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.

Clash of Honour

It had been a busy time for Rita and Zedd. After a period where they had enjoyed some success in their attempts to defeat the Power Rangers and conquest the Earth, their efforts had been brought to an abrupt end when first Master Vile and then the Machine Empire had decided to launch their own schemes. And while Master Vile had at least indulged his daughter and son-in-law by allowing them to stick around while he showed just how versed in the dark powers he had become, the Machine Empire was not willing to share and had actively driven Rita and Zedd from their home.

But now things had changed. Rita and Zedd were back on the lunar surface and King Mondo was rusting on the scrapheap. That left the Machine Empire without leadership and offered Rita and Zedd the opportunity to reclaim their territory. They had already started to look for Rita and Goldar after leaving them behind during their perilous escape from Mondo's forces. While Rita didn't really care about Goldar, she felt her brother would have survived. And as useless as he was, Rito was good when they needed a distraction.

Zedd hoped that they would be able to regain their previous position. Before they had fled the Moon, they had been close to victory on multiple occasions. True, the Power Rangers had managed to steal the Shogun Zords away from Rita and had rescued Kimberly Hart despite Zedd's plan to use her as a hostage, but they had never been able to claim complete success. Zedd and Rita had held on to the Falcon Zord that Katherine had captured for weeks and because they were designed to act as a united force, doing so had incapacitated the collective Ninja Zords. As an added plus, they had managed to capture the great Ninjor and had used him to further their plans. That miserable maker of power coins had soon started to wish that he had stayed inside his temple.

His favourite memory of that period would always be his confrontation with Tommy. Though he had lost, he had still managed to outfight the famous Tommy Oliver. The boy had been inches away from death and had it not been for that blasted magical sword, Zedd would have emerged the victor. Still, that fight had been worthwhile and months after the event he planned to put the knowledge he had gained to use. He had already enjoyed Rita's appreciation of his talents. His wife was quite the little dynamo when given the right inspiration.

Flashback

Lord Zedd and his forces were celebrating. Not only had the Rangers been beaten, they were about to be humiliated in front of all those they had sworn to protect. At long last Tommy would be working for him, as he should have been all along. Who would have thought that a simple coin, the very source of the Rangers' powers could bring them to their knees?

"Three cheers for Lord Zedd!" Goldar cried.

Zedd pretended to acknowledge the cheer; in truth he had little respect for Goldar. He wished that the gold armoured monkey would stop creeping and start fighting like the fierce warrior the titan had once been. Still he laughed, gloating over the defeat of his enemies.

"I'd better check on those Rangers," he muttered. Their surrender had been a little bit too fast for his liking. "What? They're trying to rescue Kimberly! Tengas, destroy them.

Tommy appeared in the cave where Kimberly had been left, strapped helplessly to a table. The rotation made it difficult for him to see if she was moving. He hoped she was; they stood a better chance of escape if she could move on her own. If Zedd had immobilised her with magic, escape could prove impossible.

"Hold on Kim," he said as he swiftly crossed the cave. "I'm getting you out of here."

"Wrong, Ranger."

Tommy turned, knowing full well what he would find waiting for him. Lord Zedd in all his evil glory held his staff at the ready and Tommy's confidence plummeted further. Few Rangers had faced Lord Zedd in one on one combat and lived to tell about it. Zordon had revealed during the days following Zedd's first arrival that Zedd was more than capable of fighting his own battles. Tommy often wondered why he didn't do so, especially given Goldar's record.

"You tried to double cross me. Now you, and your precious Pink Princess will perish...together."

Zedd's laughter filled the cave. Tommy frowned. He had only a short amount of time before the portal closed. Fighting with Zedd was not desirable, but it was now necessary. He had to make it quick.

"Back off, Zedd. I'm getting Kimberly outta here. It's Morphin Time!" He was surprised that Zedd hadn't tried to stop him. It would have been very easy to unleash such power before the White Ranger had finished his transformation. But instead Zedd remained silent, waiting for his challenger. "Okay, Zedd, I'm ready for you."

Zedd laughed mockingly. "I'm far more powerful than you can ever handle, White Ranger."

Tommy gulped. He had a feeling that Zedd was speaking the truth. Outwardly though he tried to portray a confident appearance. "Well, we'll have to see about that, won't we. Hiya!"

"Is that really necessary?" Zedd inquired. "Here I'll do some, whoa, whoa, come and get me."

Tommy realised by the third blow that Zedd was as dangerous as he had first believed. Without dropping his staff, the dark master had effectively blocked his first two punches. If anything Zedd's staff was an extension of his body, showing a degree of competency that could only have been achieved through regular practice and hours of training.

Zedd went on the offensive for a short time; showing that whoever had taught him to use the weapon had drummed into him the importance of using the whole weapon. Zedd's attack used the length of the staff, the edge and points of the razor sharp 'z' at the top of his staff, and the rounded butt of the staff. Tommy was forced to dodge most of the blows since blocking them risked breaking a bone.

As the staff hooked towards his right knee, Tommy sidestepped and moved in close. He attempted a punch, but Zedd anticipated the move and caught the White Ranger's fist. With a firm shove he threw Tommy backwards.

"Ah, you missed me," Zedd taunted. He tried to drive the staff into Tommy's mid-section; something Tommy was easily able to avoid.

"Is that the best you can do?" Tommy asked, sensing that Zedd was getting angry.

"You're going to be sorry you said that," Zedd growled in response. Energy shot from the end of his staff and enveloped the surprised human. With a jerk of the staff, the White Ranger was sent hurtling from side to side, bouncing painfully off the walls as he went. Then Zedd pointed at the ground and Tommy was deposited in front of him as Zedd sent a shockwave of black electricity into his opponent.

Tommy was desperate and flailed wildly as he tried to take Zedd by surprise, but his clumsy attack was easily blocked and countered.

"At last White Ranger, you will appreciate just how powerful I am. Such a shame it will be the last thing you learn. But just wait until I tell your pink friend how much courage you had at the end."

Zedd fired his staff at Tommy, which causes him to writhe painfully on the floor.

"It ... it doesn't matter what happens to me, Zedd. Kimberly and I may not get out of here, but you'll never be allowed to win."

"Brave words White Ranger, but just words." Zedd lifted his staff for another blast.

Tommy knew he had to move. If he was caught again, the chances were that he would not escape with his own life, let alone Kimberly's. He rolled as the tip of Zedd's staff glowed and continued to move. He ducked each blast, desperately trying to lead Zedd on without endangering his girlfriend. 'This is it,' Tommy thought as he finally moved into position. Zedd fired and Tommy once again moved aside, this time exposing the controls that held Kimberly in place. He smiled under his helmet as they exploded and Zordon teleported the Pink Ranger to safety. Now whatever happened, his fellow Power Rangers would not be forced to pilot Zedd's ancient machines.

"This is over Zedd," Tommy stated, drawing Saba ready for action, using the blade to deflect another one of Zedd's blasts.

Zedd snorted and attacked, disarming Tommy with a decisive swipe of his staff. More energy drove the White Ranger to his knees as he prepared to deliver the finishing blow.

But Zedd had forgotten that Saba was not a normal sword. He had been enchanted to aid the White Ranger in combat and had gained some abilities of his own in the process. When he had been sent flying away, Saba had levitated him into a position where he could help and had waited for the opportunity. Then faced with Tommy dying if he didn't act, the sword had sailed through the air, hoping to destroy Zedd in the process.

Zedd heard the sword approach and twisted rapidly. His staff was in position to block before Saba could change course. However Zedd's staff could not withstand the touch of the enchanted blade and was transfigured into a snake before Zedd could argue.

Tommy remained on the floor, dazed from the blows he had taken and terrified by the man who had come so close to killing him. He raised his hand to intercept Saba and teleported away, leaving Rita and Zedd to rant about losing their bargaining chip. Regardless of who had won or lost that battle, Tommy had found a new level of respect for Zedd. While Goldar had grown easier to defeat in combat over time, Zedd was as dangerous as ever and despite his reliance on magic; he was a capable combatant with a weapon.

Flashback Ends

Zedd walked into the lower levels of the motor home he had acquired as a temporary headquarters and enchanted so it was linked to a limitless number of pocket dimensions, searching for Baboo and Squatt. With Scorpina gallivanting around the cosmos with Rita's stepmother and, Goldar and Rito missing in action, Baboo and Squatt were the closest thing they had to henchmen. When he found them, he groaned to himself. He was the supposed conqueror of Earth and these two were morons.

"Did you watch the battle?" he asked, not waiting for pleasantries. There had been a monster attack earlier that day by what was left of the Machine Empire, and the Rangers had triumphed yet again. But this time Zedd had kept a close eye on the fighting hoping to glean some vital information from the Rangers' triumph and the machines' failure. The chamber's occupants nodded. "What did you learn?"

In between the meaningless banter of Baboo and Squatt, Zedd was pleased to learn that somebody had been paying attention.

"The time has come to crush those humans," he said. "And with the fate of their world on the line, I doubt those pesky brats will be able to ignore my offer."

Flashback

"Hold him still you fools," Zedd yelled as he watched Rito land on his back yet again while Goldar could only moan from his place on the back of this bucking bronco.

Rita watched from the sidelines, feeling a mixture of glee at her husband's inability to perform even the simplest of tasks and anxiety that their prisoner was about to escape.

"We're trying Ed," Rito protested.

"That's Zedd, you fool. My name is Lord Zedd!"

"Lord Zedd, got it. Sure thing Ed."

"You'll never hold me, you villains," Ninjor proclaimed as he wriggled free of Goldar's grip only to be set upon by Putties. "I have the power of good on my side. For I am Ninja."

This made Rita Repulsa even more irritated; furious would be a better word to explain her mood as she saw yet another scheme about to fail. But this time the plan would flop before it had a chance to get started. For their scheme to stand a chance they needed the coin smith to work for them and that meant he had to remain their captive.

"Hurry up and get those bracelets on him," she snapped at her husband, brother and anyone else who would listen. "Move it, monkey boy!"

Goldar glared at her, baring his teeth in an attempt to look threatening. It didn't work, Goldar seemed impressive and awe inspiring when you first met him, but after ten thousand years in a Dumpster, he was next to useless.

She decided she would have to act personally if she wanted to avoid losing this most important pawn in her plan. But first she would need to distract Ninjor.

"Well, it's been a long time, are you ready Baboo?"

Rita frowned, she didn't remember telling Squatt and Baboo to join in. 'just what I needed: two more imbeciles in the mix.'

"Certainly."

Rita watched in stunned silence as Baboo launched himself through the air, claws outstretched. Ninjor stiff-armed and blocked Baboo's attack while throwing Rito aside, but didn't notice Squatt hurling himself like a living cannonball right into his chest. Ninjor struggled to stay on his feet only to be grabbed from behind by Rito and a growling Goldar. Ninjor hooked his leg behind Rito's knee sending both Goldar and Rito to the ground. He quickly found his balance and tried to draw his sword.

Baboo and Squatt were not as dumb as they looked though and knew what came next. Not wasting any time Baboo got to his feet and kicked Ninjor in the back of the knees, forcing him into a backwards roll as Rita and Zedd's foot soldiers piled onto the suddenly prone Ninja master.

"Now!" Zedd boomed, aiming his staff at the fallen coin smith.

Rita followed suit, conjuring the power binding bracelets into place around Ninjor's forearms, filling them with her own dark energy. As she ceased her assault she looked to where her husband was casting the next portion of the spell. Chains of energy linked the bracelets while Goldar and Rito snapped heavier chains wrought of Cold Iron into place as an additional safeguard.

"We did it," Zedd told her as the chains repelled his attack. He gestured to the Tengas and they hauled Ninjor back to his feet. "Not so eager to fight now, are you Ninjor?" he sneered.

It was pathetic in some ways to see the might Ninjor brought to his knees so easily. But there again, Ninjor had been resisting Rita and Zedd since he had been captured. In that time he had exhausted himself beyond his physical limitations and had been drawing heavily from the Morphin Grid to renew his energy. With the Cold Iron in place and the power binders blocking his Ninja talents, he was just a normal man in armour, armour that now weighed heavily on his unpowered shoulders.

"Maybe I should get Finster to build me a can opener," Zedd quipped as he ran the tip of his staff over the Ninja master's armour, producing only a small number of sparks and a significant cut in the metal plating.

"Brilliant Zeddy," Rita cried as she joined her husband. "Now we can use him in our plans without the risk of him escaping."

"I will never help you villains," Ninjor said defiantly.

"You won't have a choice," Zedd answered.

"Brilliant!" Goldar proclaimed. Rita shot him a look and he shut up.

End Flashback


"And here we have a statement from a witness who claims to have seen the stranger just appear from nowhere," the tour guide toned as she pointed to a stone statue, which despite the damage caused by pollution and Angel Grove's weather patterns, had survived the last century or two.

And it is said the stranger did emerge from the heavens
Bearing little more than the clothes 'pon his back
And as his companion in white returned to the swirling gateway
Ne'er again to return
Did he decree: "Aw man."

Tommy smiled as he read the words carved into the base of the stone statue of a very familiar figure. The statue had been a mystery to local historians, who wondered what the colonists had seen that day. Only in recent years had it been suggested that perhaps, just perhaps they had been talking about a Power Ranger.

"There are very few hints about whom this figure is or how he was significant to Angel Grove. Remember that this was a British colony in an area the Spanish had already claimed. Tensions were high for many years and at some points it appeared likely that either the foreign or native colonies would wipe out the colony. It is likely that this tribute is to one of the many people who worked tirelessly to bring about a peaceful outcome to such negotiations."

Tommy knew and from the looks on his friends faces, they were also well aware of whom that statue represented. It was Tom Oliver, the clone Rita and Zedd had created from a lock of his hair. The same clone that had chosen to remain in Colonial Angel Grove rather than risk disrupting the Morphin Grid. Tommy had personally left the clone in the past, using the Wizard of Deception's wand to return to the present, convincing himself that in doing so he had left behind the darkness within his soul.

The day Tommy had said goodbye to Tom had been the day the Green Ranger had vanished. Not only had the Evil Green Ranger had been laid to rest that day, the other Green Ranger had disappeared from Tommy's life as well. He wasn't sure which he hated more, the personification of the evil within him or the reminder of just how weak and useless he had been without his dark side in control; the good guy Green Ranger had been a pathetic joke.

But in recent times Tommy had found himself wondering whether dissociating himself with those incarnations of his personality had been wise. Near death experiences have a way of grabbing people's attention and the battle between himself and Zedd had been a real eye opener.

That was what the Green Ranger represented. It was cautious, thoughtful, and slow to anger; it didn't rush headlong into a situation and then improvise a way out. The Green Ranger didn't strike head on. He used strategy. Even while he had been under Rita's spell Tommy had felt the need to plan his next move, relying on cooperation with Rita to ensure that the plan continued as desired.

As White Ranger though Tommy had been keen to distance himself from both the good and the evil Green Rangers. He wanted the White Ranger to represent power and purity, not weakness or worse, evil. This had continued over the course of his time as the White Ranger. Cooperation had been thrown out of the window as the need to prove himself had surfaced again and again. He was aware of it, so were the others. He remembered Rocky once remarking that they could all retire and let Tommy handle things.

Then Rito had arrived and Tommy had received a wake-up call. The powers that evil could not take had been stolen away by his own stupidity. It had been a sobering moment to stand in Angel Grove surrounded by the remains of the Thunderzords.

But the real shock had washed away all Tommy's illusions of invulnerability. When he had faced Lord Zedd alone, he had realised just how deluded he had become. Zedd had taken everything Tommy could throw at him and had kept coming. His staff had almost shredded Tommy's uniform. Had it not been for Saba, Tommy might have died. That event while not fatal had led Tommy to rethink his approach to battle. And now as Red Zeo, he had been able to control himself to a greater degree, but the urge to charge recklessly was still there. He was just better at suppressing his urges.

The truth of the matter was that Tommy's recklessness had been a facade to hide his fear. His days as the near powerless Green Ranger had been torture for him as Zedd had singled him out time and again. At first it had been an attempt to erase what Zedd saw as Rita's greatest mistake, but over time he had seen the benefit of having Tommy as an ally. From then onwards the attacks had become even more personal as Zedd had made it clear that the only power Tommy would be allowed was power granted to him in the service of Lord Zedd.

He shook his head, not wanting Zedd to ruin his day. At the moment, everything was going well for Tommy. Kimberly had left and he missed her, but they had gained Katherine and he had discovered his brother. All that and Jason was back.

"Now, if you'll all follow me, we can continue this tour." The silky voice of the tour guide interrupted his thoughts, or maybe it was the sharp nudge Tanya gave him.

"Tommy, are you okay?" Kat asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said. "Just distracted."

"I believe you might find it beneficial to discuss your problems," Billy said.

Tommy chuckled. "It's nothing guys, I was just wondering what happened to Tom?"

The others were silent; unable to give their friend the answer he sought. The friends continued their tour; each distracted from what should have been an enjoyable day.


Angel Grove Park

He had an IQ that would make MENSA jealous, the strategic guile that rivalled some of the Earth's most notable military minds and the fighting skills that would allow him to lay waste to a legion of Rangers let alone six. His body and mind were at their physical peak and maintained by constant physical and mental exercise. In short he was perhaps the single greatest soldier Rita and Zedd had ever created. 'So why,' he wondered bitterly, 'given all my abilities and attributes - all the skills I bring to their little operation, why did she pick such a ridiculous name as Minion?'

He wasn't supposed to harbour ill feelings towards his mistress, but something had changed inside him since he had met the Mistress Vile. He liked to think she had given him a small amount of her power as a personal sign of approval.

Regardless, the touch of Rita's mother had refocused some of the spells that Rita and Zedd had used to give him life. It had driven him to a physical and mental plateau that he felt compelled to reach beyond, knowing that with each small improvement he made to himself, would reap additional benefits when he was allowed to morph.

"Checkmate," he told his opponent after studying the board for a moment.

He was standing in the middle of Angel Grove Park in broad daylight and the Rangers had not detected him. Right now he was enjoying a test of his mental faculties as he played not one, but seven games simultaneously. He smirked as the man he had defeated stared aimlessly at the board, seeking a way out. There was none and the man knew it. That didn't stop either of them from looking. For the man it was impossible to accept such a defeat from a cocky teenager who had divided his attention over several games. For Minion each second confirmed his victory and allowed him to gloat, even if it was such a ridiculously easy win.

Across the park a lone female watched him while trying to catch a suntan. A scowl crossed her otherwise flawless face as she studied Minion's body language. While his opponents were seated at the permanent cement chess tables deep in thought, Minion remained standing. It was not for the ease of movement that Minion remained upright; rather it was because his conceit wouldn't allow him to sit. To do so might give the opposing player the idea that the two players were of equal skill. Instead, the clone sauntered from table to table, pausing briefly, his hands folded behind his back until he was ready to move a piece. He would also take the time to grace his opponent with a condescending smile after each move.

There was no doubt about it: despite the progress he had made due to the intensive training the Mistress Vile had arranged for him, Minion was still a teenager at heart... and an absolute brat when he wanted to be. Mistress Vile sighed and once again wondered whether to hand the clone over to Scorpina for a few days for some alternative training; the scorpion warrior was almost as capable in breaking male slaves as she was in combat. In fact Scorpina had been known on occasion to leave her defeated foes alive just for the pleasure of making them her willing slaves.

Sadly, Scorpina was distracted right now, trying to renew her acquaintance with a band of renegade Edenites led by a creature named Scorpius and a failed Rider candidate named Count Dregon. Mistress Vile had no idea why she would seek such contact. From memory Dregon was a nasty little man that should have been squashed like a bug. Still, that was Scorpina's business.

Mistress Vile had been to this part of the park previously during her frequent visits to Earth - all without the knowledge of her daughter and Lord Zedd. She had even watched some of the chess matches although she was the first to admit the game held no interest for her. Strategy was all well and good, but power was so much better.

She had enough skill to recognise that the players in this park while clearly amateurs were accomplished players. Only devoted chess players with a true love of the game would come and play outdoors all year round. She had seen first hand that actual Grand Masters would occasionally visit the park and do exactly what Minion was now doing. A Chess Grand Master in Angel Grove, whatever next?

Minion looked up and made direct eye contact with his mistress. A brief mental battle followed, which Mistress Vile easily won. Minion smiled and turned away, leaving her to wonder if she had really won the battle and lost the war?

Minion turned to his opponents and smiled. "I have a rather pressing appointment gentlemen. Let's see if I can move things along a bit. Your bishop's opening Scholar's Mate was an easily recognisable trap," he said to the elderly and neatly dressed gentleman seated directly across from him. "If you favour bishop openings, you might consider Legall's Mate. Against a novice player, you might find it to be a bit more effective," he said somewhat haughtily. "Checkmate in three moves." He moved quickly to the next table.

"Your King's Gambit opening allows for quite a bit of latitude. But unfortunately you're playing black and must be very careful to protect the extra pawn on f-four. Becoming overeager can result in a fatal weakening of the king's pawn cover." Minion shook his head apologetically while moving his knight. "Checkmate."

"A Danish Gambit as an opening trap," he nodded his head in appreciation. "And a somewhat innovative version no less. I must admit I was caught off guard but you should have pressed your attack. You unfortunately chose to retreat with your bishop, which resulted in your present predicament. Checkmate," Minion paused, forecasting the next several moves in his head, - "in eight moves."

For the next two minutes, he went from table to table, thirteen in total. The outcome was the same in every case - checkmate in so many moves.

Minion walked out of the circle of onlookers who had gathered to observe the games, then stopped and turned. "I thank you for a most enjoyable afternoon, gentlemen. I might offer a bit of advice. The opening moves that you employed, going for the quick kill so to speak, are almost always ineffectual against an experienced player. Patience in chess as well as patience in life I find, bears the greatest fruit," he said with a reflective smile on his face and then turned and walked away from the gaming area. The players immediately returned to their respective games to study what went wrong.

"When you are quite finished beating up on the little kids in the school yard, you have work to do," Mistress Vile said acidly as way of greeting. "I think it's time we paid Rita and Zedd a visit... their time is up."

One of the old men had risen from his seat to ask a question, following behind the victor and his companion. But as he moved to catch up he was thrown back as both vanished, one in a ball of flames and the other a dark blue flash.


Cranston residence

Professor David Cranston crossed the study and parted the heavy drapes to reveal a clear crisp night sky filled with multitude of twinkling stars. He thoroughly enjoyed evenings like this - as long as he was indoors. The fireplace contained a few quietly burning logs that filled the room with warmth as well a golden glow that always had such a relaxing effect on him. The house had taken years of work to get to the point where he felt it was perfect for both himself and his son, Billy. The perfect environment to sit and enjoy a new book that he had recently purchased; the background material for the project his wife was undertaking in Oregon.

He placed his hand on the windowpane, which revealed something else about this evening, it was extremely cold - unusually so. Angel Grove did not suffer from abnormally cold weather even in the heart of winter - in spring such conditions were almost unheard of. Of course nothing in Angel Grove could be described as normal anymore. Since the Power Rangers first arrived on the scene, life in Angel Grove had taken a definite turn for the bizarre.

As he glanced across the great lawn of his detached residence, he noticed a thin cloud of smoke rising from just behind the shrubs marking the property's boundary. He quickly looked down see that it was not smoke at all but steam that was coming off some late night joggers.

He closed the drapes and left them to their exercise, it made him cold just to watch. He was glad that Billy was sensible enough to exercise indoors when the weather turned chilly. He was also glad that his son had friends who ensured that he was active instead of sitting in the garage all day. It not for his friendship with Jason and the others, David wondered how his son might have turned out.

Out of instinct he walked into the hall and looked at the distribution board. No real surprise there. Billy was home and downstairs in the garage, working on some new project. What he was working on David didn't know, but he was sure that if Billy was involved he would find it truly remarkable. He had a very remarkable son; how else could you describe a boy who had visited another planet?


Rocky DeSantos burst into the Cranstons' garage, a copy of 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' in one hand and a large jelly sandwich in the other. He gave a short nod to the room's only other occupant before flopping down on the battered sofa in to back corner.

Billy raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything. No doubt Rocky would say what he wanted when he was done reading, dozing or eating. Whichever it was he was doing at that point in time. At one time Rocky's antics would have annoyed the Power Rangers' resident genius, but just like Tanya's awkwardness and Adam's long periods of silence, Rocky's exuberance had grown on him.

Billy continued his work and didn't appear to notice that Rocky had even entered the room. Not the result the Red Ranger had been seeking.

"So that's how it's going to be Billy. I am not going away until you say yes."

"You have yet to pose a question," Billy mumbled, his head deep inside a strange box of assorted wires.

"Oh so there is someone alive in there," Rocky laughed. "Let me cut to the chase. Tommy Adam and me are heading down to the beach tomorrow for a day out. We need four people to play beach volleyball and you are cordially invited."

"I have too much work to accomplish this weekend, Rocky," Billy said without glancing up. "I have to realign the vertical lift on Zeo Zord I and determine a way to integrate the Super Zeo and Zeo Megazords so they can work in unison." He paused for thought. "Another time perhaps?"

"Bull!" Rocky exclaimed. "We're not stupid Billy. We all know what's going on, whom you're avoiding. We're a team Billy, you need to get these things out, discuss them and at least make it so you can be in the same room as..."

"I am well aware of your concerns. I assure you my personal issues will not affect the cohesive functioning of the team."

Though he spoke the words quietly, it was easy for Rocky to hear the venom behind each syllable. That was not good, Billy was more upset than he was letting on and Rocky was unsure about how to help him.

"I'm sorry Billy," Rocky said quietly. "I just thought that you needed a break," he went on nervously. "We've all had a busy time of it lately and now that Mondo is gone... I just think you should take some time out while you can, look at what happened to Kim when she overworked herself."

Billy sighed. "Rocky, please forgive me and accept my sincerest apology," his voice already tinged with regret. "My frustration level with all my ineffectual attempts to replace Pyramidas has reached an all-time high. Everything I've tried has been a dismal failure. My anger has nothing to do with you and is inexcusable." A small smile crossed his face as he added: "Nor is any other member of the team responsible for my mood. Perhaps some beach volleyball would make an interesting diversion. It would be beneficial to forget about Machina and Sprocket, Rita and Zedd for a short time."

"Then I am sorry to disappoint you."

The chillingly familiar voice startled both Billy and Rocky. They spun around and were horrified to see Lord Zedd step out of the shadows of the garage, where he had been watching them for some time, enjoying the small signs of dissension amongst the team. As the seconds ticked by, Rocky overcame his initial shock and his training took over. He began to move while simultaneously summoning his Zeonisers into the ready position. Tommy and Jason had constantly drilled it into Rocky, Adam and Tanya after the power transfer to never present an opponent with a stationary target, move immediately. Even seasoned fighters often ignored this seemingly obvious bit of advice. Jason had once told Rocky as a piece of parting advice that it was the very first few seconds that almost invariably determined the outcome of any fight.

With just a casual wave of his staff, Zedd enveloped Rocky in a faintly glowing pink sphere, which literally froze him in place. Rocky was conscious but unable to move. His mouth was frozen in the middle of calling on his power. The ease in which Rocky was rendered harmless actually stopped Billy in mid-stride from triggering the alarm he had installed after giving up the role of an active Ranger. What also stopped him was the impassive manner with which Zedd now greeted them.

"Enough! I assure you, I mean you no harm, yet. All I am here for is to deliver a message, a challenge if you will. And since I cannot just appear in the park and read a declaration, I decided a captive audience would prove beneficial." Zedd delivered this seemingly benign little speech with his hands folded innocuously in front of him; staff leaning casually against his shoulder, attempting to dilute the natural menace he exuded.

Although Billy, like many of the other Power Rangers, had an almost intrinsic fear of Zedd - the Emperor of the Dark Galaxy had seemed unstoppable during the early days of his attempts to conquer the Earth - Zedd's logic did not escape him. It would have been easy for him to have destroyed both the Blue Zeo Ranger and Billy before they could react.

Billy shuddered. Yes, perhaps their greatest and most insidious enemy had somehow easily bypassed the protective scans Zordon maintained on all the Rangers' homes, possibly the most advanced security system on the planet, and was standing in the middle of his garage completely unhampered, currently free to wreak havoc and do as he pleased, but he had not done so, yet.

If recent events had shown anything, it was that the Rangers had more reason to fear Zedd than ever. When Tommy had gone to retrieve Kimberly from captivity, he had been lucky to escape with his life. Zedd had nearly killed him that day. Tommy hadn't been quite so cocky since that incident.

The subtle change in Billy's demeanour as he recalled the events Tommy had described did not go unnoticed by Zedd. "Your comrades have no idea that I am here so no one will be coming to your aid, nor will you require any. I will deliver my challenge and then leave you and your friends to discuss it."

"Release Rocky as a show of good faith and I will hear your challenge," Billy demanded with as much false bravado as he could muster stalling for time.

"Obtain his promise that he will not attempt to attack me, what little good it would do, and he will be released. But rest assured, should he break his promise, I will employ the same spell I have just demonstrated in tandem, and your friend will find his head and abdomen in two vastly different locations." Rocky understood that this was no idle threat especially when Zedd punctuated his remark with an intimidating stare.

"As long as you don't try to harm us, I won't do a thing" Rocky managed to croak trying to sound as confident as possible considering his situation, but was unable to meet Zedd's gaze. No doubt the Blue Zeo Ranger would be experiencing plenty of nightmares over this turn of events.

"Then we are in agreement and can converse in a civilised manner." The pink sphere surrounding Rocky disappeared and he was able to move again.

Unhurried, Zedd slowly approached Billy, his gait a mixture of grace and strength, innate confidence and power oozing with every step. Billy had to consciously fight back the urge to run and managed to hold his ground, quoting equations to steady his nerves. Zedd towered over Billy, his terrifying visage now within a few feet of his own face. His elaborate costume, if one could call it a costume, with metal piping seeming to hold the otherwise formless flesh in place.

"State your challenge," Billy said.

"A simple contest," Zedd replied. "One Ranger of your choosing versus my champion. When my wins, you will surrender your powers and Zords. And then this planet will have twenty-four hours to submit to my rule or I will unleash the monsters Rita and I created while exiled to the M-51 Galaxy." A beam of light shot from his helmet, forming the image of a collection of monsters. There were more there than the Rangers could hope to battle in a single confrontation. "In the past I would have sent these monsters to destroy Angel Grove, but I promise you that this time I will send them to cities around the world and devastate the Earth. However, should you triumph, I will give you my word that we will never use this weapon against the Earth and that we will leave this world, forever."

"And if we refuse?"

"Should you choose not to accept the challenge, I will send them all, immediately and you will not even have the opportunity to send a warning. Face it, even with the Zeo Crystal you cannot be everywhere at once."

"How can we trust you to uphold you side of the bargain?" Rocky asked.

"And here you see the reason why I approached Billy and not your esteemed leader," Zedd answered, unaffected by Rocky's question. "Had I approached Tommy with my challenge he would have dismissed it outright. Rocky at least offers me the chance to defend myself, what about you Billy?"

"You obviously have some method of reassuring me that your intentions are honourable," Billy said after some thought.

"I will prepare a container for the prize that will teleport them into the possession of Zordon if your combatant wins and remove them to the Moon should they lose. I will surrender control of the container until a victor is declared. Of course Zordon is welcome to check the spell is in place."

Billy's eyes widened, recalling historical accounts of such battles. Once initiated neither party could withhold the promised prize if they lost. He found himself automatically nodding and Rocky was looking at him in shock.

"Do you swear on the power of the Morphin Grid that you will honour the outcome of this challenge should the Rangers accept regardless of whether it turns out in our favour?"

"I will," Zedd answered, shaking Billy's hand.

"Billy?" Rocky asked, clearly confused.

"Later," Billy told him.

"I will need to speak with Zordon and the other regarding your offer," Billy told the chrome-lined tyrant.

"Very well, you have until tomorrow to decide. After that I will dispose of the prize in any way I see fit."

Billy nodded and Zedd promptly vanished, leaving two shaken teenagers wondering just when he had stopped trying to kill them.

"We need to speak to Zordon," Billy said after a while. Boy boys had flopped down onto the sofa when Zedd had vanished, relief temporarily causing them to forget what had occurred.

Rocky nodded absently still unsettled at the ease with which Zedd had neutralised them. Was this a new power on the part of the villain or had he been toying with them all that time before the Machine Empire had shown up? Rocky couldn't be sure.

"Come on," Billy smiled encouragingly, noting the way his friend's hand shook briefly.

In twin columns of blue and white light they were gone.


The next morning found Billy Cranston in the Command Center adjusting the communication console to transmit directly to the Moon. The discussion the night before had been heated with Tommy insisting they could not trust Zedd and even going as far as suggesting they use the opportunity to double-cross Zedd.

Billy shook his head, realising that Tommy would never understand why Zedd could be trusted. Billy had tried to talk him around, but Tommy was convinced it was a trap.

But then Adam had intervened. While Billy and Tommy could argue all day about the best way to approach the problem, Adam was quick to point out that Zedd was not the main point of concern. Had Billy refused the planet would have been smashed by Zedd's new weapon. Billy had given them time. They really didn't have a choice.

That decided the whole team had discussed their best chance for victory. Of course Tommy had elected himself as their champion and had been quick to start discussing contingency plans for when he won. Billy had managed to bite back the remark about if he lost; Tommy could be an annoyance sometimes.

"It would help if we knew who Zedd had chosen," Tanya had said.

Ever the practical one, her comments had made sense and led to speculation.

"As long as it's not Rito Revolto," Kat had joked. "I mean, ew, he stinks!"

That had caused the Rangers some amusement. In the end though it had seemed logical that Zedd would choose either Rito or Goldar. Zordon had pointed out that Zedd would no doubt attempt to strengthen his champion with a super strength potion of some type.

"I am sending the message now Zordon," Billy said.

"Very well Billy," Zordon replied.

Billy pressed the buttons and the deed was done. Now battle could commence.


The Moon

"Are you insane?!" Rita screeched. "Those Rangers will make mincemeat out of Squatt or Baboo... Bulk and Skull could make mincemeat out of Squatt and Baboo. You've issued the Rangers a challenge that we can't win!"

"Silence!" Zedd roared in return. "Of course I don't intend to use Baboo or Squatt. I will face the Rangers in combat. Last time Tommy triumphed by pure luck. This time I will emerge victorious and the planet will be ours."

"More likely you will end up breaking your staff again and hand the Rangers yet another victory," a voice said as Mistress Vile chose to interject herself before they could descend into a full blown argument. "Hello kiddies, Mommy's home! And I thought I told you to conquer that miserable planet."

She had anticipated her appearance would cause both Rita and Zedd to attack her. Lord Zedd despised her for the way she had barged into his court and taken over. Although she had yet to follow through on her threat to take over and defeat the Rangers herself, he knew that her arrival meant that the chance of redemption she had offered them was at an end. As for Rita, there was no doubt that her daughter hated her. Master Vile had raised Rita to hate her birth mother and everything the deceased Lady Fienna had stood for. When he had then decided to bring his former wife back to life as Mistress Vile, Rita had been unable to break her conditioning, even going so far as completely rejecting the possibility that Mistress Vile had once been the mother she hated.

Husband and wife united for an instant, their previous argument forgotten as they combined their power and threw a dark energy blast in the intruder's direction. Mistress Vile made no attempt to defend herself but when the blast reached her, it was knocked aside, revealing Minion ready to protect his mistress.

"No!" she warned, placing a hand on the clone's shoulder as he moved to retaliate. "That will not be necessary."

Rita and Zedd raised their weapons a second time, only to find that they no longer worked. Mistress Vile looked smug.

"It would seem that magic still recognises my previous victory," she announced as she clicked her fingers and the wicked duo fell to their knees. "Attack me again and I will destroy you both. Understood?"

Rita and Zedd nodded, recalling that when she had defeated them during a previous visit and claimed the right to conquer the planet. Their agreement that day allowed her to force the wicked twosome to obey her will. Until now she had not enforced her power. In fact, she had disappeared for a time and they had forgotten that their right to attack the planet continued to rely on her approval.

"I could destroy you both right now," she mused, "but what sort of mother would do that to her favourite daughter? Besides, it sounds as though you finally had a plan that might succeed... with a minor change of course."

"What change?" Zedd demanded.

"Your champion, of course," she replied. "No offence Zedd but while you are a powerful villain and an excellent combatant... you have spent too much time sat on a throne and not enough time maintaining your skills. This challenge requires somebody capable of fighting the Rangers, somebody younger and motivated to destroy them. Meet your new champion."

Minion stepped forward.

"The clone?" Rita screeched. "He's already been defeated by the Power Rangers."

"So has Zedd," Mistress Vile countered, calmly. "The difference is that Minion here has spent his time in my service preparing for the next time he crosses paths with the Power Rangers. And unlike last time... he will only be facing a single Ranger, not the entire team."

Minion turned and kneeled before her. She rewarded him with a pat on the head.

"It doesn't really matter whether or not you agree; I am making the decisions around here. But if you promise to behave, I'll let you watch."

====

Angel Grove Quarry

The Rangers appeared in columns of light shortly before their villainous opponents. Zedd and Rita were easy to recognise while Baboo, Squatt and Finster could be seen in the background. Finster looked slightly miffed at the idea of having to play the role of cheerleader yet again. Baboo and Squatt on the other hand seemed delighted with their new roles and actively waves their pom-poms around.

"I guess Rita brought the whole gang," Rocky commented.

Billy didn't answer though; his eyes were fixed on the two strangers standing off to one side. The first was clearly a woman although he could not make out her features due to the hooded robe she wore. The other wore some sort of dark blue armour and a mask over his face. It was not hard to imagine that this was Lord Zedd's chosen warrior.

"Zordon, who is that?" Billy asked.

"I do not know," Zordon replied. "Alpha is trying to idetify her using her unique signature within the Morphin Grid."

"Are they dangerous?"

There was a delay as Zordon no doubt consulted the many instruments at his disposal.

"I am unable to detect their true power levels due to a spell. That they would use such an enchantment suggests they are extremely powerful and wish to deceive you."

"Okay, we need to be extra careful here guys," Tommy said as they waited for Zedd to approach. "I have a bad feeling about this."

"Rangers of Earth, I challenge you to one on one combat in this place. Should your fighter succeed, I shall release my prisoner to you. Should my champion triumph," at this point Rita laughed and said something about it being a certainty, "you will surrender your powers and Zords."

"As Red Zeo Ranger, I accept your challenge, after you vow to abide by this agreement regardless of the outcome." Tommy's words were forced. He really did not want to be doing this, he knew Zedd had something planned.

"I swear upon the power of the Morphin Grid that I will abide by our agreement, regardless of the outcome of this battle. I further swear that neither I nor any of my allies will seek to intervene in the battle and that my champion will fight only until he attains victory."

"I accept your word Zedd," Tommy said. "Let's fight."

"Patience, you insolent pest," Zedd snapped. "First, you Rangers must swear on the Power that you will abide by the decision and not seek to intervene in the battle."

The Rangers nodded, but it was Tommy who voiced their answer. "We swear it."

Rita cackled and the Rangers wondered just what they had let themselves in for. Zedd also seemed pleased.

"Name your champion," Rita challenged.

"I will fight," Tommy answered. From the look on Rita's face she had not expected any other answer. She seemed pleased. "And you?"

"Our champion will defeat you without breaking a sweat, Red Zeo Ranger," Zedd boasted.

The masked warrior stepped forward upon hearing his master's words.

"Here is my champion Red Ranger. I'm sure after meeting him you will appreciate his abilities. Minion is one of Scorpina's most talented students."

The Rangers had been taken by surprise. The return of Rito or Goldar after they had been missing for months had been a possibility. Scorpina rejoining her mistress after whatever sabbatical she had taken was also a possibility. Even Pudgy Pig would have been an expected response. But to hear that Scorpina had sent one of her students to aid Lord Zedd was a surprise. For a start they had been unaware that Scorpina had been training her own warriors... especially a male.

"I think we scared them Zeddy," Rita cackled.

"Don't look so worried, Red Ranger, I promise Minion will not kill you... Although when this is over you may wish for death. The fight will take place on the quarry floor," Zedd stated. "All non-participants will watch from the sides. Once the battle begins, observers may not intervene or teleport away. Those who are here at the start are compelled to stay until the end."

The participants nodded, the observers moved to their places and silence fell over the makeshift arena.

"This is going to be too easy," Minion said.

"I wouldn't bet on it," Tommy shot back as the two circled each other.

Minion attacked with a lightning-fast crescent kick to Tommy's head, but Tommy ducked it by dropping into a split. Then he retaliated with a fist to the groin. However, Minion pivoted out of the way and snapped a front kick at Tommy's head. Tommy rolled away from Minion's kick, leaping upright. Minion turned sharply, trying to jab his elbow into his opponent's side. Tommy allowed his momentum to carry him through, extending his leg outwards to knock the elbow aside before trying to decapitate Minion with another blow, which Minion promptly blocked.

The fight continued in this way, physical attacks interspersed with periods of waiting. While they were both the same size, and equally matched in their skills, Tommy was getting the worst of the physical battle. Minion's technique was complicated and unpredictable. The aggressive style had caught him unawares. He had received a black eye and split lip from a series of strikes to his face. Still, he refused to surrender.

"I'm disappointed," Minion stated as he backhanded Tommy. "I expected you to fight, not surrender in the first few minutes of this battle."

That was enough to draw Tommy back into the fight. A flare of rage shot through Tommy's mind, instantly clearing his senses. He recalled how his sensei had once told him to focus his emotions to bring himself extra strength. By learning to channel his anger, Tommy had learnt to use his emotion in fighting, instead of allowing his anger to blind him.

Minion was taken aback at Tommy's sudden rage, and was unprepared when Tommy launched an attack using all his skills. In quick succession, Tommy had connected with both of Minion's eyes, landed a solid jab to the lip, and cracked him in the stomach. Backing away from his berserk opponent, Minion allowed a look of pleasant surprise to cover his features. Not that the Ranger could see that with his mask firmly in place.

"So you do have some fight in you," he said, wiping the blood aside from his lip. "Why don't we take this little fight up a notch?"

"You're on," Tommy replied confidently.

"Zeo Ranger V - Red!" Tommy called.

Minion closed his eyes and waited for a black ball to appear in his right hand, a small hint of the power at his disposal.

"Is that Morphin energy? Rocky asked.

"Yeah," Adam replied. "It looks like he can tap into the Morphin Grid without needing spells."

"Man, I can't believe he can do that," Rocky said, desperately watching the two fighters transformed.

Tommy was soon in his usual costume, ready to fight. His was face hidden by his helmet making him as difficult to read. Minion's mask helped to hide his expression. His gloves and boots had thickened into a firmer layer of black felt.

"Now we shall see who is the more capable," Minion announced.

They shook hands, marking the beginning of this new phase of the battle. Tendrils of energy ran between them as their powers flared wildly. Both opponents tried to intensify their grip, but only one was successful in doing so. With an almost careless twist, Minion sent Tommy tumbling away. The Red Ranger landed on his back, scraping along the quarry floor until he finally stopped. He lay there for a moment, wondering just how much power Minion had put into that first throw.

Tommy flipped back to his feet and the two warriors met in a flurry of kicks and punches. Before they had been fast, but boosted by their respective powers, their blows became almost invisible. Tommy dodged a left punch, ducked quickly into a prayer position and then launched himself upright with a sharp uppercut. He had some satisfaction in watching Minion's head rolled to one side with the force of the punch, before he felt the sharp thrust kick to his stomach. Both combatants fell back to the ground.

"Come on Tommy!" Kat shouted from where the five remaining Rangers had chosen to view the contest.

As Minion came charging in for a new assault, Tommy used his abilities to teleport out of range. Minion retaliated by using his own skills, and as Tommy delivered what should have been a devastating punch, the Ranger found himself holding only empty clothing.

"Hey pip-squeak!" Minion boomed from above, where he had used his powers to enlarge his body.

Tommy closed his eyes and focussed his senses. He drew his Zeo Pistol and snapped off a series of shots that hit Minion between the eyes. Then his giant opponent swung with a double axe-handled blow to the Ranger's head and Tommy was glad he was now so much smaller he could duck easily.

"Yeah!" Baboo cheered as he watched Minion's attempts to squash Tommy like a bug.

Minion didn't waste much time. He shrank back to his normal size and as soon as he did so he was attacking his opponent once more. He unleashed a burst of power, which struck the Ranger on his right side. Tommy struggled against the beam as it forced him down, concentrating on channelling the evil energy away from his chest. From the pain in his side he guessed the assault had cracked at least a rib despite his uniform. Not a good start.

Minion was somewhat surprised when Tommy managed to return to a standing position; the beam of energy now focussed on the Ranger's arm. He could tell it was still painful for the Rangers' leader to endure such an intense beam, but his ability to divert it meant Tommy had more control over his powers than Minion had given him credit for.

"My turn," Tommy grunted, forcing the power of the Zeo Crystal into a ball, which he then threw at Zedd's champion.

"Go Tommy!" Tanya cheered from the sidelines.

"Be careful," Kat called, noticing that Minion was already recovering.

The ball exploded on impact, causing only minor discomfort. It did however cut short Minion's energy beam. Minion took a step back before returning fire with a set of shurikens. They exploded on impact, tossing Tommy to the ground again.

"Oh no," Billy said softly.

"What is it?" Adam asked.

"Minion's going to try to finish the contest," Jason replied.

Sure enough Minion was building a huge ball of fire, ready to shoot at his prone opponent.

"Tommy, look out!" Rocky cried.

Tommy's head spun around as Minion released the flaming ball. He stayed low, bringing all his will to bear against the fire. With a grunt he stood and batted the fireball aside, not really worrying about where it landed. An explosion rocked the quarry as the ball caused a small rockslide.

"Very good," Minion commended. "You're better than I thought. But then I should have known that you would improve over time."

Tommy growled and attacked, discharging energy bolts from his Zeo Pistol, that Minion deftly avoided. The few that got past the clone's defences seemed to bounce off randomly.

"You can't hit what you can't see," Minion told his opponent as he raised his hands to the side of his head, palms facing his foe and fingers spread outwards. A faint glow appeared around his head and it took Tommy a moment too long to realise what was happening.

"Tommy, he's trying to turn himself into a mirror!" Billy warned, just as Minion accomplished his goal.

Catching the sunlight as it fell on his forehead; Minion redirected it as a concentrated stream of light. Straight into Tommy's eyes. He had the satisfaction of watching Tommy grope helplessly at his helmet, trying to reach his burning pupils, shaking his head in the hopes of clearing the pain.

"Or hear."

Minion's body twisted as he forced an object to fly towards Tommy at just past the speed of sound. It narrowly missed the Ranger, but the noise was enough to leave Tommy deafened. He had now lost two of his senses.

Minion used the opportunity to transform his clothing into armour while Tommy was incapacitated. He was now at a level beyond that of a normal Ranger while Tommy was helpless. In desperation the Red Zeo Ranger tore off his helmet, unheard of in battle. Minion didn't intend to give the Ranger a chance to catch up.

"Tommy!" Kat cried frantically.

She wanted to help her boyfriend, they all did. But the rules of the contest prevented them from interfering in anyway. Billy's earlier shout had almost been grounds for disqualification.

"Don't worry Kat," Tanya said. "He can do this." Only Rocky heard her add: "I hope."

Minion stalked the suddenly vulnerable Ranger. Tommy's senses had recovered to the point where he could make out shapes and hear loud noises. Fully powered, Minion made just enough noise for Tommy to pick up on. He attacked, catching Minion by surprise. However the attack was short-lived as Minion gripped the Ranger's shoulder and tossed him aside. Tommy landed on his feet, but Minion drove a fist into the ground, creating a chasm that swallowed the Zeo Ranger whole.

"Now that is how to fight a battle," Minion gloated.

"It's not over yet," Zedd pointed out, spotting Tommy's gloved-hand as it gripped at the flaking soil.

"Back to Action!" Tommy called, using the time it took to recall his helmet and bring his powers out of standby mode. He also took the opportunity to teleport away from the chasm.

Now they were fighting man to man, both determined to triumph. There was something important on the line in this battle: pride. Tommy was drawing every erg of power he could from the Zeo Crystal, using a technique usually reserved for special moves. He used his enhanced strength to lift a large chunk of rock from the ground and threw it at his opponent. Minion teleported away before it crashed to the ground. Tommy though knew where his enemy was and tackled him around the waist before Minion could regain his bearings.

The clashed again, this time their punches glowing with the power that they siphoned from their respective power sources. The Zeo V Power Sword clashed with Minion's short sword, neither able to break through the other's defences. A lucky blow from Tommy breached Minion's guard, allowing Tommy to deliver two more blows across the shoulder, followed by a blast from his helmet that struck Minion in the chest. Then glowing with energy, his sword was drawn through Minion's side, cutting upwards until it emerged through the shoulder blade. Minion dropped his sword; it should have been the end of the match.

"He did it!" Rocky proclaimed loudly.

"I don't believe it," Zedd hissed angrily. He turned on Mistress Vile. "I thought you said he would win. I thought your Minion was supposed to be among the elite of evil warriors. If that is Scorpina's best student I would hate to see those she considers the worst."

"Oh Zedd, show a little faith. Minion is far from defeated. Look!"

As she spoke, Minion was using the powers of the Morphin Grid to heal his wounds, much to the shock of the Rangers.

"Aw man," Tommy exclaimed as he watched Minion reform.

"I can't believe it," Adam said softly to the other.

"Neither can I," Billy agreed. "I didn't know the Morphin Grid could heal such a mortal wound."

"Guys, Tommy's in trouble," Kat pointed out.

That was true. The battle had taken a lot out of the Ranger. He had put a great deal of his strength behind that final cut, and it had been for nought.

"Now it's my turn," Minion mocked. "Maybe you should surrender, nobody would think any less of you. How could they?"

Tommy braced himself as Minion charged. The two collided, and for the first time it was a battle between the undeniable force of Minion and the immovable object that was Tommy. Waves of surplus energy exploded outwards, causing their audience to take cover. Both warriors had dropped their swords in the collision and it was clear that Tommy had taken the worst of the impact.

"Zeo Power Blaster!" Tommy called, hoping that he could summon the Rangers' joint arsenal.

The powerful weapon appeared and he lifted it into position. He hoped it would be enough; he doubted he had the strength to call forth the Zeo Cannon.

"Fire!"

"Wow, I never thought he'd be able to use it," Rocky said.

Minion however was not impressed. The blast of pure energy engulfed him, burning away the evil power that kept his armour intact. Flames consumed him, but his will was strong and he survived.

"Oh man," Rocky moaned. "This isn't good."

Tommy had dropped the blaster back into its storage place, retrieving the Zeo V Power Sword as he did so. He watched as Minion battled to shake off the effects. It was clear he was succeeding.

"I believe I said it was my turn," Minion said coldly as the last of the flames faded, leaving him in his charred armour. "First, I will clear the air."

He threw his arms into the air and power erupted around him. A gold and black aura formed around him, cloaking him in its power and as he stretched, the aura exploded outward.

"What was that?" Tanya asked as Tommy was thrown off his feet.

"A manifestation of Minion's power," Billy replied. "It would appear he has chosen to wield the energy directly against Tommy without a conduit."

"Now, for the special feature," Minion grinned as he looked down at Tommy.

He raised his right hand and extended his index and middle fingers from the clenched fist. A tiny ball of black energy formed around the extended fingers. Electricity crackled around his hand as he pressed the fingers to the top of his helmet. The energy around his fingers grew in size.

Tommy stood slowly, a look of shock registering on his face. He could sense the power Minion wielded and wasn't sure whether or not he would be able to avoid it. He certainly did not want to test his uniform against such power.

"Hiyah!" Minion cried as he fired a ball of black fire at his opponent.

Tommy jumped aside as more and more blasts came towards him.

"What is he doing?" Zedd demanded. "He could have launched a single blast and obliterated him instead of showing off."

"Stay still," Minion demanded as Tommy continued to dodge, seeking a way through.

"Never!" Tommy returned defiantly.

"Oh but you will," Minion told him in an amused tone. "You really should pay more attention to the battlefield, Red Zeo. Please take a moment to consider where you are and what will happen if you try to dodge this time. And remember with the rules in place, they cannot morph. I'd wager they would suffer far more than you would."

"You wouldn't," Tommy claimed as he realised that he had been positioned between Minion and his friends. "The rules..."

"The rules only say that the observers cannot interfere," Minion answered. "I'm aiming at you, not them. But I'm not going to waste my time during a battle to stop a wayward attack. If I miss you and they happen to get hit because you moved... not my problem."

He was caught and Tommy knew it. If he moved his friends were finished, while if he stayed still, the battle would be over.

"Time to make up your mind Tommy," Minion said. "Because here it comes!"

The world seemed to move in slow motion as Minion drew his fingers away from his head, focussing the massive energy now trapped inside those fingers. He pointed at Tommy, knowing he would not miss; the civilian Rangers would not survive and morphing was out of the question. He locked onto his target and relaxed the safeguards he had used to prevent the energy from dissipating. "Destructo Beam!" he cried.

"Tommy, no!" Kat cried. Adam and Jason grabbed her shoulders, turning her away. Billy didn't have the presence of mind to turn his head. Just like a serious road accident, the events that followed captured the attention of those nearby.

Rocky's mouth opened and closed, but no words came out. His eyes widened as the twisting beam of energy rocketed its way towards his friend. He wanted to close his eyes and look away. He was tempted to transform and pull Tommy out of harm's way. He did neither. It was too late.

Rocky and Tanya were on their feet as Tommy took a defiant stance and waited for the inevitable. They looked across to where the villains were seated and scowled at the delight evident on Rita's face.

"That's more like it," Rita said, her voice subdued by the cheering of Baboo and Squatt. Zedd was speechless and Finster was rubbing his eyes to make sure they weren't deluding him.

The beam tore directly through Tommy's right shoulder, spinning him around like a rag doll. Smoke hissed from the gaping wound as he tried to stay upright. The pain was incredible and had it not been for the adrenaline already flowing, it would have been far worse. He doubled over, catching his breath and trying to gather enough sense to make a comeback.

"Did you enjoy that?"

He looked up. Minion was stood in front of him, hand outstretched palm first. The face that now confronted him was smiling, but Tommy was too disorientated to make out the features.

"I knew you wouldn't let me hurt them, Tommy. You hero types are way too predictable."

"The match is over," Rita cried from her position.

"This match ends when I say it ends," Minion snarled. He drove his knee into Tommy's gut and then smashed both fists down upon the boy's back. As he saw the Ranger's power start to fade, he fired another blast that carried Tommy across the base of the quarry. "Now it's over." Tommy's powers faded at that moment, no doubt agreeing with what had been said.

Everything turned dark as Minion raised his hand to the sky one more time, this time to dissolve his costume and return the powers he had summoned. As the Rangers and villains around the edge of the quarry looked on, they saw Minion standing unscathed surrounded by scorched earth. Across from him Tommy lay unmoving.

"Stop!" Rocky warned as he saw Minion march towards his leader. "We had a deal Zedd."

"Yes we did," Minion agreed. Effortlessly, he lifted Tommy from the ground. "I'm only collecting my prize. Hand it over and he lives."

The others reluctantly complied, handing him the Super Zeo Zords, Golden Power Staff, their Zeonisers and the Zeo Crystal, which Billy summoned from the Power Chamber.

"You know," Billy said as he held the crystal out. "This doesn't mean we can't attempt to get them back again."

Minion's grinned beneath his mask. "I look forward to seeing you try."

He aimed his Golden Power Staff at the Super Zeo Zords, returning them to the Super Zeo Gems. The Rangers fell to the ground, feeling as if their hearts had been torn out as the remnants of the Zeo powers were sucked from their bodies.

"Now, we are done," Minion announced. "You lost, Rangers. You have one day to convince the leaders of this miserable planet to surrender to Lord Zedd and Lady Rita... or our monsters will tear this world's cities apart, and all you will be able to do is watch."

The villains teleported away, leaving the Rangers wondering what to do next.

To be continued


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