Disclaimer: The Power Rangers are the property of Saban/Disney, and I lay no claim to them. The Taelons are from the series Earth: Final Conflict. Jack Bauer and co. are from the Fox series '24'. The Rani is from the series 'Doctor Who' and is owned by the BBC. Lara Croft is the property of Eidos interactive.
By The Q-Team
She looked out at the sky before her, watching the clouds and landscape before her.
But her mind was somewhere else entirely.
She relived the incident over and over in her mind. She could not help herself. She was helpless before him.
In her dreams he stood over her ready to have his way with her. Every time he approached she had fallen into a dark pit of helplessness, unable to break free.
One time she did, in order to save her friend from that fate she herself almost had. But who was to say that she wouldn't see him again?
Who was to say that Kelly Hart would not see Prince Xizor again? And who was to say that there would be no distractions to keep him from having his way with her?
'Love is an illusion.' That was what Xizor said. Sadly Kelly looked back at the boys she went out with in her life, and had to admit that in many of those cases he was right. They wanted only one thing from her, and it wasn't what her heart offered.
She thought of Sylvia and Willy. They were getting ready to go out on a date tonight. Their first real one. She wondered if their love would last. They reminded Kelly so much of Billy Cranston and Trini Kwan when they were Willy and Sylvia's age, and yet Billy and Trini did not end up together. Billy lived on to find love with another while Trini died in a battle due to a power that was corrupting her. Billy loved Cassie, that much Kelly knew, but there was still that feeling of missing Trini that haunted him to this day.
Still, Willy and Sylvia looked pretty close together. Maybe they would find love after all. Or maybe they wouldn't.
'Love is an illusion'.
Kelly Hart hoped that was not true.
And she prayed that there was someone out there that could show her that was not true.
Up in his room Steven Merrickson was looking over printouts and files from Turtle Cove police department. Anything and everything that existed on the former Wild Force Rangers and Kristen Earhardt was in Steven's room, and a lot of it was scattered all over the floor.
He looked at Max's file, and saw that he was a runaway that didn't really have a home or family. He spent a lot of his time in a bowling alley learning from a bowler who hoped that he would go pro, but dashed those dreams temporarily when he pursued another interest. Steven figured that it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what that interest was, at least if that rocket scientist knew about Power Rangers.
He then looked at Alyssa Enrile's file. She seemed sweet enough. Petite, fine features, and a brain to match if her grade transcripts at Turtle Cove University were any indication. She came from a family of karate fighters, and left her home against her father's wishes. Later on, he relented and accepted his daughters' chosen path due to reasons he would not mention when Steven met Mr. Enrile.
"I know my daughter did what she thought was right." He had said. "I am proud of her. But still I shall miss her."
Steven then left the Enrile home confused about what Mr. Enrile meant as he continued to look through the files ~ Did he know something about Alyssa?~ he wondered. He then came across Danny Delgado, and found that he had spent a lot of his time working at a flower shop doing odds and ends for the shop manager Kendall Mathews. Then suddenly the shop was attacked and Kendall turned up missing. The next couple of days later the Lunar Wolf Ranger appeared.
"Coincidence? I don't think so." As Steven thought about the comparisons between Kendall and Lunar Wolf. By contrast they seemed as different as night and day. Kendall seemed like a sweet lovable girl while Lunar Wolf seemed to be a skilled fighter with little to no remorse. He wondered how such a change could have occured in her, but Steven was sure that Kendall and Lunar Wolf were one and the same person.
Steven then dismissed the thought as he came across the next name on the list, Cole Evans.
Cole apparently appeared out of nowhere. He spent a lot of time in the Amazon being raised by local tribes that had a connection to animals. Reports from eyewitnesses could have sworn they heard him talking to them. And Cole swore they talked back to him.
"Real jungle boy huh?" Steven smiled as he closed the file. So far nothing on Kristen, Taylor, or a clue to her or her friends' final whereabouts. Not even from Eric, who was working with the Primal Force.
Steven continued to look through the files when he saw a record from Turtle Cove Hospital cross his path. He asked that records involving any of the others be sent to him in case any turned up unexpectedly. Cole's name came up in a visitor's log when he went to visit Dr. Elizabeth Evans and Dr. Victor Adler a few weeks ago.
~ Evans? Cole's mother perhaps?~ Records had shown they only had five visitors: her son Cole, Alyssa, Max, Danny, and Taylor herself.
"And what a coincidence. Adler and Evans disappear the same day Taylor and her friends do." Steven called up information on Adler and Evans and came across a picture of them in a news article. They were scientists that were part of an expedition to the Amazon, but then disappeared. Until their miraculous return, and following disappearance.
"Why do I think you're tied up in all of this?" Steven asked. He then looked at other pictures that were taken as he gazed on the photo of Master Org. An amateur photographer had taken a picture of Master Org when he appeared in the city and got himself an impressive byline that day. Steven studied the picture of Master Org, and the picture of Victor Adler that was in his file, and an idea came to him as he realized there was something familiar about Master Org. Something regarding Adler, whom Steven noticed a slight similarity in.
Steven turned away from the photos and then gave a phone call to CTU in Los Angeles where Tony Almeida took the call.
"Tony it's Steven. I'm sending you a picture of someone. His name is Dr. Victor Adler." Steven activated his laptop computer and went online. He then attached the picture to an e-mail file and sent the picture along to where Tony was waiting for it. In L.A. Tony took the photo and studied it briefly before asking "Okay, now what?"
"Have Jamey age the photo 20 years." Steven said. "I want to see what this guy would look like today." Tony nodded and then asked "Does this have to do with the disappearance of Jack's nieces?"
"It just might." Steven said. "Call me when you get the photo." With that Steven broke the phone connection and called Eric to let him know of his findings.
In a conference room Master Org, Rani, Xizor and Hazzard, along with Jindrax and Toxica, were discussing the Primal Force, and what to do about them. Shiranna stood off to the side watching the events unfold.
"I have planted a chink in the Pink Ranger's armor so to speak." Xizor said. "I can get at her again if I choose."
"What? Make her your love slave?" Toxica asked. "No respect prince, but I think we need something a little better."
"We need to get to their zords." Rani said. "Undermine their control over them."
Master Org then spoke. "It's the princess. She is the one that ensures the Wild Zords' protection."
"We must get her to reveal herself." Hazzard stated. "If we can capture her then we will have both the mother and daughter. And our chances to lure their Wild Zords to us would increase."
"Not to mention ransoming her for Guri." Xizor added as he remembered the head of his aide in the Primal Force's custody.
"Great idea." Jindrax said. "Only one question, how do we do it?"
The Rani then smiled again. Her mind already turning out another plan. Master Org saw the look in her eye and knew she had another evil thought in mind. "We need to coax her out with a bait she can't resist. And perhaps even the Rangers themselves."
"How do you propose we do that?" Toxica asked.
"Follow me." Rani stepped up from her chair and motioned for everyone to follow her. They went to a turbo lift that took everyone two floors down into a room that looked like a morgue, but everyone knew there was more to the room than met the eye. "What is this place?" Jindrax asked.
"A storage room where I keep another innovation of Taelon technology. An innovation I shall now test." Rani said as she opened the locker door and pulled out what was inside. Through the stream of cryo smoke, a body became visible. A body Jindrax and Toxica couldn't believe.
"That's...that's...that's..." Toxica was trying to say. Finally she forced the words out. "THAT'S THE WHITE TIGER RANGER!!!"
Rani just smiled as she looked down at the body of Alyssa Enrile, or what looked like the body of Alyssa. Her eyes were closed and she was dressed in Alyssa's clothes. White vest, pink shirt, black shorts, purple stockings and brown shoes. "That's what I want the Rangers to think too." She then opened up five other doors and each one revealed a body. One revealed Cole Evans. Another revealed Max Cooper. Another had Danny Delgado. The last two revealed Taylor Bauer and Kristen Earhardt, all dressed in the clothes they were stripped of before. Nayzor looked especially confused since Kristen was used in the recreation of his daughter.
"What are these?" Nayzor asked.
"Bio-surrogates." Rani explained. "Another development of Taelon technology." Rani then went into an explanation of what a bio-surrogate was. "On some planets the Taelons offered bodies to the poor, the sick, the crippled, and the dying in exchange for their services against their enemies. Each body has ten times the strength, endurance, speed and stamina of a normal human. The perfect fighting machine."
"Is that what these are?" Master Org said looking down at the bio-surrogate of Cole. "Machines?"
"Sophisticated machines that resemble human physiology, but yes." Rani explained. "All we need now is to download their programming into them."
"Programming?" Xizor asked.
"In order for this plan to work, the minds of the surrogates need to be as close to the originals as possible." Rani explained. "I am developing programs that will reflect the minds of the Wild Force Rangers, but will be loyal to us."
"Are you using...the original material?" Master Org asked. Rani knew what Master Org was referring to.
"Hardly." Rani said. "I still need the 'original material'. However I was able to use it to make copies which will be downloaded into the surrogates once the modifications are complete"
"How long will this take?" Master Org asked.
"It should be done within the hour." Rani explained. Already Master Org was looking forward to what would happen. Again Rani came up with a plan that was downright evil.
He anxiously looked forward to what the fruits of that labor would yield.
"Okay Steven. Thanks." Eric then closed his cell phone and went over to the Primal Force. "Who was that?" Shayla asked.
"A co-worker." Eric said. "He's been looking in on events involving Taylor's disappearance. He said that he just might have a lead."
"So how did you and she meet?" Shayla asked. "She mentioned meeting some Rangers on a past mission involving Mutant Orgs. But I never got to meet you. Taylor thought it might have been dangerous."
"It was." Eric said as he thought of the battle with the Mutant Orgs. They had suddenly appeared in Turtle Cove, and neither the Silver Guardians or the Wild Force knew what they were. But Eric thought he was getting ahead of himself. Shayla wanted to know how Eric met Taylor.
"She had gotten a new car, and she was speeding." Eric started to say. "The Silver Guardians were being brought over to Turtle Cove on a temporary basis to help with monster attacks if they needed it. With Silver Hills becoming quiet after Ransik's defeat, we needed to go elsewhere to help offer protection."
"I'd heard of the Silver Guardians." Shayla had said. "They only offered protection to those that could pay for it." Shayla said the last words with a bit of distaste. Eric picked up on it, but didn't pay it any mind. Looking back, he found he shared Shayla's feelings. As did Wes.
"Things changed." Eric said. "Mostly due to...a friend bringing a change in policies. Policies that allowed the Silver Guardians to offer protection for free. But still we needed a place to protect. Turtle Cove happened to be that place with all the Org attacks. At any rate Taylor was racing down the street, and I was the one that pulled her over. I gave her a speeding ticket and sent her on her merry way. I thought that was the last I'd see of her until the MutOrgs first attacked. That was when the Wild Force appeared, and I saw Taylor as she was, the Yellow Eagle Ranger.
"And she recognized me." Eric said the last line with a smile as he remembered Taylor's line and attitude. "'You're the one that gave me that ticket this morning' she said After that we pooled our resources and came across what the MutOrgs were. Time Force came back to help out, and I got to know Taylor pretty well. I think we really hit it off."
"You must be very special if Taylor liked you. She rarely opens her heart to anyone." Shayla had said.
"I guess we're cut from the same cloth." Eric said. "Ironically enough my sister and Taylor's uncle have a thing going themselves. Talk about irony." Shayla then looked at Eric and knew the truth. "You love her don't you?"
Eric found he couldn't lie to Shayla. "Yeah, I love her. And I hope with all my heart that she's alive."
From her chair Rani viewed images before her. Like before they were memories of the Wild Force Rangers' lives. From Air Force training, to father/daughter gatherings, to life in the jungle. Master Org walked in and saw the Rani viewing the images. "What are you doing?" he asked.
"Preparing the templates." Rani said. "Copying the Wild Force Rangers memories so they can be downloaded into the bio surrogates instead of the originals. The Taelons will want those."
"I'm sure they will." Master Org said with a little bitterness in his voice. While he enjoyed sending Cole to his fate a part of him still felt unfulfilled. Rani noticed this and waved away the images. "Something on your mind?"
Master Org paused before speaking. "Is it possible for me to do the mental reprogramming?" Rani raised an eyebrow and asked "Whatever for?"
"I have fought these Rangers for a long time." Master Org said. "And the red one has been a source of much pain to me. If anyone is going to mold the red surrogates' mind, I want to do it." Rani considered the request and got out of the chair allowing Master Org to sit in it.
"Just allow your mind to open to the images before it. Whenever you wish to change something grab the image with your thoughts and use your own will to shape it." Master Org nodded as the blue luminescence circled around him. The memories of the Wild Force Rangers were open to him. Open to explore.
Open for him to corrupt.
He looked at the memories before him, like a kid in a candy store wondering what flavors he sould take. Everything looked so good to him. He saw moments of love and goodness and they sickened him. He saw brief moments of darkness, and they pleased him.
That was what he would build upon. The goodness Master Org would murder.
Master Org immediately began corrupting the memories of Cole Evans before him. The first thing he did was twist the memory of an attack to an image of neglecting him in a jungle to die. This would be the first lie of many Master Org would create. A lie Master Org took pleasure in creating.
There would be many more.
For all the Wild Force bio surrogates.
And Rani watched as Master Org perverted the memories before him. Like a child with his toys.
After several hours Jindrax, Toxica, Xizor, Hazzard, Nayzor, Onihime, and Shiranna were back in the proving grounds ready to await the unveiling of the next innovation of the Rani and Master Org. Jindrax and Toxica clearly were uncomfortable with all that was happening.
"Oh man. I can't believe this." Jindrax had said. "I don't mind telling you this Toxica, but I feel eerie about this."
"I know Jindrax. I know." Toxica had added. They were already unsure about Master Org with his failure to recognize Steven Merrickson as Merrick Balitou. And now they were creating versions of the Wild Force Rangers? Jindrax and Toxica might have been evil, but how evil was Master Org? And the Rani?
Toxica then realized that there was probably no one she knew that could have been more evil than the Rani. Jindrax took notice of a box Toxica had carried with her and he had to ask what it was. Toxica answered with "Master Org asked me to bring these along." Jindrax had a good idea what the 'items' Toxica brought with her were.
"Don't worry Jindrax. For now we'll just play along. But we are not out of options." Toxica said. Jindrax nodded knowing what those 'options' were. Just then the doors to the proving grounds had opened. Master Org and the Rani appeared. Behind them were five figures who the Orgs knew well. For they were cast in the image of the foes they had fought for so many months.
They were cast in the image of the Wild Force Rangers.
Master Org then brought forth his hands and clapped them together. Putrids had appeared before the five and they quickly got into a fighting stance. "PUTRIDS ATTACK!!!" Master Org then shouted. Master Org and Rani moved out of the way as the Putrids fought the five. Jindrax and Toxica were wide eyed by what they saw.
The Wild Force fought with a kind of ruthless efficiency that they had never seen in their adversaries. 'Alyssa' fought off several Putrids with the intent on completely annihilating them. Kicks and punches were thrown in a way that seemed atypical of the 'Noble Tiger' Toxica knew before. Jindrax was even in awe as he saw 'Taylor' trying to behead a Putrid with a high roundhouse kick...and succeeding.
'Danny' and 'Max' seemed to fight as a team. So much like a well oiled machine that they laid out the Putrids before them. 'Max' jumped off 'Danny's' shoulders giving his Putrids a flying tackle while 'Danny' got a running charge against the Putrids before him, and laying them out. But nothing was more eerie as the smile Master Org was giving as he saw 'Cole' laying out his Putrids like an animal destroying his prey. With forceful strikes and wild slashes Cole had lain out his enemies before him. In a twisted way Master Org looked at 'Cole' as if he was a son of sorts to him.
Soon however there was no one left. All the Putrids that had been sent against the 'Wild Force' had been laid out brutally, and they had disappeared soon after. Jindrax and Toxica watched in fear and awe of what they saw and soon got up to walk down to where the five 'Rangers' were. Xizor, Hazzard and Nayzor all watched impressed with what they saw, but Jindrax and Toxica needed to see them up close and personal. Jindrax looked at 'Taylor' and asked "Are these the 'bio-surrogates' you mentioned?" he asked.
Master Org gave an evil chuckle and nod as his answer before adding "And they are all loyal to me." Master Org then turned to the five and asked them "Who do you serve?"
"We serve you Master Org." the five bio surrogate Rangers said as they kneeled before him in reverence. Master Org smiled at this action as he signaled Jindrax and Toxica to bring the crystals forward. They each gave one to a bio surrogate.
Toxica gave the Tiger crystal to the bio surrogate of Alyssa Enrile who looked up at Toxica and smiled. "I welcome the gift from one of such beauty as you." Toxica couldn't help but smile as she looked in Master Org's direction. "My gift to you Toxica."
"Thank you Master Org." she said. She almost regretted what she would do next.
Jindrax gave the bio surrogate of Taylor Bauer the Eagle crystal. 'Taylor' looked up and said "I accept this gift from the Master of Blades." Jindrax looked at Master Org and saw him nod as he found out that Master Org had given HIM a gift as well.
And like Toxica, he too was sorry about what he would do next.
They then gave the Shark and Bison crystals to the bio surrogates of Danny and Max. Master Org however would give the last crystal to the last bio surrogate. The bio surrogate of Cole.
Cole looked up as Master Org presented him with the animal crystal of the Red Lion. In his eyes was nothing more than obedience. "I pledge my service to you." Master Org gave a very sinister smile as he heard those words. He enjoyed hearing them to no end.
What of the Yellow Eagle's sister?" Nayzor asked. "What have you done with her bio surrogate?"
"That will remain in storage for now." Rani answered. "In case of...dire emergency." Rani always felt it was a good idea to keep a back up plan available if one needed it. And the bio surrogate of Kristen would serve that function when the time came.
"And now that you have your crystals, you shall have your powers." Rani said as she walked forward. A balled up mound of supposed clay in her hand. "In case you were wondering, this is the remains of one of the badges of darkness. A pseudo morphing device that allowed putties in Rita Repulsa's army to morph into duplicates of the Morphin Power Rangers during one of their first battles with her. Sadly the remaining badges were destroyed. But the remains of one still existed, and I was able to use those remains to make these."
A slave then came forward with a case which Rani opened. Inside were five black growl phones with silver trim. "These devices draw on power from the dark side of the Morphin Grid, and they will allow you to morph into dark versions of the Wild Force Rangers. Come forth and take the tools you will need." All five bio surrogates walked forward and grabbed their growl phone.
"And now to set the stage of your arrival."
At an archeological dig, a teacher from Turtle Cove University brought his students along on a field trip. At first he sent the students out to look for special artifacts then to bring them back to a makeshift area composed of a chalkboard, table and folding chairs. When the class returned the instructor gave a speech about how each artifact represented a piece of the puzzle that was the site they were standing on now.
The class listened to the instructor's speech. It was interesting, but some found it hard to follow. It was mostly about animals appearing ages ago, and that they were at the tomb of one of them. He soon found his mind wandering when he saw a shimmer not far away. A shimmer that seemed to take five human forms.
"PROFESSOR!!!" One student shouted as he saw five figures appear off to the side of the assembled class. The professor immediately ran over followed by their students to see who they were. He couldn't believe what he saw.
One of the figures that appeared looked like Alyssa Enrile.
Back at the Animarium the sacred water erupted. Everyone walked over to see what was going on. They were all shocked at what they saw.
The Wild Force Rangers seemed to lie unconscious. Eric saw Taylor lying with her eyes closed as if sleeping. All the Wild Force looked that way. Shayla couldn't believe her eyes. Her friends were alive.
"I have to get down there." Shayla said as her concern overrode her better judgement. Jeremy however grabbed her arm and said "Not alone you don't."
"Agreed." Eric said. "This could be a trap."
"Maybe." Shayla said. "But I'm not going to sit here and wait to see if they are all right or not. I'm going to make sure they are all right." The Primal Force and Eric knew there would be no changing of Shayla's mind so they decided to follow her.
Eric picked up his phone and made a call. "It's me. I need you to come to this place."
At the dig Professor Reed gave a cup of warm tea to each of the 'Wild Force'. Each one took sips as the professor talked to 'Alyssa'.
"Miss Enrile all your instructors were worried about you. What happened to you?" 'Alyssa' paused as if giving the question some thought then answered "I don't know. I just remember meeting my friends. Then everything went blank."
"We found ourselves walking and then you saw us." 'Taylor' then added. "I don't remember anything else." Professor Reed seemed to nod at that explanation then mentioned that perhaps they should call their parents, or friends. "A lot of people are looking for you."
"I know." 'Cole' said with a smile. A smile that held a sinister intent as he added. "There's one in particular I'm looking forward to seeing." With a look at his friends they too nodded at the hope of 'meeting' a friend. Then, as if on cue, that friend arrived. Along with five others.
Shayla ran to where the 'Wild Force' was seated, followed by Jeremy, Willy, Sylvia, Kelly and Curtis. Some of the students looked at Shayla's dress and wondered what fashion sense, if any, she had. Some of the boys however looked at Kelly, but Kelly paid their gazes no mind. She knew what they were looking at, and what they wanted. Right now though that didn't matter.
What did matter was the welfare of the Wild Force. Professor Reed was curious as to what was going on however. Jeremy explained. "The woman in white is a friend to them. She's been looking for them ever since they disappeared."
"As were a lot of other people." Professor Reed said. "Should they not be called as well?"
"They will be. We just need to make sure they are all right." Jeremy then turned and spoke to his friends. "What do you guys think?"
"I don't know." Curtis answered. "As glad as I am to see them something just doesn't feel right."
"Yes it does seem a little convienient." Willy said in agreement.
Eric looked across and was watching 'Taylor'. It seemed odd that she wouldn't look in his direction. All her attention was focused on Shayla. "Something wrong?" Sylvia asked.
"I'm not sure." Eric said. "I guess I thought...she'd miss me as much as she missed the princess. But..."
"Don't sweat it." Kelly said. "Maybe she's....I don't know." Kelly turned and saw the 'Wild Force' talking with Shayla. It seemed like the comaraderie was returning, but yet she also felt a little uneasy.
Immediately Shayla was asking if the 'Wild Force' was all right. "How did you escape? Did Master Org capture you?"
"Yes." 'Taylor' had said as she then looked up at Shayla with an evil smile. "But he has also enlightened us." With a quick grab of Shayla's wrist she reached around and put Shayla's arm into an arm lock. Alyssa, Max and Danny also pulled out lasers and blasted the students nearby. They all ran away quickly leaving the Primal Force facing the 'Wild Force'. The Primal Force couldn't believe their eyes at what they saw. Here were Rangers turning on their friend and mentor, and they didn't know why.
"Stay back!" 'Cole' said. "We're walking out of here and we're taking the Princess with us."
"Why?" Jeremy said as he took the lead. The other four Rangers following behind. 'Cole' smirked as he said "I don't owe you an explanation."
"Well what about Shayla?" Sylvia asked. "Don't you think you owe her one? From you especially?" Sylvia looked at 'Taylor' as she asked that question. 'Taylor' answered with "She'll get one. When she's a prisoner of Master Org."
"And Eric fell for you." Kelly said. "What was he thinking?"
"Stop this!" Shayla shouted as she tried to get between Cole and Jeremy. She then looked into Cole's eyes and was about to speak when she noticed something. Something about Cole.
And it was then that she knew. That she knew about all of them.
"You're not Cole! None of you are the Wild Force Rangers!"
'Cole' smiled as he then grabbed the princess by the other arm. "Give the girl a prize. And the winner gets to visit Master Org."
"Don't you mean the loser?" a voice shouted as red blaster fire streaked down and hit where the 'Wild Force' stood. The shock from the blaster fire threw the 'Wild Force' back and caused Shayla to get free. When the 'Rangers recovered they looked up to see Eric Meyers standing with the Quantum Defender in his hand.
"Princess get out of here." Eric said straight out. He then cast his gaze towards 'Taylor' menacingly. "What are you?"
"Eric. It's me, Taylor. Don't you recognize me?" 'Taylor' asked as she spoke seductively, all of a sudden trying to get 'close' to him.
"I recognize you." Eric said. "But Shayla knew who you were when she looked into your eyes. Ever hear the expression 'the eyes are the windows to the soul?'. I look into your eyes, and I know that the Taylor I love is not there. You're nothing but a copy."
'Taylor' nodded. "You're right. The Taylor you knew is not here. She can never come back. But I can love you as much as she can. Just let us take the princess, and we'll leave."
"No deal." Jeremy said standing with Eric. The Primal Force standing behind them. 'Taylor' however said "I think Eric can answer this question."
Eric waved his hand as if saying "I'll handle this" as he walked towards 'Taylor'. Taylor looked eye to eye with Eric as she said "You know you belong with us. You have a darkness in you. Embrace it. Let it flow within you." 'Taylor' then brought her lips to Eric and gave him a soft kiss as she continued to purr "You know I'm right."
"I believe you're right about one thing." Eric said as he smiled at 'Taylor' then gave her a hard clothesline down to the ground. He stood over her and said "The Taylor I knew is not here. All that is here is a sleazy tramp."
"You'll pay for that!" 'Taylor' said as she regrouped with her friends and brought out some sort of device that looked like a growl phone. "DARK ACCESS!!!" the bio surrogates shouted. And soon they morphed into dark versions of the Wild Force Ranger uniforms.
Their color shades were darker, and where there was white on the costumes was replaced with gray. But the animal logos were still the same, as were the morphing calls.
"Emmisaries of the Master Org! United we roar!" 'Blazing Lion' shouted.
"Oh that is so lame!" Curtis said. "I say we show these posers how it's done!" Everyone agreed with Curtis.
"You got it!" Jeremy said as he brought out his link, followed by the others bringing out theirs. "PRIMAL ACCESS!!!"
The Primal Force now stood ready for battle.
"Guaridans of the Earth! United we roar! POWER RANGERS PRIMAL FORCE!!!" Raging Rhino then added "And that my friends is how it's done."
"Eric. Can you see that the Princess is safe? We'll take care of these posers." Winged Falcon said. Eric nodded and went to see if Shayla was okay. The Primal Force stayed behind to fight off the pseudo Wild Force.
Eric and Shayla ran as fast as they could hoping to get as far enough away from the battle as possible. "Come on, a little further." Eric said doing his best to make sure Shayla kept up. Shayla, for her part was trying her best not to be a burden.
When they thought they were far enough Eric then asked "Do you think you can make it to the Animarium the rest of the way yourself?" Shayla nodded, and Eric said "Okay, on your way." Eric was about to head back to the battle when a shot from behind threw him off balance and flying through the air leading to a hard landing.
Shayla looked up as she saw the figure of Eric's assailant. She looked to be in the costume of the Wild Force, only it was blue and silver, with six sashes running down her shoulder. In her right hand she held some sort of weapon, while in her left she held a transparent sphere that she could open.
"I think someone needs a time out." Lunar Wolf said as she opened the orb she possessed. Immediately Shayla felt her body being pulled inside it and the lid closing on top. Shayla looked out to see herself trapped inside the small crystalline orb held in the hand of the Lunar Wolf Ranger. She looked so small trapped in the orb.
Shayla felt the walls of her prison and pounded the walls screaming "Let me out!!! Let me out!!!" Lunar Wolf looked down at the tiny form of the princess and sneered beneath her helmet. Shayla knew she was sneering even though she could not see under the helmet, and she knew Lunar Wolf would not be freeing her anytime soon.
"And now to take you back to Master Org." Lunar Wolf said looking down at Shayla. She turned to move but then paused, as another idea came to mind. "No wait. I think we can make use of you." Lunar Wolf then made her way back to the battle leaving Eric behind.
She however didn't see Eric start to stir and come around. Through blurry eyes he saw Lunar Wolf run away.
He hoped he would recover quickly enough. He owed that evil Ranger.
At the battle the Primal Force was holding their own against the Pseudo Wild Force. Both sides also had some witty banter to throw in with their moves.
"Your fall will be soon." 'Red Lion' said as he stared down Winged Falcon. My power and knowledge will be your downfall." The two combatants fought with all the skill they possessed, and they held their own quite well. But Winged Falcon still had an ace or two up his sleeve.
"You may have skill, but there's one thing you'll never have." Winged Falcon said. 'Red Lion' asked "Oh what's that?"
Winged Falcon then delivered a wheel kick to the back of 'Red Lion's' leg then delivered a chop to his throat knocking the air out from him. "Experience." Winged Falcon said as he stood tall.
Spirited Deer and 'Noble Tiger 'stood facing each other. Both tried to outfight each other, and it seemed like 'Noble Tiger' was going to get the best out of Spirited Deer. "I have been programmed with all of Alyssa's knowledge. I know everything she knows, including the Enrile family style of karate."
"Maybe, but there's some things you don't know." Spirited Deer said as she did a series of acrobatics designed to throw off 'Noble Tiger'. In between those strikes Spirited Deer drew out her saber and landed some strikes against 'Noble Tiger', which called for her to bring out her Tiger baton.
"Nice stick!" Spirited Deer said as she stared down 'Noble Tiger', her saber in hand. "You get that one time at band camp?" 'Noble Tiger' wondered what Spirited Deer meant when she did a drop kick to 'Noble Tiger. "I guess you didn't watch 'American Pie' did you? Any self respecting villain would have gotten that joke."
Spirited Deer then followed up her attack as she did a handspring to 'Noble Tiger' and delivered an elbow to 'Noble Tiger'. She then followed up with several strikes with the saber knocking down 'Noble Tiger'. Spirited Deer stood over the fake Alyssa and smirked. "And they say you learn nothing at cheer camp."
Gentle Giraffe and 'Soaring Eagle' were having a duel with blades. Their swords were crossing in an intense duel with neither being the victor. They then decided to put aside their weapons and rely on their own fighting ability.
'Soaring Eagle', for all her skill, seemed to be more the smashmouth fighter. She liked going in for the strike, while Gentle Giraffe fought with a beauty and grace that her Mantis Kung fu training provided. Gentle Giraffe got in some good strikes, but 'Soaring Eagle' had a lot more power and aggressiveness behind her. She felt this battle would be over soon.
But that was when Gentle Giraffe cut loose with a series of precise moves aimed at the human weak spots. The chin, the back of the knee, the small of the back, and when it was all said and done Gentle Giraffe followed up with a scissors kick to the back of 'Soaring Eagle's' neck.
"Ok. So the last one wasn't necessarily a mantis move. But it worked didn't it?" Gentle Giraffe said to a downed 'Soaring Eagle'. 'Soaring Eagle' just lay down on the ground disoriented.
Raging Rhino and Armored Armadillo were facing the team of 'Surging Shark' and 'Iron Bison'. The two Primal Force Rangers had to admit that they were a very practiced team that knew what the other was thinking, due to the amount of punishment the Primal Force was taking. It looked like the to 'Wild Force Rangers' would take the battle as they kicked the sabers out of their hands and stood over Armored Armadillo and Raging Rhino with their weapons drawn.
"Well, any last words?" 'Surging Shark' sneered as he stood over Armored Armadillo. 'Iron Bison' leered over Raging Rhino.
"Just this." Armored Armadillo said as he seemed to do a split and punch 'Surging Shark' in the solar plexus. Raging Rhino followed up with a little hip hop kido which confused 'Iron Bison' long enough to get in a wheel kick to his jaw. Both of them knocked down.
"It's a good thing my brothers were unconventional in their karate at times." Armored Armadillo said.
"Not to mention cousin Zack." Raging Rhino added. Soon the Primal Force stood tall as the battle appeared to be over.
"Looks like this is the end." Winged Falcon said, only to find he and the other Primal Force Rangers to be shot in the back and knocked down to the ground. The Pseudo Wild Force wasted no time in approaching their opponents and getting ready to gloat.
"You think your skills could match against us?" 'Red Lion' boasted. "We'll do whatever we can to defeat you for our master." The Pseudo Wild Force made ready to deliver some cheap shots when some blaster shots cut them off. The Pseudo Wild Force backed away looking up to see who fired the shots, giving the Primal Force time to recover. They looked up and saw Quantum Ranger on a ledge with his Quantum Defender in his hand.
"Not if we defeat you first." Quantum Ranger said meanacingly.
The Lunar Wolf then joined the party as she stood with the Pseudo Wild Force as they made ready to do battle with Quantum Ranger and the Primal Force. In Lunar Wolf's hand was the tiny form of Shayla pounding on the glass of her round prison.
"Don't move!" Lunar Wolf said. "Attack, and the first strikes hit the princess." The Primal Force then drew back their weapons, but underneath the helmets they were glaring at Lunar Wolf. And somewhere in Lunar Wolf's mind was the aspect that didn't blame them for hating her.
"Put your weapons away." Lunar Wolf ordered. The Primal Force put their sabers to their sides as Lunar Wolf made her pitch. "We walk out of here. When we're gone we'll leave the Princess at a place of our choosing." Raging Rhino remembered hearing that deal once before, when Rita Repulsa took his parents from him, and Rita agreed to release them in exchange for the Power Coins. Rita went back on her deal, and that only made the Rangers even more determined to stop her.
"No way." Raging Rhino said. "You won't keep your end."
"There's nothing you can do Rangers!" Master Org gloated as he appeared and stood behind Lunar Wolf. "You are powerless. You have to accept or your princess dies." It looked as if Master Org had all the bases covered, until a shot was fired at Lunar Wolf causing her to lose her grip on the orb containing Shayla. Spirited Deer wasted no time trying to catch the orb.
"No! Get the orb you foolish girl!" Master Org ordered. But it was too late. Spirited Deer got hold of the glass orb and quickly opened it releasing Shayla. When Shayla was out she quickly shouted "GET OUT OF HERE!!! Shayla did so only to run into the grasp of 'Red Lion'.
"LET ME GO!!!" Shayla shouted but 'Red Lion' was not letting go. He continued to hold onto Shayla's arm like a vice. Until something made him let go. A blaster shot between Shayla and 'Red Lion'. Shayla turned and couldn't believe her eyes when she saw who her savior was.
Her savior was none other than Steven Merrickson, his Magnum Defender in his hand.
"I usually don't like shooting someone in the back. It's bad form. But I figured that I needed to do something to grab your attention." Shayla looked up at Steven in total disbelief. No way could her eyes be showing her what they were showing her. "M...M...Merrick?" she asked.
"Uhhhh. No. My name is Steven Merrickson though." Steven held out his hand as if beckoning her to take it, just in time for Lunar Wolf to get back to her feet and attack again. Only to be shot again. This time by the Quantum Ranger.
"GET HER OUT OF HERE!!!" Quantum Ranger shouted as Steven grabbed Shayla's arm and tried to find someplace safe for her. The cave was the closest spot. Even still Master Org wasn't going to give up on getting Shayla. Immediately he jumped down and faced the Princess' would be protector.
"The Princess belongs to me boy!" Master Org roared, brandishing out his staff.
"Last time I checked, slavery was illegal," Steven returned, firing off a blast from his Mangum Defender distracting Master Org and allowing Steven and the princess to look for a someplace to hide in. All that was available however was a nearby cave.
"Any port in a storm I guess." Steven said as he led Shayla inside. Unfortunately, Master Org quickly recovered fired off a blast from his staffhoping to hit Steven and Shayla. The shot missed and hit above their heads at the cave entrance. Immediately the entrance began to collapse.
"PRINCESS!" Winged Falcon shouted out as the Rangers watched the Princess and Steven being sealed into the cave.
"We've got to get her out of there!" Spirited Deer said. However they knew right now that would be hard to do as they felt presences behind them.
The Pseudo Wild Force were back on their feet ready for round 2.
When Steven awoke, the first thing that he thought was that he might have actually died. ~ One moment you're watching a cave come down on you, the next you find yourself in a grassy meadow.~ He started walking forward, musing if he would be seeing any angels if he really was dead.
It was when he heard music playing that he decided to focus on the source. ~ Weird... it sounds like flute music. Mother tried to get me into it but I really couldn't.~ Steven thought. ~ Sides, a guitar is better.~
However when he found the source of the music, several sights were surprising to him. First was seeing the Deerzord, seemingly enjoying the music being played. Second was who was playing the music. A man and woman in white. The woman he recognized as the one he had just helped out.
The man on the other hand, when he saw his face, he couldn't believe it.
"That's... impossible..." Steven breathed.
Shayla tried to awaken the young man that was very much like a living ghost for her. "Merrick! Wake up please!" She couldn't help but call him that name. Maybe he wasn't him, but then what if he was.
"Ahhh!" Steven woke up with a start, "I... I was dreaming?"
"Dreaming what?" Shayla asked as he started to get up.
"Me, playing a flute... with you singing..." Steven shook his head, "How, how is that even possible?" When he turned to look at Shayla, her face was pale as a ghost, "What? What is it?"
"It can't be..." Shayla whispered in disbelief, yet the evidence was there before her. ~ I've never told anyone until recently about Merrick and even then I never told them about this.~ Shayla had no time to wonder further as another presence made herself felt in the cavern.
"Sorry to interrupt," both Merrick and Shayla turned to find the Lunar Wolf Ranger, "But Master Org demands your presence Princess."
"Over my dead body," Steven growled, stepping in front of Shayla.
"As you wish," Lunar Wolf said emotionlessly, going for a strike with her weapon intent on taking Steven out.
She was more than surprised to find her move blocked and then for her opponent to not only follow up with a counter but disarm her. She got up slowly to regard the man she had thought nothing of as a threat.
Steven just threw the weapon far away. "Care to back those words up in a fair fight?"
Lunar Wolf chuckled bitterly, "'Fair fight'? Why not. With all that's put me into this situation, having a fair fight is the least I can do. Even if life has been anything but fair to me recently" Steven wondered what Lunar Wolf meant by that line when Lunar Wolf landed the first punch to Steven's jaw. Steven was thrown back a good couple of feet but quickly was back on the attack.
The two fighters went at it. Even though the Lunar Wolf was morphed, as the fight progressed it was becoming clear to her that power was not everything that decided the fight. Despite all that the Rani had done to make her into the fight she was, Steven was still the better skilled fighter. Not to mention that he stance and a good portion of his fighting style was something that she had never encountered before.
Shayla could only stare as she recognized it though, ~ Wolf Wind Fist... that was Merrick's fighting style. He was the only person in Animaria to practice it.~
Lunar Wolf fought Steven and her CVI induced fighting skill could not ascertain the skill Steven was using. It seemed that no matter what style she could come up with it would not be totally compatible with whatever style Steven would be using. This became apparent when Steven was landing several strikes to Lunar Wolf, and even though her powers protected her she could not keep up the fight for long. Finally Steven finished his maneuvers with a leg sweep sending Lunar Wolf down for the count.
Lunar Wolf looked up at Steven. She had to admit that he was good. Perhaps good enough to beat her even with all the programming. Her mind contemplated options and came to one conclusion-retreat.
"Time for me to go." Lunar Wolf said as she turned to leave. Steven however was not willing to let her go easily. "Hey! Come back here!" he shouted as he charged her.
Lunar Wolf sidestepped as Steven lashed out causing something to fall from her belt. Steven didn't grab his target and his face met the dirt on the ground. Steven looked up to see Lunar Wolf's boot in front of him. Looking up her Lunar Cue was also drawn and aimed at his head.
"This weapon can do more damage than its looks give credit for." Lunar Wolf said. "Take my word for it. Now I'm walking out of here. Don't follow me!"
Steven nodded as Lunar Wolf turned and walked away. Shayla immediately came to his side. "Are you all right?"
"Fine." Steven said. "Especially since I got this off our 'friend' there." Steven then held up a round spherical gem, the silouette of the elephant was inside it.
Shayla looked at the crystal Steven had grabbed. "It's the Elephant crystal. We've got the Elephant zord back!"
"And it just may be our ticket out of here." Steven said as he handed the crystal to Shayla. "Think you can use it?" Shayla didn't say anything as she took the crystal and concentrated, calling for the Elephantzord to be free from the evil Org's control.
As Shayla began her work something crossed Steven's mind. He had a feeling about the Lunar Wolf, almost as if she had allowed Steven to get the crystal. As if she wanted him to have it. For a moment Steven thought Lunar Wolf actually nudged her belt causing the crystal to fall.
~ What is with her?~ he asked himself. He asked nothing more as the roar of the Elephantzord filled the cavern.
Things were really getting heated up in the battle between the Primal Force, Quantum Ranger and the 'Wild Force'. Right away knowing about the 6 on 5 advantage called upon their Wild Zords intent on taking out the Primal Force. The Primal Force, looking to keep the odds even, called forth their zords with each side forming their own respective Megazord.
The Isis Megazord may have had more power, but the 'Wild Force' Megazord was being piloted ruthlessly as it looked to exploit any weaknesses it could find. Then it did something unthinkable.
It separated into its own component zords and started attacking the Isis Megazord. Each zord was getting in their hit and run attack as the Isis Megazord was one big target.
"Don't let them separate!" 'Blazing Lion' ordered as the Lionzord delivered some swipes to the torso of the Isis Megazord. Eaglezord picked up some logs and dropped them onto Isis Megazord as well. The Tigerzord also attacked from behind throwing off Isis Megazord's balance allowing the Bisonzord and the Shark Zord to launch in their own strikes.
Quantum Ranger saw the attacks and made ready to call forth his Q-Rex. Bringing forth his Quantum Morpher he called "Q-Rex ari..." He never got to complete his sentence as the mountain side blasted away revealing something Quantum Ranger never expected.
Steven and Shayla stood together. With them was the Elephantzord. Wolfzord then appeared by their side seemingly ready for battle. "Stay close to me!" Steven ordered. Shayla did so as she handed the elephant crystal to Steven. Steven could barely wonder why she did this when he figured out what to do next, just as the Isis Megazord got back to it's feet.
"Sword and shield mode!" Steven shouted as the Elephant separated to become the Isis Megazord's sword and shield. The Primal Force then made ready to deliver a series of strikes to the 'Wild Force' zords, which connected. Quntum Ranger called forth the Q Rex to deal with any that sought to stand back up. Those were the Shark and Bisonzords. Quickly they went back down.
Steven took out the Lionzord with the Wolfzord. The wolf was strong and swift, and soon the lion was brought down itself.
The zords went down hard and the 'Wild Force' had no choice but to retreat. The Primal Force then landed on the ground making their way to the Princess as Steven turned to Shayla getting ready to say goodbye.
"You may want to hold on to this." Steven said to Gentle Giraffe as he handed her the Elephant Crystal. Gentle Giraffe looked at the crystal and gave a slight smile of thanks. Steven then turned to leave but Shayla called out "Wait! Why don't you come back with us!"
Steven stopped as he seemed a little hesitant to accept. But eventually he did. Soon everyone headed back to the Animarium.
Back at Arcadia the Pseudo Wild Force rested on their slabs being prepared to be put into storage. Master Org however was not too happy with the surrogates performances, and considered recycling them..
"The bio surrogates failed!" Master Org shouted.
"That they did." Rani said. "But it's a failure we can learn from. And as we learn more about these Primal Force Rangers we can program them to counter whatever moves they can come up with. But for now...they serve no use." Rani then pushed closed the slab containing 'Taylor's' body and then left.
"They will remain that way until we have enough processed data on them. Then we shall set them loose again." Master Org agreed, but Onihime looked around noticing someone missing.
"Father." Onihime said. "Where are Jindrax and Toxica?"
Nayzor looked at her daughter and said that it was a good question.
The answer came in a cavern far from the Nexus where Jindrax and Toxica were travelling down. "You sure this is the place Toxica?"
"Positive." Toxica responded as she held her torch. "We just have to go down a little bit further." The next second however bats flew down the corridor and both Orgs had to shoo them away. After that Jindrax was becoming nervous. "If Master Org finds out what we're doing, he'll do something bad to us for sure."
"Not if we play our cards right." Toxica said as they continued to walk down the corridor until they came to their objective. A statue of an Org with multiple mouths, yet conveyed a sense of power throughout his being.
"Is that...?" Jindrax started to say. Toxica finished his answer.
"Yes. The most powerful of the Org generals. Mandilok!"
"Uh okay. But now, how do we get him out of there?" Jindrax asked. Toxica just smiled as she seemed to have that base covered. Bringing up her wand she gave the incantation for resurrection, directing power into the statue.
"Mandilok! Mightiest of the Org Generals! Arise and LIVE AGAIN!!!" The energy shot out of the staff shattering the stone that imprisoned the Org within, and then releasing the being within. The Org was a sight to behold as it seemed to have mouths everywhere about it. It had red lips for a face and a red light for seeing. A mouth was on its chest as well as two mouths stemming from its shoulders. It was blue and had a blue cape stemming down from its back.
"I AM RISEN!!!" Mandilok said as s/he shouted triumphantly into the air. S/he then looked at the two Orgs before him/her and asked "What brings you two Duke Orgs to resurrect me?"
"Oh boy do we have a story to tell you." Jindrax said as he told Mandilok of what had happened so far.
Meanwhile back on the Animarium, all of the rangers and Steven had arrived. Steven was surprised and amazed by everything he had seen. "Whoa! A floating island?"
"Think how we felt when we came up here the first time." Spirited Deer said. Soon when they reached the stone circle the Rangers all powered down and introduced themselves.
"Jeremy Lee Scott-Winged Falcon." Steven shook his hand.
"Curtis Taylor-Raging Rhino." Again Steven shook his hand.
"Willy Corbett-Armored Armadillo." Again a handshake.
"Sylvia Kwan-Gentle Giraffe." Steven shook her hand as well.
"Kelly Hart-Spirited Deer." she said offering her hand and a smile. Steven took the hand and seemed quite taken with Kelly. She seemed to have a fun personality about her, but he also felt she was hiding something. Some pain she was carrying with her.
"Careful." Jeremy said. "She's a friend."
"Don't worry I wouldn't think of doing anything bad to her." Steven said. Jeremy then said "I hope not."
Eric and Shayla were the last to enter the stone circle as Shayla stood holding something. It looked like a giant picture covered in a cloth that looked like it was ready to be unveiled. "Princess Shayla what is that?"
"A reminder of the past." Shayla said. Her tone carrying a reflection of sadness in it as she unveiled the portrait. Everyone was shocked by what they had seen, especially Steven.
For what Shayla had unveiled was a portrait that was made of both Shayla and Merrick. Everyone looked at the portrait, and then back at Steven immediately taking in the resemblance between Merrick and Steven. Steven just looked at the portrait just shocked by everything. A shock that wasn't confined to just the portrait.
Ever since stepping onto the Animarium he had felt a strange sense of familiarity to everything. Almost as if he had been there before, yet Steven knew he had never been to the Animarium before. Almost like it was deja vu to him.
"Princess could this Merrick have had a descendent?" Jeremy asked.
"Well, Merrick and Starla were pretty close, although I tried my hardest not to notice." Shayla said.
"Starla?" Sylvia asked.
"The Pink Guardian." Shayla explained. "She was someone Merrick always talked to, and was there for him if there was ever a problem."
"Looks like she was there for him in other ways too." Curtis said. Eric however shot him a look that was like daggars to Curtis. Eric's look was so intense that he didn't even notice the other Rangers shooting him that same look.
"But all the same, there are bound to be genetic changes after three thousand years." Willy then said. "How could it be that Steven could have the same look as Merrick after all that time?"
"I can only think of one way." Shayla said hesitant to give her answer. "Merrick split his power after the final battle. Perhaps when Merrick spilt his power, it must have affected his soul and part of him has now become part of way of life after death, reincarnation. Thus, Steven is Merrick reborn."
Steven listened to everything that was said, and his disbelief sky rocketted. "No. No I'm not Merrick! I'm not Merrick!" he said shaking his head in disbelief.
"Merrick!" Shayla had started to say as she came to his side but Steven slapped her hand away as he shouted at her angrilly.
"I'M NOT MERRICK!!!"Steven shouted. He turned to look at Eric and the Primal Force and said "I've got to get out of here. I need to think some things through."
"Of course." Kelly said as she offered to lead Steven away from the Animarium. Eric followed after shooting a look at Shayla. A look that said 'What were you thinking?'
Shayla watched Steven leave, feeling as if she lost Merrick all over again.
When Kelly and Eric led Steven to the Roadhouse that night he seemed to be a world away. Kelly offered to help Steven if she needed it. Steven said "Thank you, but I've got to think some of this out on my own."
"Oh. Okay." Kelly said looking away.
"We're fine Kelly." Eric said. "I'll catch up with you at the Animarium." Kelly then turned and walked a few steps when Steven called out "Kelly. I appreciate you seeing me home. If I need someone to talk to would you mind?"
"No. Not at all." Kelly then left as Steven went back inside. Steven watched Kelly go and smiled a little. He found her to be quite attractive.
But now was not the time to think such thoughts. He had a past he didn't know he had to deal with.
And he had no idea how to deal with it yet.
"You sure you're okay?" Eric asked.
"No." Steven said. "I feel like I should be in a Shirley Maclaine novel about reincarnation. What was that Princess thinking?"
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say she's trying to get in touch with some old feelings. And you happened to be the closest thing to those feelings." Eric mentioned. Steven then asked "Could I be this Merrick Balitou she mentioned?"
Eric sighed before answering. "Steven I've seen a lot of strange stuff as the Quantum Ranger. But reincarnation? That's something I never really thought about."
"But is it possible?"Steven asked forcefully. Eric couldn't help but nod.
"I'm sorry." Eric said as he got up and walked away leaving Steven alone to think on matters.
Back at the Animarium Shayla was thinking of the man who had left last night, and was trying to sort out her own feelings. Like Steven she was no closer to an answer than he was.
~ How could I think of him like Merrick?~ Shayla asked. ~ Why didn't Starla say anything about her pregnancy?~ So many questions ran through her mind. Shayla however was no closer to an answer than when she first asked the questions. She needed to do something, and there was only one option she could think of
She had to confront him. There was no other way. Immediately she went to Kelly who was waking up and asked where he lived. Kelly told her to check Willie's Roadhouse and gave her directions there.
Shayla left the Animarium to confront Steven, and her memories. Kelly looked at Shayla leave and wondeed if she didn't make a mistake.
The sun was high above the sky the next day at Willie's Roadhouse. Steven was doing some work, trying to get his mind off of everything.
That work being chopping wood. Dressed in a simple dark gray overshirt and jeans, he placed one small log onto a large stump, raised the sharp ax over his head, and sliced the log in two. He had been doing this for over an hour now and still he wasn't feeling any more relaxed or any more distracted from his thoughts.
~ It's not true. I know who I am damnit!~ Of course he knew that to be a lie though. He knew something had been bothering him about who he was. His life was a strange one. Probably was the reason why he stayed in California and the Freak Zone for most of his life. Something about it just kept him there. Now he had a really good reason why. ~ I'm a part of it.~ mused as he sliced through another block of wood. ~ But I am not him. I am not Merrick Balitou. I don't even remember being him. All I have just a jumble of images and only a few things. How can I be him? And what about that Princess? Why did she look at me like...~ He suddenly stopped chopping wood as he felt the wind blowing and someone was near. Slowly turning his head around he found his guest was none other than the woman he had just been thinking of.
Shayla gazed long fully at the man that looked so much like the man she had loved, seeming to swallow hard before pressing on to get this inevitable confrontation over with. She walked very gently and softly toward him. She had her hands clasped together, looking very nervous, trying to know what to say but knew she just had to say something to him. "Merrick..." she didn't even need to his flinch and turn around before mentally berating herself as she spoke again, "Steven. Please. Don't go." The young man didn't keep walking. He just stopped. As if he knew just calling him by his real name was something very hard for her to do because it meant something.
Seeing Steven still standing where he was, Shayla spoke again, "Steven, I... I want to say I'm... I mean I know you aren't Merrick but..."
"What were we Shayla?"
"Wh-What?" Shayla stuttered as she saw Steven turn face her, his eyes looking sad and somber.
"What were we? In my past life," Steven asked her, "Was I just your guardian... or was I something more? Were we something more?"
As she looked at his stare, Shayla broke down and told Steven the truth. "Yes, I was in love with Merrick. It was something I never confided to anyone yet I felt you deserved to know that much."
Steven asked the next question, which he believed would have been difficult for Shayla to answer but he asked it anyway. "Did he love you?"
Surprisingly enough Shayla answered that question as she looked in his eyes. "He never could admit it, mostly due to his duty to me. But I don't expect you to feel anything of love toward her. I know you are not Merrick but someone totally different." Shayla then broke down and cried and Steven came to her side.
"I don't want to be a ghost to you. A memory of what could have been."
"I realize that." Shayla said. "Even still, I know that you are meant to be the Lunar Wolf Ranger and that the others need your help. I would however like you to come to the Animarium like the others have."
"Sorry Princess but I'm fine with where I am." Steven answered. "As strange as this sounds I go where the wind tells me. But I'll be there to help if it's needed." He then noticed the amused look on Shayla's face and asked what that was about.
"Merrick always used to say that. You aren't him, but you are a part of him." She said softly.
"This is going to take a lot to get used to," Steven sighed.
"I understand. Not many people go through trials like this," Shayla said to him.
Just then Steven's cell phone went off and he took the call. It was from Tony. "Merrickson."
"Hey Steven we just finished the photo work on Adler and are now sending the photo via your palm." Tony said. Steven thanked Tony and grabbed the palm pilot out of his jacket. "What's this about?" Shayla asked.
"I asked one of my co-workers to take a photo of someone and aged it 20 years. I figured that it might provide a lead." Steven turned on the palm and saw the photo. But when Shayla saw the picture she gasped as she realized who the person was. "Oh no. That's Master Org."
Steven looked at Shayla wide eyed. "You sure about this?"
"Positive. I'll never forget that face." Shayla said. Steven thought for a minute and then got back on the phone with Tony. "Is there anything else?"
"Yeah, we also did some research on the Evans family whom Adler worked with last, and all known connections to them. We're sending those files to you now." Steven thanked Tony and then hung up. Shayla still looked mesmerized by the picture on the palm. "Who was he?"
"His name was Dr. Victor Adler." Steven said. "An archeologist at Turtle Cove University. But he went missing on an expedition with the Evans'. They were trying to find the ruins of Animaria."
Shayla remembered the last name of Cole and then asked, "Could those same Evans' be Cole's parents?" Steven said that he didn't see why they couldn't be. Then Shayla asked the last question.
"Could Adler's becoming of Master Org, and Cole's parents disappearing be connected?" Steven admitted that it very likely.
"I'd say yes."
Back at Arcadia Jindrax and Toxica presented Mandilok to Master Org. They explained that they left to find new forces, and had found Mandilok's tomb. Toxica then said she freed him/her, and brought him/her back to join his forces. Lies wrapped up in some truth.
"Master Org, I havew returned to serve you." Mandilok said smoothly, not allowing any deception to creep into his/her voice. "I know of your problems with these new Rangers and my skills can help you." Master Org thought for a moment and said "All right! You are welcome to be part of my forces. You can share field command with Nayzor."
"Thank you Master Org I will take my leave." Mandilok said as s/he, Toxica and Jindrax left. Once in the corridor Toxica wasted no time asking questions.
"Well?" Toxica asked.
Mandilok paused before answering. "This Master Org has made progress against the Rangers, and he has acquired significant resources to help him. But he is NOT the Master Org we have served 6,000 years ago."
"I thought so!" Toxica said. "He's human and he always was!"
"Always WAS perhaps. But it is clear that he is not any longer. He only keeps a portion of his humanity to keep the Wild Zords in line. Other than that, he's not just 'human' any longer. How did this happen?"
"The Rani made use of something she called a blue tank to rearrange Master Org's DNA." Jindrax explained. "It's also how we disposed of the first Rangers we faced."
"Blue tanks?" Mandilok asked.
"Tanks that contain some blue liquid that allows Rani to change DNA structures and other stuff." Toxica said. Mandilok heard Toxica's explanation and was impressed.
"I would like to see these tanks." Mandilok said. Jindrax and Toxica led the way, as Mandilok thought of how s/he could make use of one him/herself.
At the level where the blue tanks were located Jindrax and Toxica struggled to work the blue tank apparatus as Mandilok surveyed all the Taelon technology in the room. The two Duke Orgs were no closer to figuring out the blue tanks from when they started.
"How do these things work?" Jindrax asked.
"I don't know." Toxica said. "Ohhh it looks so easy when Ranitime does it!"
"Figure it out quickly!" Mandilok ordered as s/he turned from observing an I.D. portal apparatus and hit his/her fist on a console. As Mandilok hit the console s/he unknowingly activating the portal and everyone then turned to see the portal apparatus activate.
A figure then appeared at the center of the platform. The being seemed to radiate a bio luminescence, red mixed in with blue. It seemed to have something of a humanoid shape as it looked around at its surroundings. Upon seeing Jindrax, Toxica and Mandilok a skin appeared around the being as it took in the three beings before it.
"What manner of species are you?" the being asked. Mandilok was quick to answer this question.
"I am Mandilok. Mightiest of Duke Orgs! What are you?" Mandilok boasted with a loud voice full of bluster. When the being spoke it spoke in a calm and collected manner that was totally opposite of the way Mandilok spoke.
"I am Zo'or. Member of the Taelon Synod."
Upon hearing this Jindrax and Toxica were stunned. "You...you're one of Rani's benefactors aren't you? You gave her this technology?" Toxica found herself struggling with the words.
"She is performing a service to us." Zo'or had said. "We offered her technology in exchange for humans that we could use for examination. Tell me, has she secured these humans yet?"
"Oh...oh yes she has secured the humans." Toxica said. "She has them safely tucked away."
"Then I trust the reason that she has not delivered them to us is due to other matters?" Zo'or asked.
"Uhhh yeah." Jindrax said. "She had to make some deals in order to get the humans you want. But other humans are being difficult. She is trying to defeat these humans, but she has run into some problems."
"The human leading them is incompetent." Mandilok said. "The Orgs need a strong leader to lead them. Not someone that had himself genetically redone to be an Org."
"Did you say 'genetically redone?'" Zo'or asked. Jindrax confirmed it. "He also redid the genetic code of another human too."
Zo'or couldn't help but smile. And the smile seemed to give Toxica chills. "I see Rani has put our technology to good use. I look forward to reviewing the results of her labors with her."
"She's in her office." Toxica said.
"I wish to see her." Zo'or then spoke.
"Of course." Toxica said, but then paused. "But first could you do us a favor?"
Zo'or looked at the Orgs oddly. "What would you have me do?"
Jindrax then decided to make the pitch. "Yeah well, you see. Rani used these tanks to change Master Org and some girl into Orgs. And we were wondering..." It was then that Mandilok interrupted, not wanting to horse trade. "I wish to use the tanks myself. I wish to separate myself from the two feuding sides within me and embrace my true power!"
"Power you will use to usurp your leader?" Zo'or asked. Jindrax and Toxica didn't know how to react to that. They weren't sure whether to lie to this being or not so they didn't speak. However, the next few words from Zo'or stunned the Orgs.
"I shall aid you." Zo'or had said. Jindrax and Toxica were stunned. "You...you will?"
"Of course." Zo'or had said. "It doesn't matter to me who wins your power struggle, as long as the Synod gets the humans we request for examination."
"Rest assured, you will Zo'or." Mandilok already liked the way this Taelon thought.
"Then you may enter the tank. I will operate the equipment." Zo'or had said. Mandilok made his/her way into the blue tank as Jindrax and Toxica watched.
At first it started out slowly. So much so that Jindrax rapidly became bored. "Geez, can't this go any faster?"
"Patience." Zo'or had said. "Sometimes a delicate operation cannot be rushed. One must move carefully and steadily in order to achieve progress." With that Jindrax went back to watching with Toxica wondering when something was going to happen then finally Zo'or spoke again.
"Perfect, the microscopic divisions have taken place, now as the saying on this planet goes 'the fun can truly begin'." Jindrax and Toxica then watched as parts of Mandilok seemed to dissapear, and change, almost as if s/he was mutating into another being.
"The unnecessary attributes are being filtered out of Mandilok's genetic structure and are being processed into the mainframe for storage. It will take some time to stabilize however." Jindrax and Toxica continued to wait until the operation was completed.
Finally the operation was complete. A new Mandilok emerged from the blue tank.
This Mandilok was a far cry from the Mandilok of old. When one looked at the old Mandilok the thing that stuck out the most was the multiple mouths. With this Mandilok however there was plenty else to look at.
She had red glowing eyes, with a very feminine and sexy face adorned by light blue hair and ruby red lips. Body armor covered her torso while her cape hung from her shoulders. Her legs were exposed and had a light blue tint to them as did her upper arms. Ankle length boots covered her feet while armored gloves covered her wrists. It was clear that Mandilok had a very well endowed feminine side.
"I'm impressed." Mandilok said in a soft sultry voice.
"I figured that you would be." Zo'or had said. "However there was one attribute that I wasn't able to do away with entirely." Mandilok nodded as she understood. "Ahh yes. My hunger remains."
"But you do not necessarily have to satisfy it in the old ways. In fact there is a new way for you to satisfy that hunger if I am not mistaken." Mandilok nodded as she noticed a Putrid enter the chamber. It looked stunned at what was before him, but Mandilok moved quickly and soon was on top of the Putrid.
The Putrid struggled as Mandilok sat on top of it. An evil smile crossed her face, a smile of hunger as if the Putrid was a meal to it. "I just love being on top." She sneered as she brought forth her right hand. Glowing claws protruded from her hand and she held them just above the Putrid. "Don't worry, this will only hurt a little bit." Mandilok said as she jammed her claws straight into the Putrid's stomach and started feeding on its life energy.
Mandilok felt energized as the Putrid sustained her. All of its energy went into the Org as Mandilok fed on the Putrid. Finally there was nothing left as the Putrid crumbled into a pile of dust. Mandilok stood looking at her claws as her hunger was satiated...for now.
"Whoa!" Jindrax said.
"What was that?" Toxica asked.
"An ancient Taelon attribute. Used before we had evolved into our current state." Zo'or had said. "I figured that your Mandilok would need better ways to sustain her power instead of eating debris for only bits of energy that her old form could barely process."
"And a welcome one." Mandilok had said as she retracted her claws. "That Putrid's energy was by far more sustaining that any debris I could have consumed. Thank you." Zo'or nodded as if returning the thanks.
"And now I have business with the Rani." Zo'or then left the lab and made his way to where Rani's office was while Mandilok, Jindrax and Toxica made their plans.
Inside her office Rani was evaluating the battle that had taken place with her bio-surrogate Rangers and the Lunar Wolf against the Primal Force. She had not expected the appearance of Steven Merrickson, and she wondered what factor he would play, if any, in her future plans.
She reviewed the information on Kendall and even though Rani's treatments were still effective against Kendall's disintegration, she knew it would only be a matter of time before Kendall was gone completely as readout had shown Kendall continuing to deteriorate. Rani had to make sure the Rangers were defeated before then, or have a contingency in place if their defeat didn't happen. As Rani plotted she noticed her visitor appear as she was watching a file on her bio surrogates in action.
"I see you have been putting our technology to use." Zo'or said as he looked at the bio surrogate Rangers. "I trust these are the bio surrogates of the humans you will turn over to the Synod?"
"Yes." Rani said. "The humans you want are safely stored away. However I prefer to keep them on hand in case I need them for emergencies."
"In case your bio surrogates malfunction, and you need a new template?" Zo'or asked. "I have become aware of your business here. You are helping a species known as the Orgs deal with some Power Rangers that have arisen."
"How did you know?" Rani asked.
"You find out much when one walks the corridors of power." Zo'or said. "Such as a new Org that will be appearing soon. An Org named Mandilok."
"Mandilok?" Rani asked. "The Org that recently appeared? I already know of him."
"Oh 'she' is not a 'he' anymore. That aspect of her has been discarded. And she has now explored the powers that her dueling nature with herself had held at bay. She will make an interesting presence in the future." Rani picked up on Zo'or's words and felt that the Taelon was knowing more than he was letting on. "Do you refer to a power play?"
"Perhaps." Zo'or had said. "But whoever is in power in the Org hierarchy is not my concern. As long as the Synod gets it's humans we do not care who wins." Zo'or then turned to leave the room to where the Rani had a portal station set up. Zo'or then input the co-ordinates and stood on the platform. "Remember the deadline." Zo'or said as the portal activated and took Zo'or from Rani's office. Rani saw Zo'or depart and said under her breath. "You'll get your humans. And perhaps a little bit more."
For another night, in who knew how long, Kendall Matthews rested in a special chamber. A chamber designed to keep her body together as the power she possessed was breaking it down.
As she rested she thought of how her life was supposed to be. Her walking down an aisle with the most beautiful handsome man on her arm. Her loving him, him loving her, and both living happily ever after in a house with a white picket fence and lots of happy children. Never in her life did she expect to become an evil Power Ranger forced to attack other Rangers, and other people.
Never in her life had she felt so alone as she did right now. Her life, full of light and happiness, had turned into something dark and sinister. And there was nothing she could do to change it. She also hoped a handsome knight would come and save her, but none had come.
And she didn't think any would either.
~ I don't want to die like this.~ Kendall thought with tears falling down her face. ~ I don't want to die as an evil Ranger with power that will kill me.~
She prayed that the Primal Force would stop her. She prayed that they would either kill her or that she would die soon.
On the Animarium, Steven shared the information from CTU with the Primal Force. None could believe it.
"Are you saying that Adler could be masquerading as Master Org?" Sylvia asked. Steven nodded as Sylvia asked "Why?"
"I don't know." Steven said. "Professional jealousy? Jilted love affair, or maybe he's just evil for evil's sake. I know I've heard of a few like that." Steven remembered a mission Jack had mentioned one time dealing with a man called 'Victor Drazen', also known as 'the butcher of Belgrade'. Drazen was a monster that dealt with ethnic clensings and a number of atrocities in Kosovo, and Jack was commissioned by NSA to take him out. Jack had lost every member of his unit, but Drazen seemed to be eliminated and his threat ended.
Steven hoped that Adler wasn't another person like Drazen was, but he had to prepare for the worst to come.
"We need to find out more about Adler." Jeremy said. "Did your people send anything else?"
"A list of contacts." Steven said. "One of them was a student alongside Dr. Elizabeth Evans. In fact, this person's father helped fund a lot of the research Adler and the Evans' were part of. I convinced Tony to get my supervisor Jack Bauer to send her out and I'm heading to L.A. to meet with her."
"L.A.? That's a pretty far off distance." Sylvia said.
"It's the closest big airport where I can meet her. I will be back as soon as I can though." Steven turned to leave but Shayla stopped him again. "What is it Princess?"
"A little something for you." Shayla said handing the box to Steven as he opened it and inspected the item. He discovered the item to be a rather nice leather jacket, colored metallic blue with gray areas under the arms and around the collar. On the back there is a white moon on the back.
"You may not be the Lunar Wolf yet, but you will be. It feels only right that you should have this," Shayla said with a small smile.
Steven had a smile on his face as he slipped his hands through the long sleeves, roughly threw the jacket over his back, and then zipped it all the way up in the front. When he zipped the jacket up in the front, it had a Rorschach style wolf face etched in white, dead center on the chest. "Fits like a glove."
"Be careful." Kelly said as she said goodbye to Steven. Steven said "Don't worry I will be." Steven then walked off, as Shayla watched the look in Kelly's eyes. She had a feeling that she knew what it was.
And yet she also wondered if Kelly would ever act on those impulses, or would she be forever haunted by Xizor's words and actions forever.
Rani sat behind her desk allowing Zo'or's words to sink in. She found it interesting the power play that was happening within the Org hierarchy, with Jindrax and Toxica bringing in Mandilok. Also Rani was wondering what Mandilok's plans were, and wondered if she should not be part of them
~ Perhaps it's best I sit this out and see who wins.~ Rani thought. ~ The Taelons won't care as long as they get their humans. Whoever leads the Orgs is no business of mine.~ Rani continued to think about the events transpiring just as a signal came through on her console. Rani activated it and spoke to the person on the audio speaker.
"Ranitime, this is Jamey Farrell." The voice said on the other end. Rani raised an eyebrow when she heard this. While it was a good idea to have had a mole in the Counter Terrorist Unit to keep tabs on them in case they came too close to one of her operations, she didn't expect her to be calling now. Unless there was something going on with Jack Bauer, Taylor Bauer's uncle.
"Yes Ms. Farrell. I trust you have something for me?" Rani asked. Jamey said there was. "Jack has authorized someone to come over under CTU orders. Steven Merrickson is going to meet them now. I'm sending the file to you."
"Thank you Ms. Farrell. If the information is good you will have the appropriate sums deposited into your bank account." Rani then disconnected the call and reviewed the file Jamey had sent. Her eyes went wide in disbelief as she saw who the person was and reached for her laser pistol she kept under the desk.
"NO!!!" the Rani screamed as she fired at her monitor. Such outbursts of rage were very rare and uncommon with the Rani. However, when this person came into the picture, the Rani did not act as calm and collected as she was known.
Where she was concerned, all the Rani felt was the need to have her dead.
Steven made quick track to LAX to meet with the woman Jack had brought in to help. He had heard many things about her, but CTU and her paths did not always cross. In fact Jack had only met her once, but she made a lasting impression on him. Steven smiled as he remembered Jack say that if he wasn't married he would have probably run away with her to some tropical island where the two would have lived in sin.
~ It's a good thing he didn't. What would the wife think?~ Steven thought as he put the thought out of his mind just as the woman came up to him. "Agent Merrickson?" the English woman asked Steven, looking at his new jacket with curiosity.
"Yes. Welcome to America ma'am,"
"Let's skip the pleasantries and get to why I was brought halfway around the world on such short notice." She stated.
"What do you know about Victor Adler, Ms Croft?" Steven asked her.
Lara Croft took her sunglasses off and looked at the CTU agent, "This isn't just some terrorist threat is it."
"Far from it." Steven said as he took Lara out of the airport and got ready to take her to the one place that was totally safe... and perhaps to see the look on the famous Tomb Raider's face from seeing a floating island would also be worth it.
"Lara Croft... how many times have I wished her to be dead..." the Rani growled as it was now confirmed that Merrickson had just picked up one of the most ~ Correction, she IS the most annoying thorn I have ever had the displeasure of knowing! Not the most troublesome, but by far the most annoying one of them all.~
When she had first came back to earth and had been reading up on current events, she had found this one particular news story and she couldn't believe it. The headline read 'Egyptian Pyramid collapses. Famed Archeologist presumed dead.' With Lara Croft's image on the cover.
The Rani laughed hysterically for several minutes when she saw that. It was as if her birthday when she saw it. Composing herself, she continued to read the article as it told all about Lara's attempt to return the Crown of Set to its home so that the Evil God Set would not be freed and rain terror on the planet.
Also part of that expedition was Lara's old mentor Werner Von Croy, who Lara thought dead for years. Von Croy tried to steal an artifact from a tomb once that Lara warned him not to take. Von Croy ignored young Lara's recommendation and tried to take it anyway. An action that led to the tomb collapsing around him and Lara barely escaping.
Von Croy and Lara's paths crossed again. This time it was Von Croy trying to warn Lara away, and this time it was Lara doing the ignoring. Since Set wasn't freed the Rani assumed Lara succeeded in keeping Set entombed, but the pyramid collapsed all around her with Lara still inside it. No body was found, but no one was holding out much hope that Lara was still alive.
The Rani hadn't. In fact she had celebrated very well for it. However, the old earth expression of don't count your chickens before they are hatched was one that came to pass as only two weeks ago, she ended up finding a new article.
'Mayan Temple Destroyed Along with Terrorists. Lara Croft Alive.'
She had a very long fit when learning that. When you end up celebrating over someone's death only to find out they are still alive, it makes the celebration feel very pathetic, pointless and a waste of time. Still, she should have known better. Even though she wasn't a Time Lord, Lara Croft was just like the Rani in one certain way. They both had a knack for coming back when people least expected it.
~ I don't know just what they called you here for Croft, but you are NOT going to mess this experiment up!~ she vowed as she placed her right hand, almost unconsciously over her stomach. When she did that, it was as if she remembered the exact moment when she had very nearly died. When she felt the Buster Wolf rip through her Luna Titanium battle armor and her own flesh, blowing a large gaping hole through her original body. She remembered the deal made with Lord Mirabilis, giving her a body that was truly immortal, at least more immortal than a Time Lord's was.
However, she knew she couldn't let her hated for Croft get to her. After all if it wasn't for her taking the time to gloat over Croft, to prolong her agony rather than just kill her when she had the chance, then she would have never gotten that nice hole blown right through her stomach.
And that was the part the Rani hated the most. That in some perverse way, everything she had right now, she owed to Lara Croft being who and what she was.
Did that make any sense? The Rani didn't have an answer to that question. All she knew is that she had to neutralize Croft some how. But then again she didn't know how long Croft would stay.
"It would appear observation would be in order," the Rani decided. For now, she would watch Lara Croft.
And her own actions would be what determined what actions the Rani took against her.
At another area of the Animaria the Deerzord was looking out at the landscape when it noticed the presence of another animal that arrived. Deerzord nodded to the approaching Wildzord and spoke in their own languages. Deer in her sounds while the Wolfzord spoke in his tongue of growls.
'It's good to see you again.' The Wolfzord said to the Deerzord.
'And you. I only wish the circumstances were more ideal.'
'What does this involve? Is your mistress in trouble?'
'Perhaps. You know she was violated.'
'By Xizor. I know.' Wolfzord had a trace of anger in his voice. 'She should not have to suffer like that.'
'She will not have to.' Deerzord said. 'I feel a connection between my pilot and yours, but neither are willing to pursue it for reasons of their own. For my mistress I believe it was because of the actions taken against her.'
'Do you believe my pilot can help?' Wolfzord asked. Deerzord nodded 'yes'.
'But what of the Princess?' Wolfzord couldn't help but ask.
'You know such a relationship between your pilot and the Princess cannot be. Back then it was because of station. Now it's because she sees a ghost of a man long dead. Your pilot now is not the same man as the pilot you had millennia ago.'
'You are correct there.' Wolfzord said. 'But all the same the Princess deserves happiness. Even you must concede that.'
'I do.' Deerzord answered. 'But her happiness is not with your pilot. I believe his happiness is with mine.' Wolfzord thought of what his fellow Wildzord was saying, and while he was saddened that Steven and the Princess would not be together, he agreed that a connection between Steven and Kelly was more likely. Reluctantly he accepted Deerzord's recommendation.
'How do you want to do this?' Wolfzord then asked.
'Observe him. Watch him if he plays music.' Wolfzord couldn't believe what he was hearing. 'Music?'
'It may be a common thread.' Deerzord said. Wolfzord then nodded as he then went back to the Roadhouse where he knew Steven would return to. Deerzord however hoped that she was right about Steven being involved in music. Some calls of the soul couldn't be avoided.
And she hoped those calls of the soul would heal Kelly's heart, and lead her to love again.
At that moment, the object of the Rani's hate was feeling a little annoyed at having to have a blindfold over her eyes. "If this is all some sort of sick joke," Lara Croft warned Steven.
"Don't worry. It isn't," Steven replied as he as went behind her and undid the blindfold, "And we're here."
"And where is..." Lara froze in mid-sentence as she saw everything around her. "Oh my god..."
"Welcome to the Animarium." Steven said with a smirk on his face. It dropped when he saw Lara turn around, her eyes wide as she held up against a stonewall, "Ms Croft?"
"The Animarium... that's where we are?" Lara asked in disbelief.
"Yes, what's wrong?" Steven asked.
"One of my fathers' students was trying to find this place for so long. Father thought she wasn't spending her resources right. That it was just a myth." Lara muttered. She soon heard a bird cry and looked up to see the RedFalconzord in the skies.
"This not a myth," Steven said.
"I can see that," Lara rolled her eyes at him. Immediately the Primal Force and Eric introduced themselves, and then Shayla was the last to offer greetings.
"Welcome friend, I am Princess Shayla."
Lara looked at the princess and nodded. "It is an honor to be here. It is good to know that one of my fathers' student's dreams has come true."
"I just wish that it turned out better for her." Shayla said. Lara wondered what she meant by that. Steven started to explain.
"I take it you are aware that Elizabeth Evans and her party dissapeared on their Animarium mission?" Lara nodded as Steven continued. "We have found evidence to support that the expedition might have been sabotaged."
"Sabotaged?" Lara asked.
"By this man." Jeremy then came forward and laid a picture of Victor Adler on the stone Lara was near. Lara seemed to have an expression of stone on her face when she looked down at Adler's picture.
"Very few people give me cause for concern." Lara explained. "This man is one of them."
"Can you tell us about him?" Willy asked. Lara then explained.
"He had worked with Werner Von Croy for a while before going off on his own." Lara explained. "However unlike me, Von Croy saw no reason to lie to Adler in order to train him." Lara then explained how Von Croy took her on her first dig only because Von Croy needed someone to sneak in and open hidden passages. With Adler, Von Croy was able to be more open and honest with him. "Werner taught Adler as much of his dirty tricks as he could before he left for Turtle Cove to try to be a teacher."
"Where he met the Evans'." Kelly said. Lara nodded.
"I got some correspondence from Elizabeth." Lara said. "She had taken a liking to me and my father, and I to her. She said she had found a wonderful man she would marry, as well as meeting Adler. Elizabeth said he seemed nice enough, but there was always something that unsettled her."
"But he went with them on the Animarium dig." Curtis said.
"Yes." Lara said. "And they all dissapeared there. Even the baby that was born there"
"No Ms. Croft. Not all of them." Steven said as he presented another photo of Adler, only with him as Master Org. Lara looked at the photo in disbelief. "What...what happened?"
"I don't know." Shayla said. "He apparently found the remains of the original Master Org and used them to make himself the new Master Org. The Wild Force dissapeared after that. Elizabeth's son Cole, who was a member of the Wild Force dissapeared with them."
"Elizabeth's son survived?" Lara asked.
"Apparently, but he's missing now too." Sylvia said. "And Master Org isn't the same as in that photo either."
Now it was Eric's turn to explain. "Master Org got some back up to deal with the Wild Force. They have been giving these Rangers trouble too. They appear to be led by a woman named the Rani." Eric soon realized that when he said the Rani's name that he might have said the wrong thing.
"THE RANI!!!" Lara exclaimed. Everyone turned to look at her as her face had contorted in rage, anger, hatred, and lothing. "That isn't possible! She supposed to be dead!"
"I heard what the Orgs said one of their 'friends' was called very clearly. Onihime said her name was 'The Rani' and she was the one that did what ever it is the Orgs have done to the Wild Force Rangers."
Lara tried to keep her rage inside, but it was very close to impossible as she let it out by slamming her fist against the stone wall. "Damn it! Damn it Terry! You should have let me put the bullet between her eyes when I had the chance! None of this would have happened otherwise! Damn it!"
"What? What are you talking about?" Jeremy asked.
Lara paused before she went into detail about the joint operation that she was a part of five years ago. "I was part of a group that was going against the Rani at Arcadia Arizona. The Rani was hoping to use some children to take part in another twisted experiment of hers."
Shayla couldn't believe what she heard. "Did I hear you right? This woman was going to experiment on children?"
"It's not the first time she's done that believe me." Lara said. "My cousin was one of her victims. Rani killed her parents and then took her away to experiment on. When I found out Rani was looking to do it again, I knew I had to stop her for good." Lara then explained what happened at Arcadia Arizona five years ago.
"We got into what they thought would be a final battle but the Rani used trickery to gain an upperhand, and was ready to kill me, except Terry Bogard who was with me on that run came and attacked the Rani, landing a move that blew out half of her torso, right in the middle." Lara paused allowing the imagery of what Rani went through to sink into the Rangers' minds before continuing. "She was down to her last regeneration and she couldn't come back after what had been done to her. I had wanted to put a bullet through her skull, lord knows she deserved it, but Terry convinced her not to, saying it was better not to become what she hated most, and that the Rani would die soon enough because of her wound.
"We left her there for dead, but in a conversation with the Doctor that I remember clearly, he said that he didn't put it past the Rani that she might find a way to survive. And what do you know... the Doctor was right. The bitch survived." Lara said bitterly.
"I don't believe it." Kelly said. "Was she that evil?"
"And then some." Lara said. "From what the Doctor said Rani allows no morals to get into the way of her experiments. She is clerely a woman with no conscience."
The thought of the Rani was scaring every one of the Primal Force. Kelly felt shivers run down her spine. Steven placed a hand on her shoulder and Kelly felt reassured. Shayla however turned her head away.
"So what do we do?" Eric then asked.
"We need to find out exactly what happened at the Evans' camp." Lara said. "I'd say it's time to take a trip to the Amazon."
The Animarium then changed direction and headed for the Amazon which was where the original Animarium Kingdom once was.