Clash of the Champions

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

Clash of the Champions

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

====
Flashback

“A mirror, right?” the impostor asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All together,” Billy suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why you…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

====

The Moon,
Months Later

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

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

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


Flashback

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

“Three cheers for Lord Zedd!” Goldar cried.

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

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

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

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

“Wrong, Ranger.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Flashback Ends

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

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

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

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


Flashback

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

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

“We’re trying Ed,” Rito protested.

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

“Lord Zedd, got it. Sure thing Ed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Certainly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

====

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tommy, are you okay?” Kat asked.

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

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

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

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

====

Angel Grove Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

====

Cranston residence

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

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

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

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

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

====

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then I am sorry to disappoint you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“State your challenge,” Billy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Billy?” Rocky asked, clearly confused.

“Later,” Billy told him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

====

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very well Billy,” Zordon replied.

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

====

Angel Grove Quarry

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

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

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

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

“Zordon, who is that?” Billy asked.

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

“Is she dangerous?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Name your champion,” Rita challenged.

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

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

Goldar stepped forward upon hearing his master’s words.

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

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

Goldar dejectedly did as he was told.

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

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

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

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

“Zedd, gotcha, sorry Ed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re on,” Tommy replied confidently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go Tommy!” Tanya cheered from the sidelines.

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

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

“Oh no,” Billy said softly.

“What is it?” Adam asked.

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

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

“Tommy, look out!” Rocky cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Or hear.”

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

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

“Tommy!” Kat cried frantically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He did it!” Rocky proclaimed loudly.

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

“Oh he will win Lord Zedd. Look!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fire!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is he doing?” Zedd demanded.

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

“Never!” Tommy returned defiantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you enjoy that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But Minion lost!" Tanya protested.

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

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

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

====

The Moon

"We did it Zeddy!" Rita cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You can’t," she protested.

"I can and I am," Zedd reasoned.

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

"Bye Mom," Rita waved, cackling.

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

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

End of Part

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