"...and so Juliet killed herself, by piercing her heart with Romeo's dagger," answered a tall, slender Asian girl.
"That is very true, Trini," said Mrs. Applebee with a smile, "Now class, the question is... why did both Romeo and Juliet have to die?"
Mrs. Applebee, an English teacher at Angel Grove High School, surveys her class of sophomores. She notices that the majority of the class seemed unconscious, and weren't paying attention to the lesson on Shakespeare. She sighed inwardly. Well, who can really blame them? It is the final period of the day after all.
Mrs. Applebee focuses on an energetic young girl with caramel hair and a twinkle in her eyes. The girl is waving her hand in the air excitedly.
"Kimberly," she says finally, "what do you think the reason is?"
"Well," said the girl, "because they were so in love, they couldn't stand living without one another. Romeo killed himself because he believed his love was dead, and when Juliet found Romeo's body, she cried in agony and killed herself. She didn't even need to think about it. Oh, its so romantic!"
"That's true, Kimberly, the tale of "Romeo and Juliet" is a romantic tragedy. But, on a literary level, why did they both have to die? What is the significance of their deaths?"
Mrs. Applebee once again scanned the room, and this time chose to call upon one of the students that wasn't paying attention. She frowned when she saw a rather large young man in the back of the room, his head down on the desk, snoring loudly.
"Farcus Bulkmeyer!" she yelled, instantly waking the slumbering teen, "I hope you realize class participation counts for twenty percent of your grade! If I were you, I'd participate as much as humanly possible!"
The rest of the class chuckled at Bulk's expense. Bulk sat up, and fixed the collar of his leather jacket.
"I heard ya," he said confidently.
"Oh really?" asked Mrs. Applebee, raising her eyebrow, "Then, what's the answer?"
Bulk fidgeted under the teacher's gaze, and looked desperately at his best friend, the skinny young man sitting next to him. But instead of coming to Bulk's aid, the young man began laughing his often annoying, nasal laugh.
"Oh, shut up, Skull!" snapped Bulk angrily.
"We're waiting for an answer, Mister Bulkmey--"
Then, the bell rang, signalling the conclusion of the days classes. Everyone immediately piled out of the room excitedly. Bulk breathed a sigh of relief, and began collecting his things.
"Just a minute, class!" called Mrs. Applebee, "You have to write an essay about Romeo and Juliet for Tuesday! At least three pages in length, and use samples of the text to prove your theses! The rough draft is due Tuesday!! Monday, there's no class. Instead, the last two periods, all students will attend a special assembly on the theory of interstellar travel. Have a nice weekend!"
Once the teacher had finished, the class continued out the door. A group of five students grouped just outside the classroom, and together headed down the hallway.
"Interstellar Travel?" said Kimberly, "I don't remember hearing about an assembly on Interstellar Travel!"
"It was in the school paper last week," said Jason, the tall, muscular young man with dark hair and eyes, "All classes will be in the auditorium during periods seven and eight. Doctor Arthur Darius will be lecturing."
"Who's he?" asked the young African American man in the group.
"Doctor Darius is a Nobel Prize laureate, Zack," explained Billy, the slender young man in blue overalls with wire-frame glasses, "He is an expert in astrophysics, and his entire life has been devoted to proving matter can travel at the speed of light. He hasn't succeeded yet, but he has accomplished much in his over twelve years of research and experimentation."
"I've read about him," said Trini, "Isn't he the South African scientist who was blinded in an accident several years ago?"
"Wow," said Zack, "really? What happened?"
"If memory serves, he was experimenting on light," said Billy, "He was trying to study the particle nature of light, and used sunlight as the subject, because it contains so many different bands of light. However, there was an accident, which resulted with an acute burst of harmful rays of visible as well as ultraviolet light. He survived the blast, but his retina was irreparably damaged. He hasn't been able to see since."
"That's horrible," gasped Kimberly, "What did he do?"
"The only thing a dedicated scientist would do: he kept on working. Obviously, he cannot conduct light experiments on his own, because he cannot see, but he does still advise other scientists, and studies their findings. He also designs numerous experiments. That's why he won the Nobel Prize."
"That's unbelievable," said Zack, "How could a blind person accomplish so much? I mean, not being able to see--?"
"There are many people that can't see, Zack," said Jason, "and many who can't hear. Just because they can't experience life in the same way that we do, doesn't mean they can't live a full life. Its just a matter of conquering the challenges that you're faced with."
"Perhaps you should meet Doctor Darius," suggested Billy, "We all can. Since I'm a member of the Young Scientists of America, I was fortunate enough to meet Doctor Darius last night, when his flight from Washington came in. He is a very pleasant and inspirational gentleman. He's staying at the Marriot here in Angel Grove, and he invited us to come visit anytime."
"That would be an honor," said Trini with a smile, "He's such a remarkable man. He endured so much, but he didn't let his trials hinder him in the least."
"In the meantime," said Kimberly, "let's go to Ernie's! I really have a craving for one of his Kiwi-Strawberry Spritzers!"
- * *
Meanwhile, high above the Earth, on the dark side of her only natural satellite, there exists a stone castle. This castle defies all the laws of nature-- it has its own self-contained atmosphere and climate. Within this mysterious castle is an even more amazing sight-- a group of aliens who have decided to conquer Earth. The leader of this alien army is an ancient witch called Rita Repulsa, who is the self-proclaimed Empress of Evil. The only thing stopping this sorceress is a team of five young teenagers, who wield the power of the ancient Dinosaurs. So Rita spends a good portion of her day spying these five through her Repulsascope, in a desperate attempt to find out the Power Rangers' weakness. She believes she has found one.
"What a brilliant idea!" she screamed, skipping away from her telescope, "Why didn't I think of it sooner? It solves all my problems, with no hassel!"
Then, a golden armored warrior with the face of a canine entered the throne room and bowed humbly.
"What is your idea, Empress?" he asked, standing up to his full height of six and a half feet.
"The Power Rangers themselves gave it to me, Goldar," she said, "What I need is a monster. A monster who can create powerful beams of light. Blinding light. Where's Finster?"
"I shall find him for you, Empress," said Goldar, bowing once again. He then left the chamber, and Rita took a seat on her throne, tapping her foot impatiently. Soon, a short white goat-like alien with a blue apron and glasses entered the room and bowed before the throne. He was holding a large leather-bound book.
"You summoned me, Rita?" he asked politely.
"Yes I did," she said with an evil grin, "Finster, do you have a monster that can create powerful beams of light?"
"Light?" asked Finster, "Light isn't much of a weapon, Empress."
"Well, neither is the ability to eat the whole world's food supply," snapped Rita, "and you did design the Pudgy Pig, didn't you? If I wanted someone to do that, I could've just sent Squatt to Earth! Look through your book! I need a monster who can create blinding light, to blind the Power Rangers!"
Finster rubbed his chin in thought. "I don't have a monster who can create light, Empress, but if my memory serves, I may have a monster who can focus light. Let me look..."
Finster began flipping through the hundreds of pages inside his text, while Rita continued to tap her foot.
"Ah," he said after ten full minutes, "here it is! His name is Illuminator."
Finster showed Rita the sketch of the monster in the text. The monster was, in essence, a walking magnifying glass. Rita arched an eyebrow, unimpressed.
"Oh yeah," she snarled, "That's threatening!"
"Achem," said Finster, "with all due respect, Empress, the Illuminator fits the bill perfectly. His magnifying glass will focus the usually harmless rays of the sun into a powerful beam of energy. It will easily blind whoever it hits directly in the eye. The actual heat will not penetrate the Power Rangers' helmets, but their visors will not be able to protect them from such a powerful dose of radiation. The damage done to the human retina will be devastating."
"Excellent," said Rita with a grin, "Start baking, Finster! We have to get the Illuminator to Angel Grove before the sun sets!"
- * *
At the Angel Grove Gym and Juice Bar, the five teenagers sit at their usual round table, enjoying some of Ernie's famous shakes. While they sit and relax, they all bounce around ideas for their English assignment on "Romeo and Juliet".
"So," said Kimberly, stirring her kiwi-strawberry shake with a straw, "what are you guys gonna write about?"
"I'm planning on developing a thesis, expanding the nature of the Capulet/Montague feud, and analyzing the consequences of their stubbornness regarding reconciliation."
"Come again?" asked Zack with a confused frown on his face.
"He's writing a paper on the feud between Romeo and Juliet's families," Trini translated, "That's a good idea, Billy."
"I haven't given it much thought," said Jason, "I have to admit, I didn't much like 'Romeo and Juliet'. I liked 'Macbeth' and 'Julius C3/4sar' more."
"Perhaps the themes of political coups and cruel tyrants is more interesting to you than a tale of romantic tragedy, Jason," said Billy.
"Well, not me," said Kimberly with a starry look in her eyes, "This was the best story we've read in English for a long, long time!"
Just then, Jason's communicator rang with a familiar six-tone signal. All the teens traded concerned glances, and Jason motioned towards the hallway. Then, Jason left some money on the table, and led the group as indiscreetly as possible to the lockers, where no one was watching.
"We read you, Zordon," said Jason into his wrist. The other teens listened from their own wrist communicators.
^POWER RANGERS. RITA REPULSA HAS SENT DOWN A NEW MONSTER. TELEPORT TO THE COMMAND CENTER, SO ALPHA AND I CAN PREPARE YOU FOR BATTLE."
"We're on our way," said Trini, and the five teens simultaneously pressed a series of buttons on the side of the communicators. They all vanished in streaks of bright colored light, only to reappear milliseconds later within the darkened Command Center, with a circle of complex computer consols, a short red and gold android, a large glass sphere on a stand, and a large column with a green tint. Inside that column was the head of a man.
"GREETINGS, POWER RANGERS," the head said.
"What's up, Zordon?" asked Zack, stepping forward.
"I TURN YOUR ATTENTION TO THE VIEWING GLOBE."
While the rangers watched, and image of a slender monster with a rather large glass circle on its head appeared in Angel Grove Park. It immediately began running around excitedly, and it stopped before a tree. Rays of light beamed from the center of the glass plate, setting the tree on fire.
"RITA HAS SENT A MONSTER CALLED THE ILLUMINATOR," Zordon explained, "IT ARRIVED A FEW SECONDS AGO, AND BEGAN SETTING THE PARK AFLAME."
"What is it shooting?" asked Kimberly, staring at the image curiously.
"Its firing concentrated beams of sunlight," explained Alpha, the small robot, "The magnifying glass is focusing the sun's light, intensifying the heat to dangerous levels."
"Then, lets get going," said Jason, "The longer we wait, the more of Angel Grove Park will be blazing. Its Morphin Time!"
The five teenagers each pulled a small, silver rectangle from behind their backs. Embedded within the silver was a golden coin, with the image of an ancient dinosaur on it. The coins began to glow as their owners called upon their ancient magical powers.
"MASTODON!!" yelled Zack.
"PTERODACTYL!!" cried Kimberly.
"TRICERATOPS!!" shouted Billy.
"SABER-TOOTHED TIGER!!" called Trini.
"TYRANNOSAURUS!!" bellowed Jason.
The five teenagers were each bathed in brilliant light, each one according to his/her signature color. When the light faded, the teens were gone, leaving the ancient sage and the gentle robot alone in the Command Center.
- * *
"I've always loved barbecues!" said the Illuminator, laughing and setting another tree on fire. By this time, over a dozen of the parks trees were aflame, and the dry weather only served to spread the fire. Illuminator smiled as he surveyed his destructive work, and then skipped towards the lake.
"Hmmm," he pondered aloud, "I wonder if I can boil this lake! That'd be a hoot!" "Don't count on it!" called a commanding voice from behind. Illuminator turned around, and saw five colorfully armored figures, standing with their hands on their hips, all in a row. He growled under his breath as the five figures leapt high off the ground, somersaulting through the air, and landing in a circle around him.
"Enough playing around, Illuminator!" cried the Red Ranger, brandishing his silver sword, "We're sending you back to Rita!"
"Is that a fact?" asked Illuminator, firing a wide beam of white light at the Red Ranger. He managed to strike the Red Ranger in the stomach, sending the leader of the team flying by the force of the close proximity hit. The other rangers immediately began their attack, swinging their Power Weapons at blinding speed. Illuminator leapt out of the way, trying to get at a safe distance.
"Kim, Billy!" ordered Zack, "Check on Jason! Trini, you're with me!"
The Yellow Ranger nodded, and followed the Black Ranger towards the retreating monster. The Pink and Blue Rangers ran to where the Red Ranger finally landed, leaning limply against the trunk of a tree.
"Jason?" asked Kim, "Is he okay, Billy?"
"I... I'll be fine," Jason said quietly, shaking his head, "I'm just a little dizzy."
Not far away, Trini and Zack caught up with the Illuminator. Zack leapt into the air, flipped over the monster's head, and landed a few yards in front of it, with his Power Ax in hand.
"Cosmic Cannon!" he cried, pulling back the blade of the weapon. He held the barrel of the weapon towards the monster, and a beam of multicolored energy poured forth. The beam hit the creature in the leg, causing it to fall to the ground in pain. Illuminator sprawled out on the grass, and didn't move anymore.
"Nice shot, Zack," Trini, jogging up to him.
"If he's dead, why didn't he disintegrate or something?" asked the Black Ranger curiously, approaching the still monster. Trini followed him.
"Be careful," she warned, still clutching her Power Daggers, "What if he's playing possum--?"
As soon as Zack was close enough, the Illuminator fired a tight, direct beam of light, right into the Black Ranger's visor. Zack screamed in pain, and fell back, desperately trying to remove his helmet. Trini ran towards Zack, and both heroes were bowled over by a wider beam of light. The Yellow and Black Rangers were both knocked onto their backs, and the Illuminator approached the Yellow Ranger menacingly.
"One down," he said, "Four to go..."
Suddenly, a piece of silver and pink metal struck the monster in the back of his lens, shattering the glass on impact. The Illuminator screamed, and fell to the ground, exploding on impact. Trini sighed in relief, and rose to her feet painfully.
"What happened?" asked Billy, helping Trini balance herself. Trini looked past Billy, and saw the Pink Ranger, lowering her Power Bow, with the Red Ranger beside her.
"Where's Zack?" Trini asked, looking around. All four of the rangers searched the grass, until finally, Jason located his best friend, lying partially inside a bush. Jason ran over to him, and lifted him carefully.
"He's out like a light," said Jason, "Let's bring him back to the Command Center." "Right," the others said in unison, and the entire team vanished in streaks of light.
- * *
"I can't believe it!" roared the Empress of Evil in a heated rage, "The Illuminator failed! Finster, get in here!!"
Goldar, Squatt, and Baboo snuck out of the throne room as discreetly as possible, deciding it was in their best interests to avoid their mistress when she's in a bad mood. Soon, the old scientist entered the throne room, and bowed. "What is it, my Queen?" he asked.
"Finster!" she shouted, stepping down from the balcony and smacking Finster over the head with her wand, "The Illuminator was a waste of clay! It couldn't last five minutes against those Putrid Rangers! They didn't even need to use the Power Blaster!"
"Well, if I may say, sending a monster to blind the Power Rangers was not my idea."
"Don't talk to me like that!" Rita shrieked, "You've got a lot of nerve!"
"But, my Queen," said Finster, backing off a bit, "at least the Black Ranger was injured in the battle! He was unconscious when they returned to the Command Center."
"True," said Rita, stepping away from the scientist, "Although, I won't be able to figure out what happened to him until the Power Rangers leave the Command Center. My Repulsascope cannot penetrate the shields. Well, I've always considered myself a patient tyrant."
"Of course," Finster muttered sarcastically, leaving the throne room.
- * *
"What's wrong with him, Alpha?" asked Kimberly, wringing her fingers nervously. Alpha Five was busy scanning the unconscious Black Ranger, who was now un-morphed and lying on a black table. The other Power Rangers stood in a semi-circle, waiting for Alpha's diagnosis.
"Aye yi yi!" the little robot shrieked, "I don't detect any serious injury. He's just had the wind knocked out of him."
"Are you sure?" asked Trini, "He took a direct hit from Illuminator!"
"Where was he hit?" asked Alpha, turning around, "My equipment isn't detecting any physical damage to his body at all."
"I... I don't know," Trini admitted, "I didn't see what happened exactly. It all happened so fast."
Just then, Zack moaned, and rubbed his eyes with his hands. He sat up slowly, still rubbing his eyes.
"What... what happened?" he asked, "My eyes itch."
"YOU WERE HIT BY ONE OF ILLUMINATOR'S LIGHT BEAMS, ZACHARY. HOW DO YOU FEEL?"
Zack opened his eyes weakly, and turned his head.
"Why are the lights out?" he asked, holding his hands out and waving them slowly through the air around him.
"What do you mean?" asked Jason with a nervous laugh, "The lights are on!"
"No they're not!" said Zack, still waving his hands around, "I can't see a thing!"
"Oh no," gasped Trini, "Alpha, scan his eyes!"
Alpha nodded, and stepped closer to the Black Ranger, who was still waving his arms frantically.
"Calm down, Zack," said Kim gently, touching his waving arm, "Alpha's gonna figure out what's wrong."
Zack sighed and laid back down, his eyes remaining wide open. Alpha focussed the scans on his eyes.
"Aye yi yi!" he shrieked, "His pupils didn't contract when I brought the scanner close!"
"What does that mean?" asked Zack.
"It means the receptors in your retina aren't affected by the change in light intensity," explained Billy, stepping over to Zack and Alpha, "Under normal circumstances, the pupil will contract when exposed to intense light, and dialate when there is minimal light. That is how the eye regulates the amount of light focused on the retina, so that the correct amount is processed through the optic nerve. The fact that your pupil is unaffected by the intensity of light can only mean one thing: the receptors aren't responding to the light hitting them, and therefore, no light is being processed by way of the optic nerve."
"So," said Zack, "in a nutshell, are you saying I'm blind?!"
"I'm... I'm afraid so," said Billy, looking away. Zack closed his eyes, and buried his face in his hands.
"I'm blind?" he said disbelievingly, "Like a bat?"
"That is not the most correct analogy," said Billy, "But essentially, yes."
"Is this temporary?" asked Trini, turning to Zordon, "Will Zack's vision recover?"
"THERE IS NO WAY TO TELL WITHOUT FURTHER TESTS," he said solemnly, "BUT HUMAN VISION IS A VERY COMPLEX PROCESS. MOST DAMAGE TO IT IS PERMANENT."
"I'll start running eye exams," said Alpha, hurrying into the storage room, "Oh, aye yi yi yi..."
"Is there anything we can do?" asked Jason.
"NO. IF ZACK'S VISION CAN BE RESTORED, THEN ALPHA FIVE AND I CAN DO IT. THE REST OF YOU SHOULD RETURN TO YOUR HOMES."
"If its all the same to you," said Kimberly, "I'll stay."
"Me too," said Trini, "One can never have enough moral support."
"Perhaps I can help Alpha with the analysis."
"I'm not going anywhere," said Jason, "Not when my bro's in trouble."
"Thanks guys," Zack said with a weak smile, "Thanks a lot."
Kimberly, Jason, and Trini made themselves comfortable, watching anxiously while Alpha and Billy began scanning Zack's eyes and brain. After over an hour of extensive study, Billy took a deep breath, and turned on a computer screen. He glanced at Zack, and noticed he was shaking slightly, with sweat beading on his brow. Billy shook his head, and turned to Alpha.
"When will the computer analysis be complete?" he asked, "I believe we have completed the preliminary imaging."
"It should take about seven hours," said Alpha, "Even though the visual system is small, it is infinitely complicated, with millions of receptors and billions of neurons throughout. The problem could be anywhere in the visual pathway, from the retina to even his brain. There's no way to know what was damaged, so we must study each piece individually."
"Understood," said Billy, turning to his friends. He saw Kimberly leaning against Jason's arm, sound asleep. Jason was nodding off himself, and Trini was silently watching the whole procedure. Billy walked over to her.
"There's nothing more we can do tonight," Billy said, taking off his glasses and wiping the lenses with his shirt, "It'll take hours for the computers to locate the problem with Zack's vision."
"I know," she said, looking up at him, "I heard Alpha. We might as well go back home and turn in. Kim and Jason are already out, and we've all had a rough day. Especially Zack."
"I... I can't go back home," Zack said quietly, his eyes closed tightly, "How'd I explain to my parents what happened to me? I'm blind!"
"You can stay at my house," offered Billy, "If you don't mind staying in the garage. There's a bed there, since I tend to fall asleep while I'm at work. My father seldom enters the lab, so he won't learn of your..."
"Handicap?" snapped Zack, "Is that the word you were looking for?"
"Condition," Billy finished, "You can call your parents from my house, explaining that we're working on a school project. Tomorrow's Saturday, so they most likely will not withold their permission."
"What's happening?" asked Kimberly with a yawn. She sat up, and stretched her arms, "Is Zack okay?"
"We... we don't know yet," said Trini, "We're all going home. It'll take a few hours for the analysis to come up with anything."
"Good night, gang," said Zack, "Thanks for staying with me."
"No problem, Zack," said Kimberly, taking his hand and squeezing it gently, "You'll be fine."
"You're in good hands," said Jason reassuringly.
"I don't doubt it," said Zack, as he heard three of his friends teleport, "But I can't help being... scared."
- * *
In the Mitchell family's garage, Billy prepares two cots on the floor of his laboratory. While he does so, Zack Taylor, a close friend of Billy's, is sitting on the lab table itself with his eyes tightly shut. His head is bowed down, and a grim expression crossed his face. Billy glanced at his friend and shook his head. He then let out a quiet sigh as he layed the top blanket on his guest's cot.
"What's wrong, Billy?" asked Zack suddenly. Billy turned around in surprise.
"What do you mean?" Billy asked.
"I heard you sigh. It doesn't sound like you think I'll pull through this."
"Zack," said Billy, "Alpha 5 and Zordon have technology at their disposal that is infinitely more advanced than anything this world has ever seen. Much of its intricacies yet escape me. If anyone can determine the acute damage to your visual system and develop a means to restore it, they can."
"Billy," said Zack grimly, hopping off the lab table and turning toward Billy's voice, "We've been friends for a few years now. I can tell when you're not sure about something. I can't see your facial expressions, but I can make out the tone of your voice. Now, I want you to be totally honest with me. You know I can handle whatever the verdict is. Am I gonna be blind forever? And don't sugar-coat it!"
"To be perfectly honest, there is no way to know until Zordon and Alpha finish running scans of your neural network. The visual system is by far the most advanced perceptive system in your brain. The network of billions of ganglion cells, receptors, and dozens of visual pathways are extremely delicate, and the damage can be anywhere from the lens of your eye to the occipital lobe of your brain. It is uncanny that the Command Center has the kind of equipment necessary to scan this entire system one piece at a time, but it could take awhile before the damage is found. My expertise isn't really in the perceptual system, so I can't say exactly how difficult repairing such damage is, but usually, brain damage is permanent. If you end up with a lesion in your occipital lobe, you will most likely never see again. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," said Zack, holding out his arms and feeling around. Once he found a cot, he sat down on it, and lay down on his back. He folded his hands over his chest, and lay perfectly still. Billy couldn't tell if Zack had fallen asleep or not, so he finally lay down on his own cot and turned out the lamp.
"You guys are gonna need a new Black Ranger," said Zack finally.
"Not just yet," said Billy, "Your vision may still recover. It may even recover on its own!"
"True, but it could take days... even weeks until Zordon can do anything to help me, and you know Rita won't wait to attack again. What if you guys need the Megazord or something? I can't pilot the Mastodon without seeing!"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said Billy, "Now, try and get some rest. Its been an exhausting evening."
"That's one way to put it," muttered Zack in response, "G'night, Billy."
But both young men did have difficulty sleeping, and throughout the night, Billy could hear soft sobbing coming from the other cot.
- * *
"Ah," said the shrill voice of the Empress of Evil, "It couldn't have worked out better if I had planned it!"
"What happened, Your Royalness?" asked Squatt, the dim-witted, short blue alien.
"The Black Ranger has been incapacitated," she said with a smile, "He's blind!"
"But Billy said that it may be fixed!" said the taller, black alien named Baboo.
"It doesn't matter," said Rita, stepping down off her balcony, "It can take days before his retinas heal, if they do heal! If we attack now, we can annihalate the four other rangers, and be done with it! We'll snatch their Power Coins, and then destroy them! Then, I'll use the five coins to create my own team of evil Power Rangers! They'll wreak havoc throughout the universe! Goldar, get in here!"
"Yes, my Queen?" said the golden armored warrior.
"Take a few squads of Putty Patrolers to Earth, and fight the four remaining Power Rangers! You should be able to defeat only four of them!"
"It shall be like falling off a log," said Goldar confidently, "But, how shall I draw them out? Its four o'clock in the morning, and they most likely are asleep in their homes."
"Then go and wake one of them up!" screeched Rita, "Why don't you go attack the Red Ranger? Then, you can get rid of the most powerful ranger before he has a chance to morph, making their capture all the easier! Oh, and use that sleeping spell I taught you. It will make sure the Power Rangers stay still while you steal their coins!"
"Brilliant scheme, Majesty!" said Goldar, bowing as he left, "It shall be done!"
- * *
Its late night in Angel Grove, and inside one split-level ranch style home in the residential area of the city, a young man tosses and turns in his sleep. He mutters softly as he relives the scene that cost his best friend dearly the previous day.
"No," he whispered, "Zack!"
Jason Lee sprung into a sitting position, panting heavily. He took a deep breath, and lay back down on his pillow, staring up at the darkened ceiling.
I've got to get some sleep! he thought silently, I have a feeling Rita will be taking full advantage of Zack's injuries in the morning. Man, I can't believe this is happening! This is the first time any one of us has been seriously injured! The damage done to Zack's vision may even be permanent! He'll have to live with a lack of vision his entire life, and there isn't a thing I can do about it!
Jason could feel his eyes well with tears of frustration. He'd really been scared when Zack first announced he couldn't see. But, Jason had to be strong for the rest of the team. He was always looked up to for his strength and control, and his friends needed him to be a pillar, especially during times of tragedy. But now that he's alone, he can let his emotions out.
This is all my fault he reasoned, If I hadn't let down my guard, Illuminator wouldn't have knocked me out of the fight so soon! Then, Kim and Billy wouldn't have had to come check on me, leaving Zack and Trini to take that monster alone! This whole thing wouldn't have happened had I been more careful! I have to be able to lead better than this! I should be ready for anything! But I wasn't, and Zack paid the price for my mistake...
Just then, Jason heard a branch snap from just outside his open window. He looked out the window in surprise, and prepared to get up. But before the soles of his feet touched the carpet, a figure moving at an amazing speed pushed him back onto the bed, and pinned him there.
"GOLDAR?!" Jason cried in surprise, struggling against the iron grip of Rita's lead henchman.
"In the flesh," said Goldar with a grin, "Oh, and try to keep it down? We certainly don't want your parents to get involved in this, do we?"
Jason shuddered at the thought, and continued his struggles against the large beast in silence. Through the corner of his eye, he could see his morpher on his nightable. Fortunately, Goldar didn't seem to notice it.
"What do you want?" asked Jason.
"You," said Goldar, "Without Zack, there are only four Power Rangers, and once you've been dealt with, there are only three to go! The others will no doubt be rushing to your aid any moment now, but you won't be alive to greet them!"
"We'll see about that!" said Jason, pushing his legs up with all his might. He managed to weaken the monster's grip severely, and he then wriggled his arms free. Jason delivered one powerful punch to Goldar's snout, knocking him off the bed. Jason leapt off the bed on the other side, and picked up his morpher.
I can't fight inside the house! It may wake up my parents! thought Jason, "Now its time for a fair fight! TYRANNOSAURUS!!"
In a bright display of red light, Jason's red plaid pajamas were transformed into the inpenetrable red and white armor of the Red Power Ranger. He then proceeded to leap out of the open window, to land nimbly next to the trunk of a tree. Goldar leapt out after the Red Ranger, and brandished his golden sword. Jason did likewise, and the two warriors clashed swords. Jason's speed managed to keep him one step of the stronger Goldar, but the two warriors seemed too evenly matched for any one to gain the advantage. Goldar smiled as he kicked the Red Ranger back, knocking him to the grass.
"Putties!" Goldar cried, "Tear him apart!"
To Jason's horror, nearly twenty of Rita's clay Putty Patrolers appeared at Goldar's command. Jason held his sword high, and tried to fend off the enemies. But he couldn't keep them off him for long, and soon he was completely surrounded by Putties.
"Now that he's distracted..." said Goldar, holding his sword high. A sphere of pulsing gold energy formed at the tip of the golden sword, and Goldar leapt into the air. He pointed the sword at the Red Ranger from above, and the sphere of energy flew at him. Jason didn't have time to duck before the sphere crashed into his helmet, knocking him unconsious. Goldar began to laugh as he approached the downed leader of the Power Rangers. He stopped when the Red Ranger was sprawled out at his feet, and raised his hands to the sky.
"At last!" he roared, "I have claimed victory for my empress!"
As Goldar bent down to take the shining golden Tyrannosaurus coin from Jason's belt, a silver and pink arrow pierced the golden armor protecting his foot. Goldar howled in pain, and clutched his injured foot with both hands. He then looked up, and glared as the Pink Ranger leapt from the roof of the Lee family's house, holding her Power Bow tightly. The Yellow and Blue Rangers landed on the grass on either side of the Pink Ranger, respectively holding the Power Daggers and the Power Lance.
"Get away from Jason!" cried the Pink Ranger, pulling back on the bow again, "Or the next arrow will pierce something a bit more vital!"
"You don't scare me, Power Rangers!" yelled Goldar, pulling the arrow out of his bleeding foot, "Putties, get them!"
The three Power Rangers gave a battle cry as they plowed into the oncoming Putty Patrolers. While they slowly managed to decrease the number of monsters, Goldar once again approached the Red Ranger to collect the coin. But this time, he was greeted by a strong hit to the back of his neck. He fell on top of the Red Ranger, and looked up to see the Yellow Ranger, holding both of her Power Daggers. She had hit him with the butt of the dagger, and she was standing above him menacingly.
"Well," he said with a grin, "the little tiger has claws, eh?"
"You'll have to go through me before you can lay one slimey finger on Jason!" she declared angrily, spinning her daggers in her hands. Goldar rose to his feet, and picked up his sword.
"I have no problem with that," said Goldar, swinging high at the Yellow Ranger. She ducked the swing easily, and side-kicked him while he was off balance. Goldar didn't seem to feel the attack, and used his leg to sweep the Yellow Ranger off her feet. She recovered with a quick hand-spring, and managed to hit Goldar beneath the chin with her heels. Goldar fell onto his back, and Trini held her dagger to his throat.
"You fight well, Yellow Ranger," Goldar said with a smile, "for a human, at least. But, its time for this game to end!"
Goldar's sword, which was lying about two feet from his hand, came to life, and glowed bright gold. Goldar pushed the stunned ranger off him, and clutched the sword. He let the power build, and touched Trini's helmet with the glowing blade. Trini shrieked as golden energy poured into her body, overloading her system. She fell limp to the ground, and Goldar blew the smoke off his blade. He then set his sights on the Pink Ranger, who was using a series of hand-springs to hit the putties as they ran from her. He grinned, and fired some golden energy bolts at her, causing her to fall ungracefully to the ground. She stood up quickly, and turned to face Goldar. She took a step back as he approached.
"I know how much you'd rather fight me from a distance, Pink Ranger," he said, "but your little bow won't help you up close and personal!"
"We'll see about that! Power Bow!"
The pink and white archer's bow appeared in Kimberly's hands, and she used her bow to block Goldar's downward swing. She struggled against his superior strength, but managed to keep her balance. She then kicked up with her right leg, which powerfully struck Goldar's hand and caused him to drop his sword. Goldar stepped back as Kimberly swung her bow like a sword. He dodged, and then managed to catch her arm, forcing her to drop her weapon by tightening his grip. Kim shrieked as he lifted the small ranger with one hand until they were eye-level, meaning her feet were dangling over a foot off the ground.
"Let me go, Creep!" she snapped, struggling to free herself. He only laughed at her, and held out his other hand towards his sword. Once again, his sword came to life, and floated up to him. He clutched it firmly, and tossed Kimberly like a rag doll into a tree. She crumpled against the tree on impact, but she managed to rise to her feet. But by then, a pulsing sphere of energy was already flying directly at her, and it struck her on her stomach. She cried out in pain, and fell lifeless to the grass. Goldar picked up her still body, and tossed her beside the unconscious Yellow and Red Rangers.
Meanwhile, the Blue Ranger managed to destroy the last two Putty Patrolers with a mighty split-kick. He panted with exhaustion, and looked up to see Goldar's foot flying towards him. Billy managed to put up his Power Lance just in time, and caught Goldar by his armor. Billy threw Goldar overhead, causing the monster to crash into the quiet street. The Blue Ranger followed Goldar, who had quickly recovered from the fall. The two clashed weapons for awhile, but it was plain to see that the Blue Ranger was no match for the stronger, more experienced Goldar.
"I'm bored with this," said Goldar, delivering a powerful swing with his sword. The sword managed to dislodge the Power Lance from Billy's hands, leaving the Blue Ranger unarmed. Goldar then tried to run his through with his sword, but the Blue Ranger cartwheeled out of the way, and drew out his laser blaster. He fired the gun at Goldar, who used his sword as a shield. The sword's shiny surface deflected the rays of blue light, sending them back to their source. The Blue Ranger was struck by a few rays, and was knocked backwards. Goldar finished the job by once again channeling golden energy through his sword. Soon, the Blue Ranger was lying still as death, and Goldar laughed in triumph.
"Well," he said, "since you're the closest, I might as well get the Triceratops coin first. Then, I'll get the other three."
Goldar bent down and reached for the coin seated in the Blue Ranger's morpher. But as soon as his golden talon made contact with the coin, a rush of blue energy shocked Goldar, and threw the warrior back with force. Goldar stood up, and frowned.
"Empress!" he called out, "I cannot touch the coins!"
A ghostly image of Queen Rita appeared before Goldar. Goldar bowed at her appearance, and she frowned angrily.
"There must be some kind of protection spell on the coins," she said, "making it impossible for someone to separate the coin from the Power Ranger while morphed. They may have to give up the coin willingly."
"How will you do that?" asked Goldar.
"I can't!" shrieked Rita, "This is not FAIR! There must be a way around it! Oh, I have an idea! Here, idiot!"
A rather large marquise-cut black gemstone appeared in Goldar's hand. It was about the size of his open palm.
"What is this?"
"This is the Gem of Disjunction. It basically undos certain spells. But, it doesn't always work, and it takes quite a while. You can't bring those rangers up to my palace until the gem has taken full effect, though. The energy release isn't a pretty sight."
"So, where do I cast the spell of Disjunction?"
"I don't care! But do it somewhere down there! And make it snappy, too."
"But, if I cast the spell down here, Zordon will be able to find me!"
"Who cares? He can't teleport the rangers while they are under the power of this kind of spell! What can he do, send that tin-can of an assistant after you?"
"There still is the Black Ranger to deal with."
"So what?!" shrieked Rita's image, "The boy is blind! If you can defeat all four of the other rangers, you can take care of a blind Black Ranger. Now get to work! The spell will take about an hour to take affect, and I want to add those five coins to my collection!"
"I obey, my Empress!"
- * *
In the Command Center, Zack sits quietly and listens to the sounds emitted from the Viewing Globe. He was waken by the sound of Billy's communicator going off, and decided he shouldn't stay in Billy's garage alone while the Power Rangers were off fighting one of Rita's monsters. So he opted to stay in the Command Center with Alpha Five and Zordon. Golar's maniacal laughter chilled Zack to the bone, and he desperately wished he was able to see what had happened to his friends. But the sound of Goldar's laugh made it painfully obvious who the victor was.
"Aye yi yi!" shrieked Alpha Five, "Goldar and the rangers have vanished!"
"I heard, Alpha," said Zack, still sitting on the black table, "But he didn't take them to the Moon Palace yet. There still on Earth. Somewhere."
Zack leapt down from the table, and turned in the direction in which he knew Zordon's column was.
"Zordon," said Zack, "Is there any way you can track their teleport?"
"NOT DIRECTLY," said the wise sage, "HOWEVER THE SCANNERS WILL BE ABLE TO DETECT THE POWERFUL RELEASE OF MAGIC. THE SPELL OF DISJUNCTION IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL SPELLS THERE IS."
"Can the Spell of Disjunction really make it possible for Goldar to just take the coins?"
"YES. THE SPELL THAT WAS CAST TO BOND THE POWER COINS TO THE POWER RANGERS IS OF THE KIND THAT CAN BE UNDONE WITH THE SPELL OF DISJUNCTION. BY ELIMINATING THAT BOND, THE COIN WILL NOT BE PROTECTED, AND GOLDAR WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE IT OFF THE MORPHER WITH LITTLE IF ANY DIFFICULTY."
"Then we have to find them, and stop this," said Zack, "Alpha?"
"Right here, Zack," said the little robot, stepping towards Zack.
"Could you please teleport my morpher to me? I left it in Billy's laboratory."
"Aye yi yi!" he yelled, "You're not thinking of going after Goldar!"
"Well, there's no one else to do it," said Zack, "We have less than an hour before Rita has total control of the Power Coins! I'm the only one left."
"I AGREE WITH YOU, ZACHARY, BUT YOU MUST USE EXTREME CAUTION. ALPHA FIVE AND I MUST PREPARE YOU."
"Right," said Zack.
The next few minutes was a time of preparation. Zordon scanned the city and the surrounding area for the energy signature of a powerful magical spell, while Alpha Five and Zack came up with a way to defeat Goldar, without using the sense of sight.
"Well," said Zack, clutching his morpher, "if I can't see, we'll have to even up the odds by stopping Goldar from seeing."
"But Goldar's species is very similar to canines! He doesn't rely on vision as much as humans do. He uses his sense of smell. He'll be able to hunt you down, whether he can see or not!"
"Then, let's knock out that sense also," said Zack, rubbing his chin, "Limit sight as well as smell... I've got it! How about a smoke screen?"
"The smoke would cloud the room, making it impossible to see, and the smoke will overpower Goldar's sensitive olefaction. It could work."
"Then prepare a couple smoke grenades," said Zack, "I've got my work cut out for me."
"ZACHARY," said Zordon, "I HAVE LOCATED GOLDAR AND THE OTHER FOUR POWER RANGERS. THEY ARE INSIDE A CAVE NOT FAR FROM HERE. I SHALL RECALIBRATE THE TELEPORTER FOR YOU."
"A cave?" asked Zack, "Good. There'll be limited ventilation, and the smoke screen will have an even better effect."
"YOU MUST DESTROY THE GEM OF DISJUNCTION IN ORDER TO STOP THE SPELL IN PROGRESS."
"But, how will I find it if I can't see?"
"THE GEM SHOULD EMIT A VERY SOFT HUM. IT IS USUALLY INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM BACKGROUND NOISE, BUT SINCE YOUR VISION HAS BEEN COMPROMISED, YOU WILL PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THE AUDITORY CUES. MAY THE POWER PROTECT YOU, ZACHARY."
"Thanks," said Zack, taking a deep breath, "Its Morphin Time! MASTADON!!"
Zack's body was bathed in an intense black light, and he was clothed in the form fitting armor of the Black Power Ranger. He touched his morpher, and vanished from the Command Center in a streak of light.
- * *
Inside a cave not far from the Command Center, Goldar carefully places the black gemstone Rita sent him onto a stone pillar. He looks behind him, and checks to make sure the four Power Rangers were still unconscious. The ball of energy that Goldar cast on them was actually a small spell Goldar had learned, that induces sleep. The Rangers slept soundly, and they wouldn't wake up for at least an hour, if Goldar's calculations were correct. That was plenty of time for him to cast the Spell of Disjunction, and separate the Power Coins from the rangers.
"Soon," he rumbled, "you four will be the Powerless Rangers! Now, to cast the spell... ú¿¶Æû ÂÅû¹*(c)´Æ..."
As Goldar began to chant in an ancient alien language, a subtle streak of black light flashed just outside the cave. The Black Ranger appeared, and felt around carefully. He could hear Goldar's powerful voice clearly, and Zack leaned against the stone wall just outside the cave, and listened. He must be casting the spell! he thought, I gotta act quickly, or the guys are doomed!
Zack clutched one of the two smoke grenades in his right hand. He then warily approached the voice. But before he could throw the grenade, he was suddenly thrown to the ground. He lost the grenade, and he could feel a heavy body crushing him.
"Goldar," he muttered. Goldar laughed. "What? You actually thought you could sneak up on me?! I smelled you the moment you teleported outside the cave! But, I needed to finish casting the spell before I crushed you."
"You're not going to get away with this!" Zack yelled, struggling against Goldar's grip. He quickly realized from the distance of Goldar's voice that the beast was actually pinning him to the ground with his feet. Zack then felt a sharp point through the cushion of the neck of his uniform.
"Who's going to stop me, Human?" he chuckled, pressing his blade harder into Zack's neck. It still didn't penetrate the armor. "Oh, what do we have here?"
Goldar leaned over and picked up the grenade Zack dropped. He touched it to his nose, and inhaled deeply.
"A smoke grenade," he observed, "Clever. Too bad you didn't get a chance to use it."
Goldar reached down and picked up the Black Ranger. He hefted the young man over his shoulder, and walked over to the line of stone beds, where the remaining Power Rangers lay. He lay Zack on the bed, and pointed his sword at Zack.
"Now, to put you to sleep," he declared, "just like your friends."
A flash of bright light shot forth, and Zack lay motionless on the bed. Goldar then turned around, and returned to the pillar. He didn't realize that Zack was still conscious.
I... I don't believe it! Whatever he tried to do, it didn't work! Now's my chance...
Zack slowly and quietly reached to his holster, where the remaining smoke grenade was attached. He pulled it off, and silently felt for the pin. He pulled the pin, and thew it in the direction he heard Goldar's footsteps.
"What?!" shrieked Goldar as a deep, dense black smokescreen surrounded him. He began coughing violently. Zack leapt off the cot, and followed the sound of the coughing.
"Times like this, I'm glad the Power Ranger helmets automatically purify the air we breathe!" he said, kicking Goldar to the ground. He continued to aim his attacks at the source of the coughing. Goldar was at a serious disadvantage-- not being able to see clearly, smell anything but foul smoke, and barely able to breath through the dense smoke. He crumpled under the Black Ranger's relentless attacks.
"No... fair..." Goldar wheezed between coughs, "Not... fair... fight!"
"Probably not," said Zack, delivering a powerful uppercut, "but it certainly wasn't fair for your Illuminator monster to play possum, and trick me into coming close! It sure as heck wasn't fair for him to blind me! WAS IT?!"
Now, Zack was pounding Goldar mercilessly, his aggression fueled by the anger and frustration of his recent blindness. Goldar quickly realized he wasn't going to win this battle.
"We'll... finish this... some other time..." he wheezed, and vanished in a cloud of gold. Once he was gone, Zack fell to his knees, panting hard. "Now, to find that gemstone," he said, holding his breath. He listened carefully for the sound of a weak hum, which Zordon had described to him earlier. Zack soon perceived it, and slowly crawled across the cave towards it. He moves slowly enough that when he collided with a rock, it didn't hurt. Soon, Zack felt his way to the pillar, and touched the black stone with his gloved hand.
"Once I destroy you, the rangers will be free of this spell. Power Ax!"
The Power Ax appeared in Zack's hand, and with the other hand, he felt the gem. Then, he lifted the ax high, and let it drop. He hit the gemstone right in the center, and the gem exploded. Zack was thrown back by the energy release, but he wasn't hurt. He pulled himself off the floor, and activated his communicator.
"Zordon? Alpha? Mission accomplished. Bring us home."
^You got it,^ said Alpha Five's voice over the line, and the five Power Rangers vanished in streaks of bright light.
- * *
Billy's eyes slowly opened, and to his surprise, he wasn't in his bedroom. He wasn't even in his laboratory, where he often falls asleep. He saw the blinking lights of the Command Center, and sat up quickly. He found himself on a black cot, wearing his Blue Ranger costume. His helmet lay beside him. He looked around, and saw Kimberly, Jason, and Trini all sitting up on cots alongside his. He then looked further, and saw Zack sitting on another cot, with Alpha Five pointing a small machine into his eye.
"What happened?" asked Billy weakly, straightening his glasses, "If memory serves, I was in solitary combat against Goldar..."
"... when you were knocked unconscious by a magic spell," said Zack, not turning his head, "All four of you were. Then, he tried to take your Power Coins."
"Well, it looks like Goldar failed again," said Kimberly, glancing down at her morpher.
"Zack fought Goldar off, and brought you all here," said Alpha. Everyone's eyes widened.
"Zack fought Goldar?" Trini repeated, "Without being able to see? But, how?"
"I used my brain, for a change," said Zack with a smile, "You would've been proud, Billy."
"I am," said Billy, "What happened to the rest of us?"
"GOLDAR USED A VERY POTENT SLEEP SPELL. ITS DURATION IS DIFFERENT FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE, AND I BELIEVE THAT, SINCE YOU WERE THE LAST ONE TO BE HIT WITH THE SPELL, IT WAS WEAKEST WITH YOU. SO YOU WERE ALL ASLEEP FOR APPROXIMATELY THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME."
"Well, he tried to put me to sleep," said Zack, "But it didn't work. I guess he miscast the spell."
"NOT NECESSARILY. MOST MAGIC SPELLS MUST APPEAL TO THE SENSES OF THE VICTIM. SOMETIMES THEY MUST BE HEARD, AS IN WITH ENCANTATIONS. OTHER SPELLS MUST BE SEEN. IN YOUR CASE, THE SPELL WAS MOSTLY VISUAL. IF YOU DIDN'T SEE THE LIGHT OF THE SPELL, IT DIDN'T HAVE AS STRONG AN AFFECT. IN YOUR CASE, IT HAD NONE WHATSOEVER."
"Well, I guess being blind is good for at least one thing," said Zack.
"Alpha, what are you doing?" asked Billy, hopping off the cot and watching over the short android's head, "Are you conducting more scans?"
"No," said Alpha, "The scans we took concluded that the problem lies in Zack's retina. Apparently, the light Illuminator cast was so powerful, it bleached all the cones and rods in both retinas."
"What do you mean, 'bleached'?" asked Jason, as he, Trini, and Kimberly circled Billy, Alpha, and Zack.
"The rods and the cones are the visual receptors," explained Billy, "Their job is to capture light, one particle at a time, and send the visual information through the optical nerve. Once a receptor captures a light photon, it is bleached. That means that the two parts of the receptor, the opsin and the retinal, separated. While the receptor is bleached, it cannot absorb another photon. So if all the receptors in your retinas were bleached, no light would be processed, and all you'd see is blackness."
"Well, that's a good description of what I'm seeing right now."
"Usually, the receptors regenerate, or the two pieces rejoin, in a few minutes," continued Alpha, "All the receptors never are bleached at once, because there are literally billions of them, so that's why people don't lost their vision when they are exposed to bright light. But the Illuminator's light burst was magical. It bleached all the retinas in your eyes, and also inhibited their regeneration, so they couldn't absorb light anymore."
"Great," said Trini, "Now that you've determined the problem, can you fix it?"
"I'm trying," said Alpha, putting away the device he was using, "I just finished running a special stimulator over your retinas. If this works, it should disinhibit your receptors, meaning they should regenerate normally."
"How long do we have to wait before we know if it worked?" asked Zack.
"Anywhere from five to twenty minutes," said Billy, "That's how long it takes receptors to regenerate."
The next few minutes, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers paced around the Command Center, waiting for Zack to say something. Zack's eyes were closed, and every minute of so, he'd open them, excitedly expecting to see something. But each time, he was disappointed, and closed his eyes again. With each attempt, Zack became more and more upset, and worried that he'd never see again. Finally, twenty minutes were up, and Zack lay still, his eyes clenched tightly.
"Well?" asked Kimberly, "Can you see?"
"I... I'll check," said Zack, a hint of fear in his voice. He knew that if he didn't see now, he probably never will. He opened his eyes very slowly, and kept them open. His eyes remained perfectly still, as if Zack was staring at something.
"Zack?" asked Jason, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he said quietly, "But, I never noticed the ceiling was blue in here!"
Zack sat up, and grinned widely. "Yup, I can see!"
Kimberly, Trini, Jason, and Billy wrapped Zack in a warm group hug, and tears of joy trickled down from Zack's healed eyes. For of all the successes the Power Rangers had over the past few weeks, since Zordon banded them together, this one was by far the most meaningful.