Disclaimer: The Power Rangers have changed hands several times since this series began. They are currently owned by Saban Brands. Charmed is the property of the WB. Mr. Merlin was a TV show that appeared in the early 1980's. CHIPS was a show created by Rick Rostner that aired from the late 70's to the early 80's. The WWF letters are in reference to the World Wrestling Federation owned by Titan Sports; it should be noted that WWF is a trademark of the World Wildlife Fund. Hannah Montana and related characters are property of Disney. Reference to the 'Silent Master' is in reference to the character of Snake-Eyes from G.I.Joe (Action Force) which is property of Hasbro. Sei Tin is from the Devil's Due Comics version of G.I.Joe. The name Okasa was from the T.V. Series 'The Master' as is the name McAllister-Keller, which aired on NBC during the 1980's for one year. Nash Bridges and related characters are created by Carleton Cuse and property of CBS and Carleton Cuse Productions. Fatal Fury/King of Fighters are owned by SNK/Capcom. ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) was a rival wrestling promotion created by Paul Heyman, the name now belongs to Titan Sports.
Minion is the property of Shadow Ranger, however it is a derived work from a character that appeared in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The song 'Some Girls' is sung by Rachel Stevens. The song 'Rollin' is sung by Limp Bizkit. 'You don't Know me at all' is sung by Lillian Garcia. And 'Never gonna stop' is sung by Rob Zombie. Author Notes: The reference to the San Francisco Earthquake comes from the records that clearly state there was no earthquake. Although this is now regarded as a city wide insurance fraud (mot claimants stated their buildings were damaged by fire from a neighbouring building. In some cases neighbouring shops set fire to each other at the same time). Additional Note: The beginning of this chapter is from the story 'Close Encounters of the NEGAtive Kind'. As the story progresses there will be some differences from this beginning and the rest of the story. Hopefully these differences will be explained to the reader's satisfaction. This story is considered AU within the Conquest of Evil Multiverse and should be considered to tie directly into the Alternaverse.
Prelude to Minion's Legacy Part 3 - Crossroads of Evil
COE: King of Fighters '96
Special Guest Writer: John Chubb with contributions from Adam Safaran and Adam Pearlman (The Q Team)
COE: King of Fighters '96Special Guest Writer: John Chubb with contributions from Adam Safaran and Adam Pearlman (The Q Team)
Torture Cell A, Minion's Island. The Past
It has been said that history can be a subjective thing. But there have been other times where history can be altered, subverted, and twisted in ways that are hard to comprehend, or imagine.
And yet, there are moments in history that while seemingly different play out like they were intended to...despite any alterations to time or reality.
Three days had passed and Minion decided it was time to see how his guests were coping. He ignored the VR Troopers and the Beetleborgs, the strange warrior known as Servo and a group of teenage hackers who had been dragged into things for some reason; the various super heroes that constituted what remained of the JLA, the Avengers and of course Spider-Man. He overlooked the injured Jesse, knowing that even if he could transform, the Masked Rider's powers had been damaged. Dex on the other hand would still provide some entertainment. First though he had his old adversaries, the Gem Coin Rangers, to pay his respects to.
This was Minion's favourite part of the Prison Dimension. He had altered the flow of time in the dimension so a few hours would seem like weeks to the Rangers trapped inside. All six of the Rangers he was holding in his prison were undergoing various forms of torture.
First off was Tanya. Minion had trapped her at the bottom of a long tube. Then he had sealed the sides, top and bottom of the tube so she only had a limited air supply. Then he had started to pump in a drop of water every thirty seconds. It was a slow torture. Tanya knew she could not escape and that eventually she would drown, but not before the dripping water drove her insane.
Next in line was Trey. Minion had decided to place the Lord of Triforia on a version of the rack and was gradually stretching the Gold Ranger until he was torn in half by the rack. Minion had but found the idea too unimaginative. Therefore, he had added his own subtle changes.
The rack had been modified so Trey was now seated with his hands tied to a series of pulleys. His legs and ankles were strapped to a set of bicycle pedals. The idea was that a small motor operated ropes attached to his arms would tighten the ropes and stretch the Lord of Triforia unless he pedalled fast enough to counter the effect. Minion had made an additional change. The system was now racheted so that if Trey stopped pedalling, he would be stretched, but even if he then started to pedal as fast as he could the ropes would not loosen.
It was the ultimate no-win situation. Sooner or later the Triforian would tire and when he did he would be stretched.
Adam had been strapped into a chair. On his forehead a metal device had been fastened. As Minion pressed a button, the device sent a signal to the muscles in Adam's leg, causing it to twitch. The sensation was not painful, but after a few hours of constant twitching Adam would be driven insane. Minion had seen the evidence of what constant exposure to the device would accomplish. Even the most iron willed prisoner would crack under the strain.
The device had been created years ago for use by bounty hunters wishing to interrogate captives to find their prey. Minion had been lucky to find a working model in Zedd's castle. Obviously Zedd had had dealings with either the Varox or the Bounty Hunters' Guild. He was not sure which but knowing Zedd, he was willing to bet the Bounty Hunter had not been paid for his work, or lived to tell about it.
Minion had modified the next cell especially for Kat using the technology he had gained from elsewhere. The room was set to play out random dangers at random intervals, stimulating her pain receptors without the physical injury. Minion had no intention of damaging Kat's body. He wanted Kat to be his personal slave and if she survived, he would enjoy breaking her further.
Minion planned to leave her a few more hours and then offer her a chance to end her pain. He doubted she would take him up on the offer first try, but faced with a life of pain or a life as his slave he suspected she could be persuaded to choose the latter.
Tommy's torture was simple but effective. He had been tied with his hands above his head and had a WD-Unit punching him at regular intervals. Each blow cracked his ribs causing him to scream in agony. But Minion had programmed the machine to allow enough time between blows for the youth's healing to take effect. For the robot it meant a few seconds of action followed by long periods of waiting. For Tommy it meant constant and nearly unbearable pain.
Travis' torture was perhaps the cruellest. He had been secured so he had a view of all his friends being tortured. Minion had injected him with a drug to paralyse his body and bound his limbs just in case. Travis could see and hear everything, but could not move any part of his body to help or even turn away or shut his eyes. Tears ran down his face from having to watch his friends being tortured, knowing he was free to intervene but unable to help them. He continued to sob, broken at the sight of his friends suffering knowing he had failed them.
"What's the matter Travis, can't you stand to see your friends suffer?" Minion asked softly. "You know, you could save them. Just swear total and undying allegiance to the forces of darkness and I'll let them go."
"Go to hell!" Travis spat. Struggling to speak due to the effects of the drugs.
Minion did not reply. He simply turned and nodded to the WD-Unit in front of Tommy. The machine understood the unspoken command and punched Tommy in the face, cracking his skull.
"You had better not say things like that Travis," Minion hissed. "Or I'll instruct the WD-Unit to crush his skull. I'll leave you to consider our offer," Minion told the distraught Ranger. "See you soon."
Minion walked over to where Tommy was hanging. Using some of the many fighting techniques at his disposal, he kicked Zeo Falcon several times in the chest and stomach, smiling in satisfaction as he heard the Ranger's ribs crack. When he finished, he cut the bonds holding Tommy's arms, then continued to kick and punch the fallen Ranger. He lifted Tommy to his feet and delivered a sharp kick to the Ranger's neck.
"Wait six hours and then resume," he said to the WD Unit as he teleported away.
Six hours was nowhere near enough time for Tommy to heal, but that was the idea. Minion promised himself he would return to beat Tommy a bit more when the other boy was awoke.
Minion enjoyed having so many prisoners because it gave him the opportunity to try as many forms of torture as possible before they died. They were his playthings and when they ceased to amuse him, he would toss them aside and move on to the next victim. This time he had not been creative, just brutal in his plans. He had placed the surviving members of the JLA and the Teen Titans together in the arena, surrounded by WD Units. If they defeated their opponents, he would let them go. He had no intention of allowing them to win.
He had deliberately made the stadium larger this time and provided the heroes with some cover. He mentally ran through those present and was satisfied they would be lucky to survive let alone triumph. The Flash had already proven how far Minion was willing to go; the human Masked Rider had proven that he could be merciful. What he had done to the Martian Man Hunter had shown them his vicious side, while slicing off John Stewart's fingers had shown his intelligence.
So who was left? Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawk Girl of the JLA - for there was no way the Green Lantern could defend himself at that moment - and Robin, Starfire, Changling, Raven and Cyborg for the Teen Titans. Some of them he had allowed to remain conscious, others he had deliberately incapacitated to prevent them from using their powers. In the end he decided that Wonder Woman, Hawk Girl and Cyborg would suffice. If this worked well, he would be sure to try it again with the Avengers.
Wonder Woman looked on as the WD Units surrounded them. She already knew that they could not trust Minion to keep his word. If he wanted them dead, they would die, and if he chose to spare them it would only be exchanging death for more torment. And the villain had already taken so much.
Themyscira was gone, the civilised world of the Amazons lost forever all due to Minion's. She remembered how his robotic army had fought their way through the island's inhabitants. And now Diana, last surviving daughter of her race found herself pitted in one of the villain's twisted games. She promised herself that she would not be another victim of his evil; she would not go easily, and like Wally she vowed to fight him.
Hawk Girl was angry and more than a little confused. She had once believed that she had known what evil was, her people having abandoned a dark entity long ago. But it seemed that Minion had shown her a new kind of evil, the type that from Batman and Robin's reactions, was uncommon but not unheard of on Earth. She held her mace at the ready, vowing that the first machine to cross her path would be scrap metal. Next to her she sensed Cyborg tense. The battle was about to begin.
When the robots attacked, the three heroes went on the offensive. Hawk Girl's energised mace smashed into the chest panel of one WD Unit as Wonder Woman used her lasso to throw one of the WD Units into its neighbouring machines. Cyborg unleashed blast after blast from his sonic cannon, using his vice like grip to wrench arms from torsos.
Minion had to admit they were an impressive combination. Wonder Woman's strength combined with Hawk Girl's anger and Cyborg's strong will, which Minion had to admit was exceptional for him to have survived all the hardships he had endured, allowed them to take down a good portion of his forces before the overwhelming numbers started to catch up with them. He was amazed when he saw Cyborg rip the bladed weapon from one unit and use it to slice the head off another. He had been hoping that what he had done to the Flash would have weakened their resolve, but if anything they fought harder.
"Open fire!" he commanded.
Viventallum bullets sprayed from the units' hands, causing Hawk Girl to cease her current tactic of lifting opponents from the ground and dropping them from higher up, and duck for cover. Cyborg and Wonder Woman worked together, she deflecting the bullets with her bracelets while he returned fire. When a WD Unit went down, it stayed down; Minion wanted to see how close they would come to victory before springing his surprise.
Batman watched the battle from his cell. There was little in his utility belt that could help them although the first aid kit had allowed them to wrap the cauterised stubs that were John's arms. The Green Lantern was still in a bad state, Flash was comatose.
In the next cell Robin had given up trying to break free from the cell and had instead turned his attention to other opportunities to escape. Starfire was in a state of shock, whatever Minion had done to her when he had insisted on separating the aliens from the rest of the JLA and Teen Titans, she had been almost catatonic when she had returned. Exactly what they had done to the J'Onn was unclear, but while he was alive, he was definitely not conscious; Raven had not been seen since she had been taken.
"Look," Changeling called, transforming back to his normal appearance for the first time since they had seen what had happened to the Flash. The brutality and callous nature of the attack had hit all of them, but Changling had lost somebody whom he viewed as a big brother.
"Look out, they're changing," Batman said as he watched the broken WD Units pool together into a new larger warrior.
"Oh no," Robin said, eyes widening as he saw the thin tubes appear from the Centaurian's body.
The WD Units fell back behind the larger robot and the three heroes were getting more and more nervous.
"Fire!" Minion ordered.
The many tubes unleashed a volley on miniature projectiles at its opponents, shredding anything in their path. Diana tried to block them but even her swift reactions could not avoid every projectile. As soon as the first bullet pierced her skin, the small point allowing it to easily break her skin, she started to slow. More projectiles were fired, most missing but some actually managed to strike their target. Eventually the blood loss was too much and she fell.
Cyborg had not been so lucky. His metallic parts were shredded by the tougher metal and it was only through chance that his human organs were not damaged. He continued to fire bravely, daring the machine to attack again and again.
Hawk Girl Had been hit, her wings damaged and her flight terminated. She had managed to land a single blow, which was more than her companions had accomplished. Still, like Wonder Woman and Cyborg she was beaten and as the massive metal fist made contact with her skull, it seemed the fight was no longer her problem.
"Cease!" Minion called. He didn't want the Centaurian to kill them, the pain didn't fade as much when he just killed them. He needed to break them first, all of them.
He walked into the arena area and made a point of examining the bodies. Hawk Girl would survive although like the Green Lantern and Masked Rider, recovery would prove difficult. Cyborg on the other hand would be lucky if he ever recovered from his injuries. Minion considered using Viventallum to repair the damage, knowing that in doing so he would have control over Cyborg. Oh the damage he could cause. Finally he came to Wonder Woman. The pile of bullets surrounding her spoke of how hard she had fought to survive. A quick scan of her aura revealed that she was alive. The pool of blood surrounding her raised questions about how long she would take to recover.
Then there was something, a flash of sensation of the very edge of his consciousness, a warning that one of the security spells he had placed had been disturbed. It took a moment for him to zero in on the distrurbance, a task made more difficult because the surrounding spells had not triggered. It was a curious impossibility that he resolved to investigate personally.
"We'll this continue later." Minion promised before heading toward his private chambers.
It was a disturbing thought that he was being played with, but Minion was certain that was the case. Whatever had disturbed his warding spells had waited until an instant before the door was fully opened and then vanished. The only clue had been a wheezing and grinding noise that almost sounded like an engine. He was surprised to find his chambers intact, the guards he had left there had not even been aware of the intruder. And it seemed that his visitor had left something behind.
His gaze fell on the package that now occupied a section of his desk. He moved forward to investigate, noting as he did so that somebody had been reading through his papers. ~No,~ he corrected himself as his eyes fell on the untidy scrawl, ~somebody has been marking them.~
Before he could touch it, the box opened, revealing its contents. The first thing he noticed was the strange medallion. It appeared to be of oriental origin, but his keen senses told him that the metal was not common to Earth. With that in mind he started to discount many of those he suspected were behind the intrusion. He was starting to suspect that instead of someone trying to save the prisoners, this was a fellow villain's poor attempt at a joke, perhaps to draw his attention. His eye fell upon the second item, a note in the same style as the attempted grading of his calculations. He wondered why somebody had gone to such lengths just to deliver a letter.
<p align="center"> Attention Minion.
You are cordially invited to attend a special tournament at my behest. A tournament unlike any other.
Which would involve a journey unlike any other.
Your presence is requested at the San Francisco Cow Palace to attend the King of Fighters tournament in the year 1996.
You will be treated to sights beyond understanding.
Heroes unlike any other,
and the rivals they face in the name of personal glory.
Minion just smirked at the letter before him, amused by what he was reading. What interest could this tournament have for one such as him? Out of that amusement he continued reading, and was interested by what he had read.
His mind picked up on the not-so-subtle references hidden within what the writer believed to be clever word play. 'Warriors of the power? Ranging their skills in battle?' It was clear the writer wished him to make the connection to the Power Rangers. The question though was whether the intention was for him to dismiss the possibility and attend to find out why they had made such a poor attempt to deceive him or conclude that the note was truthful and attend to find out how it was possible? It was with great reluctance that he realised either way the note had achieved its underlying objective and captured his attention. He continued to read.
Co-ordinates of its location are written below. As is a key for entry.
It is my hope you attend this tournament as it could change your perspective.
J.J.Chambers, Doctor of Law.Proprietor, The Fun Factory. City of San Francisco.
He had to admit that the writer was clever. He had been drawn in by what had at first been amusement, but had rapidly turned to curiosity. And now it seemed that despite all the mental discipline he tried to maintain and the logic he employed, he would be forced to take the bait and find out what this was all about.
He studied the box more carefully. Until now he had been distracted by the contents and had overlooked the container. The construction was clearly alien; he knew the wood came from a planet that Rita Repulsa used when crafting her wands. That in turn implied that despite the very boring and human sounding name of 'J.J. Chambers', the send was either an alien or had access to alien materials. And that led him to consider the location of the tournament. What was so special about San Francisco and why would this 'J.J. Chambers be based there?
He looked at the contents once more and studied the medallion in detail. ~Chinese if my guess is correct,~ he thought as he studied what he now believed to be the 'key' the letter had mentioned. A quick glance at the letter confirmed the co-ordinates where his transport was waiting. It was only then that he wondered why he would need transportation when he was capable of teleporting and he realised that the letter was suggesting that this journey would require a little bit of time travel.
Using the computers at his disposal, Minion rapidly zeroed in on the location. From the outside it appeared perfectly normal, but a closer check revealed that all was not as it first appeared. In fact beneath the deceptively normal looking building, he had found evidence that it was government owned. The evidence had been carefully hidden, but there were always a few small clues, especially since this was not a part of the United Kingdom's forces. The funding came from an offshore account and relied on several transfers but by tracing the money he found that the originally purchaser had been a front company. And by shifting his way through the elaborate attempts to deceive him about which government the front company belonged to, he eventually found the name UNIT.
From that point it had been a matter of hacking his way into the primitive network and locating the information he needed. His goal was to find out what was so special about that building, so he completely ignored the long and very interesting history that the site revealed.
~The Black Archives,~ he thought as his eyes scanned the filed. ~A repository of extraterrestrial artefacts that were either recovered, salvaged or confiscated from areas outside of the British Empire.~
His eyes widened as he read that last part, but he dismissed it. He didn't have time to consider the political intrigue at that moment.
~Why would my transport be left in the hands of the enemy?~ he wondered.
Several scenarios presented themselves including the possibility the his mysterious contact wished him to retrieve the property on his behalf, but decided it was just as likely that he thought that any guards would not pose a problem for one such as Minion.
Then he checked the co-ordinates again and noticed that the numbers were changing very slightly and a time had been included, which seemed to alter with each passing second.
~Ah,~ he realised as he checked the co-ordinates on the map. ~He doesn't want me to enter the valuts, just the grounds surrounding them where this transport is being moved.~
A noise caught his attention and Minion twisted in time to see that a set of photographs had appeared.
~Somebody is playing games with me,~ he concluded. ~When I find him he had better have a good reason or else he will pay.~
At first glance the 'transport' reminded Minion of a Chinese Funeral Box with an obvious section that had been removed right in the centre. ~Perhaps that is where the key should go,~ he pondered.
Another glance at the co-ordinates showed that the box was moving at speed. It was now about fifty miles from its original location. He also noticed that the time had changed and by his estimates was a few minutes into the future..
~An ambush then,~ he concluded.
He was being given the time and place where he could obtain his transport, but it required him to believe that the writer knew where the transport would be at any time. That required Minion to believe that J.J.Chambers had some means of time travel or future sight. Not an impossible idea, but it made him all the more cautious. Still there was little risk when he had others to carry out the task on his behalf.
"Silvo!" Minion called.
The powerful warrior appeared and Minion gave him his instructions.
"Take some of the spare WD Units to these co-ordinates. Intercept the convoy and retrieve its cargo. Then return here." As he spoke, Minion handed Silvo the pictures of his objective.
Silvo nodded in affirmative to his master's commands and withdrew to gather the forces he needed. In a very short time the small force teleported to a road in England, where Minion's ride to the King of Fighters Tournament of 1996 was waiting.
Time and reality are funny things. For the most part time travels in a single direction. A second passes into minutes, then hours, days and eventually centuries pass by. But where as time marches onwards, the events that take place are far more fluid. Every action leads to a reaction, every effect requires a cause. That need for the universe to make sense meant that while the order of events usually followed a set sequence, that order wasn't always chronologically correct. For the most part reality shifts and changes, adapting to the new events and circumstances as they happen. It was that sort of relationship that would allow a person glimpsing the future or the Zeo Rangers to see and elderly Tommy and Katherine together one moment and Tommy as an Archaeologist the next. But sometimes an event took place that was so devastating that reality could not cope.
Such an event had happened, would happen, was taking place at that moment. The splashing currents of time shifted and fractured. Existence sought and answer and could not find one. For a moment every reality became the Prime Reality as they met with oblivion. And then the moment passed, but the fallout of such events echoed backwards through time, reshaping events and causing the impossible to happen..
People, places, dates, means and reasons shifted and clashed. Reality could not cope with such contradictory changes and so it found a way to resolve the problem. The subconscious will of reality reached out and influenced an individual. He in turn influenced two more impressionable young minds. Curiosity was raised and emotions manipulated. Competition led to disobedience and intervention where things should have been left alone. Suddenly reality was part of something greater, something that had not been there before, but had been manipulated into existence to resolve an otherwise impossible problem.
One had become many. The universe had become a multiverse. Over time many of the fractures would ties themselves together as the differences played out and reached a point of integration. Others though were just too different and would either continue for eternity or reach a dead end and simply cease.
And while some were aware of the multiverse, most remained ignorant. And of those that were aware, there were some that seemed to shift between them without even realising it. Some had even fractured with reality and existed as representations of themselves as opposed to simple alternate incarnations. And a few, a very few of those that fell into the last category, were aware of their nature and used their peers' lack of perception wholly to their advantage.
In one such reality, there existed a being that was fully aware of the changes that had taken place, completely aware of his own nature and in the unique position of understanding the chain of events that had caused it all to happen. In that place time was more open to manipulation than in others, for this reality was one of several that could eventually surpass its point of origin and emerge as THE Prime Reality. And time had changed, multiple times, through either necessity or the whims of supposed 'gods'. It was a reflection of a reflection of itself. Skewed and a little strange to those that could sense the changes, yet regardless of the Who, Where, When Why and How, most things remained the same.
One of those constants of the universe was the planet Eltare, headquarters of the Galactic Council: a galctic body where the 'good' planets of the universe rallied together to promote freedom. peace and justice for all who sought it, as well as safety and security. The latter parts however were proving difficult to attain due to constant attacks from the United Alliance of Evil. Planets had fallen, people had been taken as slaves and valuable resources that could have gone towards the benefit of many worlds went to the select few under the rule of Dark Specter. Many had taken up the fight against the UAE, be it as Rangers, a part of the Council Military or even as politicians.
One such politician was the Triforian named Sygnus. Sygnus was the appointed Council Representative of Triforia granted power by the planet's Prime Minister Tirol after the tyrant Terr had been overthrown. Sygnus made it a personal mission of his that no further tyrants like Terr came into being again. Whether from Triforia or from a council world. The actions Sygnus had taken on the Council floor led to Triforia being seen with a newfound authority on par with that of Lord Trey, who was sadly still recovering in a cryotube on Earth. Nevertheless councillors felt Triforia was in good hands until Trey returned, whenever that would be.
In the meantime Sygnus had caught note of two councillors that he felt were 'not on the up and up' if he remembered the Earth expression correctly. Sygnus made it a point to know s much about Earth as he could as he figured S'Hera and Darkonda's plan centered around the planet Zordon of Eltar set up as his base. ~But what was that plan?~ Sygnus asked himself.
He had no answer. Only S'Hera and Darkonda had those answers. As he sat at his desk he wondered about S'Hera and Darkonda's whereabouts. Typing a series of schedules he wondered where the two 'councillors' were at this current moment. He was surprised when the answer came 'Off Planet'.
Sygnus realized S'Hera and Darkonda were no longer on Eltare.
~Where have they gone?~ Sygnus was left wondering. Wherever it was he knew it couldn't be good for Earth.... ~Or Trey~ he mentally added.
While it was considered an 'All American City', a great deal of magic and mystery contributed to San Francisco's history. How else could they explain the massive damage the city had sustained at one point that experts had clearly stated was not an earthquake? But in recent times things had gotten stranger; the appearance of the Power Rangers a few years back had acted as a catalyst for the previously contained supernatural behaviour. As the Ley Lines had reacted to the magic being used around them, the energies had resonated outwards, creating the area known by locals as 'the Freak Zone'.
However despite being within the geographical boundaries of the Freak Zone, San Francisco's inclusion had been disputed by those that acknowledged such things - mainly nerds - until the Power Rangers had appeared in the city to deal with a Cylon invasion. Their battles with Kali Yagami, a former replica of Trini Kwan who had embraced her newfound identity and accepted the dark power that seemed to reside within the Kwan family line had caused the Rangers to make front page news. After that the other mostly ignored stories of magical happenings within the city had started to emerge, events surrounding three magical sisters who preferred to keep their activities secret to the point where they were considered urban legends.
There were many stories that the Rangers heard. Most were urban legends that they knew better than to simply dismiss out of hand. Others, such as tales of the wizard Merlin living as a motor mechanic somewhere within the city were dismissed outright. It wasn't just the idea of a powerful wizard giving it all up for a life working with machines that caused their scepticism though. There were also the reports that Merlin had found tenure at one of the country's leading universities and gained funding to further his studies of the aura.
In the end the discussion was unimportant. The Rangers were not heading to San Francisco to seek out Merlin or trios. Three of their own would be competing in the King of Fighters Tournament. Since their numbers had swelled so much, the Rangers had split up and made arrangements to travel as groups. The Morphin and Zeo teams were travelling together although Kat had stated she would travel by her own means. She hadn't explained further and the Rangers hadn't asked.
As the plane set down at San Francisco International Airport, Inspector Nash Bridges waited with his ex-wife Lisa in the terminal to greet the Rangers, one of whom was their daughter Cassidy - the Silver Zeo Ranger.
"You know, this is probably the only time we've sat somewhere quietly and not argued for a long time?" Nash asked.
"I know." Lisa said eagerly waiting for the plane to arrive, and for their daughter to disembark. "I want to hear everything about what she's doing. Her being away is like..."
"...something being torn out from you?" Lisa looked at her ex-husband and nodded at his choice of words. "I know. I'd love to be with her in Angel Grove. But Cassidy said she has to do this without us."
"At least she has friends." Lisa said. "A lot of them."
Nash chuckled a little at Lisa's remark as he remembered meeting all the Rangers. He had to admit, Cassidy had a lot of friends. Friends that were fellow Power Rangers and were going to be on the plane with her. He watched as the plane pulled up and docked at the gate. There was a short delay, but a few minutes later the door opened up and the passengers started to disembark. He waited patiently, watching the families on vacation, the hurried travellers eager to reach their business meetings and a large group of teenagers. He smiled as he identified some of the faces in the last group. It appeared that they had made it intact.
"San Francisco we have arrived." Zack proclaimed excitedly as he stepped off the plane followed by the other teens in their party. They exchanged amused grins at their friend's antics, but one of them reached forward and told him firmly to tone it down. The last thing they wanted was to be held up by security.
"Sorry Jase," Zack responded. "But this is San Francisco! This is the city that takes everything it has to give, and still keep coming back. It's kind of like us in a way."
Jason considered Zack's words and felt his friend was on to something. San Francisco did have something of a Ranger quality to it. A city that kept coming back from whatever anyone, or anything, had to throw at it.
"Yeah Zack, you're probably right." Jason agreed.
Many who visited the city claimed that there was a feeling of magic in the air. For the most part Jason agreed. He was not the most sensitive of the Rangers, but even he could sense the energy that seemed to flow through the city. He wondered if it was really magic or just the spirit of the people that lived there amplified through the minor Ley Line that branched throughout the area. Of course he was aware that beyond the background magic in the area, there were tales of real magicks at work within the city. Jason was certain that if those stories were true the area was as much a target for the forces of darkness as anywhere else.
~Good thing they have the Outsiders to protect them,~ he thought.
Thinking about the Outsiders caused him to think about one Jamie Zedden, member of the Outsiders and his current girlfriend.
While Jason was lost in his thoughts, Tanya was trying to deal with the odd feeling that she had come home. It was almost as if she was destined to live in San Francisco. For a moment she dismissed such thoughts, knowing that just because her cousin happened to live there along with her family didn't make it her home. But somewhere deep inside she felt a connection to the city and knew in her heart that one day she would come back and stay.
Trini meanwhile was feeling very uneasy. Something hold her that something would happen at the King of Fighters Tournament. She didn't know what was going to happen, but she knew it was not going to be a good thing.
"Trini?" Kim asked for the third time. "You okay?"
"Uhh, yeah Kim." Trini said.
Billy looked in Trini's direction and shared Kim's concern. Since discovering her Yagami heritage and the power it offered, Billy found he worried more and more about Trini. She was after all his closest friend, and he didn't want her to fall to darkness, especially when that darkness was already a part of her. So concerned was he about Trini that he didn't have much of an interest in sightseeing.
Samoht wasn't doing much sightseeing either, but for a very different reason. He knew the stories about San Francisco better than anyone. He had been there in 1903 when the alleged earthquake had happened. He had fought a monster there in a battle so fierce the whole city had shaken. He had used his magic afterward to help repair most of the damage, but he had been tired and the results had been less than perfect.
Nash and Lisa greeted the Rangers, shaking hands with those they had already met and introducing themselves to those they hadn't.
"Did Cassidy come with you?" Nash asked. He heard they planned to drive out, but since the airlines were restored after the Cylon attack he assumed the Rangers had decided to fly instead.
"Yeah Mr. Bridges. She should be coming out shortly," Jason assured him. "It was hard to get enough tickets to all sit together so we split up into smaller groups."
After a short wait they were eventually joined by both Zeo teams. Another round of greetings took place before Nash drew Tommy and Skull to one side. As team leaders they were best place to answer the questions he needed answered.
"Has my daughter been taken care of?"
Skull snorted. "Sir, I've learned first hand that your daughter is capable of taking care of herself." He added something about bruises, but Nash had turned his attention to Tommy.
"But that doesn't change the fact that we will always be there to watch her back," Tommy said. "Just as she has watched ours."
Nash nodded. It was the sort of answer he had been hoping for.
"She is her father's daughter," Tommy added.
"Careful bubba. That's not always a good thing," Nash warned with a slight smirk just as Cassidy finally disembarked and spotted her parents.
"Hey daddy!" Cassidy cried, rushing over to her parents and wrapping them in a fond hug.
"Welcome back sweetheart," Nash said as he hugged his daughter.
"I'm glad you're okay sweetie," Lisa said. "How's Angel Grove?"
"Great," Cassidy answered. "We still have a few monster attacks, but we've managed to fight them all off. One was kind of interesting..." She glanced around to make sure they were not being overheard before recounting her recent adventures with Astronema. She was very careful when she explained how the Princess of Darkness seemed intent on targeting her for some reason. Last thing she needed was for her father to go into the overprotective parent role.
She thought she had gotten away with it, shielding the danger behind her obvious enthusiasm, but it seemed Nash had simply been waiting for the story to end.
"So this villain decided to go after you personally?" Nash asked. "Did you do anything to her?"
"No, why?" Cassidy asked. Her father's reaction seemed more curious than overly protective.
"I've been keeping tabs on Ranger activities since you moved there," Nash quickly explained, realising that he really should have chosen a less public place. "According to reports, Astronema normally only attacks the Space Ranger team; Alison's team. So why did she suddenly change tactics and go after you?"
Cassidy shrugged her shoulders, but had to admit, it was a good question. "I don't know. To get at Alison maybe as she's an Astro Ranger and Astronema is supposed to attack that team. I really don't know why she'd be after me. It's not like I stole her boyfriend, if she has one." Cassidy was shaken out of her Astronema reverie when the other Rangers announced they had their luggage and were ready to leave the airport. Their ride was waiting.
"Cassidy, Laocorn has sent us a limo to take us to the hotel we'll be staying at." Kim said. "I take it you'll be going home with your folks?"
"With my mom actually." Cassidy said. "She still is leery of my father's death trap."
"Hey I resent my home being called a death trap!" Nash said.
"Well isn't it earthquake condemned?" Lisa asked. "Isn't it ready to fall after the next big quake?"
"They're doing a seismic shore-up in the coming weeks." Nash admitted. "It's all in the waiver I signed."
"Still I think our daughter would like to stay someplace that won't fall in the ground tomorrow." Lisa added.
Cassidy rolled her eyes. "Ahhh home sweet home," she said sarcastically.
"Take care Cassidy. We'll see you at the arena," Samantha said.
The other Rangers smiled and left, leaving Cassidy to ride with her parents in the Cuda waiting outside.
"So where's Alison?" Lisa asked as they travelled down the terminal. "Or is she travelling separately?"
Cassidy gave a half smile. "She's travelling separately. VERY separately."
A few miles outside of San Francisco six young people walked in the California heat. All were competitors in the King of Fighters tournament. Three of them were members of the Bogard family, the others were Power Rangers.
"Are we there yet?" Katherine Hillard asked as she walked in the heat sweating. She took swigs of water to keep herself cool, but she had to use it sparingly. Everyone did.
Terry told everyone this was a pilgrimage to the tournament. A journey full of hardship and sacrifice. Meant to purify the body, mind and soul for battle. Terry seemed to take the journey in stride. His brother Andy and friend Joe Higashi were having a....little bit of trouble.
"You're enjoying this Terry aren't you?" Andy asked.
Terry just looked at his brother and hid a smirk. "The pilgrimage to the tournament is part of the training Andy. You know that."
"But do we have to walk?" Joe asked.
"The ancient fighters walked to their places of combat," Cassie Chan replied.
"But we're not ancient." Alison said as she opened a bottled water and took a swig. "Terry, I love you to death, but I'm starting to wonder if death may not be coming a little closer to you right now... thanks to one of us."
"Hopefully not from you Alison. You still love me right?"
Alison sighed as she realized Terry got her there.
"Hey guys, look." Cassie Chan said pointing to a street sign. It said 'San Francisco-20 miles'. The collective grown made it clear that the only person not upset at having so far to walk was Terry.
"Please someone. We need a cab." Joe shouted to anyone that would hear. No one did. Not even a CHP officer. Joe even asked "Where's Ponch and Jon when you need em?"
"Only twenty miles guys we can make it." Terry said with a little more enthusiasm than necessary.
The walk continued, each competitor driven on by their own reasons for entering the tournament.
For Kat it it was a chance to confront her Psycho counterpart. Formerly known as Kaat, now she was known as Ivy Howard and the adopted daughter of a psycho billionaire that Terry, Andy and Joe had a history with.
For Cassie there was also a former Psycho Ranger awaiting her: a female Yagami named Kali, formerly named Triini. And ever since Triini had become Kali she had embraced her newfound identity, as well as the power and insanity that came with it. If Kali had not accepted the blood feud, if she had rejected that part of her legacy, Cassie would have been allowed to let it pass. But Kali had accepted that role and since Cassie was a part of the Kusanagi, Cassie felt it was up to her to her to deal with the threat.
But even if Kali wasn't competing Cassie knew Kali would be there in some way shape or fashion. She also wanted to embrace her family legacy by taking part in the tournament.
Alison was a Bogard and she had a legacy to uphold. Even though she was also a Hammond now she considered the Bogard name just as important, as it was the name she grew up with. And as such she endured the training along with Cassie and Kat.
They walked a few more feet when a blue van pulled up. The door opened and the three members of Team Gorgeous came out. Blue Mary, King and Mai Shiranui Bogard stepped out. "Hey girls." Mai called out. "Anyone need a ride?"
"YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!" Alison, Cassie and Kat said in unison as they wasted no time getting into the van. Mai, King and Mary also rushed in leaving the guys dumbfounded.
Joe however asked "Hey girls. Can we come too?"
"Sorry guys, enjoy the walk," Alison said as she, Cassie and Kat closed the door on Blue Mary's van and pulled away leaving Joe, Terry and Andy behind... for at least a hundred yards.
The van stopped and Mai opened the rear door. "You guys coming or not?" Andy and Joe wasted no time getting in.
"See you Terry." Andy said. "Pilgrimages across the desert are overrated anyway." After saying that Andy rushed into the van.
Terry sighed, realizing that he was outvoted. Following the lead of his friends and family he decided to take the ride as well. A decision Mary was glad Terry made as they rode the remaining twenty miles to San Francisco together.
Coming down yet another way, the Reid family limousine was barrelling down the I-5. Inside it were seven passengers, the Astro Power Rangers.
"Oh man I could get used to this." T.J. said feeling the plush leather seat underneath him.
In another seat Carlos also sat back enjoying the rich comforts.
"You do get used to them." Dan Reid, the White Astro Ranger.
Next to him sat Andros, Ashley and Sabrina, while across from them Zhane sat next to Carlos and T.J. but his mind was elsewhere. A lot of Rangers had their minds preoccupied.
Ashley was thinking of her sister Alison and their friend Cassie that were taking part in the KOF tournament. Alison had just come back into the Hammond family fold, and while their parents welcomed her back they were having concerns about Alison's fighting lifestyle. Concerns that if Alison left she might not come back again one day. They had gotten their daughter back. They didn't want to lose her again.
Ashley promised she'd stick with her sister like glue, and that Alison would not be alone. Her friends, or Terry, would be with her.
She had also been getting closer to Andros and hoped they could go on a date at the Embarcadero where Pier 39 was located. There were other sights in San Francisco as well she wanted to see, and hoped she and Andros could make a night out of it. Andros had slowly been coming out of his shell and Ashley wanted to encourage that.
Andros found himself becoming more and more attracted to Ashley. There was something about the Earth girl in front of him that just made him... happy. He wanted to be there for her, but he wondered if he did open up to her would there be something to take her away? Like Dark Specter took away his parents? Or how he lost Karone?
Sabrina looked out the window of the limousine and saw the sun over the Golden Gate bridge as they came to it. Its glow almost illuminating it. She never tired of seeing the sight of the bridge as the sun cast its rays on it. It truly looked like a Golden Gate. Looking off to the side she saw the spirit presence of Anne, and she nodded in agreement. Something about the Golden Gate just seemed magical.
Breaking the monotony Sabrina turned to Dan and asked "So Dan, you seem at ease with the trappings of wealth."
"Not too at ease." Dan said. "Dad and granddad always encouraged me not to become too dependent on the trappings of wealth. That sometimes... money doesn't save you."
"That's true." Sabrina said. "I've known many rich rulers and warlords. And when their kingdoms fell their wealth didn't save them. Their fortunes were still taken and the rulers still were executed." Dan looked wide eyed at Sabrina as he heard her say the words. As if they were from first hand experience. Like someone who had been there.
"Regardless, our family's 'extracurricular activities' kept our instincts sharp. And ensured that we remained... resourceful." Dan said the last line with a smirk.
Sabrina caught the smirk and seemed to nod. She knew Dan Reid was no pushover.
Changing the subject Dan then asked "So what does the UAE think of the KOF tournament? Do they have any thoughts on the matter?"
Sabrina sighed as she tried to think of an answer.
"The UAE always knew Earth had power, but they never really figured that humans of Earth could tap into it. At least not in a major way. So the tournament was disregarded for the most part. If any rulers caught a tournament they kept such findings to themselves. So I can't be certain what the attitudes of UAE members could be."
"Well Divatox's should be easy to predict." Andros said.
Sabrina chuckled a little as she heard Andros make a bit of a joke. She knew Divatox would only see the tournament as a beefcake show. ~Sometimes predicting Divatox is like trying to predict the weather when it's raining.~ she thought.
"You guys talk a lot about Divatox, but I never really met her," Ashley said
"Trust me you don't want to." Andros said. "But Sabrina's right. Any major discoveries the UAE made about this tournament the members seemed to keep to themselves. Same it seems with the Council."
"Man who do you trust?" T.J. asked as he wondered who was worse, the UAE or the Council.
Andros had an answer for that "Ourselves mostly. We'll all need to stick together. Both here and on our way to Aquitar."
Everyone nodded except Zhane, who was staring out the window. His mind a million miles away. Andros called to his friend as if shaking him out of his reverie.
"Sorry Andros. I was just thinking." Zhane said.
Andros asked "About Cassidy?"
"No. Although it will be great to see her again." Zhane thought about the hug he and Cassidy shared in Golden Gate Park and wondered if there wasn't something there. But his mind was on someone else.
"I was just thinking about Karone." Zhane said.
Andros nodded in understanding. "I miss her too."
"I never even said goodbye." Zhane wiped a tear from his eye and then rode the rest of the way in silence.
Back in Angel Grove the girl Andros and Zhane had missed was very much alive. However she was not the girl they once knew. At least not completely.
Karone Lanrydan sat at the juice bar watching the boy she had met, Leo Corbett, practice at the Angel Grove Youth Center. He was teaching a group of young students as a favour to the club manager Ernie. Ernie knew Leo and his brother Mike in passing, and had known the Corbett brothers had skills in Martial Arts. Ernie also knew of the youngest Corbett brother in the young genius program that Billy Cranston had been part of and had seen him take part in a few classes.
One day Ernie saw Leo come in and had mentioned that the regular Youth h Center Martial Arts instructor had to go out of town, and wondered if Leo or his brother Mike could fill in. Leo said he could, and invited Karone to come as well. Karone accep> pted the invitation knowing that many Rangers used the Angel Grove Youth Center as a hangout, and figured visiting the place might give her an insight into the Rangers' mindset.
As she sat and watched Leo train some students, she sipped a smoothie Ernie had given her. Ernie looked at Karone for a few seconds before going back to business. Karone however caught Ernie's looks and wondered what was on his mind. "Something I can help you with?" she asked.
"Sorry if I'm making you uncomfortable." Ernie said. "It's just that I have an eye for exceptional youths. Having known a few of them." For a moment Karone wondered if Ernie didn't mean the Power Rangers but she asked "And you think I could be one of them?"
"You remind me of them." Ernie said. "But there is something different about you. Something....a little darker. And yet..."
Karone let out a small smile and said "It's probably best you just see me as a regular smoothie customer. A customer here with a friend." She looked in Leo's direction and Ernie got the idea.
"You Leo's friend?"
"Yeah. We met in San Francisco. My boyfriend left me and he... helped me deal." Karone said as she thought of how they met.
Ernie studied the girl closely. There was just something that bothered him about her but he couldn't tell what it was. "If someone dumped you he must have been an idiot."
Ernie's line got a chuckle for Karone as she took the flattery from Ernie.
"No, he's not an idiot," she said finally. "He just... doesn't know any better."
"So that's when Leo came into the picture?" Ernie asked.
Karone nodded. "He's been great. Just as great as he teaches this class."
Karone watched as Leo looked at several of the students surrounding him. Some of them he knew. Nico Ramonos and Kayla Gordon were from an advanced class at the Angel Grove Youth Center. Also there was young Justin Stewart, who had recently been checked out of Angel Grove Memorial Hospital after being in an unexplained coma. Starting out Leo decided he would give a few tune up moves for the students to follow along. The students did so with ease, especially Justin.
Off to the side Karone looked on at the young kids working out dressed in a training gi with a purple belt on. Her mind turned to her training at the Ranger Academy at KO-35. The instructors there seemed to be rigid and hard lined as they put her and Andros through their paces. The logic being that the universe wasn't all that kind, why should they be? Leo was a contradiction to those instructors. He kind and considerate, helping the students perfect their skills without coming down on them.
~Yes there are some drill instructors that would just hate Leo.~ Karone thought. Just then the new generation of Angel Grove bullies Biff Bulkmeier and Loman Skullovitch walked in carrying on like they were big shots, just like their predecessors had done.
"Well, looks like we made it to the little dweebs club." Biff said throwing his imaginary weight around. "Where do we sign up to kick people's heads in?"
Loman followed up with "Yeah. Where do we sign up?"
Off to the side Ernie told Karone how Biff and Loman reminded him of two kids he used to know. Of course it wasn't hard for him to tell that Biff and Loman lacked the brains to be original and were simply emulating Bulk and Skull before the two bullies had cleaned up their acts.
Leo also knew the type of people Biff and Loman were. He and Mike had had to teach Willy how to deal with them. He looked at Biff and Loman and decided.
"All right I'll give you a few pointers. Will one of you come to the centre please?"
"Cool. Loman, you first." Biff said as he threw Loman in so hard that his friend hit the mat on the ground. As he quickly got u,p Loman found himself facing Leo, who launched three fakes towards Loman causing him to run from the ring and hide under a table, much to Biff's disappointment.
All the kids were laughing, except for Biff who hissed "sissy" to his friend.
"Do you think you can do better?" Karone asked standing up from the bar and walking to the centre of the classroom. Turning to Leo she then asked "Do you mind if I interrupt?"
"Not at all Karone. I'm sure the kids would love to see you teach them what you know," Leo answered.
"Karone?" Biff asked. "What sort of name is that?"
Karone stood her ground, looked him and the eye and enjoyed the uncertainty in his eyes as she answered: "Mine. Now are you going to come into the ring, or you going to send your friend in again?"
Biff stepped back wide eyed as he took Karone's statement as a challenge. As he regained his composure Biff walked into the ring and looked Karone in the eye believing himself a big shot.
"You're a girl. This shouldn't be so tough." Biff said arrogantly.
Karone smiled as she anticipated teaching Biff a lesson. Looking around she spotted a pair of bow staffs and picked them up. She handed one to Biff and wasted no time getting into a defence position.
"Attack!" she said at the very next second before lunging forward.
Biff started swinging his staff while Karone blocked all of Biff's wild blows. After a while Karone knocked the end of her staff under Biff's legs and threw him down to the mat. Biff got back up and picked up his staff again. No way was he going to get beat by a girl. ~Even if she's hot.~ Biff added to himself.
Karone decided to throw the staff away while Biff still had his. Immediately the young bully lunged towards Karone who sidestepped the charge, grabbed the staff to make sure Biff kept going, using his momentum against him, and Biff was sent into the Pachinko machine that was closed for repairs. The youths chuckled as they saw Biff all sprawled out.
"Think you had enough training?" Karone asked.
Biff and Loman decided to run out of the Youth Center as fast as they could.
Ernie chuckled. "If they decide to take up cockroach kung fu I'm going to Bosnia."
Leo walked over Karone's side. "Those were good moves there. Where did you learn them?"
"I had a few good teachers." Karone said. She then added with a little coyness "Maybe I could teach you a thing or two."
Leo smiled. "Maybe." As Leo and Karone got closer some of the class snickered, drawing the duo's attention. "Short break," Leo decided.
Before Leo went off with Karone however he noticed Justin off to the side and wanted to touch base with him. "Hey Justin, Jason and Rocky wanted me to ask how you were doing."
"I'm getting by," Justin said. "I do miss my dad though."
Justin Stewart had awoken from a mysterious coma months ago. He had been abducted from his home where his stepmother had been murdered, and soon after-his father. All Justin could remember was a feeling that he had been trapped in a living nightmare that he couldn't wake up from. And a figure looking on. An evil figure.
Then the nightmare ended, and a woman with a white porcelain mask said that Justin need not fear anything anymore. That 'they' would protect him. And so far no monsters came for him. For that Justin was glad, even if he didn't know who 'they' were. He was released from the hospital a week or so later where he was remanded to the custody of Little Angel's Haven children's home. A place where he met his friends Nico and Kayla. Little by little it seemed like Justin was getting his life back, even though his dad and the rest of his family, were gone.
"I know how you feel Justin." Leo said. "I lost my dad too."
"I lost both my parents, and my brother." Karone added. "I know what it's like to lose family. But I also know what it's like to gain one."
The last part Karone said with a smile leaving Justin confused. Karone happily explained.
"You're starting a new family with Nico and Kayla. As well as the other kids from Little Angel's Haven. The friends you make become part of your new family. Bound not by blood, but by friendship." Justin listened to Karone's words and thought she was right. Justin was making new friends, and they were becoming part of his new family. He hoped no one would take them away like they took him away and left his family to die.
"Take care Justin." Leo said being reassuring. "Any problems let someone know. Or me, and I'll come running" Leo smiled giving Justin a few moments to smile at Leo's reassurance.
Somehow he felt Leo meant what he said. He went to the changing to get dressed for the ride back. He then noticed Karone looking at a poster on the wall. A poster for a tournament in San Francisco, A tournament called 'King of Fighters'.
"Leo do you know anything about this?" Karone asked.
Leo looked at the poster. "Only that Jason, Tommy and Rocky went to San Fran to attend. Apparently they have some friends taking part in it. That's why I'm teaching this class, and Mike will be around to teach others." Taking another look at the poster Leo then asked "Are you interested?"
~Dark Specter mentioned something about this,~ Karone thought. ~But none of the other council members say anything about it. It's like... one of those topics grown ups only talk about.~
"Yes I'm interested Leo. Can we go?" Karone asked. "I'm very curious to see what this is all about."
Leo looked at Karone and then back to the advert. He made a note of the number and walked over to the pay phone and dialled. After some time in the queue he was able to get two ringside seats for the tournament.
"Looks like we're going back to San Fran again." Leo said. Karone however wasn't enthused when she heard the city of San Francisco again. The city that was home to the 'other woman'.
"Whoopee." Karone said with a touch of sarcasm. She didn't have anything against San Francisco itself, but it was where she saw Zhane with that man stealing Silver Zeo Ranger. She hoped to make her pay with the Talisman of Size, but that idea had backfired and it took a lot of magic for her and Astronema to undo the after effects.
She prayed neither Zhane or Cassidy Bridges crossed her path. Regardless she and Leo got on the next available bus to San Francisco. They would see the tournament and have some fun too.
10 miles from the U.N.I.T. Black Archives.
"Skywatch to Trap 1, do you read?" the pilot asked as he completed another fly over of the transport route. It was his task to look out for possible threats to the convoy that rolled down the road beneath.
"Trap 1 to Skywatch we are receiving. Go ahead." came the voice of the radio operator in the convoy below.
"Have completed final pass. All clear."
"Understood Skywatch. We'll be entering the no-flight boundary soon. You are free to return to base."
Normally the helicopter would remain on watch until the convoy had reached its destination. However the Black Archives operated within a strict no fly area. Even UNIT's own choppers were prevented from entering, not so much for the threat they posed to the installation, but rather the effect some of the equipment stored there could have on them.
"Roger that Trap 1. Over and out."
With the helicopter gone, the convoy consisting of three jeeps and an armoured truck travelled the rest of the way alone. Since it was only ten miles to the archives it was believed the convoy would be safe as they could call the Archives and they could have a force deployed within minutes if there was any difficulty. Of course just because they believed they were safe didn't mean that they were relaxed. These were difficult times and with all the recent problems UNIT wanted its artefacts secured. Therefore the guards were on full alert, ready for anything.
Unfortunately all the preparation and training they had received could not prepare them for what happened next. The lead jeep crossed a section of road and exploded as if the vehicle had rolled over a landmine. At the rear of the convoy a second explosion took out another jeep in a similar fashion.
The lead truck and the last jeep all stopped as UNIT troops disembarked. They took up positions wondering where the next attack was going to come. The answer came in the form of Minion's WD Units led by Silvo as they approached the soldiers. The Sergeant ordered the soldiers to fire. The bullets having no effect. The WD units continued to advance.
It was clear that they would win, but Silvo decided to have a little fun with the remaining soldiers. As the last round of bullets flew towards the WD-Units, he fired an equal number of projectiles back at the soldiers. He watched in amusement as his shots ripped through the oncoming bullets before continuing on a deadly path toward the soldiers. As he turned his back he knew that the bullets had connected and that every shot had resulted in a lethal head wound. With the soldiers dead, Silvo ordered the WD Units to secure the cargo.
In the main truck was the object sought. A black cabinet with a section missing. Silvo ordered the WD Units to bring the cabinet out of the truck and then called for Minion. "Master. The object has been secured."
"Excellent. Teleporting out now. Return at once." Minion ordered as in a streak of black the Black Cabinet teleported away from the ruined convoy. It's destination, Minion's Prison Dimension. Silvo and the WD Units followed.
Minion's Prison Dimension
~It seems so simple.~ Minion thought as he looked at the cabinet before him. ~Such a simple design, yet it's capable of so much.~ Minion hoped the cabinet would live up to the hype J.J. Chambers' letter said it was capable of. There were curiosities and concerns he wanted to address. This cabinet was the means to do just that.
"You may go Silvo. No one is to disturb me," Minion said in a tone that left no doubt in Silvo's mind that Minion wanted to be alone with his prize. A curious prize to say the least.
Silvo obeyed his master's command and left Minion with the black cabinet J.J. Chambers wanted him to obtain.
On the outside it seemed like it was nothing special. Just an ordinary cabinet from the Far East. Minion however figured that that which looked least likely could be considered the most dangerous. Or perhaps the most powerful. ~If anything this could be more insightful.~ he thought as he looked at the key in his hand. A key that could open not just doors but possibilities as well. And Minion wanted to know what those possibilities were, and what they had to offer.
Taking the 'key' Minion placed it in the missing section of the black cabinet. The door opened and Minion stepped inside. Once the door closed the cabinet then the cabinet hummed with power and swirled as it seemed to disappear into a vortex that seemed to stretch into time, space and reality. Inside Minion felt reality twist, turn and reshape. As if travelling was causing massive upheaval to him. Minion didn't mind however. He had found that pain was strength and the cabinet hummed with power. Dark power that could twist its occupants body, mind and soul. Minion however wasn't worried about being twisted into a monster. He already was one.
He also felt a familiarity in the power. A sense that he encountered this power before. ~In the Dark Dimension perhaps?~ Minion wondered. ~Could the creators of this cabinet have harnessed the power of the Dark Dimension so they could travel in time and space?~ The possibilities did seem staggering to Minion. The Dark Dimension could well be a realm that has no limits.
Soon the cabinet settled and Minion stepped outside. He had found himself in an abandoned store in Chinatown. The sign that said 'Going out of Business' seemed evident that no one was present. That and the locked front door. The conclusion that he arrived in Chinatown was drawn due to the Chinese lettering also on the sign saying the same thing as it's English counterpart, as well as the invitation saying that the tournament was in San Francisco where the most famous of Chinatowns were located.
Minion looked at the address on the invitation. The answers about who sent him and why were there, and he wanted them. Opening the door to the abandoned store and fusing the lock so no one would come after his travel cabinet he then started walking down the streets of San Francisco. As he walked Minion's curiosity became laced with purpose. Who sent for him, and how could he benefit?
Minion would get answers to those questions as he continued walking down the street.
Outside one of the most expensive hotels in San Francisco two horse drawn carriages had pulled up and seven people had disembarked. Six of them were fighters in the upcoming tournament. The seventh was one of the fighter's pregnant wife. On board were seven people. Six were fighters, one was a fighter's pregnant wife. They were also Power Rangers from another reality.
Jeffrey Kincaid was the leader of a Ranger known as the Night Rangers. He had been invited to participate in the tournament along with three of his current teammates and a couple of Rangers from the loosely affiliated group known as the Nightfighters by Shadow, a being that claimed to be a guardian of the Shadow Grid, a claim Kincaid was not certain he believed. It was not that he thought Shadow was deceiving him, but rather the nature of the Shadow Grid that cause him to be sceptical. He hadn't shared his views with either the McAllister-Kellers or Ken Tanaka. He was just grateful they had chosen to accompany him.
Shadow, the Shadow Guardian of good, had taken an interest in Kincaid it seemed. That was all well and good, but the Shadow Grid was by its definition a grey area and when approached by a being claiming to represent the good element of the Shadow Grid, Kincaid knew that the question should be: whose good? That Shadow saw Kincaid as a tool, a warrior that could deal with many important threats at least assured the Night Ranger that Shadow was honest.
But at heart Kincaid was just a man that wanted to live his life and not have to fight anymore. He had seen too much darkness and wanted a little light in his life. That was what his wife Mackenzie and their unborn child meant to him, the chance to live in the light for a while. But Shadow insisted Kincaid take part, for the exact reasons Kincaid wanted to hang up his morpher: his family.
And so Kincaid had reluctantly agreed to travel to another reality. In return Shadow had allowed his wife to accompany him, figuring that the least he could do was make Kincaid's stay as pleasurable as possible and had put him up in the most expensive hotel in San Francisco. Kincaid had to admit he would never have expected such generous treatment from those the claimed to be purely good.
It seemed that his companions were equally blown away at the sight.
"Oh my god!" Sarah McAllister-Keller said looking at the sight of the Waldorf hotel. "How much did reservations cost?"
"Probably more than I make in twenty years." Bruce Greene said as he took his bag off the carriage.
Cassandra Jensen seemed to agree with him "Treasure this stay guys. I think you won't stay in a place like this again."
"Unless you commit armed robbery and not get caught." Ken Tanaka said. Everyone flashed Ken a look, not entirely convinced he was joking.
"Go ahead and sack out guys. I'll catch up later," Kincaid told them.
While his five teammates walked in to get their reservations, Kincaid went to check on his wife who still sat in the carriage taking her time to leave.
"I'd ask how you were doing, but that's a stupid question right now isn't it?" Kincaid asked as he sat across from Mackenzie.
Mackenzie flashed a look and said "Ya think?"
"Regardless..." Shadow said as he appeared in the seat across from Mackenzie, "I am grateful for you coming here. If I had another choice I would take it."
Kincaid sighed when he saw Shadow appear out of nowhere without warning. Not even he could pick up the Shadow Grid guardian, even with the help of the Night Spirits; Shadow just seemed to turn up.
"This threat better be as serious as you say it is." Kincaid said.
Shadow nodded. "I wouldn't have asked you to come if it weren't. Despite the ease you might feel passing between realities, keeping the path open is extremely... draining." He looked thoughtful. "The walls between realities that opened during your battles with Dagsyxx are starting to close again. In time the shards of the Nexus Crystal that you use will not be available to you; it will once again be the gift of gods... and perhaps speedsters. Still, I asked and you came, and for that I am grateful. I realize this is inconvenient for you, so I have tried to make your stay as pleasurable as possible."
"Hence the expensive suite?" Mackenzie asked.
Shadow again nodded. "As well as the carriages you have so you can have a romantic night before the hellish day."
"You're leaving us the horse drawn carriages?" Kincaid asked surprised at the gesture.
Shadow nodded seeming to show a romantic side he had not used in a long time.
"No reason you and Mackenzie can't enjoy yourselves while you are here." Shadow answered. He noticed his answer had not convinced them and sighed. "I'll be at the tournament tomorrow. The carriages are paid for until tomorrow morning, so you can have a bit of a night together."
"Because tomorrow will be tough right?" Kincaid asked.
Shadow nodded. "Very."
Then he disappeared.
Mackenzie looked at the carriage and then at Kincaid and asked "Well?"
"I think I will need to rack out to be ready for tomorrow." Kincaid said. He then turned and gave Mackenzie a slight smile as he touched her hand. "But I think we can spare a little time."
Mackenzie also smiled, pleased that she had some together time with her husband. Something she hadn't had for a long time.
With that Mackenzie and Kincaid decided to take a ride and explore San Francisco. Two hours later they joined their teammates who were already asleep.
They didn't regret the evening they had. But Kincaid did wonder what else was going to happen at the tournament.