Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, they belong to their respective copyright owners. This fic takes place in the Conquest of Evil Universe
Friendship beyond Death
Less than a year earlier
In a deserted warehouse outside the city two figures watched as a third walked into the open.
"Bulky, I'm bored," Skull complained from their hiding place behind some storage cans. "We've been watching this Ryan guy for hours. When are we going to go home?"
"Quiet Skull," Bulk hissed. "You know the boss said this guy is dangerous. Do you want to end up dead?"
Bulk and Skull had been in Spy Training ever since coming to France. To start with their training had been mostly physical training with a lot of paperwork. Both had benefited from the training. Skull had developed a sporting physique with good definition, built for speed and strength. Bulk on the other hand had lost most of his weight and replaced it was muscle. He now resembled a football player Angel Grove High would have killed for.
In addition both had been taught to defend themselves and Skull's Swordsmanship training had improved on the previous lessons his uncle had given him.
Both men had matured since being away from Angel Grove. They'd met new friends and colleagues and stopped fooling around. Both now bore a greater responsibility since they were able to carry guns.
Unfortunately patience was one of the things neither boy had learnt yet. Both were still eager to please Inspector Klauseau, so when he had given them their first assignment they had jumped at the chance. A number of disappearances had taken place over the last few months and two names had been constant in each report: Richard Ryan and William Kincaid.
"Hey look!" Skull said.
Looking over towards the man they had been sent to trail they noticed a tall black man standing in front of him. From their position Bulk and Skull could see the two men were trash talking and it looked as though Ryan was winning the war of words.
"Whoa!" Bulk exclaimed as he saw the larger man produce a cutlass and swipe at the youth known as Richard Ryan. "That's Kincaid."
"The other guy's got one too!" Skull added noting that Ryan had drawn a military sabre.
A brief battle followed, neither opponent afraid to use under handed tactics to win. After what seemed like hours, Ryan drove his sword into his opponent's stomach.
"He killed him," Bulk whispered.
Skull didn't reply. For some reason he felt compelled to watch what was happening. Ryan was standing over his opponent sword raised over his head.
Ryan yelled something but they could not make out the words as he brought the sword down, slicing through skin, muscle, blood vessels, bone, arteries, muscles and skin.
Bulk and Skull were speechless having just witnessed their first murder. Sure they had seen monsters in Angel Grove and had live with a winged monkey and living skeleton for a few months, but nothing prepared them for what they had just seen.
A strange mist seemed to float from the decapitated body and enter Ryan's body. The head and body disappeared into the smoke.
"We need to go Bulky," Skull said urgently. Something told him what was about to occur. "Run!"
Bright lights filled the building. Something moved in the darkness. A bolt of stray energy hit the canisters that Bulk and Skull had been using for cover igniting the chemicals inside. As the canisters exploded, both boys scrambled to escape, Bulk's larger frame shielded his friend. Then time seemed to stop as another light engulfed them. When it lifted, Bulk was gone.
There was a noise to his right. "Bulk?" Skull asked tentatively.
There was no answer from his larger friend. Pulling himself to his feet he stumbled over to where the noise had originated and found his friend lying face down in the dirt. Skull checked his friend for injury. He didn't need to look very far; a piece of shrapnel was lodged in the back of Bulk's spine. A quick check and Skull knew there was no need to hurry with an ambulance. Farkus Bulkmier, known to the world as Bulk was dead.
Skull's snapped open, sweat soaking through the thin material of his T-shirt. He was shaking, trembling at the memory of his friend's death. He had believed that he was finally moving on with his life, but the dreams just hadn't stopped and since the resumption of hostilities by the Machine Empire and Rita Repulsa. But the nightmares had really started after he had seen Tommy and Goldar clash. For some reason that image had triggered his memory of Ryan and whomever he had killed that night.
"Maybe I should speak to Lita," he said. "Yeah sure, like I'm not already crazy enough, now I'm talking to myself."
Lita Kino was one of Angel Grove's psychologists. In the past she had helped the Rangers deal with the issues that could affect their ability to fight and most recently she had been assigned as part of the Student Services Team at Angel Grove High School. He guessed that if he needed to talk to somebody about Bulk, she would be his best bet.
He didn't notice as something moved outside his window, shuffling off to report to its master.
Miles above the Earth
"Count Dregon, the Maggots you ordered to watch Eugene Skullovitch have reported that the block we placed on the human is starting to fail," Nefaria reported.
That was unfortunate. During his time in Angel Grove, Skullovitch had gotten close to the Power Rangers of Earth. If the block that Dregon and his subordinates had placed on his mind failed, there was a chance the Rangers or worse, the Masked Rider, would discover what they had been up to. And if that happened, then months of research would be ruined.
"Devise a strategy to remove Skullovitch before he remembers," Dregon ordered.
He had a great deal invested in his little research project. Finding a way to deposit his forces on Earth without his nephew's knowledge had proven difficult. Still it had been necessary for him to do so if he wanted to enslave the planet. Since the facility had been put in place, his Maggots had captured as many species of animals as possible. He planned to understand them and then to find a way to mutate them into soldiers; on Edenoi he had used the native insect-type species to enhance the collection of cybernetic and mutated specimens that made up his army.
Of course Edenoi had been one of his favourite conquests. During the invasion he had captured and married King Lexian's daughter, securing himself a place within the Royal Family. He had then joined forces with Edenoi's rogue elements, warlords like Scorpius, and had launched an all out assault on the planet. He had slaughtered his brother-in-law, but a confrontation with King Lexian had left him scarred. Lexian had escaped his forces and had taken his grandson with him. If Dregon had managed to capture the infant Prince Dex, he would have been the legitimate ruler of the planet.
What Dregon had not known at the time - for even now Dregon was the first to admit that he was ignorant of the various heroes operating within his territory - was that Lexian was the holder of the Masked Rider powers. They were powers Dregon could not claim because even though he could duplicate the technology, they were bound to Lexian's lineage.
Instead Dex had been taken into hiding and he had been unable to claim the powers. He had been forced to enslave the fiercely loyal population while he searched for the fugitive king. Then the day he had feared had arrived, Prince Dex was appointed as the Masked Rider for Edenoi. Dregon had not been foolish enough to remain once Dex had motivated the King's forces. He had decided to track down the Power Rangers that had turned up to help his nephew, and in doing so had found his way to Earth.
For two years Dregon had attempted to conquer the planet, using strategies that had worked on other planets. His nephew had thwarted his plans each time. So Dregon had decided to use the creatures of Earth to create a more powerful army that he could turn against the human population.
It had been a stealth operation, carried out while Dregon had continued to send Insectivores to Leewood. He had acquired the services of the Earth's most prominent scientists to help him. While some worked in laboratories using knowledge he provided to break down the genetic coding of all forms of organic life on the planet, others worked to find ways to alter those genetic codes although they had not been told how their research would be used.
Additional special teams had been assembled, some dedicated to investigating mythical islands like Lemuria, Laputa and Animaria, while others had been given leave to search for useable genetic material from the creatures once known as dinosaurs. He had established contacts within the governments of the world, allowing him access to all manner of beasts; if single monster attacks would not work, he planned to bombard the planet with hundreds of mutant soldiers; animal or plant, living or deceased, native or alien, it wouldn't matter once those he employed unlocked the secrets to life itself.
Part of his plans had required him to collect living humans as specimens. Unfortunately when he had sent the Maggots to collect test subjects, he had not specified that they should not take anybody affiliated to Angel Grove, the Power Rangers or his nephew. It should have been an obvious thought, but then Maggots were not known for their mental prowess.
So they would not attract attention, those they had taken had been snatched away from certain death, such as one Farkus Bulkmier who had been taken after being killed during a freak lightning storm. They had not noticed his friend until after the kidnapping and had been forced to alter Skullovitch's memory of the event; kidnapping both Bulk and Skull would have drawn the interest of unwanted parties.
Since his supposed death, Bulk had been the guinea pig for some especially cruel experiments conducted by beautiful yet merciless Ms Canker. He had endured countless hours of discomfort as scientists had attempted to find ways on infusing humans with animal and plant traits before discovering that the trick was to implant plants and animals with genetic material from humans. Further work had already started on combining the properties of plants, animals and technology to form new hybrids and several papers had been produced on how the combination of technology with Org spirits could be used to create new life.
And now months later the block they had used on Skullovitch was starting to break down. Soon he would remember the real events of his friend's kidnapping, and that in turn would lead to the involvement of the Rangers. ~I should have just had the Maggots return him and erased both their memories,~ he thought. ~still, it is Angel Grove and accidents do happen...~
"I calculate a ninety-eight percent chance of exposure if subject achieves total recall, an eighty percent risk of exposure if he achieves partial memory restoration..."
"Thank you, Fact. That will be all," Dregon interrupted before the robot managed to reel off statistics for all the possible outcomes.
"Fact unit has further calculations available."
"Yes well... I get the idea. Report for recharge."
With the annoying yet extremely useful machine that was a clear masterpiece of technology upgraded by Mondo's forces gone, Dregon tapped his mask a few times as if thinking, then smiled. "Nefaria, dear... pick an Insectivore, any Insectivore..."
"Oh, you've been watching the Doom Tree Saga again, haven't you?"
Dregon laughed. "I might actually choose a few Japanese artists to join my court bards after I conquer Earth," he said as he gestured to the shelves that held his monsters. These were his older specimens made from mutated Edenite DNA. Once he unlocked the key to human hybrids though he would replace this outdated collection.
Nefaria smiled seductively and walked over to the shelf. "Hmm... ah!" She grabbed one that looked like a fire ant walking on four of its legs and using the other two as arms. "I choose this one."
Dregon smiled. "Ah... Inferno. I had good results using this one that little rebellion on Theadon," he said, sending the being down to Earth. Inferno would deal with Skullovitch and the humans would be none the wiser.
"Monsieur Skullovitch, I know this is difficult but I would ask you to look at the body in this room and tell me if it is indeed Farkus Bulkmier," the police official said.
"Oui Monsieur," Skull replied.
He gazed at Bulk's body noting the peaceful look on the boy's face. His heart sank, as he thought of life on his own.
"Au revoir, Bulky," Skull said before allowing the morgue officials to show him out.
He remembered that day clearly, the image of his friend lying on the table forever etched in his memory. But something wasn't right about the memory. He hadn't noticed before, there had seemed nothing unusual about the proceedings, which had played out like an old television movie.
And that was a problem. His memory of events was wrong, the morgue had been wrong. As a detective he had visited the building on occasion, and had remarked to Bulk how plain the buildings appeared, certainly not the huge gothic building he had seen on television, or in his memories.
~But why would I remember the wrong building?~ he asked himself.
That thought caused him to remember the events of that fateful night. As he played them back again, he noticed how some incidents were seemed more real than others. Too real, there was a sickly and artificial feel to them.
He didn't notice as he continued to concentrate that his body had started to glow. White and silver light surrounded him, magical energy burning through the false memories as he started to see the truth.
Skull was taken by surprised as power flared around him, locking onto the incoming threat of the Maggots as they arrived. As the light faded, Eugene Skullovitch found himself clad in a white suit with silver decorations. It was similar to the uniforms worn by the Power Rangers, although he could not recall ever seeing them wearing that particular design. It was an interesting material. While it was not solid armour, it wasn't the thin fabric that the Power Rangers were regularly seen in. Leather was the closest description he could think of although as he stared he could see the silvery sheen moving on the surface.
Instinctively, he tried a few kicks, and found that despite the obvious weight of his new uniform, it was extremely easy for him to move. His movements were swift and with a little concentration he could feel himself lifting from the ground.
"Not bad," he grinned, confused about what had just happened, but so used to strange things happening that he wasn't about to panic. "I must be some sort of hero... Let's see what I have for a weapon." Concentrating, he felt a surge of energy and as he extended his hand, the energy coalesced into a long silver sabre. It was a cavalry sabre, approximately two and a half feet long, made of purest silver. Skull had a feeling, however, that it was a lot harder than steel. He tested its weight and heft with a few practice swings and thrusts, letting out a delighted laugh. "It's perfect!" he grinned to himself. "Perfectly balanced. Makes sense, I guess."
Then he remembered where he was, just as the first Maggot lunged forward.
"My Lord, Skullovitch has transformed into an unknown warrior," Cycloptor announced, earning a glare from Nefaria, who had been enjoying the villain's attention. "He has proven highly resistant to the efforts of your Maggots."
"My research shows that humans are very sentimental," Nefaria said before Dregon could respond. "Why not send his friend to retrieve him, since it is their... friendship that is causing us problems."
"Yes, a beautiful plan Nefaria. Send in the Commandoids and instruct them to take Bulkmier with them."
For months he had been kept in a small room. He couldn't call it a cell. For one thing all the cells he had ever seen on television appeared far more comfortable. After his capture, Dreeg or whatever his name was, had subjected him to countless tests before deeming that he would be most useful as cannon fodder. As a result, Farkus Bulkmier had been recruited into Dregon's small army of human slaves.
Except something had not gone to plan. Bulk had not been brainwashed as easily as the other subjects, although certain people would argue that he lacked a brain in the first place. He had kept his independence while hiding his defiance behind a mask.
Bulk was good at wearing masks. He and Skull had worn many masks over the years, mostly to cover up their feelings of loneliness, jealousy and inadequacy. They had played the roles of the bullies, the fools and on occasion the clueless. They had searched for the identity of the Power Rangers because by doing so they had put others off of doing so. They had played bullies, but had done so in such a way that nobody was allowed to bully the other students except them, and they made sure that they were not so much feared as pitied.
Still, when he was pulled from his room and told that he was to be a part of the squad sent to capture Skull, it had taken all the acting skills he possessed not to show the concern he felt. Even as he was forced into line with other conscripts, those who were already too far gone to be saved from Dregon's programming, he was wondering what he could do to get out of the situation with his life. He was so preoccupied that he didn't notice the faint trail of golden sparks that ran the length of his body.
Skull was outnumbered, but with his new powers he managed to overpower his attackers. His sabre made short work of any Maggots foolish enough to move within the arc of his blade. As they swarmed forward though he was unable to hold back the pushing mass of foot-soldiers. A small amount of energy flowing through the tip of the blade allowed it to slice the Maggots in half.
Then a new group of warriors arrived, wearing hockey masks. He found himself surrounded by the strange foot-soldiers and for a moment considered fleeing. That was until one of the Commandoids ploughed into his comrades with a shoulder block. Skull watched, impressed as the large man slammed into the Commandoids.
Bulk knew that he had changed a great deal during his captivity. Not only had he lost weight, the regime had added muscle to his frame. As he shoved the nearest Maggot, he was pleased with the result. His body was pulsing as the same energy that had turned Skull into a superhero, transformed him into a black and gold clad warrior. An axe appeared in his hand as instinct took over and he tore into their collective opponents.
Skull didn't know the identity of the other combatant, but was grateful for the help as together they chopped and hacked their way through their opponents. He found the knowledge he needed miraculously appeared in his mind when he called for it.
"Power Kick!" he cried, ploughing into a group of foot-soldiers.
"Power Punch!" his ally yelled before shoving his way into the throng. "Look out!"
Skull dodged just as the Insectivore that had snuck up behind him hissed out a blast of flame.
"Surrender humans!" The monster's voice was full of clicks and hisses.
Inferno was cut short as both warriors put their bladed weapons aside and opted for something that offered more protection. Metal plates appeared around their upper bodies, forearms and lower legs. A helmet appeared on their respective heads. Their weapons grew bulkier and gleamed as they launched themselves into battle.
"Battle Bike!" they called.
In a lockup garage in the suburbs of Angel Grove, the duo's commands were obeyed. Before they had gone to France they had spent many an hour working on their motorcycle sidecar. And over the years it had been just as affected by the magical activity in the area as they had. So with a little prompting from the Power, the bike was teleported to its waiting masters, ready for combat.
"Wow, this thing never looked better," Skull commented as he climbed onto the bike.
The addition of its rider promptly transformed the bike, making it more streamlined and better protected. The sidecar offered even more protection to the occupant and Bulk promptly clambered inside.
"Yeah, we could never have gotten it to look this good," Bulk agreed.
He sensed the moment that his words sank in. Skull froze, looking at the other hero in disbelief. There was no way this could be happening, the chances were just too remote.
"Bulk?" Skull dared to ask. "BULKIE!"
There was a touching moment as the two friends embraced, each trying to tell the other how good it was to see them again. It was a moment that was interrupted when they discovered just how volatile their new armour could be, and further ruined when the Insectivore decided to attack.
"Hey!" Bulk complained as Skull was forced to rev the engine to avoid the incoming attack. "We're having a moment here."
"Yeah!" Skull added. "A moment... good to have you back Bulkie."
"Good to be back Numbskull," Bulk answered. "Now, let's finish this guy."
Skull directed the bike away from the Insectivore, building up a distance between them before turning back to face him. The bike lurched forward, building up speed and then stopped, launching the sidecar into the monster. The rocket propelled sidecar connected, sent Inferno rolling backwards.
" Power Sabre!"
The Insectivore never stood a chance as two energised weapons split it down the middle. As they turned away from the explosion it suddenly occurred to them that they had been reunited... and they were super heroes.
"Oh boy," Skull remarked as the armour withdrew. "I think we need to talk to the head."
It took a few hours for Bulk and Skull to get over their delight at being reunited and teleported to the Power Chamber, a task made difficult because Bulk had yet to be given a communicator. Once they had arrived though, Zordon and Alpha had worked tirelessly to confirm that it was indeed Bulk.
Once that had been established and Bulk had told his story, they had called the Rangers together. They had also summoned Prince Dex. Their presence was threefold: to continue scanning for the mysterious ship from the night before, to hear Bulk and Skull's story, and to determine how to explain away Bulk's absence.
The latter problem was solved when Skull remembered just how few people had cared about Bulk's death, or even remembered that it had happened. They decided that given Bulk's ability to get into trouble, they would just admit he had been abducted by aliens. The news had been acceptable to most although he had been forced to agree to meet with a scientist to discuss his experience. That done their attention turned to Dex.
For the veteran Masked Rider this turn of events had been unexpected. When his last apprentice, Jesse, had been destroyed during the Minion Crisis, Dex had thought that the powers of Earth's Masked Rider had died with him. Now it seemed that the Power had chosen two new warriors to help put a stop to Dregon. They were not Masked Riders, but they were not Power Rangers either.
"Thank you for the information," he said finally. "Dregon has somehow managed to avoid detection. That will stop today."
"Zordon, what are Bulk and Skull going to do now?" Kimberly asked. She had not let go of her boyfriend since he arrived.
"I will help provide the training they need," Dex offered. "Earth is too valuable a planet not to be protected. I am sure Bulk and Skull will prove invaluable in the fight against Dregon."
After a while the Rangers with the exception of Kimberly had left and Dex had returned to Leewood, allowing Bulk and Skull time to speak with Zordon. There were many things to sort out and the first step was taken later that day when Bulk teleported away to meet with his family, leaving Kimberly and Skull to head to the Juice Bar for a Smoothie.
Zordon watched them go, conflicted by the recent events. He had been pleased that Bulk was alive, even though he had never met him in person. On the other hand he was a strong believer that there had to be balance in the Universe. For the forces of good to have received such a boost for Bulk's return could only mean that there was something sinister on the horizon.
He staggered into the street, right into the path of a young woman heading home after a hard day. He stooped, unable to keep his balance, indifferent to the clatter of tins as she dropped her paper shopping bag and ran to his side.
"Are you okay?" she asked, offering him a handkerchief as he continued to cough. Spots of blood-covered cotton as his body shook in another coughing fit.
"Yes, thank you," he managed between coughs.
He looked ill, on the point of collapse if he didn't have her to hold him up. The woman looked around, hoping there was a phone or at least somebody that could call an ambulance; she didn't think for a moment that leaving the poor man alone would be a good idea.
"You're very kind," the young man told her, wiping a hand across his dark skin. "I'm sorry I have to do this."
She tried to pull away, but his hand gripped her wrist tightly, pulling her close despite her struggles. For the first time she noticed that he was wearing a black glove with raised metal rivets.
"I have some good news and some bad news," he told her, flashing a charming smile as he did so. "The bad news is this will hurt like hell. The good news is that I won't feel a thing."
His hand moved to her throat, squeezing to stop her from catching a breath. The skin on her face grew painfully tight against her skull as her eyes bulged from the pressure. The blood pressure built in the arteries of her neck as her face was set into an agonised grimace. He watched her expression carefully and when it seemed she was on the point of passing out, he put his other hand on the top of her head.
Black energy trailed up his arm and into his chest as he fed on the bio-electrical energy in her body, draining her life into his body where he could use it to stabilise him. He grinned as she passed out and continued to drain her. He took all her energy, killing every cell as he greedily fed.
"I guess I still have that killer smile," he smirked before shimmering away.
End of Part