Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers; they belong to their respective copyright owners and are used here without permission. No money is being made from this fic. Tommy's experiences in this story were inspired after reading Shards of the Mind by Justin Lam.
Authors Note: This is an alternate universe from the television show with an alternate timeline.
Dirty Tricks and Deceptions
Minion's attacks like those of many villains had thinned out after the first few attacks. It didn't make the Rangers sleep any better knowing that he could strike again at any moment, but life had to go on.
After witnessing via satellite feed, Serpenterra plunging towards the sea, Zordon had lost track of Minion. And since that time, apart from a few strange energy spikes, there had been no sign of him. There had been strange stories coming in from neighbouring towns and cities though and despite Zordon's best attempts he had been unable to contact Dex in Leewood.
The Rangers had learnt during their careers as super heroes to value any and all downtime. And while there had been a few monster attacks, mostly monsters that they had defeated during their battles with either Zedd and Rita, or Mondo. Not that they complained about the time that they had for themselves, they knew it was important to appreciate the chance for a day off when they had it.
Today, most of the Rangers had attended their after school activities, refusing to worry about their missed assignments for one day. Kat had ballet practice much to Tommy's regret; he didn't like it when she insisted he take part in one of her productions. Tommy and Adam had increased the number of classes they taught so they could provide more intensive sessions for their students. Tanya had settled into her post at the local radio station. Rocky and Jason though were facing a greater foe than Minion, they had homework.
"I wish Billy was here," Rocky sighed as he threw his hands up in frustration. He had the misfortune of having maths homework that was due to be handed in the next morning.
Grades were one of the things that the Rangers had learnt early in their careers would fall victim to their secret lives as super heroes. If they weren't careful their schoolwork fell behind, which in turn meant that their parents grew concerned and started threatening punishments if the failures continued.
"I miss him too," Jason said. Since returning from the Peace Conference, Jason had been forced to try and catch up with some of the work he had missed. It seemed that while they taught the same subjects to the same level at the Peace Conference, the syllabus was arranged in a different way. As a result Jason was ahead in some classes and behind in others.
And while neither teen expected Billy to do their homework for them, both appreciated his help even if it was only a shove in the right direction.
"Has Zordon been able to contact Delphine?" Rocky asked.
Jason shook his head, concern evident. "No, Aquitar and Triforia are unreachable. Zordon contacted some of his allies in the Council, but they could only tell him that there had been no contact."
<P align="left"> Something wasn't right and both Rangers knew it. However, as they had been taught over the years, knowing that something was wrong and knowing 'what' was wrong were two different things. Reluctantly both teens settled back and continued their work.
There was something wrong and Zordon knew it; the Morphin Grid had been disrupted since Minion had returned, blinding him from other changes that he suspected were taking place. The small portion of the Morphin Grid, which constantly shifted in response to the battle between Zordon and his various adversaries had grown, leading Zordon to believe that either Zedd and Rita had found a way to increase their powers, or there was a new alliance on the horizon. It had taken hours of meditation to begin to interpret what had happened and even now Zordon could not say for certain.
There was one thing he did know though: whatever evil Minion possessed, there was something else looming on the very edge of Zordon's perception that threatened to eclipse the villain. He had tried to find the source of this new evil, using the Power Chamber's vast sensor network to scan the entire solar system. The results came back negative, forcing him to extend the search into the rest of the Galaxy.
As he had scanned further and further into space, he had realised how powerful this new evil must be to attract his attention from such a distance. At the very limit of the galactic scan, Zordon reached the conclusion that he would just have to wait, and hope that he was mistaken. That had been around the time that Minion had decided to strike
"This doesn't look good," Billy muttered as he tried to salvage something from the main engine.
When he had stolen a ship to escape from Aquitar, the condition had not been important. By the time he had managed to force his way out of orbit and had evaded the last of his pursuers, the original state of the ship had proven irrelevant. It had been damaged, badly damaged by laser fire and a few remarkable shots had managed to all but cripple most of its systems, among them several vital functions.
Navigation had been damaged although he had not known that when he had activated the hyper-drive and had therefore ended up light years away from his destination. That was made worse because the engines had shut down, leaving him stranded. He had been lucky to reach the planet before him, a world that appeared to be falling apart if he could believe the readings he had managed to pick up.
~At least the air is breathable.~
As much as he hated the idea of landing in such a place, his only choice was to attempt a landing before his life support gave up its desperate struggle and he suffocated.
"Deploying emergency foil," he said to nobody in particular. Days in a confined space had had an effect on the genius and while not serious, his experience had led to him sounding his actions before he performed them in the hopes of avoiding a costly mistake.
Outside the craft a long tube emerged, which once fully extended, flared outward forming an umbrella canopy. The canopy then extended along the full length of the shuttle.
It was a special reflective material that in an emergency could protect a damaged ship against the heat of re-entry. Of course such craft were normally expected to have some form of working propulsion; apart from the low level manoeuvring thrusters, Billy's ship was dead in space.
"If my calculations are accurate, the frictional force of entering the atmosphere should recharge one of the power cells. That should allow the distribution system to engage the retro rockets. If I am incorrect, I will not survive the shock of landing."
With that said he touched the two wires he had been holding together, hoping that his knowledge of Aquitian space craft was current. He promised he would never complain about complex control panels again, compared to twisted pairs of wire, flashing buttons would be a welcome sight.
The ship jerked and bobbed, the thrusters firing randomly as he tried to push the craft in the right direction. When it started to spin, he did nothing to stop it; a rolling ship would proof difficult to control, but the more energy he could use up in the air, the less potential energy there was to be released on impact.
With a silent prayer he cut the engines, relying on the conical shape to control his descent. The ships bucked and twisted as it entered the atmosphere, the slow spin he had imitated, acted to reduce the turbulence. He glanced at the two controls he had working, the altimeter and the speedometer. There was no chance that he would be able to direct the descent, his hope was to survive it and from the two readings, he knew he needed to slow his descent.
Firing the small rockets, he capitalised on the cone's shape and managed to change the point of the cone from pointing straight down to an almost horizontal point. The natural roll of the cone meant that it rolled from side to side, making him feel sick, but burning up vital energy and creating friction that slowed his descent. He grinned as he saw that his airspeed was beneath terminal velocity.
He was too low and there wasn't time to restart the engine, even if it had been capable of restarting. With a groan of frustration, privately hating Mr Murphy and his stupid law, Billy tugged on the next to useless controls, trying to force the ship to reverse position so that the tip of the cone was pointing upward.
The result was immediate, but not too comfortable. The ship was now upside down and the wider footprint of the cone's base gave the ship all the aerodynamics of a brick. Still, the greater surface area helped to slow the descent, the hull superheating as the friction increased by the second. He used the small thrusters to shift the ship from side to side, slowing the descent further as he did so.
It was still not enough. The ship was slowing, but was still descending too fast for him to survive. His only hope lay in the ability to restart one engine and use it as a retro rocket. Had it been anyone else, the engine would have been impossible to fix, but Billy refused to give up even when the altimeter showed that he was less than two thousand meters from the ground.
"Here goes everything," he muttered as he crossed the wires again and the ship jerked to life, just as the cone skimmed the top of the treetops.
"Is it done?" Minion asked, not taking his eyes off Bronzo as the henchman struggle to rework Serpenterra's wiring loom for the fourth time.
"Yes Minion," Arcana answered. "Billy Cranston has crash-landed on the planet Crystal as you predicted. I dispatched some WD Units to find him."
Minion nodded his approval. "Then all that remains is to get the Rangers to Crystal. Minion trusts you can ensure they need to get there?"
"Of course. While Venjix sends your monsters to battle the male Rangers, I shall kidnap and destroy the females." He licked his lips in anticipation. If they surrendered to him perhaps he could have some fun with them.
"Indeed. Five Rangers have proven difficult for you, spell weaver, Minion believes you may find two of them easier."
Arcana bowed but said nothing more as Minion returned to supervising the installation of the Zeo Crystal.
Minion laughed as the servant departed. Arcana was a fool if he believed that he had the ability to defeat one Ranger let alone two. There again sometimes ignorance was a valuable asset. So long as the spell weaver used the magical virus, all would go as planned. And in the meantime Venjix would build a few Machine Monsters to keep the other Rangers busy.
Jason yawned sleepily as he stepped out of the changing room. He was ready for a workout or better yet a chance to spar with someone. He hoped Adam or perhaps Rocky were still practicing.
He looked in the mirror and immediately went back to comb his hair. As usual after showering, it was a complete mess. He looked outside to where Emily was serving her customers. ~Maybe I'll ask her to do something later,~ he thought.
He walked across the room and took a seat at the counter where he could watch the other activities. There was still time left before he was due to meet with Kat and Tanya for a picnic. The two girls had persuaded him to join them near Angel Grove Lake at lunchtime. He looked at the clock and then looked again; it had stopped.
"Ernie, what time is it?" he asked.
"Almost Noon," the owner answered. "Do you want a sandwich?"
"They're going to kill me," Jason muttered as he paid for his drink and ran.
Ernie chuckled. It made a difference to watch Jason rush off when there wasn't a monster attack. Although he imagined Tanya and Kat could be worse than a monster in some cases.
Jason jogged quickly to where they had arranged to meet and as he approached he could hear Kat's slightly annoyed voice. He decided to play it cool and slowed. He missed the tree root but his foot didn't. He tumbled forward and landed flat on his back with a loud thud.
"Ow… my head!" he complained as he stood up slowly rubbing the back of his head. He groaned. ~This is going to be one of those days,~ he thought grimly.
"Stop fooling around," Kat called to him.
Jason sighed when he heard Tanya laugh. Obviously sympathy was not going to come from them.
"Come on Jason!" called out Katherine impatiently.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," he answered as he ran over to them.
"Let's go!" said Tanya.
"Yeah, let's get out of here," agreed Katherine, eager to leave before something else happened. "We'll go to the beach instead. You still have the keys to the RADBUG don't you?"
"Yeah," Jason said nervously.
The RADBUG had remained mothballed in the Power Chamber since Billy had gone to Aquitar. Jason knew Billy's invention could be temperamental when it was cold. He hoped Alpha had kept the heating on in that part of the Power Chamber.
"Let's go," he said after a moment's hesitation.
They ran to a safe spot that Alpha could teleport the car to. The sudden appearance of a flying car would be too difficult to explain.
As they were about to climb into the vehicle Tanya looked at the sky and noticed a few clouds approaching. She sighed. She hoped that it was a natural storm although somehow she had her doubts.
Dark clouds had gathered in the sky, and lightning flickered across the sky. A light rain began to fall.
"Oh! I don't believe it!" complained Kat as she felt a few drops of rainfall on her.
They had just finished laying out their picnic after Jason had successfully parked the car.
"It's just a little rain," said Tanya. Suddenly the light rain changed into a downpour. "Uh-oh."
"You were saying?" asked Jason.
"Come on. Don't just stand there," interrupted Kat. "Let's go." She took off running quickly, and they followed her. Suddenly a jagged bolt of lightning lit up the sky, and a deafening crash of thunder echoed.
"EEEKS!" shrieked Tanya as she stopped running and covered her ears. "I hate thunderstorms!"
"Come on Tanya," urged Kat. "It's not that bad."
"Kat's right," Jason said after a while. "I think we should head back to the RADBUG, Tanya, unless you want to stand here in the rain. We'll be safer in the car."
"I'm already soaking wet," she commented as she pushed her thoroughly hair out of her eyes. Another crash of thunder rang out, and Tanya flinched. "I hate thunderstorms, hate them, hate them, hate them!" she mumbled to herself. "All right, let's go," she agreed. As much as she would rather stay in one place and try to avoid seeing the storm, she didn't quite favour getting any wetter than she already was.
As they ran, she saw another bolt of lightning etch its way across the sky. Tanya covered her ears in preparation for the thunder that would not doubt soon follow. "I hate thunderstorms, I hate thunderstorms," she repeated to herself as she continued to run blindly.
Kat watched the interaction between Jason and Tanya with interest. She hadn't known Tanya was afraid of storms and she had never seen Jason act the way he had. She wondered for a moment if something was going on.
"Kat, watch out!" called out Jason, interrupting her thoughts.
"Hmm? Oh!" she exclaimed as she tried to stop herself, but it was too late, and she slid into Tanya, knocking them both onto the ground. "Oops, sorry," she apologised.
"Ow," complained Tanya as she stood up slowly. Suddenly he stopped and looked up. "Hey, it stopped raining," she said, looking a little confused.
"And the sky's clear right here," added Jason as he looked up.
"Yeah, but it's still raining where we were, and the clouds are still all around us," observed Tanya as she squeezed some of the water out of her hair.
"That's weird," said Kat as they reached the car, "but I guess we should stay here till it clears up."
"Yeah," started Tanya. Flying home would be too dangerous. But before she could finish speaking, a bright light engulfed everything around them. "What's going on?" she shouted.
"I don't know!" called back Kat. The light blinded the three of them for a moment.
"This is just what I needed today," shouted Jason as he shielded his eyes. He still couldn't see anything, and it didn't make any sense. ~What's causing this,~ he wondered nervously. Whatever it was, he wasn't sure he wanted to find out. Suddenly the ground beneath them gave way, and they fell down into the complete darkness below.
Jason opened his eyes slowly to the very dim light. ~Where am I?~ he wondered as he looked around him, but he saw nothing, save the near darkness. He sat up slowly, rubbing the back of his head. The fall from above had confused him. ~Hey, wait a second,~ he thought suddenly.
Instinctively he tried his communicator and to teleport. Surprisingly though the message was not blocked, it simply didn't receive a response. In the same way the teleport attempt simply aborted each time and in the end he had to accept that it wasn't going to work. ~At least the anti jamming measures seem to work.~
"Tanya! Kat?" he called out quickly, but the only response was the echo of his own voice. "Where are they?" he wondered aloud. He walked slowly in the direction, which seemed to be the only source of the dim light around him. I guess I should head this way, he thought to himself but he really had no idea if he was going in the right direction. On top of that, he really didn't what he was looking for, and what to do once he found it. The only thing he was sure of right now was that he needed to find Tanya and Kat. Tanya would probably be able to think of something, and Kat, well, she was probably worse off than he was. She never seemed to like being alone too much, probably because of the time she spent in Rita and Zedd's service. He walked on in silence for a while until suddenly he tripped and fell to the ground.
"Oww…" groaned Tanya as she sat up slowly. "Why does everyone always trip over me," she continued mumbling to herself.
"Oh, sorry about that," apologised Jason as he stood back up quickly. He breathed a quick sigh of relief. At least he had managed to find Tanya.
"Oh… Jason," replied Tanya. A puzzled expression crept across her face slowly as he took in her surrounding. "Whoa… where are we?"
"I don't know," answered Jason, shrugging. "The last thing I remember was getting out of the rain, and then there was that light."
"Yeah… Hey, wait a second," said Tanya suddenly, as she looked around concerned. "Where's Kat?"
"I don't know. I haven't been able to find her yet," answered Jason.
"Then, come on. We've got to go find her."
"Yeah, but which way do we go?" wondered Jason. Tanya looked around in the dim light. It all looked the same to her, except maybe it was a bit brighter in one direction.
"I guess we should head that way," said Tanya.
Before Jason could answer, they heard a scream pierce the silence. "Tommy!"
"Kat?" queried Tanya as she tried to find the source of the sound quickly.
"Come on! Let's go!" said Jason, taking off quickly.
"LET GO OF ME!" yelled Kat angrily. Something was holding her, but she couldn't see it. She only felt that there was some sort of creature behind her, and it had a very good hold of her. She twisted around quickly, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of whatever was, but she saw nothing. She clenched her fists tightly at her side. "I said… LET ME GO!" She stomped hard on what she though was its foot and in a quick burst of light and energy, she was able to escape the hold of the creature, which had tried to capture her. She dropped down to her floor, but immediately whirled around, but she still saw nothing. ~What was that?~ She wondered to herself.
"Kat, are you all right?" called out Tanya as soon as she reached her.
"Tanya, Jason," she said still a little dazed. "I'm fine, but what… what happened? Where are we?"
"I'm not sure," answered Jason. "But what happened to you? We heard you scream."
"Oh, uh… something grabbed me, but it's gone now," she answered looking around. She shuddered, and continued, "Whatever it was, it was gross."
"Maybe it was some kind of alien," suggested Tanya. With all the weird things that often came to Earth, they wouldn't have been all that surprised. "But what's it doing here on Earth?"
"If we are still on Earth," Jason added. They all looked around quickly, but nothing had changed. There was no way for them to tell where they were.
"How… how are we going to get out of here?" asked Kat uncertainly.
Jason half shrugged as he continued to look around. His companions remained silent. ~Great,~ he thought, ~I knew today was going to be a bad day, but this is crazy.~ He looked yet again, but there was nothing at all to see. Everything was still the same. He was having a hard enough time seeing Tanya and Kat, and they were standing directly in front of him. Seeing anything farther was next to impossible. He was the former Red Ranger and he had no idea what to do next.
"I wish it wasn't so dark," murmured Kat. All of the sudden the area immediately around them flooded with light.
"AIEE!" shrieked Tanya as she jumped back from the hole in the floor.
~This is too weird,~ Kat thought nervously.
Whatever caused that must have been listening in on their conversation, and that obviously meant that they were not alone, but who had it been?
"Who's there?" demanded Tanya stepping forward in front of Jason and Kat. However, the sudden increase of light had blinded her momentarily, and she couldn't see anything before her. As she slowly became accustomed to the light again, she noticed a very odd looking creature in front of them.
"Uh… what is that?" asked Kat as she drew back confused.
"What the hell?" wondered Tanya, confused. The creature in front of them seemed to have no definite shape. In fact it only seemed to be some sort of ooze being.
"This is too weird," added Jason as he stared at the creature.
"Ah… I see you've already met my army," came a voice. "Magical slime, woven from the basic elements of this planet, nothing more."
"Who's there?" demanded Tanya again. She scanned the area around them quickly, but she couldn't see anyone or anything else, and what had it meant by army?
'Well, since I already know who you are, I suppose it is only fair for you to know who I am," the voice said as it slowly stepped into the light.
The three teens drew back, half-expecting to see another alien, but to their surprise, it looked human. He wore red and tan robes with black boots. He had silver hair that extended down his back. His cloak appeared to be white, but was covered by so much dirt it was difficult to tell. On his hat he wore a crest of some kind that had obviously remained unpolished for a long time.
"I am called Arcana," he introduced himself. "Spell weaver and advisor to Lord Zedd, currently in the service of Minion."
"Minion?" exclaimed Jason.
"I see you recognise the name. He will be pleased with your reaction."
"Zedd?" wondered Tanya, looking over at Kat nervously. "But he's gone, so is Rita…" She swallowed loudly. Rocky and Tommy had warned her before not to underestimate Lord Zedd or any to claimed to be in his service. This was turning into more than they could handle alone.
"Oh he'll be back, as soon as his tour of the Dark Galaxy has concluded. By then you three won't be in a position to let it worry you." He paused, eyes narrowing suspiciously as he noticed for the first time that there were indeed three people present. ~Three,~ he thought, ~there are only supposed to be the two female Rangers. What is the boy doing here?~ he wondered, ~unless… of course, he is not an active Ranger. No matter, he will not interfere with my plan.~
"What do you want?" demanded Tanya.
"I have only one mission," he told them. "To destroy you three."
That wasn't true. Minion had given him several tasks to complete, this just happened to be the one he preferred. He still had matters to attend to on Crystal.
"If that's true, then why did you bring us here?" asked Tanya.
"What better way to carry out Minion's plan, than by kidnapping and separating his enemies?" answered Arcana coldly. "When they find you, if they find you … it will be too late. And then, I'll destroy them one by one."
Kat shivered. Something about this wizard scared her. Maybe it was because he looked so incredibly human compared to Zedd. Even Minion with all his scars looked less than human. However, there was something that made Arcana different, the eyes were filled with intelligence and joy at what he was doing instead of the cold and calculating look of a predator. Kat shivered again as she realised that the spell weaver knew exactly what he was doing and that he genuinely wanted to do it. He was truly evil, and that was a terrifying thought. Still, she stepped forward a bit, knowing that she wouldn't be able to help the others at all if she kept scaring herself.
"Where have you taken us?" asked Kat, a bit shakily. The cold dismal atmosphere reminded her too much of Lunar Palace for her to remain completely unaffected.
"Quiet girl!" snapped Arcana. "You will find out when I am ready."
"Don't talk to Kat like that," Tanya shot back angrily.
"I do as I please," returned Arcana, unconcerned. Tanya looked the wizard over carefully. Had he been human, Tanya would have guessed him to be a little older than Zordon had appeared in some of the images she had seen. ~Hey wait,~ she thought, ~Zordon.~
"Jason," said Tanya as she turned to face him quickly. "We need to morph."
"Now?' asked Jason, a bit confused. "Why?"
"Our communicators are gone, but we can still morph. When we do, Zordon will detect us." explained Tanya.
"Oh, right," agreed Jason as he understood what Tanya meant. He had been concentrating on where they were while leaving Tanya and Kat to find out whom they were dealing with. He closed his eyes for a second, concentrating on summoning the Power. His residual Gold Ranger powers would be more detectable than the Gem Coin powers.
"You're wasting your time," said Arcana suddenly, interrupting Jason's concentration.
Even though he could still summon the Power to transform into a Ranger of some sort, the process required a great deal of concentration to initiate. The words that normally controlled what happened to the energy were meaningless, it was all a matter of willpower and memory. Still, the transformation had been made.
"Huh?" questioned Jason, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Simple," answered Arcana. "No one will be able to detect your location."
"Wh… what does he mean?" Kat asked Tanya quietly.
"Minion anticipated this happening, although he didn't expect there to be three of you, and he took precautions. We're not in your dimension any longer, Minion gave me the means to shift us forty-five degrees out of phase. This is my dimension."
"Your dimension?" wondered Kat.
"Where exactly is this dimension of yours?" asked Tanya.
"It's a space between time, literally a gap between then and now." Arcana answered absently. "Effectively, you are no where right now."
"No where?" repeated Jason as that slowly sank in.
"Exactly, which means that no one will be able to find you," continued Arcana. "Besides, I doubt you would last long enough for anyone to reach you," he added confidently. He was completely certain that destroying what he viewed as three children would not take too long. How Rita, Zedd and Minion had failed to do so was beyond him.
"You seem sure of yourself," said Jason.
"Of course, I have every reason to be," the villain answered. "This has been carefully planned. I won't even have to dirty my hands fighting you. My army will take care of that insignificant task by themselves."
"How do you figure that they can beat us?" asked Tanya. Arcana seemed to be enjoying himself by explaining his plans to them, and Tanya hoped they would be able to stall him long enough to come up with some sort of a plan.
"Every truly powerful villain has a specialty," he boasted. "Lord Zedd enjoys transforming living creatures into monsters, he can do the same with inanimate objects, but they lack the instinct of the originals. Master Vile makes powerful monsters, Mistress Repugna was an expert in making golems. And myself, I am a spell weaver; my monsters are unimpressive, but their special abilities are spectacular. And my army has a very useful ability." Arcana was pleased by the curiosity these three children were displaying towards his work. "They absorb the energy from anything they come in contact with."
"But that's…" started Kat, her voice trailing off.
"Impossible, you were going to say?" questioned Arcana. "Well you're very far from the truth indeed, girl. Remember Blue Globbor, you especially Kat must remember how capable he was of draining your energy?"
"What's that got to do with it?" interjected Jason, confused.
"Quiet!" snapped Arcana. Jason looked provoked and was about to attack, but Tanya shook her head a little. Jason was not as hot headed as he had once been, but attacking the wizard was definitely not the solution. "I used the technology that allowed them to absorb energy and took it to the next level. Instead of only absorbing Morphin energy like Globbor, my army can absorb all energy, even life force, with even the slightest touch. Very useful, wouldn't you say?"
"But then… how are we supposed to fight them," wondered Jason quietly.
"And we won't be able to use our pistols," added Tanya, worried.
"Then… what can we do?" asked Kat.
"Nothing," interjected Arcana, with a pleased smirk. "Of course I want this to be mildly amusing, so please feel free to morph. You might last longer. Unlike Zedd's other servants, I will not fail him, or Minion."
"But Zedd retreated," pointed out Jason. "And Minion is just another monster. Why are you still following his orders if you are so powerful?"
"You don't know anything, Ranger," Arcana sneered. "Zedd didn't retreat, he took a vacation. And Minion -- I obey him because Zedd told me to. Because I have no choice."
"Now what?" Kat thought aloud. No wonder she had felt just a little drained after she had escaped her captor earlier. It must have taken some of her energy. ~But it only touched me for a few seconds,~ she thought, worry overshadowing her face. ~If it can absorb energy that fast…~ She shook her head, trying to clear her mind of it. Right now she had to concentrate on finding some way out of this mess.
"Jason, what should we do?" asked Tanya.
"I'm not sure," answered Jason, "but they have to have some sort of weakness."
"What, I mean, how can you tell?" asked Kat, a bit confused.
"Well, it's practically impossible for them to be entirely invulnerable. There has to be something," explained Tanya. At least that was what she hoped, if not they were in deep trouble.
"How very perceptive," said Arcana suddenly. The Rangers turned around quickly to face him. The wizard looked them over carefully; they were obviously more perceptive than he'd been led to believe. There again, Minion had been less than generous with his analysis of their powers. The boy Jason seemed to be the leader of the three and taking him down would be the first order of business. "But you'll never live long enough to figure it out. Now, enough of this useless talk, I think it's time for you to face off against my creations."
"Morph," Jason told his friends. "We'll stand a better chance that way."
"Zeo Ranger I - Crane!" Kat called.
"Zeo Ranger II - Bear!" Tanya added.
Arcana looked over at his army eagerly. He had anticipated this moment since Minion had ordered him to prepare the trap. Now he would find out if all of his hard work would pay off. "Go!" he ordered. "Attack those three, and don't stop until you've absorbed all of their energy." It was rather odd that they would be able take orders from him, but they had no mind of their own and they existed only to help him carry out his mission.
"Get ready," said Jason, looking back at Tanya and Kat. If Arcana was telling the truth about his army, then they definitely had their work cut out for them. To make matters worse, Jason was their weakness because although Kat and Tanya's were unstable, they at least understood where they came from. Nobody had been able to think of a good plan in spite of all the time that the wizard had spent explaining.
"What do we do?" asked Kat.
"Just try to avoid them," answered Tanya. She knew that sounded obvious and probably stupid, but at the moment she just couldn't think of anything else.
"That's it?" questioned Arcana, incredulously. "That's your plan?"
"Unless you want to call them off," Jason snapped. "Move!" he called out quickly as he saw one of the creatures coming towards them. Jason sidestepped immediately, and it flew past him and splattered on the ground.
"Eww," murmured Kat. "They're just blobs. How are we supposed to fight them?" she called out exasperated. Suddenly the entire army started rushing in towards them.
"Just stay out of their way!" shouted Tanya, leaping up into the air. Jason and Kat followed her example.
"That won't help you!" Arcana jeered. He held his hands in front of him and fired energy blasts at the three of them as they landed. They moved quickly out of the way, but the wizard did not slow down. He continued firing at them for a long while, and showed no signs of wearing down at all. Jason, Tanya, and Kat on the other hand seemed to be having increasing difficulty with getting out of the way.
"I don't believe it," complained Jason, dodging as best he could.
"What?" asked Kat. She was slightly out of breath, but she didn't dare slow down for fear of being knocked out of the air and down below where those creatures were waiting. ~Can't go down, and it's getting too hard to stay up here,~ she thought grimly. "What is it?" she repeated to Jason.
"He isn't slowing," explained Jason.
"Then you mean…" started Kat.
"He's feeding off the energy they steal from us," finished Tanya.
"Are you sure?" questioned Kat, sceptically. Even though Arcana did not show any signs of slowing down at all, she still found it hard to believe that he would never run out of energy.
"Yeah, pretty sure," answered Jason. "Or as close to infinite as he can get."
"Otherwise, he should have slowed a little by now," reasoned Tanya.
"Oh! I don't believe it. He never runs out of energy, and they absorb it. Can this possibly get any worse?" she complained.
"I think - Kat, look out!" called out Jason.
"Wha… oh!" she exclaimed as she saw a beam coming towards her. She dropped quickly to the floor, and the beam passed inches from her, shearing off a fragment of her helmet.
"Don't stay down!" called out Tanya, hurriedly.
"Right!" she called back as she jumped back up. A few more feet away, Arcana's army had gathered to pounce on her. "He's too fast!" she called out.
"You're right girl," said Arcana, stopping for a short moment from his attacks. "Why don't you just save me the trouble and give up now?"
"Not a chance!" Tanya shot back. "Jason," she said over the helmet communicator. "Jason!"
Jason started and looked up suddenly. His Gold Ranger costume lacked a permanent design and it seemed that this time it was lacking a real communicator. He had to rely on the Power to transmit Tanya's words. Unfortunately the blobs were absorbing any background energy, making the task difficult. "What is it?" he replied.
"I'll distract him," said Tanya. "You try to hit him from behind. Maybe a surprise attack will give us an advantage, all right?"
"Got it," answered Jason. He watched Tanya and Arcana carefully, waiting for his chance to attack.
"Hey Arcana!" called out Tanya aloud. Arcana glared back at her menacingly. Tanya swallowed loudly. ~Can't turn back now,~ she thought quickly overcoming her fears. "Why don't you just fight us, instead of hiding behind them?" she challenged.
The wizard looked irritated.
"I think you are a little too cocky," he replied.
"Why don't you come up here and prove that?" taunted Tanya.
"Tanya, what are you doing?" whispered Kat, surprised that Tanya was acting so confidently. They both knew that Arcana was not someone to be taken lightly. Kat also knew that Tanya was unlikely to rush in without a plan.
"Don't worry," she told her quietly. "Just wait for Jason to attack and join in."
"Oh, okay," she answered with a quick nod.
"Well Arcana?" provoked Tanya.
"Perhaps I will," he replied, rising into the air slowly using a levitation spell.
Jason watched intently, waiting to spring. If they could just defeat Arcana, then maybe those things he created wouldn't know what to do. If that happened, then they had a better chance of escape. But there was still one thing that worried him, if he killed the wizard and that caused the alternate dimension to collapse, what then? There was another possibility, which didn't seem much better than the first. The alternate dimension might stay stable, but they had no way of getting out. None of them knew how Arcana had been able to create it, and it was unlikely that they'd be able to figure it out.
"Tanya!" called out Kat, interrupting his thoughts. He looked up and saw Arcana ready to strike at the Yellow Gem Coin Ranger. Tanya quickly focussed on her task; fighting Arcana was going to take everything she had.
"Falcon Missiles!" Zeo Falcon cried as his Zord unloaded its arsenal, bringing the huge metallic spider to a stop as the Ape and Frog tried to bring it down.
Why Minion had suddenly launched this attack was unknown, but since it had occurred at the same time that Jason, Tanya and Kat had disappeared, he had a few ideas of what the villain had in mind.
"Stab it!" he yelled.
The Ape moved to obey, driving its weapons into the metal spider's head as the Frog dragged the legs out from underneath. A quick swipe from Dragonzord's tail and the battle was over, allowing the four Rangers to teleport back to the Power Chamber.
Tanya and Arcana watched each other carefully. Neither of them wanted to make the first move. Jason and Kat also watched closely, Jason waiting to attack, and Kat waiting to help if needed.
"Well?" questioned Arcana, impatiently. "You wanted to fight me, so why are you still waiting?"
"I was going to give you the advantage of going first," lied Tanya, "but since you don't want to, I will."
With that she disappeared from where she was using the short-range teleport intended for entering Zords. A second later she reappeared behind Arcana. She swung quickly at Arcana's head, but the spell weaver had already turned around. Tanya pulled back quickly and avoided being caught, but Arcana was only starting to attack. Tanya tried to launch her own counterattack, but it was all she could do to just keep up with Arcana. For a wizard, he was a remarkably good fighter.
"What's the matter?" jeered Arcana. "Was taking me on too much for you?"
Tanya remained silent, not sure what to say. The only answer she could think of came in the form of a physical assault, which she did immediately. However, the results were the same as before. She attacked, and Arcana proved he was more than capable of avoiding her. Arcana kicked her hard in the side. Tanya gasped in pain, but Arcana wasn't done yet. He continued his assault on the now practically immobilised Yellow Ranger. He hit her again, this time on the side of her head, and Tanya stumbled.
~He's too strong,~ thought Tanya as she tried to regain her balance.
"I think it's time to end this," said Arcana, abruptly. He had no further interest in fighting Tanya, and he was ready to move on to more important matters. He held his arms out in front of him, charging for a blast.
"NOW Jason!" Tanya signalled, hoping the Gold Ranger would hear her this time.
"Hi-yah!" yelled Jason from behind them.
Arcana looked startled and began to turn around. Tanya immediately disappeared from where she was and reappeared next to Kat. Jason had drawn a broadsword and unleashed a ball of fire at the unsuspecting monster.
It made its way to Arcana in a flash and as Arcana put out his hands to block Jason's blast, Jason poured more energy into a second attack. With the added power of Kat's sidearm, it looked as though they had a chance of winning, at least for a short time. But then, one of Arcana's creations bounced up into the air and came between Jason and Arcana.
"Jason! STOP!" called out Kat hurriedly.
The creature was already starting to absorb Jason's energy, and Arcana had long since moved out of the way. Jason stopped quickly as he realised what had happened. It was too late to stop Arcana from stealing his energy though, and left him defenceless as the villain retaliated with a vicious chop.
Jason struggled as the villain gripped him around the neck. He kicked violently but his struggles ceased when he saw Arcana draw an object from subspace. It was a needle filled with a black liquid. Jason tried to get away but the point had already pierced his uniform and the liquid was flowing into his veins.
Jason's eyes widened with pain and he tried to scream. He failed; all his attempts at movement failed. His breathing became tight and the world seemed to blur. He slumped to the ground and demorphed. He opened his mouth to speak, but the darkness claimed him for a moment.
"Jason, what's wrong?" questioned Kat, worried.
"What did you do to him?" demanded Tanya, angrily.
Arcana laughed. "He was getting in my way," he told them, smirking.
"Answer me!" repeated Tanya.
"Temper, temper," chided the wizard. "If you really want to know, I injected him with a magical virus."
"A virus?" exclaimed Tanya.
"Are you deaf? Perhaps it's spreading faster than I thought it would. Allow me to explain. Yes, it is a virus, a very potent little thing I picked up during my travels. I thought it might be useful, but I hadn't imagined I would find such an unwilling victim," said Arcana.
"And do you have the cure?" demanded Tanya.
"Hmm…no," answered Arcana, smirking. This was going better than Minion had predicted. "I didn't plan on helping anyone I infected."
Tanya and Kat looked at him, shocked. If he didn't have the antidote, then what could they do? He had said it was a virus he had found somewhere in space, it was unlikely that there would be anything on Earth, which could act as the antidote.
Jason stared up at the sky, still confused. ~A virus,~ he thought, ~I didn't know one could act so fast.~ He wondered what else this virus did… if it would kill him.
He wanted to stand up, but it seemed as though the virus had paralysed him. He looked up at Kat and Tanya who were still standing over him. He smiled at them weakly. As long as they were still there, he would be all right.
~Now,~ he thought, ~I just need a little rest… just a little rest.~ He closed her eyes slowly and almost immediately fell into a deep sleep.
"Jason!" repeated Tanya, shaking him a little, but he didn't respond.
"One down, two to go," Arcana proclaimed. "Make it easy and surrender now."
He could feel the Yellow Ranger's temper simmering beneath her helmet. She suddenly seemed more powerful than he had believed. The Pink Ranger was no less threatening as she tried to help the former Gold Ranger.
~A bond of love and friendship,~ he realised.
He had underestimated the closeness these Rangers felt and the anger they would feel if one of their number was hurt. He decided it would be wise to end his mission swiftly and retreat to a safe place where he could study and then destroy these Gem Coin Rangers. But he had enough power to finish the Gold Ranger first.
He practically screamed as he poured all of his hate into the spell, which was one of the oldest spells known and feared by forces of good and evil. It was also among the oldest and most difficult to conjure. When struck by the spell served only one purpose: to kill. When cast it ordered the body to die through whatever means possible. It could be a heart attack or the simultaneous shattering of every bone and organ in the victim's body. One thing was certain, the spell when cast was deadly unless blocked. Against an already crippled and almost powerless victim death was certain.
"Jason!" Kat cried, kicking a blob in his direction.
The blob enlarged to four times its normal size as it moved in front of the fallen Ranger. Its properties meant that it absorbed most of the lethal spell, but not enough to prevent it from striking Jason and causing his condition to worsen. But now Arcana had to face something few had witnessed but all feared: a furious Pink Ranger.
Kat was a gentle person and never deliberately set out to hurt anybody. Even when she had been under Rita's spell it had taken constant enforcement from Rita's spell before Kat had tried to hurt the Rangers. And since the day she had used the memory of all she had done to shrug off the spell and to resist all attempts by Rita to replace it. Like most human she felt emotions, but rarely pure rage.
There certain exist stereotypes when dealing with Rangers. Black Rangers were often the more playful members of the team while Red Rangers were considered to make the best battle commanders. For the most part Pink Rangers were considered as healers who reached out to help those in pain. But that was only part of the story. Pink Rangers didn't just feel the need to help those in pain, they hated to see others in pain and fought to do whatever they could to stop the pain. Kat's Gem Coin powers were unstable, but she was still a Pink Ranger. Unable to do anything to help Jason her rage found another outlet: the being who had caused that pain.
"Pink Flash!" she yelled.
A burst of energy passed directly through her, emerging from her palms. There was a painfully bright flash that caused all present to turn their heads as she threw the energy towards Arcana. The spell weaver saw the attack coming, recovered from his shock and fled.
Arcana was not stupid. Even as the energy disk approached the place where he was fighting with Tanya he started to retreat. But the energy made contact at the same time that Tanya hit him with her own energised fist. The explosion that followed ripped open the pocket dimension as Tanya, Jason, Kat and Arcana were abruptly returned to Earth.
The Rangers had been searching for Jason, Kat and Tanya since the three had disappeared. They had had limited success and their efforts had been undermined by Minion sending one monster after the other to distract them.
So when Sam sensed a sudden burst of magical energy, he immediately sought it out. He could sense Kat and Tanya as they fought something. He sensed a third signature that he recognised as an almost nonexistent Jason.
He teleported to their location, hoping that he could get there before one of his friends was killed. When he arrived, he discovered that he was already too late. Jason lay unmoving while Tanya and Kat pummelled the man Sam assumed to be the culprit. He watched as Tanya summoned the power of her Gem Coin and blasted the wizard. He disappeared amid the explosion of energy.
Sam was already moving as Kat and Tanya collapsed from exhaustion. He drew his sword but there was nothing left for him to fight. The two Rangers had already finished the job without him. Then he looked at Jason and realised he needed to get them to the Power Chamber immediately.
Gathering the three Rangers together he teleported.
Jason was walking toward what seemed to be a cloud of darkness, but he knew it was nothingness, oblivion. He was surprised. He had expected to see the after life. He had been told that all his life, but no, what he faced was oblivion. And though he wanted to live, he was too tired to fight on. He welcomed it; it would end his pain, his agony.
"Ai-yi-yi, Rangers, we were so worried," Alpha exclaimed as Tanya and Kat returned to the Power Chamber and practically collapsed. Sam appeared next, in his arms was Jason's motionless body.
"Zordon, he needs help!" Sam said. With all the stress Sam sounded more like Tommy than he intended. Fortunately the others were too focussed on the former leader of the Power Rangers to notice the slip in their comrade's composure.
Alpha scurried around and soon had Jason on one of the medical beds where he had spent several days during the failure of his Gold Ranger powers. Electrodes were attached to the boy's chest and quickly put their minds at ease; he was alive, but barely.
"Arcana poisoned him," Tanya said. While the others had been watching Alpha, she had taken the time to explain to Zordon. "He said it was a magical virus."
"Alpha, scan Jason for signs of a spell," Zordon instructed.
Alpha did as he was told while Zordon turned his attention to the other three. The Green Ranger's expression was unreadable although he sensed there had been some strain involved in teleporting to and from wherever they were held. In the end he gave up, no doubt his powers were already recharging anyway.
Tanya and Kat were another story though. Both had demorphed and had had some of their own energy stolen by the Blobs. They would recover, but their bodies were exhausted and in desperate need of rest. He could have used a portion of his energy to revitalise them, but some things were better left to occur naturally.
It took a few minutes to convince them, but after explaining Jason's absences to his parents and thanking Sam for his help, Tanya and Kat teleported away.
"Don't you leave us Jason," Kat warned as she kissed his forehead.
Tanya copied the sentiment before she added a silent prayer. "Please God, send Jason home."
"Be strong Jase," Tommy whispered.
Zordon sighed as he realised it was going to be another long night, but the health of his Rangers came first and Zordon knew he would be unable to sleep unless he was certain his first Red Ranger was safe; the mentor had lost count of how many sleepless nights he had experienced during the time that Kimberly had lost her Power Coin. He sighed again as he settled down to work.
He did not remember anything after his fight with Arcana. By the time his body touched the ground he had already been absorbed by the darkness. As the Green Ranger lifted him to teleport, death had already overwhelmed him. He remained unaware until now, as he faced the blackness of nothingness before him. He was walking slowly toward nothingness when he heard a faint sound. It seemed to be a voice behind him, but he couldn't be sure.
Then he recognised Kat's voice, calling him back, begging him to fight for his life and to hold on until Zordon finds a cure. Tanya was there too; he could sense her although he didn't know how. And of course Zordon, how could he miss Zordon? The light of his voice was dazzling and for a moment the darkness retreated from sight as the fourth voice told him to keep fighting; Tommy had spoken.
~But how can I hear them if I am dead?~
Was that to be his punishment for whatever sins he had committed? Or perhaps Arcana's final revenge; this was his hell. A demon with the voices of those he loved, speaking the words that they all knew. Rangers are a family and they loved each other like a family. Hell's flames would have been better than such a torture! But the voice continued and he realised that no demon could speak with those voices. There was love in those words and no demon could feel love. Suddenly, he turned from the black nothingness and with all his being he ran away from it. With his total being, he fought against entering the nothingness of death. He had to live because the Rangers loved him and he would do anything not to hurt them. He refused to surrender to death.
The Power Chamber
The Rangers waited patiently while Alpha and Zordon studied the results of the tests they had performed the previous night. Jason's condition had not improved, but it had not deteriorated further. That was something the Rangers and their mentor were grateful for. As time had passed though Tanya had grown tired of waiting and eventually she decided something had to be done.
"Zordon, how long will this take?"
Zordon sensed the impatience in Tanya's tone, but knew better than to rush and make a mistake. The scans had been quite revealing and despite their first thoughts, the so-called magical virus was not all that it appeared to be,
"We are almost finished," Zordon boomed. "Alpha, use the computer to find a cure."
"Do you know what is wrong with him?" Rocky asked hopefully.
"Yes," Zordon replied. "Jason has been infected with the Bibellic Virus. It is a rare but deadly virus that lies dormant for several days before it strikes and kills its victim."
"Arcana used a Wrath Spell to immobilise Jason," Alpha continued. "With the spell in place the virus would have started immediately and Jason would have easily succumbed to the illness."
"Can you cure him?" Kat asked.
There was a long silence and the Rangers had the impression that Zordon was struggling to decide what to them. Finally he spoke.
"The cure cannot be found on Earth. Only on the planet Crystal could a cure be found."
"So we'll have to go to Crystal," Tommy said.
"No Tommy," Zordon said. "If you all go, Minion will be able to conquer the Earth before you return. Kat and Tanya will journey to Crystal while the rest of you protect this world from attack."
"He's right Tommy," Adam told him. "This is the only way."
This was not a good sign. The Red, Green and Blue Gem Coin Rangers were being kept busy, fighting off recreated monsters from Rita and Mondo's forces while Kat and Tanya tried to help Jason.
"We'll have to hurry back," Kat said after a moment of thought. Then another question presented itself. "Zordon, can we teleport there?"
"I am afraid not," Zordon replied. "Crystal is in a state of constant flux due to the damage to its core."
He didn't say more and hoped the Rangers would not push him further. Crystal was a doomed world that had been abandoned by most of its inhabitants. Beneath the surface a swarm of maggot like creatures called Blibs were consuming the world from the inside out. At first they had been kept under control by the strange properties of the Blue Crystal Rose, the cure for Jason's illness. Unfortunately the planet had fallen foul of a villain by the name of Scorpius with a little off planet help from the wicked Count Dregon, who had a habit of destroying those worlds he intended to conquer if Edenoi was a typical example, and the magical flower had been all but destroyed. In fact only one place remained where the flower could grow, a last defence against the all-consuming hunger of the Blibs. And should that last place be destroyed, Zordon knew it would be a matter of time before the planet disintegrated and all hope of finding a cure was lost.
Unfortunately the constant consumption of the planet's core had caused a series of changes to its axis and rotation. With the random gravity variations such changes caused it was impossible to guarantee that a teleport attempt could be successful. At the same time any attempt to return would be foiled by the atmosphere. Unlike the Desert of Despair where the Rangers had had a small chance of returning, teleporting to Crystal was just suicide.
He could see the dismay on their faces as their only realistic hope of saving their comrade faded. Fortunately Zordon had already found an alternative, an alternative he had intended to reveal to them in the future. For now though his plans would have to wait.
"Alpha, prepare the Earth's Fire for launch."
"The Earth's Fire?" Tanya repeated.
"After the Rangers journeyed to Edenoi, I realised they needed the means to travel off-planet. The idea was still in its early stage when Billy journeyed to Aquitar to help against the Hydro Contaminators. The events concerning his return convinced me to complete the project. I present to you the Earth's Fire."
"Wow!" That about summed up their thoughts as the Viewing Globe revealed the massive space cruiser. "Is that a Zord?"
"No," Zordon told them. "I designed the Earth's Fire to act primarily as a transport for interplanetary operations."
"Ai-yi-yi, a Zord?" Alpha exclaimed in amusement. "Zordon's first idea was to convert Titanus for space…"
"Alpha, is the Earth's Fire prepared?" Zordon asked quickly.
"Yes Zordon," Alpha replied, suddenly aware of Zordon's displeasure. Zordon considered had considered the modified Carrier Zord an essential part of his Master Plan, regardless of how ridiculous it looked when they had finished the modifications. Sadly he was beginning to suspect that the careful manoeuvring he had performed over the last few years had been made irrelevant by the appearance of Minion. That didn't mean his plan would not come to pass, just that it would be difficult to achieve.
"The Earth's Fire will take you to Crystal. I have loaded the flight procedures into your helmets."
Alpha scurried around making the final preparations. Eventually they hoped to create a basic controller for the ship that any Ranger could use whether morphed or powered down. For now though they had to rely on the Power enhanced reflexes of the Rangers to do the job.
"The journey will take two days," Zordon told them. "You will then have one day to find the cure and another two days to return."
"Five days," Kat said. "How do we explain that to my parents?"
Tanya had been living with Kat and her family since arriving in Angel Grove and had been accepted by both her parents and sister as part of the family. Both girls looked at Zordon and waited for him to tell them what they knew they had to do.
"You will need to tell your parents where you are going," the White Morphin Master agreed. "If you are forced to you may also reveal your secret."
"Maybe not," Tanya said. "Maybe we just need to arrange a visit to Aunt Ashalla."
The comment made sense. Ashalla knew about Tanya's identity and had kept in touch with Tanya by mail. With the correct timing it would be easy to get the older woman to help them.
"Very well," Zordon agreed, glad that they had avoided unnecessary disclosure.
While Tanya and Kat teleported away to set things up, Zordon turned his attention to the injured Jason. The boy's life was in the hands of his fellow Rangers and worse still, a flower that might not exist anymore.
Two Days Later
Darkness, stretching out in all directions… as far as the eye could see, an endless expanse of nothingness. How long had it been? Here, in this dreamlike state, time had seemingly ceased to exist. Seconds passed like minutes, or perhaps minutes passed as seconds? Nothing made sense anymore. Here he was forced to stay, as his mind weaved in and out of memories and dreams. But it had been so long, the difference between truth and fiction was fast becoming nearly indistinguishable.
But suddenly, his surroundings changed. He became lost in a whirlwind of colour and noise. Millions of sounds seemed to compress into one loud and bizarre echo. He dropped to his knees as he covered his ears tightly. The sound, it was unbearable.
He braced himself ready for the attack he had learnt to expect. It was becoming a normal part of his routine, first the noise would sound and then the attack would come. His mind couldn't comprehend the true essence of what his eyes told him, so it simplified it to a form he could understand; a creature of darkness with sharp fangs, no face and a touch that froze his lungs. So far he had been lucky, but with each attempt Jason grew weaker and whatever it was became real.
"Zordon?" Kat asked nervously. The communicator remained silent for a while.
"Alpha, you must sedate him…"
The static cleared occasionally as the screen flashed from the explosions. The noise carried over the communicator and then it was silent again.
"Zordon?" Kat asked again.
The slightly battered form of Alpha Five appeared on the screen and it took Kat a few minutes to realise that the small robot was not in the Power Chamber.
"Sorry Rangers," he said. He sounded nervous. "Jason had…"
"Alpha!" Zordon boomed.
"Everything's fine now," Alpha said after talking to Zordon for a moment. "Jason just had a nightmare."
Kat smiled, relieved to know they were all right, although she knew Alpha had been holding something back. There had been a nasty if rather comical dent in the machine's head.
At the Power Chamber Alpha sighed as he shutoff the remote Viewing Globe and turned back towards the war zone that had once been the Power Chamber. Jason's small nightmare had somehow caused the unconscious youth to access his powers, morph and fight an enemy that existed only in his mind. In his delusional state he had struck out at anything including Alpha. Eventually they had found a way to demorph him and Alpha had quickly sedated him.
Zordon had witnessed the events while unable to intervene. He had ordered Alpha to secure the former Red Ranger within a force field once the talk with Tanya and Kat had ended. The power had been amazing if deadly. Zordon had clearly seen the powers change as Jason had fought and as they had done so, so had Jason's actions.
So it had been an easy decision once things had calmed down to ensure Jason was restricted within the force field. There was still the question though of just whom or what the boy had believed he was fighting.
"Alpha how are the other Rangers progressing?" Zordon asked.
They had all wanted to accompany Kat and Tanya, but in the end that had not been feasible. Today they were in battle against a large worm.
The landing had not been bad, but scrambling free of the wreckage had been difficult. Still, Billy had managed.
"Zordon, Alpha, can you hear me?" he called, hoping his communicator would reach Earth. There was silence.
With a sigh he made to explore his temporary home when he saw somebody ahead of him.
"Oh it's you," he said, relief crossing his face. "What are you doing here?" He was too far away to be heard though. One thing was certain, he was saved.
He could still hear Kat's voice, begging him to come back, telling him how much they loved him, and asking God to send him back. The black nothingness of death was behind him now, but still pulling him toward oblivion. The virus was still acting even though he wanted to live more than anything; his wants had very little bearing on how events played out. He felt he was caught in a struggle between life and death. He was in that struggle and the outcome was not at all clear to him. It seemed that he was in a timeless place where the drama of life and death could go on forever. He felt himself growing weak in his struggle to live. The virus wanted death, wanted death too strongly.
Yet, every time the blackness seemed to be getting the upper hand, he could hear Kat and Tanya calling him back, if not their words, pleading with him, pleading to the God for his life. He could feel Zordon's presence near him, he could even feel his touch, a touch that seemed like a burning fire on ice, the coldness of death lay over his whole body. That he could even feel Zordon's touch was a sign of how near to death he had become for even if he wanted to, Zordon could never touch anyone.
Finally he sank, exhausted, knowing that the blackness would overcome him. He cried: he cried because of his cowardice; he cried for his lost life. He cried for all those he could not protect and his fellow Rangers who would be forced to carry on in his absence. He prayed that should he die they would know that he wanted them to carry on.
Then his awareness was swallowed into oblivion.
Slowly the darkness disappeared, displaced by the light that seeped in slowly at first, but then with increasing speed. The intensity of the light grew stronger and stronger, aided by the impeccably white surroundings.
Jason watched these changes, but saw nothing. He seemed almost to be in some sort of trance. When the transformation finally ceased, he fell down on the ground, but awoke with a start. He had no recollection of anything. Stranger still was his ignorance of the fact that he was still only in a dream. To him, everything that transpired now was real.
He shivered. ~It's so cold, ~ he thought drowsily to himself. He stood up slowly, and finally discovered the reason behind the frosty temperature. Everywhere around him was covered thickly with snow. He brushed the snow off his back quickly as surveyed his surroundings.
"Where am I?" he voiced his thoughts aloud. So far it seemed that he was alone. He shivered again, shying away from the arctic wind that blew past him. He couldn't think how he had gotten there. It confused and scared him that he couldn't remember anything.
The snow crunched beneath his shoes as he continued forward. ~I wish I knew where I was going,~ he thought. He really had no choice but to go forward.
He rubbed his arms vigorously in an attempt to keep warm. Jeans and a sleeveless shirt were not exactly an optimal outfit for keeping warm on a wintry day in the arctic weather. Still, he trekked forward through the snow slowly, but with increasing difficulty as the drifts were becoming deeper and deeper.
He stopped in place as he looked up at the sky. Dark clouds were rolling in from the south, eclipsing the sun, which seemed to radiate no warmth, only the blinding light reflected by the snow. As of now it was not snowing, and he hoped it would remain as such. Being caught in a snowstorm was not his idea of fun.
He looked back down, but he realised something was wrong. So very wrong.
A chilling fear, colder than the wintry temperature, gripped him as he stared at the snow. It was no longer white. Somehow it had changed to a shade of red. Only one reason presented itself to him, one he didn't he didn't want to believe, and one that he refused to acknowledge as a possibility.
He finally forced herself to step forward and follow the scarlet trail. ~Nothing's wrong,~ he told to himself. ~It can't be. Everything is fine,~ he lied to himself. But even he didn't believe his own lie. He knew he wouldn't feel so terrified if everything was indeed fine.
The shade of the snow became darker and darker red, crimson in colour. But still, the source remained unknown.
Moments later, his search was over. He found what she was looking for or more importantly, who he was looking for.
"T-Tanya," his voice quivered as he spoke. His eyes were wide, his expression terrified.
She was laying face down in the snow, but the scarlet trail ended where she was.
"Oh god," he whimpered. "Tanya."
He dropped down to his knees in the snow. This was too much. It was too much for him.
"Tanya, wake up," he pleaded, crawling closer to her.
The body remained motionless and it was only the beginning; he knew there were more bodies to find. He found Alpha not too far away, the little android's head dented beyond recognition. He was afraid to touch him, but knew that whether he did so or not it would make little difference. Alpha was gone. The glass the machine held in his battered hand was all that Jason expected to find of Zordon, he was wrong.
And finally Kat, beautiful Kat, the light of his best friend's world, lay motionless with her uniform torn to shreds. He reached out to touch her and wished he had remained still. Kat's skin was like ice.
He ran no longer wanting to see them, trying to make himself believe he had not seen them. If he didn't know, then he could pretend that nothing was wrong. He could pretend that they were fine. Pretend that nothing was wrong.
As he ran, he finally reached him and the sight brought him to his knees once more. Zordon of Eltare lay lifeless before him. There was no noble warrior, just the head that the Rangers had long associated with their mentor. He stared for a moment, his eyes huge. He drew a quivery breath before reaching out to him. Immediately he retracted his hand. He was cold, so very cold.
"Zordon," he repeated insistently. "Zordon, wake up. I need you." His voice broke in the middle of the sentence. At last he reached out to him again. He pulled him over gently. He bit his lip hard as he struggled to keep from crying. ~Tanya, Kat, Alpha and Zordon, all gone. Why bother to fight anymore? ~
"This is not happening," he repeated to himself over and over again. He buried his face in his hands. "This is not happening."
And as he sat there despairing he failed to see the blackness that once more threatened to consume him.
The ship plummeted from space, through the atmosphere of the small planet.
"Hold on to something!" Tanya shouted over the noise of the ship.
"I-I'm t-t-trying t-to," stuttered Kat as the ship vibrated violently. They should have taken a seat and buckled up a while ago, but the sudden descent had come much more quickly than they had anticipated and had caught them both by surprise.
They braced themselves for the impact that would inevitably strike the ship as they landed, but it did not come. Zordon had built the Earth's Fire well and at the last moment it stopped and gently settled on the surface. Even so after the shock of free fall the stop had its own effects. Kat lost her grip on the chair she had been clinging to frantically and was knocked back against the door of the control room.
"Ow!" she exclaimed indignantly. Tanya, however, had managed to stay standing and was already surveying the land around them through the window. ~No fair,~ thought Kat, ~why am I always the one who falls?~ Though that wasn't entirely true, Adam was klutzier than she was at times. ~But then how many times has Adam called Tommy for help?~
"Come on," Tanya prompted in her usual manner. "Let's go."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," muttered Kat as she stood up slowly, rubbing the back of her head.
She moved to the console and checked the atmosphere outside. When it appeared safe, Tanya punched a few buttons on a panel near the door, opening it. She stepped outside cautiously, but as far as she could tell, there was nothing wrong.
Kat appeared next to her a moment later.
"Not bad," she commented as she noticed how the ship had landed. "We're not going to get far on foot though."
True enough the landscape was filled with chasms caused by the destruction of the planet's core.
"Cyber Sliders, online!" Tanya called, referring to the hovering skateboards Alpha had placed in the storage bay.
By mutual agreement they took off in opposite directions. They didn't know where to start looking but they at least knew that it had to be someplace where plants could grow.
"Any ideas as to where we should look?" questioned Tanya over her communicator.
"Um… maybe near some water," suggested Kat. It stood to reason that for a flower to survive there must be a source of water somewhere.
"Good idea," acknowledged Tanya. They continued in silence. At least now they knew what to look for, a river, a lake, some other source of water. At least they had something to go on.
Five hours later, the search for water continued. At first glance, the planet had appeared rather small, but it had proven itself to be large enough to slow their expedition tremendously. They had reunited and taken to flying over the arid, desert-like terrain quickly.
"Hey look!" shouted Kat, excitedly.
"What is it?" questioned Tanya, hopefully.
"There, see?" replied Kat, pointed towards the east. "See it? There looks like there's a forest there or something."
"Hey, you're right!"
They picked up their speed considerably and reached the forest-like area quickly. Tanya remained hovering high over it for a moment as she took in the surroundings. The forest stretched only a limited distance, maybe five miles on each side, surrounded on all sides by more of the desert area.
"It's got to be here," she reasoned to herself.
"See anything?" called out Kat from below.
"No. Let's split up," suggested Tanya.
"All right. We'll meet back here in two hours," said Kat as she wandered into the forest by herself. They would cover more ground this way than they would if they searched together.
Tanya slowly dropped to the ground, surveying the land around her as she descended. She saw a waterfall a short distance away, and that was where she was headed.
She walked silently through the forest, taking in everything in a glance. There seemed to be no other form of life on this planet. They had seen absolutely no traces of any sort of life besides the vegetation that was so scarce. But then again, the planet's climate seemed hostile towards supporting life. The heat was stifling, and excluding this forest, there was no shade anywhere.
That had not always been the case. The files on the Earth's Fire had revealed how Crystal had once been a popular world to visit filled with many types of wildlife.
For some reason, walking through the forest alone like this reminded her of the first day Jason had gone to school with them after returning from the Peace Conference. She smiled at the memory. He had been so lost about everything, clueless really. So much had changed since the days when he had been there with Zack and Trini. Kat remembered it had been the first time Jason had looked remotely vulnerable. But he did exceptionally well at fitting in and he excelled at the schoolwork itself, which was rather surprising considering that the time he had spent away from regular study.
But then Jason was not the shy type and very little phased him for long. It had taken a few days but by the end of the first week he had reacquainted himself with many of his old friends and his relationship with Tommy and Billy had seemed stronger than ever.
Tanya continued searching the flora of the forest carefully, but she could see nothing that resembled a rose. In fact, there seemed to be no flowers at all. Nonetheless, she continued forward resolutely. Moments later she reached the waterfall.
The water roared as it fell upon the rocks below. The noise was deafening, but Tanya finally saw something that assured her that she was headed in the right direction. Near the base of the waterfall were small yellowish flowers.
"Yes," she celebrated to himself. She considered leaving to look for Kat, but decided against it as she had no way of knowing if the flower really was nearby.
And so for the next hour she searched, and searched, and searched, and searched. Still, she couldn't find it.
"This doesn't make sense," she spoke to herself. "It has to be around here somewhere."
If only Zordon had given them more information to go on, but they still hadn't been able to contact him again.
Tanya stood still for a moment as she considered what to do next. She had searched everywhere at the base of the waterfall as well as the area at the top of the cascade, and she had come up empty. There had to be somewhere she wasn't looking. Someplace she hadn't checked yet. ~Perhaps somewhere where the flower would be safe from those who would steal it?~ The computer had revealed that the roots of the flower were capable of restoring the planet in time. ~It's a shame time might not be on the flower's side.~
She flew up close to the waterfall, the water quickly soaking her Cyber Slider. Something had caught her attention, and she wasn't about to let a little water stop her.
Behind the waterfall was a small cave, shallow enough to be sufficiently lit by the light that shone through the water.
"It has to be here," she repeated to herself, as she slipped behind the waterfall and into the mouth of the cave. The air felt damp and humid, but there were a few species of flowers that he no yet seen growing within the cave. Finally in the deepest corner of the cave s he saw a ray of light, and at last he found the flower she sought.
"Tired, tired, tired," repeated Kat to herself as she walked forward numbly. She felt as though she had been walking for ages. It wouldn't have been nearly so bad if it hadn't been so very hot. Even the trees couldn't lessen the blazing temperature much. Neither Kat nor Tanya had noticed how thin the Oxygen had become.
It had been nearly seven hours since they had left their ship. She had nothing to show for her long search and was now making her way back. She could only hope that Tanya had been more successful.
Kat tilted her head back to observe the sky. There were two suns in the sky, and presumably there were still more elsewhere on the planet. The suns of this planet were closer than the sun was to the earth; thus making the temperature much higher than it usually was on earth. And on top of that, there was not a cloud in the sky.
Finally she made it back to the spot where they had agreed to meet. There was no sign of Tanya yet, a good indication that just maybe she was close to finding it.
Then, Kat heard the leaves rustle somewhere nearby. She tensed immediately. They had seen no traces of anything living besides the vegetation, and there was no wind blowing. Something else must have made that noise.
Fifteen minutes after she had entered the cave; Tanya was leaving with a handful of the flowers. She wasn't sure how many they would need or even what part of the flower they needed, but she would rather have too many than not enough. She had made sure that there were enough left to survive.
The Blue Flowers of Crystal did have a striking resemblance to a rose except for being blue. She assumed that the flower had no thorns because there was nothing to protect itself from on this planet. It had been growing underneath a beam of light that was let in through a small opening on the roof of the cave. She had missed the small hole while she had been exploring the area at the top of the waterfall. No doubt the flower had needed both a good deal of water and sunlight to survive.
Tanya continued on her way back in good spirits. She couldn't wait to show Kat that she had found the flower. It had taken them much less time than they had expected to find it, and now they could head back. If all went well, they would be back with plenty of time to spare.
Tanya counted back the days in her mind quickly, and was happy with the result.
~Now all we have to do is get home,~ thought Tanya.
Then she heard Kat scream.
Later, it had to have been later, but time meant nothing in this place, he became aware again. He could see the blackness of death was still in this place with him, but it seemed farther away than before. He still felt the iciness of death throughout his body, but somewhere within; there was a glow, a spot of warmth. He felt nothing beyond the coldness and the tiny warm glow, the tiny spark of life within. He didn't know how, because he could feel nothing outside himself, but he knew that something had changed. Kat and Tanya had left to find something to help him and that had given him the strength to fight once more.
He started to relax his vigil against the blackness and it started advancing again. Once again, all the strength left in him focussed on running from death to life. He willed himself to keep going, to keep running, to crawl if need be, to escape that blackness. He fought until he had once again left the blackness behind and, once again, sank into the place of unawareness. But he was not dead yet! There was still hope that if he struggled hard enough, he could escape death and return to the Land of the Living. Power Rangers did not die that easily.
Kat listened warily for another sound. A full minute had passed since he had last heard anything, and she was beginning to wonder whether her mind was playing tricks on him. But she was certain she had seen something and that it had not been friendly.
This time she was certain she heard it and that it was going to crush her.
"Behold the Stomper!" the thing said.
Kat stared at the blue skinned creature for a moment as she tried to decide what it was. Its head, neck and shoulders were covered in silver armour, its body was red and its legs green. It crouched and then leapt into the air. When it landed the ground quaked.
"I stomp you!"
"Zeo Ranger I - Crane!" Kat called.
She barely moved as the Stomper crashed through her Cyber Slider. Powered by the Gem Coin, Kat started a deadly game of hit and run as she used her Gem Coin Pistol to wear down the Stomper.
Something yellow flashed past as Tanya connected with her own move. The Stomper landed on his back and struggled to get back up, but like a crab he was stranded. The ground beneath opened under his weight and the trauma caused by his jumping. A moment later he had fallen into what remained of the molten core.
He became aware again. Who knew how long he had been unaware? There is no time in this place. As he looked about him, he discovered the blackness had drawn nearer than it had been when he lost awareness, but it was not nearly where it had been before his friends had given him strength. Once again - how did he know? He felt nothing, yet he did - he knew that Tanya had kissed him on the forehead. As her lips touched him, he felt a sudden surge of strength and the blackness immediately retreated. As Kat place her hand on his shoulder and began speaking - he still could not make out the words, but the message was clear - he looked ahead and saw, not blackness and not light, but a greyness that seemed to have substance.
The noise took both Rangers by surprise and they spun around trying to find the source.
"Who's there?" Pink Gem Coin asked uncertainly. But if the source of the noise were some inhabitant of Planet Crystal, then they would most likely be unable to understand her even with the Power to act as a translator. In any case, she had to at least try to find out what had made the noise.
"Kat, head's up!" called out Tanya as she suddenly appeared above Kat on her Cyber Slider. She had decided the easiest way to see was to get an aerial view.
"Hey did you just hear something?" asked Kat. She didn't wait for an answer however because she caught sight of the blue flowers Tanya carried. "You found it?"
"You bet," answered Tanya, "just a few minutes ago."
"Where'd you find it?" asked Kat. "I looked all over the place - everywhere - but I couldn't even find any flowers."
"Find what?" asked a familiar voice. "Of course the Blue Rose of Crystal requires four substantial ingredients to ensure successful cultivation. Water, Fertiliser, Soil and the Pot made by a Morphin Master to focus the magical powers of the planet. The flower requires intense bursts of solar energy and liquid refreshment. And might I add…"
Kat's eyes grew wide as he turned around. ~It can't be,~ she thought. The look of surprise on Kat's face showed just how unexpected this turn of events was. She had thought of her friend frequently since he had left them, but never expected him to be here.
"BILLY!" Kat and Tanya cried as they embraced their former comrade.
"What are you doing here?" questioned Kat, astounded.
"Tanya, Kat?" Billy grinned as he recognised his friends, "I was just floating by and thought I'd drop in." He looked them over. "What are you wearing?"
"But I thought - weren't you -- how did you --" Kat tried to ask, but the many questions came out incomplete.
"Whoa, slow down there," laughed Billy.
Kat grinned sheepishly as she tried again, "I thought you were still on Aquitar. How did you know?"
Billy's face changed and a look of anger could be detected for a few seconds. He recovered quickly though.
"Aquitar has been attacked," he said finally. "I managed to escape and ended up here. Now, why are you here?"
They filled him in and Billy's face fell.
"We need to get this back to him. Unless you want to stay here longer."
"No!" answered Kat and Tanya hurriedly.
Billy chuckled. He pulled out a strange controller and pressed a few buttons. The Earth's Fire could be seen flying over the horizon under perfect control. "Multifunction remote control," he told them as he took their hands and the three of them teleported to the Earth's Fire, which then left Crystal for home.
He knew that he was alive and would live when sheer terror struck him. He felt as though a steel band had been placed around his chest. He couldn't breathe! Some demon had been torturing him with the belief that he was going to live. Now he would die! All his dreams, all his struggles were just that, dreams, foolish dreams. He fell to the ground, tears streaming, but not weeping since he couldn't breathe. As hard as he tried, he could not get his lungs to pull air into his body. He heard the darkness laughing.
He felt himself floating and as he stared down he could see his body on the bed. He tried to go back, but his way was blocked. All he felt was pain as if fire ants were consuming him. As he pulled away, the ants ceased their attack. He tried again, but couldn't get past the pain, which grew steadily worse the longer he tried to return. Desperate to end the pain, he retreated, but that was no longer an option.
Blocking his retreat was a large black scale with huge scales and sharp fangs. Its eyes were emerald green. He turned to run, but a swift swipe from its tail knocked him to the ground.
The scene changed. No longer was he in the Power Chamber; he was in a large garden surrounded by plants and trees. It was the perfect hiding ground for a snake.
His instinct to survive took over as he seized a large log and wielded it like a club. He looked around nervously, waiting for it to strike. When it did, it came not from the side, but from below. The snake burst through the ground and tried to catch Jason off guard. The former Red Ranger moved in time, but the fangs tore into his clothes and he was hurled into the air.
Jason landed hard on his leg, the impact causing fruit to fall from a nearby tree. He swiftly jammed the log into the snake's mouth as it tried to catch him a second time. He rolled uncomfortably as the log shattered into splinters and sprayed towards him. The snake seemed to howl in pain as several pieces on the log jammed in its tongue.
"Yyyyyouuu cannnnot esssssss-cape meeeeeee Jassssss-on," it hissed.
Its tail swiped at his legs again and there was a loud crack from his left knee. Jason howled as he struggled to remain upright. His scream grew louder as the tail wrapped around him and squeezed.
He knew Tommy's voice even in this strange place. He looked for his friend but only for a moment; the snake's squeezing was occupying most of his attention.
Then he saw them, Tommy and Trey, ready to help him. They raised their hands and lightning streaked towards him; Tommy fired green lightning while Trey unleashed bolts of gold lightning. The pain he had felt from the snake was nothing compared to the pain Tommy and Trey inflicted. The lightning continued until he felt he couldn't take it anymore. If he had been alive, he would have morphed, but he was dead and the lightning continued.
A few more bolts and Jason couldn't take anymore. His body bursting with the excess electrical energy, his anger and will to win never higher, he knew he couldn't give up.
"Gold Ranger Power!"
Somehow Tommy and Trey had given Jason the means to fight on. The pain they had inflicted had caused his body to transform. The Power flowed into him, overloading him for an instant before the safeguards triggered his powers.
The snake hissed loudly and tightened its grip. Despite having a sword Jason couldn't use it due to the position of his arms. As strong as he was when morphed, he couldn't break free. He just wasn't strong enough. He could feel the pain in his head from the overload he had subjected it to. He was short of time and desperate, the coils were growing tighter by the second. With nothing to lose he threw his sword towards the ground and was rewarded when it pierced the snake's tail. For a moment the pressure ceased and he was able to free fall to the ground.
He swiftly retrieved his broadsword now he was able to use it. As the snake attacked again, he ducked and drove his sword into its throat. The snake exploded and Jason was returned to the darkness.
Minion's Island, Gulf of Mexico
The installation was complete and the charging of Serpenterra's new reactor had started. Venjix it seemed had developed an amazing knowledge of the machine as he had helped Bronzo upgrade some of Zedd's more antiquated technology. Most magical wielding villains did not both themselves with technology. It was easy for Minion to see why.
Minion was pleased with the progress he had made. The delay had been unfortunate, but sending Arcana to battle the Rangers and keeping the rest of the team off balance had meant that they had not benefited from his misfortune. And in the meantime he had been able to set yet another plan into motion.
~ Let them continue to believe they won this round, when the time is right they will discover that Minion doesn't lose unless Minion desires to lose.~
"You have done well, Arcana," he said, looking over the battered wizard. He suspected the Rangers thought they had seen the last of the spell weaver. How wrong they were. "Now, go and get cleaned up. Minion has other business to attend to."