Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers they belong to their respective copyright owners and are used here without permission. No money is being made from this fic.
Authors Note: This is an alternate universe from the television show with an alternate timeline.
When the Smoke Cleared
The desert outside of Angel Grove looked as if it had been used as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. For that matter the city itself did not look much better. A combination of the Elemental Beasts and Serpenterra had left a wide trail of decimation that even the Rangers had been unable to avoid.
At the bottom of the deepest crater, beneath a large chunk of scrap metal, something was moving. When Tommy Oliver and Aisha Campbell had tried to escape the blast wave that Serpenterra had unleashed, they had tried and failed to teleport back to the Power Chamber. They had failed and had been forced to try to outrun the energy wave.
"Well, well," Minion spoke, his voice carrying across the desert. "Seems we're all here. Allow me to introduce you to Serpenterra's full power!"
What followed was a firestorm as the monstrous Zord unleashed the power of the Zeo Crystal at its opposition. This time there was nothing the Rangers could do to protect their machines; Tommy and Aisha had tried to teleport only to find that they were trapped.
"Emergency separation!" Tommy called.
The arm of the Megazord detached from the rest of the body, transforming into its dune buggy form before racing off across the sands in an attempt to out race the destructive tidal wave that threatened to destroy them.
The sand on either side seemed to part as the ground underneath collapsed. Only their speed allowed them to plane over the ground as they raced toward Power Mountain. The light was growing brighter and the heat was causing the controls to smoke.
"Tommy tried the emergency teleport one last time, this time not aiming for the Power Chamber. Instead he instructed it to lock onto any point outside of the blast's radius. The wave had by this time caught up to the machine and just as they teleported, the blast ripped the Zord to shreds.
There was nothing as the Techno Megazord, Sky Megazord, Dragon Battlezord and Titanus, along with the remains of the Defender Zords were incinerated.
"Aw man, that was close," Tommy commented as he regained consciousness.
Too close he noticed as his attention was drawn to the burns on his calves and shoulders. His powers had shut down while he had been out cold and as he shifted he realised that he had no idea where they were.
"Ow," Aisha said, an understated reaction if the wince she made when she moved her arm was an indicator. "Any idea where we are?"
Tommy studied the surrounding. They were in a tunnel of some description, one that if the dimensions were any indicator had been intended to act as a freeway. Water was leaking in from above and in one spot he could just make out daylight.
"We're in the tunnel between the Power Chamber and Angel Grove," he said at last. "The computer must have teleported us underground before the blast connected."
He tapped his communicator, expecting to teleport back to headquarters. But nothing happened even when Aisha tried her own communicator.
"Zordon, come in," Tommy tried. "Zordon, Alpha? Jason, you there?"
There wasn't any sound, not even the noise made when they pressed the buttons.
"Something's wrong," Aisha stated. "Do you think Serpenterra destroyed the Power Chamber?"
Tommy shook his head. "Zordon would have done something," he said confidently. He tapped his powerless communicator again. "Come on, I think we need to go this way."
The Power Rangers' headquarters had been decimated by Billy's treachery. The bombs he had planted had been positioned to cause maximum carnage and ensure that should the Rangers survive, they would be alone and incapable of fighting.
The mighty Eltarian generators that had powered the mountainside were silent; most of the wiring essential to their operation had been ripped out when the power control room had collapsed.
Zordon's tube had been blasted to pieces, cutting the White Master out of the Power Chamber and rendering him helpless to do anything other than to watch as events unfolded. Alpha had also seen better days, his head scattered between the remains of several consoles, a large shaft of metal pinning his remains to the center of the Viewing Screen.
The rest of the Power Chamber had been destroyed when the explosives attached to the structural supports had detonated, sending the floor and the Rangers into the depths of the mountainside. The falling debris had crashed through pipes and conduits as it fell, clearing a path for the teens to follow.
With luck the Rangers had been able to control their falls, grabbing onto anything they could to slow their descent. Sam had used the Wizard of Deception's wand, which had been damaged protecting them from the full force of the explosion, to ensure a safe landing somewhere deep underground.
There was the sound of somebody moving, a few soft pops and then light as Trini managed to find one of the glow sticks the Rangers had placed on each level in case of power failure. Now that they were able to see where they were they could assess their situation. It didn't look good.
Rocky was in the worst shape having damaged his back during the fall. There was very little they could do to help him since their knowledge of medicine was limited. Tanya and Kat worked to make him comfortable until it was safe to move him.
The others had not escaped unscathed. Cuts and bruises were a common injury; Zack had singed the hair on the left side of his head. Adam had a nasty cut to the shoulder; the piece of shrapnel embedded just an inch from his neck showed how lucky he had been.
"David?" Trini asked softly. The White Grid Warrior had been quiet and she was worried that his injuries were worse than she had first thought.
He looked up at her and she could see he was in shock. The sparks from the explosion had damaged his eyesight. She suspected he would recover, but like Rocky, he needed real medical attention as soon as possible.
"Zordon, Alpha," Jason tried. He had wrapped a piece of torn T-shirt around the gash on his head.
There was no reply and if he were honest, he hadn't expected one. The main chamber had taken the brunt of the assault, so there was very little chance that Zordon and Alpha had escaped.
"This place is going to take forever to repair," Zack noted.
The others nodded in agreement.
"On the plus side we still have some power," Adam reported as he studied his Gem Coin Transformer. True without the machinery they would not be able to recharge their powers, but this gave them some chance.
"Better save those for now," Trini warned.
"What are we going to do when they run out?" Kat asked.
"Worry about it later," Sam interrupted before anyone could reply. "Listen."
"I don't hear anything," Kimberly replied.
"Oh no," Trini gasped. When the others looked at her, she explained. "We're deep inside the mountain and there's no soundproofing down here. If we can't hear anything then the generators aren't working."
"And no generators means no air circulation," Adam added.
"All right, first priority is to find a way out. There must be something, even one of the old service shafts will do if it leads to the surface."
The others moved off to explore their surroundings, hoping to find a way out. Moving through the underground maze of tunnels, it soon became clear how much damage had been caused. Several paths were blocked and in some areas the floor had just given way.
It had been Kimberly who had stumbled upon the oversized construction vehicles at the very end of a long and crudely crafted tunnel. She had been surprised to find that the machines although clearly ancient, still had some power. It was Adam who understood their importance.
"These are the machines Zordon and Alpha used to bore the Zord tunnels," he explained. "They must have been left here when their task was complete."
"So they could dig us a way out?" Kat asked hopefully.
"Better than that," was the reply. "We must be near to one of the existing tunnels. Maybe we can find a way through."
"Okay, Zack and Sam go and help Rocky and David. Get them in here so we can leave. Adam, see if you can find a tunnel we can use." Jason paused. "The rest of us need to take a look around. Kat, see if there are any Utility Boxes on this level. Kim, we need weapons, see what you can find. Tanya and Trini, check out the last few doors in your search areas. I'll check this way."
The Rangers hurried off to complete their assigned tasks.
"This isn't good," Tommy groaned as they were faced with a solid wall.
At some point Zordon had filled the entrances to the Power Chamber and had planned for the Rangers to teleport in and out of the tunnel without the security risk of direct access. Sadly that meant they were now trapped with no way out.
"Maybe there's a backdoor," Aisha suggested.
Tommy thought about it. Zordon was a skilled and experienced tactician. It stood to reason that he would not have created a tunnel unless he had a way to escape should it collapse.
"What's that?" Aisha asked.
She could sense the vibrations from the far side of the wall and noticed the small pile of dust forming at the base of the wall.
"Tommy, get back," she warned as stone exploded outward as something broke its way into the tunnel.
Tommy didn't need to be told twice. He jumped away from the wall and holding onto his friend's hand, the two of them scrambled back down the tunnel as quickly as possible.
"Let's go!" Jason instructed.
Adam obliged immediately, turning the drill head to the appropriate wall and then engaging the drive mechanism. The three spinning heads rotated as he lifted the clutch and moved the heads forward into the outer layer of stone. The engine took on a deeper tone, suggesting that it was under strain as the heads clawed their way through the material.
"Bring the second drive into play," Adam instructed.
When engaged the second rotor spun all three heads to generate extra torque. As Trini started the drive, the difference was easy to hear as the strain on the engine was replaced by the sound of cracking stone.
"Twenty-five feet," Zack called from his station. He was monitoring their direction and distance to breakthrough while Kat watched to ensure they didn't strike anything harder than rock; knowing Zordon it was likely there were all sorts of materials around. "Ten feet. Breakthrough in ten seconds."
Adam revved the motors and there was a loud screech as the drill heads burst through the wall just as Tommy and Aisha jumped away.
"Good job Adam," Jason congratulated.
"Yeah," Zack agreed. "But what do we do now?"
Nobody had the answer to that.
"There's something ahead," Kat told them. "It's moving."
"Probably rats," Tanya commented.
"Too big for Rats," Kat responded. Her eyes widened, as the image grew clearer. "Adam, stop the machine, it's Tommy!"
Adam hit the emergency break, cutting power to the motors and energising the powerful electro magnets that restrained the flailing blades. As the machine ground to a halt just seconds before cutting their friends to ribbons, the Rangers breathed a sigh of relief.
"It stopped," Aisha puffed as she and Tommy climbed off the ground, not quite believing they had survived.
"We still don't know who's driving that thing," Tommy warned.
"Bro I have never been so glad to see you," Jason commented as the machine opened to reveal the other Rangers.
"I'm glad you're all safe," Tommy replied, helping Aisha into the machine. "What happened to you guys ... did Serpenterra ... hey, where's Billy?"
"That's a long story," Jason answered. There was a brief silence during which Jason and Tommy just looked at each other; they seemed to communicate with just their eyes. "Get on board and we'll fill you in."
Aisha and Tommy clambered into the machine and Adam engaged the motors before turning the machine towards the surface. It was time to get above ground and make some plans.
On the Moon, Lord Zedd was watching the events on Earth with a keen interest. The Rangers were once again back in the fight it seemed albeit using technology that was becoming more unreliable every time they used it. It was Serpenterra that really held his attention. The beautiful machine of destruction was performing just how he had always dreamed it would. It moved as swiftly or slowly as the operator wished over its target and then extinguished everything surrounding it in a single shot.
People were suffering on Earth and Zedd loved it. His body pulsed with red light as he eagerly digested each scene of destruction and savoured every cry he heard from the battleground. His only wish was that he had been at the controls showing those miserable Rangers the true meaning of power or even just sitting in the cockpit watching the carnage first hand. Sadly that could not be and he reluctantly remained where he was, his eyebeam never leaving the planet's surface. Then in a flash of inspiration he realised that Minion's actions had given him a tremendous opportunity, one he intended to take advantage of.
King Mondo was torn between two conflicting protocols. While he admired the destructiveness of his Minion's little toy, it was his duty to point out its every flaw to his youngest son. His respect for his fellow villain clashed with the notion that Serpenterra had been built by organic creatures. And the idea that an organic creature like Zedd could create a machine capable of winning where the superior technology and knowledge of the Machine Empire had failed was almost as unbelievable as the notion that five immature humans could hold off the mighty King Mondo for almost a year. The very existence of Serpenterra was an insult to the Machine Empire. That it was winning with a mere monster at the controls made the situation seem far worse.
"Such a hideous design," he said out loud for the benefit of those around him.
"You are right as always dear," Queen Machina commented. To show her agreement she opened her fan and waved it in front of her face in an attempt to waft some foul odour away from her delicate nasal receptors.
"Daddy, why aren't you controlling that thing?" Sprocket asked. "It is a machine."
"Yes father, do tell," Gasket challenged.
Although Gasket and Archerina had joined forces with Mondo and Machina, there were still many unresolved issues between Mondo and his son. The bad oil that flowed between them had not vanished and both were clearly thinking that upon the conquest of Earth they would gladly dispose of the other. Of course Gasket imagined plucking Mondo's personality module from the remains of his trashed skull and crushing it under foot while Mondo preferred to make plans for the new obedient personality he would install in his son to make him more manageable, like Sprocket.
"Now Gasket, your father can hardly be held responsible for General Venjix's failure," Machina admonished.
"Venjix should have been melted down long ago," Gasket retorted.
Mondo gave a mechanical snort. "Venjix is a loyal servant to the Royal House of Gadgetry."
Not quite true. Venjix was one of Mondo's select generals and as such was loyal solely to the reigning monarch. In fact his loyalty went further and bordered on being fanatical. There were some rumours that he had banded together Cog's of a similar disposition and turned them into a cult.
"He is an obsolete fool," Gasket argued.
"If I were execute all those who failed me, you would have been on the scrap heap long ago," Mondo explained. "Venjix is undertaking vital research into the powers he took from a group of humans, reverse engineering the technology to suit our purposes."
"You forget Gasket that your father is a strategic genius," Machina interrupted.
"That doesn't explain how we can deal with Minion while he controls Serpenterra."
"Of course it does my malfunctioning mongrel," Mondo answered, "eventually Minion will have to step outside of his machine and then we can finish him."
"Or we could just let the humans do it for us," Sprocket said. The older machines turned to look at him, shocked to their core programming by his statement. "Look Daddy!"
Sure enough on the surface the Power Rangers had emerged. The war it seemed was not over yet.
Two hours later and the Power Rangers were sitting around an overly large table discussing recent events. With the Power Chamber compromised they had fallen back to a command post in another part of the Freak Zone. Their injuries had healed, proving that accelerated healing worked at least on lesser injuries.
"So an impostor that looked like Billy managed to get into the Power Chamber, plant enough explosives to destroy everything, possibly killed Zordon and Alpha, and stole the only two Power Coins in our possession," Tommy summarised miserably. "And we never noticed."
"It was a very good act," Zack agreed.
"Yeah but how could we be so blind? He's our friend; last time this happened we knew something was wrong."
"That's part of the problem," Adam pointed out. He had taken the betrayal to heart and dreaded to think what had happened to the real Billy. "Last time Billy was a part of the group. He was here and we noticed when his behaviour changed. This time Billy had been away so any odd behaviour was overlooked. This -- whatever it was, took advantage of our relief over curing Jason and managed to avoid any awkward questions."
"Okay, I accept that," Tommy agreed. "But man, how much more damage can Minion cause? He's taken the Zeo Crystal and our Power Coins. We've lost the Zords, the Power Chamber, Alpha and Zordon due to his plans. And now he had Billy too. What do we do?"
"We need to get Billy back," Rocky said. His back had taken longer than expected to heal and even now it wasn't perfect.
"And the Zeo Crystal," Kat added.
"In the meantime we need replacement Zords and powers," Trini suggested.
"And guys, wouldn't it be a good idea to find a way to defeat Serpenterra?" Kimberly asked.
"What's the point?" Zack asked. "Minion's won this round. We had our powers and now he's taken them, we had Zords and he destroyed them. What do we have left?"
While nobody wanted to admit it, they felt the same as Zack. They had fought and they had been beaten down, they had gotten back up and now it seemed Minion had beaten them again. What could they do when their powers were all but destroyed and the one person who could help them was out of contact?
"I wish Zordon was here," Aisha whispered.
"Or Alpha," Kimberly sighed.
"Hey, I'd be happy to just see Ninjor," Tommy admitted.
There was a flash of blue light. "You called?"
"Ninjor!" Tommy, Kat, Adam, Rocky, Aisha and Kimberly cried as they rushed to greet their old ally.
"Man we thought you were lost," Tommy said as the legendary Morphin Master enjoyed the embrace of his former students. Ninjor laughed, the kind of goofy laugh that turned out to be highly infectious because seconds later Aisha and Kimberly were giggling and the others were at least smiling.
"Did you really think that a little thing like reversing the flow of time could break our bond?" he asked, seemingly insulted by the very suggestion. "Our bond has never been stronger. All you had to do was concentrate on our mutual bond and I would have been there; not that I would have been much use against the Machine Empire mind you," he allowed. "Still, it's the thought that counts."
"Um right," Kimberly said, trying to digest all that the ancient warrior had said. "Ninjor we'd like you to meet some friends of ours. This is Jason, Trini, Zack, David, Tanya and Sam."
"I know all about the Green Ranger," Ninjor said. "I was there, remember?"
They did remember. When Zedd had held Ninjor as his captive, he had used his prisoner to create a Power Coin for Minion. Later he had used the Morphin Master again, this time as a bargaining chip to make the Ranger agree to his terms for a contest. Sam had arrived when the Rangers had lost.
"But where is Billy?" Ninjor asked.
Tanya and Kat looked down miserably as Jason and Tommy took it in turns to explain. It had been their mistake that had brought the impostor - a temporary construct created by Arcana -, back to Earth. And even though the others had accepted him as Billy, it was the fact he had arrived with them that had made the illusion convincing.
"I see," Ninjor said when they finished, rubbing his hand over the lower part of his chin. "So let me get this straight, you managed to fight off Rita and Zedd, the Machine Empire and the Elemental Beasts using temporary powers and makeshift Zords?"
There were some nods. When said like that they realised how the odds had been stacked against them. Perhaps they should never have tried.
"And you tied eight Rangers to two Power Coins, creating Grid Warriors?"
Once again they nodded. When stated by a third party they realised how ridiculous it sounded. Had they really been foolish enough to believe it would work?
"Well in that case I can only say one thing," Ninjor concluded, sounding strangely serious. "Congratulations Rangers, not many would have fought on when faced with such odds. Your bravery is proof that you are worthy of the Power; Zordon chose wisely. And with Ninjor on your side we shall triumph over evil."
"You mean you'll help us?" Kimberly asked. They looked up at him, hope in their eyes and Ninjor realised how young these humans really were. So much responsibility placed on such young shoulders. If he hadn't seen them in action for himself, Ninjor would have been having a serious chat with the old wizard.
"Of course I will help," Ninjor said. "Together we will overcome the odds and show Minion the true power of Ninjor." He looked at the Rangers speculatively. "Or perhaps find help to show him the power of Good."
"So we can get new powers?" Adam asked, uncertain.
"That's great Ninjor, where do we start?" Tommy asked.
"Not so fast Tommy," Ninjor warned. "Your old powers still exist," he explained. "Only when you have retrieved the Zeo Crystal can you use new powers."
He held out his hand expectantly and the Gem Coin Rangers handed over their Gem Coin Transformers. He felt a little hurt that they believed he would just leave them to fight without any powers.
"My, they're pretty," Ninjor, commented as he studied the devices. He pulled a screwdriver out of somewhere and started tinkering. "Hm, missing something ... ah ha! Be right back." He vanished only to reappear behind Tanya seconds later, making the Yellow Ranger jump. "You shouldn't leave these lying around," he told them, holding up the remnants of the Super Zeo Gems.
They had been damaged in the explosion and only the Red gem seemed to be intact despite the cracks that ran across its surface. Ninjor closed his hand and pressed them into a single gem. Then he took a blank Power Coin and pressed the gem into the surface.
"See Rangers, even I can make a Gem Coin," he joked as he handed it to Tommy. "This should keep you going for a while, at least until we return. I'll just take your friends here and see if we can retrieve Billy."
"Awesome," Zack said, the enthusiasm clear in his voice.
"Indeed," Ninjor agreed before turning back to the former Zeo Rangers. "Just try to slow Serpenterra down."
"Ninjor, what about Zords?" Kat asked.
"Oh my yes, you Rangers don't appear to have much luck when it comes to Zords. Now let me see... Perfect!" He raised his hand and the Rangers were forcibly teleported into one of the craters left from the previous battles.
"I don't believe it survived," Rocky gasped.
At the base of the pit the Ninja lay unmoving. It had clearly seen better days, but was far from being destroyed.
"A bit of a fixer-upper," Ninjor remarked, "but still functional."
"That's great Ninjor," Tommy said, "but we still need a plan. Serpenterra is too powerful for a direct attack."
Ninjor scratched his head in thought, and then straightened as his keen senses locked onto something else. "I believe you will find one of William's creations over there."
The Rangers had overlooked that Zord. While not destroyed by Minion along with the rest of the Zeo Zords, they had thought it was destroyed in the Zord Bay. It would take work to bypass the need for Tommy to use the power of the Red Zeo Ranger to operate it.
Tommy still didn't look convinced. They had the Ninja, which had seen better days and the Red Battlezord that even if they could control, would be little more than a puppy dog biting at Serpenterra's feet.
"Fear not, Ninjor is on your side," the Morphin Master assured them. He was going to say more but trailed off as something caught his attention; there had been a sudden loss of life on the planet. While it had only been a thousand or so humans, the pain and fear they had felt was no less real.
"Ninjor, are you okay?" Aisha asked as the Rangers gathered around.
"I'm fine Rangers; there are vile schemes afoot. Minion's scheme must be halted."
"Aw man, as if we didn't have enough problems," Tommy groaned.
"Ninjor, what are we going to do?" Kimberly asked.
"We will continue to defend the Earth until we can get Zordon back," he announced after making a point of pondering the problem. "But first, we need to get Billy."
The reply wasn't the one the Rangers had hoped for since they didn't want to be split up; they believed they were stronger as a complete team compared to when they were divided. Still, they understood why they had to divide their forces. Reluctantly the former Grid Warriors and David joined hands with Ninjor and were teleported away leaving the others to ponder their next course of action.
Destruction had proven to be a distraction for Minion as his journey to Washington DC turned into random attacks on as many towns as possible. He had already shifted course once, deciding that Texas would make a suitable target. So far he had refrained from using a major burst from the main cannon, settling for equally destructive eyebeams and blasts from the antlers.
Resistance from the military had been constant and he had to grudgingly admit that the humans had courage while faced with impossible odds. The jet pilots and tank drivers who had been killed trying to slow Serpenterra was a testament to their bravery and ultimately symbolic of their stupidity.
Now after indulging his vindictive side by laying waste to a small ranch in Utah, he decided it was time to return his attention to more important matters. Serpenterra turned sharply before resuming its path toward Washington. By now he had accepted that neither the President nor the Vice President would be there when he arrived, but the very act of dominating the White House would be a show of strength to the rest of the world that he was in charge.
His mind drifted to the Rangers. They had been worthy opponents and he would miss them. There again the thought of their screams as Power Mountain had been ripped apart inside gave him a sense of power and a feeling of triumph. He had bested his enemies and redeemed his previous losses. And now he was going to use their powers to force the Earth into submission.
He was so busy dreaming of how glorious it would be to walk triumphantly among the vanquished humans that he was taken by surprise when Serpenterra was jolted by an energy blast. The alarm sounded as the machine registered minor damage to one of its armoured sections.
"Show me," he commanded.
Brasso obliged, using sensors on the hull to find their attacker, now a speck in the sky.
Once again the henchman obeyed, zeroing in on the golden pyramid. A second blast erupted from the apex of the Gold Ranger's Zord. Pyramidas while smaller was obviously a powerful machine. At least it had enough firepower to damage a machine that several Zords had failed to scratch.
"Welcome home Trey," Minion said before stumbling as yet another blast connected. "Destroy him!"
Serpenterra turned towards its attacker and the fight was on.
"Another hit," Travis commented.
Originally Travis had planned to stay on Triforia with Trent to try and establish some form of government. But when he had received the official reports stating just how dangerous the situation on Earth had become, he had reconsidered. His Triforian Viper had caught up with Trey in Hyper space and the two had travelled together to Earth.
When they had arrived, Trey had discovered the remains of the Power Chamber and had assumed the worst. Unable to find the Rangers, he had started to hunt down Serpenterra instead. So far the six or so shots they had thrown at the enormous machine had had only a limited effect. It seemed that the only vulnerability would also prove the most dangerous area.
"Lookout!" Trey warned as Serpenterra fired back.
Pyramidas was big, Serpenterra was much larger and its firepower was unhindered by its bulk. Pyramidas lurched off course to avoid the blast, the pilot unwilling to test his shielding.
"We will never get close enough to damage it," Travis warned.
Trey nodded as the Zord was skimmed by an eye blast and twisted under the force.
"I am pulling back," Trey answered. "We will have to find another way."
"Returning to Angel Grove," Travis answered.
The machine streaked off across the countryside, its pilots already making plans to strike again. They had failed to destroy Serpenterra, but they had learnt that a direct assault would not work. They needed to play dirty.
"What is that?" Travis asked when the red light started pulsing on the control panel.
"The Rangers," Trey gasped. "They are alive."
The Zord changed course again, this time heading for the desert outside of Angel Grove.
Gasket watched the proceedings with contempt. He was the ruler of his own planet yet was forced to listen to his father's babble. He had had enough and one look at Archerina confirmed that she felt likewise. If he had been capable of doing so he would have smiled as they slipped away to start their own plan. Alliances within the Machine Empire never lasted for long.
In a small room deep within the Lunar Palace, Rita Repulsa was also planning to take control of the situation. She had been the one who had first attacked the Earth, so it seemed only fitting that she would be the one to rule over the planet once the Minion had emerged victorious. Controlling a being as powerful as the clone had proven to be, was a daunting task, but not impossible. She was responsible for his existence after all. That gave her a relationship she could use to forge a spell. Perhaps she could make him love her and get rid of Zedd. A husband like Minion would make a welcome addition to that small but obscenely powerful army.
She was already chanting; laying the foundations of a binding spell that would bend the construct to her will. It would take time to work he would once again be under the guidance of Rita Repulsa. Everything would be the way it should be, again.
Her spell casting could be heard throughout the Lunar Palace. Rito scratched his head, not really understanding why his sister had to make so much noise; Goldar grumbled under his breath that no good would come of Rita's actions. Neither had a true understanding of how Rita's magic worked and both preferred the simple point and cast method. Zedd himself could only recognise a few words of the ancient language his wife spoke, but knew that she was calling forth all the magic trapped within the artefacts on her altar to ensure the enchantment's success. Only Finster seemed to know what was happening; the old monster maker had been with Rita for a long time and had studied her methods. He smiled gleefully at the sound of his mistress causing trouble for her enemies. He also felt relief that for once he could not count himself among the beings that that spell might be aimed at.
Minion's Island, Gulf of Mexico
They had not expected to attack so soon when they had agreed to join Ninjor's expedition, but the Morphin Master wanted Billy out of evil's clutches as soon as possible; he was not about to leave one of his students in the hands of the enemy given how the Rangers had been willing to risk everything to save him.
"Be very quiet Rangers," he warned as he led them through a maze of corridors. "We do not want to attract attention."
"Easier said than done," Trini answered as she caught sight of the WD Units guarding one of the cells.
"Fear not, I shall make a diversion for you," Ninjor offered. He strolled forward with a sense of confidence that only a Morphin Master trained in the disciplines of Ninja with an easy escape route could manage to imitate. "Hey you there," he called to one of the WD Units, "is this the Ninja Ranger Convention?"
The machines reacted predictably, querying their computerised memory units, locating Ninjor and identifying him as a threat. They charged in, ready for a fight and were surprised when he teleported further down the corridor. He did so repeatedly until the way was clear for his students.
Using the distraction to their advantage, the Rangers sneaked up to the cell and opened the door.
They turned toward the sound in time to see more guards approaching.
"Is this the real Billy?" Aisha asked.
Trini stared at him for a moment, looking into his eyes. When they stared up at her pleadingly and nodded sadly; the boy's jailers had not been kind.
"Then we're gone," Jason announced. "Ninjor, hurry up."
"Patience Jason," Ninjor answered. He had been having fun proving that he could embarrass the WD Units with ease.
In the meantime the lead WD Unit had pulled out a communicator and was in the process of summoning help.
"Security breach in holding section."
Alarms sounded across the island as the WD Units were teleported out. The corridors darkened and behind them a heavy plated door slammed into place.
"Oh no," they heard Billy mumble; he was still unaware of where he was.
"Billy, what's happening?" Trini asked.
"It's a Centaurian," he managed as if that would explain the panic on his face.
Venjix had not been idle during his time in Minion's service and had put himself to work improving on the standard WD Units. The Centaurian was one such improvement. It had the slightly enlarged upper body of a WD Unit combined with a robotic insect that acted as its lower body. Its head was pointed with a pair on mandible claws and two spiked antennas.
It stomped forward and the Rangers wisely chose to retreat. They ran through the corridors, joining up with Ninjor on the way. The Morphin Master had found himself unable to teleport and had quickly returned to help his students.
"Oh my!" he exclaimed when he saw the creature heading his way. He called on his powers and threw a ball of flame at the machine, but it kept coming. He threw a second ball at the ceiling and managed to separate the robot from its prey.
"That won't hold him for long," Kimberly guessed. The Centaurian was already trying to break through the makeshift barrier, its arm transforming into a cutting disk.
"Destroy the head unit," Billy advised. "That's where the teleport jammer is."
"Great, of all the times not to have a Blade Blaster," Zack grumbled.
Ninjor promptly obliged, he was a Morphin Master after all. The weapons he gave them were old, heavy had most likely been created for use by beings that were larger than the Rangers.
Jason took the first weapon gratefully, turned around and fired at the door behind them. It buckled but remained in place, so he fired twice more. On the third shot it opened far enough for the Rangers and Ninjor to squeeze through. In some cases, avoidance was better than fighting.
"Oh no, guys!" Kimberly called from further up the corridor.
They ran to join her and found a squad of WD Units blocking their path.
"Back the other way!" Jason ordered as a spear missed his head. He pulled it out of the wall and handed it to Ninjor. "If that thing back there is made of the same metal, this might hurt it." For some reason given that their Blade Blasters had proven ineffective against the WD Units, he reckoned the javelin would be their only chance.
"Jase, this wall is hollow," Zack called, pointed to a hole one of the WD Units had just punched in metal sides of the corridor.
"Right," Jason said, an idea starting to form. "When I blast the wall, everybody go through and get as far away from the hole as possible. Zack and I will hold them off and hope that Centaurian is programmed to clear out all intruders.
Jason blasted the wall, cutting a man-size hole for the Rangers to climb through. Then while he and Zack blanketed the area with blaster fire, the others spread themselves around what turned out to be a storeroom; Ninjor had vanished in a puff of smoke. Using the rows of shelves as a way to slow the WD Units should they gain access, the Rangers waited.
The Blade Blaster fire did little to slow the WD Units. Not did the shots seem to phase the Centaurian as it ripped its way into the corridor. Luckily though when the Centaurian and the WD Units met, the security droid failed to recognise its allies and attacked...
What followed was a brutal battle. The Centaurian had been designed to be multi functional and carried an array of weapons. Between its sharp saw blades, plasma cutters and brute strength it cut, torched and bullied its way through the opposition. One of the WD Units managed to knock it onto its back, but the giant insect body just shifted position and stood straight back up.
As it ripped the head from the last WD Unit and made its way toward the hole in the wall, Ninjor reappeared, on its back. The half-ant half-humanoid machine struggled against the blue clad Morphin Master, but Ninjor allowed himself to grow, pinning the machine down.
"Now Rangers," he suggested as Jason and Zack fired at the Centaurian's head.
The machine showed no sign of damage and retaliated with its own blasts. One of its arms broke free and managed to grab Zack.
"Ninjor, I'm not the one with the armour," Zack yelled.
"I hate killing, but I cannot allow you to kill an innocent," Ninjor said as he drove the javelin he had been given early into the Centaurian's head. It didn't stop the monstrous creature, but it did break the interference, allowing the Rangers and their mentor to teleport away.
"So are we all agreed?"
It had been a surprise when Trey and Travis had arrived. The Rangers had been on the verge of leaving on a suicide mission. But the appearance of Pyramidas changed their plans. The mission would still be dangerous, but with luck they would survive.
Trey nodded solemnly. "Risky, but worth a try."
"We will have to ensure that you spend as little time inside as possible," Travis agreed.
"All right guys, we can do this," Tommy encouraged.
"Right!" the others agreed before separating. Rocky however did not follow them immediately.
"You know your part in all this is not risk free," he remarked.
In seemed in the heat of the moment everybody had been so concerned about Tommy's safety that they had overlooked the fact that the plan hinged on Minion firing on Trey while he was outside of his Zord.
Trey didn't reply; he had obviously realised that this scheme could lead to his death. Perhaps that was why he had insisted that Travis pilot the Wolf Zord into battle.
"Just be safe," Rocky said. There was a lot left unsaid, mutual respect between trusted comrades.
"You too Rocky," Trey replied before readying himself for action.
"Closing in on Serpenterra now," Trey advised as he fired a blast at the monstrous machine's tail.
That caught Minion's attention and the rematch was underway, Pyramidas skimming over the massive machine's back and even attempting to land. Serpenterra jerked around and Pyramidas had to take off again, but not before nailing one of the panels at close range.
Pyramidas twisted and dove through the atmosphere, its shape making the Zord difficult to direct. A lucky shot from one of Serpenterra's antler damaged the flight systems, causing the Carrier Zord to plunge.
"Get ready," Trey told his passengers. "Release."
A door opened in the side of the pyramid and the Ninja emerged. Trey's Zord had been able to repair some of the damage, making the other Zord operational again. Like a giant flee, it leapt onto the back of Serpenterra and started to cause as much damage as possible.
"Power Sword!" the Rangers called, hoping to use the energised blade to cut through the armoured plate.
"The Rangers, where did they come from?" Minion demanded.
They should have been dead; his agent had planted enough explosives to turn Power Mountain into a small hill. Even if they had had the protection of the Morphin Grid or the Zeo Crystal they would have been destroyed by the blast. And how had they been able to transform when he was certain that the Gem Coin generators had been destroyed?
~Perhaps Trey had something to do with their survival,~ he mused. It was an amazing coincidence that the Gold Ranger had decided to make an appearance around the time that the Rangers' miraculously survived his guaranteed plot to kill them. He paused. No, it seemed only the Gem Coin Rangers had survived, or were there different faces under those helmets?
Serpenterra shook as the Zords continued their attack but it pleased him that their actions were verging on desperation. They were also futile, which he proved by shaking the Ninja from Serpenterra's back.
"Lock onto the Ninja and fire," he instructed. "Then find whatever's left of Pyramidas and destroy that too."
Brasso and Silvo obeyed, but it seemed the Ninja was playing a new game of hide and seek by ducking out of the way each time Brasso locked on to fire. When they were finally in position, the Ninja just hovered defiantly in their path, almost blocking the view.
"Fire!" Minion ordered.
At this range it would be impossible for him not to destroy the Ninja with a single hit. That would put the Rangers in their place. He didn't notice the small burst of energy as the Rangers abandoned their machine.
One more time the Ninja was struck by a wave of highly destructive energy. But it was not Serpenterra's weapon that had struck it; it was a Gold Rush. The Ninja exploded, pummelling Serpenterra with debris, tearing into the armoured skin and shattering the forward sensors. The machine was virtually blind and forced to rely on radar.
"He's firing again," Brasso warned as the Gold Ranger fired, leading Minion to the conclusion that he had been tricked. The Ninja had been a decoy to draw Serpenterra into the firing path. He had to commend the Rangers since this was the first real damage Serpenterra had suffered since Minion had taken control of it.
"Severe damage to Section Seventeen," Silvo reported.
"How is that possible?" Minion asked. "That section is nowhere near the cockpit."
"Damage is spreading," Silvo added.
Minion was silent, wondering how they could have caused so much damage. Then it clicked into place.
"Show me those sections," he ordered. "External view."
Silvo obeyed, bringing them up on the screen for him to see.
"Tommy!" Minion growled angrily as he caught sight of the Red Battlezord blasting its way through the innards of his beloved machine. Any Ranger could have used the Red Gem Coin powers, but the fact the Red Battlezord was there without Billy or Alpha to reconfigure the brainwave algorithms meant Tommy had to be alive.
A second shot showed the Gem Coin Rangers using their pistols to cause as much damage as possible; the third camera had time to reveal the drilling machine they had used to break in before it was shattered.
"Gattling Cannons, fire!" Zeo Falcon ordered.
The Red Battlezord started pumping blast after blast of energy into the surrounding area as the Rangers retreated. He knew there was no way he could destroy the machine, but he was hoping to give Minion a hefty repair bill. The walls and roof disappeared as Serpenterra's jaws pierced its own body in an attempt to remove the intruder. Tommy took advantage by firing at the machine's head, trying to get a shot into the firing chamber.
But it was not to be. Even with a significant portion of its structure decimated either by the Red Battlezord, the Rangers or Minion's attempt to eject the intruders, Serpenterra remained operational.
"Trey, do it now," Tommy urged.
The Lord of Triforia did not need to be told twice. He teleported back to Pyramidas and taking advantage of the distraction the others were providing positioned his Zord on the monstrous machine's back. Pyramidas was small in comparison to Serpenterra, but the pyramid had enough power to cause the larger Zord to deviate from its course. Silvo promptly made adjustments, but it was an added distraction as the Rangers continued to tear up the insides of the machine.
"You are cleared to launch, Travis," Trey advised.
Shielded from Serpenterra's weapons by the pyramid's bulk, Travis launched his Viper, knowing that the small fighter could easily avoid the large machine's defences. Travis had one task as he flew around the body, taking occasional precision shots: to shoot out as many of Serpenterra's external sensor arrays as possible.
Serpenterra dropped suddenly, as a blast ripped through its hull and caused damage to the propulsion system. Backup units kicked in and restored normal flight. Even so Serpenterra was limping and in desperate need of repairs and the success of Trey and Travis's attempts to throw them off course was starting to show.
"Let us depart," Trey suggested as Serpenterra shook again.
"Roger," Travis responded. He landed his Viper and took control of Pyramidas, flying the Zord to a safe distance while Trey teleported to join the other Rangers inside.
Tommy moved the Red Battlezord onward toward the cockpit, constantly firing, hoping that he could hit something that would destroy the machine. Unfortunately his shots failed to hit any vital systems and he had yet to find the Zeo Crystal. Still, his Zord's weapons had managed to destroy a small generator and had ripped out a large section of hull in the process.
The other Rangers had been moving through the tail section of the mighty Zord, looking for the power core or an auxiliary control room. As they moved along the gantries, they tried to blast any dormant WD Units before they could be activated.
"How much longer Adam?" Tommy asked.
Zeo Frog checked his readings against the estimates that had been drawn up years before. It was hoped that causing enough damage would throw Serpenterra into a regeneration cycle, requiring it to return to the Moon. Of course that only worked if they disconnected the Zeo Crystal first.
"More than we can manage," he finally admitted.
"Okay guys, abandon ship, I'll finish up here," Tommy promised.
"We will finish up here," Trey corrected. "Just as we planned."
While Tommy had been talking to Adam, Trey had been connecting the Golden Power Staff to the Red Battlezord's weapon systems. They waited until the other Rangers were clear and then turned their aim towards Serpenterra's back section.
"I call on the power of the Golden Power Staff!" Trey cried, invoking the power directly as Tommy activated the Red Battlezord's weapons.
The combined energy ripped the hands off the Battlezord as it unleashed an unimaginable blast of explosive energy. It ripped through Serpenterra, punching holes in the armour as it swallowed anything in its path. While it wasn't enough to destroy Serpenterra, the onslaught ripped away the insides. As the pressure increased the blast ruptured sending a huge chunk of the rear section and the tail fell onto the ground, the WD Units inside mangled beyond repair.
Minion had had enough and decided to remove the intruders personally. He had not spent all that time charging his super weapon just to have some multicolored humans to destroy it. And it seemed that blowing off the tail section had only encouraged them to continue their attack. The Red Battlezord's weapons had been compromised, but its powerful fists were still capable of pulverising the support structure.
The WD Units he had sent to stop the Rangers' advance had proven ineffective, the Red Battlezord's size advantage and the close quarters meant they could not combine their forces.
"Take us up to sixty thousand feet," he ordered.
"Master, Serpenterra is not pressurised," Silvo warned him.
"Use the forcefield to pressurise it, fool!" Minion snarled back. "Must Minion think of everything?"
That was the problem with simulated intelligence: it sometimes lacked the ability to adapt and respond spontaneously. Still, Silvo was obedient and followed Minion's instructions precisely. Serpenterra shook as it struggled to follow the new course and the Red Battlezord shattered yet another part of the flight control system.
"Sixty thousand foot and holding steady," Brasso reported.
"Release the rear forcefield," he ordered. He was going to blow the Rangers out of his Zord and then go back to destroying Washington.
Silvo did as ordered and the monstrous machine was almost torn apart.
The sudden loss of pressure tore anything not secured to the ground and attempted to throw it through a hole that had suddenly doubled in size after the first few objects had torn their way through. The Red Battlezord fought to hold on, but the forces at work were immense and if that was not enough, there was the additional force of other debris that hit their machine on the way out.
"We have one more shot," Trey guessed.
"Let's do it!" Tommy agreed.
If they were going out it would not be in the way that Minion expected. The Zord launched itself along the corridor, spinning like a drill as it fought the suction and tried to cause as much damage as possible, all the way to the cockpit.
"We are not going to make it," Trey reported.
"Adam, what's the reading?" Tommy asked.
"You're almost there," Zeo Frog answered.
Zeo Falcon nodded and changed course, ripping through the floor on the way out and hoping the addition damage would push the safety limits Zedd had incorporated in Serpenterra's design. As the Red Battlezord exited the metal monster, the Rangers ejected, hoping that the Red Battle Zord's control program would allow it to touch down safely. Then they joined their friends on the ground.
Minion had not anticipated the Rangers' actions. Their attacks had seemed to him illogical, but as the alarm sounded and his henchmen reported zero control, Minion understood the Rangers had been trying to force the machine to enter a shutdown cycle and return to the Moon. If that happened, he would lose control of Serpenterra, not that it was much use in its current condition.
"Master, should I disconnect the Zeo Crystal?" Silvo asked.
Yes, that would be the logical thing to do, save the Zeo Crystal, which could still be used, and leave Serpenterra for dead. Still, he would make the Rangers pay for ruining his plans. His armies were still overwhelming the Armed Forces and in the end nothing would stop him. And the Rangers? The Rangers were tired, exhausted from their ordeal. Now would be the perfect time to strike at them.
"Secure the Crystal," he said finally as the ground came racing toward them. "We're leaving."
He reappeared on the ground and watched angrily as the once mighty Serpenterra turned away from the Earth, its metal body glowing red as it continued to burn. It would survive, Zedd had built it to withstand the strongest attacks. While the Rangers had attacked in an unexpected way and had benefited from the lack of internal armour, they had not counted on its repair systems.
And speaking of the Rangers, he was pleased to see they had not managed to get away with their foolhardy assault unscathed. They had exhausted whatever powers they had been using and their Zords were barely functional. Their modified Gem Coin were straining to maintain their morphs as they slumped on the edge of a crater as Minion closed in.
There was nothing fancy about his attack; he used the Zeo Crystal to generate a large ball of energy that he hurled at the unsuspecting teens. When the smoke cleared it was obvious that he had won.
"And so it ends," Minion said, his foot resting on Tommy's back, turning his toe from side to side and causing the Red Ranger to hiss in pain. "Minion emerges all powerful and you Rangers gain no reward for your efforts. This won't even be painless... or quick. I assure you though, it will be final."
He turned, sensing a movement but unable to make out the red blur that was heading in his direction.
"Inconceivable!" Minion exclaimed, bringing his arms up to block the blow. But the Gold Ranger's fury was uncontrollable; he would not be stopped by anyone. Trey had not expended as much energy as Tommy during the battle onboard Serpenterra and his anger at seeing his friends hurt so callously drove him onward.
~What in hell . . .?~
It was an agony for Tommy to push himself up on his elbows, twisting still more the wound that Minion had taken such pleasure in aggravating, but Tommy did it anyhow, compelled upward by some bizarre intuition. He could feel a startling blaze of power nearby, but unfamiliar. He stared in shock as the Gold Ranger continued to drive fists and feet into his foe.
Trey had somehow managed to increase the power of the Gold Ranger. ~No,~ Tommy realised as he watched, ~he's found a way to contain the power of a Gold Rush.~ His body glowed gold, but that was just from the energy.
The Lord of Triforia was grunted as he swung the Golden Power Staff like a hammer, shattering the Sword of Darkness as he attacked Minion relentlessly; his aura blazed around him like a massive bonfire. The ground was shaking with the force of hiss attacks, sending cracks throughout the range as he steadily began to drive Minion deeper into the far side of the crater; Tommy realized abruptly that the tremors had also been caused in part by the explosive surge of Trey's power. There was just one problem, it could not last.
The Gold Rush had not been intended for this sort of use and as such the attack was starting to lose its potency. Trey was so obsessed with keeping the villain off balance that he seemed not to notice either the fact that his blows were doing no serious damage, or the cruel smile that had appeared on Minion's face. The villain was allowing himself to be attacked, apparently finding Trey amusing. Tommy felt a wave of panic pass through him; the Gold Ranger was in trouble.
He tested his limbs; although his broken right arm hung limp at his side and the hole in his chest was bleeding his life away, he wasn't dead yet, he still had some strength left. Enough, at least, to help his friend.
"Guys," he said, turning to where the other Gem Coin Rangers lay in various states of poor health; ~Minion did a number on us this time.~ "We need to help Trey."
His statement was met with moans and complaints. It wasn't their fault really, Tommy was probably in better health than most of his team following Minion's blast. Adam and Rocky managed to pull themselves to their feet, leaning on each other for support, Rocky grimacing as he tried to stand on his injured leg. They in turn pulled Tanya to her feet where she remained unsteadily. She had taken her helmet off, allowing her to pull the sharp material from her skull. She looked worse than she felt, unlike Kat who was nursing a broken left arm.
"Incoming!" Rocky warned as the Gold Ranger was thrown backward as Minion seized control of the battle.
Trey landed with a dull thud, his powers fading as he lost consciousness. A second stream of energy hit the ground meters from where he had landed as Minion emerged from the hole.
"You can have this victory Rangers," he told them. "Next time we meet, I will des..."
He stopped, clutching his head to stop the throbbing. Trey had damaged him more than he was willing to admit.
"Come on guys," Tommy encouraged. "We need to take him. Back to Action!"
They charged forward, unwilling to just sit back and allow Minion to finish the job. Their Gem Coin Blasters fired but proved ineffective against the villain's defences. Minion was too distracted to return favour and teleported away before they could reach him. They had won the battle, but the war was far from over.
Assessing the outcome of the battle had taken time and in the end the Rangers had more questions than answers. They had clearly won; the Elemental Beasts had been destroyed, Serpenterra had limped back to the Moon and Minion had retreated. At the same time though the cost of the victory had been astronomical.
The Zeo Crystal was still in Minion's possession. Exactly how Minion had managed not to drop it while fending off Trey's attack was unclear, but all the Rangers had accepted that they needed to retrieve the crystal sooner rather than later. They needed it back, along with Zordon; the White Master was their guide and mentor to a point where even Ninjor could not replace him. Tommy hoped they could restore the link with his dimension although how they expect to do so was still unclear.
Then there was the Red Battlezord, which had barely escaped destruction following a rough landing. The bypassing of its functions to work without the Zeo powers had damaged some of the fail-safes, which would need fixing before it could be used again. That along with the loss of the Sky, Defender and Techno Zords placed even greater limits upon the Rangers, especially against larger threats.
If there was anything that summed up how lucky the Rangers' victory had been, it was a brief walk through the ruins of Angel Grove. The buildings and land damaged during the fighting had not returned to their previous states like they had during previous battles and Ninjor had hinted that the Rangers would need to seek out another method of making things right. Some areas were worse than others; elemental blood had proven corrosive during the Rangers' early battle with Water Elemental Beast. The same blood also proved poisonous to humans after prolonged exposure. Some buildings, especially in Angel Grove were in need of serious facelifts. But that was nothing compared to one section of the city that had been so badly damaged that it would be out of use for a long time as emergency workers tried to stabilise the area.
Rocky had been hospitalised with a broken back and other injuries. Billy had been lucky that despite his wounds he was judged well enough to go home; in truth there had been so many injuries that the hospital was just too full to hold him. Without Power Mountain's medical facilities, both were forced to heal the slow way.
Even outside of Angel Grove the carnage was easily visible; the trail of destruction left by Serpenterra had been extensive and many lives had been lost.
For the first time in three days the people dared to leave the safety of the monster shelters. Every opportunity had been taken to keep families together during the battle, but in a city the size of Angel Grove it had been difficult to unite everybody. Now those reunions were taking place, followed closely by warm showers to erase the evidence of three days without ample washing facilities.
Detective Park returned to his home and went to bed. This was his first real rest since the Elemental Beasts had appeared. Before doing so he ensured his wife and sons were okay, taking extra time to embrace his oldest son who had been missing during the attacks having taken shelter with friends. Adam and his father had only recently started to rebuild their relationship after Trevor learnt his son was a Power Ranger. Tonight the father was glad that his son had made it home safely.
That night the Rangers had gone their separate ways, promising to meet first thing in the morning. At that time they would find a way to set things right and hopefully find a way to help Rocky. They needed to recover the Zeo Crystal and restore contact with Zordon. Yes, they had survived their greatest challenge so far, but even Tommy had to admit that in their current state there was no such thing as an easy battle anymore.
A secret location, USA
Serpenterra reared back and unleashed a devastating blast, turning the airbase into a crater. There had been no survivors as it had fired twice more to be certain.
"Stop playback," Nick Fury ordered, "we've seen enough and we all know what happens next. Opinions Gentlemen?"
General Galt leaned back after shuffling some papers. "I have said for years that leaving the protection of this planet in the hands of civilians is a dangerous decision. Now as you can see the price has been too high to calculate."
Several heads around the table nodded, General Norquist being one of the few exceptions. This was an old debate between the generals whose jurisdiction crossed the boundary lines of several countries. Norquist believed that the Rangers were their allies and that their job should be to provide assistance in time of need. General Galt was a firm believer that the military should handle all defence matters and that the Rangers should be under military control.
"Thousands of lives were lost in this attack," Norquist said. "But you cannot argue that the Rangers showed all the professionalism and dedication of our forces."
"No, no I cannot," the other agreed. "But can you argue that if they had been under military control they would have had the extra support to end the encounter sooner?"
"This recent encounter does present us with an opportunity," General Braxus, Head of Research and Development offered. He clicked a button and the screen showed several sites. "This is our first opportunity since the Oregon project to study this sort of technology."
"I agree," McKnight offered, causing the others to look at him suspiciously. He was known not to trust Braxus, a man who had a less than perfect track record. McKnight was many things, but above all he was loyal. "I propose we schedule the work with an outside agency, say Wayne Tech or Stark Enterprises."
Norquist tried to keep a straight face as he watched McKnight, a man he respected despite their disagreements over certain policies scupper any plans Braxus might have for the technology.
"I also propose the recruitment and training regime for Operation Lightspeed be accelerated."
Ah, Operation Lightspeed, one of McKnight's special interests. The project was under outside control, but the general took an extra interest in the technology and personnel. He had tried several times to shift the project toward a more military application.
"I agree," Norquist agreed. "Had Lightspeed been active over the last few days many of the casualties suffered here might have survived. However, I insist that Captain Mitchell and his team maintain control of the project and that this committee meets before any changes are made to Lightspeed's operations."
A vote was taken and passed. Unsurprisingly General McKnight looked pleased with the outcome while Galt had a speculative look on his face, no doubt wondering whether he could bring his own people in on the project. Norquist took careful note of all this but said little. He would need to watch the others carefully because while he truly believed McKnight's only agenda was to make Operation Lightspeed a success, Galt was known to have several side projects and nobody was certain of his overall agenda.
"Very well, it seems we are in agreement that there need to be changes. Effective immediately, Captain Mitchell and his team are to begin working on Operation Lightspeed. Secondly, after their initial success the Avengers were given some independence. That decision is reversed; an executive order was delivered earlier for the Avengers, JLA and Teen Titans to cease all operations inside the United States. Further actions will be taken to ensure compliance. Finally, work on Project Corps is to be given top priority until further notice. That gentlemen will be all."
Serpenterra crashed down onto the surface of the Moon, burying the remains of its metal body in the dusty rocks. The trip had exhausted its power requirements and without the Zeo Crystal to fuel its repair systems, the machine could only shut down and await its master's decision to make repairs. But this time repairs would not be forthcoming. In a fit of anger over what Minion had allowed to happen to his precious machine, Zedd buried the remains of his Zord, promising to find a new and more powerful weapon to use in the future.
This had not been Zedd's loss; it had been Minion who had failed to destroy the Rangers. Although to his credit, the clone had managed to get rid of Zordon and that annoying Alpha. The loss of the majority of their Zords and the headquarters would also make the Rangers more vulnerable in future confrontations.
Already a plan was in motion to take advantage of all that had happened. The Rangers had been weakened and the Earth was there for the taking. He just had to make sure that when all was said and done, he would be the one to claim victory.
Minion's Island, Gulf of Mexico.
He crawled along the rocky beach, the sharp stones tearing at his skin. He had been bested, but he would survive. His broken body would heal and he could be proud of the fact that the Rangers were unaware just how badly they had hurt him. His mind, unhinged by his recent experience would remain a matter of debate for some time to come. He would rise again. His grasp on the living world was fragile, maintained by an overwhelming desire for vengeance and a bond of existence he couldn't begin to understand.
Around him a storm was raging, lightning flashed in the sky as Minion clawed his way back to his fortress, cursing that Silvo and Brasso had not thought to look for him. The rain caused him to slip and slide as he continued his painstakingly slow progress.
In the distance he saw something walking toward him, the lightning illuminating the silver highlights on the otherwise black costume. Minion reached towards the figure, which ignored his gesture and prodded him with its boot. A second prod and Minion rolled onto his back, staring up at the opportunist who was about to take advantage of his weakness.
"If this is what has become of the mighty Minion I am disappointed," the figure proclaimed before moving aside to allow a second figure, this one obviously the muscle of the pair emerged from the darkness and with a swift movement, swung the battered clone over his shoulder as the pair walked away. "No matter, when I am finished with you, failure will not be an option."
End of Part