Up to the Challenge

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to the current copyright owners. This is a fan work and no profit has been made from it.

Up to the Challenge

Angel Grove

With Goldgoyle finally defeated, life for the Turbo Rangers had quietened down. The team had found themselves more concerned with school work and teenage life than defending the planet. Which was probably a good thing since they only had two active Rangers following their friends’ injuries and were currently sharing a Megazord with the Rangers of Mariner Bay after Goldgoyle had slaughtered three of their Zords and two that belonged to their allies.

It was a chance to relax and catch up on the work they had missed due to saving the world. It was a chance for Tasha, Franklin and Rosa to recover from their injuries although it was doubtful they would ever morph again. And it was an opportunity to wonder what had happened to Zordon and the senior Rangers? It had been months since they had left to assist the people of Aquitar and very little had been heard from them. Both the younger Rangers and their parents were starting to worry.

But there was something about spending the morning working on complex math problems that the Rangers appreciated after the recent upheaval. School was boring, tedious and in some cases difficult interspersed with the occasional funny moment, interesting teacher or opportunity to catch up with friends. As he sat trying to remember how to solve the problem in front of him, Fred was actually happy.

====

Bulk and Skull were extremely happy as they polished their badges. After completing their training as Turbo Riders, the two youths had taken up working for Lieutenant Stone. The private detective had been asked to review some old unsolved crimes and had asked for the duos’ unique perspective. Both had readily agreed.

And working with Detective Stone, an adult who knew about their secret identities, also meant they were able to leave work when needed. Angel Grove had been extremely quiet recently though and the boys were enjoying what for them at least could be considered a normal life.

====

Mariner Bay

The Lightspeed Rangers were not happy. There had not been an attack since Goldgoyle had been defeated, but unlike the Turbo Rangers, they couldn’t just go back to their normal lives. Lightspeed was their life and that meant that when there were no attacks, they spent their time preparing for the next battle. Days spent training, lifting weights and enduring long lectures on procedure. Then there were the hours of helping repair the Zords damaged in their previous battle; it was still to early to decide if there were enough pieces of the damaged Rescue Zords to put them back together again.

But despite how difficult they found the work, they all agreed that it gave them a sense of belonging. As a team their bond was growing stronger and they had started including Nancy in their training sessions. One day she would become the sixth Ranger and training her had helped them improve their skills.

Garth had been training intensely to keep up with the others. He could never hold the powers of a Lightspeed Ranger; his questionable legal status disqualified him from the role and the modifications that had been made to his body were not compatible with those of a Lightspeed Ranger. Not that he minded since his role was to hunt and destroy demons, as opposed to the Rangers’ primary function of saving lives while fighting Queen Bansheera’s forces. Garth had a lot more freedom in his role even if it meant he would never completely fit in around the others.

In her workshop Miss Fairweather was supervising many of the projects that would increase Lightspeed’s arsenal. They included the attempted repair of the Rescue Zords and the restoration of the Express Zord given to them following the Turbo Rangers’ defeat of Divatox’s evil Rangers. Then there were the enhancement units and the modifications to the Rescue Machines and smaller Rescue Vehicles to oversee. It was a busy and demanding schedule, but she left work each day knowing that her work would make the world a safer place.

In his office Captain Mitchell was dealing with the downside of all the effort: paperwork. Every parts request, training update, medical check and security report made its way across his desk. And then there were the requests for information from Lightspeed’s shareholders and other interested parties. There were questions from accountants wanting to know the justification for some minor purchase and from the lawyers demanding an explanation of why Lightspeed did not own the rights to all the Zords inside the Aquabase. There were insurance claims for damaged buildings and more than a few compensation claims from those injured during monster attacks.

~It’s a good thing Lightspeed has such a large budget,~ he thought as he saw the cost of the road repairs from where a Zord had landed. The organisation’s budget had been established a long long time ago by their benefactor. It had grown through careful investment to the point where everything they had spent so far would be recovered within a few decades and had barely made a dent in their funds. ~It’s also lucky that only certain people can access the accounts.~ That had been included as a safeguard to ensure that his family would always be a part of an organisation and that the funds could not be misused or redirected.

He read over the latest demand for the return of the damaged Hydrothermal Generator that Goldgoyle had eaten along with an outlandish claim for compensation to replace it. He wrote a small figure on the page that lacked many of the zeros they had requested and dictated a letter for his secretary explaining the payment was for the scrap material they had recovered from the scene. He allowed himself some satisfaction as he imagined the look on their faces when he noted the cost of the damage caused by the generator and Lightspeed’s fee for recovering it.

He put the letter to one side and moved on to the next report on unusual happenings in Mariner Bay. There was nothing of real interest aside from a break in at one of the scrap yards. The owner had sworn he had seen Batlings carrying off the remains of a crushed car. There had also been reports of more break ins and the disappearance of a prisoner serving time for causing death by reckless driving. On their own such events didn’t merit his interest, but he put the reports in a folder and assigned them to one of his junior officers to review at their convenience. He had a hunch the events were not completely random.

As he finished reviewing some of his outgoing mail, he opened the top drawer of his desk to retrieve an envelope and paused for a moment to study the photograph he kept there. His eyes closed as he remembered the pain of loss before retrieving the envelope and carrying on, losing himself in his work. There were some wounds time just couldn’t heal. He hastily wrote some instructions on a piece of paper and put it inside the envelope, which he then addressed to the Rangers. They had worked hard recently, so he had decided to give them a little time off before things got busy again.

====

Mariner Bay
31 March 1998

His name was Pierre and he was a demon. Alongside Jinxer, he was a servant to the Royal Court of Queen Bansheera. However his skills differed from his brother’s abilities and normally that left him to play the role of nursemaid while his brother summoned beasts to aid Diabolico. However Pierre also specialised in necromancy and that made him the perfect choice for Diabolico’s latest scheme. Before him a team of twenty Batlings were digging in the darkness. It had taken a while to find the correct grave, but after dispensing of a few human protections around the ground, they had started to extract the small casket within.

“Good,” Pierre hissed as his helpers opened the casket and he was able to examine the remains. “The body is decayed but mostly intact. We can use it.”

He briefly considered ordering the Batling to cover the grave again, hiding their tracks from those that might investigate. Instead he decided to leave it open and let the humans discover the desecration of their burial grounds. It would likely cause panic as they worried what the demons had in mind for the stolen carcass. It was doubtful anybody would realise what had been taken until it was too late anyway. But along with the other things he had stolen, he had all the ingredients he needed.

====

Chad had enjoyed his day off so far, playing with the fish in the bay and diving for treasure at the bottom of the sea. But duty called and it was time to return to the Aqua Base for breakfast. He removed scuba gear and travelled back to the Aqua Base along the access tunnel and made his way to the changing rooms where he could dry off properly. He checked his watch and found there was still time to get something to eat before the mess closed if he hurried.

“Kelsey!” he called as he knocked on her door. He was well aware that if he had not eaten there was a good chance the Yellow Ranger had also missed a meal. She had been up late the previous night and had probably not gotten to bed until a few hours ago. “Time to get up, we have a busy day ahead!”

He heard the sound of a half-asleep Kelsey groan in response and carried on his way, knowing that she would join him eventually. Half an hour or so later as Chad was finishing his breakfast, Kelsey finally made her appearance, clearly tired if the yawning was an indication. Fortunately Chad had already ordered her breakfast for her. After making fun of Chad’s early morning swims, the two settled down to enjoy the rest of their meal.

====

Skull Cavern

Diabolico stood before the hell-mouth and lamented how Mariner Bay would be rubble now if it weren’t for those Rangers. Mariner Bay was but the first step in the demons reclaiming the Earth, but until the wretched city was destroyed, the pocket of negative energy the demons fed upon was unusable. And with Queen Bansheera back in contact, he was aware that it was only a short time before she tired of his excuses.

“Do not worry Diabolico,” Vypra assured the other demon, “I have a monster that will this city to smithereens.” As she spoke she handed Jinxer a card and told him to get to work.

Jinxer took the card and studied it before chuckling. The three senior members of Queen Bansheera’s court could make monsters of their own, but they needed Jinxer to focus the limited negative energy to bring them to life. Once Mariner Bay was destroyed he expected them to handle that part of things themselves. He tossed the card away and cast his spell.

“Hocus pocus, bullfrog croakus. Bring this monster into focus!”

The demonic energies surrounding the palace swirled about into lightning, striking the hell-mouth head to summon forth a red fireball from within. The fireball took shape in the mist-filled room, as the monster on the card rolled-up into ball-mode. Then he stood up, and announced with a laugh: “Smogger is here!”

“Excellent!” Vypra called, “the Rangers will be no match for Smogger’s explosive firepower.”

“You got that right, sister,” Smogger replied as he set off toward Mariner Bay.

====

The day off continued as Kelsey and Chad took the time to practice with Nancy. As Lightspeed’s newest Ranger recruit, the team had taken it upon themselves to bring her up to speed as quickly as possible. That meant taking time from their schedules to show her the tricks that made them so effective. Today Chad had decided to show her some new fighting moves and Kelsey had accompanied them because… In truth Kelsey was the only Ranger that had noticed how much Nancy was struggling to keep up with the additional training. She worked hard in the official training sessions and then was worked even harder by her future teammates in her spare time. Kelsey was worried that they were pushing her too hard.

“I don’t know about this Chad,” Kelsey said as he set his two students to work. Nancy seemed to grasp most of the moves but Kelsey was having difficulty. “Skateboarding is more my speed.”

“Trust me on this, Tai Chi is the path to inner calm. Something you need more than anyone.”

“Are you saying I’m not calm?” Kelsey demanded as Nancy tried to hide a snicker.

“Kelsey, I think you’re awesome,” Chad replied. “Adventurous…”

“And fearless…” Nancy added, which caused the Yellow Ranger to blush.

“Bu-u-t,” and here Chad paused as he tried to find the right words. Giving up, he looked to Nancy for help.

“Sometimes she gets a little overexcited?” Nancy asked.

Chad nodded, very cautiously.

“Overexcited?” Kelsey demanded as she rushed over and attacked the Blue Ranger’s chest. “I’ll show you over excited.”

At which point the training session turned into a three way tickle fight until they were disturbed by the sound of a motorcycle.

“Well well, if it isn’t the Blue and Yellow Rangers. I thought you were supposed to be fighting monsters, not civilians.”

The Rangers and their trainee turned toward the voice to find two punks watching them. The one who had spoken glanced at Nancy dismissively before deciding she was not worth his time.

“I bet they’re nothing without their powers,” the girl on the back of the bike commented.

“Hi, I’m Chad and this is Kelsey,” Chad said, offering his hand, only to have his offer of friendship rejected.

“Yeah I bet you think you’re really tough,” the punk sneered. “Why don’t we have a little fight and find out?”

Chad shook his head and gestured for his companions to join him as he picked up his things ready to leave.

“What’s the matter, chicken?” the punk cooed. “Little Power Ranger chicken.”

“He’s not a chicken!” Kelsey snapped, only for Nancy and Chad to hold her back. “Come on Chad, you can take him.”

“Maybe,” Chad agreed, ignoring the punk’s snort of disbelief, “but I don’t need to.”

As the threesome gathered their things, the punk seemed to realise that his chicken impressions were not having an effect. He looked at his girlfriend and when she gestured he decided that if Chad wasn’t going to fight willingly, he would make him.

“Get him Brian,” she urged.

Not needing much of a prompt, Brian marched over and stepped on Chad’s blue towel, preventing him from picking it up.

“Excuse me,” Chad said, but Brian pretended not to hear. With a sigh, Chad excused himself a second time and then yanked the towel free, knocking him over.

As Kelsey laughed and Nancy grinned, Chad cracked a small smile while wiping his hands off with his boot-stained towel.

“Don’t let him get away with that!” Brian’s girlfriend screamed.

Not wanting to look weak in front of his girlfriend, Brian jumped up and stomped towards Chad and the others. He attacked with a volley of clumsy but powerful kicks, which Chad easily deflected. With a small wink at the girls, Chad wrapped his towel around his arms while keeping them behind his back, infuriating the punk further. Eventually though Chad had enough and put an end to the fight. It appeared that Brian realised there was no way he could defeat Chad regardless of his powers.

“Come on Brian, you can beat him!” his girlfriend urged, however Chad and Kelsey had other things to worry about when their communicators beeped.

“Sorry Rangers, but your day off will have to wait,” Captain Mitchell told them. “There’s been an attack down town.”

“We’d better get going,” Kelsey said. “Head back to the Aqua Base, Nancy.”

The three headed off, leaving Brian to protest that he could have won while his girlfriend mocked him for losing.

====

Smogger charged up his amphibian-like body, and mustered up two large white balls. He tossed them at a building, causing the whole place to be racked with a sudden explosion, and the remainder of it to sink into the ground a bit to the great concern of those under the building in the parking garage. Even as the Rescue Rover sped to the scene Carter and the others were working on a plan.

“Joel and Dana help the people outside the building. Chad, see what you can do about the fire.”

The three Rangers saluted and jumped out of the vehicle, with Blue Ranger using his extinguisher rifle while Dana and Joel directed traffic. Meanwhile Red Ranger had used his helmet to scan the building and located three life signs in the parking garage.

“We need to get those people out,” he said.

Yellow Ranger nodded, as Red Ranger spun the wheel and turned the Rescue Rover into the car park entrance. This was one of those times when they could have used some of the Rescue Vehicles that had been designed, but sadly while the machines were useful, they were slow to deploy until Miss Fairweather could find a new method.

“Closing up!” she said, flicking a switch on the central column. The windows and roof of the Rescue Humvee locked into place, shielding the occupants from the pungent smoke that filled remnants of a building. “Rockets away! That’s how you break down a wall!”

“Next time use the claw!” Red Ranger complained as the Rescue Rover was pelted with debris.

The Rescue Rover had been refitted several times to include tools that could prove useful for small scale rescues. A small lifting claw and a winch were just two of the refinements Miss Fairweather had somehow managed to cram into the Rescue Rover’s frame. Kelsey nodded and used the claw to shove some rubble out of the way as they reached the trapped civilians.

====

Rescue Riser. One of the Rescue Vehicles developed by Lightspeed to help protect Mariner Bay.
Rescue Riser

Outside the building, Blue Ranger had managed to spray a steady stream of water onto the fiery building using one of the Rescue Vehicles The Rescue Riser was a larger than average, though certainly not Zord-sized vehicle capable of directing large jets of water. Unlike the other Rescue Vehicles, the machine operated better at long range, meaning it did not have to travel so far into the city before it was useful.

“The fire’s under control,” he reported, just as the Rescue Rover emerged from the building as Pink and Green Ranger reported that the area was clear of civilians.

They had just handed the three previously trapped innocents over to trained personnel when Smogger decided to appear.

“Playtime is over!” he announced.

“What are you doing here?” Red Ranger demanded.

“I’m having a ball,” Smogger replied as a horde of Batlings appeared and swarmed the Rangers.

With that the monster turned into his ball-mode, curling up and rolling off down the street. The Rangers broke loose of the Batlings, but it was too late as Smogger moved away. Yellow and Blue Ranger chased after him leaving the others to deal with the Batlings.

====

In another part of the city, Brian had parked his motorcycle. The area was rundown, a sign that not all businesses took advantage of the generous tax incentives offered by Mariner Bay’s council. Many stayed away from such places, fearing stray monster attacks or worse: punks like Brian who enjoyed the empty and almost lawless streets. His enjoyment of the old architecture was ruined by a loud rumbling as Smogger’s ball-form raced down the road. He hid behind a pillar and watched as the Yellow and Blue Rangers chased the madball of a monster into the abandoned buildings. Smogger rolled down stairs and up them, through small narrow spaces and eventually in through a set of doors.

Blue and Yellow Ranger had managed to keep up and followed him through the door, not realising that Smogger was about to unleash his power. A blast of gas erupted from his fingertips, filling up the room with the noxious fumes. Yellow Ranger told her teammates to stand back as she prepared to blast him out with her Rescue Blaster. Blue Ranger cautioned her that such an act could be dangerous, but the Yellow Ranger had made up her mind and as Brian lurked around the side of tattered building, watching the Rangers in action, Yellow Ranger fired her Rescue Blaster at the door, blasting holes in it and hopefully the monster on the other side.

“I got him!” Yellow Ranger cried triumphantly as she rushed toward the door.

“Kelsey, wait!” Blue Ranger responded as he notice smog drifting through the holes.

She ignored him and burst through the doors, just in time to see the smog vacate the room through a stairwell in the back of the room. The sudden change in pressure sent a huge stream of fire back at them, which ripped through Yellow Ranger, and Blue Ranger, as it ignited and erupted through the building.

Brian watched from his safe hiding place as the two Rangers were thrown out into the open. He had to shield his face from the heat as they demorphed. He could see that the Blue Ranger was mostly unharmed, but the Yellow Ranger looked like she had taken the brunt of the fireball.

“Two Rangers down,” Smogger gloated before leaving. “Just wait until I tell Vypra.”

====

As Chad lifted an apologetic Kelsey into his arms and carried her to a safer location, Brian had reached a decision and followed Smogger to a nearby warehouse. There he witnessed Vypra commending her monster for a job well done.

“Now take your explosive gas and go and blow up the whole of Mariner Bay,” she ordered.

“No problem, I haven’t even used my strongest gas yet,” Smogger promised.

Brian tried to move to a better location, but accidentally bumped into a barrel, alerting Vypra to his presence. Several Batlings rushed over and captured him, presenting the eavesdropper to the demonic princess on his knees.

“Destroy him!” she ordered.

“Wait, I’m not a spy!” Brian protested. “I want to join you!”

“Join me?” Despite herself Vypra was intriqued that a human would ask something like that. Her amusement was enough to keep him alive a little longer.

“Teach me,” he urged, breaking free of the Batlings so that he could run toward her. “Teach me how to destroy the Blue Ranger.”

Vypra pondered the idea. If nothing else she thought it would be amusing to see the humans fight amongst themselves. And even as Smogger ordered the human to lower his head before his new mistress, she blew on his head with her demonic breath, turning him into a human-demon hybrid for a short time.

“Well, let’s get to work,” she said, causing Brian to lift his head. His eyes had turned orange and his face had paled as the demonic vapours affected his body.

“Yes, my mistress,” he replied in a voice that was no longer his own. A part of him protested but it was silenced by the part that pointed out that this was what he had wanted.

====

Mariner Bay Emergency Medical Center, Room 413

Kelsey had not been badly hurt, but the doctors had decided that rest and some fluid replenishment was needed before she could leave. At first she had protested, but those complaints were forgotten when she closed her eyes for a moment and fell asleep. Chad had been watching over her since her arrival, once the doctors had decided that he was fit and did not need any treatment following his exposure to Smogger’s gas. Finally he departed to let her sleep, wracked with guilt over her current state despite knowing that it was not his fault.

“I should have stopped her,” he told the others as he joined them in the waiting room.

“Yeah right,” Joel snorted. “Nobody can stop that girl from doing anything once her mind is made up.”

“The doctor says she’ll be fine with a little rest,” Dana pointed out.

Carter communicator chose that moment to beep.

“Rangers, we’ve managed to locate Smogger. He’s in the Main Street tunnel!”

“We’re on our way Sir,” Carter replied before nodding at the others.

The four Ranger teens raced out of the hospital with Chad bringing up the rear. A shrill whistle caused the Blue Ranger to pause and as he looked around he spotted a lone Batling gesturing for him to approach.

“Wait,” Carter ordered as Chad moved to do so. “We don’t have time for this; it could be a trap.”

“You guys go on and I’ll deal with him,” Chad replied. “We can’t leave it alone this close to the hospital. I’ll join you shortly.”

Chad followed the Batling behind an ambulance where the Batling handed him a scroll. As he opened it the words lifted from the parchment and burnt into the air. It read: “Blue Ranger, Under the guidance of my new master Vypra, I now have the skills to defeat you. I challenge you to fight me again and this time I will be the victor. -Brian”.

====

“Blowing up the city from underneath is the perfect plan,” Smogger proclaimed as he led a group of Batlings through a drainage tunnel close to Main Street.

His scheming was interrupted when three morphed Rangers descended into his path using their ropes. He sendt the Batlings to fight them while he concentrated on his task. The Rangers responded by drawing their Rescue Batons and charging the enemy. The fight was on.

====

Vypra watched as Brian trained for battle. She was pleased with his progress. More so that the distraction meant there were only three Rangers available to stop Smogger. She was impressed when his demon-powered limbs shattered the wooden boards the Batlings had positioned for his use. Yes, he was ready and not a moment too soon as the Batling she had sent to summon the Blue Ranger arrived with the fool in tow.

“Let him go Vypra!” Chad yelled.

“You’re just in time, Blue Ranger,” Vypra replied, ignoring the demands. “I think you know my new warrior.”

“Don’t worry Brian, I’ll get you out of this,” Chad promised.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Brian replied, “And neither are you!”

Chad held his hand s up as Brian circled him. “Come on Brian, you don’t have to do this.”

“Oh yes he does,” Vypra interrupted. “Come on Brian, get him!”

That was all Brian needed to hear as he charged toward the Blue Range and attacked with a series of nasty kicks and punches. Chad tried to defend himself, but a few of the blows landed successfully. But while Brian was fuelled by rage and demon energy, his skills were inferior to Chad, who after ducking a punch, grabbed his rival’s arm.

“Stop it Brian, I’m here to help you.”

“I don’t need your help,” Brian snarled in response before launching a fresh assault.

====

“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?”

Kelsey winced, knowing that she had been caught. She had sneaked out of the hospital, found her way back to the Aquabase and recovered her uniform, but in her current state she had been careless and forgotten to make sure that the Weapons Lab was completely empty before entering. Fortunately it was Miss Fairweather that had caught her; whereas Captain Mitchell would have seen the necessity of her return to action, some of his subordinates would have had her forcibly returned to the hospital regardless of the danger her friends were in.

“Yeah, but the others need me!”

Miss Fairweather smiled. She knew there was a reason Kelsey ad been one of those chosen as a Lightspeed Ranger. Since she worked closely with the Rangers she also knew how stubborn the Yellow Ranger could be.

“I’m not going to try and talk you out of it,” she said. “But at least wait a minute so I can give you something to help.”

She pressed a button and one of the Lightspeed Cycles rose into the Transport Bay, along with a new gadget aside it.

“This is the Rescue Speeder,” Fairweather stated. “I thought you might be able to use it.”

Kelsey smiled and gave the scientist a hug.

“Lightspeed Rescue!”

She leapt onto the Lightspeed Cycle, and revved it up, speeding off with the Rescue Speeder attached.

====

Chad had had enough. He had tried to reason with Brian, to persuade him that they didn’t need to fight. He had tried appealing to the punk to shake off Vypra’s influence, but it was growing clear as Brian continued to punch and kick the Blue Ranger, that the demon’s influence only enhanced his actions. It seemed that Brian was a jerk and that no amount of reasoning could change that.

“Fine,” Chad announced, dodging a kick and removing his jacket. “We’ll do this the hard way.”

He tossed the jacket aside and adjusted his stance. The next time Brian tried to hit him, he found that his punch was easily blocked. After gauging Brian’s strength, Chad had realised that he could hit the punk harder without worrying about hurting him, thanks to Vypra’s enhancements. So he didn’t hold back and Brian soon discovered that Chad was far more skilled than he let on.

====

Elsewhere, the Rangers had defeated the Batlings and tracked Smogger down to an abandoned factory warehouse district. Smogger coughed up a set of green energy ropes from his mouth, which wrapped around the Green, Red and Pink Rangers. The ropes unleashed a surge of energy that made the Rangers cry out in pain. But Smogger was not done and pulled out two more large white smog balls to throw at them. The resulting blasts sent each of the three Rangers toppling over.

“Ouch,” Green Ranger complained. That seemed to sum up what the others were feeling too.

As Smogger prepared another larger smog ball, he was distracted by the roar of a motorcycle. He unleashed the ball and looked for the source of the sound, realising too late that it was the Yellow Ranger riding down the streets of Mariner Bay to the rescue.

“Rescue Speeder!” Yellow Ranger cried as the Rescue Speeder launched from the bike. It flew through the air and intercepted the smog ball before it could strike the fallen Rangers, and ricocheted it right back into Smogger. While Smogger was blasted back and fell over, the sidecar returned to the bike. Yellow Ranger parked the bike, much to the surprise and delight of her teammates.

“What did you expect?” she asked as she cut the others free. “I couldn’t let you have all the fun.”

====

Chad and Brian continued fighting and it was clear that Chad had been holding back more than his opponent had suspected. Hours spent swimming had helped improve the power of his kicks. Brian had tried to keep up for a while, but was clearly outclassed and was starting to tire despite his demon-enhanced body. When he was knocked to the dirt for the fourth time in a minute it seemed that the beating had taken its toll. He could hardly stand.

“Pathetic,” Vypra sneered as she watched her human fail. “I should have known!”

“This is over,” Chad told his fallen opponent as Vypra dismissed her spell. “We should go.”

For the first time Brian showed some common sense as he reached up to take the offered hand. However before Chad could help him, another set of Batlings popped up and grabbed the Blue Ranger, holding his arms and legs in place.

“Perhaps now you can finish the job,” Vypra challenged.

“This isn’t right,” Brian protested. “This was supposed to be my battle.”

“Insolent human!” Vypra snarled before punching Brian in the gut. “Either you destroy him or I’ll destroy you.”

Although she had released her possession of the punk, some of her influence remained as Brian obeyed, readying himself to inflict the killing blow. With a howl, he unleashed all his aggression, shifting the direction of his punch at the last moment to strike a Batling. What remained of the spell was broken, causing Brian’s face to return to normal. He smiled at Chad before kicking the Batling holding the Ranger’s leg. Chad replied with a smile of his own as he took out the Batling that had been preparing to strike Brian from behind.

Working together, they made short work of the Batlings as Vypra looked on in disbelief.

“Nobody is going to tell me what to do anymore,” Brian promised.

“You’ll pay for this!” Vypra swore before she decided to cut her losses.

After collecting his jacket and shaking hands with a thankful Brian, Chad left to find his friends.

====

Smogger flipped Red Ranger into the air and gloated as he landed next to the others. “One wounded Ranger, three left to take care of!”

His gloating was cut short be the Blue Ranger’s swinging entrance. A flying jump kick was rapidly followed by a set of rapid kicks to the monster’s chest. Smogger ended up in an alleyway and had just managed to pull himself back to his feet in time to witness the arrive of Red Ranger on the Lightspeed Cycle with Blue Ranger in the Rescue Speeder, wielding his Blaster. Red Ranger fired the Cycle’s laser guns, while Blue Ranger sat up in the Speeder and fired his blaster. Both hit their target, bombarding Smogger with a nonstop set of bursts. Red Ranger gave a cry of triumph as they drove through the monster. Smogger fell and exploded as the Rangers came to a halt.

As the other joined them and reported that the mission was complete, Green decided that if that was what a day off was like they would have been better off at work. The others didn’t really argue as Chad tried to convince Kelsey to go back to the hospital. It seemed though the Yellow Ranger had other idea as she dragged the Blue Ranger away, promising that she was going to have more fun by teaching him how to talk to girls.

End of Part

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

Distant Danger: The Release

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to the current copyright owner. This is a fan work and no profit is being made.
Author’s Note: In this universe the M-51 Galaxy was responsible for the creation of the Zeo Crystal, the Energems and a number of other powerful artefacts.

The Distant Danger: The Release

Deep within the Moon lay the Caves of Deception. Long believed to be caverns carved by the forces of evil, they had been prepared long before the emergence of Lord Zedd, Rita Repulsa and Zordon of Eltare by the Techno-Mages of the M-51 Galaxy. Many villains including Lord Zedd had discovered that a powerful artefact known as the Zeo Crystal had been placed there. They had not noticed the machinery in which the crystal had been placed or the vast equipment that used the crystal’s power to project an energy beam through the darkness of space to the distant world of Druel.

Druel appeared to be small planet and was situated far from Earth. It was a planet with a disputed history; there were some who claimed that the planet had once looked very different and that the twin moons that circled it had once been a single planet. The only thing they all agreed was that Druel had always orbited around a solitary blue star. There were some that spoke of a great battle that had left portions of the surface incapable of supporting life and that not even weeds could survive the harsh environment. It had been this way for as long as anyone could remember.

Not much else was known about the planet because the system had long been off limits to both the Galactic Council and the Alliance of Evil. A large fleet prevented either side from encroaching. It was one of the few worlds deemed truly off limits to both sides of the conflict and not even the likes of Master Vile would ignore the penalties for ignoring a boundary that had been in place long before he had taken control of Gamma Vile. And any attempt to learn of the planet’s origins from those that guarded it had also failed; the large armada was swift to responded to intruders but never answered the hails of other ships.

For those that had managed to near the planet, the reason why access was restrict had become very clear before they were destroyed. Druel didn’t exist. The barren world that was seen from a distance was just an illusion. There was no planet surrounded by two moons as many believed. Instead there were the two large fragments of the world that had once been known as Druel held in a fixed orbit around a mass of ancient machinery. The machinery had been placed on hundreds of floating platforms and aligned so that from a distance with the correct projections in place, nobody could see what was really there.

Druel was in truth a very large prison constructed to hold a dangerous villain. A worshipper of the Dark God Sincline, he had made a bid for absolute power after gathering the powerful Energems, crafted by the monks of the M-51 Galaxy, and enacting a ceremony to bind their power to his will. He had conquered and in some cases killed their rightful owners during his quest and had been determined that nothing would stop him.

The forces of the M-51 Galaxy had mobilised a massive army against him, working with others to stop the madman before he could unlock the power of the Energems. In the confusion the Energems had been stolen by a rival and accidentally scattered across the galaxy. He had retained the power they had granted him, but his enemies had taken advantage of the distraction and had somehow transported him to Druel.

In a fit of rage he had destroyed the planet, a rash action that had cost him most of the power he had gained from his connection to the gems. A battle had followed and while they could not hurt him, they had been able to herd him into a trap.

His enemies had constructed a portable cell capable of emitting a stasis field. They had weaved spells to ensure that time within the cell stopped, preserving him in a moment of time. He would not age nor die, but would remain forever frozen, unable to escape. But it quickly became clear that maintaining the spell would require more and more energy as time passed, far more energy than the mages had at their disposal without the Energems. And so the people of the M-51 Galaxy had set about building the platforms and equipment needed to received energy transmitted from worlds across the universe. Specially cut crystals would gather a combination or life energy and raw magic and after converting it into a useable form, would transmit that energy to where it was needed.

And once there it would power the vast machinery needed to serve one function: to maintain the stasis field. Originally there had been seven crystals, each constructed to work with the unique properties of the nearby planets. Over time six of those crystals had been either lost following war or stolen. Eventually only one remained: The Zeo Crystal hidden deep within the caverns of the Earth’s moon.

And now something had changed. The flow of power from the Earth had been disrupted and the machinery could no longer maintain the stasis field. Its creators had allowed for the possibility that a few of the crystals would fail for a short time and had included safeguards and backups. But with only the Zeo Crystal to power the machinery there had not been the opportunity to build new reserves and with the Zeo Crystal gone, it only took a short time before the cell opened.

====

The moment the stasis field had failed, the fleet of ships that had served to keep others from approaching Druel started to move. The powerful warships turned toward the planet and opened fire as they had been programmed to do so long ago. The platforms and technology were ripped apart as the ships tried to destroy the being hidden deep inside before he could recover. For hours they bombarded the area, not stopping to see if maybe they had been successful. Only when their weapons were incapable of firing did they cease their attack, only to propel themselves toward the former prison in a suicidal dive to ensure the destruction of anything that remained.

The fleet never made it to their target. As they sped inward the prisoner finally returned fire, unleashing a wave of green energy that engulfed the vessels. The ships vanished in a haze as the destructive wave smashed through anything in its path. A second blast reduced the twin moons to space dust and soon the only thing left was a lone villain.

====

He had been unable to move during his imprisonment, but his powers had recovered slowly and over millions of years he had regained a portion of his former strength, enough to battle an army and triumph. Of course he was unaware how long he had been held. To his mind he had been placed in the cell and seconds later had broken free when the stasis field had failed. He reached out with his mind and located his fortress. It was far away, but never beyond his reach. One moment he was floating in the debris of his captors, the next he vanished, on his way back to the battlefield before his enemies grew too comfortable in their victory.

His enemies had landed a lucky blow and had somehow forced him from the battlefield. But whatever their plan it had failed and when he returned he would claim his victory. Unfortunately, he didn’t realise that that victory had been claimed long ago by his enemies and that few if any would even remember his name. They would consider him a new enemy.

End of Part

The Green-Eyed Monster

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to the current copyright owner. I also do not own Franklin, Tasha or Rosa. They belong to Ellen Brand and are used with permission granted long ago. Equally the original version of this story is the property of Ellen Brand who granted me permission to use and alter it way back when she was writing Personality Conflicts. I thank her once again. This fanfic is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence and adult content.

 

The Green-Eyed Monster
based on the story of the same name by Ellen Brand

“Beware of jealousy, my lord, the green-eyed monster/ which doth mock the meat on which it feeds.”- “Othello,” William Shakespeare.

====

Prologue

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, life evolved in the Universe. Real life as opposed to the high beings that had emerged much earlier. Experts could not agree which planet was the first to show signs of intelligence for there were a number of contenders. Some evolved too fast and ascended to the higher planes while others lacked the understanding of the forces they inevitably played with and wiped themselves out. One race discovered the secrets to rewriting the structure of reality to the point where they removed themselves from the inferior beings, treating them as objects of fun. And then there were those that possessed the wisdom to stop before they overstepped the mark; in some cases they were simply lucky to survive the disaster they created.

The Wizards of Maltus were one such race. Among the oldest civilisations in the universe, the Maltusians were considered strange by those that encountered them. For despite being a race of powerful wizards capable of directing extra-dimensional energy and bending it to their wills, they abhorred magic. Magic was too wild for them to control and what they could not control, they feared. In a doomed attempt to limit the influence of magic on the universe, the Maltusians gathered all the energy they could find and locked it within a containment unit, which the then threw into the depths of space. It would be eons later that they discovered that containing all magic was impossible since it was constantly flowing into the universe from beyond.

In other circumstances the Maltusians could have become a major player in universal affairs. Perhaps they would have conducted an experiment that was unsafe and in doing so realised a new goal to bring order to the universe. Perhaps they would have become a divided race separated by their beliefs in how that goal could be achieved. Maybe given time they would have learnt to give others the means to exercise the powers they employed using willpower to bend energy to their wills.

But that never happened. The Maltusians’ failure to contain the spread of magic caused them to look inward to maintaining order over their own world. Experimentation stopped and a great race for the most part was content to stagnate. Had they realised that their race had been rewritten by the meddling of another race to make them less of threat, they would have fought. But they never knew and the great forces they were supposed to bring to the universe emerged without their guidance.

Not all the Maltusians felt that way though and from time to time a member of their race would decide to experiment with forces he did not understand. Krona was one such Maltusian. Unlike others who did so for their own amusement, Krona believed that only through understanding could his people achieve their goals. To that end he carried out forbidden experiments using magic and in the process accidentally transformed a demon into a powerful embodiment of twisted emotions: Nyghtmayr.

The Maltusians managed to force Nyghtmayr into another dimension known as the Morphyus Realm. Krona was severely punished for his crimes, but the damage he had caused would not be easily reversed; Krona had unwittingly spread the twisted emotions Nyghtmayr represented throughout existence and in doing so had offset the natural advantage of Good over Evil. Servants of Nyghtmayr remained to do his bidding, finding ways to feed on the emotions they influenced to free their master. The Shadow Empire had many forms.

Guilt ridden about the damage Krona had caused, the Maltusians discovered a way to fight the forces of the Shadow Empire. Unfortunately the method they devised required more than just willpower. It needed a powerful and creative imagination to direct the power. It was a weapon the Maltusians would never be able to use themselves and with their strong feelings of isolationism, one they were unwilling to share. Instead despite their regret, they resigned themselves to failure and returned to bringing order solely to themselves.

And as the Maltusians faded from the powerful force they might have become, a grand schemer was satisfied that he had removed yet another of those that would challenge his race for supremacy. It was a slow battle that he fought, mostly in secret. His people would never approve of the steps he had taken to ensure their position as the guiding influence over the lesser beings. The creation of the threat Nyghtmayr posed and the corruption of the Morphyus Realm had been regrettable, but he comforted himself that as bad as the demon could be, his conscience was much worse.

====

The journey back from Aquitar had taken the Power Rangers longer than expected. Escorting Zordon to Eltare had been an educational experience. However when Trey had decided that he needed to look in on Triforia, the delays had increased. Still they arrived home to a great party, unaware of the war that Zordon and Trey had been careful to keep from them; Trey had actually arranged for another vessel to return them to Earth, stating that he would follow on later. Friends and loved ones were reunited as couples cuddled. Food, drink, music and conversation flowed as the stories of those that had returned were exchanged with those that had remained.

For those family members that had only found out about their loved ones because of the mission to Aquitar, it was a great relief to have their sons of daughters home again. By morning many of those parents and siblings would not recall that secret as a spell was cast to protect the identities of the Rangers; Zordon while understanding the need to tell their families why they were leaving had been concerned that so many people knowing would cause them problems. In the end it had been agreed that those who were not ready to live with the knowledge that their loved ones fought to protect the planet would have the knowledge shielded. Only when they needed to know would they recall the secret.

At the same time the spell altered the knowledge of those outside of Angel Grove, hiding knowledge of the Rangers’ real identities. In Mariner Bay it was fine for the Rangers to have their identities known since the local laws regarding press intrusion kept them safe. In Angel Grove the less people who were aware of their identities, the better.

It was astounding for the senior Rangers to realise just how far the Turbo Rangers had come. Even reduced to just two members they had protected their world. Although rendered unable to morph, Tasha, Franklin and Rosa had continued to aid their friends. It was a good sign that the planet was in safe hands. Especially since Zordon had made an offer very few of those returning could refuse: the opportunity to receive the training that their peers on other worlds could only dream of, with instruction from some of the greatest Masters ever known. Both the Zeo and Morphin Rangers had accepted the chance to develop their knowledge and skills. The logistics would take longer since most of them wished to at least have the opportunity to return home on a regular basis. But with so much power at their disposal, the possibilities offered by teleportations were limitless.

But as Tommy stared into the night’s sky, he knew that this was not the end. Evil was still out there and the forces that had tried to claim the planet so many times before would return. He had a feeling that the battles to come would prove more difficult than those they had already faced. So far the Rangers had suffered very few losses in their battle against Rita and others. Somehow he knew that was going to change and in future they would all pay the price.

There was likely trouble ahead, but for tonight at least there was moonlight and music, and love, and romance. And together they would weather the storm and protect their world. Because they were the Power Rangers and defending their planet was part of the job.

====

Angel Grove is beautiful at night. The monster damage is invisible, and the lights of the city shine like a thousand stars in the darkness. Even the harbour district looks good, from a distance. There are a number of good places to look over the city. Hunter’s Point and Miller’s Ridge are two of the best-known. At Miller’s Ridge, teens are generally too busy making out with each other to notice the view. Hunter’s Point, on the other hand, is far less frequented especially with the dense mist that had descended upon it.

It wasn’t really mist, an expert would proclaim upon inspection. It was the vaporous manifestation of beings not native to the dimension they currently occupied. Psychically enriched emotionally charged beings that while often mistaken for demons, lacked the magic and physicality of such beings. Lacking true bodies they rarely set foot in the ephemeral world where lives lasted but a short time but felt so much more real because of it, preferring to draw those they relied upon to feed them into their domain of imagination, desire and delusion. When they did venture forth they took the closest form they could to the natives, which meant they became either shadow, smoke or sometimes mist.

These two beings were not like other that visited the mortal plain. They had ambitions beyond feeding on the emotional experiences of those they encountered. For they were more evolved than some of their counterparts. They were a part of demon Nyghtmayr.

Nyghtmayr had not always been a demon in the true sense. Once he too had been an incorporeal being that fed like a parasite on the emotions of others. But he had been observed, misunderstood and then for some strange reason… worshipped. Belief that he was a demon had altered Nyghtmayr causing him to become more than just another parasite but stopping short of being a true demon. As a result his ability to influence and feed on the emotions of others had been enhanced while his vulnerability to items know to harm demons was significantly lower.

However it was when a sorcerer made the mistake of trying to summon Nyghtmayr that his transformation had been completed. Nyghtmayr had become a very unusual demon and although he was driven back, he had never been destroyed. On a previous Halloween night, the Power Rangers of Earth had encountered Nyghtmayr and some of the lesser demons that he had created. Nyghtmayr had once again been driven back to where he rested, but the Rangers had not destroyed him. And so he waited for the next time he received the needed emotional energy to come forth and feed.

Tonight it was not Nyghtmayr that had stepped into the mortal realm. Instead it was two of his creations, lesser demons better attuned to singular emotions. And as the mist shifted to take the form of the two draconic shadows watching the gem-studded vista below with acquisitive eyes the world around them seemed to grow darker. Then they shifted further, assuming forms the natives were more likely to recognise – for one benefit of Nyghtmayr’s previous visits to the mortal real had been an understanding of what made a mortal.

“Think of it, Jealysy!” one hissed. “The entire world, ours for the taking!”

Jealysy swatted her companion upside the head. Seeing that his form would likely be considered a child by Earth standards and that her form was that of a fully grown female, it likely hurt. “Fool! Don’t be so eager, Malyce! Our master will not accept failure just because we failed to properly study the situation. We shall not be driven back like the others.~

Malyce rubbed his head sullenly. “What will we do, then?”

Jealysy smiled, an evil expression that curled across her face and looked impossibly dragon-like on her otherwise normal features. “We shall use the oldest technique known to warriors, Malyce. One known and used by the Rangers of this world. Divide and conquer. The Rangers shall fall, and we shall have avenged our master and our brothers, and secured a world for Nyghtmayr to plunder, all in one swoop.” Hideous silent laughter echoed through the hills, disturbing more than one dream in the city below.

====

“Hey, Ernie, where do you want these?” Tanya Sloan asked, setting the last box of papayas down on the juice bar counter.

“Right there is fine, Tanya,” the slightly paunchy bartender replied. “I’ll get to them later. So how’s Pitt?”

“It’s great, although I miss all my friends. We keep in touch of course, by letter and communicator, but still, it’s sad not seeing them every day. One thing I really miss is the sunshine all year round! I certainly wouldn’t be dressing like this in a Pittsburgh February.” She spun, showing off her yellow short-sleeved shirt. Ernie chuckled.

Summer had arrived in Angel Grove and the natives were taking full advantage of the weather.

“No, I don’t suppose you would. So how long are you home for?”

“Four days. I’ve got a long weekend, thanks to some of my professors cancelling all the classes, and my parents know I’m a Ranger, so I just teleported home for the weekend. Maybe later I’ll head up to Northwestern, pay Adam a visit.” She grinned.

“So after you help me load all my food supplies into my pantry, what are your plans for the day?”

She sighed. “Well, I have to help my mom move some stuff up to the attic. After that, I’m joining the Turbo Rangers for a picnic in the park. That’ll be interesting.”

Ernie snorted. “That’s one word for it.” The Turbo Rangers- Fred Kelman, Justin Stewart, Franklin Park, Rosa De Santos and Tasha Young- were the most unpredictable, eclectic group of friends that Ernie had ever had in his juice bar. The fact that they were also Earth’s major line of defence against evil aliens from outer space only made hanging around with them more- interesting. More so given that Tasha, Franklin and Rosa had suffered injuries during their time as Rangers that made their future roles uncertain.

Tanya laughed. “I haven’t talked to Tasha that much recently. I used to mentor her, and I think it’s time we got the communication channels re-opened. I’ll see you, Ernie. I’ve got some heavy lifting to do.” She was really worried about how her friend was coping with the recent uncertainty.

“Bye, Tanya,” he waved as she sped out the door.

====

“So who brought the food?” Those were Fred Kelman’s first words upon joining his friends for their picnic in the park. Three thumbs jerked in the direction of Rosa De Santos, who smiled.

“And we have quite a selection. Ham sandwiches, roast beef, turkey, tuna salad, peanut butter and mayonnaise…” As Rosa enumerated the food choices on her fingers, the other four all groaned good-naturedly.

Franklin Park chuckled, looking up from his book. “She is DEFINITELY a De Santos,” he grinned. Rosa stuck her tongue out at him.

“I’m a growing girl!” she defended herself.

Justin Stewart raised an eyebrow. “You keep eating like that, and the only direction you’ll be growing in is out.”

“HEY!” Rosa immediately pounced on her blue friend, tickling him unmercifully around the ribs. Laughing, Justin flailed around helplessly, trying to knock her away. The other three just sat and watched.

“Should we help him?” Tasha Young asked, sounding slightly bored. The other two looked at each other.

“Nahhh,” Fred and Franklin replied in unison. “Justin can take care of himself,” Fred added.

Suddenly a flash of black lightning and a sudden breeze alerted the party to the presence of something evil. Rosa left off tickling Justin, and all five Rangers rose slowly to their feet, turning towards the source of the wind. Standing behind them was a dragon made entirely of shadow.

“Anybody got any ideas who or what THIS is?” Fred asked his friends. The other four shook their heads.

“I am Jealysy, servant of Nyghtmayr, humans. Surrender now, and I may yet spare your miserable lives!”

Tasha snorted. “Everyone who’s heard this speech before, raise your hands.” Five hands shot up.

Jealysy had assumed her shadow form for the confrontation, believing that it would inspire apprehension on the part of the humans. For the most part it had elicited only curiousity.

“Look,” Justin began, “we’ve kicked every villain butt from here to Topeka. Why don’t you just give up and go away?”

“Why do we even bother asking each other these questions?” Rosa added. “We always know what the answers are going to be. It’s formula.”

“Let’s skip to the point where we morph and beat her,” Franklin suggested. “I want to get back to our picnic.” Despite their confident joking, the Turbo Rangers were nervous. They had heard about the team’s two previous run-ins with the Demons of Nyghtmayr, and knew they were up against a formidable adversary. With only two active Rangers they were at a distinct disadvantage.

“I think Franklin’s got a plan,” Fred agreed. “Shift into Turbo!” In a flash of light, Justin and Fred were transformed into the Power Rangers Turbo. Jealysy merely laughed, regarding them contemptuously.

“Young fools. Do you believe that those outfits will protect you against my power?” A bright light flashed, accompanied by a sound like thunder. When their vision cleared, the Turbos were alone in the park.

“I guess she’s gone,” Red Turbo said slowly. “Let’s head back to the Power Chamber and talk to the others about this.” He reached out a hand to Rosa, who had fallen to her knees from the shock of the attack. Suddenly his hand was knocked away as an angry looking Franklin stepped between them.

“Keep your hands off her,” Franklin growled. “She’s with ME, hot-shot, and don’t you forget it.”

“Yeah?” Red Turbo replied, not backing off. “You want everything, don’t you? I bet you want to be leader, too. Well too bad, you can’t even morph!”

“Fred, Franklin, what are you doing?” Tasha cried, trying to pull her two friends away from each other before blows could be exchanged. Suddenly a hand fell on her shoulder, pulling her away from the two of them. Tasha turned to see Rosa standing behind her.

“Keep away from my man, Tasha,” Rosa warned.

“Rosa, have you gone nuts? I’m not interested in Franklin.”

“That’s good to hear.” She whirled at the voice behind her. It was Blue Turbo’s, but the tone was so threatening that she had barely recognized it. “You’re with me, Tasha, and don’t you forget it.”

Tasha pulled out of Blue Turbo’s punishingly tight grip on her wrists, controlling her desire to hit him with some effort. He was morphed and she was powerless. Striking him would likely just hurt her hand. “You don’t own me, Justin. What is wrong with all of you?”

Suddenly a flash of yellow light caught everybody’s attention, and all five Turbos turned to see Yellow Zeo teleport in. “You guys! You’re under Jealysy’s spell!” she cried, running towards them. “You have to fight it!”

Suddenly the world flashed white, and the ground fell out from under them. Tasha barely had time to curse before the white turned to black, and she knew no more.

====

“Ohh, never again,” Tasha mumbled. “I will NEVER let Justin talk me into that roller coaster again!” Levering herself up, she examined her surroundings. They appeared to have landed in a forest. Gray mist swirled around them, making it impossible to see more than a few yards in any direction. The trees around them were black and bare, and seemed to be dead. In any direction, the woods were preternaturally silent. Tasha made a face. “Yuck. What is this place?”

“You got me,” Tanya replied, sitting up next to her. “But we’re all by ourselves, and we’re both unmorphed.”

It was true. Despite being morphed when she arrived, Tanya was clearly out of uniform, and none of the other Turbo Rangers were anywhere in sight. Tasha stood cautiously, helping Tanya up as well. She shivered, looking around her. “Maybe you should morph again. This place seems like it could be dangerous.”

“It’s morphin time! Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!”

Yellow light flared, but nothing happened. The two girls regarded each other in worry.

“That won’t work here,” a mental voice said. The two girls whirled to find an image of Jealysy and another demon watching them. “You’re in the realm of Morphyus, the home of the Demons of Nyghtmayr. Here, you play by our rules. Oh, by the way, this is Malyce. We are part of the dynasty of Nyghtmayr, and we shall be your destroyers.~

“Where are our friends?” Tasha asked furiously, taking a step towards the demons. Her temper, never the best, was frayed to its limit by the events of the day.

Jealysy sniggered. “Oh, they’re around. Good luck hunting for them, Yellow Rangers, because they’ll also be hunting for you.” With that, the image disappeared, leaving the two girls alone.

“What did she mean by that?” Tanya asked. Tasha shrugged.

They didn’t have to wait long for an answer. A blur of red suddenly left the bushes and attacked them. As it approached, the two of them could see that the blur was actually Fred Kelman. “Fred, don’t!” Tasha cried, blocking a particularly nasty kick. “We’re your friends, remember?” He spin-kicked her away, sending her into a nearby tree. “Oof. Guess not.”

Tanya set her stance as Fred advanced on her, and nearly gasped as she saw his eyes. They were black, not just in pupil or iris, but a complete solid black, with no features whatsoever. “He’s under some kind of spell!” Tanya cried, dodging a powerful punch. “Must be Malyce. Nyght Demons can evoke the emotion that they’re named for.”

Nyght Demons, a term Billy had coined after researching Nyghtmayr. The Rangers had wanted to know what they would face if they came across him again. The problem had been that many of the texts contradicted each other. Some claimed he was a demon, other claimed he was significantly less. Some claimed that he was all the twisted and dark emotions given form, while others warned of his parasitic nature. Of the Nyght Demons there was even less to go on except that even when they were destroyed, Nyghtmayr could recreate or just replace them.

“So how do we break it?” Tasha yelled, rising to her feet.

“With friendship,” replied Tanya. “I don’t know him well enough, so you’re going to have to talk him down.”

Tasha swallowed. One slip, and Fred would pound her into hamburger meat. Tasha had no illusions about her fighting ability or Fred’s. Gathering her courage, she tackled her friend, pinning him to the ground. “Listen to me, Fred,” she said quickly, her tone of voice urgent. “It’s me, Tasha. Remember me? Remember all those hours we spent in the Youth Center, you teaching me to fight? Remember that time I helped you with your math homework, and we spent three hours on it, until you finally understood the concept? Or that junior high dance, the one that Divatox and her Piranhatrons crashed? Do you remember how we double-teamed that one that stole your baseball cap?” Fred’s struggles were growing less, but his eyes were still that featureless obsidian. Tasha racked her brains for something else to say.

“Come on, Fred. You’re too strong to let Malyce control you. What happened to the guy who can out-stubborn Tommy Oliver AND Jason Scott? To the leader who never lets us lose confidence in ourselves? We all look up to you, Fred. You’ve pulled our buns out of the fire so many times. Don’t you DARE leave me now.”

That did it. The last of the black left Fred’s eyes. Warily, Tasha got off him, watching him to see what he would do. He startled her by throwing his arms around her neck in a tight hug. “Thanks, Tash,” he whispered. “I needed that.”

“Get your skinny red butt away from me,” she joked, uncomfortable with such an open display of affection. He pulled back, smiling at her. Suddenly his body was surrounded by red light, and he disappeared. Faintly in the background, Tasha could hear Jealysy’s mocking laughter. With a growl, she rose to her feet.

“This isn’t over yet,” she told the woods at large. “Count on it.”

Tanya placed a hand on the younger girl’s shoulder. “You beat their spells, Tasha, both of them. It’ll take longer for them to recast them, because this time, Fred will be fighting. We’ll rescue him before that happens.”

“I hope you’re right,” Tasha sighed. Then she and Tanya began to walk, knowing that sooner or later, they would encounter another Turbo Ranger.

====

 

“One thing I don’t understand,” Tanya said suddenly, breaking the silence between them. They had been walking along the bleak and misty path for a few minutes, alert at all times for an attack by one of the Rangers. “Why didn’t Jealysy’s spell affect you?”

Tasha pondered that for a moment, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Well,” she said slowly, “jealousy, the emotion, is fear of losing something that you have. It’s about power, control. I’ve been a shelter kid most of my life. I’ve never really had any friends, family, or possessions to worry about losing, and I realized a long time ago that the only thing in my world I can control is me. Maybe Jealysy’s spell couldn’t find any place to grab on.”

That wasn’t true. When she had first seen Fred and Justin transform, she had felt a pang of envy that they had retained the ability while she was helpless. But that had quickly faded as the two boys had helped their injured friends with their exercises and had never excluded them because of their weakness.

Tanya looked at the younger girl speculatively. “You say you don’t have anything to be afraid to lose,” she teased “What about Justin?”

Tasha blushed bright red, an unusual occurrence for her. “THAT is none of your business.” Tanya laughed aloud. Although she and Tasha looked very similar, they rarely acted alike. The Yellow Turbo Ranger’s current reaction, however, was so much like Tanya’s reaction to questions about her relationship with Adam had once been. It was just too funny.

“Glad you think this is so amusing,” Tasha shot back acerbically, but a smile was beginning to touch her lips as well. Suddenly a pair of blurs dropped from the trees above them. Tasha and Tanya quickly took back to back stances as Franklin and Rosa began to advance on them. A quick look told the two Rangers that their friends were in the same state that Fred had been. “I’ll take Rosa,” Tasha called over her shoulder. “You probably know Franklin better.”

“Oh, sure,” Tanya grumbled as Tasha threw herself into the fight. “Stick me with the black belt.” She and Franklin began to circle, as she racked her brains for something to say that would break through Malyce’s spell on him.

“Rosa, you have to remember,” Tasha pleaded. “You and me, going shopping for your mother’s birthday present? We must have canvassed every store in the mall, and checked out every guy there too. Or remember the fight at the water park, when you and that Piranhatron fought all the way down the waterslide, and at the bottom, I hit him with an inner tube? Come on, Rosa, you have to come back to me. You’re the only other girl on the team. Who else can I talk to about girl things? You’re the only one I know who really understands me. Fred, Franklin, and Justin are great, but they’re guys! You know how that is. Please, Rosa, come back.”

Listening to her friend’s words, Rosa began to shudder as the black faded from her eyes. This time, Tasha held the other girl tightly and did not pull away when Rosa wrapped her arms around her in return. As Rosa’s shivering grew less, Tasha looked over to where Tanya was dealing with Franklin. “Come on, we’d better go help Tanya. Looks like Frank’s giving her some trouble.” Rosa nodded, and the two of them headed towards the other fight, Tasha still supporting her teammate.

Tanya ducked a round-house kick, mentally wondering if martial arts proficiency was genetic to the Park family, or if it was just a product of living in that house. “Franklin, don’t you remember me? It’s Tanya, your brother’s girlfriend. The one you dropped water balloons on? Adam and I were kissing after our date, and you and Fred soaked us to the skin. Franklin, you’ve got to remember. For Adam’s sake, for your own sake, please remember!”

“Franklin.” Rosa’s quiet voice immediately caught the Green Turbo Ranger’s attention. Cocking his head, he took a step towards her, lowering his hands from their attack position. “Remember me? Dancing at the Christmas party, working out in the youth center? Do you remember our first date? We spent the whole night watching each other instead of the movie. And at the end of the night, you finally got up the nerve to kiss me- even if it was just on the cheek.” Seeing Tanya and Tasha’s interested expressions, she gave them an evil glare. “Breathe a word of this to anyone and you die,” she growled.

Tasha chuckled, taking up the thread. “Franklin, you have got to be one of the most stubborn people I know. We both know you inherited your dad’s backbone. What happened to the guy who spent six hours teaching me a kata? Where’s the guy I can talk to about almost anything that bothers me? Come on, Franklin, come back to us. We’re your friends.”

The black left Franklin’s eyes, and he lunged for Rosa and Tasha, throwing his arms around them with a sob. Before they could break apart or do anything else, however, Franklin and Rosa disappeared from the three-way hug in a greenish-pink flash of light.

“Damn!” Tasha cried viciously. “I’m gonna kick those Demons into next week when I get my hands on them.”

Tanya sighed. This WAS getting frustrating. “Come on, let’s get moving. We’ve got one more Ranger to find.” The two of them began to walk again, waiting and watching for Justin Stewart.

====

As the two of them walked, Tanya studied the younger girl. Of all the Turbo Rangers, Tasha was really the only one Tanya knew very well. Tanya had enrolled in the Little Angel’s Haven Mentor program, and had been assigned to work with Tasha. At first, the younger girl had been suspicious of the attention, but Tanya had persevered, seeing in the lonely young girl a reflection of herself as a child. Although Tanya had found her parents, she still vividly remembered the years she had believed herself to be an orphan. Because of those shared experiences, Tasha and Tanya had forged an extremely close friendship.

Tasha generally kept her feelings locked deep inside, where nobody could see them, but over time, Tanya had learned to read the other girl through body movements. Right now, Tasha was worried sick about her friends. The younger girl might act tough and independent, but she had formed extremely strong bonds with the rest of the Turbo team. Tanya sighed. She thought of Tasha as a little sister, and would hate to see her hurt.

Tanya’s thoughts were interrupted as a blue-clad form shot out of nowhere, tackling Tasha and knocking her to the ground. The two rolled over and over, finally coming to a stop with Justin on top, his hands moving towards Tasha’s throat. In a move that Tanya doubted came from any of the boys, Tasha swung a leg up, hooked it around Justin’s neck, and pushed him off her, rolling and coming upright as she did so. The two of them circled each other warily.

“Justin, it’s me, Tasha. Do you remember me? You taught me to fight, remember? And I taught you how to hot-wire a car. Remember how we spend hours studying for that big science test? We stayed up until almost midnight, and drank more Coke than I’d ever consumed before in my life.” Justin cocked his head, obviously listening to her, but there was no flicker in his obsidian eyes.

“Justin, you’re the smartest guy I know. A lot of kids call you a nerd, but you’re not. You’re smart, and funny, and I really like being with you. You’re always the one I rely on to watch my back in a fight, and you’re the only one who understands what it’s like to be a shelter kid.” Tasha swallowed. “You’re- my best friend, Justin.”

Even as the black left his eyes, Justin was swallowed up in a flash of blue, leading Tasha to slam a fist into her hand. “Damn it! I feel like I’m in a bad episode of Sailor Moon!”

“Very good, Yellow Rangers. I must say I’m impressed.” The two girls turned once more to see Jealysy smirking at them. “You managed to defeat all of my Rangers. I didn’t know you had it in you.”

“They’re not yours, dragon-breath,” Tasha growled. Tanya placed a restraining hand on her shoulder.

“What now, Jealysy?” The older girl’s voice was hard and sharp as a flint. The Nyght Demon shrugged.

“We raise the stakes. If you want your friends, simply follow this road. It will lead you to our castle- if you’re brave enough to enter. We’ll be waiting for you.” With that, Jealysy’s image dissolved into so much black mist, revealing a pathway through the fog. Tanya and Tasha looked at each other quizzically.

“Do we follow?” Tasha asked.

Tanya sighed. “Do we have a choice?” That answered, the two of them set off along the path, wary of any attack that might come.

====

Tasha whistled. “Now that is a big castle,” the Yellow Turbo Ranger remarked, looking up at the huge black structure rising out of the mist.

“Yeah, I think Count Dracula would feel quite at home here,” Tanya agreed. “Shall we enter by the front door or look for a service entrance?”

Shrugging, Tasha began to head towards the main gate. “They already know we’re here. Might as well take the direct approach.” As the two of them crossed the drawbridge, neither of them noticed the flickers of light running through the ebony wood. Not until the flickers coalesced beneath Tanya, forming a vortex that pulled her down almost immediately.

“Help!” Tanya cried, now up to her waist in the swirling white light. With a desperate lunge, Tasha grabbed her friend’s hands, tugging with all her might.

“It’s- no- use!” Tasha grunted. Pull though she would, she could not budge Tanya, who was being drawn deeper and deeper into the vortex with each passing second. Tasha was now straining, almost crouching on the ground as she tried to pull Tanya from the hole’s grip.

“Let go, Tasha!” the Yellow Zeo Ranger cried. “No sense us both being captured.”

“Forget it,” Tasha snapped, looking the other girl straight in the eye. “I don’t abandon my friends.”

Tanya bit her lip as Tasha continued to tug, the two of them still being pulled steadily into the light. “I’m sorry, Tasha, but somebody has to rescue the others. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be all right.” With that, Tanya let go of her friend’s hands, pushing the younger girl away as she did so. Tasha fell onto her rear end and watched in horror as Tanya disappeared into the light.

“NOOOOO!” For a long moment, Tasha just stared at the featureless drawbridge where Tanya had disappeared. They had all gone now, and she was truly alone. Suddenly she shook her head violently. No, she was not alone. Morphed or not, she was a Turbo Ranger, which meant that the other Rangers were always with her. Face set with determination, she rose to her feet. “You think I’ll give up, Jealysy?” she yelled, not really caring if the Demon could hear her or not. “Well, I won’t! I’ll get them back, and I’ll boot your butt from here to Hoboken!” With a confident stride, she made her way across the drawbridge and into the castle proper.

====

 

In the throne room of the castle, Jealysy and Malyce watched this turn of events with interest. “Well,” Jealysy remarked snidely, “she’s turning out to be a great deal more troublesome than I thought. I’ll arm the castle defenses, make her run the gamut of the emotions of Nyghtmayr. We’ll see if that doesn’t take some of the fight out of her.”

Malyce shifted impatiently. “I don’t understand, Jealysy. Why can’t I just go down there and take care of her? She can’t even morph! It would be like taking candy from a baby.”

Sighing, Jealysy turned to her companion. “Let me explain something to you, rockhead. Right now, our little Turbo Ranger is burning with a righteous, selfless fury. All she is thinking about is rescuing her friends.”

“So?”

“So, you moron, that means that right now, she is good. You, on the other hand, are pure evil. She lands one shot on you, and you are a little pile of black goo on the tiles, comprende?” Malyce subsided, but not happily.

====

 

Tasha made her way slowly through the dark halls of the Castle of Nyghtmayr, alert for any sort of attack. But despite her wariness, she wasn’t quick enough to avoid the wall of dark energy that shot up out of the ground, encircling her. A cold wind blew through the hall, unobstructed by the energy barrier, and Tasha shivered. “Okay, what now?” she growled, squashing her fear down.

A soft sob answered her. Turning, she found herself standing in her old room at the shelter. Lying on the bed in front of her was a much younger version of herself. Without thinking, Tasha took a step towards the crying girl. She remembered this scene only too well. She had been six years old when her mother had dropped her at the shelter and never looked back.

“Why?” the younger Tasha sobbed aloud. “Was I bad? Didn’t she love me enough? My fault?”

Present-day Tasha shook her head. “No, no, it wasn’t,” she said raggedly, around the lump in her throat. But her younger self could not hear her.

“All alone. Mommy, come get me! I want to go home!” the child wailed, and Tasha had to shut her own eyes against the wave of despair that suddenly washed through her.

~ Despair.~ Tasha’s eyes shot open. Tanya had told her about the Rangers’ previous meeting with the Demons of Nyghtmayr, and how they had attempted to break the Rangers’ spirits with the emotions they controlled. Well, it wasn’t going to work. She wouldn’t let it. Deliberately, she closed her eyes to the little girl sobbing on the bed and forced herself to remember what had come later.

She had cried herself to sleep, and had awakened much later, sometime in the middle of the night. Sitting up, she had found a little boy standing in her doorway, watching her with sympathy.

“What do you want?” she had asked, trying to sound tough and failing miserably.

“I heard you crying in your sleep,” he responded, making his way into the room. “You want to talk?”

She snorted. “What’s to talk about? My dad’s dead and my mom dropped me off here without a second thought.”

“Sounds a little like me,” he responded. “My mom died a while ago, and my dad just couldn’t handle it, so he dropped me here in the shelter. My name’s Justin Stewart.” He extended his hand to her, and after a second, she took it.

“Tasha Young,” she said reluctantly. “Where you from?”

“Foggy Creek, originally. Then my Dad dropped me here, and he’s been all over since. I get letters from him occasionally, but what I really want is for him to come home for good. Where are you from?”

“Blaise Street, over in the harbor district,” she replied. “My dad got caught in a hold-up one night, and ever since then, my mom’s kind of been losing it. She’s going crazy, and apparently doesn’t want me along for the ride.”

“That shows she still loves you,” Justin told her. “She dropped you here because she wanted something better for you than what you’d get from her.”

Tasha sighed. “Maybe. Or maybe she just doesn’t care.”

“You’ve got to keep hoping, Tasha. In this place, it’s almost all we’ve got.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Almost?”

“Well, we’ve always got friends.” He grinned at her, and after a long moment, she smiled back. In that moment, she knew that she had found someone who would stand by her for a long time.

Coming out of her memory, Tasha found that the walls and illusion had dissipated around her. Warily, she moved off, keeping an eye out for further traps and tricks.

====

 

Farther down the passage, she was not surprised when another enclosure rose out of the ground. Setting her stance, she waited. “All right, what emotion is this?” she asked the air.

“Aw, look at Tasha, in a fighter’s stance,” a voice sneered behind her. She turned to see the other four Turbo Rangers looking at her with expressions of disgust on her faces. It had been Fred who had spoken, but Tasha had been almost unable to recognize his voice through all the distaste in it.

“What, you think you’re a fighter now, Tasha?” Franklin asked in disbelief.

Rosa sniffed. “As if. You’re probably the weakest of us, you know that?”

“Yeah,” Justin chimed in. “Franklin and I are black belts, Fred’s a brown belt, and Rosa just earned her red. You don’t even take a martial art.”

Franklin spoke again, taking up the litany. “Every time there’s a Piranhatron fight, we have to bail your butt out. You’re weak, and helpless. Even when we’re morphed, we’re all so much better than you. You don’t bring anything to this team! Fred can lead, Justin’s the brain, I know all the spy stuff Dad is teaching me, and Rosa’s learned all the healing Rocky can teach her. What can you do? Nothing.”

In the face of her friends’ disdain, Tasha hung her head. “What CAN I do?” she asked softly. “I can hack into computers, but Justin can do that. He can hot-wire cars, too, and Power Rangers don’t need to pick locks or pockets. What good am I?”

“You’re our fighting spirit,” Fred’s voice said in her memory. Tasha’s head snapped up as she recalled a similar conversation she’d had with him not too long after the events on the Island of Muranthias. She had been expressing her doubts about being a member of the team, not really understanding what she brought to it. Now what he had said to her came rushing back.

“You’re our fighting spirit,” he had told her. “Everybody has a breaking point, a point beyond which they can’t go on. Yours is so much higher than anybody else’s, though. Even when the rest of us want to quit, you go on, and you take us with you. You’re as tough as iron, and even when you’re not, you won’t let the rest of us down. You have something I don’t, and Franklin doesn’t, and Rosa doesn’t, and Justin doesn’t. You don’t break. You just keep going, and we need that, more than I could ever say.”

As the memory of Fred’s voice faded, Tasha glared at the illusions before her. “I know you now,” she growled. “You’re Doubt, making me unsure of myself. Well, I’ve got news for you. Maybe I’m not a martial artist, but I can fight. I made my way through three Turbo Rangers to get here, and I’m still alive. Maybe the others have to protect my butt in a fight, but that’s normal. We’re RANGERS. We do that sort of thing for each other all the time. There’s no shame in that. Maybe I’m not a genius like Justin, a leader like Fred, a spy like Frank, or a healer like Rosa, but I don’t have to be. I’m me. That was good enough for Tanya when she passed me the key, good enough for my friends, and it’s good enough for me.”

Around her, the images puffed into nothing again. “Two down, Jealysy!” Tasha shouted to the air. “Let’s see who breaks first.”

====

 

An unknown time later, a chittering sound caught Tasha’s attention. She stopped, looking around herself. She hadn’t seen an enclosure appear, but considering the darkness in the passage, that didn’t really mean all that much. The chittering repeated, and Tasha finally caught sight of her newest challenge. Stuffing her fist into her mouth, she backed away, trying desperately not to panic. A spider twice as tall as she was stalked towards her.

~ OHGODOHGODOHGODNONONONOOOOO!~ Tasha’s thoughts ran into each other, and only her diamond-hard stubbornness allowed her to keep her grip on sanity. She hated spiders, hated them with a passion only reserved for Elgar and Rygog. ~Fear,~ she thought hazily, with one of the few remaining rational corners of her mind. ~It’s the illusion of Fear.~ But it looked so REAL. How could she possibly stop being afraid of it?

~You know, there’s no such thing as giant spiders,~ a voice said in her head. It sounded vaguely like Justin’s, from one of the thousands of conversations the two of them had had over the years. Tasha clung to it, hoping the logic of Justin’s argument would keep the fear at bay. Looking at the spider in front of her, she took a deep breath and began listing all the reasons that the creature before her could not exist.

“Number one, spiders quite simply do not get that big. No creature that hatches out of a gelatinous egg can,” she informed it, repeating what Justin had told her so long ago. “A permeable membrane of that size would dry out long before the spiders could hatch.” The spider, hearing this, promptly shrank. Now it was merely the size of a horse. Emboldened by this, Tasha continued to quote.

“Two, when something increases, its mass, and therefore its weight, increases on a cubic curve, while the cross-section of the legs only increase on a square curve. Quite quickly, the legs would be too small to support the creature.” The spider shrank again. Now it was only tall enough so that Tasha could look it in the eye, if she had had any desire to do so- or enough eyes, for that matter.

“And finally, there’s the problem of breathing. Insects and arachnids breathe through tracheal tubes that run from their ‘skin’ to their bloodstream. Those tubes can’t be longer than an inch or so, otherwise no air gets down them, and the spider suffocates.” This spider shrank again, this time to the size of a tarantula. Tasha grinned. “Yeah, much better.” Then she stepped on it. It made a rather satisfying “crunch” under her sneaker, then puffed into nothing, not even leaving a smear on the flagstones. Whistling, Tasha moved on.

====

 

Tasha had apparently made better time than Jealysy had expected, because after the spider, she came almost immediately to the throne room. The first thing she noticed were the crystals on the walls, in which Fred, Franklin, Rosa, and Tanya were suspended, in hideous mockery of the uniforms in the Power Chamber. Their eyes were open, but they were not moving, resembling nothing so much as a series of flies trapped in amber.

The second thing Tasha noticed was the attractive fourteen year-old girl lolling on the throne in the middle of the room. Her skin was a pale white, and her hair and eyes were jet black. But it was the cold, cruel, slightly amused expression on her face that tipped Tasha off to her identity. “Jealysy,” she hissed.

The other acknowledged the identification with a nod. “Very good, Yellow Ranger. In this world, we Nyghtmayr Demons can assume any form we choose. I’ve tried being an adult, but I rather like this one better. But you haven’t said hello to my other friend here. Where are your manners?” Tasha turned, following Jealysy’s gesture, and stopped dead.

Because the third thing she saw was Justin Stewart, standing next to the throne, eyes as dead and blank as they had been in the forest. Cold rage sluiced through Tasha as she took a step towards them. “What did you do to him?” she asked, her voice deadly quiet.

Jealysy shrugged. “Not much. A little magic, and he’ll do anything I say.”

Tasha snorted. “Magic? More like testosterone.”

Laughing, Jealysy agreed. “You’re probably right. Still, whatever the reason, he is under my complete control. That doesn’t mean all that much now, but given a few years, he could be very- useful.” Jealysy licked her lips, leaving little doubt in Tasha’s mind what the Demon meant.

“Over my dead body,” Tasha snapped.

“If you insist.” Jealysy gestured to her. “Justin, kill her.”

Justin stepped down from the throne, slowly advancing towards Tasha. The two of them began to circle, watching each other warily, each waiting for the other to make the first move.

Suddenly Justin attacked with a blinding flurry of punches and kicks, forcing Tasha to back away from him. She ducked under a vicious spinning kick, aiming a desperate footsweep at his legs. However, he simply leaped over it and pressed his attack. Backing away, Tasha quickly ran through the things that her friends had taught her. The problem was, Justin knew most of them as well, and was a much better fighter than she. It was unlikely that she was going to be able to talk him down right now. She shook her head. “Sorry, Justin,” she panted. “Nothing personal.” As he moved in closer to her, she jerked her knee up. Unfortunately, he sensed what she was about to do and dodged at the last second, taking her strike on the meaty part of his thigh. Then he slammed her to the ground, knocking the breath out of her. As he reared back for the killing strike, an idea occurred to her.

“If this doesn’t work,” she muttered, “I’m gonna feel REALLY stupid.” Quickly, she reached up, snagged him around the neck, and pulled his head down to hers, planting a quick kiss on his lips. Immediately, the black was gone from his eyes, and Justin collapsed, rolling off Tasha with a very silly grin on his face. Tasha shook her head, getting to her feet. “Men. Sheesh.”

Jealousy rose slowly, losing her human form as she did so. “This ends here, you little brat. I’ll destroy you myself. Malyce! Deal with our little Blue Ranger, will you?”

“Right away, Jealysy,” the other Demon growled. Launching itself from the shadows, it landed in front of Justin, who had just regained his feet. The Blue Turbo Ranger set himself for a fight, the silly grin long gone. The two of them circled each other cautiously, each looking for openings in the other’s guard. Suddenly Malyce’s barbed tail lashed out, aiming for Justin’s head. The boy dropped into a split, causing the tail to whiz harmlessly over his head. Then, leaping to his feet, he launched a roundhouse kick into Malyce’s face, momentarily disorienting the Demon.

Meanwhile, Tasha and Jealysy were going at it hammer and tongs. Both were completely consumed with thoughts of destroying the other. Tasha dodged a swipe of Jealysy’s claws, retaliating with a powerful spinning backfist to the Demon’s nose. She quickly had to dodge, however, as Jealysy swiped at her with her powerful tail.

Justin was beginning to worry. Malyce was far stronger than he, and it was obvious that he couldn’t count on Tasha coming to his aid any time soon. Justin controlled his breathing with an effort, but could tell that he was beginning to tire. Apparently Malyce could tell as well, because he lashed out with his tail once more, knocking Justin’s feet out from under him. The boy hit the flagstones with an audible expulsion of breath. Winded, Justin could only watch as Malyce raised a claw-tipped hand for the finishing blow.

“NO!” Tasha cried. In an instant, everything was forgotten except her worry and concern for Justin, and how much she cared about him. She threw herself into a perfect flying kick, streaking across the room towards Malyce.

The realm of Morphyus, home of the Nyghtmayr Demons, was a part of the void that existed between dimensions. Previous visitors had misunderstood its nature and likened it to Hell, when in fact it was better described as the realm of the subconscious, of dreams made real. The Night Demons themselves are simply solidifications of emotions, the obviously dark emotions and the emotions that would normally be considered light, twisted by dark thoughts and ill-intentions. In Morphyus, all emotions are made real, made solid, and emotions such as friendship and love are made stronger than any. This, by the way, is all to explain what happened next.

In flight, Tasha began to glow with a brilliant white light. Her kick struck home in Malyce’s chest, touching off an explosion of white and knocking the Demon back approximately twenty-five yards. As Justin, Tasha, and Jealysy watched in astonishment, Malyce was consumed by the light, melting slowly into a little puddle of black goo, which quickly dissolved into nothingness. Jealysy was the first to regain her equilibrium.

“You little bitch!” the Demon hissed. “I’ll tear you apart!” The Demon sprang at Tasha, who barely dodged in time. The two of them were then immediately embroiled in a fight that made their previous battle pale in comparison.

Justin slowly levered himself to his feet, completely ignored by the two combatants. “This has been a really lousy day,” he muttered to himself, looking around. Tasha was clearly at a disadvantage, even though she was currently holding her own. If he couldn’t get her reinforcements fast, they would both likely be Demon chow- or worse. He couldn’t hold back a shudder, remembering what it had felt like to be under those spells. Turning to the crystals holding his friends, he forced himself to think. They were crystal, but what type? Quickly, he drew his pocketknife and chipped at the crystal holding Fred. The blade left a line, but not a deep one. All right, the crystal, whatever it was, was not quite as hard as steel. So- Looking around, Justin found a sword made of some black material. Testing it, he found that it was harder than steel. Taking a deep breath, he hauled back and struck the crystal containing Fred with all his might. The container shattered quite satisfactorily, dropping the imprisoned Ranger to the ground. As Fred knelt on the stones, gasping at the resumption of his bodily functions, Justin went on to free the other three. Once everyone was coherent again, he quickly filled them in on what had transpired. “And I think I know how we can beat Jealysy,” he finished urgently.

“How?” Rosa asked, leaning heavily on Franklin. “We’re none of us strong enough to lift so much as a feather, and some of us couldn’t morph even if we had the strength.”

“We can’t morph, but that doesn’t mean that the Keys don’t work,” Justin replied. “This place makes emotions real, somehow. If we can transmit our love and friendship to Tasha, she can annihilate the evil that Jealysy is composed of.”

“And that’s where the Keys come in,” Franklin realized. Tanya looked at the four in confusion.

“What are you talking about?”

“The Turbo Keys give us sort of a- psychic connection,” Justin explained, as the four Rangers pulled their Keys out of their pockets. “Another little bonus of the Turbo Powers, apparently. For some reason it only activated when the powers were passed on. I think being completely new Rangers had something to do with it. Tasha, Franklin and Rosa can’t transform, but they’re still connected to the Keys and through them to each other.”

Actually the connection was the result of months spent training and fighting together along with their shared power source. Fred, Justin, Tasha, Franklin and Rosa were a closer team than their predecessors. It was that natural bond that the Power had enhanced, granting them the ability to take their teamwork to the next level. Zordon had spent a great deal of time working with them to further unlock the secrets of the Turbo Keys and had promised that there were likely more discoveries to make as the team evolved.

“Why didn’t you ever say anything about this?”

Fred looked up at her seriously. “It’s something private. It’s kind of hard to explain how it feels, and it’s not something you casually mention.” Then the four Turbo Rangers focused on each other. “By the Power of Turbo, make us one!”

“Mountain Blaster Turbo Power!”

“Desert Thunder Turbo Power!”

“Wind Chaser Turbo Power!”

“Red Lightning Turbo Power!”

Tasha, still fighting with Jealysy, felt the power of the link slamming into her, and instantly understood what her friends were doing. “Dune Star Turbo Power!” she called, surrendering herself to the energy. Her body began to glow, first yellow, then white, as a series of images, drawn from the most powerful friendships she had ever known, ran through her mind.

~Red Turbo and Yellow Turbo, slowly sliding towards the edge of a cliff. “Let go! Tasha, we’re both gonna go over!” “Dream on, Fred Kelman. If you think I’m gonna let you be Piranhatron bait, you’ve got another think coming.”~

~ Justin and Tasha sitting at a table in the youth center, books all around them. “I just can’t get this! I’m just too stupid.” “You’re not stupid, Tasha, you’re just stubborn. Now put it to good use. Once again, definition of osmosis.”~

~ Rosa and Tasha, guy-watching at the mall. “What do you think of that one? Cuter than Franklin?” “Come on, Tasha, nobody’s that cute.”~

~ Green Turbo and Yellow Turbo, trying fix one of Blue Turbo’s devices “We’re never gonna get it working in time!” Yellow Turbo kicks it. “You were saying?”~

Eyes glowing with white fire, Tasha glared at Jealysy. “For my world, for my friends, you are history!” Suddenly, she spun into a perfect spin kick, catching Jealysy along the side of the head. The world flared with white light, as the Demon dissolved into nothing.

====

 

“Oh, man,” Rosa groaned, sitting up. Looking around, she saw that the six of them were sprawled on the grass of the park, around the remains of their picnic. “We made it! We’re back!”

“All right!” Franklin yelled, hugging her. As the rest of the team began to sit up, more than a few ashamed looks were exchanged.

“Look, guys,” Fred began, “I’m sorry about what I said and did today.”

“Me too,” Justin agreed.

“Me three,” Rosa seconded.

Franklin nodded. “Yeah, same here. But we just have to remember that it was Jealysy’s spell, not really us. I don’t think it’ll happen again.”

“Definitely not,” Tasha pronounced. “We’re too close for that. Friends?” She extended a hand.

“Friends,” the other four responded, placing their hands on top of hers. Then the four of them broke apart. Tanya grinned.

“Well, I think I’m gonna go back to the Power Chamber and fill the others in on what happened,” she told them. “Anyone else want to come?” The others looked at her for a second, and she nodded imperceptible at Tasha and Justin, who were studiously avoiding each other’s eyes. Comprehension lit the faces of the other three.

“Oh, yeah. I probably should go, too,” Fred agreed. “Franklin? Rosa?”

“No, we’re going to go to the juice bar, work out,” Franklin replied, his arm still around Rosa’s shoulders. “We’ve got some stuff to talk about, too.”

Fred nodded, and the four of them cleared out, leaving Tasha and Justin alone in the park.

“So,” Tasha began nervously.

“So,” Justin responded. They looked at the ground for a few more minutes.

Tasha finally exploded. “Oh, this is ridiculous. Look, I don’t hold anything that happened there against you, all right?”

He nodded. “All right, but- do you regret any of it?”

“What would I- oh.” She stared at him in sudden comprehension. “That kiss. Well- um- to tell you the truth-” She chuckled. “Actually, you’re not a bad kisser- for an egghead.”

He grinned. “Well, you’re not so bad yourself- for a tomboy.”

“Tomboy? Why I oughta-” She left the threat unfinished, however, and simply smiled at him. “Come on, let’s get back to the shelter. They’ll probably be wondering where we are.”

“You got it.” The two of them walked off, hand in hand.

====

Epilogue

The Demons of Nyghmayr had failed again, but the Shadow Empire survived. The barriers between the many realms had grown thin and the Rangers’ presence in Nyghtmayr’s domain had made it easy for some of the occupants to spread beyond their natural territory. And whereas Nyghtmayr’s Minor Demons had been creatures of purely negative emotion, those that emerged were predators that also used imagination and dreams to their advantage. A new strategy was devised to start with a single planet, the Earth, and from there spread throughout creation.

It was well known on the millions of worlds that considered Earth a dreary little undeveloped backwater of a planet, and even by some of the planet’s population, that the large concentration of Iron limited the population’s interaction with magic. Instead a series of Ley Lines crisscrossed the planet, creating hotspots where magic could seep through. Controlling such a network of magical energy promised unlimited power to those that were willing to make the effort – for doing so was a great deal more tiresome than simply conquering the world. Most villains would never bother with such a time consuming feat. But the Shadow Empire had been around since shortly after the first intelligent life emerged on Maltus and they had learnt to be patient.

Moving from hotspot to hotspot, they planned to draw strength from the suffering they inflicted. The screams of the children, the torment of the adults and the despair of the planet as its natural energy became enslaved by the Shadow Empire would be used to free Nyghtmayr once and for all. And this time nothing would stop them.

End of Part

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The Next Destination

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to whoever holds the \ncopyright at this time.

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The Next Destination

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Aquitar

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The planet was safe at last. In the weeks following the liberation of the \nplanet, the Rangers of Earth had worked tirelessly alongside their Aquitian \nallies to rebuild the protections it had lost during the earlier invasion. Many \nof the cities had been rebuilt and services were back to near normal. The \nplanet’s food supplies were low but manageable and with the reopening of the \nspace port, they were able to receive aid from their neighbours. And thanks to \nZordon acting as their voice within the Galactic Council, Aquitar had regained \nits rightful status and entitlement to further assistance.

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It was a time of celebration and also of sadness. The work was finished, the \nplanet was safe and the people could return to their peaceful lives. It was sad \nbecause with nothing further to keep them on the planet, it was time for the \nvisiting Rangers to leave and that meant it was time for some difficult \ndecisions most importantly, where to go?

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Zordon had decided to spend time on Erlion to press the Galactic Council for \nmore action against the growing threat of the United Alliance of Evil. The White \nMorphin Master and Alpha Five would for the foreseeable future divide their time \nbetween Erlion and Eltare where Zordon was reacquainting himself with his home \nworld. It was a sign of how far the Rangers of Earth had come that Zordon no \nlonger felt that he needed to supervise them. In truth they had proven many \ntimes that they could be trusted to do what was right. He had gone from teacher \nand stern guide in the ways of the Power, to a trusted adviser. And now he felt \nthat he could rely on the senior Rangers to help guide the Turbo Rangers until a \nnew mentor could be found; Zordon had somebody in mind. Not that there had been \na real threat to Earth since they had left. There had been a number of upstarts \nthat had tried to fill the vacuum left by Rita and the others, but the Turbo \nRangers had reportedly dealt with each new threat as it had arisen.

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However it was not just a question of where he would end up, but also his \nRangers. He had been aware for some time that his teams had reached far beyond \nthe limits of their original powers, but despite all they had accomplished, \nthere was far more for them to achieve. The Morphin Rangers had been found \nworthy of a level of power that had never before been bestowed on a single team, \nyet with their time on active duty they had not been trained how to fully \nutilise those gifts. It was unfair on the Rangers and a terrible waste for the \nrest of the Universe.

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And then there were the Zeo Rangers. Their powers had been created out of a \ncombination of desperation and ingenuity, using a power source that had been \navailable. That they had then taken those powers, developed them, grown so \ncomfortable in their use that many believed that their powers had been around \nfor thousands of years; actually teams using powers similar to those of the Zeo \nRangers had been recorded throughout history, but Zordon was certain they were \nnot the same powers. Like the Morphin Rangers they had grown beyond the \nlimitations of their original powers and were on the verge of unlocking even \ngreater abilities if given the opportunity. Zordon wanted to give them that \nopportunity.

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Then there were the likes of Jamie Zedden whose skills with her Elemental \nSword of Lightning could be polished by a stay on the world where her father had \nbeen born. Or perhaps Christina Collins whose mental abilities would thrive with \nfurther training at a specialist school. Lillian and Katarina also had abilities \njust waiting to be unlocked if given a chance. The question was whether Zordon \nwas willing to risk everything to give them that opportunity; the political \nfallout of what he proposed could easily ruin him.

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Of course the answer was that he was more than willing to trust his pupils to \nmake the decision. Return to Earth or travel to places where they could receive \nthe training and help need to take themselves to the next level. He remembered \nhow over the years he had encouraged his pupils to move on when the time was \nright and return stronger for having done so. His hope was that they would do so \nagain.

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For while did not seem that the United Alliance of Evil would prove an \nimmediate threat anytime soon –  the assembled villains were still in complex \ntalks about their plans, seemingly locked in a never ending deluge of dialogue, \nproposals, explanations and arguments, almost as if a spell had been cast on the \nentire membership to render them little more than a shadow of their supposed \nglory – he suspected that when they did act the Universe would fall beneath \ntheir onslaught.

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And so as the last Ranger teleported from the surface to the waiting \nPyramidas, and Trey laid in the course for home, Zordon took the time to tell \nhis Rangers what he had in mind.

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Onyx

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The Inaugural Meeting of the United Alliance of Evil had finished and as far \nas Dark Specter was concerned, it was a complete success. After demonstrating \nhis power several times, he had finally convinced the other members that his \nplan was the most likely to succeed. And he had given them all a real incentive \nto complete the tasks he had assigned them.

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Now the members had left the planet, each with a mission vital to their \nfuture efforts. The UAE had sent their fleets to key planets from which their \nforces would launch future attacks. Once they completed their task though they \nwould be allowed to return to the planet Earth until Dark Specter summoned them \nagain. It as an incentive scheme that would encourage swift success. As the \nRangers of Earth had been seen leaving Aquitar around the time that Dark Specter \nhad given the command:

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“Begin!”

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All this had been observed by a spy, who had been forced to flee for his \nlife as the assembled villains suddenly became aware of his presence. Even \nthough those that chased him were not connected with the major villains they \nwere skilled warriors and not easy to lose, even in the slums of Onyx.

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He threw himself around the side of \na dumpster and looked for an escape route. He needed to get away from Onyx and reach Eltare as soon as \npossible. Zordon and the Council needed to be warned.

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As, the invasion began the villains didn’t strike Erlion or Eltare. They \ndirected their efforts at worlds that lacked protection, aware that doing so \nwould rob the Council of much needed support later. It was during those attacks \nthat the evil talent at Dark Specter’s command became evident. Rita and Zedd \nwere at their best, Master Vile was even more insidious than many remembered and \nthe Machine Empire was a terrifying force that tore through targets with little \nresistance.

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New villains had joined the UAE, swelling its ranks and making it even more \nof a threat. On the first day of the UAE invasion, hundreds of worlds fell in a \nmatter of hours before the Council had a chance to mobilise its forces in \nresponse. Every member of the UAE served a purpose with Divatox and her crew \nexcelling in their task of raiding Council ships and small worlds to break up \nthe military infrastructure.

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Yes clearly using the Earth as an incentive had worked well especially since \nhe had only offered the opportunity to conquer the planet. Like a true ruler \nhe had promised nothing. And now he had a personal matter to deal with.

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“The time has come, my beautiful Karone, to assume your rightful place at my \nside,” Dark Specter declared.

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Dark Specter knew that with a growing empire to control he needed loyal and \ncompetent servants to act as his voice. Ecliptor was one such champion of his \ncause. Loyal to the ideas that Dark Specter had shared, the silicon-based \nwarrior was a noble, obedient and capable lieutenant. Darkonda he had chosen to \ntrust in spite of Ecliptor’s warnings, or maybe because Ecliptor was so strongly \nopposed to Darkonda’s presence. If Ecliptor considered the other villain a \nthreat then he would need watching, but if directed at Dark Specter’s enemies he \ncould prove adequate.

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But what Dark Specter really wanted was his Queen of Evil. He had selected \nKarone as a child to fulfil that role. He had watched her grow, nudging her \ncarefully to become an Astro Guardian alongside her brother, knowing that the \ncombat skills she learnt would make her a warrior queen. And then he had \nsnatched her from certain doom and had waited for her to grow into the role he \nhad selected for her. Except she had not given in to the darkness as he had \nexpected and had fought him all the way.

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At first her resistance had been amusing, but Dark Specter needed a queen and was no longer willing \nto wait for her to surrender herself to him. With Andromeda, Astronema, Artemis and Astronoma \ngathered, he started to chant in the ancient language of evil to purge the light \nfrom her soul. Dark knowledge, dark \nexperiences and power beyond anything she had felt before pushed into her body, \npushing aside her personality and replacing it with something he deemed \nacceptable. Given time the new personality would completely erase her former \nself while retaining all the skills that Dark Specter prized. At that moment \nDark Specter planned to marry her, but in the meantime she would serve as the \nPrincess of Evil alongside her four sisters. With Ecliptor’s guidance there \nwould come a time when nobody would be able to tell them apart.

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End of Part

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