Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, they belong to the respective copyright owner. No money is being made from this piece of writing.
Show of Strength, Sign of Weakness
With the Power Chamber destroyed and Zordon unreachable using the available technology, the Rangers had been forced to move, to lick their wounds and decide how to move forward. Minion's plan to use the Elemental Beasts had failed, but as he had proven after the body, he was more than a match for the Rangers. And with the loses from that battle added to their already weakened position, the Rangers had been left vulnerable to any of the other villains that chose to capitalise. Their only reprieve in the days that followed their victory had come because so far Ninjor and Trey had been taking care of any problems that arose, selling the idea that the Rangers were taking time off. How long that illusion remained - for Rita and Zedd were not fooled as easily as some would believe - remained to be seen.
The first day their concern had been to secure the remains of the Power Chamber to prevent Zedd or worse, Mondo getting their hands on the secrets stored inside. Even assuming that everything had been destroyed, the site was positioned on a line of natural power and would provide an excellent fortress. That from the Rangers' point of view would be disastrous. Then with the mountain secured they could bring themselves to deal with other matters.
That was why they had gathered to discuss what they could do next. With only the Gem Coins to power them and the barely functional Ninja as a Zord, they were growing desperate. Minion still had the Zeo Crystal and the chances of retrieving it grew diminishing as each day passed; the Power Coins that the impostor Billy had taken had yet to be recovered.
"At least we have this place," Zack commented, gesturing to their surroundings.
"I concur," Billy said. "I appreciate Zordon's foresight in creating an external fallback facility."
"But why in Reefside?" Kimberly asked.
They had been surprised when Zordon's choice of backup facility had been under an abandoned house that they later discovered belonged to Zedric Ordon. The means of entering, by closing manipulating a dinosaur skull suggested that perhaps this had been Zordon's first choice for the original Command Center.
"Reefside is a centralised nexus with its own localised Morphin Grid," Billy explained. "Had Zordon stayed here he would have been able to create Rangers just as easily as he could in Angel Grove."
"So why did he pick Angel Grove?"
Billy shrugged. "Expansion possibilities, the local layout or just that that was a more remote location where he would not be bothered."
"Or it could be he liked mountains," Ninjor suggested.
There was little more to say on that matter so the Rangers decided to press ahead.
"Has there been any lucky finding Minion?" Trini asked, looking at Trey and Travis who had been using Pyramidas to aid their search for the villain's island since it had disappeared days earlier.
Both shook their heads. Zordon's satellite network had been put to full use to scan the planet's surface, but there had been no physical sightings of the island and a personal search of its previous location had revealed only sea water.
"Maybe he sank it," Rocky offered.
Tommy shook his head. "He didn't go to all that trouble to create his own island just to sink it again."
"At least not without having something to make such an act worthwhile," the Lord of Triforia added.
A small alarm sounded and the Rangers missed the simplicity of the Power Chamber as they tried to discover what was causing the alert.
"Looks like Minion decided to save us the trouble of looking," Zack commented. He didn't sound happy about it.
On a small screen they could see the self-made villain blasting his way through a small town to the north of Angel Grove. In his hand he wielded a new sword, one that sparked dangerously as he dragged it through the body of a parked car.
"That's not the Sword of Darkness," Trini pointed out.
"Affirmative," Billy agreed. "That sword does not have the same properties of the Sword of Darkness and is nowhere near as resistant. One well-placed shot will shatter it."
"We need to get out there," Adam said, turning away in revulsion as Minion drove his sword into an innocent bystander.
"It's Morphin Time!"
"Zeo Ranger I - Crane!"
"Zeo Ranger II - Bear!"
"Zeo Ranger III - Ape!"
"Zeo Ranger IV - Frog!"
"Zeo Ranger V - Falcon!"
"Gold Ranger Power!"
They rapidly teleported away. Ninjor hesitated a moment before he too joined the battle.
Minion was winning. He had taken an early lead when the Gem Coin Rangers had appeared and had yet to allow them to turn the tide into their favour.
"Don't you understand Rangers?" Minion asked as he ruthlessly tore into his enemies. He didn't take time to devise strategies this time, preferring to let the sword in his hand and the cries of agony tell the story. "I suffer because you survive. Every time I cut you, hurt you, make you bleed and drop before me, the pain I feel diminishes. But it's not enough," he admitted as he drove his elbow into Adam's chest. "The pain I feel won't go until I have made you all pay, until you are all destroyed."
"You will never triumph, Minion," Ninjor announced as he rejoined the battle; the Morphin Master had been thrown through the fifth floor of a nearby building and had emerged on the far side only to plummet into a waiting trash pile.
"You should have stayed in your temple," Minion answered as he swung the Sword of Ragnarok at his foe.
Ninjor teleported away and reappeared, feigning boredom. "Is that the best you can do Minion?" he asked.
Minion tried again and again, each time missing the Morphin Master who was relying on quick thinking instead of brute force. When Minion unveiled the Zeo Crystal and unleashed a ball of flame in his direction, Ninjor caught it and turned it back against its originator. The villain reacted instinctively, bringing his arms up to block the blast despite knowing it would not harm him. That brief moment of distraction was enough for Zeo Frog and Zeo Ape to fire their pistols, knocking the Zeo Crystal from the villain's hand.
"No, the crystal!" Minion cried.
The Zeo Crystal had been his greatest prize, a sign of victory over the Rangers. Now it was back in enemy hands. He would not allow that.
"If I cannot have it, nobody shall!" he announced before charging towards the Rangers. He swung the Sword of Ragnarok and made contact with the Zeo Crystal, resulting in a shower of sparks as a crack appeared in the crystal's structure.
"Not so fast villain," Ninjor interrupted. He had by this time drawn his own sword despite the villain's desire to deal with the Rangers, the two found themselves locked in one on one combat. Minion ducked low and brought his sword up inside of Ninjor's defences, but the Ninja Master countered by releasing one hand from the handle of his sword and stepping back.
"Billy, we have the crystal," Tommy said. "Teleport it now." The crystal vanished and Tommy returned his attention to the battle in time to see Minion blast them, again.
"This isn't going well," Jason said as the Grid Warriors gathered around the monitor. Their friends were taking a battering from Minion and as much as the former Red Ranger hated to admit it, the clone had a clear advantage. "We don't have a choice guys, we'll have to take their place."
Kimberly looked as though she would object until the screen went blank. When it cleared again, the Gem Coin Rangers were strewn on the ground having demorphed from the encounter. Trey had landed in the entrance hall of the town's bank with enough energy that the bank's security cameras had been destroyed before they could reveal his secrets. Fortunately the bank had been empty at the time. From the look of things Ninjor was not faring much better.
"Billy, can we use the Zeo Crystal?" Trini asked the young genius.
Billy shook his head. The Zeo Crystal alone was capable of making one Ranger. Only when incorporated into the device Zordon and Alpha had designed could its energy be split into individual frequencies that allowed for multiple Zeo Rangers. Besides the damage Minion had inflicted had destabilised the crystal and for all he knew, it would crumble the next time they attempted to use it.
"Then we'll use the Gem Coins," Jason decided.
The others nodded and swiftly decided that Jason, Zack, Kimberly, Trini and Aisha would act as Rangers for the battle to come. In a column of white they teleported into the war zone.
When they arrived, they easily located their fallen friends. In their condition the Gem Coin Rangers couldn't stop Jason and his companions from removing their Gem Coins.
"It's Morphin Time!" Jason called confidently.
"Zeo Ranger I, Crane!" Kimberly cried.
"Zeo Ranger II, Bear!" Aisha yelled. It had been decided that she would take the Yellow power.
"Zeo Ranger III, Ape!" Trini cried. She didn't mind being blue instead of yellow. In fact it helped ease her feelings of taking Aisha's spot.
"Zeo Ranger IV, Frog!" Zack called. Zack was just glad to feel the Power again. He didn't care about colour.
"Zeo Ranger V, Falcon!" Jason called.
"All right Rangers." Jason declared, snapping his team back to attention. "Let's teach Minion not to mess with the Power Rangers..."
Across the street, which was starting to resemble a building site, a blur of red light shot out of the crater where the town's most prominent jeweller shop had once been. Ninjor and Minion had taken their combat to ever more violent extremes. Unable to defeat the legendary Morphin Master on his own, Minion had cheated by calling in Brasso and Silvo. Together the three evil warriors had overwhelmed the heroic mentor and while they had been unable to destroy him, he needed to rest before continuing the fight.
"Well," Minion said as he emerged from the crater, leaving Silvo and Brasso inside the hole to make it look as if he had beaten Ninjor on his own. "That was... disappointing. I had hoped to break a sweat."
He could imagine the looks on the Rangers' faces as they realised their powerful friend had simply been shrugged off. Ninjor had proven to be an incredibly skilled warrior and had they continued one on one Minion had little doubt that he would have succumbed to the other's superior skill. Even facing three opponents, Ninjor had managed to hold his own up until the point where Silvo had grabbed him. From there on the odds had been too great.
He looked up as the combined power of the Gem Coin Blasters slammed into him, throwing him back into the mountain. This time the rock did not take the impact and crumbled down upon Minion.
"Fire again!" Jason ordered. His helmet somehow disguised his voice, making him sound like Tommy.
The others obeyed, maintaining fire until the cannon's energy was drained. Then they allowed it to cool before pumping more shots towards the ailing villain. Their shots were having some effect by now, slipping past Minion's magical shielding and knocking him around with the concussion of each shot. They kept firing, switching to their Gem Coin Pistols and finally their swords.
Had Minion thought of it he would have ordered Silvo and Brasso to attack, knowing that with their brute force he could overpower the five teens. But his ego got in the way as he tried to fight back against the Rangers.
"Combine weapons!" Zeo Falcon ordered.
The Rangers did as they were told, clipping their Gem Coin pistols onto the back of the Gem Coin Blasters. They then attached their Gem Coin Swords to the front on the barrels. Then they each loaded a different cartridge and fired at the same spot.
A speck of dust rolled down the side of the new crater left by the Rangers' weapons; the explosive rounds Zack had chosen had proven effective. As the dust moved, it nudged other grains, causing them to follow suit, exposing the superheated soil beneath to cool air and causing steam to rise into the sky. More dust rolled off the mound left by their combined blast, the steam throwing globs of dirt into the sky. Columns of thick black smog erupted into the air, turning the sky dark. A huge mushroom cloud formed overhead and television and radio signals became scrambled as static electricity built up in the area. There was a second explosion as they struck a gas line, practically tearing what was left of the street to pieces.
A lone figure rose from the dirt and looked around, struggling to clear his head and cautiously taking stock of his body.
"He's still there," Aisha said disbelievingly.
"No, something's different," Trini told her.
"He's laughing," Aisha said, suddenly nervous.
"This has been fun Rangers," Minion chuckled, clearly amused. "The more you suffer the better I feel. And right now, I feel evil."
Minion laughed; a chilling laugh heard throughout the world that caused humans, villains and henchmen to pause for a moment as a shiver travelled down their spine. It seemed that while the blast had done very little to his body, and it seemed that his sanity was so far gone that nothing would damage it further.
He stomped forward, Sword of Ragnarok gripped firmly in his hand. The enemy was close to death, he could sense their fear as he approached. He ran his hand along the edge of the sword, sharpening it with the resistant material in his glove. Then he leapt into battle, using the sword to put an end to his foes. The Rangers put up a good fight, but Minion was more skilled and far more powerful than their average opponents, and the teens were not used to their powers. The Sword of Ragnarok crackled with destructive energy as he slashed it across Zeo Ape's chest.
The Rangers continued to fight, with Zeo Falcon taking the initiative as he charged at Minion, who in turn raised his sword to meet the Red Ranger's initial blow. As Jason parried the clone's counter thrust, Aisha took a swing at his knees with her sword. The clone lost his balance allowing Jason to slip inside his guard and land a blow with the end of his sword on the villain's left cheek. The Rangers rapidly followed up, delivering three more slashes as they interchanged between attacking and retreating back into open space.
Zeo Frog and Zeo Ape's blows were slightly mistimed, but while they did not land with maximum impact, Green's punch knocked the clone off balance and Blue's kick forced him to stumble back onto the ground.
"Fire Gas!" Zeo Crane called, launching a flame capsule from her Gem Coin Blaster, resulting in a fluffy mass of flames engulfing the stunned villain.
"Final Flash!" Zeo Falcon called, shooting a ray of destructive energy from the tip of his sword. He followed the blast until he was close enough to use the weapon to cut the villain down. With his determination fuelling his efforts, Jason powered through the clone's weak defence, powering up the sword to deliver his final blow.
Minion vanished only to reappear in the same spot once the blade had moved on. Jason landed a powerful knee to his opponent's chest. Jason ducked as the other Rangers fired, their blast sufficient to distract Minion so that Jason could sneak another kick at the villain's knees.
Minion rose defiantly as the Rangers turned their attention to him, the weapons aimed at his head suggesting what they had in mind would not be pleasant.
He could sense their indecision about whether they could destroy him and lurched forward. He managed to wrestle Zeo Crane's weapon from her grasp. The others responded quickly, using both their pistols and their swords in an attempt to bring Minion down. He responded by using his freshly won sword to force the Rangers to shift position. A series of kicks and rapid slashes took down the Rangers giving him the advantage but only for a short time before the Rangers recovered.
Kimberly leapt over Minion's head, twisting as she did so to deliver an underside down kick to the back of his head. Zeo Frog and Zeo Ape had once again drawn their side arms and fired them as soon as Kimberly was clear.
The battle raged on, neither side able to gain a clear advantage. Minion was stronger and able to take the Rangers down easily, but they had the strength of numbers, which meant as one of them was thrown aside, another could take his place. The Rangers were exhausted, but didn't dare to give the other an edge. And all the time the city was taking the brunt of their combat.
By this time Sam and David had arrived and managed to retrieve Trey and Ninjor. They had also revived Tommy, Rocky, Adam, Kat and Tanya. While Trey and Ninjor rejoined the action, Tommy and the others looked on from what was supposedly a position of safety.
Minion blasted the Rangers, hoping to take them down. He in turn was hit by a series of shots as the Gem Coin Rangers jumped for cover. As Gold Ranger charged in with his own attack and Ninjor swooped from the sky on his floating cloud to snatch the villain's stolen sword from his grasp.
"This isn't over Rangers," Minion promised. He lifted his hand and unleashed a final bolt of black lightning at the unmorphed teens.
The blast hit as he expected it to, throwing them into the air. And while some like Tommy were lucky enough to land safely, Rocky was not so fortunate. The youth hit the ground with a sickening thud. His body spasmed after the impact; it was the falling concrete that damaged his back.
"That will do for now," Minion announced before leaving. It seemed that he had regained the advantage.
After securing Rocky in the hospital, away from those who would take advantage of his injury, the Rangers had regrouped back at their Reefside headquarters.
"What's the verdict?" Tommy asked.
"The Zeo Crystal will need to be repaired at a molecular level," Billy told him. "We don't have the means to do so."
"So we're still down to one full Ranger," Jason pointed out.
"Man, we need Zordon back."
"I may have a way to achieve that Rangers," Ninjor announced. He tapped something into a computer console, a primitive piece of machinery compared to those in the Power Chamber; Zordon had obviously never bothered upgrading this place. An image of a small world appeared on the screen.
"Phaedos!" Travis explained. "Surely you jest?"
"Nobody has ever sought the Great Power and succeeded," Trey added, recalling the legends, the promises and the tragic stories of the mutilated corpses discovered on the planet.
"I have faith in the Rangers," Ninjor said. "With the Great Power all things are possible; reversing the damage caused by Minion and his forces would prove easy."
"So we could bring Zordon back?" Aisha asked.
"Yes Rangers, you can bring Zordon back," Ninjor answered patiently although he continued muttering, "not that bringing him back is that big a deal, just a matter of repairing the transmitter."
"You are sending them to their deaths," Travis argued.
"Those who sought the Great Power before were unprepared and wanted it for selfish reasons," Ninjor explained.
"And how do you prepare for such a quest?" Travis asked. "The greatest warriors went to Phaedos and none returned save those who changed their minds."
"They were great warriors," Trey said as he looked up at Ninjor's unreadable face, "but they were not Rangers."
"Trey is right," Ninjor announced. "And with a little training we have eight fine upstanding candidates just waiting to be made Rangers."
"You mean us?" Kim asked, her eyes expressing her excitement at the thought.
"Can you think of anyone else?" Ninjor asked.
Kim quickly shook her head. She remembered her time as a Ranger fondly. She was thrilled at the chance to live that life again.
"Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Billy, Sam, Trini, Aisha and David will come with me to seek out their new powers," Ninjor announced. He looked at the potential Rangers. "I think this will go better than it did last time."
"You guys get the Great Power," Tommy decided, "and we'll hold Minion back for as long as possible."
"Ninjor, what about the Zeo Crystal, can we fix it?" Trini asked.
"Of course we can," Ninjor said, "but not yet. With the Great Power all things are possible, repairing the crystal will be easy." ~Although at this rate we may need to choose which miracle we wish to perform.~
"I've completed a diagnostic of the Gem Coins and while they remain unstable, they can be safely utilised until we restore the Zeo Crystal," Billy told them. "The only problem is that you will be one Ranger short."
"We'll manage as best we can," Tommy promised.
The others agreed. It was going to be a dangerous time, but the sooner Jason and the others gained their new powers, the sooner the Earth would be protected.
As the others teleported from their makeshift headquarters, Travis set himself the task of finding keeping watch. He didn't have any powers, wasn't even a Ranger and was there only because he had once been a part of Trey. He would anything to help, just as the other Rangers would find a way to survive. Because if they didn't, there would be nothing left for Ninjor and the others to return to.
"Kim, look out!" Billy called as he ducked another monster.
The eight teens had no sooner arrived at their destination than they were attacked. Eight lizard-like creatures had taken them by surprise; each armed with a spear.
Kimberly leapt out of the way, narrowly avoiding the lizard's tail. Landing on one foot she pushed herself into the air, performing a spin kick that would have made Tommy jealous. For some reason, despite being unable to morph, the Rangers were able to execute moves they had only ever managed successfully when the power was flowing through them.
"Come on you overgrown handbag," she heard Aisha call.
Looking over to where the former Ranger was fighting she could see the lizard was having problems. Aisha kicked it from behind and quickly rolled away as it turned around. Once again behind her opponent, she kicked it a second time.
Jason meanwhile had not bothered with fancy kicks. Instead he was trading fists and solid kicks with a powerful looking lizard. He pulled away as he saw the tail swinging towards him, waiting for the correct opportunity and then stomping on the tip of the tail. "Hi-yah!" He threw the lizard to the ground, driving his fist into its skull just above the eyes.
Zack had gone back to the techniques that had given him the best results as a Ranger. Distracting his opponent with his footwork, he waited until the lizard had lost interest in fighting him before kicking it in the head. A few extra kicks to the creature's mid section and it keeled over.
In a pocket dimension composed of neither light nor darkness a small group watched the former Rangers in battle. One of them had worked with the Rangers before. Two had been watching over the Rangers at various times in their careers. The final member of the group was a powerful ally of Rangers throughout the Universe, who had been earmarked to one day act as their mentor, had events turned out differently.
"They are good," the first watcher said.
"I told you they were," the second piped up. "I only served with three of them, but I believe Zordon has chosen correctly."
"As do I," a female voice said. "We will train them, but we must be sure they are worthy before they take the final step. If we are mistaken we must find out before they receive their powers. Afterwards we will not be able to remove them."
"Then it is decided," a fourth, deep voice said. "We will wait until they have completed this challenge before introducing ourselves. We will train them to use their powers without the aid of Zordon and then we will test them. If we are correct there will be eight new Rangers."
The pocket dimension returned to silence as four of the most powerful beings for good watched the Rangers finish off their first trial.
Working back-to-back David and Sam had formed a good team. While David drew the lizards towards him, Sam would catch them by surprise.
"Ready?" David asked.
He got his answer when he felt Sam step into his hands, onto his shoulders and then launched into a bicycle kick. The first lizard didn't even realise what was happening until Sam landed, using a reverse chop to bring the creature down.
David slammed his fist into the side of his opponent's head. Turning his back on the lizard he pulled its chin over his right shoulder, holding it in place by positioning his arms around its neck and dropped to his knees. With an effort he dragged the semiconscious form back to its feet before repeating the move. This time though he turned his body as he descended, causing the lizard to rise into the air slightly.
Unexpectedly, the lizard Sam was fighting managed to knock him off his feet. Sam fought back as best he could until the lizard man collapsed. Behind it was Trini, offering her new friend a hand up.
"What happened to yours?" Sam asked.
Instead of answering, Trini pointed to where Billy was beating two lizards simultaneously. "Do you think we should help?" David asked as he helped Sam up. He noticed the looks on his friends' faces and added, "I meant the lizards."
"Billy's pissed!" Jason said as he walked over with Kim and Aisha.
"You can't blame him," Zack said as he also joined his friends.
"Heeyah!" Billy cried. The Blue Ranger had been through a great deal recently; first having his world taken from him and then captured while a duplicate infiltrated the Rangers and almost cost them their lives. "And don't you ever try that again," he told the last lizard as it collapsed to the ground. The workout had done him almost as much good as the restorative seeds that Ninjor had given him.
"Congratulations Rangers," Ninjor said as he moved to greet them. He waved a hand around the lizards and they vanished. "I of course expected nothing less. You have passed the test and earned the right to be tested. I am Ninjor, Keeper of the Temple of Ninja Powers. I'm also a legend throughout the Universe..."
"Congratulations indeed," a deep voice boomed. "Know that I am Saurian, Enforcer of the planet Juruyella."
The newcomer was big, very big. He was easily the size of a Megazord and his bulky red armour reminded them of the times they had seen Ninjor fight as a giant. He didn't wear a helmet, suggesting that he was naturally giant.
"I am Thalian, Protector of the Dairon Temple." A white-faced humanoid said.
"And I am called Dulcea." She was dressed in very little. She smiled as Sam, David, Jason, Zack and Billy struggled to pick their jaws off the ground. She knew that she looked good even after thousands of years, but to see that reflect in a young man's eyes for even a brief moment was a great reinforcement of her confidence. "If you wish to quest for the Great Power you will need to convince me that you are worthy." She glared at Saurian as she said that.
"Zordon has provided you with all the lessons a Ranger needs to know," Thalian stated, "but his captivity has prevented him from teaching you some of the things you need to know. That is why you are here."
"Come," Saurian said. "We will talk more when we reach my temple. The testing shall begin at dawn tomorrow."
The Guardian had been defeated and he was not happy about the situation. Not only had Minion stolen the Sword of Ragnarok, but an ingrate known only as the Master had managed to steal a far more dangerous artefact. The Guardian was bound by honour and duty to ensure that such crimes did not go unpunished. However, he was unable to leave his post protecting other treasures that might one day be needed.
Instead and with great reluctance he decided to choose others to act for him. He would grant them the appearance and powers of the temple's defenders and send them on a mission to retrieve the Sword of Ragnarok and to stop the Master from ever unleashing the power held within the box he had taken. If he did so then the Guardian would not need to worry, because at that point he would no longer exist.
End of Part