Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers or any other show. They belong to their respective copyright owners. No money is being made from this piece of writing.
Race Against Time
The Beast Master had returned to wreck havoc on the Earth. It was his right, one granted to him the day his eyes had seen the smoke-filled skies and had breathed the sulphur rich air. Earth had been a pleasant place to exist back in those times. He had once been overwhelmed and imprisoned in the Earth; his creations reduced to their embryo stage again. And now he was free once more, he would continue with his goal.
He wasn't foolish, far from it although his aggressive nature had a tendency to overcome his intelligence. He knew that his freedom was not due to a conscious wish for him to be free. It had been a necessity for Minion to revive him to tend the Elemental Beasts and ensure they reached maturity. As he looked into the sky he could sense the planet's energy beneath him; the planet had grown powerful during his forced hibernation.
He felt the emotions within the containment units, the natural aggression that made them creatures of destruction. His task was as far as he could tell, very simple. He was to cause as much mayhem on Earth as possible while preventing the planet's defenders from finding them before they had finished reviving. The destruction he planned to spread would be more than enough to distract them.
He sensed the Rangers before they arrived and was ready to blast them the moment they finished teleporting. He had already retrieved the eggs and transported them to a safer location. Now that had received exposure to the climate they required to reach maturity they had been teleported to new nests away from him. Currently he was in Stone Canyon, former home to some of the Rangers and deliberately chosen as a personal swipe at his foes. He had even gone so far as to transform the landscape to suit his needs.
Beast Master knew very little about Rangers, but he had seen enough heroes during his time to predict their actions. In fact he had triumphed over countless teams of heroes regardless of their powers. He had crushed armies and destroyed space navies. If he were to confront Rangers even after his long sleep he knew he would crush, wear out and utterly confuse his foes. So he was confident that regardless of whatever powers the Rangers possessed, they would not get past him. After all, how could he possibly fail?
They were not off to a good start as far as Tommy was concerned. They had been blasted as soon as they had arrived in Stone Canyon. A curtain of magical energy had ensnared them, seriously hindering their progress. Katherine had been the first to recover, the memories of her recent nightmares driving her to destroy the Beast Master and then find the containment vessels before their contents could be released. Rocky followed swiftly, the Blue Gem Coin Ranger recognising the urgency in his comrade's actions. Adam and Tanya didn't rush off immediately, taking their time to ensure that the trap had been disarmed in case help followed later. Tommy allowed himself a smile; the five of them were working as a team despite the lack of the link they normally felt as Zeo Rangers. Constant attacks had rekindled the unity they had felt during their days of fighting Mondo's forces.
"Gem Coin Cycle!" Kat called.
The motorcycles the Rangers had used following the loss of the Zeo Crystal had now been incorporated into their Gem Coin arsenal. Upgraded using the designs intended for Zeo technology and powered through their partial links to the Morphin Grid, the bikes took on the characteristics of the Shark Cycles while retaining the additional abilities Billy had given them.
The other Rangers were in hot pursuit, opening their throttles to catch up to their pink teammate as they cautiously guided their machines down the road to Stone Canyon. They were not expecting an ambush, but they had just been blasted following their teleport and they were aware that the Gem Coin powers did not offer the protection that the Zeo Rangers had enjoyed.
~If only we could get the Zeo Crystal back,~ Tommy thought as he moved forward to spearhead the Rangers' charge into battle. The Gem Coin powers were terribly unstable given that they were dependant upon the remnants of the Zeo power that Zordon had been able to isolate and a mixture of power sources from the Morphin Grid.
He flicked a switch on his handlebars as they approached the area where they had traced the demon. His speed dropped as the powerful engine of his machine switched to quiet running. Up ahead he could almost sense something blocking their path. He slowed and waited for the others to catch up, while trying to get a good view of whatever it was that blocking their way.
"Rocko?" he asked.
"Power Scan, running," Rocky replied.
Before they had been dispatched for this task, and since their powers were partially Grid based, Alpha and Zordon had managed to install some of the helmet functions they had planned to give the Ninja Rangers. In Rocky's case that was a set of sensors built into the helmet that allowed him to detect energy waves and enhance his audio and visual capabilities. At the moment his sensors remained blank due to what he assumed was interference, but when he saw what his visual sensors revealed, he had to do a double take.
"Oh no," he whispered.
He quickly transferred the image to the other Rangers, which received a gasp from Adam. They had grown up in Stone Canyon before moving to Angel Grove. The sight that greeted them did not bode well for their former home.
When Minion's WD Units had swarmed through North Valley, large portions of the population had been turned over to one of his allies as a reward. The Beast Master had discovered the few survivors and transformed them into his own army.
In his hand he held the small, almost invisible larvae of a Cerebral Fly. The creatures were not truly evil, but their actions had led to several attempts to exterminate them. In truth these larvae would never develop fully, if they managed to defeat the Rangers, the Beast Master would destroy them himself. However, during their development the larvae could control a host creature and use it as a body. That is what he had in mind.
He placed one creature on the head of each human and watched as they found their way into either the tear duct, nose, ear canal or oral cavity. From there they started to secrete enzymes to alter the subject's body and at that point, Beast Master intervened and took control of the victims himself, turning them into monsters.
Rocky could tell from what was left of their faces that they were or had once been human. Their bodies had undergone some sort of forced mutation, the bones pushed through the skin in some places to protrude as sharp spikes. Some kind of thick fungus covered the upper body, forming what he could only assume was armour; the face was covered with a similar growth although the eyes were shielded by a thin membrane.
"Zordon, how do we fight these things?" Tommy asked.
In the past, at least part of the Rangers' fighting ability had come from their link to the Power. In the recent past the Rangers had relied on the strategic input of Zordon, Jason and now Billy to help them.
"I recommend a forward battery without considering the sentimental implications," Billy answered.
He was right, if they were to free the people they needed to get to the one who had enslaved them first. They would not try to kill them, but they would have to be forceful.
"Rangers, you need to hurry," Zordon added. "The longer the Beast Master remains in control of their minds, the stronger their control will become."
Spurred on by their mentor's words and the sight of several Putties that Rita had decided to send down as yet another attempt to capitalise on Minion's scheme, the Rangers rode into battle. Tommy twisted his handlebars, causing the bike to slide into his opponents as the Rangers ditched their vehicles and attacked.
Tommy smiled as he leapt into the throng of Putties, smiling as they tried to circle him, as if that would give them a chance. That was one thing about Rita's old foot soldiers he could rely on, they were dumb. Unable to enjoy the thrill of battle, Tommy tore into the opponents with his weapon. The sabre he held performed admirably although he missed the Zeo V Power Sword, and the Putties had soon been reduced to dust. He didn't have time to rest though and ran towards the nest where the Beast Master was waiting.
Kat, Tanya, Adam and Rocky were forced to face eight of the Beast Master's sinister creations. At first they tried hand-to-hand combat, but when they discovered how strong the creatures were they were forced to use their weapons. Zordon had allowed them limited access to the Power Weapons they had used during their time as Dino Rangers. When the Rangers had linked the Gem Coins to the Morphin Grid, Zordon had been able to retrieve the weapons. In addition each carried one of the small hand-held blasters they had dubbed Gem Coin Blasters. Even so they were in for a shock when they tried to knock the creatures out of their path. They still had no idea how to fight them and so far their weapons seemed ineffective against the organic armour.
Rocky swiftly discovered that the creatures had a sting of their own in the form of a snakelike animal mounted on their arms. His sword moved just in time to block the snake, but failed to slice through the weapon, which was almost as impervious as the creature was. He was briefly aware of a second creature moving in from behind and instinctively shifted position. He tried to spin kick one of his attackers, but the creature caught his foot while the other nailed him with a large fist. Hanging upside down he tried desperately to think of a way out.
Kat had tried using her bow, but the arrows just bounced harmlessly off the armour. However, her attempts to smash the creatures over the head with her bow had at least slowed them. She had been trying to keep both of her opponents in front of her, but when she felt a sharp jolt in the back of her neck she knew she had failed.
Adam had noticed when they arrived just how battered the street had become, but he was also the only Ranger who noticed the possibilities. So it was that he led two of the creatures on a chase through the cracked concrete, burning cars, fallen street lamps and damaged furniture. His eyes were constantly moving as he scanned the area for anything he could use. His strategy seemed to pay off as he used a heat cartridge in his Gem Coin Blaster to melt the asphalt sidewalk, transforming it into large-scale flypaper. He was aware of the other creature moving in, but was concentrating on taking out his first target before it could strike. He summoned his axe and converted it to cannon mode. His shot ripped under the street, punctured a gas line and blew the trapped creature away. Then he turned to face the second creature.
Tanya's daggers had found a weakness, a spot of fleshy skin under the armpit. She had discovered the weakness by accident when she had been jabbing at various spots. When she tore the daggers free, the armour surrounding the chest was also wrenched open. A strong kick to the exposed flesh put the creature down and she turned to face its partner.
Rocky struggled to keep hold of the sword and after managing to grab it with both hands, drove it into his assailant's foot. The creature obviously felt the pain since it immediately released the hold and Rocky was able to roll away. It did not make a sound though and after the sword had been removed it joined its partner in attacking him.
With Tanya's discovery in mind the Rangers aimed for any body part or limb that was not clearly armoured. The creatures' snake weapons still posed a threat though and Rocky spent his time pinned down by their assault. With an up-front assault failing he followed Adam's example and ran.
The two creatures sensed fear and the possibility of an easy kill. They followed Rocky without thought, not even stopping when he reached one of the burning cars and started fiddling with the aerial. The already injured creature charged forward as the Ranger loosened the clip and the spring load aerial extended through the creature's throat.
Adam was having problems with his second opponent because unlike Rita and Zedd's monsters, it lacked a set pattern of attack. It had seen how he had damaged another of its number and had chosen a more direct approach. That in turn had put Adam on the defensive, and since the axe was cumbersome at close range, he was at the disadvantage. He barely managed to shift his weight as the creature lunged for him, its fanged weapon sweeping towards his neck. There was a flash of silver as something chopped the snake's head off. He looked over to where Rocky was once again battling, having taken the time to throw a hubcap at the snake.
Lord Zedd was furious as he tried to keep track of the events on Earth and elsewhere. The problem as far as he could tell, was that the so-called threat had too many factors in operation and lacked guidance for those individual pieces to work together to see things through successfully. From his observations Zedd could tell that the Beast Master was an excellent general and had shown true potential by creating those creatures. But he was not taking advantage of their superiority over the Rangers, and had chosen to wait for them to show up.
Zedd had been jealous of course that Minion, a simple monster at best, was powerful enough to ignore the orders of the mighty Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa, both of whom had in their time amassed vast empires. In short Minion had become too powerful.
Tommy gripped his sword tightly, relishing the familiar feeling that flowed through him once more. He missed his days as the White Ranger, the symbol of all that was good and of course the perfect warrior to face Lord Zedd and later his wife Rita. But those days were gone and instead of representing the purity of the power, Tommy had been forced to wear the blood red of a field commander. Although this sword was not Saba, it was shaped the same and felt the same in his hand.
The Beast Master crouched and then launched himself at the Ranger as their battle continued. Tommy parried and dodged the blows; eventually landing a sharp kick that made the demon back away from him. Beast Master shook his head and pulled himself to his feet, reaching his imposing height as he loomed over the Red Ranger. Tendrils of lightning left the villain's hand and poured over the unfortunate Ranger, causing pain he had not felt since the time he had gone to retrieve the Zeo Crystal. More bolts of energy, this time magic forced the younger fighter off his feet, his face a mask of agony.
Tommy rolled out of the way of one bolt and jumped in the air, his sabre aimed straight at Beast Master's head. The red-faced villain intercepted the blow, catching the blade on his open palm. For a moment they remained in that position until gravity kicked in and Tommy fell painfully onto his butt. Not for the first time Tommy wondered what he had gotten himself into, Beast Master's height and power were things the Red Zeo Ranger could not match.
"Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi, Tommy!" Alpha cried. He had been watching the Rangers on the Viewing Globe with Zordon.
Zordon looked at the data constantly, trying to find some error in the reports. According to the sensors Beast Master was far more powerful than the average monster and almost approached Zedd in terms of raw energy. He had encountered a similar sort of creature before, a near demon by the name of Ivan Ooze. It made him shudder to think how powerful the forces were that had trapped him in the first place. Or worse still how great the force must have been to release him again.
"It is as I feared," Zordon said. "Beast Master is a powerful morphological being, almost a demon in his own right."
"The Rangers are pinned down and Tommy cannot get passed Beast Master. What do we do Zordon?"
"You must have faith Alpha," Zordon said as he watched Kat destroy her second opponent and rush to help Tanya, "The Rangers are the world's only hope. While they battle Beast Master and his forces we must hope that Jason and the others can destroy the capsules. I suggest you prepare the Zords for deployment, just in case."
Alpha sighed in agreement, leaving to work on the controls while Zordon looked on. Tanya had already destroyed her opponent by the time Kat arrived. Adam and Rocky had drawn their opponents together and had advanced from both sides with their small blades. The weapons pierced the weak points that Tanya had discovered and the last of the creatures collapsed to the ground.
"Hurry Rangers," Alpha found himself saying as he saw them run to where the Beast Master and Tommy were fighting.
There was a bright flash that clouded the Viewing Globe. When the image cleared the Rangers had stopped moving; Tommy and Beast Master had vanished from view.
Tommy looked down at himself and was relieved to find he was still morphed. He knew that sometimes moving to an alternate dimension had the effect of cancelling out Ranger powers. Especially given the severe pain he had felt just moments before Beast Master had transported them. With the swift check of his body parts out of the way he took a moment to observe his surroundings. It seemed he was in some kind of cave, sealed from all sides. Stalactites and stalagmites decorated the large abode while light from an unknown source brightly lit the area. There was a fog covering the rocky floor.
Over by the far wall Beast Master stood waiting, a crystal ball in his hand that seemed to capture his attention more than the Ranger opposite.
Beast Master smiled wickedly. "Welcome to my private dimension, Red Ranger. Minion was most gracious to allow me to bring you here. Make yourself at home, for you will soon become a permanent fixture."
Tommy responded with a small laugh. "You're wrong. My friends will get me out of here, but hopefully not before I finish kicking your sorry butt."
Beast Master chuckled coldly, his yellow eyes staring deep into Tommy's soul. "I would very much like to see you do that, Ranger, but I fear you are terribly mistaken. You will die a slow and painful death. And as for your friends, I have already captured them. When I finish you, they will also fall before me."
"You will not win Beast Master, good will prevail!" Tommy shouted.
"Oh please," Beast Master chuckled. "You are spouting empty rhetoric. Good might one day prevail, but you will be gone a long time before it happens."
"We'll see about that," Tommy cried, summoning his sword and charging his opponent.
Beast Master raised an eyebrow as the Ranger approached and calmly batted the sword aside. He laughed as Tommy tried repeatedly to strike him, successfully blocking each blow and then sweeping the Red Ranger's feet out from under him.
"I was warned long ago not to take my opponent's abilities lightly Tommy, but from what I've seen I'm surprised you've lasted so long." He chuckled again. "I will give you a chance, Tommy. Hundreds of years trapped in the torment of eternal sleep without entertainment means that even fighting you could prove slightly entertaining."
His foot connected with Tommy's stomach, sending the teen sprawling. But the Red Ranger was still a force to be reckoned with. Taking a running leap, he smashed both feet into Beast Master's chest. The demon flew backwards to the ground. He responded by jabbing at Tommy with his right fist. The Red Ranger somersaulted backwards, keeping his distance. Beast Master had not had a fight in over nine hundred years, yet he moved with the agility of a well-trained fighter.
They traded blow for blow, neither one scoring any damaging blows. It seemed to be a stalemate. But not for long, Tommy knew Beast Master was trying to tire him out. He was only human and from what he could tell the demon was holding back. And of course, at over eight feet tall Beast Master had a greater reach.
~The question,~ Tommy thought to himself as he swiftly ducked a boot to the head, ~is can I last long enough to escape?~
Tommy powered up for a punch, but Beast Master surprised him by grabbing his wrist and snapping it. The Red Ranger cried out in pain as Beast Master threw him to the ground, but the leader of the Rangers staggered to his feet.
"You're a persistent child, aren't you?" Beast Master asked, launching himself at Tommy again. Tommy swept the floor with his foot, but Beast Master somersaulted over the extended limb and slammed a foot into Tommy's helmet, piercing the faceplate and almost breaking the boy's nose. Bleeding and sore, Tommy backed up against the stone wall. Beast Master wasn't even sweating. Once again Tommy realised the demon was simply playing with him.
The villain back flipped away as Tommy tried to rise. The Red Ranger struggled to his feet yet again.
Beast Master appeared to be in deep thought. He dropped his fighting stance. "You know, Tommy... I never noticed in all the time I spent watching this pitiful planet how much punishment you can take. Amazing. Your predecessor would have fallen by now. Perhaps you are stronger than I thought, or perhaps Jason was just smarter."
Tommy's bloodshot eyes were locked onto Beast Master's as he leaned on a rock and continued to talk. "I've been thinking. It's no big secret why Rita chose you to be her Green Ranger. You're a warrior, plain and simple. A human war machine; I find it... most interesting."
"G -- get to the point, Beast Master." Tommy said in between gasps of air.
"Join me," the demon offered.
"You've GOT to be kidding." Tommy laughed. "Me, join you, and destroy my own world? Never!"
Beast Master laughed. "I'll make you a deal. I'll share my powers with you; together we can destroy the Elemental Beasts. You can save your world, your life and your friends, but you must join me!"
Tommy dropped his fighting stance hesitantly.
"With my brains and your brawn, Oliver, we'll be unstoppable! Join me!"
His words were starting to have an effect. Tommy was seriously questioning himself. A bit longer and maybe Beast Master would be able to present Minion with a new servant.
Tommy shook his head. "No. Villains don't keep their words, and I have no reason to trust you. I will never join you, Beast Master. Not now, not in a thousand years. You'd destroy the Earth anyway."
Beast Master growled. The cave began to shake, and rocks began tumbling down. "You have made a very big mistake, Tommy." And with that he raised his hand. A ball of energy pulsed once, and then swallowed Beast Master into a vortex of energy, which sealed up immediately afterward.
Suddenly the cave shook. Tommy steadied himself as the quake stopped. Then it happened again... and again. As Tommy's eyes widened in horror, he saw the walls move in ever so slightly. He saw what Beast Master had planned: the cavern walls were closing in! The cave was shrinking... and he was going to be impaled by the sharp rocks!
Tommy fell to the floor as the cave shook violently. He rolled to the side as a wickedly sharp stone fell from the ceiling, slashing his arm. He was grateful it was just nicked and not cut off. Still, the sting of pain was terrible. Dark red blood spurted from the wound as the cave contracted again, bringing the walls even closer. Tommy was about to be crushed.
"Aw man, I need a way out of here!" he said out loud.
When Beast Master reappeared in Stone Canyon, the spell on the remaining Rangers was broken. They looked around, confused by what had happened until they noticed Beast Master.
"Where's Tommy?" Rocky demanded.
Beast Master just laughed. "Your friend is suffering the side effects of a crushing defeat. I wouldn't worry about him, you'll be joining him soon enough."
Adam cried out in pain as the demon slammed a fist into his chest. Beast Master had moved so quickly that the unfortunate Ranger had been unable to follow him. He clawed at the red skinned monster that was grabbing his throat with both of its powerful hands. He lifted the Green Ranger up into the air and threw him at across the street into a parked car. With a sinister smile he raked his fingers over Adam's chest, ripping the fabric of his costume and drawing a thin trail of blood.
In truth, the demon was having the time of his life with the other four Rangers. Tommy had been fun, but one on one there was only so many times he could hurt somebody. His old powers were returning and the longer he stayed outside of the underground chamber, the more powerful he became. He opened his mouth and a spray of venom went flying at Tanya, eating through her uniform. She gave a shrill shriek and fell back. Rocky and Kat tried to double-team him, using their Gem Coin Blasters, but he just laughed, placed a hand on his eyes and then pointed his hand at the two. Multicoloured fireballs flew from his hand and eyes, striking the Blue and Pink Rangers.
Adam recovered, pulled out his side arm and took aim, but Beast Master just waved in Adam's direction. As the Rangers watched in surprise, pink tentacles of energy burst from under his feet, wrapping around his waist, feet and hands, lifting him into the air. Another one slapped the weapon from the Green Ranger's grip. The Green Ranger, struggling with the writhing tentacles, was effectively immobilised.
Kat lifted her Power Bow, intending to sever the energy tentacles. But Beast Master saw her move, and spat another jet of acid at her, striking the weapon. It melted the arrows to slag. He pointed his finger at her, and a blast struck her in the chest. She cried out and staggered back. Beast Master pointed at the ground, and as Kat watched in pure disbelief, the asphalt under her feet turned to quicksand. Her feet sank, trapping her. Katherine screamed and tried to surface, but the road-turned-quicksand pit slowly but surely began to drag her down.
Rocky lifted his Gem Coin Blaster and got Beast Master in his sights. Pressing the trigger, he sent a blast of electrical energy flying towards the enemy. But the demon's senses had greatly increased and he swung his arm at the energy, striking it like a batter would strike a baseball, and sent it straight back at Rocky. The blast tore the weapon from Rocky's hands.
Rocky looked up into the face of his opponent. Beast Master allowed himself a smile and winked at the Blue Ranger, laughing as the teen's uniform caught fire. Rocky only screamed for a moment before he passed out and demorphed, the fire extinguishing along with his powers.
"Ouch!" Tommy complained as he punched the walls.
With no other option he tried to force his way out. He had noticed a small glimmer of light through a crack in the roof. He had hoped it was the entrance to the dimension, but couldn't reach it. He thought through his options and was left with only one real choice. He hoped Alpha had been able to include it with their helmet upgrades.
"Metallic Armour, power up!"
The colour of Tommy's uniform changed from red to white as the defence system was energised. The outer layer of his suit was covered in metal bubbles to prevent damage. He focussed on the rocks and started to punch his way through. Progress was slow, but at least his hands didn't hurt. Eventually he reached a point where he could be sucked out of the dimension.
"What is that?" Beast Master asked as a high-pitched whistle filled the air.
He turned in time to be hit by the sudden flash of energy as Tommy drew all he could manage from the Morphin Grid and discharged it through his hands. Beast Master was hit and stumbled back as the other Rangers were released from their entrapment. The others added their own power to Tommy's wave of power, each aiming for a different part of the demon's body. As tall and powerful as he was, Beast Master could not remain standing without his legs. With a sudden surge they sent him to the ground.
But Beast Master was not about to lose his freedom after only recently gaining his freedom. He used his powers to grow to his full size and then started stomping on the ground below. Soon the Rangers were desperately dodging Beast Master's massive feet.
"Enough!" Tommy cried before calling out: "Ninja Zords, activate!" He was even more relieved to hear four other voices make the same call. That meant they had all recovered.
"Let's do it guys," Zeo Falcon called. He flew his Zord into range of the others. "Okay, insert Gem Coins, now!"
[Ninja sequence initiated. Wolf remote, online] flashed in front of his visor.
Zeo Falcon read the message displayed and smiled, pleased that once again the sequence had at least started. With his Gem Coin in place Zeo Falcon pressed the commit button and let the Gestalt System take control.
The arms and legs of the Ape detached from the body, the legs of the Bear split away from the body and legs and head of the Wolf retracted into the Zord's body. The bodies of the Ape, Bear and Wolf joined together to form the upper torso and arms of the Megazord. The legs of the Ape merged and connected to the base of the upper torso to complete the main body.
Meanwhile the Frog had transformed into a pair of legs, joining with the Bear's legs, which had transformed to make two feet, to form the lower body. The arms of the Ape had converted into fists, which connected to the arms.
Finally the body and arms merged with the legs, allowing the Falcon Zord to clip onto the back and the Crane to slide into place as the head. As with the previous Megazords, the Rangers were all grouped together in a single control room.
"Activate Power Sword," Red Ranger ordered. Although in its first outing the Ninja had lacked a Power Sword, Billy and Alpha had subsequently managed to build one that while not powerful as previous versions, had some cutting ability.
"A sword?" Beast Master asked mockingly. "I expected so much more of you."
He spat at the mighty Zord, his acidic saliva burning a hole in the robot's foot. He raised his hand, pulling the battered streetlights off the ground with his magic. As he opened his hand, the posts were thrown towards the huge machine.
The Ninja struggled to remove the metal posts from its limbs. While it was distracted, Beast Master attacked, clutching a heavy 'I' bar. His swing knocked the machine off balance and it was only through sheer determination on the part of the Rangers that they managed to remain upright when a second blow almost dislodged its head. Rocky took control of the Power Sword and managed to connect with the bar on its next strike, resulting in a shower of sparks and the removal of a slice of metal from the end.
Beast Master smirked and poured some of his magic into the 'I' bar. When it connected with the Megazord's left arm, the robot was forced backwards by the energy.
"Full power to the sword," Tommy ordered as he deactivated the safety protocol and allowed the body of the Ninja to act as a massive energy conductor.
The Power Sword was energised by the time Beast Master pressed the attack and was able to successfully parry each blow. Beast Master got tired of playing fair and spat at the sword. The acid ate through the blade, but he had no time to gloat as the Ninja had linked its hands together to deliver a double axe-handle blow to the demon's face. A quick spin kick took advantage as a strong shoulder block took him down.
The Ninja moved in close, allowing Beast Master to grab it in a bear hug, his body suddenly expanding to apply more pressure. The machine struggled in the villain's grasp as its back started to crack.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," Tanya declared as she took control of the legs and drove the left knee into Beast Master's groin.
The demon let go for just a second, but that was long enough. The Ninja staggered the villain with a flurry of punches and a drop kick. As Beast Master was shaking off the attack, his opponent struck him with a powerful head butt.
"Zordon, we need Titanos," Tommy called.
"On his way Rangers," Alpha replied.
The silvery mass of Titanos made its way through the damaged streets of Stone Canyon. This was not Titanus, the huge mechanical dinosaur that had aided both the Dino and Ninja Rangers of Earth. The Rangers had used that machine on a previous occasion and had found the interface had damaged both machines. This was a copy of the powerful machine crafted by Billy Cranston and intended for his friends the Aquitian Rangers. Billy had tried to sculpt Titanos, as closely to the original as possible, and except for a difference in the quality of the armour and the shade of his colouring, it was hard to tell the two apart.
"Ninja Ultrazord, power up!" the Rangers called.
Titanos's head and neck dropped forward, its sides opened to reveal a cannon on either side and a platform appeared inside the vacant space. The Ninja MegaFalconzord took to the air and landed on the platform, the head and neck returned to their normal position as it did so. The arms of the Zord detached as the wings of the Falcon folded around so that its rocket launchers were pointing forward. Then the arms reattached.
The powerful wheels mounted under the Ultrazord moved it into position so that the weapon systems could lock onto the demon. A loud buzz indicated they were in range.
The entire arsenal of the Ultrazord struck Beast Master, causing the villain to scream before his body was thrown into the air where he remained suspended b the energy. Then the attack ended and he plummeted back to the ground. His body cracked, the evil spirit contained within desperate to get away. He coughed violently, spewing up a small orb that was lost under his falling body.
"Hit him again!" Tommy ordered. "Fire!"
This time Beast Master was destroyed.
The Rangers had left Stone Canyon as soon as they realised they had won. Their task was far from over and was now looking all the more difficult since Jason's team had not reported in. The Zords had been repaired and their powers had been placed on charge ready for what was to come.
Stone Canyon had almost returned to normal. The damage Beast Master had caused was restored to normal, but the humans he had killed could not be revived. That in some ways made the job more difficult. The Rangers would never get used to the idea that not everyone survived a monster attack. The death toll was becoming higher with each battle and now if Elemental Beasts were loose, the Rangers were all a little worried about what was to come next.
Adam's father, Detective Park had arrived at work having received an anonymous tip concerning the attack. He and his staff had spent the time making plans for emergency shelters. Zordon had passed information that revealed that the Elemental Beasts would head for Angel Grove first, drawn by the Ley Nexus in Angel Grove Park. In the end they had done all that they could and returned home. Rocky had put it best when he said all they could do was hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Zordon and Alpha had refused to allow the Rangers near the computer, stating that a distraction could cost Jason's team dearly. In the end he sent them home to change and report back ready for further action.
As they teleported away, Alpha and Zordon went to work on the Zords. Not only would they oversee the repairs to the Ninja. They hoped that combined with the Gem Coin Zords, their arsenal would prove sufficient.
They would receive their answer when Jason and his team returned.
In the old abandoned warehouse just outside of Angel Grove, new occupants had moved in. The building had always seemed ominous to those who tried to approach it, perhaps explaining why it had failed to make a profit for any of the entrepreneurs who had tried to lease out the space. But now, the building had a definable air of evil about it. Not the usual kind, more of the incompetent sort.
Jas tightened the bandage, a little harder then necessary, on Roma's arm. She tried to wrap it around as gently as she could, but her laughter kept making her hands jerk about.
"Dammit Jas, not so tight!" Roma said through clenched teeth, "And stop laughing, it ain't funny."
Jas and Roma were sitting on a makeshift couch in what used to be an office. When the four of them arrived on Earth, Rita and Zedd had given them the warehouse, stating that humans were too scared to take it from them. Of course they had to spice it up a bit. With various weapons hanging on the walls, some furniture here and there, and of course a nice cosy fireplace.
On the other side of the room, bandaging himself on his own couch was Dwanin, who didn't look nearly as bad as Roma but was banged up in a similar way. On the wall above his head were the remains of Boogah. Jas had not been pleased when she had discovered the theft of her precious scythe. She had swiftly ensured that Boogah was sent to a new home: the afterlife.
"You're right Roma it's not funny," Jas said seriously, but then a sneaky smile escaped on her lips, "It's freakin hilarious!" She laughed if possible harder then before. Barely getting a hold of her self she turned to Dwanin, her laughter still bubbling in her voice as she spoke, "I can't believe all three of ya'll got the stuffing knocked out of you by a seven-year-old."
"He was seventeen! Not seven, seventeen!" Dwanin corrected hotly. "And he had help."
Roma shot an evil glare at Dwanin that didn't go by unnoticed just for talking. Jas just continued laughing, taking out some peroxide and dabbing it on a towel.
It was a real surprise to say the least for Dwanin when Roma had managed to follow his fellow Packspawn home, alive. After Boogah had quickly grabbed Dwanin, the two flame-travelled their way back to their home. Regardless their strict codes of Packspawn loyalty to one another, they still went by there own code that was famous for all those like them everywhere: Every man for themselves!
Both of them were quite certain that their dear leader hadn't made it out. Needless to say though, their mourning for him didn't last very long. In fact, Boogah in particular wasn't at all upset. He was so certain that Roma was dead that he and Dwanin decided to go brag about it to Jas.
Boogah and Dwanin barged into their chamber, where they found Jas carefully cleaning one of her favourite riffles. "Hey Jas, guess what!" Boogah had said excitedly. Jas simply nodded, letting him know she was listening. "I'm going to be the new leader!"
Jas turned her head slightly, still polishing her gun with a cloth, "Really," she said lazily, "I could've sworn that this little dude named Roma still was."
Dwanin chuckled as he sat himself on a couch, "Not anymore he ain't. Nor's Boogah when yo finds out what he did."
"Uh" Boogah had ignored the comment, hoping Jas would too and had sat next to Dwanin, kicking his feet on the coffee table, "After what happened to him, he ain't never comin back... So" He clapped his hands together and sat up straight, confident that now that Roma was gone, Jas was finally his and his only, "My first act as new commander is that you Jas," he licked his lips, "Fix up some of my war wounds, slowly and... sexily."
Jas shook her head and went back to what she was doing, not at all impressed with Boogah's assumptions of Roma's death. Why was it that Boogah in particular always forgot that one small detail about a Packspawn? "I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you," she said mysteriously.
Boogah's look of superiority and triumph faded slightly at Jas's comment. He felt unnerved by it. He covered it up though, by asking curiously, "Why is that?"
Boogah never saw the blade as it tore into his skin, shredding his organs as it did so. But as painful as that seemed, the mere act could not account for the inhuman scream. "Because yo stole from me," she growled. "Besides, he'll be back, believe me. Just a shame you won't be," she added with a sort of evil smile. And right she was, because as soon as those words were said, a deafening cry sounded throughout the warehouse as Boogah was consumed by the holy water she had placed on the blade.
"Boogah! Dwanin!" A familiar voice yelled, reverberating around the walls. "YOU LEFT ME! JUST WAIT TILL I GET MY HANDS ON YOU!"
Dwanin jumped up and looked at Jas, hardly noticing his former comrade's remains dripping down his leg - fear crawling deep into his skin. "Uh oh," he said.
That one small thing that Boogah had forgotten was the fact that all Packspawns were practically immortal. In other words, it would take a hell of a lot more than an explosion to kill them. Holy water was another matter, but an explosion had no chance. Especially when the Packspawn in question was Roma.
Roma had survived, although he didn't return unharmed, quite the contrary. He was severed vertically in half and burnt to a crisp. He came in with his body smoking and soaking wet, half of him dragging the other half by the tail.
And now here they were, Roma annoyed at his comrades and furious that he could not punish Boogah for his stupidity, Jas in hysterics after Roma told her what happened, Dwanin so scared of Roma that he felt the urge to wet himself every time he even dared to glance in his comrade's direction, and Boogah of course had by now shrivelled to a fraction of his former size and had been used for target practice. Death would not save his body from punishment, even if it did rob Roma of those delightful screams.
"Oh, oh my mistake," Jas continued, "so ya'll got your butt whooped by a teenager." She slapped the towel onto Roma's torso. He hissed in pain as the liquid came in contact with his cut.
"No, no you don't understand Jas these Rangers are crazy!" Dwanin tried to defend frantically. "You should've seen em. They just changed clothes and bam, it was all over and they wer jumpin around on the walls all over ta place like a... like a little monkey or somethin!" he gestured what he meant with his arm. Not a very good idea since both of them were practically detachable and the slightest move made a sickening crack. His eyes watered in pain as he numbly set them down at the side. "Ouch!" he screamed gasping.
Jas rolled her eyes. She put the peroxide away. Anywhere else in the galaxy the wounds would have healed magically, but not on Earth. "Quit being a pansy and suck it up."
"As much as I hate to say it, Dwanin has a point," Roma said with his teeth still clenched tightly. They couldn't tell if it was because he didn't want to admit it or if he was still recovering from the peroxide.
Dwanin stuck his tongue out at Jas, glad that Roma had agreed with him. She retaliated by taking a step towards him. He flinched back, fearing that she was about to hit him. That was all the response Jas wanted as she sat back down satisfied. "Punk."
Roma continued, "Those kids can't be all human. They's way too powerful, I could feel it." Dwanin nodded in agreement.
Jas snorted. She had to say it; it was just too easy, "Yeah, you could feel his foot right up yo butt."
Roma glowered at her with utter menace, "Will you just cut the wise cracks already!"
Jas put up a peace sign, "Okay, okay. I'm done." She dumped the rest of the blood soaked towels into a wastebasket beside them and put the Band-Aids back in the first aid kit. "Seriously yo, I could understand those two morons getting their backsides whooped by a grandma in a wheel chair, let alone a teenager," she said, jerking her thumb in Dwanin's direction.
Dwanin sat up. "Hey!" His arms flailed about, in a sorry attempt to look intimidating. But with his burnt up backward hat and two limp arms he looked far from it.
Jas calmly picked up her rifle off of the floor and pointed it at Dwanin. He immediately froze into place. "I'm callin you a moron, got a problem with that?" Jas smirked when Dwanin furiously shook his head no. Just because they couldn't die, didn't mean bullets didn't hurt, especially at close range! "Good, now go sit down before I use you as target practice like I did Boogah" Dwanin didn't need to be told twice. With a quick gulp he scurried back to his side of the room.
Jas turned back to Roma, "As I was saying, how did you get beat so bad? I mean if you weren't immortal you'd probably be looking a hell of a lot worse then this."
"It was all Boogah's fault anyway," Roma accused rashly, "I had everything under control until he came in with that scythe of yours. Yo know how it's cursed so only you can use it and triumph."
"It is?" Dwanin asked flabbergasted and flinching as he did so. He was carefully wrapping his tail with a special fireproof Band-Aid, and the slightest move could make it even more painful. "If Jas locked her storeroom I would never have taken it and we wouldn't be in this mess."
Roma stood up and stretched a bit, his tail swishing behind him. "Well we can't do anything about what happened before, but I do have a plan to get them back," he pounded his fist in his hand, "hit them where it hurts most."
This got Dwanin's attention. Knowing Roma his plan was most likely going to involve plenty of violence and torture, something that he would love to do to those stupid kids. They sat up straight, waiting for Roma to go into further detail of his idea. And Roma would've continued, that is if Jas hadn't beaten him to it.
"What makes you think Zedd will let you help him again," Jas said with little interest in the subject, most of her attention on polishing her gun.
Roma made a noise, his arms folded across his chest, "You really think I give a damn about what that chrome face says?"
Jas shrugged, "No. I'm just sayin that he wants those humans destroyed and yo boys are a liability." She trailed off, conjuring up a mirror with a flick of her hand and a flash of red light. She sat her gun beside her on the couch and used the towel to polish her horns instead.
Roma seemed to consider this, "Yeah I see where you're headed, but that Zack kid pulled my tail. It's personal now, and if he ends up dead in the process then what can I say," he turned back to Dwanin, "Come on ya'll, we need to make some preparations first."
The Packspawn got up, rubbing his hands together as best he could in excitement, "Ooooh preparations! Sounds good to me."
A quick glare from Roma shut down Dwanin's eagerness. Roma wanted nothing more then to backhand him into next week, but damn it, that wasn't a good enough reason! Apparently he was still feeling angry with him for abandoning him like that. Every time Dwanin would say something, even when it wasn't stupid - although it was most of the time - he wanted to just strangle him until his face turned blue and his lungs collapsed. He cleared those thoughts from his mind, for now, and concentrated on something else. Jas had taken out a metal filer from her pocket and was now scraping it against her horns, "hey, you comin Jas or what?"
"Nah," Jas said, looking at them through her mirror. "I've still gotta customise some weapons," she said with less enthusiasm then she normally would when it came to this subject.
Roma shrugged, "Suit yourself, let's go ya'll." Roma and Dwanin left the room, all the while Roma muttering something like, "First, we're going to need to use those egg things they were after as bait, then when those brats appear... pow!" some more silent mumbling and then, "Of course I know where they are, we placed a tracking spell on Trini remember?"
Jas watched them leave before returning to her private chamber, sighing happily as she shut the door. Beating the tar out of Boogah always seemed to lighten her mood. Maybe she would go take a nice hot bath before fixing up that damn scythe. Repairing it would be a snap, but was just something she didn't have the patience for right now. Yeah, she'd do it later; it was always easier to work after she had taken a bath.
After visiting Billy's storeroom -- an experience they would not forget in a hurry -- to allow Trini, Kimberly, Zack, David and Aisha to find some weapons, the Grid Warriors had teleported to an area just outside of New York City. Billy had taken a little longer teleporting and when asked he told them he had been making a few last minute arrangements.
"Now where?" Zack asked.
Billy pulled a device from the inside of his trench coat, and after pressing a few buttons he pointed towards some trees before setting off at a brisk pace. The others followed, noticing as they continued that the wooded area was the result of magic rather than nature. For one thing the plants were deformed, but more telling was the concrete beneath their feet. While the trees were tall enough to be considered over a century old, the concrete had been laid recently.
They followed Billy for some time before he came to a stop. The temperature had dropped unnaturally low and the trail he had been following seemed to disappear. He looked at the device again and was ready to set off, but Trini held him back and signalled for the others to remain silent.
Ahead of them they could hear movement and the unmistakable sounds of Putties patrolling the area. Jason cursed; somehow Zedd and Rita had found the location before them.
"There's a way around, but it would delay our arrival," Billy stated. "We cannot afford to waste the time."
Jason nodded. He wasn't keen to go rushing into danger without knowing the odds. On the other hand if it was only Putties, they had a chance.
"We'll split up," he said after some thought. "Billy, Zack, David and Aisha try to go around. The rest of us will try to cut through the center."
"Right!" the others answered before splitting off as directed.
"Try not to power up," he instructed as they left before leading his group down the trail.
The dark trees seemed to reach out; suddenly they rounded a bend and stopped dead. Hanging from the tree were two hikers, both hung by their necks from the branches of the tree directly across the trail.
"Oh no," Trini averted her eyes but Sam looked the hikers over carefully. From their packs they must have been hiking for a few days, and both were clean so they had bathed. And looking at their packs... there seemed to be necessary supplies missing. Aisha was examining the ground. Jason and Sam knelt beside her while Trini remained standing, eyes alert for signs of an attack.
"See there? There was a large group of hikers, some of them were killed here, and the others were taken prisoner." Sam pointed to drag marks and signs of a scuffle, Jason nodded in agreement. Jason hurried on, a sudden chill made them all halt, the wind whipped fiercely.
"Something's out there," Kimberly murmured, searching the forest, a sudden crack from behind them made them all jump. A dark shape went behind a tree, a harsh breath came from behind them, and Jason drew his sidearm and fired as he turned, thinking hard of how nice it would be to get back to the Power Chamber. The shot struck the hooded shape not two feet behind, making it stumble and flee.
"Putties!" Trini warned as an incoherent noise filled the air, Kimberly blasted the first one off its feet, the others leaped back out of the way as her three teammates opened fire, their cover blown. Trini ducked out of the way, using her weapons to batter the clay foot soldiers. Sam stunned another one; Jason had sent a dozen or so Putties fleeing. Another one leaped out of a tree, landing on Sam's back and knocking him to the ground. Aisha kicked it and the fight stopped, Jason looked around, something wasn't right, but he couldn't say what.
"You okay?" Jason asked, the others looked up and nodded.
"We're close, and they know it, and so he'll be setting traps to slow us." Sam said, dusting off his suit.
"The we should hurry." Jason said and they were off again.
"Do Putties just run away now?" Trini asked. "They used to vanish or fall apart."
"They didn't look like Rita's Putties you guys," Kimberly mentioned. "They seemed lighter."
"Maybe they're not Putties," Trini suggested.
"The evidence does support that hypothesis," Billy said over the radio link they were using.
"Whatever they are, they're easy to knock down, but keeping them down is difficult."
Jason's breath steamed, it was still winter really and cold, suddenly two things swung at him from opposite sides of the path, Jason threw himself flat and rolled under them. There was a thump and a horrid scream from behind him that was abruptly cut off. He leaped to his feet and whirled, and stopped. Two more bodies suspended form ropes; he could feel the remains of the trap he'd stepped on. Kimberly had her hand over Trini's mouth; it was she who had screamed.
"They're wasting time, both of these people were toyed with before they were killed." Sam said, moving forwards and looking closely at the bodies.
"All the better, come on, they've still got a head start." Jason took off again, jogging along, trying to look out for traps.
He burst through some bushes and instinctively leaped, this would be a perfect place to dig a pit, and behind him Sam was not so tuned in and crashed through the well-hidden trap. The others clustered around.
"Are you okay?" Jason called down; Sam struggled in the mud and stood up, wiping blood off a cut of his jaw. He ignored Jason's question.
"They're getting smarter." He levitated himself out, "well what are we waiting for?" Jason was about to say something, but thought better of it and turned and started off.
Kimberly raced forward, feeling the wind and listening, slowly it occurred to her that she could hear the others, and one of them was running irregularly, limping. They'd only been going for about a mile, the large area they had covered seemed smaller when they weren't thinking about it. She knew that they were all in good shape, but maybe someone was tiring... or injured.
Jason realised that they could be running towards their deaths as they followed in Kimberly's wake, but they had to get to the eggs. He jumped a tripwire, one that Kimberly had left undisturbed. He dropped a small glow stick so the others would see. Behind him Trini and Sam were holding back, waiting for the signal.
They were running along a gorge when Jason overtook Kimberly so she could catch her breath. He could see holes in the rock and a collection of... poisoned darts? Set so that they would fly from slingshot-like things as soon as they felt the slightest vibration? Or a spell maybe? Well they couldn't turn back and he could sense something foreign ahead, no doubt Rita's handiwork.
Jason ducked as he went through the narrow part, something whizzed by his ear, he dropped and rolled and a few more flew. Jason leaped and dodged and ducked, darts hissing about him, something hit his sleeve, but the padding prevented it from going further. Jason yanked it out and tossed it away, finally they stopped and he as well, behind him the others followed, their path clear of darts. He stopped to wait on the other side.
In hindsight that had not been the smartest thing to do, but it was his nature to be slightly impulsive and charging through the problem had seemed to work on this occasion.
"Jason, look out!" Kimberly cried as they were attacked from all sides.
Billy's team had had an easy time of it. While Jason was making enough noise to alert all those forces that were protecting the eggs, Aisha, David, Zack and Billy worked their way silently around. The traps though nasty were spaced so that they made easy progress. And with extra equipment Aisha was wearing to enhance her keen senses, they were able to avoid triggering many of the mechanisms.
So it was that they reached their destination first, a cliff above the nest guarded by two almost human figures. Zack groaned as he recognised them.
"Not these guys again."
"Oi! It's that Zack kid!" Roma shouted, catching sight of the Black Grid Warrior.
"So much for cover," Aisha commented.
"Affirmative," Billy agreed. "I suggest we utilise our full capabilities to counter this threat."
"I guess..." Zack said, not sure what Billy meant.
"Guys, we have to morph," Jason said over the radio. "It's Morphin Time!"
Before leaving Sam had turned his Power Coin other to Zordon who had used it to magnify the powers of the coin Billy had given him. The result was eight Rangers sharing the power of two Rangers instead of sharing the power of just one Ranger.
Beneath their outer clothing the Rangers were transformed into their Grid Warrior uniforms, however the only outward sign of this change was the addition of a small emblem on their chests. No longer hidden from the enemy, they leapt into battle, weapons drawn and any attempts to sneak about forgotten.
What followed was a mess as part-demons, imitation Putties and other protectors clashed with the Grid Warriors. Jason, Sam and Billy took the worst of the hits, their opposition having learnt that they were carrying the means to destroy the hyperlock units.
Finally Sam managed to break free of the oncoming Putties. He made his way to the eggs and was almost overcome by the stench of evil. Zack was soon by his side and together they used the curved blade to smash the shells.
Four of the shells were cracked, revealing the goo that the Elemental Beasts reverted to during storage. The black fluid oozed out, causing the four remaining eggs to react violently. The forces that had been distracted by the other Grid Warriors turned back to the nest and the two warriors found themselves dragged away.
Clouds formed overhead and the wind picked up. Fire and ice, wind and dust pelted the Grid Warriors. They struggled, but were driven back as the ground cracked. One of the Packspawns grabbed the nest and vanished, taking the four surviving beasts with him. His comrade, who Zack recognised as Dwanin, found himself on the receiving end of Jason, Sam and Billy's combined sword attack, though Billy's timing was off and the blow failed to have as much impact. He screamed as he was almost sent to the great beyond.
The Grid Warriors fought until the area had been cleared. Without the unnatural powers of the Elemental Beasts the woodland had died down and without anything to protect the golem foot soldiers started to crumble.
Finally after a lengthy battle the Grid Warriors returned to the Power Chamber, their mission a failure. It could have been worse.
The atmosphere was tense when the two teams of Rangers finally gathered in the Power Chamber to discuss the Elemental Beasts. Not only were the events of the last few hours fresh in everybody's mind, there were unresolved issues between team members that lurked beneath the surface.
Jason had taken the initiative, explaining the Grid Warriors' short adventure. As he spoke, his eyes were shifting between the Zeo Rangers, searching to signs of anger or disappointment. He found neither.
"So after that we returned here," Jason concluded. "I'm sorry guys, we couldn't get them all."
"Hey, you did your best and at least now we only have four to worry about," Tommy reassured his friend.
"According to my calculations the Elemental Beasts will still require time before they are ready for release," Billy stated. "We still have time to co-ordinate a defence."
The others exchanged glances, unsure if this was a good or a bad thing. True they had more time, but such a delay meant they had to wait before confronting the worst.
"Are you okay?" Tanya asked as she walked over to where David was sitting. In the excitement of the last few hours, the other Rangers had forgotten that David had been thrown into things without being asked. She had no doubts, having experienced a similar situation, that David was feeling some uncertainty.
"I'll feel better once this is over and I can go back to my normal life," the teen admitted. "No offence, but the life of a super hero is not for me. I'll be here while you need me, but then I just want to get back to normal."
Tanya nodded understandingly. Tommy and David were very different people despite being twins. Neither actively sought out danger, but while David had for the most part managed to avoid trouble, Tommy had a nasty habit of attracting it.
"Don't worry," she assured him. "It'll work out. Things always work out in the end."
Outside the Power Chamber
Kimberly Hart stared across the desert to where the small city of Angel Grove stood, blissfully unaware of the oncoming threat that could level it in a matter of seconds. Coming home had seemed so easy, but life was never that simple.
Coming home meant facing her friends again, something she did not want to do. Seeing them brought back the feelings of loneliness she had had after leaving to train for the Pan Globals. Returning home meant leaving a world of routine and relative safety for a city where even survival could not be guaranteed on a day-to-day basis.
And of course, there was the number one reason of why she was so uncomfortable to be back in Angel Grove: Tommy Oliver. The tall, handsome, charismatic leader of the Rangers was also as unpredictable as a summer storm. One minute, he was sweetness and light, the next, he was tottering on the edge of the dark places in his soul. His unpredictability had been one of the things that made it so exciting to be in love with him, but it had also made it frightening.
When she had found herself away from him, in Florida, she had been so confused in her feelings. She had missed him like fire, but at the same time, she was relieved to no longer be afraid of his dark side. After she had regained some sense of stability in herself, she had realised that she could survive without a relationship with Tommy. In fact, she had come to realise, that the way things were, she and Tommy never stood a chance as a long-term relationship. Sooner or later the fire would be gone and the darkness would take over. They both deserved better than that.
Kat on the other hand understood Tommy to some degree. The relationship would be difficult, but they could survive together. Whether they would be together in two years or ten years time was anybody's guess. In the end it all depended on how badly Kay wanted it and whether her love for Tommy would carry her over the hard times.
Kimberly meanwhile had not spent her time moping about lost loves. Upon realising her feelings she had set about writing the now infamous letter, releasing Tommy to find the person he could be happy with. She had found herself drawn to Chad. He embodied all of the qualities that she had loved in Tommy, with none of the danger. He loved her, respected her, and she enjoyed his company a great deal. He might not have been her soul mate, but for now he would do.
A slight cough snapped her out of her thoughts. She already knew who was there, but turned around anyway. As she expected, Tommy was leaning against the wall of the old citadel.
"It's been a long time," he told her.
"Too long," she hedged nervously, refusing to meet his eyes.
He laughed, a sound she had missed. When he spoke his voice lacked the venom she had expected and while not the tone she was used to it did not sound hateful.
"It's nice to have you back Kim. We missed you... I missed you."
"Tommy, about the letter," she offered, but he cut her off.
"It hurt Kim, more than you'd ever know. I thought we had something that would last and you couldn't even tell me to my face." He paused and looked at her, his face still friendly if a little hurt. "Was I really that bad?"
The way he asked the question combined with the puppy dog eyes broke the tension. Kimberly giggled despite herself. Trust Tommy to lighten her mood. "I was scared Tommy, not about what you would say or do, but about whether I would be able to tell you in person. I couldn't stand the confusion anymore. You and I -- sometimes, it felt so right, and sometimes it was so wrong. You were cold and distant, and then warm and loving. You always seemed ready to snap, and I just couldn't take it anymore. You scared me, Tommy.
I couldn't decide to leave until we were apart. When I was with you, things were always so confused. My emotions were a roller coaster ride, and I couldn't think straight until it stopped. Then, I didn't want to wait because I needed to do this, and I was afraid I'd lose my nerve. I did love you, Tommy. Whatever you may think of me, never think that I didn't love you.
The person in my letter was a lie and I am sorry about that. I needed a way to let you go that wouldn't leave you feeling guilty enough to come and change my mind. I didn't meet someone until I had sent the letter and then it was a few weeks before he spoke to me. His name was Chad Kincaid and yes, he is still my boyfriend. But you have to believe me, I didn't break up with you for him."
"Are you happy?" Tommy asked.
Kimberly blinked, unprepared for the question and unsure how to respond. In the end she nodded and smiled. "I'm happier than I have been in a long time Tommy."
"Then so am I," he whispered before giving her a gentle kiss on the cheek. "You mean too much to me for you not to be a part of my life, even if that means we are just friends."
"Friends," she agreed.
It was too easy. Their words while genuine had not cleared away all the doubts and anxieties created by their teenage minds. They would need to talk again, but for now the few words they had exchanged would be enough. "We've both changed, haven't we?" Kim asked softly. "You aren't the person I left, and I'm not the person who did the leaving. I'm glad we get a fresh start."
"I'm glad too and you're right: we have changed. There's so much we need to talk about, all of us, but not now." He changed the subject. "Where are you staying?"
"With my dad and my brother. Funny, both of my parents moved to Angel Grove after the divorce, and didn't even know it 'til a year later. Look, I'll see you later. I have to get home." Tommy nodded, watching her as she walked back inside. Then, with a sigh, he returned to the Power Chamber.
Despite being dismissed by Zordon, the Rangers had remained at the Power Chamber for some time, just catching up on the events in each other's lives. The Grid Warriors despite having access to the news had been unaware of how hard the Zeo Rangers had been fighting.
Billy had slipped out early in the conversation before Tommy and Jason started to explain about Minion. He knew they wouldn't mind and would just assume that the fate of Aquitar was still a sore point for the Blue Grid Warrior; after all he had abandoned his wife and her friends to their deaths just so he could escape.
The truth was that Billy had things he needed to do that he didn't want the other to know about yet. He considered it a surprise; one he knew would turn the tide of the coming battle.
"Hey Billy," a soft, feminine voice said behind him.
He didn't need to turn around to know that the voice's source was clothed in yellow. "Trini," he said.
"I'm sorry, Billy," she mumbled, sitting beside him. "About Cestria, I mean. I should have been there for you. I guess we got so involved with the Peace Conference, we just didn't think to contact you guys." She paused as if debating whether to continue, reaching out her hand to stroke her friend's cheek before continuing. "I'm really sorry Billy, it's bad enough I wasn't here for you without making it worse by lying."
That got the Blue Warrior's attention though he didn't turn towards her, anxious to keep her from seeing the expression on his face.
"We missed you guys, Billy. I know we never said so, but when Tommy arrived to bring Jason back, Zack and I spent the next week hoping that we would be needed... or wanted. That's why we stopped calling; we were afraid that one of you would say something and we'd take the opportunity to abandon the conference. Instead we just became more isolated."
They sat together in awkward silence for a few moments, neither knowing what to say. "I wish I had said something earlier," Billy said finally.
"Do you... think...that maybe, somehow, there's... Never mind." Her face was turning redder and redder with each passing moment.
"A chance for us?" Billy asked. He prayed silently that that was what she was going to ask. If not, he had just gotten herself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
"Yeah," Trini managed, feeling hopeful.
"I think when this is over we'll see if you still feel the same and go from there," he told her. Eager to change the subject to something less embarrassing, he jumped up. "I just had an idea," he said. "About speeding up the repair times for the Zords by utilising the old power regulators."
"Can I help?" she asked as Billy disappeared headfirst into a floor space.
"Affirmative," came the reply.
"Just like old times," Trini muttered before lowering herself into the conduit.
To Be Continued.