On the right track

When I saw the first ten or so minutes of the show I thought for sure that Sherlock would go and accuse Culverton Smith based on the accusations of the man’s daughter. That Holmes would be betrayed by the daughter and end up hospitalised (I had seen the hospital bed in the trailer). This would allow Culverton to kill him, which had been his plan all along. And then Holmes would prove he was correct using the modern equivalent of somebody standing out of sight and listening.

That wasn’t how it turned out. As it turns out Culverton Smith had no idea about his “daughter” seeking out Sherlock Holmes or the detective’s increasing obsession with him. There was no plan to set Sherlock up for failure which we might have seen with an earlier villain. All we had with Culverton Smith was an evil man who couldn’t stop confessing and letting people know what he was while making it impossible for them to use his words against him. As villain’s go he was a very simple rich bad guy.

E on the other hand… Now I stated a while back that I thought Sherlock had been mentally conditioned by Mycroft and that his older brother was slowly feeding him the key to memories he had suppressed. That made me wonder if Sherlock knows he has at least one other sibling (something about that line that people stop looking at three thinking although this could be yet another reference to the possibility that the 13th episode will by the last)? Do his parent know and what did Mycroft do? What did Sherlock do will be a more appropriate question I think.

So the episode ends with E or Euros (the East Wind) shooting John. I really can’t wait to see where this goes.

Save John Watson… from what?

Tonight I watched the death of Mary Watson and I was upset. After surviving a vengeful former comrade who believed that she had betrayed him, she died saving Sherlock from being shot by a mere secretary. It was a wasteful needless death caused almost entirely by Sherlock's need to taunt. And throughout the scene Mary told him to stop and he ignored her because his inability to truly understand human emotion. It was actually a cool flashback to that first episode where Sherlock and Mary met after John had hit him a few times and Sherlock could not understand why his friend wasn't pleased to see him. This time it cost a life.

Then came the last few minutes and the message to save John Watson. Save him from whom? I'm assuming it was the red headed woman on the bus. No idea how Mary knew about his apparent affair, but maybe there is more to E (after Missy anytime a character announces themselves as a letter or short name I can't help think "what's it short for?") and her comment about being a vampire than a simple joke.

If not then the next best guess is himself. At the end of the episode John Watson has lost his wife and turned his back on his best friend. Who will help him put his life back together if the two people who love him the most are not around? I bet the Molly/Watson ficcers are already working on this.

Good thing is there is only a week until we find out.

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger – please be good

Please let the 2017 Sentai be a good one.

It's really gotten bad to be at the point where I have gone 18 months without giving Kamen Rider more than an occasional and stopped watching the Super Sentai after the fourth week (I had to force myself to watch it that long). Seriously the Kamen Rider Ghost theme was a good idea but they just failed to put it all together. Drive was a brilliant series in my mind so maybe I am a little biased.

However 2016's Super Sentai has been awful. The mecha looks like something a 3 year old would build out of Duplo Bricks, there are far too many ideas mashed together in there and really is does seem like South park's theory of how Family Guy's creators come up with their ideas. Hey let's put (spinning the wheel) animal people against (spin the wheel) game playing villains. It did just occur to me if they had just taken the villains and given them to Kamen Rider they've have gotten it right.

And had they done that maybe there's a chance I would have enjoyed Ex-Aider too. Alas it seems that the standard for Kamen Rider has fallen for the second year in a row.

Justice League / Power Rangers Crossover

I've just seen the news that there is to be a JLA and Power Rangers crossover. In the past DC has accomplished crossovers with He-Man, Marvel Comics, Thundercats and many other franchises, so I suppose bringing in Power Rangers is not that big a stretch.

But I do have a problem with such crossovers and that problem is Superman. You see Superman is depending on the writer, powerful enough to shift planets on his own and the rest of the JLA are often portrayed as his peers, each with a level of power that grows and diminishes according to how powerful Superman appears. So against the likes of Machine Empires or space pirates it would raise the question of why do we need the Power Rangers?

Of course the good thing about Power Rangers is that there are different types of villains. There are the machines, and pirates and aliens, but there are also the magic users. And there perhaps lies the type of villain that would cause Superman to ask for help. After all he is known to have a slight… weakness when it comes to hocus pocus. Now the JLA does have its own magic users, but I'm not sure many of them could be described as warriors, which when facing an invading army is probably a useful thing to be.

And then I can't help but wonder how they will meet. If they were meeting with Turbo or RPM I could have seen the Flash blundering his way into a crossover by vibrating a bit too much around the barriers between dimensions. And then of course there are always the possibilities of external influences drawing the two worlds together for ulterior motives. It should be noted at this point that I'm assuming the JLA will find their way to the Power Rangers' world when it is perfectly possible that this is all the results of an evil spell or one of Billy's inventions gone awry.

Clash of the Champions

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers; they belong to their respective copyright owners and are used here without permission. No money is being made from this fic. This is an alternate universe from the television show with an alternate timeline.
Authors Note: This is the first part of a new series exploring what happens when evil gets its hands on the Zeo Crystal. It is based in an alternate reality within the Conquest of Evil Multiverse. However in this reality events did not run quite the same. This chapter sees the one and only appearance of Minion in this series. There is no Samoht Revilo/Tom Oliver to save the day here.

Clash of the Champions

“The best laid plans of mice
and men often go awry”

====
Flashback

“A mirror, right?” the impostor asked.

As soon as he spoke, he knew it was a mistake. Even Kimberly would not make things that easy, more likely it had been something only the true Billy would know. ‘Damn!’ He’d been so busy fighting the real Billy that he had not paid enough attention. She had tricked him, using some stupid hologram project Billy had supposedly been working on earlier, not a mirror. How was he supposed to know when Zedd had never told him that?

“Wrong, it’s a hologram.” Kim said with a superior grin.

Billy shook his head, trying to clear it while the clone pushed him off. How did Kimberly get his hologram, anyhow? He’d just used it. Not that he was complaining. She had used it to discover he was the real Billy and not some clone. Now they would make the fake pay for his mistake and send a message to Zedd about the uselessness of trying to create false Rangers.

“It’s Morphin’ Time.” Tommy called. In seconds, the Power Rangers were lined up, facing the clone, their weapons levelled and at the ready.

The Blue Ranger raised his blade blaster. “Your masquerade is over,” he said. “You picked the wrong Ranger to replicate!”

Billy fired his blade blaster. The impostor dodged it skilfully, but the other Rangers opened fire alongside their comrade. Luckily his suit had been created from the power of the Morphin Grid and was just as resilient as that of the real Blue Ranger. The blasts damaged him, ripped into his suit, but the natural protection prevented them from causing more than a few bruises.

“All together,” Billy suggested.

The Blue Ranger picked a spot on one shoulder and fired, the others quickly joining with him to create a single, powerful burst of energy. A small hole appeared in the fabric, hardly a great result considering the energy they had poured into their combined fire. But it was enough to break the protective aura created by the Power; it was enough dislodge the mask that hid his wicked soul.

The clone screamed, consumed by the Power as it started to run wild through his body. The powers of the Morphin Grid were not to be trifled with and the powers used to create Rangers should never have been touched by evil. The Power escaped him, shredding him as it did so and leaving him vulnerable to the Rangers’ next shot. He was not foolish enough to remain and used the explosion as cover to return to his master on the Moon.

Teleporting was painful, almost unbearable, but just as the Power could not be perverted, the powers he had received upon morphing could not be prevented from working while he was morphed. Ranger healing intensified by the magic of Lord Zedd had already started to heal him by the time he had vanished. Still the shock of teleporting was too great and he passed out.

He came around seconds later when he felt a sword probing his side. He pushed it away weakly… his shoulder was still damaged no doubt due to the power the Rangers had blasted at him. At the time his body had been pumping with adrenaline. Now his body had returned to a more reasonable state, the pain was back in force. Reluctantly he opened his eyes.

Fangs and red eyes filled his bleary vision. He jumped and tried to back away but he was already up backed up against the wall. Goldar’s ugly mug was not something he wanted to wake up to on a regular basis. He realised that he was in normal clothes, not the uniform he had been wearing. And the power coin he had hoped to obtain was gone too. ‘Lost during transit no doubt.’ No, not gone he realised as he felt a thin wafer of metal in his pocket. In retrospect that was all he could have gained. He wasn’t holding onto the morpher at the time they transformed. Power morphers were easy to build; a decent power coin was another matter.

Goldar scratched his head. This was something new. Typically a defeated monster came back in pieces or in the case of Zedd’s monsters just didn’t come back. Granted, the replica appeared wounded, but it was just strange enough that he summoned Lord Zedd.

“Master…” Goldar droned to his leader,” We might be able to reuse this one.”

The replica’s face contorted into a scowl. He didn’t appreciate Goldar using him to score points with Lord Zedd, especially when it was his existence on the line.

Lord Zedd looked at the monster before him, puzzled about how it had survived the onslaught with only minor damage. It was a big surprise to see him there when he knew the statue had been returned to the foolish girl who crafted it.

The replica blinked. Was it really possible that he was alive? He remained silent though, aware that Lord Zedd was standing less than two feet away. He should, he thought slowly, try to do something to convince his master to spare him, but what? Zedd was not known to forgive failure, look at how he had banished Rita. He could sense his impending doom and shivered, trying dizziness and the pain from his arm.

Zedd chuckled. “Well, my plan may not have completely failed after all.” He kicked the clone, which made no real effort to avoid the blow, not wishing to aggravate his master into more drastic means of showing his displeasure. “Yes, a most interesting turn of events.”

“What?” Goldar thought he understood. “How do you want him punished, my lord? Perhaps some time in the Caves of No Hope.”

Lord Zedd shook his head in disgust at Goldar’s stupidity. “We don’t want to kill him, you moron. Not now. In spite of his failure, this clone could still prove useful. The question is whether he values his pitiful life?”

“Please master,” the clone begged. “I can still be useful. I know things about the Rangers. I know how Billy thinks; I know how the Zords work.”

“Fool!” Goldar growled. “The mighty Lord Zedd is too important to listen to your pitiful pleas.”

“Silence, Goldar. This creature was made by Rita, he is bound to be flawed.” He held the tip of his staff beneath the clone’s throat, inching it closer until it drew a thin bead of blood. “Interesting, Rita’s creations do not bleed.” He leaned forward so the grill on his head was touching the clone’s chin. “Prove yourself useful,” he challenged.

The clone reacted on instinct, grabbing the staff and using it as a pivot to take Zedd off his feet. He spun; catching Goldar before the titan could draw his sword and tried to grapple him to the ground. But Goldar was not in Zedd’s employ for his classic good looks and charm. He was there to provide a little extra muscle as he demonstrated by pitching the clone away from him. The clone looked up to see both Zedd and Goldar standing above him, their weapons drawn. His hand tightened around the wafer of power coin in his pocket.

“What is that?” Zedd demanded, spotting the movement.

Goldar wasn’t subtle in his attempt to find out. His powerful foot slammed into the replica’s wrist and forced the fist to open.

“So, you can fight and you have a piece of a power coin,” Zedd mused. “With Goldar’s assistance you may yet prove useful.”

“Zeddy! What is that doing here?” Rita demanded.

“Our little clone has come back to us my wicked wench,” Zedd laughed.

“Good, he can help Finster in his laboratory as raw material.” Rita never could see the bigger picture. She stared at the clone for a while, recognising the Super Putty used in manufacturing the original figure. Where had that girl found Super Putty?

Zedd looked at his wife ready to argue back when the palace started to shake.

“What is that?” Zedd demanded, not used to having his tirades interrupted before they were started.

In answer to his question there was a sudden burst of flame accompanied by a pleasant yet sickly smell. Smoke enveloped the area before lifting like curtains to reveal the new arrival. She was tall with long black hair, which trailed behind like a cloak with emerald strands showing. In some places the dying spell had yet to take place and the black looked decidedly grey. Her eyes were cold and conveyed very little as she looked around the room before her gaze settled on Rita and Zedd.

“So this is what happened to you,” she said after a short time, looking at Rita critically.

“Who is this woman?” Zedd demanded, pointing his staff at the intruder and ignoring his wife’s desperate warnings not to.

“Zeddy,” she squeaked, noting that Goldar and the rest of her former henchmen had decided to kneel. The clone had followed suit, deciding to play it safe and maybe live a while longer. “This is my mother, Monastra Repugna.”

“Your mother?” Zedd asked, clearly confused. “Great, just what we need, a useless member of your family to leach off us.”

“How dare you? I am Monastra Repugna, Mistress of the Dark Cosmos and sworn enemy of all that is good,” Monastra announced proudly. Her cold eyes fixed on Zedd’s staff, which he now lowered. “So you’re the man, who married my beloved daughter,” she said thoughtfully, “I don’t think her father will approve. He prefers suitors with their own skull.”

“Daddy disowned you, you’re not even connected to him anymore,” Rita pointed out.

“True, your father is an extraordinarily evil creature, but even he could only entertain me for a while. After a few centuries domination of the M-51 Galaxy can be so dull. Your father and I still speak though. He’s not the man I called husband anymore and I am not the woman he declared unfit to be his wife. We’ve both had out little… changes. You on the other hand have not changed. The least you could have done was to restyle your hair.”

“Enough!” Zedd boomed. “I don’t care about my wife’s imbecilic family. What are you doing here in my palace?”

“Oh I’m just passing by and thought I’d drop in on my favourite daughter,” Monastra responded. She continued, apparently ignoring Zedd’s tirade. “I’m planning on starting my own little empire in the far corner of this little Galaxy. You needed worry though, I’ll allow you to keep this planet, if you can ever conquer it that is.”

Zedd snorted, earning him a disapproving look. He seriously disliked this woman who had invaded his home without an invitation. He couldn’t stand the idea of relatives turning up and refusing to leave.

“So Rita, what have you been up to for the past ten millennia?”

“She got trapped in a Dumpster,” Goldar blurted out, earning a sharp look from Monastra and a look of absolute hatred from Rita. He shied away from the first and returned the second with his own look of disgust.

“Quiet monkey brains,” Rita ordered. “I might have been put in a Dumpster, but I did trap Zordon.”

“So that was you,” Monastra said with a touch of emotion showing. “At least that is something. And now you are stuck here on this rock attacking some backward planet, why?”

“Zordon is there,” Rita answered. If they played this right, then maybe her mother would help her.

“Besides, Earth is not an easy planet to conquer,” Zedd interjected. He was keen to save face. “They have Power Rangers.”

“All planets worth conquering have Power Rangers,” Monastra answered. “That’s no excuse for incompetence. If you cannot handle things, step aside and someone else can deal with it.”

“You arrive here — in my palace — telling me how to deal with those Rangers?” Zedd was furious. “Putties, remove her.”

“Putties, you use Putties?” There was amusement in her voice as she asked. “Oh my, you really went all out to create your own forces Zedd,” she added sarcastically as she took in his poorly modified Z-Putties. “Please, tell me these are not your normal foot soldiers.”

“Of course they’re not!” Zedd snapped. This woman knew she was annoying him and seemed to enjoy making him twitch angrily.

Still, he wasn’t angry enough to stop his Z-Putties from advancing on the wretched woman. Against Rangers they were practically useless, something Zedd had come to expect. However against a witch like Monastra, a woman not used to the trials of regular combat, he expected them to prove useful. They advanced on her while she watched with interest. Only when they pounced, did she act, turning to look at Rita.

“Didn’t you teach your husband that these Putties are little more than golems?” she asked.

“I know that,” Zedd snorted as the first Z-Putty made contact with her arm.

“Then you should have foreseen the outcome,” she told him.

The first putty solidified as it touched her, the shell breaking down rapidly as it crumbled into dust. A second stepped towards her only to start bubbling rapidly as she forced it to boil.

“To the unskilled general, like my beloved daughter, these Putties are a useful resource. Loyal, numerous and ultimately expendable. Anybody can create a Putty given the right tools; Monster-matic, energy from a staff, it’s the same thing in the end. Both methods make equally inferior Putties.”

She reached down and scooped some of the molten clay that had been the second Super Putty. She closed her fist, squashing the clay into a deformed ball.

“Now a real witch who knows what she is doing can accomplish so much more. Rita learnt how to make Putties from her father, but he only learnt the skills in passing. Her brother lacked the skills to learn the arts of golem making altogether. I however, learnt from the best: my grandmother. Rita can use clay to make Putty Patrollers and perhaps the odd monster. In my hands, this clay can do anything. Watch.”

The rough ball bubbled into a perfect sphere, which came to life in her palm. It rolled to the ground and started to spin like a top. Suddenly, it jumped into the air and formed a giant blade, which severed one of the heads from the closest Z-Putties. When it landed, it leaped again, although this time it nearly split in two. Two smaller balls formed with blades of their own, joined by a very fine fibre of material connecting the two. Two more Putties were cut in half by the smaller spheres, and then the balls spun around each other, hitting some more. After reforming quickly, the ball then threw a projectile about the size of a golf ball, at incredible speeds at dense group of the Z-Putties, striking the “z” spot with ease. Several were destroyed in this way as the projectile ricocheted around, and Monastra seemed to smile ever more gleefully as the sphere mercilessly slaughtered the few remaining foot soldiers.

As she turned her hand, the ball reformed back into a perfect sphere and calmly rolled back to her waiting palm. Around her she could sense Rita and Zedd’s unease at the power she had displayed. Although it took all her willpower not to show the effect such a display of power had on her. Magic was exhausting, creating golems even more so. Still it had probably made Zedd aware that she was not to be fooled with.

Rita looked over the crumbled remains of the Z-Putties wondering why she had never learnt to use her skills to this level. With that sort of power, her battles against Zordon would have turned out far differently.

“Mistress Repugna,” a cheerful voice called as Scorpina entered the chamber, skilfully avoiding the kneeling henchmen until she was level with the female villain. She bowed, the smile never leaving her face.

“Scorpina dear,” Monastra greeted as a genuine smile appeared on her face. “If I had known you were here I would have visited before.”

Mistress Repugna had always had a soft spot for Scorpina. In fact of all her daughter’s so called servants, Scorpina was the only one she would attempt to start a conversation with. Scorpina was a fine warrior and although never trained in magic, a skill Monastra believed could have benefited the female Edenite, she was underhanded, deceptive, cruel… all the things a good warrior should be.

“I must admit that with you on her side, I am surprised Rita has taken so long to conquer this little world.” She emphasised the word little, not believing that Earth was a worthy target. After all, its population was primitive and weak. As slave labour they would be useless. As far as materials went there was very little of value to be found on Earth, at least to a powerful witch like herself.

“She has been as useless as the rest of these fools,” Zedd complained.

“And how often has she been allowed to act alone?”

“Once,” Goldar answered, “and she failed, just like Rita did.”

“And how many were you allowed to try Goldar?” she asked, displeased by the titan’s interruption.

“If… if you please Mistress Repugna,” Finster managed. “We have all been unlucky.”

“Ah yes, Finster,” Monastra drawled. “Ever the practical one. How are your monsters?”

“Not good my lady,” Finster answered. “The Power Rangers have an extraordinary amount of luck when it comes to my creations.”

“I see. That is to be expected. You are an artist Finster, a creator of beautifully monstrous beings. As a monster maker you far surpass my skills. But you were not born a conqueror. Your monsters like you lack the desire to triumph, not the skill. And Squatt and Baboo, how are my favourite potion makers and warlocks?”

“Hey, great to see you,” Baboo greeted.

Monastra sighed. “I suppose even the best villains have to endure incompetence at some point. In your case Rita, it would seem to be since your release. Or perhaps” she looked at Zedd, “perhaps I should say since your marriage.”

“If you think you can do a better job be my guest,” Zedd snapped and immediately regretted his words. He disliked this woman and wanted her gone as quickly as possible. Now because of his big mouth he had practically invited her to move in.

“Sorry Zedd,” she said quietly, flashing him a brilliant smile. “I have better things to do than sort out my daughter’s mess. I’m sure the two of you can work something out if you put you heads together… Oh hello, I didn’t see you there.” The replica looked up as she addressed him and her face contorted into one of absolute disgust. “Minions, you’re using clones? Your situation is worse than I thought.” She turned to the now blushing clone and offered her hand, trying not to look like she had a piece of dung under her nose when he kissed it. “So is this your new plan Zedd?”

“No,” Zedd replied dryly. “This is the remains of my last plan.”

“I see,” she said, turning her gaze back to the clone, her curiosity driving her to examine the craftsmanship. She gently prodded his arms and legs, but when she touched his face she let out a cry of anguish and recoiled angrily. “What kind of a joke is this Zedd?” she demanded.

“It is not a joke Mom,” Rita whined. “I used Zedd’s staff to bring a copy of that goody two shoes Billy to life.”

“Impossible,” her mother proclaimed. “Cloning would not have given him a link to the Morphin Grid.”

“Oh that,” Rita said dismissively. “He shared a morph with a Power Ranger.”

Monastra was silent. This was unheard of.. Minions created in the way Zedd and Rita described should have had no more link to the Morphin Grid than a Putty Patroller should. Yet she could sense the power there within him. ‘This one has potential.’

She raised her hand again, this time commanding the clay used to craft the clone. She watched with interest as it obeyed her, repairing the damage caused to the clone’s body. On impulse she flicked a finger and watched as his arm jerked in response. More fingers flicking rapidly and the clone was performing what could only be described as a dance. Although whether it was the Monkey or the Swim, she couldn’t have said.

Once again Zedd was convinced that the Mistress Repugna was special. She had certainly set a new record with him. Usually Zedd didn’t make up his mind until he met someone for the third or fourth time. But Rita’s mother was different because although he had only known her for a few minutes, Zedd thoroughly loathed the old witch.

“I fail to see how those Rangers could have defeated you so often,” she announced crossly. The left side of her face twitched she attempted to sneer at her son-in-law. With her magically altered face though it looked more like she was winking at him. Zedd recoiled in disgust; Mistress Repugna was old enough to be his grandmother. She ignored his reaction and continued. “You have the power to destroy this planet, you have more monsters than is healthy and regardless of how you act, you seem to be a powerful wizard… for a halfwit. With the right plan, Zedd, you have everything you need to ensure victory.”

“Then why does he keep on failing?” Rita whined.

“Some are born to be great villains Rita,” she said. “Some are born to be losers. Sadly you married the wrong sort.”

“Why you…”

“Quiet Zeddy, getting worked up will not help you,” Rita crooned.

“I think I’ll take this little sweetheart,” Mistress Repugna said, sliding her hands over a very nervous looking clone. “Maybe by the time I visit next time you will have thought up a sufficiently evil scheme. Otherwise, I might just have to try running things. Have fun kids.” She disappeared in a column of flame, resuming her search for her brother. The clone looked around uncertain of what to do, when the flames reappeared and a very feminine hand dragged him away by the neck.

“Well, what did she give you?” Zedd asked while looking at the box Monastra had throw to his wife.

“Us Zeddy, she gave it to us,” Rita corrected nervously. In her palm she held a small box, which opened to reveal a figurine of a silver cat.

Zedd snorted in disgust and turned his attention back to ensuring that the wretched woman had left the Moon and was not lurking nearby. He was relieved to discover that she was gone and had apparently taken Scorpina with her. Neither woman would be missed in a hurry.

Meanwhile Rita was looking at the figurine with great interest. The silvery object had given her a new plan, one that would take time to come to fruition. She would need to find a suitable candidate and a spell. But then with luck she would have the means to draw all the Power Rangers into a trap. Especially that pesky traitor Tommy.

====

The Moon,
Months Later

It had been a busy time for Rita and Zedd. And while they could not claim to have achieved complete or even near victory, they had certainly not lost the war. In all fairness they had been on the brink of conquering Earth when the Machine Empire had arrived and evicted them. Now they were looking to retake control.

In the time before they had fled the Moon, they had been close to victory. True, the Power Rangers had managed to steal the Shogun Zords away from Rita and rescued Kimberly Hart despite Zedd’s plan to use her as a hostage, but they had not won the war. Zedd still had held the Falcon Zord that Katherine had captured for weeks because they were designed to act as a united force, he had incapacitated the collective Ninja Zords. As an added plus, they had managed to capture the great Ninjor and had used him to further their plans. That miserable maker of power coins had soon started to wish that he had stayed inside his temple.

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


Flashback

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

“Three cheers for Lord Zedd!” Goldar cried.

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

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

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

“Hold on Kim,” he said as he swiftly crossed the cave. “I’m getting you out of here.”

“Wrong, Ranger.”

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

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

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

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

Zedd laughed mockingly. “I’m far more powerful than you can ever handle, White Ranger.”

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

“Is that really necessary?” Zedd inquired. “Here I’ll do some, whoa, whoa, come and get me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flashback Ends

Zedd walked into the lower levels of the motor home he had acquired as a temporary headquarters and enchanted so it was linked to a limitless number of pocket dimensions, searching for Rito and Goldar. When he found them, he groaned to himself. He was the supposed conqueror of Earth and his two most powerful warriors were morons.

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

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

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


Flashback

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

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

“We’re trying Ed,” Rito protested.

“That’s Zedd, you fool. My name is Lord Zedd!”

“Lord Zedd, got it. Sure thing Ed.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, it’s been a long time, are you ready Baboo?”

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

“Certainly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will never help you villains,” Ninjor said defiantly.

“You won’t have a choice,” Zedd answered.

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

====

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tommy, are you okay?” Kat asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “Just distracted.”

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

Tommy chuckled. “It’s nothing guys, I was just wondering what happened to Tom?”

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

====

Angel Grove Park

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

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

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

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

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

Across the park a lone female watched him while trying to catch a suntan. A scowl crossed her otherwise flawless face as she studied Minion’s body language. While his opponents were seated at the permanent cement chess tables deep in thought, Minion remained standing. It was not for the ease of movement that Minion remained upright; rather it was because his conceit wouldn’t allow him to sit. To do so might give the opposing player the idea that the two players were of equal skill. Instead, the clone sauntered from table to table, pausing briefly, his hands folded behind his back until he was ready to move a piece. He would also take the time to grace his opponent with a condescending smile after each move. For a teenager, Minion was a real brat. Monastra sighed and once again wondered whether to hand the clone over to Scorpina for a few days; the scorpion warrior was almost as capable in breaking male slaves as she was in combat. In fact Scorpina had been known on occasion to leave her defeated foes alive just for the pleasure of making them her willing slaves. But Scorpina was distracted right now, trying to renew her acquaintance with a band of renegade Edenites led by a creature named Scorpius and a failed Rider candidate named Count Dregon. Mistress Repugna had no idea why she would seek such contact. From memory Dregon was a nasty little man that should have been squashed like a bug. Still, that was Scorpina’s business.

Mistress Repugna had been to this part of the park previously during her prolonged stay on Earth. She had even watched some of the chess matches although she was the first to admit the game held no interest for her. Strategy was all well and good, but power was so much better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When you are quite finished beating up on the little kids in the school yard, you have work to do,” Monastra said acidly as way of greeting.

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

====

Cranston residence

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

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

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

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

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

====

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

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

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

“So that’s how it’s going to be Billy. I am not going away until you say yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then I am sorry to disappoint you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“State your challenge,” Billy said.

“A simple contest,” Zedd replied. “One Ranger versus a combatant of my choosing in one on one battle. When my champion wins you will surrender your power coins and Zords, which will then be dealt with as I see fit. Should your candidate triumph, I will surrender the Ranger that Rita and I captured during our time away from Earth and leave this galaxy forever. Should you not accept the challenge I will leave here and you will witness the death of a fellow Ranger as if you had lost.”

“How can we trust you?” Rocky asked. “I haven’t heard of any kidnapped Rangers. Besides, you could just snatch him away again regardless of the outcome.”

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

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

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

Billy’s eyes widened, recalling historical accounts of such battles. Once initiated neither party could meddle with the prize unless they won. He found himself automatically nodding and Rocky was looking at him in shock.

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

“I will,” Zedd answered, shaking Billy’s hand.

“Billy?” Rocky asked, clearly confused.

“Later,” Billy told him.

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

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

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

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

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

“Come on,” Billy smiled encouragingly, noting the way his friend’s hand shook briefly.

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

====

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

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

But then Adam had intervened. While Billy and Tommy could argue all day about the best way to approach the problem, Adam was quick to point out that Zedd was not the main point of concern. A life was on the line and if they didn’t accept the challenge, Zedd’s prisoner would be executed. They really didn’t have a choice.

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

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

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

“As long as it’s not Rito Revolto,” Kat had joked. “I mean, ew, he stinks!”

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

“I am sending the message now Zordon,” Billy said.

“Very well Billy,” Zordon replied.

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

====

Angel Grove Quarry

The Rangers appeared in columns of light shortly before their villainous opponents. Zedd and Rita were easy to recognise, Goldar and Rito likewise stood to one side.

Baboo, Squatt and Finster could be seen in the background. Finster looked slightly miffed at the idea of having to play the role of cheerleader yet again. Baboo and Squatt on the other hand seemed delighted with their new roles and actively waves their pom-poms around.

“I guess Rita brought the whole gang,” Rocky commented.

Billy didn’t answer though; his eyes were fixed on the two figures standing to one side. The first was a moderately attractive woman while the other was difficult to see due to the cloak he wore.

“Zordon, who is that?” Billy asked.

“That is the Mistress Repugna, Rita’s mother and one of the most accomplished warrior witches in her home galaxy.”

“Is she dangerous?”

“Mistress Repugna is one of the most dangerous villains you will encounter, although she lacks the strategic skills of her daughter and son-in-law.”

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

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

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

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

“I accept your word Zedd,” Tommy said. “Let’s fight.”

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

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

Rita cackled and the Rangers wondered just what they had let themselves in for. Zedd also seemed pleased as Goldar made a show of inspecting his sword.

“Name your champion,” Rita challenged.

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

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

Goldar stepped forward upon hearing his master’s words.

“Where are you going, Monkey Boy?” Rita asked. Goldar looked at her with a mixture of rage and confusion. Then Rita burst out laughing. “What, you think Zedd meant you?” She sounded amazed.

“As if,” Zedd growled. “We intend to win this battle. Get back in line.”

Goldar dejectedly did as he was told.

‘Is Goldar sulking?’ Adam wondered as he focussed on the titanic warrior.

“Hey Ed, does that mean I get to fight? Puh-lease,” Rito begged.

“NO!” Rita snapped. “You’d mess up worse than the monkey.”

“And my name is Zedd, LORD ZEDD!” Zedd added.

“Zedd, gotcha, sorry Ed.”

“Enough!” Zedd snapped, his skin sparking with angry red energy that extended all the way to the tip of his staff and back. “Here is my champion Red Ranger. I’m sure after meeting him you will appreciate his abilities. Minion, the greatest disciple of the Dark Masters.”

The Rangers had been taken by surprise. Rito or Goldar they had been expecting. Pudgy Pig would have been less of a shock, but to hear that Zedd had not only convinced a Minion to appear, but had convinced him to fight, was a shock.

“I think we scared them Zeddy,” Rita cackled.

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

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

“This is going to be too easy,” Minion said.

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Tommy shot back as the two circled each other.

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

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

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

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

Minion was taken aback at Tommy’s sudden rage, and was unprepared when Tommy launched an attack using all his skills. In quick succession, Tommy had blacked both of Minion’s eyes, split his lip, and cracked him in the stomach. Backing away from his berserk opponent, Minion allowed a look of pleasant surprise to cover his features.

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

“You’re on,” Tommy replied confidently.

“Zeo Ranger V – Red!” Tommy called. Minion closed his eyes and waited for a black ball to appear in his right hand, a telltale sign of the powers he now possessed.

“I can’t believe he can use the Power against us,” Rocky said, desperately watching the two fighters transform.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah!” Rito cheered as he watched Minion’s attempts to squash Tommy like a bug.

“Fool!” Goldar grumbled; well aware that if he was too successful, Minion would become Rita and Zedd’s new henchman while he and Rito were relegated to the pitiful tasks Baboo and Squatt were called on to perform. ~What do those two do anyway?~

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

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

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

“Go Tommy!” Tanya cheered from the sidelines.

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

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

“Oh no,” Billy said softly.

“What is it?” Adam asked.

“Minion’s going to try to finish the contest,” Jason replied.

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

“Tommy, look out!” Rocky cried.

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

“Very good,” Minion commended. “You’re better than I thought. But then I haven’t had a worthy opponent for centuries so I doubt you have any real skill.”

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

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

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

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

“Or hear.”

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

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

“Tommy!” Kat cried frantically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He did it!” Rocky proclaimed loudly.

“I don’t believe it,” Zedd hissed angrily. He turned on Monastra. “I thought you said he would win. I thought your Minion was supposed to be among the elite of evil warriors.”

“Oh he will win Lord Zedd. Look!”

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

“Aw man,” Tommy exclaimed as he watched Minion reform.

“I can’t believe it,” Adam said softly to the other.

“Neither can I,” Billy agreed. “I didn’t know the Morphin Grid could heal such a mortal wound.”

“Guys, Tommy’s in trouble,” Kat pointed out.

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

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

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

“Zeo Power Blaster!” Tommy called, hoping that he could summon the Rangers’ joint arsenal.

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

“Fire!”

“Wow, I never thought he’d be able to use it,” Rocky said.

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

“Oh man,” Rocky moaned. “This isn’t good.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is he doing?” Zedd demanded.

“Stay still,” Minion, cried as Tommy continued to dodge, seeking a way through.

“Never!” Tommy returned defiantly.

“Oh but you will,” Minion told him in an amused tone. “Because if you try and dodge this attack, it will strike your friends. And since they cannot morph, I’d wager they would suffer far more than you would.”

“You wouldn’t,” Tommy claimed. “The rules.”

“The rules only say that the observers cannot interfere,” Minion answered. “I’m aiming at you, it’s not my fault if they get hit because you moved.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you enjoy that?”

He looked up. Minion was stood in front of him, hand outstretched palm first. The face that now confronted him was smiling.

“I knew you wouldn’t let me hurt them Tommy. You hero types are way too predictable.”

“The match is over,” Goldar cried from his position.

“This match ends when I say it ends,” Minion snarled. For once Goldar had the sense not to pick a fight. He drove his knee into Tommy’s gut and then smashed both fists down upon the boy’s back. As he saw the Ranger’s power start to fade, he fired another blast that carried Tommy across the base of the quarry. “Now it’s over.” Tommy’s powers faded at that moment, no doubt agreeing with what had been said.

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

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

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

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

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

Minion’s face curled into a cruel grin. “Did you really think I would let you walk away?"

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

“This time Rangers, I win.” Minion said as he hurled a ball of golden energy toward the teenagers.

At that point, two things happened: the golden energy stopped and Minion cried out in pain. Smoke poured from the Dark Ranger while the Rangers could only watch as he writhed in pain. The golden energy changed direction, striking the Dark Ranger and obliterating him, leaving the Rangers stunned on the ground by the explosion.

"It’s over!" Tommy realised, but as he made to grab the discarded Zeo Crystal, he was intercepted by a burst of fire.

"Not so fast Rangers," Goldar growled as he strolled onto the battlefield and lifter the Zeo Crystal, Golden Power Staff, Super Zeo Gems and Zeonisers into a container. "These belong to Lord Zedd by right of conquest."

"But Minion lost!" Tanya protested.

"Minion won the battle," Goldar answered, before looking straight at Tommy. "Didn’t he?"

Tommy nodded. There was no denying that despite how he had acted following the victory, the Dark Ranger had been the victor. And that meant despite what had happened to him, Lord Zedd was now the rightful owner of the Zeo powers.

"Then I’ll be taking these and Lord Zedd will soon conquer this world!" Goldar proclaimed before he teleported away, leaving the Rangers lying in the quarry, too shocked to move.

====

The Moon

"We did it Zeddy!" Rita cried.

"Silence!" Zedd was not in a good mood and spun sharply to confront Mistress Repugna. "What were you thinking by interfering, do you have any idea what could have happened?"

"What does it matter, you made your little bet, gave your little oath and thanks to my intervention, we won."

"The point is that your plan failed, your creation was destroyed and we’re lucky it didn’t destroy us as well," Zedd snapped. "That oath contained powerful magic and you had no right to interfere."

"Relax Zedd. So I cheated, we didn’t get caught. And now we have the Zeo Crystal at our command."

"Our command?" Zedd demanded as Goldar handed him the box containing his trophies. "These belong to me."

"But I helped," the woman protested. "It was my Minion that defeated them."

Zedd wasn’t listening though. He was Lord Zedd and he was not prepared to share power with anybody… except maybe Rita. This woman had invaded his home, insulted him, dishonoured his father – not that he cared about that – and then had the audacity to try a claim some part in his ingenious scheme. Zedd was no fool. He knew that the loss of Minion would have weakened her and he was prepared to take full advantage of it.

"Get out of my palace!" he snarled, aiming his staff at the woman.

"You can’t," she protested.

"I can and I am," Zedd reasoned.

"Rita… please," she begged, appealing to her daughter’s better nature. Rita didn’t have a better nature.

"Bye Mom," Rita waved, cackling.

"Your father will hear of this," she warned, but the only response was a double blast from Rita and Zedd’s magic as she was forcibly dumped on a planet on the far side of the galaxy.

"And now, where were we?" Zedd asked as the music started again. "Oh yes, victory!" His wife giggled, replacing the rose in her mouth as they resumed their Tango.

End of Part

The Omega Protocol

Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers, Super Sentai or Voltron. They all belong to their respective copyright owners.

The Omega Protocol

The Power Ranger Museum, New Tech City
3016

As the visitors roamed their way through the building, they came to a stop in one of the many lecture halls. Today there was a special presentation and so in addition to the many school children, there were members of the press waiting to hear the exciting news.

A shower of sparks appeared on the stage, mimicking the teleportation effect they had seen in the holographic dramas of the Power Rangers. The sparks faded, leaving behind a young man with dark hair and a fixed smile.

"Hi folks, I'm Max Speed, Ranger historian and resident expert on…" he paused for dramatic effect… "THE POWER RANGERS!" He winked at a few of the ladies suggestively. "Now those of you who've been here before will know that I am this facility's senior tour guide and expert in all things regarding the Power Rangers, their enemies and the many battles they fought to protect this planet. My video guide The Life and Times of Zordon of Eltare can be purchased on your way out.

"Today I have the special privilege to unveil the museum's exhibition. The last great battle the Power Rangers fought: The Mavro Armada. Our historians have spent years compiling the records of what was the biggest gathering of Rangers or all time. And using information obtained from recently discovered sources we can now reveal the origins of Emperor Mavro himself. So listen closely and let me tell you a tale…

"Records show that there was once a powerful emperor who conquered his away across the cosmos. He was a very good conqueror and the number of star systems under his dominion grew rapidly. Before long his territory was too big for him to control completely and he was faced with either halting his path of conquest or abandoning control of the systems furthest away.

"He refused both options, preferring a riskier plan. Using a combination of science and occult knowledge the emperor created a clone that would serve as emperor in his place. The clone he left behind was the ruler of all the domain the Emperor granted him, along with troops and ships to support his new kingdom, but was ultimately a puppet ruler answering to the Emperor's whims.

"The Emperor had continued to spread his territory far beyond his original territory and at its peak he had built an empire that would never be seen again. And then his rule had been broken and the empire crumbled. His fleet was devastated and the planets he most recently added fought back in rebellion against the remnants of his forces.

"But what of the clones? When the Emperor lived they had been tied to his will and served as minor kings. But while he had ensured their loyalty to himself as Emperor he had never expected to be defeated or to die. He had therefore never named a successor or established a hierarchy amongst the clones, all of whom naturally considered themselves second only to their creator.

"Some tried to claim the throne, holding themselves up as being the chosen successor because they were older or the latest clone and therefore holding more of the original's memories. Some had upgraded themselves or developed new abilities during their existence that they felt made them superior to the others. Some claimed to be great warriors, great strategists, powerful wielders of technology or masters of the occult. War broke out between some of the clones as they tried to preserve the Emperor's territory when in reality their actions were causing it to break further apart.

"Time moved forward the clones maintained their territories. Some tried to emulate their creator by setting forth on new expeditions to reclaim what they considered lost territory. Others sought to expand the great empire even further without the cloning technology that had allowed the Emperor to maintain control. They became nomadic conquerors spreading through the cosmos but losing control of the worlds they conquered when they overstretched their forces. Before long the knowledge that they had once all been servants of the same being had been forgotten.

"Empires don't last forever and with the loss of the Emperor, the puppet rulers he had left behind found it more and more difficult to maintain their authority. Some were overthrown, some killed and other imprisoned. A few maintain their power through fear or even changed their approach and became worthy rulers. What became of those left behind is unclear because over such vast distances news was scarce, but some of those that adopted an expansionist stance became the founders of some of the most infamous empires in the known cosmos.

"But it seemed no matter how infamous they were or how powerful they had become; they were all eventually drawn to an innocent little planet named Earth where sooner or later they met their demise as this small record made following the Mavro Armada reveals."

And lo the vast Armada arrived at the fabled planet Earth, its captains confident that they would enjoy a victory where so many had failed. And the Emperor Mavro did lead the fleet and his sons Vekar and Vrak did command their forces within. And Vekar was tasked to command the ships in space while Vrak descended to the surface and to lead the soldiers there. And they did have the advantage of numbers and firepower and experience, for the Empire had been around long before the Earth had become a planet of interest.

The Emperor sent a message demanding the surrender of the planet and the people of Earth did reject his claim. And so the Emperor ordered his army to attack without mercy to show those that defied him why it was unwise to do so.

And the Earth did gather its forces and the heroes of Earth did assemble. And the Power Rangers did stand defiant and they did call forth their power and summon their Zords. And they marched into a battle they had no chance of winning.

"The story of Emperor Mavro and his Armada had been told for centuries, but many of the facts have been lost through the ages. We know that the Armada boasted over a thousand large vessels and countless smaller ships, but represented only a small part of the empire. We also know that Mavro had been confident that he would emerge victorious as he had planned for an all-out assault as opposed to a drawn out war of attrition.

"Research shows that Mavro had known that Earth was defended, but that he had misunderstood the nature of that protection. He thought there were only a dozen defenders, maximum when in fact the phrase 'Once a Ranger, always a Ranger,' had become more than a motto. With the help of a team of dedicated Red Rangers, it had been turned into the foundation of Earth's defence. Every team of retired Rangers had been recruited to answer the call should the day arise when multiple teams were needed. Zords had been built, repaired and modified to fight on a larger scale. In short when Mavro arrived, the Rangers were ready for war."

The Astro Megaship led those Zords that had been upgraded for space flight. With the Delta Megaship and Mega Winger covering it, the ship dodged in and out of the oncoming vessels. Pyramidas the mighty flying pyramid not only packed a punch with its weapons, but acted as a shield for the smaller Zords that had accompanied them. The Super Zeo Zords, Phoenix Zord, Ninja Falcon Zord, Ninja Crane Zord and Red Dragon Zord separated to carry out their own automated attacks as the Pterodactyl Dino Zord did the same.

It was all out warfare as the flying Zords of different teams carried out the instructions of their remote operators. High in the mountains around the world Zeo Zord I and Zeo Zord II tracked and opened fire on exposed crafts. The Mega Voyager had taken up position on a high peak and launched it Mega V3 Rocket, managing to take out two large vessels with a single shot. Meanwhile the Mega Tigerzord used its finishing weapon to pick off distant targets. It didn't have the range of the Mega V3 Rocket, but it could fire repeatedly.

Closer to the ground the Zords that lacked flight capability targeted the landing crafts before the Armada's forces could disembark. More than a hundred Zords representing the many Rangers that had defended the Earth worked together to crush the invaders. The Wild Zords and those capable of acting on their own allowed the rest to function either on autopilot or via remote command.

Because as their Zords were fighting an epic battle for control of the skies, the Rangers were battling on the ground. Every weapon in their arsenal, every trick they had ever discovered was unleashed against their opponents. They didn't spare the enemy a second thought have discovered that they were a vast robotic army.

Individually and as teams they attacked, cutting down the Empire's soldiers before they could gain a foothold. Earth's military joined them, using technology they had recovered from previous invasions to fight off their new enemy.

"As you can see they Rangers had devised a means of protecting their homes from even the greatest threats. What followed was a very once-sided battle, but Mavro had the option to withdraw and fight another day. For some reason that we only recently discovered, he chose not to. We have now located the black boxes from Mavro's flagship and it explains that the Emperor had something in mind."

On the bridge of the Armada's flagship it was clear that despite their numbers and huge advantage in firepower, the Armada was on the verge of defeat. The Rangers continued to strike at them, the Falcon Zord folding its wings and spinning in order to take out multiple foes with its wing blasts. The Megaships shifted between ship and robot modes allowing them to smash the larger ships. The Rangers were clearly outnumbered and yet at the rate they were cutting their way through the Armada's flank it was clear the Empire was in trouble.

"We should withdraw our forces and regroup," one of the Emperor's advisor's urged. "We can make repairs and then return in formation and strike them down."

"Our forces are stretched to the limit and their Zords are too fast for our gunners," another offered. "We're more likely to hit ourselves at this rate. We need to reorganise our vessels"

"And your opinion Levira?" the Emperor asked.

"If we remain here we risk defeat," the scientist told him. "They have devastated our fleet and completely out manoeuvred our ground forces. If we do not withdraw now they will destroy the fleet. A tactical withdraw would allow us to reorganise our forces and call in reinforcements." She waited as the advisors nodded in full agreement. It would also mark the end of the Empire."

Her analysis was met by angry dismissals that she did not know what she was talking about. The Emperor however pondered her words.

"Explain."

"At this moment our forces are low on fuel and heavily damaged. Some of our ships will be completely lost if they remain much longer. Combined with those we have already lost this battle has proven too costly. However, the Rangers are also low on energy and even now they are using up their limited resource to maintain their momentum. If we withdraw we will be able to refuel, and so will they. And the next time we meet them they will again be at full strength. History shows that after the first encounter with the Rangers of Earth the chances of winning a battle diminish. Calling in reinforcements will weaken the rest of your empire."

"An what would you suggest?" the strategist demanded. "The longer we remain here the greater the risk to this ship and the Emperor."

"Military strength is not the answer to every problem," she answered. "We have technology at our disposal that can defeat these Rangers. Use it and the Empire will win the day. Activate the Omega Protocol."

Her suggestion was not what the Emperor's advisor's had suggested. The Omega Protocol had never been tested, it had never been fully developed. It was a single use strategy that carried the highest possible risk and the greatest potential rewards. Naturally they protested about the danger.

"Emperor this strategy is literally suicide," one protested. "We have no way of knowing that it will work."

"The moment you send the signal we will be forced to either follow through or waste our most devastating weapon," another offered. "This is a one-time weapon and this is not the time."

"Those that lose their first encounter with the Rangers of Earth and their allies never win the war," Levira reminded them. "There is no strategic withdrawal, only retreat. At that point we lose"

"Enough," the Emperor interrupted. "Recall our ground forces and gather the fleet."

"Yes my Emperor, a wise choice," the strategist oozed.

"Levira, prepare the Omega Protocol."

"At one Emperor," Levira responded.

She gave the orders for the various ships to activate their scanning arrays and turn all sensors toward the Earth. As the fleet was re-joined by what remained of the landing ships, she instructed them on their new formation.

"At the Emperor's command all captains will lower their shields and follow the Emperor's flagship," she told them.

There were numerous protests but when the Emperor gave them the same instruction there was only silent obedience.

"Begin Omega Protocol!"

The Armada pulled away from Earth and then about turned and charged toward the small world. They ignored the flying Zords as they tried to pick off their numbers. This was no longer and invasion force; it was a kamikaze mission.

"The recovered black boxes revealed no details of the Omega Protocol or why it required Mavro to make such a suicidal move. Our experts have suggested that time travel had been a possibility, but if so then the plan failed miserably."

The Rangers did not know the Emperor's strategy, but it was obvious that he intended to crash his fleet into the planet. And despite the combined firepower of their many Zords, there was no possibility of stopping them. There was only one option, a final weapon devised by the late Zordon of Eltare that drew upon the combined powers of the Rangers and directed them as a single powerful blast. It was a weapon that could only be used once because doing so would burn out their powers, but it was also a weapon that grew more powerful as more and more Rangers joined the Earth's defenders.

"All right guys," Tommy Oliver, the greatest Ranger in Earth's history and the leader of the Red Rangers that had assembled the many teams. "It's now or never…"

Their voices rang out as the hearts and minds of the Rangers united for the purpose of protecting the planet. "We call on the power of all ours combined!"

A beam of multi-coloured light shot from their bodies, merging as it sped toward the approaching fleet. The blast intercepted the Armada, tearing it apart and scattering it to dust as the Rangers powered down for the last time.

The Armada was gone, the Earth was safe and the Power Rangers had triumphed once more.

"And that concludes the tale of the fall of the Armada. The Emperor and his heirs perished in the attack. The exact nature of the Omega Protocol has never been discovered. Many agree that the destruction of the Armada was an important part of it."

He held up the charred remains of a black box.

"This is all that remains of the Armada," he explained. "This was the black box used to record the ships' logs. It was ejected from the Emperor's vessel at the moment of its destruction perhaps as a way to secure his legacy. From this box we uncovered the origins of Emperor Mavro and his Armada and exclusive footage of the battle as it took place. Now sadly while there is a great deal more information within the box, most of it has been encrypted beyond our ability to read. Our archivists are still extracting footage from the battle, but I'm sure you'll agree this sheds new light on a part of our history that until now had been lost."

The lecture continued for a little longer, explaining that the black box would be joining other exhibits within the Power Ranger Museum where the people could learn about the heroes to whom the world owed such a great debt and pushing the vast array of Max Speed merchandise available from the museum shop.

====

The Museum had closed for the night, the doors were locked and the glass cases containing some of the more fragile exhibits had been securely locked away.  The displayed items were of great scientific and historical interest, but held very little monetary value. In the years since the museum had officially opened following the apprehension of the mutant criminal Ransik there had been a few protests from visiting aliens, but never any thefts.

Well there had been one attempt to steal some of the artefacts, which had failed and caused a great deal of damage to the museum. The perpetrator had been caught and at the suggestion of Time Force's own team of Rangers, he had been given a unique sentence: by day he performed community service as the museum's main tour guide, and by night he cleaned up the mess left behind by the guests he spent the day entertaining. It was a five-year sentence and Max had tried to make the best of it, but as both jobs were compulsory and unpaid, he was forced to make money by other means, mostly by selling merchandise to visitors.

"I could have been a Ranger you know," he said as he gave a particularly stubborn piece of gum a scrape. "I would have been the best Ranger you could imagine. I would have been a real hero. It's my destiny, a role I was born into and named for. You know, Max Speed…"

"Your parents named you Melvin," a tinny voice replied. "You changed your name without the proper paperwork to avoid bankruptcy."

"That was just a misunderstanding," Max said, waving off the comment. "I forgot to file the paperwork, but it's done now. All legal and above board."

"Very little you do can be described as legal or above board, Melvin. You have currently violated your parole thirty times in the last two days."

"Oh come on Ash, if I was that bad you would have reported me," Max argued.

"You know full well that one of your violations was the installation of a Faraday Field. Communications equipment no longer operates inside this building. A report will be sent as soon as the problem is fixed."

It was true that Max had installed the illegal jamming field, but it had not been intended to prevent Ash from reporting him.  He had been using the Faraday Field to increase sales for his Max Speed Communications Booths, which conveniently did not experience communications issues inside the museum. That doing so also prevented Ash from reporting him was an added bonus.

The running of the merchandise shop was not strictly allowed without a permit and applying for one took money he didn't have. So in order to avoid expensive fines and possible jail time for being a repeat offending, Max had taken the liberty of scrambling Ash's communications system. It was unfortunate he could not delete the evidence while he was at it, but many of Ash's systems were security protected.

Just why they had assigned Ash to act as his probation officer was unclear and in his opinion unfair. The judge had mentioned something about low morals and attempts to corrupt human officers. Max thought the judge was just jealous. It wasn't Max's fault that his former parole officers had ended up in his bed at some point. Ash was a nuisance because he could not be seduced, bribed or threatened. Destroying the small orb-shaped robot would set off an alarm and land him back in jail without the possibility of parole; in the Thirty First Century the authorities did not discriminate when it came to machines, only mutants.

"I was only trying to make life easier so I could work harder," he tried.

"You were trying to make life easier so you could bribe the judge," Ash answered.

"Just you wait Ash, I'll win my appeal and sue the entire Law Enforcement Division. And the first thing I'll demand is they send you to the scrap yard."

"Your chances of success are extremely low given the evidence against you," Ash pointed out.

"What evidence? A few people say I did a few things, it's not like they have a confession."

At that point Ash took the opportunity to replay all of the offences Max had committed while the robot had been assigned as his parole officer, followed by Max's boastful confessions of his crimes as he lamented the few he got caught for.

"Okay, it might take a little more…" he cut himself off before he said money. "… effort."

"If you say so. Information… you are now two hours behind schedule. All remaining work this evening will not be accredited to your record."

Max sighed, he just couldn't catch a break.

Boom!

The museum shook. Max ran to stop an antique vase from falling to the floor. He wasn't sure what it had to do with Power Ranger history, but he was certain the museum's management would try to make him responsible if it broke.

"What was that?" he asked.

"There has been an explosion in the foyer," Ash replied. "I regret to tell you your merchandise has been damaged. Additional… there are six armed intruders inside the museum."

"Who would want to rob a Power Ranger Museum?" Max asked, wondering where would be the safest place to hide.

"You did," Ash replied. "The alarm has been triggered, law enforcement will be arriving shortly."

"But what are they after?"

"Unknown. Intruder are making their way to the Armada Exhibition," Ash answered. "Information… Intruders have vandalised the display."

"They want the black box," Max realised. "That's outrageous! That box is a national treasure, it's a valuable historical record, it's…"

"The only reason you are allowed to wear spandex inside the museum," Ash concluded.

"I have to do something," Max declared. "This could be my big chance. Become a Ranger, stop the bad guys and my record will be cleared. Think of the They'll build a memorial for me."

"You would likely receive a posthumous pardon," Ash agreed. "Information… Intruders have stolen the box and are heading this way."

"I can't face them like this, they'd kill me," Max realised. "Ash, are any of these things working?"

He indicated the collection of Ranger transformation devices and weapons stored in the cabinets. Most had been disabled before they were placed on display. Others could not be made safe and had instead been placed under heavy protection. Max had long suspected that Ash was aware which ones were safe and which ones were a risk. He had planned to find a way to fool the machine into telling him so he could liberate them and raise some funds for his favourite charity: The Max Speed Relief Fund.

"Yes," the machine answered unhelpfully.

"Well which ones?" he pressed.

"I can't tell you that Melvin. Your parole prohibits you from attempting to use any of the items on display for personal use."

"I want to stop them from stealing the black box," Max reasoned.

"And then you will use them to build on your fame and 'cash in' on your adventures," Ash countered.

A metal stomping could be heard and Max looked up to see six robotic soldiers marching in their direction.

"Hey I recognise them, they served what his name? Emperor Marvin."

"Mavro," Ash corrected. "You really should learn the name; it is part of your job after all."

Each robot carried a club and one held onto the black box. When they spotted Ash and Max arguing one of them raised its club and fired a projectile in their direction.

"Ash look out!" Max cried, grabbing the small machine and pulling it to safety as the cabinets behind them exploded.

"Information… That was a close one."

"You're not kidding me. Now about those weapons?"

"Self-defence is a valid exemption," Ash allowed, a beam of light highlighting several items.

"All right!" Max exclaimed as he scrambled to reach the storage cabinets. He pulled out a Delta Morpher used by SPD Rangers before the formation of Time Force. "One-hour charge, full armaments. I always wanted one of these. "Judgement Time!"

He pointed the morpher toward the approaching robots and flicked a switch, allowing it to conduct the scans needed to determine innocence or guilt.

"GUILTY!"

Max grinned, preparing to shift to Containment Mode.

"You're holding it backwards Melvin," Ash warned. "You just judged yourself."

"What? Oh right, hold on guys… hey!"

The robots were on the attack.

"Oh, um, SPD Emergency!" he called using the Delta Morpher's other function. The morpher flashed and then stopped working. "Ash?"

"Criminals that have been judged guilty are not allowed to use the morpher," Ash informed him. "Information… You need to duck."

Max scrambled away, plucking a Turbo Morpher off a display stand. He grabbed a Power Coin and a few other examples of Ranger technology. He was panicking as he read the instructions on the back of multiple devices – just why there were instruction there was unclear – and tried to use them all at the same time.

The activation of several power sources at once – for Max was in such a panic that he didn't wait to see if one set worked before activating the next – was disappointing. The morphers rapidly cancelled each other out since they were not designed to work together and entered their default timeout for the protection of their user. The shockwave they created protected him from attack and sent him flying into a display of Battlizers. His left arm brushed against a Lightspeed Battle Booster, which promptly strapped itself to his forearm, while his right arm grabbed hold on a sword that was lying around.

Despite being a parole office, Ash's priority was to make sure that no harm came to Max during his punishment. Therefore, when it was clear his charge's life was in danger, the robot moved to save him. A force field blocked an incoming projectile as Ash used his force fields to manipulate the Battle Booster. With little application of knowledge, Ash activated the variation devices, forcibly transforming Max into an armoured suit.

"All right!" Max proclaimed as he examined his new form.

Based off the Lightspeed Rangers, the new armour was a combination of the various Battlizers. He wasn't technically a Ranger, but Ash didn't expect that to stop Max from claiming to be one.

"I told you I could be a Ranger," Max cheered. "Max Speed, Ranger."

"If you've finished cheering there's still the matter of the intruders," Ash warned.

"What? Oh… yeah. Hey do you think I need a pose of some sort?"

"I think you need to pay attention."

Max looked up in time to notice the heavy club, before it hit him in the shoulder. That didn't mean he managed to counter, block or avoid it. His first stint as a hero was not turning out too well.

"Power Punch!" His right fist shot out, connecting with the chest of a machine. The machine flew away from him. "Power chop!" He struck out at a second machine with an open-hand chop and the machine's shoulder separated. "Power Elbow!"

"There is no need to name every move you make," Ash pointed out.

"How can I trade mark them then?" Max asked.

If Ash had been capable of sighing, he would have. Sadly, machines were meant to endure.

"Fine, I'll handle it!" Max groused. "Super energised ray!"

Uncontrolled energy shot from his body, decimating everything in its path, including the intruders and most of the room.

====

Five of the machines had been destroyed, but one had escaped, carrying the black box to safety while the others caused the destruction of the Power Rangers Museum to hide the theft. As police and fire response teams moved to control the explosion, the robot sped to its meeting point, knowing that in what was left of its arms, it held the key to the rebirth of the Mavro Dynasty.

====

Max groaned as he took in his surroundings. He did not remember the river being close to the museum. Since it was light he assumed he had been out for a while.

"What happened? How did I get here?"

"Your suit realised you were in danger and teleported you a safe distance before closing down," Ash answered. The small robot was covered in soot and having problems hovering. "You blew up the museum."

"The intruders…"

"Are all gone," Ash told him. "Despite your inexperience and over enthusiasm, you managed to destroy all hostile intruders.

"So I saved the day, I'm a hero!" Max cried, happy that his efforts would be rewarded.

"Not exactly," Ash said. "You are currently wanted for theft, fraud, arson, numerous breaches of your parole and the kidnap of your supervision droid."

That had been an unfortunate turn of events. The Faraday Field had failed seconds before the teleportation had activated, allowing Ash to transmit the details of all Max's illicit activities. But before Ash could give a complete update of their situation they had been whisked away to safety and Ash's communication coil had been left behind. Now Max was being sought for crimes he had not committed – as well as those he really had committed – and was deemed a high risk due to the alleged kidnapping of Ash.

"It is all a misunderstanding Max and assuming you are allowed to live long enough to tell your side, you have evidence to back you up. Information… you are also the prime suspect in the theft of a Time Force Eagle. You are now being sort as a potential time criminal."

"I didn't steal a Time Force Eagle," Max protested. Then he realised that in his panic he was not certain what he took from the museum. "Did I?"

"Your current arsenal includes one decommissioned Time Force Eagle," Ash replied. "However the vehicle in question was stolen from Time Force Headquarters at a time when you were unconscious after destroying the Power Ranger Museum. You have a strong alibi… which is worthless since time travel is involved."

"Ash you're NOT helping," Max told him, trying to think his way out of the situation. "Okay, some robots from the Mavro Empire reappear at the Power Ranger Museum, grab a black box and then steal a Time Force Eagle… why?"

"Logic suggests they intend to travel through time," Ash stated.

"Yes but why would now?" It was right there; he could almost see the answer. "The black box! The black box vanished after the crash because Time Force retrieved it meaning they had to wait for it to reappear. But what was so important about it… unless."

"Are you okay Max?" Ash asked. "Thinking to hard is not good for you."

"It's the Omega Protocol," Max told him. "The black box is the Omega Protocol."

"That makes no sense."

"Yes it does," Max insisted. "In the final moments they sped towards the Earth with all sensors linked to the flagship. They recorded the power signatures of every Ranger there and all their allies, and stored it in the black box knowing they had units on the ground that would survive. There was bound to be an opportunity for time travel at some point, all they had to do was grab the black box and go back in time to before the Armada arrived…"

"… And give them the means to destroy the planet's defenders," Ash concluded. "Without the black box they could not do so and now they have the box and the means to use it."

"The museum was meant to hide what they'd stolen," Max continued, "which means one of them was meant to survive."

"Information… communications system has been restored. Transmitting all evidence and updating status. You are no longer wanted for kidnapping or theft of Time Force equipment. Time Force has been informed of possible time travel."

Well that was a good thing. Far from perfect since he was still wanted for other crimes, but at least he would not be frozen on sight. And now he had super powers and with the right manager, he could see the sponsorship deals flooding in.

A pulse of blue light in the distance caught his attention. It was too low for a normal flight.

"What is that?" He asked out loud.

"That is the stolen Time Force Eagle," Ash answered. "Time travel will commence in…"

But Max had already realised what the thief was up to and was in the process of giving chase. His own Time Force Eagle could not travel through time unless it was following another vehicle. Max had locked onto the stolen Time Force Eagle and was in hot pursuit. It wasn't a totally unselfish act as even as he prepared himself for the risks Max was calculating the money he would make from the talk show circuit after he stopped them.

"Warning: time portal ahead!"

"You'd better hold on Ash, we're going in!"

"Information… you have been detected."

"Does this thing have weapons?" Max asked. Obviously it did since the other Time Force Eagle had just opened fire open him.

"Information… weapon systems on this vehicle were deactivated for safety reasons."

"Do you have any useful suggestions?" he asked.

"No," Ash answered after calculating their odds of survival since they were now linked to the other vehicle and incapable of breaking free. "All possibilities suggest you will die in this encounter. I'm sorry."

"If you think I am going to die before they pay me compensation and give me everything I deserve; you have another thing coming." He pushed down on the throttle, well aware that firing its weapons had slowed the stolen Time Force Eagle. "All shields to front."

"Information… Temporal shielding is not intended to withstand physical impacts."

"Well since we're moving faster we'll have to hope it helps," Max countered.

Max's vehicle caught up to the other Time Force Eagle just as it was about to enter the portal. The was a loud bang as the two vehicles were mangled together by the impact, throwing them both off course. Then they broke apart again, spinning into the unstable portal as it started to collapse.

"Information…" Ash cried out as he was thrown about the cockpit. "I hate youuuuuuuu…."

End

SPD: The Omega Sacrifice

Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers, they belong to their respective copyright owners. This is a fan work and no profit is being sought nor made.
Author’s note: This is an SPD fic based in the year 2040. There are a few differences from the show mainly that SPD fell due to a traitor, but this is mainly intended to be a prequel to Sam’s appearance as well as an explanation of why he is a ball of light. This fic also assumes that even for SPD and their enemies, time travel is not something easily accomplished until after Sam travelled.

SPD: The Omega Sacrifice

2040

Sam remembered the day the Troobians had wiped out Space Patrol Delta. It had been the day the Earth and many other worlds had fallen to their power. It had been the day that Doggie Kruger had been executed on the steps of his own headquarters. It had been a swift victory mostly due to the failure of SPD’s technology. It had been the day that they had realised there had been a traitor in the organisation willing to hand millions of lives to the enemies. One of his greatest regrets was that fifteen years later they still didn’t know the identity of the traitor.

He had been trained by the best of those that remained although the goal was no longer to become and officer of SPD but a soldier capable of stopping the Troobians. He had fought on the front lines, stealing supplies and had witnessed the horrors of Gruumm’s reign. From what he understood other planets under the protection of SPD had not been so fortunate.

Moving to the secret facility had been a difficult task because the Troobians considered any human not inside one of their prison cities sport. He had had a difficult time evading capture while not drawing too much attention to himself as a skilled combatant. The last thing he had wanted was to be followed. But finally he had arrived and after rigorous tests to confirm his identity, he had been led into the underground complex deep within the mountains.

“The mountainside helps to shield us from the Troobian scanners,” his guide explained as she led him through the mines. “Not that they do many focussed scans around here. There are more populated areas for them to find their fun. So what do you think?”

“I’m surprised,” Sam admitted. “I expected something a bit more…”

“Science fiction?” she asked, offering a small smile.

He nodded. So far they had travelled by mine cart deep underground before making their way through a series of tunnels, some of which were very low due to difficulties with mining. When they had emerged into the facility itself he had found that instead of the white walled science laboratory he had been expecting or even the high technology workshops he recalled from visits to SPD, this place resembled an old power plant with thick metal walls and large cables running overhead.

“Sorry kid, we have to make do with what we can get and these days that’s not a lot. Besides most of this is not here to those of us left behind.”

She knew this would be a shock for him, it had been for those that had volunteered before, but there was no point in sugar coating what was about to happen. She sighed remembering that of all those that had volunteered, he was probably the least experienced as the secret academies were no longer running.

“There’s no easy way to tell you this kid, but there’s a good reason this place looks like an oversized power plant; it’s the only thing that will protect the rest of us if we’re successful.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Look, time travel is not easy to accomplish. Nowadays it’s even harder. It takes a lot of power and we don’t have any magicians or super powerful crystals to help us. There is only one way to generate the power needed and it is so unpredictable that most of that power is wasted, just so we can open the time portal. You’ve heard the rumour that those that volunteer for this project are changed?”

Sam nodded. He had never heard of anybody successfully travelling through one of the portals because most of the testing so far had been to make certain the traveller survived. The time portals altered matter as it passed through unless it was heavily shielded. Those that had volunteered had been left increasingly deformed as the scientists had improved the process. But when they had announced their success in opening the portals they had not mentioned whether they volunteer had reached their destination.

“We found a method of time travel that uses a particle accelerator to convert the traveller into energy. The resulting energy is enough to open the portals and shielded the traveller from the effects of the portal.”

The explosive potential of a human converted from matter to energy was terrifying. If the process failed the giant structure was unlikely to hold back much of the destructive blast, but it was reassuring for those that didn’t understand the figures.

“If successful, opening the portal and maintaining it long enough to travel through time burns off most of that energy. Whatever is left is channelled into a small projection unit that can generate a hard light representation of the traveller’s body. I’m afraid to say that once the conversion from mass to energy is made we have no method of changing it back again. There were problems with the early trials and most failed to open a portal and only partially transferred to the projection unit. Those are the results are those that the rumourmongers enjoy talking about.”

“So if I do this I will never be human again?” Sam asked.

“Sam, no matter what anybody tells you, you will always be human as long as you act human and think of yourself as human,” she promised.

“I won’t be able to travel back again will I?” he asked, remembering the theory he had studied.

“Travelling into the future is easier than travelling to the past,” she stated. “It’s mostly a matter of finding a way to stop aging and waking up at the right time. Travelling back to the present after you have been in the past is much more difficult. The moment you arrive you change history meaning you are no longer travelling forward in time; you are travelling… across timeline I suppose. That’s something we haven’t even thought about yet.”

She saw the realisation on his face as he started to understand all that was being asked of him. Other had reached this point and decided not to go ahead.

“So I will never see this year again?” he asked.

“Well there’s nothing to stop you using the known method to return to this time,” she answered. “I just can’t guarantee that anything will be as you left it. Although I don’t think anybody would want things as they are now. Or you could just live out your life the slow way. Did I forget to mention that you would be virtually invulnerable to harm?”

There were always vulnerabilities, but the projection unit had been constructed from the most resistant materials they could find and with the energy it absorbed would be unlikely to run out for centuries. His avatar form would feel pain and unless he chose not to, it would also show injuries. But he would be far more resistant to harm than most.

“Your projection unit will also contain the template and profiles for a Ranger suit,” she continued as they renewed their journey toward the laboratory. “We’ve learned the hard way how difficult it is to use it so the unit will give you a transformation device to use.”

It was a shame that while the technology for the projection units had advanced, they were limited by the human component. Humans were unable to achieve the necessary level of multitasking needed to transform without an external prop. Fortunately creating an appropriate tool was straightforward.

She continued the tour of the facility, leaving Sam in no doubt that while the technology needed to achieve time travel was impressive, most of their efforts had been focussed on making sure that when things went wrong they could at least try to limit the damage.

“We’re far enough underground that if this goes wrong, the nuclear force would be sufficient to crack the planet in half,” she admitted. “So this really is a do or die attempt.”

“Not to mention the Troobians will detect the build-up of energy before the portal opens,” Sam noted.

“Our friends will buy us as much time as they can, but if this fails we won’t be able to try again.”

If Sam failed to open the portal the explosion would destroy the complex and all those within. Should the portal open there was a good chance that the Troobians would break through the defences and destroy the complex once Sam was gone. And if Sam made it into the past and accomplished his mission the whole thing was a moot point because they would no longer need to time travel.

“But if this facility is still here that means the Troobians haven’t detected you,” Sam reasoned.

“That’s because we have never attempted full conversion,” she explained. “We can only attempt this once and we had to be sure that we perfected the process… that could be why we had so many unfortunate outcomes. This is our only shot Sam and you are the person most likely to succeed; if we fail then the Troobians win.”

“That won’t happen,” Sam promised. “I’m ready.”

He would stop SPD from falling, he would discover the identity of the traitor before they could bring down the organisation and he would save all those that had been lost to the Troobians.

Knowing that his life was about to change in ways he didn’t understand, Sam stepped into the particle accelerator and a few minute later, vanished.

The End

End of Days Prologue

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers or Super Sentai. They belong to the respective copyright owners.
This is a new story I decided to try a while back.

End of Days Prologue

“In the beginning there had been nothingness. Then had come the Creator. He made the planets and the stars, and filled the darkness with light. Eventually he grew tired of his work and following a cycle of rest, he chose to turn his attention elsewhere. In his place arose the conceptual forces of Good, Evil, Chaos, Order, Love, Hate, Life and Oblivion. The powerful entities clashed among themselves, drawing and redrawing alliances to gain the upper hand.

As the universe grew up a war of ideologies turned into a battle of opposing energies and eventually physical beings. As the first entities representing good and evil concluded their battle, others stepped forward to take their place. And other time more replacements came forward, fighting on a smaller and smaller scale. Eventually the existence of the Creator was disputed. Even the physical existence of the conceptual forces was placed in doubt as the never ending, multi-fronted battle continued.

As the great gods of Good and Evil claimed vast dimensions as their own, so the representatives of the other forces did likewise. Heaven, Hell and all points in between were the prize in a turf war that extended for millennia. The greater gods grew tired and chose to leaving the fighting to the lesser deities, so single confrontations were lost in favour of opposing armies. Angels and demons clashed in the skies of newly formed worlds in disputed territory. The Angels mounted atop huge beasts and armed with their swords of lights led armies of shining knights into battle against the hordes of demons that were often little more than beasts themselves. Holy armour that shone with inner light against the vast shadows of crackling darkness. War, death, and purifying destruction prevailed in a war between good and evil that had no regard for life. In such a titanic struggle those they sought to inspire to their side, were swept away or crushed underfoot.

And the universe trembled as the war intensified further. The lines between good and evil blurred as chaos and destruction intensified. In the end it became clear that should the war progress its current rate, nothing would survive. And so a truce was called, an agreement made that bound both sides. The war would not end – for that was impossible-, but it would be scaled down as the lesser beings that had been the true victims of the violence would be the deciding factor. At the end of their lives, the souls of the many mortals would bolster the forces of whichever side they belonged to, based on the judgement of a great power. And when the time was right, the souls would be tallied and the two armies would clash once more in a final deciding battle.

Allowances were made to sway the lesser beings to one side or another. Representatives of both sides would walk the mortal world in limited numbers influencing those around them. Saints and demons, angels and devils, whispering in the minds of the mortals but lacking the physical nature to engage in combat. And to bind the agreement, seven seals were created to hold back the destruction. Only through the breaking of those seals could the final battle begin.

Of course the evil forces broke the agreement, it was against their nature to adhere to any agreement that was not strictly in their favour. While they were restricted from physically entering the mortal realm in their true forms, they could possess other beings and grant them a share of their power, even allowing them to take on their bodies. The forces of good were powerless to stop them for they were bound by their agreements and did not possess the traits necessary to adapt. Some tried, willingly giving up their powers and becoming mortals. However once in a mortal form they were naturally vulnerable to attack. Another approach was needed. While they could not take physical roles without renouncing their nature, they could inspire others to fight the darkness and grant them the tools to do so. The list of those that took up the challenge was as endless as the list of those that accepted a place amongst the demons.

Even today that war continues and the stakes have never been higher. It has been prophesised…”

“…We already know all this Gosei,” Troy protested. “We were taught the great history years ago.”

Young, adventurous and more than a little rash, there was no doubt that Troy was the leader of the five youths that listened to the old man’s tale. There was no doubt he would make a fine warrior if he could learn not to give into his urges.

“Then you can appreciate why you five are in so much trouble!” Gosei snapped.

Gosei was old. Very old. He had served as a guide for generations, teaching those angels that decided to visit Earth the ways of the world. He was a scholar and a respected keeper of his race’s history. His grey beard and long grey hair, his frail body and simple clothing, were a sign of how harsh existence in the mortal realm could be for angels. Long ago he had given up his natural form, accepting something less durable for the opportunity to make a difference. It was something he had never had cause to regret. And while he was not a warrior, the light of Heaven shone brighter with his presence.

“All we did was take a little trip,” Troy protested.

“You left home without permission, bypassed security and then used a transfer doorway without permission. You entered this realm with no idea of how to fit in or the dangers you could face. You recklessly separated from your true forms without using the mediation spheres and failed to follow the correct rituals… Only one transfer door may be opened at a time and the doorway you stepped through cannot close because it thinks you are still transferring. What that means is that as of now it is impossible to leave Heaven.

“And worse, you put not only your existence but the existence of your friends at risk. Did if occur to you that those rituals are not just tradition, but a way of maintaining a connection to your true form in case you want to go home again? If anything should disrupt that connection it would be impossible to return home. Did you want this to be a one-way trip? Could you handle spending eternity knowing you could never feel Heaven again?”

He could see from the dawning horror on their faces that they had not realised the seriousness of their actions. They were not the first and he doubted they would be the last to seek out adventure. They just didn’t understand the dangers of doing so. Fortunately, he had found them before too much time had elapsed and before the bonds to their true forms had completely eroded. Had he not done so… he refused to think about that, they had yet to lose an angel to such a terrible fate.

“Adventure calls to all our kind Troy,” Gosei added when he saw that the teens were starting to realise the danger they had placed themselves in. “The trick is to make sure you are prepared before you start the journey. And the way to prepare yourself is to first read the texts and then to seek the guidance of those that know better. Now come, I will take you back to the Tower and you can return home.”

When the realms of Heaven and Hell had been claimed and the mortal realm had been declared the prize, barriers had been erected to ensure that the treaty was followed. Access to the mortal realm was limited and relied upon the use of dimensional towers that would swiftly return natives of Heaven and Hell to their rightful home. For the Angels at least the tower also maintained the link between their real bodies and their Earthly forms. But the technology used was outdated and a signal could be easily lost. The towers were enchanted so that only it was almost impossible for those leaving their own realms to do so without shedding their natural forms, but while Demons and Devils were willing to do so permanently, Heaven’s forces thought of the mortal world as a place to visit but not to stay.

“Your presence here has prevented others from arriving,” Gosei warned after teleporting them to the tower. “So when you return they will be displeased. I would advise you to spend a great deal of time studying this world and learning why we are needed here before making an apology. There will be more chance that it will be accepted if you know why what you did was wrong.”

Angels actually spent very little time on Earth, constantly shifting between realms after completing their assigned shifts. Four times a day those present shifted themselves home via the tower to be replaced by their brethren. But due to the actions of the young fools, the latest shift change had been suspended. The forces of Heaven had left the Earth only to discover that those waiting to trade places with them were unable to do so. For far longer than Gosei would have wished, the forces of Heaven on Earth consisted of himself and five untrained children.

“The barrier needs to remain in use at all times to maintain the strength of our forces,” Gosei continued. “Without it the Enemy has a complete advantage. Your antics have left our mission in jeopardy. I beg you, please keep that in mind the next time you decide to have ‘an adventure’.”

“Don’t worry,” Jake assured him. “We will.”

“Then stay close and let us depart,” Gosei instructed before moving through the barrier.

The five took a final look at Earth and stepped into the doorway only to find themselves pushed back as an alarm sounded and the world around them exploded.

“Gosei!”

End of Part

The New Enemy Prologue: The Warning

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to whichever party currently owns that copyright. This is a fanwork and no profit is being made from it.
Author's Note: This is the prologue for the New Enemy series. It starts just after the events in Master Vile and the Metallic Armour.

The New Enemy Prologue: The Warning

The battle was over, Master Vile's scheme to seize the legendary Zeo Crystal had failed and the Power Rangers had once again saved the planet from the forces of evil. Following the battle, the Rangers had used the White Ranger's sword to break the Zeo Crystal into pieces, which they had then thrown into a time vortex. While there was a chance some of the larger fragments had bonded to the Rangers as they had thrown them into the void, most were simply lost. And without all the fragments it would be impossible for Master Vile to succeed in his plan.

As Alpha moved around the Command Center, adjusting the various scanners to keep watch for possible threats, Zordon was aware of a presence he had not felt for a long time. The ancient citadel that served as Zordon's monitoring post had been constructed to keep him safe. Only those with one in possession of a Power Coin or invited by somebody who already had access could bypass the Zithium walls of the structure. So it was a great surprised when an old man appeared.

"Zordon you fool, what have you done?" King Raimon demanded.

Raimon had been the rightful ruler of the M-51 Galaxy before it had fallen to the forces of darkness. Under Raimon's guidance the many planets had come together to combine magic and science in ways that even the Morphin Masters had failed to comprehend. The Zeo Crystal had been one of their greatest achievements, so Zordon could understand the monarch's outraged expression.

"King Raimon, I am honoured to see you again," Zordon began.

King Raimon had been much older than Zordon before the war with Rita Repulsa. Indeed, Zordon had been saddened to hear of the king's passing a few thousand years later. They had been friends and Zordon had learned a great deal from the ancient sage. That he had done something to anger King Raimon enough to return from the dead – exactly how he had accomplished that was unclear – was of great concern.

"You removed the Zeo Crystal!" Raimon accused, clearly incensed although Zordon could not comprehend the reason for his anger. The Zeo Crystal had been a magnificent example of magic bound within the rules of science, but it was far from the M-51 Galaxy's greatest achievement. "Your actions have undone thousands of years of work and doomed the universe."

"I assure you King Raimon that it would be impossible for Master Vile to reassemble the Zeo Crystal now that it has been scattered. The universe will never be threatened by its power."

The noble ghost sighed, realising that Zordon didn't understand why he was angry and that the Morphin Master had not acted out of some misguided notion. There had been a strong possibility that Master Vile would claim complete control over the Zeo Crystal and Zordon had reacted just as King Raimon would have expected him to. But the Morphin Master didn't understand the consequences of his actions.

"When your Rangers removed the Zeo Crystal from its resting place within the Caves of Deception did they notice what it was connected to?"

Zordon thought back. The Rangers' helmets provided a constant visual feed of their surroundings, making it easier for Zordon and Alpha to assist them when needed. He located the footage from Kat and Tommy's helmets and replayed it. All he could see was the Zeo Crystal and the force field. But there was something else, hidden from view. Why hadn't he sensed it before.

King Raimon was no longer seething with anger although he still looked annoyed. He shook his head and sighed.

"I apologise Zordon," he said after a while. "I had not realised that my subjects had continued my work after I passed on. The Technology Cloak was unexpected; there is no way you could have understood the risks." He quieted added: "But what do we do now?"

Zordon was confused.

"Perhaps if I knew the problem I could help," Zordon offered.

The anger was gone completely now. Raimon just looked sad as he shook his head.

"The Zeo Crystal was not placed on the Moon to protect the crystal. It was installed there to power the machinery my subjects had built. Now that it has been removed the machinery will start to close down and the work of thousands of years will be for nothing."

"Can we not replace the Zeo Crystal?" Zordon asked. The Rangers had come across numerous artefacts of great power during their time defending the planet.

"Alas the Zeo Crystal was a unique blending of magic and science that I doubt it would be possible to duplicate. And even if there were those that knew how, a replacement will take too long. No Zordon, the machinery within the Caves of Deception has already started to fail – for it was that which allowed me to briefly return to speak with you – and cannot be reactivated in time. Our efforts have failed and now He will return."

The was something about the way Raimon said He. Zordon had heard that tone before by soldiers preparing to battle the forces of Lord Zedd. It was fear of facing a more powerful enemy and the knowledge that the campaign was doomed to failure before the battle commenced.

"My time here is short Zordon," Raimon told him. Indeed, his presence was only possible due to the machinery breaking down and releasing small pockets of energy Raimon had provided during its construction. Once that magic faded the king would be forced to return to his resting place. "You must act now if you to stop Him. The time has come for the truth about the Earth to be revealed. Find it and you will discover a way to stop this evil before it destroys everything."

The king flickered as the magic sustaining him faded.

"You must find it Zordon, the truth must be revealed so that the Defender can rise once more. Earth is the key; it always has been."

"But what is this threat?" Zordon asked.

Sadly, he never received an answer; King Raimon was gone leaving Zordon with a puzzle to solve and a feeling that time was running out.

End of Part