Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, they belong to the legal copyright owner. This is a non-profit story made without the consent of the show's creators and is a part of the Conquest of Evil storyline. Some parts of this story, especially Zedd's appearance belong to Jeremy Ray Logsdon.
The Emperor's New Rage
Another day, another defeat. At least that was how it seemed.
"Those pesky Rangers have all the luck," Rita complained as she watched the teens celebrating another victory. "Well I'll soon show them."
"Leave it Rita," Zedd told her before she could throw her wand. "It never works anyway."
He was right of course, but in the old days before the loss of his body, at least he had been willing to try.
"At least I'm doing something, Zeddy. Unlike you, just floating there."
"Yeah Ed, what have you done lately?" Rito asked.
"It's Ed not... never mind, I don't have time for this. As soon as Finster is finished, I will show those Rangers what real power is all about."
For the first time in the last three days, Rita remembered that she had a monster maker around. He had been in his workshop the entire time and now that she thought about it she had seen plenty of Putties carrying clay up and down the stairs.
"What are you up to Zeddy?" she demanded. She already had an idea of what her husband could want with Finster, but she also realised that Zedd had to know better.
Instead of answering, Zedd floated his way down the corridors, leading his wife and followers to the room where Finster had been quietly working.
"Take a look," he challenged, moving to grant her an unobstructed view.
Rita groaned. It seemed Zedd either didn't know any better or was simply too desperate to care. The clay body Finster had been working on was near completion and did to Finster's credit show a strong resemblance to the original.
"I'm almost done Lord Zedd," Finster said as he continued to work on the left leg.
It was unusual for Finster to build a full sized monster, but this would not be his usual construct. Instead of placing the clay through his machinery, Finster knew that Zedd intended to possess the new body himself. It would not be as powerful as his old body, but he expected it was better than floating around all day. He definitely didn't believe Zedd's assertion that it would make him stronger than ever.
"This won't work Zedd," Rita told him.
Zedd had been without a body for too long. After researching the possibilities of reclaiming Larry Zedden and finding that they were remarkably low, he had decided that one of Finster's creations would have to do.
"It only requires your touch Lord Zedd," Finster told him with a slight bow.
As Zedd floated forward, he missed the monster maker distancing himself from the area. As the Emperor of the Dark Galaxy placed a spectral hand on the waiting body, Rita decided the underling had the right idea and ducked behind the doorway.
"It's working Rita!" Zedd proclaimed as he shifting his essence into the waiting clay, which promptly started to change as directed by his magic. Before long, the rough model of Lord Zedd was starting to resemble the real thing.
The colour shifted, the muscle tone resembling that of his true body. The chrome exoskeleton gleamed as his power surged through his new form.
"Lord Zedd is back!" he boasted before stamping down on the dark energies of the Morphin Grid as his body started to pulse in time with his magic. Red sparks flowed the length of his body as he tried to control the rampant energies.
"Brilliant my lord!" Goldar cried.
With a thunderous explosion his new body disintegrated, spraying chunks of molten clay at the spectators. "I warned you this would happen!" Rita shrieked as a large clump of clay knocked her on the side of the head.
Zedd however was too busy tearing himself free from the crumbling construct, determined that he would find a way to be whole again. No matter the cost.
Things had changed, things always seemed to be changing. It was an inescapable fact of life that things happened. But that did not mean that Lord Zedd, once the proud Emperor of the Dark Galaxy, now reduced to a mere spirit. A single defeat had cost him dearly, robbing him of his body, his power, his position and his property, namely his ex-wife and daughter. He had been all but exiled from the Lunar Palace, his current wife wanting nothing to do with a ghost of a husband.
Yes, Rita, this was all Rita's fault. Had it not been for Rita and her ridiculous love potion, he would never have succumbed to the power of the Zeo Crystal. It had been Rita who had created that small chink is his armour that had allowed his host's feelings for his daughter to distract him. Yes, it was all Rita's fault, not his fault at all.
With that decided he could concentrate on the important issues, such as reclaiming a physical form and crushing all those that had dared to oppose him. The Rangers would be the first, but if Mondo, Gasket or even Rita got in his way he would deal with them too. And as for Larry Zedden, his wife and his interfering daughter... Zedd planned to make them his.
The question was how could he reclaim his host? Larry Zedden was safe on Earth, in the presence of a loving family and no doubt watched over by Zordon. The human had probably learnt enough about warding spells to keep the darkness at bay. Rita would have already attacked if that were not the case,~ he thought bitterly.
"I have a plan Rita, one that will give me a new body and rob the Rangers of their newest friend." For the first time in months Zedd's voice didn't sound dull and tired. Some of the old anger was there once more. The failed attempt to create a new body from clay had given him hope. "Goldar, send a message to Houan, there's an old friend there I need to assist me."
"Houan?" Rita asked sceptically. "What could you want on a planet full of.... Zedd you can't mean... him?"
"Yes Rita, Houan, where even now the high priest Shango resides. With his skills, Lord Zedd shall rise again!"
"At once Lord Zedd," the mighty warrior - in his own mind - said, bowing to both Zedd and nodding to Rita before hurrying away.
"Shango, as if that old fool will be able to help you," Rita grumbled.
"You stupid witch, think for a moment," Zedd argued.
Sometimes he swore Rita lacked the intelligence of some of their more moronic servants. She certainly lacked the imagination needed to defeat the Power Rangers.
"Shango commands an army of undead warriors and expands his army using the fallen of whatever world he resides upon. Imagine how many warriors have been killed on Earth since the planet first formed and what he would be willing to pay me for such a harvest."
"He's a freak!" Rita insisted.
And she was right. Shango had once been humanoid, but the rituals he had undertaken had changed all that. Each time he gained something, he had to lose a part of himself in return. While still mortal, by the time he had finished he didn't look it.
And then there were the other changes. It was not unusual for villains to need to augment their bodies with other materials. Sometimes it was necessary to replace lost limbs or rotting flesh with some sort of graft. Shango was the only magic user who chose to willingly replace his weakened and damaged flesh with Iron. Nobody knew exactly how much of his original body remained under his armour, or for that matter if it was armour or his skin. Some said he was trying to imitate Lord Zedd, but others just claimed he was insane.
By rights the Cold Iron should have caused him serious problems. Iron was notorious for being resistant to magic and given the number of rituals he had undertaken, should have led to him rejecting his additional parts. Instead he had made the augmentations a part of him, mutating the properties of the Iron so they didn't affect him. Were it not for the general distrust he inspired with his 'creations' he would have been a powerful member of the UAE's ruling council.
"He might be a freak," Zedd replied, "but he possesses exactly what I need to create a new body and when he defeats the Power Rangers for us, the Earth will be ours!"
"I'm afraid Lord Zedd that Shango is otherwise... occupied. Perhaps I can be of assistance."
Where the intruder had come from was unclear. He had not teleported into the Lunar Palace. There were spells to detect that sort of thing. Nor had he used any other form of magical transportation, which would have alerted Rita before he arrived. He had simply appeared, without even the slight pop of displaced air that usually accompanied such arrivals.
"Who are you?" Rita demanded, raising her wand.
"Oh and you must be the lovely Rita Repulsa. I assure you that I mean no harm, dear Rita," he answered flashed her a cheerful yet disturbing smile. There was something about his posture, the way he moved and his apparent disregard for personal space -- not to mention the fact he seemed to be sniffing her -- that made Rita nervous. Perhaps it was the fact that despite wearing a crimson cloak to disguise his features. She was certain he could see everything around him.
She relaxed slightly when Goldar and Rito had lumbered into the room, swords at the ready. For some reason she didn't think there was much the two warriors could do, but they would buy her time to escape. She paused, wondering when her unease had turned to fear.
"There is no need for violence," he said as he lowered his hood. His voice was soothing, but Rita couldn't help notice the way he positioned himself so that neither henchman could attack without having to duck around her. "I have good news for you."
Then as she looked at him the feeling of unease was gone. The man before her did not appear at all imposing. He was short, not at all bulky, and looked perfectly human. His blonde curly hair and pearly white smile seemed almost angelic. And since Goldar and Rito had appeared, he had assumed a very non-aggressive posture.
"I am here to help," he continued, ignoring the armed warriors and he gazed lazily around, his eye lingering on Zedd's throne and Rita's enchanted telescope.
"My wife asked you a question," Zedd interrupted, speaking for the first time since the intruder had arrived. "Who are you?"
"Many call me Xing," he answered.
Zedd leaned forward, suddenly very interested. Rita wondered if her husband had noticed that Xing had only claimed that that was what many called him, not that Xing was his name.
"Prove it!" Zedd challenged.
It seemed that Xing had been awaiting such an invitation. He clapped his hands once and a second -- thing was the best way that Zedd could describe it -- appeared.
"You will have to excuse my companion's appearance," Xing told them. "He is a work in progress. Purging him of light is taking longer than expected," he confided. "I was going to keep him until he surrendered, but perhaps this is a better plan. Yes, why not... prepare yourself."
He thrust his right hand out towards Zedd and started chanting. There was a sudden flare from Zedd's spiritual form as he was sucked into Xing's closing fist. Goldar and Rito tried to move forward, but found themselves pinned in place by an unknown force. Rita however made no movement at all. She was mesmerised by the magical energy Xing seemed to possess.
"Do not fear, dear Rita," he told her. "I promised that this would be good news."
His left palm reached out and tapped his companion's chest, causing the glowing ball that was Zedd's evil essence to flow through his right arm, into his body and out the left arm into his companion's body.
"And now, great Lord Zedd, you shall live again. Soul Infusion!"
Just like the body he had had built for him during the summer, he made the offered form his own. As he did so, his magic started to reshape its new vessel according to his mental image. This was a new Zedd, no longer inhibited by the morals of a Zarakin prince. His current host did not seem to have a mind of its own and therefore could not subconsciously fight him.
In a burst of silver energy, Zedd's staff appeared, crackling with power which flowed up and down Zedd's arms. Zedd threw his head back and laughed triumphantly, an evil, wicked laugh that echoed through the palace and out across the surface of the Moon.
Hidden by the glow of his staff, Zedd was experiencing a frighteningly awesome transformation. His muscles grew even larger than they had been in his last host, his shoulders became even wider, and he began to slowly increase in height. Zedd's silver exoskeleton became a shiny, unblemished gold. His red muscles became a dark maroon, lined with numerous black striations in the musculature. The red energy behind his visor darkened until it was the blackest of blacks, reflecting no light. His exoskeleton continued changing, becoming sharper, more deadly, and more angular. The Z that curved over his brain lengthened and became a truly dangerous appendage, just as the greyish-pink matter of his brain turned an even eerier black. The golden caps at the ends of his fingers turned into sharp talon-like claws.
The transformation ended as a lone, tiny speck of golden light travelled down his Z staff that was now as gold as the rest of the metal in his body. He stepped back as Xing removed his hand and nodded to himself as he examined his new body.
"The news I had was better than I thought. I never expected an overcharge," Xing admitted as he regarded Zedd calmly.
Zedd stood up straight, reaching a good eight feet tall. The Z on his staff was more ornate and sharp now, and continual streams of black energy danced from point to point on the Z. It had always been more than a decoration, but now it was truly a weapon.
"Yes," he growled in a voice an octave deeper than his previous. He realised now that this was the power he should have held all those years he had possessed Larry Zedden. If he had taken the time to purge the good from his previous host, he would have been more powerful and less likely to have succumbed to Zedden's daughter's begging. "Lord Zedd is back."
Zedden Residence, Angel Grove
Larry Zedden, formerly Lord Zedd had collapsed, holding his hands to his head and biting his tongue to stop himself from crying out. The pain he felt was incredible. He couldn't even acknowledge the desperate pleas of his wife and child.
"Something has happened..." he rasped before passing out, a small amount of blood dripping from his nose.
Jamie checked the man's pulse, as she had been instructed do as part of her dad's training. He was alive, but unconscious. She moved him into the recovery position before contacting Zordon for help.
"The Earth will be mine!" Zedd stated dreamily as he looked down on the tiny world. For a moment his gaze fixed on Angel Grove before he moved on to Mariner Bay. "There will be no competition, no stupid machines or half-witted pirates, and no bungling in-laws or glory seekers. Lord Zedd will hold this planet. Starting now!"
In a burst of black flame he teleported away.
Xing watched the Emperor of the Dark Zones leave. This was turning out better than expected. At this rate he had no doubt he would be able to achieve his goal.
One hour earlier
Curszer was growing frustrated. His hopes of freeing the Royal Court had been dash time and time again. The Lightspeed Power Rangers were growing more skilful with each encounter as they learnt more about themselves and their comrades. They did not have the teamwork he had observed from other Ranger teams, but they could work together when necessary. And whatever support team they had behind them had obviously picked up on Dauros, Hemogrin and Gilmer's weaknesses.
"Do not fear, Spell Master Curszer," Xing said, inclining his head as he used the wizard's full title. "I bring good news. Your masters will soon be released."
Curszer was naturally pleased to hear the news, even though it did nothing to ease his suspicions about the mysterious man before him. There was nothing the man could ask in return for aiding the Royal Court, nothing that the more important demons could be expected to honour anyway. Yet he knew that such an offer would not be made unless there was something to be gained.
"I bring you a gift," Xing continued, holding out a card to the wizard. "A very rare and powerful card."
Curszer took the card greedily. His brother had many cards like this in his possession, but Curszer was unable to use them. This card was especially rare, possessing the ability to unite four warriors into one. With only three demons available though it left him with a dilemma. He could use the card, placing himself as the fourth warrior, or he could keep the card until a candidate came along, delaying the completion of his task.
"I will give you a second gift," Xing said, flashing Curszer a sinister smile. "I will take away your burden by making the choice for you."
He touched the card with his finger, activating the spells recorded on its surface. Curszer, Dauros, Hemogrin and Gilmer burst into flames, which were then drawn together. As the flames died down again, the four demons were replaced by a single warrior. Dark, leather skinned with three tiny horns protruding from its head, the result was not terribly impressive, but it would do. As the demon unfolded a pair of wings and took off toward the city, Xing's eyes flashed green.
"A fine gift indeed," he whispered before lifting his hood. As he departed, the magical bonds that Curszer had been trying to break, shattered, starting the process that would free the petrified members of Queen Bansheera's court. Now it was time to deliver a gift to Lord Zedd.
"Hey Teddy, what're you watching?" Tommy asked as he walked into the Oliver family's lounge.
"Power Squadron," his brother replied. "With the second Turbo Heroes movie: Hyperstrike, out last week the network decided to try their new show. They couldn't find the Rangers or enough news footage, so they made their own."
Tommy nodded. It was no surprise for him to see that Power Rangers had been used as the idea for a television show. Publishers had already released short story books featuring Angel Grove's favourite heroes and at least one toy manufacturer had tried to corner the market with their Power Ranger toys. They never got it one hundred percent right, but then how could they when the Rangers were so secretive?
"Solar Force?" Tommy asked finally as he heard the song finish.
Teddy shrugged. "I guess they decided just calling it Power Squadron would be risking a lawsuit, so they added Solar Force to the title."
"And they intended that to help how?" Tommy inquired. Teddy shrugged.
Both boys were quiet as they watched the show and Tommy was forced to admit it was interesting. ~I wonder if Zedd and Rita know how the producers have come to view villains,~ he thought with a grin. Amusingly they had created cameos using rubber-costumed actors to play the role of Goldar and Rito. Master Vile even featured using limited footage they had when Master Vile was on Earth. The fight scenes were obviously dreamt up to entertain and the Zords were unusual.
As the show continued, Tommy found himself laughing at the unlikely students who had been thrown into the role of protectors of their world. He could imagine that Jason and the others knew how they felt.
"Do you think they came to Angel Grove to cast these roles?" Teddy asked, grinning as his eyes twinkled with mischief. "Because if they did, I bet they cast Rocky as Red Ranger."
Tommy laughed at that. But while Rocky was a good guy, innocent and with a great sense of fun, the characters portrayed on the show seemed over the top. It was very clear that while some personality aspects showed through, these were unique characters created for the show.
"Did they really film this in Black Rock Beach?" Tommy asked when the end credits appeared.
Teddy rolled his eyes in response. "Yes it was filmed there. Haven't you seen the protests on the news?" he asked. "The film company closed off the beach while they were filming."
"They need to watch out or they'll move filming elsewhere," Tommy mused, "like New Zealand."
Teddy shrugged. "They're making a new season now so I suppose they sorted their problems."
The show ended and they sat waiting for a new episode of Turbo Heroes to come on.
Tommy sighed when his communicator toned. "Yes Zordon?"
"Tommy, report to the Power Chamber immediately. Larry Zedden has just suffered some sort of seizure and Zedd's involvement is suspected."
"You've got it, Zordon," Tommy replied. "Sorry Teddy, guess I'll have to watch it another time." In a flash of red light, he was teleported away.
It was a rare occasion when the Lightspeed Rangers were forced to use their battle mecha. Most battles with the demonic trio ended before it could escalate. That was probably a good thing since Lightspeed's team of technicians had yet to finish the Rescue Zords, limiting the five Rangers to a single machine they had dubbed the Lightspeed Racer. Donated by the Rangers of Angel Grove, the Lightspeed Racer was shaped like a police car, with the ability to change its form to that of a Megazord; the scientists referred to it as High Stance mode.
Today a new demon had appeared to terrorise Mariner Bay, and just when the Rangers had cornered it, it had chosen to grow. The six Rangers had naturally called in the Lightspeed Racer and activated High Stance mode. After assuming their positions within the Zord - Blue, Purple, Pink and Green Rangers in the chest compartment while Yellow and Red Ranger sat in the main cockpit inside the head - they directed the machine to fight back.
They had performed this sort of mission many times in the simulator over the last few weeks. Their ability to function as a team and follow the Red Ranger's instructions, not to mention the Red Ranger's ability to give the correct orders, were still in need of improvement, but they had managed well so far.
"Racer Cannon... fire!"
A gun appeared on the Rescue Racer's right arm and launched a fireball in the demon's direction.
"It's not working!" Purple Ranger cried.
"Keep calm Stephanie," Captain Mitchell warned sternly. "Remember your training."
Since the group had been recruited, Stephanie had been prone to panic. If somebody didn't remind her, she would sometime lose her focus, causing herself or on a few occasions, her teammates, harm.
"Containment Cuffs, go!" Green Lightspeed shouted, pushing a series of buttons.
A pair of large shackles launched from the Zord and attached themselves to the demon's body. As it tried to escape, the cuffs activated, using opposing energy waves to overcome the growth spell. The moment the demon started shrinking and the Rangers were able to resume battle at normal size again, they had the numbers advantage.
The battle resumed on the ground, the Rangers taking their opportunities to attack wherever they saw an opening. There was no real strategy to their attacks, but it was clearly frustrating their opponent.
Everything stopped. A blast knocked the Rangers and their opponents off their feet. They looked up to see the monstrous visage of Lord Zedd stalking towards them. Although they did not recognise him, they knew they were in trouble.
Zedd marched towards his quarry, pausing a moment to blast the Rangers a second time for good measure before stalking up to the fallen demon. There was a moment as the two sized each other up, and then Zedd's staff descended, slicing the demon in half.
"This planet belongs to Lord Zedd, and I will not tolerate competition."
"That's Zedd?" Stephanie asked. She sounded terrified and she was not the only one. The thing before them was much more frightening than the creatures they had been fighting. Zedd, it seemed, could hurt them.
The Rangers struggled to their feet, their eyes never leaving the villain before them. They had heard the stories, seen the battle he had fought on the news. This was not the same as facing the Triad. There was nothing comical about Zedd's appearance.
He waited for them to stand before attacking. This battle would announce his return to the entire world and he wanted it to be memorable. He had already proven his superiority by taking down the demon in a single blow. He wondered briefly where it had come from. At the last count there were only three demons actively fighting the Rangers in Mariner Bay.
As he saw that the Rangers had indeed regained their footing, he raised his staff. There was nothing insulting about their stances, but just by standing there it was clear they intended to defy him.
"Prepare yourselves," he warned. Then he charged forward.
"Zordon we've got to help them," Tommy said.
The Red Turbo Ranger had fought Zedd countless times and knew just how dangerous the villain could be. How the Emperor of the Dark Zones had regained a physical form was unknown, but it was clear that without Larry Zedden's humanity to offset the demon, this Zedd was unbelievably evil.
"He's right," Larry agreed. After being brought to the Power Chamber, the Zarakin had been revived. "That -- thing, has more power than I ever held. He'll kill them."
"This isn't going to be easy," Trini said.
"Yeah, last time we were lucky enough to distract him," Zack added.
They watched as Zedd fought his way through the six Rangers, fighting with a fury they had not seen from him before. The Lightspeed Rangers were trying, but each blow they landed caused them more damage than it did Zedd. When Zedd slammed his staff into the sidewalk, sending a shockwave through the nearby office blocks and lifting cars high into the air, it was clear the Lightspeed Rangers were outmatched.
"Come on guys, we need to get down there," Jason decided. "It's Morphin Time!"
Tommy nodded. "Shift into Turbo!"
"Carter!" Stephanie screamed.
One moment the Red Lightspeed Ranger had been at her side and the next he had been swept away by one of Zedd's blasts. She looked around and could just make out the battered Red Ranger peeling himself out of the collapsed foyer of the Mariner Bay Grand Hotel.
"Stephanie, stay focussed!" Mitchell ordered over the communicator.
"It's no good, he's too strong," she whimpered.
Joel and Chad had moved in front of her as Zedd, sensing her weakness had decided that she would be his next target. The two Rangers met him bravely, but were unable to harm him. Forced to battle him close up to defend the Purple Ranger, they left themselves open to his staff.
"No, please," Stephanie begged, backing up as her fellow Rangers took another hit.
"Stephanie, remember your training. Use your Rescue Baton. Steph!"
Stephanie had frozen, unable to think as she watched Zedd work his way through Green and the Blue Lightspeed. Yellow Lightspeed tried to stop him, descending on a zip line to deliver a kick to his head. Zedd had batted her away easily, blowing her through the side of a delivery truck.
"Steph, snap out of it," Dana urged as she placed herself in front of the villain. She used every trick her father had taught her to keep her teammate safe. And for her effort, Zedd just laughed.
Zedd fired off another blast, this time aiming for the top of a nearby building. The top corner of the office block exploded, raining debris down on the street below. Dana was briefly distracted, allowing Zedd to move inside her guard. He let her live, the deep cut running across her stomach a reminder of why Rangers everywhere should fear him. And then his attention returned to Lightspeed Purple.
"Stephanie! If you can't fight, run," Mitchell urged. "Get out of there now!"
Feebly, Steph raised her Rescue Blaster, holding it shakily in Zedd's direction. The villain laughed as he advanced on here, causing her to back up.
"Stay back," She warned, fumbling with the settings.
Zedd shifted his staff, a move that caused Stephanie to panic and open fire. The blast was reflected away from Zedd, back towards where a mother and her two children were hiding.
Faster than she thought possible, Stephanie had moved in front of the innocents. Struck by her own blaster fire her suit sparked, but did not fail. However Zedd had taken the opportunity to attack her while she was distracted, and was pleased to see that the shock was enough to make her mount some sort of defence.
Her Rescue Baton, a weapon developed for close combat, clashed with his staff a few times as he showed her that she had been right to think that they didn't stand a chance against him. The Z on the end of his staff struck her on the left arm, exactly where her morpher was located. Her eyes widened as the morpher struggled to maintain her morph. Suddenly exposed, she was unable to defend herself as she was impaled on the sharpened point of the shaft.
"Steph!" Red Lightspeed cried, trying to free himself from the rubble, but unable to rush to her aid.
Stephanie cried out, her body going limp. She clutched pitifully at the long rod, trying to use it to support himself. His legs dangled uselessly, her powers fluctuating as they struggled to repair the damage. Try as she might, she couldn't stand up. And then, just when she thought the pain she felt couldn't get any worse, Zedd lifted the staff, raising her off the ground.
"Let her go!" Kelsey yelled, Rescue Blaster drawn. But she couldn't fire without hitting her teammate, who would probably not survive being shot with her powers in such an unreliable state.
Stephanie's mouth worked frantically to try and form words, or even just to scream, but nothing came out. Her muscles collapsed as the staff drained her life force, and her skin became thinner and drier. Her uniform flickered one last time and then vanished as her morpher slid from her wrist onto the ground below.
"See you in hell, Purple Ranger," Zedd whispered as he looked at the empty husk that had once been Steph. "Tell them Lord Zedd sends his regards."
With a sharp twist he yanked his Z-staff back, and the corpse fell to the pavement, literally turning into dust upon impact. There was nothing left of the Purple Ranger, not even a body for them to bury.
"And now for the others..."
"Oh no," a technician whispered.
The words summed up the sudden numbness that had descended over the room. One of their Rangers had died, as they had sat back unable to do anything to help. The camera feeds had shown the entire battle in graphic detail. Panicked murmurs started as the events of the last few minutes became clear.
"QUIET!" Captain Mitchell was just as shocked and horrified as the rest of those watching. He had known how dangerous the fight would be, but had never expected one of his Rangers to die in such a terrifying way. "We have five more Rangers out there that need us. We can grieve for Steph later. Right now, we have work to do."
His words spurred the technicians into action as they realised that staring blankly at the screen could cost them six Rangers instead of just one.
"Send a message to Angel Grove. Tell them we need help."
"Already done, Sir!"
"Bringing up a map of Mariner Bay..."
"Situation Report from each Ranger in two minutes..."
"Sir, we have camera feed from location..."
He smiled sadly. He had trained the best and now they were showing the professionalism he had come to expect from all Lightspeed personnel.
"Sir, the Purple Ranger powers are still online, should I send Lockdown Code?"
It seemed that whatever Zedd had done had truly erased Steph. Even the DNA code that had been used to bond her morpher had been erased. Either that or the morpher was so badly damaged that its shutdown protocols were no longer active.
"Hold that thought," he replied. There was a chance no matter how slim that ordering the morpher to shutdown would cause the device to overload. "We'll retrieve it later."
"Sir, reply from Angel Grove. Rangers have been trying to send help since the battle started. They have encountered problems with teleportation and have been forced to take a detour."
"Be sure to advise Angel Grove that we are one Ranger down," Mitchell replied.
It seemed the villain had isolated them, although Captain Mitchell was not entirely sure that it was a conscious act.
More reports were shouted in as technicians and operators tried to learn more about the situation. One team had been assigned to pulling as much information as possible about Lord Zedd from the database.
Mitchell looked up. He had not heard the report, having been distracted by the fighting taking place. He nodded to the soldier who interpreted it as an invitation to repeat himself.
"Just reminding the Captain that Rescue Racer is inside the battle zone and operational, Sir."
The Rescue Racer. In all the fighting and loss of life, Captain Mitchell had forgotten that they still had the Zord in the area.
"Is the remote hookup online?" he asked. The solder shook his head. "Assign a team to restore communications with the Zord. Then program it to lock firing coordinates on Zedd."
They were not supposed to use the Zords except in extreme situations. Mitchell was willing to testify that this was an extreme circumstance.
"Sir, contact with all surviving Rangers has been established. All report that they are alive... none report as unharmed."
That was not surprising. Zedd had returned to the attack and the only reason he had not killed again was because the Rangers were acting as a team for once, covering each other against harm. He watched in horror as Zedd turned his attention to Dana. There was nothing he could do, he didn't dare contact his daughter in case he distracted her from the task at hand.
"No," he whispered as the tip of the staff started to glow. "Please not her."
Pink Lightspeed's life flashed before her eyes. After Steph had been... after she had fallen, Zedd had returned to the attack. And the Rangers had hardly been in a position to fight back. Scattered through the streets of Mariner Bay, they were bruised and disorientated. Some of them had not seen the Purple Ranger fall from their positions, but the visual feed had made it all too clear.
The Lightspeed Rangers had fought back, helping each other to keep Zedd from killing again. But they were hurt and tired, so it was no surprise when Zedd managed to force his way through their line. She looked up after being pummelled by the villains staff, just in time to see the glowing tip descend.
The staff connected with something, inches from her head. She looked up to find the Techno Warrior standing before her, the large sword in his hand blocking Zedd's killing blow. There was the sound of metal sliding against metal as the two enemies separated their weapons, Techno Warrior quickly switched his gun into firing position and unloaded at close range. Zedd hardly moved, but Dana breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that the villain was no longer targeting her.
Captain Mitchell relaxed slightly. His daughter had been saved albeit briefly. The Techno Warrior while not a Ranger seemed to have great endurance and an impressive arsenal at his disposal. It was clear though that Zedd was the superior combatant, as he flicked the Techno Warrior out of his path and blasted him with a bolt of lightning.
Garth leapt above the lightning strike, his systems reporting that there was a good chance that a single hit would have caused system failure. He adjusted his weapon systems to their maximum setting and opened fire. His shots were on target, but unable to penetrate the shield Zedd conjured. His computers ran through a thousand scenarios searching for a new target before suggesting retreat. With a sigh Garth closed the tactical display and threw himself into battle, calling on all the weapons at his disposal and well aware that at one time that list of available weapons had been much longer.
"What are we looking for?" Jamie asked.
After the Rangers had departed, her father had led her into another part of the Power Chamber. They had arrived in a small library, which from the dust, she assumed was rarely used.
"This is Zordon's private library," Larry told her. "Every Grid Master has his own personal store of knowledge, mostly what he gathers himself, but also texts donated by other Masters. Zordon was left the collections of many respected Grid Masters, not all of them considered good guys. With luck there might be something here that can help."
Larry had spent a great deal of time perusing the many tomes in Zordon's private collection. As Lord Zedd he had had access to some of the darker writings, which he had been surprised to find in the White Master's possession. Therefore he knew that the information he required was something amongst the scrolls, tomes and ancient ledgers.
"You really think the secret of defeating Zedd would be in a library?" Jamie asked, raising an eyebrow at her father's choice of texts.
"It's not how to defeat him I need to research," Larry told her in reply. "We already know how to stop him. I need a way to make sure he stays stopped."
He pulled out an old parchment, scanned the contents and shook his head before moving on.
"Most of these things aren't even in English," Jamie protested. She wanted to help, but short of fetching and carrying, there seemed to be little she could do.
"Have a look through the master list, over there on the left... no the other left. I'm looking for anything on reversed possession."
He had already started reading a short paper on the application of mind magic. The method described was sound, but would take far too long to complete. He had hours, maybe less to learn the necessary skills.
"Dad, I found one!" Jamie shouted.
Larry searched for his daughter, eventually locating a small amount of red hair. She was struggling to carry a large green volume. With a small grunt he took it from her and returned to the table. Yes, this was exactly what he needed to know. He just hoped the Rangers could hold Zedd long enough to put the knowledge to use.
The centre of Mariner Bay was officially a disaster area. Despite the Lightspeed Rangers' attempts to contain the fighting to one area, Zedd had been set on moving to the most populated business area, a place where he knew he could cause more damage. With every life he took he seemed to grow stronger. And for the Rangers the battleground was just as dangerous as their opponent. Crumbling buildings and collapsing sidewalks meant they had to watch their step. Zedd's energy blasts had already ruptured a gas main, which Lightspeed had been quick to close down. Mariner Bay was without power and heating to prevent cataclysmic fires.
The Techno Warrior had tried, but his arsenal had proved inadequate against the villain's power. He would survive, that was what he had been built to do, but he was out of the fight. If it had not been for the dead Ranger's morpher, which he had managed to locate after crawling through the ruined street and used to boost his energy, he would have been facing a longer repair period.
Whether he had been designed to receive upgrades, or whether the Lightspeed technology shared some similarities with his own armour, or whether it was just because of whatever changes the scientist who had turned him into the Techno Warrior had made; the moment he connected to the device he had found himself connected to Lightspeed's computer network, the system that sent the Rangers the tactical data that made them effective in battle. The repair programs inside the morpher replaced those that had been deleted by his creators and the power boost helped helped him recover. Even so his participation would be limited until he figured out which of his weapons were safe to use; a side effect of the attempted factory reset was that his ability to create new weapons had been lost.
There were four Rangers remaining, Chad having been the most badly injured, had been given the task of getting the civilians out of the area; Captain Mitchell had reminded them that while defeating Zedd was important and avenging Stephanie was desirable, the preservation of life came first. It had not taken long for them to reach the conclusion that Zedd was playing with them and growing stronger the longer he fought.
"Rescue Bird!" Carter called. "Unilaser formation, now!"
The Rangers had been training to use the multipurpose weapon. Normally it was called just in time to see Gilmer and friends retreat.
"Ready!" Joel said as he tightened his grip.
"Aim!" Kelsey and Dana called together, bracing themselves ready for the recoil.
"Fire!" Carter ordered as he pulled the trigger.
The energy beam shot towards their foe, who took a step back and swung his staff. The beam was bounced back at them, blowing them out of formation and leaving them vulnerable.
"The game ends now," he told them as he stalked forwards, gold energy lashing out at the upturned cars and broken lampposts.
"... a Goldrush!"
The ray of golden light struck Zedd in the back, causing him to arch out of the way. He turned to see the Gold Ranger walking down the ramp of Pyramidas. The other Rangers were close behind. They had used the massive Zord to journey to Mariner Bay after learning that Zedd's latent magic was disrupting teleportation.
"At last," Zedd crowed, turning to face his attackers. It was time for a rematch and this time he had the power.
"Ai-yi-yi, this doesn't make sense."
Having found the information he required, Larry and Jamie had returned to the Power Chamber to find a very agitated Alpha. Instead of asking what was wrong, long experience told Larry that Alpha would tell them soon enough.
"The computer says that Zedd is growing more powerful, but the Morphin Grid shows he is growing weaker. What does it mean?"
"That one of the readings is false?" Jamie asked, setting a book down on the console.
"Or that the magic he's using is not his own," Larry said. Then he shrugged. "We have an answer, if the Rangers can knock him down then we can make sure he doesn't get up again."
"What you are proposing is highly dangerous," Zordon warned. "If you cannot complete the spell correctly, it could reverse the results."
Larry shook his head. He knew the risks, but there was too much at stake. Zedd could not be allowed to run loose. He needed to be contained and the knowledge Larry had uncovered promised them a way to seal him away.
"Once he's contained, you can find an alternative," he growled. "For now this is our only hope. Or would you rather see your Rangers die?"
Zordon wanted to protest, but knew that Larry was correct. They needed a way to not only stop Zedd, but to make sure he could never return. Larry's plan would require a great sacrifice on his part, and if they could find an alternative it could lead to death.
"Very well, I will try to contact the Rangers."
A quick look at the Viewing Screen made them doubt that anybody would be in a position to answer.
Zedd was strong, stronger than the Rangers remembered. His altered body meant that just hitting him risked injury. And his magical attacks were devastatingly accurate. So far despite their superior numbers, it was clear that the villain had the advantage.
"Zeo III Power Punch!"
It was a sign of how desperate the situation had become. Rocky had been removed from active duty since the breaking his back in battle with Grimlord's goons. Alongside the Morphin Rangers, Turbo Rangers and Gold Ranger, the lone Zeo Ranger tried to pin Zedd down long enough to use the Zeo Crystal. Of course the villain was well aware of his weakness to the purifying properties of the crystal and was doing everything in his power not to let them call on it.
"Monsters of the past, arise!"
Answering his call, Pirantishead, Primator, Saliguana, Robogoat, Octophantom, Stag Beetle, Invenusable Flytrap, Guitardo and Turbanshell appeared.
"Great," Tommy growled.
"Any ideas?" Jason asked.
"We'll deal with Zedd, you guys keep the rest of them at bay," Tommy suggested.
"Deal with me?" Zedd repeated. "You have to reach me first, Tommy. Putty Patrol, attack!"
The five Turbo Rangers broke off from the main group, heading towards Zedd, while the Morphin Rangers, Gold Ranger and Blue Zeo Ranger were left to battle his conjured monsters. The Putty Patrollers blocked their path, but the still battered Lightspeed Rangers had finally rejoined the battle. Techno Warrior's sword made short work of his share of the foot-soldiers. At some point Bulk and Skull had arrived, destroying the enemy in their own unique way.
Using their speed, the Turbo Rangers were able to keep Zedd off balance, never staying in one place long enough for him to blast them. They never stopped moving, which meant their accuracy was less-than-perfect, but gave them a temporary advantage. Temporary was the right word because the moment Zedd stopped trying to hit them individually and lashed out wildly with his magic, the five Rangers went down, hard.
Around them a series of battles were taking place, the Morphin Rangers and their allies proving just how far they had come since the time when monsters like Pirantishead had first appeared. Using the strategies they had devised years before, the weapons created for such monsters and their experience, the Rangers were able to pick them off one by one. Once they had destroyed Turbanshell, the Rangers turned the Power Cannon and Zeo Blaster on Zedd. The Lightspeed Rangers assembled the Unilaser while the Turbo Rangers called on their weapons. Trey readied his Golden Power Staff as Techno Warrior shifted his weapon to its hand cannon form, and Bulk and Skull had been given the Power Blaster to fire since the Morphin Rangers' efforts were concentrated on the Power Cannon and their own weapons were not capable of long range attacks.
It was a truly spectacular show of power and there was no way that Zedd could shield himself from the massive burst of weapon fire. He did try though and for a moment it appeared that his impressive new body could withstand the assault. But gradually the Rangers gained the upper hand, which culminated in Zedd being thrown through the already shattered remains of a camera store.
Knowing that he was down, but probably not out, the Rangers moved forward, ready to use the Zeo Crystal to strip his evil from whatever he had managed to possess.
"We call on the power of the Zeo Crystal... deliver this soul from darkness!"
"Zeddy!" Rita cried.
Her husband was in trouble. The key to her control over the universe was in peril of being destroyed. She was about to call for Goldar, to send him to Earth to retrieve her foolish spouse, when Xing reappeared.
"Fear not, dearest Rita... I bring you good news." He extended his hand to the Earth, where the Rangers had already started their attempt to purge Zedd's evil essence. "The Zeo Crystal cannot stop Lord Zedd from possessing an evil body. Your husband is too powerful."
He sensed Rita relax and sighed in contentment. It would not do for Rita to panic and interfere, not when he had invested so much time in making Zedd so powerful. The battle was proceeding as he had foreseen it, well with the exception of the Ranger that Zedd had killed. Great things were on the horizon for those who had the foresight and knew how to take advantage of every situation.
Zedd was broken, but not defeated. The multiple weapons had torn large holes in his body, but his magic was already pulling him back together again. The new shiny metal had dulled slightly, but it appeared that all the Rangers had managed to do was make him angry. He poked the end of his staff in the Rangers direction and laughed as they were engulfed by an uncontrolled burst of his dark power.
The Rangers and their allies were thrown back, most of them demorphing, some unable to escape injury caused by poor landings. Now subjected to the emergency timeout, the Rangers were helpless against his power.
"I should have done this long ago," Zedd told them as he aimed his staff to deliver another blast.
"Zordon, we have to help them," Jamie cried as she watched Zedd torturing her friends. The Sword of Lightning had appeared in her hand, as if sensing her agitation.
"We can't Jamie," Larry had also summoned a sword, but was aware that rushing into battle would cost them the element of surprise. "I need a little more time to prepare."
"Larry is correct Jamie. We cannot risk your lives at this time. Both of you are needed to defeat Lord Zedd."
"And by the time we get there they could be dead," Jamie argued. "If we can't go, find someone who can. Find some more Zeo Rangers or something."
Zordon had already started looking. Not for Zeo Rangers of course, he was certain that the current holders of those powers were best suited to that role. No, he had been looking for replacement Turbo Rangers to allow Tommy, Adam, Kat and Tanya to resume their former roles. Unfortunately while he had found some likely candidates they were too young; Justin had been an exception to the rule.
"I can do it." Jamie and Zedd turned as Zordon looked up. They had not heard Nate enter, but they realised that his words were true. His involvement was undesirable given the political climate, but it was the lesser evil when compared to leaving the Rangers to Zedd's mercy or risking Larry and Jamie before the Zarakin had a chance to finish preparing.
Zordon closed his eyes and reached into the Power, seeking guidance. He had been blessed with the gift of prophecy, which he tried to use to foresee the problems Nate's involvement would cause. He saw two paths before him. One the one hand he could send Nate into battle and risk the wrath of the Council. On the other hand he could refuse the Brachio Ranger permission, in which case Earth would likely lose all its defenders in a single battle.
"Very well Nate," he said at last. "You will need to contain Lord Zedd until Larry and Jamie are ready, or the Rangers are in a position to take over. Your Brachio Staff is a powerful weapon. Be careful how you use it and may the Power protect you."
Nate nodded. "I'll be careful Zordon... Dino Thunder, Power Up!"
The powers obeyed his command. A suit of tight fitting material formed around him. It was mostly dark grey; the boots were grey, the gloves were grey, and even the helmet was grey. To offset the dark appearance, the top of his boots, the end of his gauntlet gloves, belt and shoulder pads were black, as was the trim surrounding his helmet's visor. Golden thread had been used to create a series of diamond shapes, which ran down the outside of his arms and legs. The same thread had been used to create a dinosaur foot inside a circle on his chest. A small crest rose from the front of his helmet and extended around to the back.
"Brachio Ranger!" he cried, completing the transformation. He teleported as close to Mariner Bay as possible before switching to an alternative means of transportation. The four wheeled vehicle had been built to provide high speed over high terrain. Rather than designing it to fit a particular Ranger, it had been developed to adapt to suit whichever Ranger activated it. In Nate's case it altered its appearance to match the Brachio Ranger's uniform. "Brachio ATV, let's ride!"
A massive ball of golden energy, crackling with black bolts of lightning, had formed at the tip of Zedd's staff. It was clear to the Rangers as they slowly recovered from his most recent assault that he was aiming to finish them all with a single shot.
"Soon this world will be mine for the taking," Zedd boasted.
The energy ball was not the size of a small hot air balloon and hovered a meter above the tip of his staff. As her moved the long metal shaft, so the ball followed, stretching away from the end of the staff as it did so until it was directly over the Rangers.
An engine revved behind the Rangers. Zedd looked up in time to see the Brachio Ranger heading in their direction. He was about to offer a challenge when the ATV took to the air, using some rubble as a makeshift ramp.
Nate channelled the powers of his Brachio Staff through the ATV, causing laser beams to shoot from the front of the vehicle. While the first two shots hit the ground surrounding Zedd, they were only intended to keep the villain from paying attention to where the ATV was heading. As the vehicle reached its maximum height, the Brachio Ranger leapt off, allowing it to continue on its collision course with Zedd.
"Brachio Staff, Head Crash!" he called, swinging the staff so that the head of the staff made contact with Zedd's energy ball. With the villain's attention focussed on the incoming ATV, he lost control of the explosive sphere, which given momentum by Brachio Ranger's staff, had started to descend towards its point of origin.
When the unstable energy ball collided with Zedd, it exploded, sending a shockwave across the city. Fortunately those citizens not caught in the early part of the attack had by now gotten to the monster shelters, but the damage caused was incredible.
"Brachio Staff, Tail Strike!" Brachio Ranger called as he followed up, driving the tail end of the staff into his opponent. That Zedd had survived the explosion was a testament to his newly found power.
Zedd was ready for the attack and parried the blow. However, the Brachio Ranger was a hybrid of different power sources. His armour was more resistant to damage caused by contact with Zedd's body than the others, or perhaps it was the extra-dimensional nature of his powers, either way he was able to fight the villain up close, using the various settings of his Brachio Staff to keep the villain on the defensive.
"Is this the best you can do?" Zedd asked after a while.
At first it had seemed that Nate was having an affect, but as the fighting continued, Zedd slowly recovered his strength. His staff was longer, allowing him to strike the Rangers from beyond the Ranger's reach.
Under his helmet, Nate smiled. "I don't have to give you my best, Zedd. I just have to hold you here until the others are ready."
Zedd's voice was suddenly quiet. For the first time he realised that he had been concentrating on a single Ranger. He hadn't noticed the others morphing, or taking up position. He hadn't seen the Green Morphin Ranger transfer his shield to Red Lightspeed, or Red Turbo hand over his sword; he was ignorant that Green Lightspeed had been passed the Golden Power Staff and Blue Lightspeed had received the Red Morphin Ranger's Power Sword. Yellow Lightspeed held the Drago Sword.
United by their desire to save the world and avenge their fallen comrade, the Lightspeed Rangers had been given the honour of ending the battle. Nate used Zedd's surprise to his advantage, kicked him in the side of the head, before jumping back to his friends. There he handed his Brachio Staff to Pink Lightspeed.
"Go!" Red Lightspeed ordered.
The five Rangers moved forward, wielding the weapons of the more experienced Rangers against an enemy who had so far managed to stand up to everything they had thrown at him. The Dragon Shield activated as Carter led the attack, protecting the Rangers as Zedd attempted to destroy them. He spun in a circle as he passed the villain, slicing him with the sword. Blue Lightspeed was next, impaling Zedd with the Power Sword. Green Lightspeed unleashed the power of the Gold Rush as Yellow Lightspeed launched a flurry of Laser Arrows.
And finally came Pink Lightspeed, carrying the weapon of the Brachio Ranger, the first weapon to cause Zedd real harm. The staff seemed to tell her what to do as she leapt in close to the villain.
"Brachio Staff, Storm Strike!"
She drove the staff into the ground, unleashing a burst of fire and water at Zedd, causing the ground to explode around him. Zedd's new body erupted, sparks flying in all directions as his magic tried to keep him intact.
"Sword of Lightning..." Jamie Zedden cried from behind the Rangers.
"Sword of Fire..." Larry called, causing Zedd to panic. The Elemental Blades had been destroyed long ago, but Zedd had had a new Sword of Fire forged as a means of tormenting Larry. Though not the original, it contained some of the remnants.
"Strike!" they cried together.
Purple lightning surrounded Zedd, pinning him in place. A ball of flames hit him in the chest. The combined powers of the two Elemental Swords prevented him from recovering as the Rangers continued to batter him time and again. He raised his staff to fight back, in time for the waiting Morphin Rangers to unleash a blast from the Power Cannon, disintegrating his hand.
With a supreme effort Zedd was able to regain his focus. He looked up to find himself surrounded by Tommy, Rocky, Adam, Tanya and Kat, who held the Zeo Crystal at the ready. Beyond that circle stood the eight Morphin Rangers. He could sense the magic, feel the power of Zeo and the Morphin Grid directed towards him.
"This time it is over," Larry told him, Sword of Fire levelled at his chest. "This is..."
"We call on the power of all ours combined..." Jason started.
"Zeo Crystal, purge this evil..." Tommy called at the same time.
"... the end!"
Larry drove the sword forward, piercing Zedd as the Zeo Crystal weakened the demon and the combined power of the Morphin Rangers overwhelmed his body. The flames ignited by the Sword of Fire burnt the demon, forcing him to abandon his new body. With only one option he chose to leave one host and reclaim his previous victim. The empty shell he left behind collapsed.
This was not the first time that Zedd had been inside the mind of the Zarakin prince. For many thousands of years he had possessed Larry Zedden, causing the man to commit unspeakable acts. In hindsight though he realised that as bad as his actions had seemed, he had always been held back by Larry's true nature. His new body though had reminded him of what it felt like to be truly evil and he was determined that Larry would not pollute his evil with love again.
It should have been an easy victory, just a case of finding his way back to the conscious part of Larry's mind and from there assuming complete control. But as he walked through the corridors of Larry's mind, he came to realise that the landscape he remembered was gone, replaced by a maze. He could hear singing in the background although the words were unclear as he rushed through the corridors.
Too late he realised that he had taken a wrong turn, that the entire maze had been a distraction to lure him deeper and deeper into the mind he had once possessed. The singing was not a real song, but the mental chanting of whatever spell Larry had used to alter his mindscape while constructing a prison in the deepest corner of his mind.
Zedd tried to draw back, but found his way blocked, the walls forcing him to follow his original path away from the conscious world. He reached out, trying to grab onto memories, feelings, anything that would gain him some purchase on Larry Zedden's mind. But the spell had been prepared in advance and Zedd had been so disorientated by the pain that he had failed to notice until it too late.
"No!" His voice was barely audible. When he tried shouting a second time, he found that he was mute.
"Welcome to your new home." The mental image of Larry Zedden had appeared and was already at work locked Zedd into place, imprisoning him where he could do no harm.
Now Zedd recognised the spell. It was the very spell that Zedd would have used, had he gained the upper hand, one intended to lock the host away in the recesses of the mind where he could not interfere. He was now a prisoner, trapped until Larry Zedden died. He wondered briefly if Rita would be upset at losing him, or pleased that he was out of the way.
"It worked," Larry whispered as he stood back up. "Lord Zedd is contained."
As he spoke the magical effects of the recent battle were already reversing themselves. The buildings damaged by Zedd's power were repaired. Sadly the damage caused by some of the Rangers' attacks, not to mention the many deaths that Zedd had caused, would remain.
Nobody felt like celebrating as the heroes gathered together to mourn their fallen comrade. The battle was over, but the suffering was not.
"Zeddy? Those miserable brats killed my Zeddy." She turned on Xing, who seemed to be taking his failure very calmly.
"Lord Zedd is defeated? How disappointing, things were just getting -- interesting." His eyes glinted mischievously.
"Of course he's defeated, you ninny!" Rita snapped. "Even Rito knows Zedd didn't stand a chance."
She lifted her wand, ready to forcibly remove the annoying interloper from her palace.
"No need for violence, dear Rita," he told her in the same annoyingly cheerful tone. "Lord Zedd will return, stronger than ever. And when he does so, his enemies will help him break free."
"Who are you?" Rita asked. She didn't understand this thing. He spoke of events he couldn't possibly foresee and didn't stand a chance of engineering.
"I have many names, Rita Repulsa," Xing told her, the playful tone disappearing. "For now I am Xing."
The smile returned moments later, his personality returning to that over the overly friendly man he had been when she had first met him.
"Everything that has happened has done so according to my vision, dear Rita. Even Lord Zedd's defeat was bound to happen."
That didn't mean he had to like it. For a moment he had almost hoped that Zedd would triumph. The future was so much more enjoyable when he couldn't predict it.
"Because Lord Zedd needed to grow stronger. You need to become stronger. Without Lord Zedd, you will become stronger."
~And,~ he added silently, ~useful.~
"I bid you farewell, Rita Repulsa. We will meet again."
Before Rita could ask any more questions, he was gone.
The wasted body of Lord Zedd lay motionless, awaiting the cleanup crew. It didn't react to the sudden surge in dark energy as Xing emerged from where he had been hiding, watching the battle.
"Such a powerful body," he said, running his hand over the husk, "and yet... such a weak spirit. Still, that can be corrected." His hand curled into a glowing fist, reanimating the corpse. "Soul Renewal!"
The body started to shrink, growing smaller with each passing second. Before it had hosted Zedd, the body had belonged to a simple-minded demon that Xing had made 'disappear' from the mortal realm. It had been an empty shell, purged of the demon's traits and lacked a mind of its own. Then it had been inhabited by Zedd and had absorbed a little bit of him into itself. With Xing's magic that little piece left behind by Zedd started to grow.
Eventually the body had shrunk to the size of a small child. It was an ugly creature, retaining some of Zedd's appearance and a few of its original characteristics. It was in effect Lord Zedd's offspring, spawned by him at the moment of his imprisonment. Infused with a small dose of Rita's magic - for the witch's magic, in the form of a certain love potion, had remained within Zedd even after he had lost his physical form - he would one day claim to be her son.
"But not today," Xing told the infant. "One day you will be a great asset to those who wish to crush the heroes, but for now..." he raised the child over his head. "Be gone!"
One week later.
The funerals of those who had died during Zedd's rampage had been held. Thankfully aside from the Purple Lightspeed Ranger, there had been very few fatalities. The seriously injured had received treatment, the Rangers having stepped in to help some of the most critically ill. Building work was already underway; Lightspeed had agreed to fund the reconstruction in return for being allowed to make a few changes to the infrastructure. Nobody could be sure what that entailed although Mariner Bay's transit system had been given a radical shake up.
The last funeral had been for Stephanie. There had not been the need for a basket, since her body had turned to dust, but she was still given a funeral with full military honours. A replica of the Purple Lightspeed Ranger's morpher, completely lacking any inner workings, had been placed inside by her former comrades. It had been a wake up call for the five remaining Rangers. Their job had always been dangerous, but recent events had shown just how deadly it could be.
There would be an investigation. The unofficial report had already determined that Stephanie's death had in part been caused by her own panic. It had also highlighted a number of flaws within the Lightspeed Rangers. Officially they were all heroes and Stephanie had died protecting her world. Stories would be created, lies and denials issued and eye witnesses silenced. Deals would take place but in the end, the story they desired would be the one that was told. This was one occasion when all those involved agreed that it was for the best.
Press statements had been issued, stating that the Purple Lightspeed powers had been decommissioned. The morpher had been lost during the fight with Zedd and upon checking, they had discovered that the Techno Warrior had retrieved it. Captain Mitchell had concluded that it was better to claim that the components had been carefully extracted and the control chip had been wiped and then destroyed. There would never be another Purple Lightspeed Ranger of course. Lightspeed's share value would not withstand the public outcry if they tried to create one, although work was already underway to find an acceptable substitute.
The other Rangers had been given time off. Gilmer and his fellow demons had not been spotted since the last attack. Some reports had suggested that the demon the Rangers had fought prior to Zedd's appearance had been a combination of three other demons. Either way, they needed time to recover and then to train. Captain Mitchell was determined that in the future they would work as a team. Fortunately all five Lightspeed Rangers were young enough to be taught, and had the desire to learn. He just hoped it would be enough.
Although he considered himself a skilled manipulator and unmatched puppeteer, Savrod was well aware that the man in his presence was his enemy and more than capable of ending his existence. And despite his carefully chosen words, Savrod's guest just didn't seem convinced.
"What makes you think for a moment I have any interest in what you have to say? Don't forget what I am and what I could do to you. I would have no regrets about doing so.""
Savrod shook his head. How could he forget when the Ranger's armour appeared and disappeared with his mood? While Xing's choice was a fine leader, Savrod was recruiting a commander.
"We could make you powerful," he reminded him. "True power, unhindered by considerations such as good and evil. At this time Rangers receive nothing for their efforts except the thanks of those they protect. You don't even get that. Your team is reviled by those who know about them."
He could see his talk was paying off. The doubts were starting to surface. He only needed to push things in the right direction. It wouldn't take long, perhaps just a confession of how he had already had a role in the man's career, how he had ensured that he was in the position to understand just how undervalued he was, but eventually the man before him would cross the line, a line that was already blurred by past experiences.
"I'm not interested," the other man finally told him. "Your offer was tempting, but no."
"How... disappointing. Very well, tell me you aren't tired of living for others. Tell me you don't want people to conform to your expectations for a change instead of you conforming to theirs; tell me you aren't tired of being rejected by those you are obligated to serve. Just say the word and I will leave you never to return." Savrod knew how to close a deal. "Tell me you don't want your own life on your own terms and I will walk away. All you have to do is tell me and believe it."
"I - I cannot," the man admitted after a pause.
"There are those who need your services, your strength. Your current allies used you and then threw you aside. If they don't appreciate you, why not choose some who will?"
"If I wanted to serve somebody we wouldn't be having this conversation."
"Ah, forgive me. I meant that they were looking for your services as a leader not a follower. They are willing to follow you . We desire a free thinker; somebody with the drive and the will to bring about the changes needed. I offer you the chance to make to make that happen as you wish for it to happen, to have your will and vision drive that great change onward. After all, you do deserve it, don't you?" As he finished, Savrod knew that the man before him was convinced. He would struggle for a while before he found a way to rationalise his decision, but after that he would be theirs. "Imagine it, all the power and resource you need to make the changes you desire."
"What's the catch?"
"No catch," Savrod told him, offering him an innocent smile, followed by a sly look. This was the most dangerous part. "But you do know that the Power Rangers will try to stop you. They will be your enemies."
"Yes, if I do this I will be a considered a traitor by many."
"Ah, but the greatest revolutionaries on your world were once considered traitors. The question is not whether you could face such harsh judgement, but if you're prepared to do what must be done, even against those you consider friends?"
It was a defining moment, a moment that many creatures had experienced. When offered a choice between good and evil it was often a simple matter of morals versus power. But for this candidate the issue of morals was always more difficult. He didn't walk the line between good and evil, he walked with one foot in the darkness. It was a journey that would always lead to the darker side of the Morphin Grid, so long as somebody was there to give a push at the right time. Savrod was that person and the time was now.
End of Part