and Tommy, that hope was enough.