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. This story actually takes place just before No Clowning Around in Season One of Power Rangers. This chapter does not replace the events in that episode.
No Clowning Around
It was an ordinary day in Angel Grove. The Rangers were enjoying a brief respite from their seemingly never-ending battle with Rita Repulsa. Since the defeat of her Nasty Knight almost a week before, she had ceased her activities. The Rangers of course being teenagers had embraced the free time and were sitting around in the Youth Center discussing what they wanted to do.
"Hey Jase, check that out," Zack said, directing his friend's attention to the counter where Ernie was in deep discussion with two black suited men. "Feds, here?"
"I doubt Rita would attract the attention of the FBI," Billy commented. All the Rangers had been disappointed to learn that while a Galactic crime, conquering the world was not actually illegal on Earth.
"They're looking for someone though," Zack argued as he watched the two men handed Ernie a small flyer.
"Hey guys, guess what?" Kimberly said as she and Trini joined their friends, the latter picking up that something was worrying them. Kim waited for them to ask what she was referring to and then showed them a flyer, similar to the one the Feds as Zack had labelled them were pointing out to Ernie. "There's a circus in town," she announced, showing them the advert for Jolly Jack's Circus featuring a show that was guaranteed to be a killer.
"That's the same flyer they're showing Ernie," Zack pointed out.
"Maybe they're worried about a crime spree linked to the circus," Trini suggested after pondering the scenario.
Ernie chose that moment to look over in their direction. Hey guys, come here a minute," he called to them. The teens exchanged nervous glances and then shrugging, walked over to see what he wanted. "I need a favour from you five. This is Special Agent Johnson and-- Special Agent Johnson."
"No relation," the older one remarked. Although his voice remained serious, it made the teens grin and removed some of the tension.
"FBI," the other one, a younger black man told them, showing his id badge as he did so.
"We need you guys to get the word out to your friends and families," the older one told them.
"About what?" Billy asked.
"Look guys, they can't tell you too much, but we need you to warn your friends to stay away from the circus for the next few days while it's being set up. We don't want anybody getting hurt."
"Okay, we'll spread the word," Jason agreed.
"Thanks guys, this is why they came here, to get me to warn as many people as possible."
"Okay Ernie," Trini said softly as the teens filed away.
"Did you guys buy any of that?" Zack asked as they returned to their seats.
"Negative," Billy answered. "A circus does not take days to set up. They were obviously worried about something and wanted to ensure the minimum chance of civilian injuries by warning people off."
"Yeah, but what are they really looking for?" Zack mused.
"Um you guys, I know this is really strange, but Jolly Jack's Circus was a front for the Joker in Gotham City," Kim pointed out. She saw the surprised looks on their faces and blushed slightly. "My Uncle Steve has had an unhealthy interest in super heroes for years. He has clippings on all of them; Batman, Green Lantern, Hornet... even the Power Rangers."
"So do you think they could be after Joker?" Trini asked, feeling a shiver as she said the name.
The Rangers had been fighting Rita Repulsa for several months now, but it seemed that no matter what scheme she managed, she had yet to kill anybody just for the fun of it. The Joker was another matter entirely, although not old enough to remember some of the atrocities he had committed, the Rangers could recall some of his more recent crimes; the Joker had a way of making headline news whenever he escaped.
"It would make sense," Jason answered.
"Can they even touch him now?" Zack asked. "I read somewhere he had diplomatic immunity."
"I don't think he's an ambassador anymore," Trini told him.
Their conversation came to a halt when Ernie walked over to their table, accompanied by a tall, handsome man who looked to be in his mid to late thirties.
"Thanks for helping out guys, we just need people to stay away and let the professionals do their work without being too obvious about it."
"Not a problem Ernie," Trini replied.
"Yeah we'll let our classes know that the site is unsafe at the moment and they should stay away."
"Maybe we should add in a warning about not going off with strange clowns," Zack half-joked. He didn't fail to notice the grimace that passed across Ernie's face. His companion's expression remained the same although his eyes did narrow slightly.
"That's a good idea Zack. Repeating the messages never hurts," Ernie said. "Anyway, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine who's in town for a few days. Jason, Billy, Trini, Zack, Kim, this is Bruce Wayne, an old friend of mine."
"The Bruce Wayne?" Zack said, "As in the owner of Wayne Industries? As in one of the richest men, if not the richest man, in the world?"
"That's right," Bruce said, smiling politely at the inquisitive teenager. "Nice to meet you all." He extended his hand and shook each of theirs.
"Care to join us, Mr. Wayne?" Jason asked politely.
"No thanks," Bruce said, "I just came in to see how Ernie's doing. The Wayne Foundation has some shares in the Youth Center as part of its Outreach Program. This is just the yearly check."
Kim looked over at the entrance and saw two young men standing there. "Hey," she said, "Who're they?" She motioned over to the young men.
"Oh, that's Timothy Drake," Bruce said, "My ward, in a manner of speaking. And that's Wesley Collin, his cousin. Wesley's father and I do business together, so I said I'd bring the boys out for the day. Hey, Tim, Wes." He waved to the young men, who came over. Both Kim and Trini gave them the once over unconsciously. Zack shook his head and tried to hide a grin as he thought about the teasing he could do later.
"Hi, Bruce," Tim said, "What's up?" He noticed the gang sitting at the table, his eyes drifting to Kim. "Hi, I'm Timothy Drake. People like to call me Tim."
"Hi, Tim," Jason said, "I'm Jason." They shook hands. Jason nodded to each of his friends in turn. "This is Kimberly, Trini, Billy, and Zack."
"And I'm Wesley Collins, although only my father and school friends insist on calling me that; I prefer to be called Wes." There seemed to be some bitterness in the preppy teen's tone and they saw Tim offer him a sympathetic look.
"I'm sure your father will come around eventually," Bruce promised the upset teen. "Just remember he's only doing his best."
Bruce didn't add that Wes's father's best efforts left a great deal to be desired. Still, his lifestyle didn't win him any father of the year awards.
"Well, We've got to be going," Bruce said, "I have to check over the paperwork for a business deal and the boys have a meeting with some old teachers of mine. It was nice meeting you all."
"You too, Mr. Wayne," Trini said politely.
"And, please, call me Bruce," Bruce said, "Being called Mr. Wayne makes me feel old." They all laughed. "I'll probably be by later, Ernie. You know me, can't keep my nose out of the Center's business."
The two boys said goodbye and followed the adult out of the building.
Ernie shook his head as he watched them go. "That is one of the most confusing men I've ever met. He takes no interest in the books or receipts, but notices the punching bag is a little worn. I bet you anything that I'll walk in next week and find he's replaced all the equipment."
"Tim's so cute," Kim said wistfully. The guys shook their heads and as Ernie walked away, the conversation turned to other things.
Most people would have been shocked, surprised or even terrified if they were whisked away from what they were doing and teleported to the Moon. Then to be confronted by a wand-waving witch with a painfully loud voice would have caused them to question their sanity. Not the Joker though. He was not like most people because, as he had stated on more than one occasion, he was quite certifiably insane. Oh sure he was a genius when it came to chemistry and psychology, but the fact remained that he was easily a few cards short of a pack.
Currently he was laughing at Baboo, who had stupidly taken the criminal's hand only to discover the fifty thousand volt joy buzzer he kept there.
"Smile," he taunted Rita. "All fun and no play makes Rita a very dull witch. And I hate dull people; they remind me too much of Batboy."
"You hate him?" Rita asked, trying to learn more about the man she intended to use against the Rangers. Fear was not going to be enough; she could tell he didn't have the sense to be afraid of her. And a mind control spell required a shred of sanity to stick to. All things considered, that left negotiation. "I can get rid of him for you."
That made Joker laugh even harder. "You, kill him?" He made a show of hiding his head in the crook of his arm while leaning on Goldar. The whole time he continued laughing although he was actually studying the alien for weak points. Then abruptly, the laughter stopped and mirth was replaced by anger. "Do you have any idea how difficult it is to kill the Bat? I've tried, many times. I even killed his little partner once, but he came back; I have no idea how that kid came back. Perhaps I didn't kill him enough. And you think that you can handle him?"
"You destroy the Power Rangers for me, and I'll destroy Batman," Rita promised.
"If these Power Rangers are such a threat," Joker asked, his voice edged by suspicion. "What makes you think little old me could succeed where an all-powerful witch like you failed?" He was enjoying the chance to mock Rita's failure even though somewhere in the back of his mind, a little voice was screaming at him to be cautious.
"Silence!" Goldar bellowed, brandishing his sword and positioning it so the edge was rest just under Joker's neck. A nervous laugh and slight shifting of the criminal's collar rewarded him.
"Easy there big guy," Joker protested, back-stepping. "Somebody might get hurt, namely me."
"Goldar, put him down," Rita ordered as the armoured monkey grabbed the Clown Prince of Crime around his throat.
"Yes Empress," Goldar responded immediately.
"Yes Empress," Joker mimicked in the voice he reserved for times when he wanted to agitate Batman by sounding like a child, earning himself a look from Goldar in the process. That made him cringe; one thing he had decided about Goldar was that the giant monkey was as mean as he was ugly.
"And you," Rita screeched, pointing her wand at Rita.
"Hey, be careful!" Joker complained. "You could have somebody's eye out with that."
"Be quiet," Rita snapped, ignoring his attempt at humour. "The Earth is mine and I will rule over it."
"Geez, like I haven't heard that before. You should meet some of my friends; you have so much in common. You all want to rule the Earth and you're all nuts!"
Rita sighed. Normally she would have disposed of such an annoying person by now, but she needed his services and that meant being just a little more lenient than usual. "If you don't stop, I'll dump you into space."
"Ew, sounds nasty," Joker said, adding a few forced chuckles. "Okay, okay, I'll behave," he promised, mopping his forehead with an oversized handkerchief.
"Good, now listen carefully," Rita replied, pleased that she had made some progress, "Normally your sort of filth is beneath me. I am evil and proud of it. You're an overrated criminal. You do however have quite the reputation and the Power Rangers require your -- special touch."
"And if I get rid of these Power Rangers, you'll put an end to Batman?" Joker asked, pressing the issue. The Power Rangers were little more than a nuisance as far as he was concerned. Rather like the Gotham police force or the army. Batman however was a real menace.
"Batman!" Rita screeched, somehow transforming the name into an insult. "Batman is nothing compared to my power. I could crush him as easily as I could destroy the planet."
"Yet five little teenagers bother you. Are they wearing Spandex? Pink looks kind of cute, maybe I could have some fun with her." He heard Goldar grunt an agreement while Rita rolled her eyes in disgust.
"The Power Rangers are more likely to survive my power than their planet is," she admitted. The Morphin energies that the teens used to transform protected them from a great deal of physical damage. She didn't know if they could withstand the outright destruction of their world, but if anything could it would be either cockroaches or the Power Rangers.
"By golly, I'll do it," the Joker said, flashing her his trademark grin. "I'll pulverize them, the varmints are in for the whooping of a lifetime."
"They're at the Youth Center right now. Strike them while they're in their civilian forms and you're sure to win." She looked at him critically. "Do you have to wear that stuff?"
"Nope," the Joker said, his grin spreading as he sensed her annoyance. "It's all part of the image. Plus it intimidates the public and annoys the hell out of Batman."
"Good," Rita said, satisfied. "Those brats will never know what hit them!" She pointed her wand at the Joker and teleported him back down to Earth, near the Youth Center.
"How will you dispose of Batman, Empress?" Goldar asked.
"Batman, who cares about Batman?" Rita replied. "Once Joker is done with the Rangers, I'll terminate both him and our bargain."
"Do you think he really can destroy the Rangers?" Finster asked.
Rita thought about it for a moment. In all likelihood the Rangers would succeed, but that would leave them open to attack. She looked down at the Earth and spotted Trini with her cousin Sylvia. A plan started to form.
"Finster, make me a monster!"
Finster bowed and hurried off to obey, pleased that his queen had not forsaken his sound monster making skills in favour of hired help.
"This should be interesting," Joker chuckled as he watched the Rangers from a safe distance.
Oh Rita had been very precise when giving him orders. And he had been equally thorough in ignoring them. He was the Joker; he didn't work to other people's agendas. He was doing this more out of boredom than in hope that Rita would destroy Batman. Personally if she did kill him, she would not survive long to gloat about it.
He reached into his ridiculously deep pockets and pulled out a few of his special sponges, the ones he had been planning to use on the Boy Blunder the next time they met. ~Maybe they'll work where a crowbar and a bomb failed.~ He placed the small sponges under a nearby fire hydrant and walked away. He had always tried to be dramatic.
He pulled a small mechanical dog from his pocket and hummed a small tune as he cheerfully wound it up and set it on the sidewalk. When it reached the hydrant, it cocked its rear leg and exploded, breaking the pipe and releasing a torrent of water. "What did you expect," he asked a passing couple who started running to avoid the shower, "Tiddling Tiddles?"
As the sponges he had placed there earlier were hit by water, they started to expand, inflating to monstrous size.
"If this doesn't get their attention," Joker mused as he pulled out a remote control, "I'll have to start blowing things up."
When he pressed the button on the remote, the foam started moving forward in a slow and uncoordinated fashion. It wasn't a pretty sight, but the screams from the people told him he had the desired effect. Now he just needed to wait for the guests of honour to show up.
"We interrupt this program for an important announcement..." Trini frowned when she heard the announcement. For one thing, interruptions to regular broadcasts in Angel Grove had recently involved Rita and her crew. More importantly, she had yet to see a newscaster wearing a red and black harlequin outfit. "Giant monsters sighted in Angel Grove and if the Power Rangers don't get their butts there this instant, Mister Jay has promised some special fireworks."
"Guys," she called, turning to where the others were sparring or in Kim's case, exercising.
"What's up Trini?" Zack asked as the others joined their friend.
She gestured to the television as the camera turned to show the inflatable monsters terrorising Angel Grove.
"Oh man," Zack moaned. "Does he think we're that stupid?"
"We don't have a choice," Jason reminded him.
"She said if we didn't show, Joker will cause an explosion," Trini told them.
"We cannot use our powers against a human," Kimberly said.
"I don't think Zordon would condone our forbearance if it costs others their lives," Billy pointed out.
"We'll face the consequences later," Jason decided, leading the teens over to the alcove they used to teleport. "It's Morphin Time!"
At the Command Center the situation had not gone unnoticed. Nor had the Rangers' response to the threat, which caused Zordon problems he could have done without. For ten thousand years he had watched the race of man evolve and grow. He had seen their proudest achievements and witnessed the terrible acts they had committed. It had left him with a great sense of confidence in the humans of Earth.
But, there had still been doubts about whether they could handle the responsibilities of becoming Power Rangers. The program Alpha had used to make the selection had been extremely complex, searching many candidates for a variety of key attributes. In the end he was certain he had made the right selection. Still, that didn't make it any easier to trust them with the responsibility. Even the most noble of races had been tempted to misuse their ability.
So unable to decide between his hope that the Rangers would not disappoint him and his fear that they would, Zordon had cheated. The powers he had given them did come through the Morphin Grid, but not directly. And while the Power Coins were genuine and had belonged to a previous team that had been the basis for his judgement of the current team, the Power Morphers had been manufactured by Alpha and linked into the Command Center's computer core. Zordon had been able to use the computer to regulate the team's power and could in an emergency strip them of their powers at short notice. In effect he had created a localised Morphin Grid.
At least that had been the original idea. Zordon had hoped that while granting the humans the status of heroes, he would be able to maintain control of both their arsenal and their powers. His plan had failed; he had underestimated the link that all Rangers developed with the Power and its way of creating new conduits for more efficient usage. First Billy had somehow discovered a way to tap into the Morphin Grid to allow teleportation. Communication had soon followed. Now the Rangers were capable of contacting him at their convenience and not when he summoned them.
It made sense when he thought about it though. Billy was a natural choice for Blue Ranger. He was intellectually gifted in his own right and the Power had helped apply discipline to those creative thoughts. And now it seemed that Jason - without doubt a born leader and a natural Red Ranger - was starting to feel comfortable in his role as commander. To the extent it seemed, where Jason had taken to acting without prompting from Zordon.
~They are growing beyond my control,~ he thought solemnly.
With any other team he would have been pleased that they felt confident enough to do so, but in this case the nagging doubts remained. He wanted to believe that Jason had chosen to morph because of the ultimatum, not just because there had been a threat to the city. He had given the Rangers their powers to fight Rita, nothing more.
"Ai-yi-yi, the Joker registers the residual effects of Rita's magic," Alpha reported.
That made Zordon feel better.
"Very well Alpha, continue to monitor the situation but do not interfere."
"Ai-yi-yi-yi, yes Zordon."
When the Power Rangers had arrived, the sponges had been easily dealt with. A few blasts from their Blade Blasters had been enough to disintegrate the waterlogged foam.
"Rangers!" Joker exclaimed, flashing them his trademark grin as he stepped over the body of a police officer that had tried to arrest him. "Such an honour, really. Costumed freaks are ten-a-dozen, you to see you so young... it makes me cry." He blew his nose in his oversized handkerchief.
"What do you want Joker?" Jason demanded.
"Did Batman scare you out of Gotham?" Kim asked.
"Oh you're a feisty one, Pink Ranger. You remind me of Batgirl... before I put a bullet in her back and turned her into an even more worthless cripple." His eyes glazed over as he remembered how much fun that had been, right up until Batman had poked his nose in and used the Joker as a punching bag. "Forgive me," he said as he tried to reach for the Pink Ranger's hand, only for Black Ranger to block him. "Such a beautiful lady. Please, accept this rose as a sign of our love. Beauty and his beast so to speak."
"Look out!" Billy cried as a jet of toxic foam sprayed from the flower.
"What is that?" Joker asked, genuinely confused. He had expected a fine spray of acid, which would have eaten through their suits in a matter of minutes. Instead he managed to make the Yellow Ranger spark a little.
"You're going down Joker," Jason warned.
"It's not over until the fat lady sings," Joker quipped, tossing the Red Ranger and oversized doll dressed like a fat opera singer. The Red Ranger tried to throw it away, only to find it stuck to his hand. And during that time the Joker had made a show of putting his fingers in his ears.
"Guys, cover your ears!" Billy warned as the doll started singing, its high-pitched vocals deafening the Rangers and causing the buildings around them to spray glass into the street.
"Now that wasn't supposed to happen," Joker commented. He was starting to get nervous. That doll was supposed to explode, not sing.
"Zordon, isolate our helmets' audio pathways," Billy groaned as he clutched at his helmet.
Zordon must have done so for the next moment, the noise had ceased. But Joker was no longer alone. Putties wearing clown faces had joined him.
"Get them boys!" Joker ordered, vowing to kill Rita the next time he met her.
The Putties did as they were ordered, charging the Rangers with the usual success. It did give Joker time to sneak up behind Red Ranger and pull out his oversize mallet. He swiped at the Ranger only to miss; Jason had sensed him sneaking up from behind and ducked.
"You can't fight me, Ranger," Joker gloated. "I'm powerless."
"He has a point," Black Ranger commented.
Red Ranger was silent or so it seemed. In fact he was using his helmet's communicator to talk to Zordon, making arrangements.
"Zack," Jason called, passing his Power Coin to the black clad hero. His costume flicked, but remained in place. "Problem solved, now we can fight without powers."
"Sounds good to me, Blunder Ranger," Joker remarked, lifting the mallet for another try.
Jason was young and in excellent shape. He was also trained in karate. Unfortunately, that still placed him at a disadvantage against an enemy who was clearly armed and by reputation extremely dangerous. He was playing a dangerous game and he knew it. Rita had railroaded them into a no win situation; fight without powers or run away situation and Jason didn't like it.
"What's the matter boy?" Joker asked as Jason narrowly blocked one of the blows. "Feeling hammered?"
Jason didn't reply, his eyes were locked on the mallet. When it was in just the right position, he grabbed it and twisted his body to throw Joker across his back. Now he held the weapon.
"Hey, no fair!" Joker protested before a sinister grin crossed his face. He reached into his coat and pulled out a gun. "Oh well, guess we'll have to play a new game."
He never had a chance to fire the weapon. Had the beam from Zack's Blade Blaster not superheated the weapon, causing Joker to yell, caused him to drop the gun, then the sharp tip of a Batarang thrown from the shadows did.
"Oh no, not you two. You're supposed to be in Gotham!" He protested as first Batman and then Robin made an appearance, the latter emerging from just behind Billy. "You couldn't stay away, could you? You just had to follow little old me all the way to Angel Grove."
Batman grabbed the menacing jester before he could draw any more weapons, lifting him by the throat only to dump him violently on the bonnet of a nearby car.
"Chill out Batsy, you wouldn't want to give these kids a bad impression, would you?"
The response was a firm right to the side of the jaw that he responded to by blowing a raspberry.
"There's some Feds I know who really want to speak to you," Robin commented as Batman slapped a pair of heavy manacles on the criminal's wrists.
Before they could take him away though he vanished in a stream of teleportation.
"Oh man, I guess Rita did send him after all," Zack commented.
"Affirmative," Billy added.
"What were you kids thinking, taking on the Joker?" Batman demanded, turning to Jason.
"We were thinking that if we didn't turn up he was going to destroy the city," Kimberly replied.
"He could have killed you, all of you," Batman pointed out.
"We know," Yellow Ranger told him. Her voice was quiet, but her stance showed that she would not be intimidated.
"Where'd he go?" Robin asked, eager to move the conversation back onto important matters.
"If Rita was involved, probably the Moon," Billy answered. The look Batman gave him suggested that he found that a very unlikely answer.
"You're more of a fool than Goldar!" Rita screeched, poking Joker with the end of her wand.
"You never told me Batman would be there," Joker fired back. "I had the little punk right where I wanted him until Batdork showed up."
"How was I supposed to know?" Rita demanded. "You said he was in Gotham City."
"That's it, I'm gone," Joker said, "maybe I can get home before the Dynamic Duo and get a head start on them."
"We had a deal!" Rita protested.
"Forget it. If those Rangers didn't kill me, your voice would! I'll take my chances with Batman and Robin; they're more fun to play with anyway. Maybe I can kill the Boy Blunder a second time. Take this, as a memento of little old me." He threw Rita a box.
"You shouldn't have," Rita said sarcastically.
"Now, if you'd be kind enough to teleport me back to Gotham," Joker said, giving her a maniac's idea of what puppy eyes were supposed to be.
Rita raised her staff and did as the Joker requested, teleported him to Gotham City. She laughed as he discovered that while he was definitely in the city, Rita had teleported him five thousand feet above the ground. Then, she opened up the box. Zordon was detecting the explosion for the next few hours, during which time the Dynamic Duo were flying home.