Disclaimer: The Power Rangers are the property of Saban Entertainment and I lay no claim to them. Jeffrey Kincaid, Lord Crucible, and all other characters relating to them belong to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org John Chubb. This story continues the sage of the COE Night Rangers and its events occur after Thrill of the Night.
Lost in the Night
Life as a Night Ranger was a constant struggle for dominance. Although bound by ritual contract, the enslaved spirits within the Night Morphers did not rest. They whispered constantly in the minds of those that used their powers, testing the resolve of those that bound them. And with every dark creature they defeated, the Night Rangers added to the creatures that wanted nothing more than to break free and claim those that had used them for so long.
With meditation and constant awareness it was possible to drive the voices to the back of the mind and ignore them. But the exposure to darkness had side effects. Night Rangers were considered dark and broody because of the aura they projected. That aura was a reflection of the inner torment they endured - for many Night Rangers suffered bouts of severe depression. It was essential that they followed the teachings of the Night Fighters and sought help to handle those emotions.
Unfortunately some chose not to take advantage of the help that was available. And the longer they refused aid the greater the risk they posed to those around them. For the spirits within the Night Morphers could sense weakness and for Night Ranger that failed to protect his mind there was the danger that they would be consumed by the darkness. Unfortunately for Mark Kinega, his companions had missed the warning signs until it was too late.
The mission had been successful. Intelligence received by the Night Fighters had suggested that something was amiss on Ceti Omega II. One of the Night Rangers had been sent to investigate and had uncovered a dark cult operating in the heart of one of the world's capital cities. From there the Night Rangers had infiltrated the cult and exposed the spirits that they served. In doing so they had stopped a gang of lust driven rapists and freed the young maidens they had sought to use; it later turned out the rapists themselves were victims of the cults magic and would have been consumed by the dark spirits the moment they had completed their heinous acts. With their part done the Night Rangers had departed, allowing the Night Fighters to converge on the planet to remove any residual taint.
The Night Rangers did not party after a successful mission, but they realise that such occasions were the few times that they saw each other; their obligations as leaders of the Night Fighters meant that the Night Rangers were often require to operate as individuals and rarely as a complete team. It was a time to catch up and exchange tales of their exploits. However it was obvious that one of their number was not enjoying himself: Mark Kinega, the Red Night Ranger and the team's longest serving member if only by a few months, was unusually quiet.
"Hey Mark, are you all right?" Anna asked.
"Did you know one of those girls died in my arms?" Mark asked.
There had been a crossfire and despite their best efforts to shield the innocents, a few had been unfortunate enough to stray into the path of enemy fire. That the man who had fired the shot had been released after he had been deemed a victim had not sat well with Mark.
"Why do we do this? We go out there and help people day in and day out, and what do we achieve? The innocent are slaughtered while their murderers walk free. We clean out one group of cultists and more take their place. More victims... More cries for help... More people needing us who then turn on us when they realise who we are...."
The authorities had not shown any gratitude for their actions and had ordered them off the planet.
"Do we even make a difference anymore? We seem to go round in circles accomplishing nothing. And what do we get out of it aside from people threatening us? Aren't we entitled to lives too or are they all just gobbled up in service to a universe that would rather we did not exist?"
"Mark what are you saying?" Jeff asked.
There was a growing unease among the Night Rangers. They had been taught the signs to look out for, the hints that one of their number was starting to succumb to the darkness of the powers. But why had the Night Fighters that served under him failed to notice?
It was clear that this was not the same Mark that had recruited him. This was not the Mark Kinega who had taken him to become a Ranger and had then helped him through the ordeal with the Mirror of Night. This was not the man that had overseen the recruitment of the remaining Night Rangers. Something had changed and Jeff's instincts were screaming at him to find out what.
Surprisingly it had not taken long to find the last members of the team. Mark had chosen most of his team before having to search for a Blue Ranger. Indeed Kincaid had been the most difficult person to find.
For the Yellow Night Ranger he had chosen Anna Hawker, an unfortunate child who had been forced to turn tricks in a brothel at sixteen after her father had sold her. Kincaid had been outraged when he had first heard her story, but that had given way to shock when she had told him it was an expected tradition of her planet.
For Pink, Mark had selected a beautiful light haired girl named Ishalla Nab'ri. Ishalla was a telepath who came from the war torn planet of Polynices. She had joined them as a way of escaping the pressure to to enhance her gifts and use them to further the destruction of her world.
Black Night Ranger was Krolos of KO-35, a planet that was on the brink of collapse following recent attacks. Krolos was motivated by revenge and as such he was the Ranger the others had been told to watch.
"Meaning I'm tired of being the good guy that walks in shadows and losing myself in the process," Mark answered. "Jeff, you should understand this. I know you feel the same way that I do. Aren't you tired of that damn alarm going off always calling you away to save some distant planet while your own life goes down the tubes. AREN'T YOU TIRED OF LOSING YOURSELF? AREN'T YOU TIRED OF ALWAYS GETTING SHAFTED WHEN IT COMES TO LIFE?!"
Jeff did understand, but didn't know what to do about it. Neither did other Night Rangers. Mark had been involved in the fight against the demons that lurked in the darkness much longer than the others. He had finished his training decades earlier, but had been forced to wait before claiming the powers of the Red Night Ranger. But once in the field it seemed Mark had not been prepared for the toll such a role would take.
"Every day it's the same old thing. Help this person, help that person, and in the end it's always the same. They need help, we go to help them and what do we get? More people wanting help, at the cost of our own lives! I'm sick of this I want something better!"
Mark powered down completely and removed his morpher and communicator. Almost immediately his mood seemed to improve causing Jeff to eye the morpher suspiciously.
"I - I need time to think," Mark said. "I'm going to take a walk."
He stalked out of the Night Ranger base. Ishalla tried to go after him but Jeff held her back.
"He needs time to cool off," he whispered. "Give him time."
Being a Night Ranger was not a simple thing. It messed with the lives of those that carried the burden more-so than that of regular Rangers. Relationships became strained, families could break up almost overnight. It was a life of solitude and misery with little reward. Jeff had gone through an emotional break up recently, and it was taking all he had to keep from falling into depression. He had a feeling something worse had happened to Mark.
But as he sat back and promised that he would ask the elders to speak to Mark and examine the Red Ranger's Night Morpher, he knew that there was little he could do until his leader was willing to talk. Little did he realize that by that time it would be too late and that Mark's breakdown was the beginning of the end of the Night Rangers.