Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to whoever holds the copyright. This is a fan work and no profit is being made.
Author's note: This chapter features around the Rangers who left to answer the cry for help from Aquitar. I do intend to write the story of the Liberation of Aquitar at some point, but for now the story picks up after their triumph. This also marks a leap forward in time for the series and happens after the events in Stirring in the Dark. For those wondering, even at this stage Dark Specter's conference is still taking place.
They had won, lost and drawn. It was very difficult to decide as with most battles it was all a question of how they wanted to interpret the outcome. The Power Rangers of Earth had received a telepathic cry for help from the people of Aquitar less than two months earlier. They had not needed to discuss their response, they owed the people of Aquitar a debt and despite having paid a part of it back in the past, still considered the watery world a close ally. And so they had had left, leaving only the Turbo Rangers to protect their world in their absence.
Their first stop had actually been to a hidden store house Zordon had had built many years before his battle with Rita. There they had found a fleet of space craft they could use during the mission - for it had been pointed out that relying on just Pyramidas would put the Rangers and especially Trey at risk due to his intolerance to Aquitar's atmosphere. Armed with the resources to help them liberate the Aquitian people, the next month or so had been a constant blur of planning and action against a world where even their allies were their enemies.
For something had corrupted Aquitar. And while the Slaver Lord known as Zanzibar - who had seized control of the planet following the departure of its previous masters - had been relatively easy to dethrone, something had been working against the Rangers. When Zanzibar had finally been driven from the surface, his skiff trailing smoke as it struggled to escape the planet's atmosphere, the Rangers had realised that something was still polluting the waters.
The evil force had been seeping into the normally pure water for months, but the Aquitians had been under the psychic slavery of Zanzibar and had failed to react. Once they had been freed though they had detected the corruption and their collective minds had reacted with panic, generating a telepathic wave the entity could latch onto. From there the force had taken control of the Aquitians, using their fragile mental states as a means to embed itself in their consciousness. It had ordered them to attack their liberators, forcing the Rangers into a fight they did not want.
The last fortnight had been a nightmare for the Power Rangers of Earth. Unwilling to kill the people they had come to help, they had been forced to run constantly, driven further and further away from the source of the problem as the evil entity emerged. Taking the form of a giant squid it had raised itself from the depths of the ocean, its sickly ink poisoning the seas around it.
It had been Aisha that had realised that the ink it was constantly spewing in the water was the cause of their problems. She had analysed the waters and discovered that just like a Triforian, the squid would find the waters of Aquitar inhospitable. The ink was changing the make up of the water, reducing certain chemicals and increasing other so it became comfortable. But worse the ink contained an hallucinogen that caused the Aquitians to see the squid's enemies as their own, forcing them to attack their liberators. What they couldn't see was how the changes in the waters had also started to alter their body chemistry - for those Aquitians that had remained closest to the squid had started to mutate into demonic creatures fed by the dark water.
Finally the Power Rangers had been left with no choice. Once their escape route had been cut off after the squid had ordered its forces to strike their ships, they had been forced to fight back. Instead of targeting the Aquitians though they had taken their fight directly to the monstrous squid and its demons.
The problem with such a bold move was that the squid was much larger than any monsters they had previously fought and they lacked Zords. The beast could smash their sea craft with its tentacles, and anything they threw at it was practically useless. Even the Power Cannon and Zeo Power Blaster failed to do more than lop the end off one of its limbs. And with the pollution increasing, they had found their craft swarmed by water demons.
"Brachio Staff - Power Strike!" the Dino Thunder Ranger called, aiming for the squid's eye.
"Shadow Ribbons - Strike!" Zeo Shadow called, the black tendrils from her staff knocking back the incoming demons.
"Rolling Thunder!" Black Morphin Ranger cried, using his powers to blast the beast with a wall of sound energy as Red Morphin and Red Zeo attacked with their swords.
The Power Rangers were all over the beast, using their weapons to create breaks in the skin that they could use has handgrips and footholds. As Zeo Blade used her lightning attacks to distract the large beast, the other Zeo Rangers were attacking the back of its head and the Morphin Rangers were striking from the side. The giant beast tried to strike them back but only succeeded in striking itself. In desperation it dove beneath the surface, hoping to drown the Rangers only to find that it could not do so - for the Rangers had managed to direct the battle in such a way that the beast found it was no longer over the deep waters.
"Saurian, Thalian, Ninjor!" the Morphin Rangers cried, summoning the legendary Morphin Masters. Ninjor easily flew his magical cloud around the beast, confusing it and leaving it open for his fellow Morphin Masters. Meanwhile Thalian used his powers to battle the squid with the power of air and fire. Saurian was more old fashioned in his approached, preferring to enlarge himself and drive his sword into the belly of the beast.
"Zordon, something's wrong!" Yellow Zeo warned.
The White Master had been helping to fight in his own way, but paused when he heard Tanya's warning. Sure enough the blood from the Squid seemed to be affecting the Aquitians, turning them even more rabid than before.
"If this keeps up we'll destroy the squid but end up with a world of water demons," Green Zeo warned.
"And if we don't defeat it'll still transform Aquitar, it'll just take longer," Black Morphin added.
"Either way, there's nothing we can do now," Yellow Morphin stated sadly. "That things already polluted the planet too much."
Silently Zordon agreed with that assessment. He didn't know where the squid had come from, a part of him knew that it had somehow remained hidden on Aquitar from a time long before the current occupants had appeared. Had it been sealed away? It was a possibility, although that also meant that at one time it had been free and something had been powerful enough to contain it. His mind drifted briefly to tales of untamed monsters that had once roamed the universe, and the creatures that released them on suspecting world and then hunted them for sport.
He shook the thought away as Thalian was struck by one of the beast's remaining tentacles and tumbled towards the sea, reverting to his normal size as he did so. In a flash of white light he was gone, his ability to help exhausted. Ninjor made short work of the offending limb, only to be set upon by a swarming horde of water demons. In the end he too had to teleport away just as Saurian managed to drive his sword into the thick skull of the squid. He too retreated as he was covered in toxic ichor.
"Now!" Red Zeo cried and the Rangers once again unleashed their complete arsenal. This time though the squid was severely damaged and unable to move properly. The Rangers concentrated on the beast eye, striking it multiple times until they managed to burn their way through.
The agonised scream could be heard around the planet as the mental shockwave blasted forth. The Rangers fell to their knees as their minds were overwhelmed by the pressure. The Aquitians that had not mutated found themselves free of the influence while those that had joined their master's death cry. The planet shook as the beast bellowed in rage. The waters around it were dark and bloodied, the Rangers had to scramble for safety as their armour started to burn.
And then in a final act the squid unleashed a massive spray of ink, emptying its body of the poisonous liquid. Great clouds formed, carrying devastating rain across the planet. And the Rangers realised even as they tried desperately to stop it, that there was nothing they could do. Aquitar was doomed.
"Rangers there is little time, but we can still safe this world," Zordon told them.
"How?" Jason demanded. "We don't have that much power."
"Actually we do," Billy answered, although he seemed reluctant. "Zordon's body is a living manifestation of the Great Power. If we can release some of that power we could cleanse the planet. Unfortunately I lack the equipment to build the means to direct the energy and prevent it from dissipating completely. For all we know it could create a wave of energy and wipe out all evil in the galaxy, but leave Aquitar untouched."
"What about the Zeo Crystal?" Tommy asked. "If Zordon directed his energy into that it could purify the waters."
"And if we combine our powers we could direct the energy so that it doesn't escape."
"What about Zordon?" Kimberly asked. "Wouldn't letting go of the Great Power destroy him."
"If it does then I will live on in all of you," Zordon promised. "A sacrifice I am willing to make to assist the people of Aquitar."
"I have a better idea," Nate decided. "Let's make sure he doesn't lose too much power. There's no reason he has to do this by himself. We all have powers, let's use them to keep the Great Power under control."
Now it was Jason's turn to take the lead, as he had done a few times before. "We call on the power of all ours combined: Morphin!"
The eight Morphin Rangers joined hands, pooling their collective energy.
"Zeo!" Tommy added as the nine Zeo Rangers gathered. A gold light signalled the arrival of Trey as he joined the effort.
"Dino Thunder!" Nate called, pouring forth the incredible power of a Ranger that easily exceeded the strengths of those around him.
"I ask the Great Power: heal this world!" Zordon bellowed.
The multiple streams of energy merged together, pulling all the power the Rangers and their mentor possessed. It was an incredible strain, a force they could barely control as the raw energy tried to escape them. Then the giant ball of power exploded, knocking the Rangers off their feet as purifying energy stormed around the planet, destroying the squid's evil as it did so. The water demons were reduced to droplets of water and forced back into the depths of the ocean where the squid had previously been trapped. The dark ichor that polluted the seas was eradicated along with the squid's body as the people of Aquitar were finally released from their mental bondage and restored to their normal state.
As the shock wave dissipated Trey was teleported back to Pyramidas high above the planet and a small surge of energy sought out the three Morphin Masters, healing their wounds. The Dino Thunder powers flickered briefly before stabilising, their strength reduced to that of a normal Ranger. The Zeo Rangers and Morphin Rangers felt their powers tested for a moment before normalising as the Great Power enhanced their ability to draw on the Power to make up for their exhaustion.
And finally Zordon felt the Great Power return to him. It felt weaker than it had been before - for there was no way that restoring a whole world could be portrayed as a minor feat and it would take time for it to return to normal. However the Great Power was almost unlimited and given time it would gather once more. For now though he was almost mortal again, something that he welcomed. His body was now more and less than it had been before. It was flesh and blood, vulnerable in ways it had not been when he had returned to the physical world. But in his weaker state the temptation to use and become corrupted by the Great Power also diminished, giving him a welcome break from an incredible burden.
It was funny in some ways how the battle had turned out. The Rangers of Earth had been weakened by their efforts, yet the power they had lost had brought them closer together and helped to eliminate some of the concerns they had held about their own power levels; Nate had even by his own admission been too powerful to unleash unless as a last resort. Now his powers remained impressive and he would likely still have an edge, but the amount of raw power he could use had been reduced. That was likely to convince the Council to leave him alone until his powers reached their previous level.
Likewise the Zeo powers had been realigned, making the Rangers equals in spite of their capabilities. Jamie, Lillian, Katarina and Christina had along with Trey held more power than the other Zeo Rangers despite not using their powers as often. Now the ten Rangers were at the same level.
As for the Morphin Rangers there had been very little change. As Full Aspect Rangers they had been incredibly powerful and the Great Power had taken their excess strength, but in doing so it had strengthened their link to the Grid, allowing them to draw more power to make up for the shortfall. In effect they had neither lost nor gained.
Aquitar was free butjust like its saviours, it would need time to fully recover. The world's infrastructure had been devastated, it defences shattered. As much as the Rangers of Earth wanted to go home they knew they would not be able to do so until they had helped the Aquitians recover. To not do so would leave Aquitar open to whichever pirate or alien overlord decided to claim it. It meant there would be a lot of work ahead for the Rangers as they tried to restore a world that had not been the same since Minion had targeted them years before.
There had been some good news when the Rangers had discovered that their allies the Aquitian Rangers were still alive. Their powers had been dormant during their planet's enslavement, but now they were once more able to protect their world, something that was assured when Ninjor had reappeared and presented them with new Power Coins.
Still there were questions to be answered about the giant squid. Aquitian history spoke of huge beasts being driven into the depths of the planet, but didn't mention where they had come from or how they managed to mutate native Aquitians. There were references to the Water Demons though and those descriptions implied that it had not been a coincidence. Evil was on the rise once more. The recent departure of known villains for some sort of conference was an indicator, but the Rangers knew from experience that they rarely faced a single threat. If there was a new player they recognised that they would likely struggle against it, especially if it could turn whole planets insane with just one of its giant creatures.
But those concerns were put to the side as they turned their attention to repairing the damaged world. When a threat arose they would fight it because that was what they did. In the meantime the battle was over and their mission: complete.
"O'Neil! In my office now!" yelled Ronald Jacobs. Jacobs was the cantankerous editor of one of Angel Grove's three major newspapers, The Angel Grove Gazette. The Gazette's major competitor was the Chronicle, which had the best reporting team in the city. They had recently published yet another article about the Power Rangers, and as usual, Parker O'Neil was feeling the heat.
"Yes, boss?" he asked, strolling into Jacobs' office and casually taking a seat in a chair. Parker was 6'4", and well-muscled, with brown-blond hair and odd tawny eyes. He radiated the easy charm and complete confidence that made him such a wonderful reporter. People talked to him, even people who had something to hide. But it was Parker's skill with a camera that made him such a valuable asset to the Gazette. He had a gift for taking pictures, especially pictures of the Power Rangers, that no one else could take. Not to mention that he was the only reporter the Power Rangers would talk to.
"O'Neil, why the heck didn't you get this story? 'Pizza Monster rips up Little Japan.' The Chronicle's made fools of us- again."
Parker just grinned at his choleric boss. "Relax. I've got something even better." Tossing a packet on Jacobs' desk, he had the pleasure of seeing the older man's eyes light up as he thumbed threw it.
"A direct interview with the Power Rangers! Plus pictures! Hot damn, O'Neil, you've pulled it off again!"
Parker paled a little knowing that the story he had handed over was nothing compared to the scoop he had been handed in December. The greatest story a reporter or photographer could be handed and he was unable to tell it. It was frustrating for somebody dedicated to telling the truth, but not for the first time Parker O'Neil reminded himself that the lives he could ruin by doing so were worth more than a moment of fame. For Parker like many others in Angel Grove had recently been let in on a secret: the identity of the Power Rangers. It was a secret that the families had agreed to protect for the sake of their children and themselves. How the Parks, Cranstons, Taylors and Kwangs had reacted to the news that one and in some cases more than one of their children were heroes was uncertain; the news had been broken just hours before the majority of those revealing their secret had left on some mission to the planet Aquitar. Very little had been discussed other than a cover story for their absence.
Parker was smart enough to understand that his concerns were mostly focussed around his sister Lillian. As the Black Zeo Ranger, or Zeo Shadow as she preferred to be called, she had been one of those leaving the planet. He knew that she was in good company, but a part of him was still worried. And that worry had driven him to uncover the facts and learn the identities of the other Rangers.
He had spent a good few weeks trailing the Turbo Rangers, recording their exploits. If knowing his sister was a super hero had been a shock, learning that the Earth's first line of defence consisted of even younger teenagers had been almost too much to take in. But he had followed their adventures and watched them thrive against a very bizarre and unfocussed enemy. They were swift, innovative and crafty. And that made up for the lack of experience and overall strength. At first he had been mistaken in believing they were facing a less dangerous threat than their older teammates, but after witnessing one such battle he had to admit, they were doing a fine job. And the interview he had secured helped to make sure that others also recognised their hard work.
"That interview gives everything the Chronicle's article has, all from the Power Ranger's mouth, so to speak. We'll blow them away."
"I knew I hired you for a reason, boy. Now go on, go find me another headline." Shaking his head, Parker left Jacobs' office, whistling.
Now if only his sister and her friends would come back safely.
End of part