The Dark Racers Part 2 – The Purple Nova

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers.
Author’s Note: In the original version of this story I had intended to use Emily from Power Rangers Zeo as the Purple Turbo Ranger. It made sense to use someone who was involved in their lives but not a major character. When I worked on the extended version I decided to use Ashley instead.

The Dark Racers Part 2 – The Purple Nova

Ashley Hammond had lived in Angel Grove for five years. She knew about monster attacks and the need to stay safe just like everybody else. She also knew first hand the damage monsters could cause because her father ran an insurance company that managed the government backed policies that kept Angel Grove a place people were willing to stay.

So when the alarm had sounded she had been content to remain in the Youth Center, helping Ernie and his staff looking after the younger children. When Ernie had finally given the all clear and opened the door to the Youth Center, allowing the teenagers that had taken shelter to leave, Ashley had stayed to help with the clear up before heading home. Her parents and sisters were out of town for the night and she was staying with her elderly aunt.

It was not late when she finally left and she had decided to find her own way home instead of accepting a lift from her Emily. As she walked through the streets of Angel Grove, she was attacked. Divatox’s underlings had appeared and surrounded her. She had struggled to keep them away in the hope that help would arrive.

Having lived in Angel Grove where most people had unfortunately been attacked by something at some point, she had taken self-defence classes. Unfortunately Piranhatrons did not attack in the same way as most foot-soldiers; they swarmed their prey, making it difficult to move let alone land a punch. And once they had taken her off her feet, Ashley felt something touch her neck. After which she knew only darkness.

With her parents delayed on their trip and her aunt unaware that she had not arrived home – for her aunt’s home was large enough that Ashley was able to stay in a guest wing without bothering her elderly relative – it would be a few days before her disappearance was noticed.

====

The next morning Porto was finally ready to test his first Dark Turbo Ranger. Earlier he had tasked Rygog with ensuring that Ashley’s family were delayed. Ashley Hammond had proven a suitable wielder of the powers and had unknowingly received training from several of the older Power Rangers when she had joined up to their classes. The only thing he needed to do was secure her complete obedience.

“The larva of the Tarantulas Mesothulas,” Porto stated as he carefully grasped a small creature with a pair of tweezers and carried it toward the confused teenager. The larva had been modified so that its abilities served Divatox’s needs instead of its own. “Don’t worry, I was told this will be very painless after the initially agony has subsided.”

Later he would reread the notes and discover that he had meant to say extremely painful.

Ashley tried to pull away, a difficult feat considering that the Piranhatrons had secured her in place and tightened the restraints to prevent any opportunity to escape. He placed the larva inside her left ear and watched as it glowed and disappeared, binding with new host. With a contented sigh he returned the tweezers to his workstation and went back to tuning the first of his completed Turbo Keys. By the time the larva was done he hoped to have the device ready.

He pushed a series of buttons and a single note started to play. He adjusted the settings until he was satisfied that it was the correct pitch, before adding a second note. He repeated the process until he had five perfectly tuned sounds. Then he adjusted the timing of the individual sounds so that they merged into a single note. He manipulated the pitch and the volume until it reached the level he desired. While not pleasant to listen to, he knew it was right.

“I never thought that music would be the key to unlocking the secrets of Lerigot’s work,” Porto admitted.

The Power of Turbo was a hybrid of magical energy and technology drawn from the other dimensional source known as the Speed Force. Like most forms of energy it used to generate light and sound. Doing so allowed Porto to adjust the Turbo Morphers; once the internal receivers were correctly aligned the note generated would maintain a constant tone. All that he needed to do was align the parts correctly, and once he had the correct note he could be confident the device would then be able to channel the volatile energy.

Each Turbo Key was normally tuned to a unique frequency and wavelength to prevent interference between their powers – for despite the expertise Lerigot had in such matters, it was Zordon, Alpha, Billy, Adam and Trini who were responsible for keeping them working. Porto had designed the Dark Turbo Keys to function using multiple frequencies, which he hoped would make it more versatile and unlock additional benefits later.

“I based the uniform on the Yellow Turbo Ranger’s suit,” he stated as he slotted a small component into place. “And this should allow some interesting possibilities later on.”

He strapped the Turbo Morpher to Ashley’s left wrist, noting that as he did so that her eyes had glazed over and she was no longer resisting. That was to be expected as the modified larva secreted an enzyme that subdued its new host’s mind. Normally the host would then spend its time feeding, nurturing the growing larva until it was fully grown and the host died. This larva had been altered so that it would obey instructions from Divatox and her crew. As long as it remained in place the Dark Turbo Ranger would remain under their control. Of course eventually the creature would mature and they would need to extract it or they would lose their Ranger. If she completed her task by that time there would be no need to worry about such things and nature could take its course.

He shrugged as he injected her with the priming formula and placed the modulator on her chest. If everything worked as planned the mix of injected chemicals and advanced technology would ensure she survived her first transformation.

“Stand up,” he instructed after releasing her bonds. He was pleased that she obeyed instantly without any sign that she wanted to attack him. “Hold out your right hand and take the Turbo Key.”

She did as she was told and a purple glow surrounded her body as the Turbo Key and Morpher were linked. He assumed that the glow confirmed that she was fully connected to her new powers; he didn’t want a repeat of the previous attempt. Satisfied that everything was ready, Porto contacted the bridge and made his report.

“We’re finished Queen Divatox.”

“It’s about time Porto!” Divatox snarled in reply – the pirate really lacked patience. “Stop wasting time and get up here; I want to see my Turbo Ranger.”

“At once my Queen,” Porto sighed as he ended the call. “There’s no pleasing some people.”

There was no need to tell the human how to use her new powers; the Turbo Morpher was programmed to upload the needed information to her brain the moment she morphed for the first time. It wasn’t quite the same method Zordon’s Rangers used, but it was close.

“Divatox will not be interested in you real identity, so you should morph now.”

She responded as he had hoped, looping her arms in a more aggressive version of the Turbo Rangers’ pose, allowing the Power of Turbo to flow through her Turbo Key into her body where the priming fluid had altered her body chemistry enough that with a small boost from the modulator, she started to transform.

“Shift into Turbo!”

Unlike the other Turbo Rangers she didn’t call the name of a Zord as she completed her transformation. The Purple powers still required some work and a Zord would be added later. In all honesty Porto just hadn’t found a name he had been happy with. He expected Divatox to put that right when she found out.

The result was as he had hoped, the Dark Purple Turbo Ranger – after some convincing Divatox had agreed to call it Purple Racer – stood before him ready for action. He suit resembled the Yellow Turbo Ranger’s uniform, right down to the shape of the helmet; he had tried to find an original shape, but had failed. He was pleased to find that the colour had changed accordingly to a deep purple.

He ran a few tests and confirmed the process had stabilised and the toxic effect of the priming fluid had been negated by her powers. It was time to let Divatox have her say.

“Well Porto?” Divatox asked as he led the completed Ranger onto the bridge.

“As instructed I present to you the first of your evil Turbo Rangers: Purple Racer,” he stated, hoping that she would accept the name.

“I’ll have to think of something to call her,” Divatox mused as she walked around the silent warrior. “Sonic Nova…”

As she spoke the Turbo Powers were updating the suit’s template, adding the name Sonic Nova to its identity.

“Is complete?”

“Yes my Queen, I just finished making the adjustments,” Porto replied. He grew uncomfortable under her stare and amended his answer. “There is a little fine tuning and I will need to add a Zord. But I will need to do that after testing.”

Fortunately Divatox waved off the reply, no doubt eager to see her new Ranger in action.

“That metal moron Gasket has sent one of his monsters to Angel Grove,” she told him. “Send my new Ranger to make sure he understands this planet is MINE.”

“Yes my Queen. And if the Turbo Rangers show up?”

“Destroy them,” she almost hissed.

“Yes my Queen,” he mumbled before shuffling away.

The Purple Racer followed behind without saying a word.

====

The Turbo Rangers were in action again, this time against a machine monster. Built to resemble a humanoid rhinoceros, it was incredibly fast and with a toughened metallic skin capable of crushing anything in its path. It long horn was incredible sharp and capable of launching as a projectile. By shifting its body it could move from two legs to four legs increasing its speed. On two legs it had sharp claws on its hands and powerful feet that broke the street’s surface whenever it stomped with its powerful feet.

When it had first appeared the machine had entertained itself by charging up and down the wrong side of the highway, knocking cars and trucks off the road. By the time the Turbo Rangers arrived, the machine had just emerged victorious following a collision with an eighteen wheeler. The Cogs that accompanied it had tried to herd the terrified humans into its path.

Then the Turbo Rangers had arrived and the Cogs were quickly dispatched to the scrapheap. The monster had retaliated by charging toward them, but despite its speed there were five Rangers and between them they managed to keep it on the move while taking shots from a safe distance. The only problem was that with its thick hide, their attacks did very little to slow it down.

“Hey ugly, this way!” Yellow Turbo taunted as she cut across its path, causing it to change direction.

“No this way!” Blue Turbo countered, using his Auto Blaster to get its attention.

“Over here!” Pink Turbo called as she fired at the ground near to its left foot.

“Olay!” Green Turbo cried as he slapped the machine on the rear end.

The machine grew more and more agitated as the Turbo Rangers raced around, turning it in one direction and then another. Until finally just when it thought it had them cornered, the moved aside to reveal the business end of the Turbo RAM.

And then there was a flash of purple light and the Turbo Rangers were no longer standing in front of there; the Turbo RAM was in pieces and the five Rangers were sparking on the ground. There was another flash of purple and the machine found itself facing something it had not been warned about: a Purple Turbo Ranger.

“Queen Divatox commanded me to deliver a message to your master,” the Ranger said, ignoring the other Turbo Rangers as she focussed her attention on the monster. “Earth belongs to her, so back off!”

Those words snapped the monster back to reality. It had assumed that because the Purple Ranger had attacked the others it was a comrade. Instead it turned out to be a competitor. Well it was a creation of Prince Gasket, the future ruler of the Machine Empire and was not about to back down from a human, even if it was evil.

“Earth is the property of the Royal House of Gadgetry,” it responded before unleashing a stream of electrical energy from its right hand.

“Tyre Shield!” Purple Turbo called.

Porto had used the Yellow Turbo Ranger’s uniform as the template for his first evil Ranger, but he had copied some of the weapons and abilities of the other Turbo Rangers to give her an advantage. The Tyre Shield was one of those powers he had tried to incorporate into her design. Since he didn’t have the plans to make a true copy he had designed his own version in the form of a circular shield that extended from her left forearm. The energy blast was deflected with ease as the shield rotated.

“Auto Blaster!” she cried.

The shield retracted into her armour – for unlike the other Turbo Rangers who could choose whether their suits were made from thick solid plates or more flexible fabric, Porto had set her uniform for maximum density at all times. As it did so she raised her right hand and extended two fingers to make the shape of a gun. Her uniform adapted so that in place of a hand she now had Porto’s interpretation of the Turbo Rangers’ side arms. Against the monster’s armoured hide her shots had little more affect than those the other Rangers had taken before. But she had plenty more tricks to show off; Porto wanted her to prove her worth to Divatox.

“Turbo Blade!”

With the flick of the wrist the Auto Blaster vanished and arm blade extended from the forearm. With a sudden burst of speed she attacked, catching the monster off guard and forcing it to retreat. The monster responded with its claws, deflecting the blows but was unable to strike at the Purple Ranger as she dodged around, her armour crackling with energy.

“Now we turn things up a gear,” Purple Turbo promised as she twisted something on the back side of the blade. “Turbo Strike!”

Her blade glowed with Purple energy as she slashed the machine at close range and successfully breached its armour. The machine retaliated with a fierce punch that knocked her away. As she somersaulted to bring herself to a controlled stop, the monster launched its horn rocket in her direction. She dodged easily and was soon on the attack again.

“Turbo Drill Attack!”

She dove forward, arms extended with her hands touching. As she flew toward her damaged opponent, the blade extended forward and she started to spin. Her entire body glowed with purple energy as she skewered her way through the monster. She adopted a victorious pose as it exploded behind her.

“One down, five to go,” Purple Turbo announced as she turned her attention to the Turbo Rangers. “This will hurt you a lot more than it will hurt me… Nova Cane!”

In a flash of purple light a short rod appeared in the Ranger’s hand. She ran forward and leapt into the centre of the five Rangers before extending the cane to deliver an energised swipe across their chests. The Five Rangers tumbled back, surprised by her attack. She used the cane to strike each of the Rangers individually, targeting her attacks to where she knew they would hurt the most.

“Sword Mode!”

She pulled the end of the cane to reveal a long thin blade that expanded once released. She used the blade to swipe at the Rangers, causing them to spark. When she was satisfied she replaced the sword in its sheaf and twisted the top of the cane to form a handle.

“Cannon Mode, Fire!”

The end of the can glowed as it started to fire bolts of purple energy in the direction of the Turbo Rangers. Caught up close there was little they could do to block her blasts as the Purple Racer continued to show off her new powers. As the last shot was fired the cane reverted to its original form.

“Staff Mode, Nova Strike!”

The cane started to spin at an incredible rate, charging with energy as it did so until the ends were glowing purple. As it spun the cane seemed to treble in length forming a glowing staff. Then with a grunt of effort, the Ranger thrust the weapon forward, directing it toward Yellow Turbo.

“Tash!” Fred warned as the Yellow Turbo Ranger took the brunt of the blow to her left side as was flung aside.

“And then there were four,” Purple Turbo announced.

“Who are you?” Pink Turbo demanded.

“I’m the Purple Turbo Ranger,” Purple Racer laughed, “But you can call me Purple Racer. This planet is the property of Queen Divatox; anybody who has a problem with that will answer to me!”

“I don’t know who you are, but you really don’t want to do this,” Red Turbo told her, the Turbo Power Sword raised and ready to strike.

She laughed. She was certain that despite his readiness he did not want to attack her. It was too bad really that she had no reservations about striking him or his friends. Once she might have objected, but that was before Divatox had made her see otherwise.

“Oh I do, Red Turbo Ranger,” she replied. “Trust me on that.”

“Remember guys this is a Ranger,” Green Turbo warned. “She might be under some sort of control, but those are Ranger powers she is using.”

“So short of a finisher, no pulling punches,” Pink Turbo agreed.

There was always reluctance when Power Rangers faced Rangers that had been placed under evil control. Most forgot in the midst of their concern for a friend or innocent that the powers they wielded would protect them from all but the strongest attacks. And while the Turbo Rangers were just as keen as any other team to try to break through with words and gestures of friendship, they were also happy to punch a little common sense into their bewitched enemy.

“Oh trust me, I won’t be pulling anything,” Purple Racer promised. “Nova Strike!”

And then the fight was on, four Turbo Rangers against a single evil Ranger. It was no surprise for the Rangers to discover that the Purple Racer was just as fast and strong as they were. With no inhibitions about fighting dirty, she enjoyed a small advantage over her foes – for the Turbo Rangers themselves were not renowned for holding themselves to the same strict code of honour as the older teams. As the tip of the Nova Staff connected, Pink Turbo was propelled through the air, her suit sparking from the concussive force of the discharge. A strike to Green Turbo’s knee slowed him down enough that the next blow would have taken his head off if not for the timely intervention of Blue Turbo.

As Blue Turbo helped his friend, Purple Racer turned her attention to Yellow Turbo, who was back on her feet albeit a little shaky. This time though Tasha was armed. Sparks flew as the Nova Staff clashed with Yellow Turbo’s Star Chargers, which Yellow Turbo had elected to use in their more compact knuckle-duster mode. Energised purple connected with energised yellow as both warriors moved at incredible speed. They were evenly matched until Purple Racer drove the tip of her staff into the sidewalk, releasing a shockwave that blew Yellow Turbo off her feet and slowed the incoming Red Turbo enough for her to deliver a clean shot to his midsection.

As the street started to crumble from the energy she had unleashed, Purple Racer took the opportunity to observe the carnage. The lapse was enough for Blue Turbo to use his Turbo Hand Blasters to knock the staff from her hand, causing it to revert to its smaller cane form and vanish. Purple Racer cocked her head to one side. It was hard to tell but she almost seemed amused.

“Nice trick,” she commended. “Now it’s my turn…” She paused, raising her left hand to the side of her helmet. “On second thoughts, we’ll finish this next time. So long Turbo Rangers.”

She vanished in a shower of Purple sparks.

“Hey!” Red Turbo cried. “Come back here!”

“Um Fred, we have bigger problems,” Green Turbo pointed out.

Red Turbo followed his team mate’s line of sight and saw that somehow Gasket had managed to make his monster grow without the help of Klank and Orbus. Purple Racer would have to wait. They had more pressing concerns.

====

“Porto, what is the point of having an evil Turbo Ranger if you order her to retreat when she has those Power Punks at her mercy?” Divatox demanded.

In truth she was pleased with Porto’s first attempt at creating an evil Ranger. The Purple Turbo powers had proven more than a match for one of Gasket’s creations and had held her own against five Turbo Rangers. It was also clear that while her powers needed some fine tuning, the Nova Cane was an effective weapon. Porto would just need to find a way to make certain that next time the Purple Ranger would not be disarmed so easily

“Forgive me my Queen,” Porto answered. “I failed to see a reason for her to remain once Gasket grew that metal beast of his. I haven’t finished her Zord and if she stayed she would have been forced to choose sides between the Rangers or a competitor.”

Divatox had to accept his reasoning. Sonic Nova was still new and untested in battle. There was no guarantee that their indoctrination techniques would hold up if she was forced to work with the other Rangers. On the other hand cooperating with Gasket’s forces after order him to leave the planet was also out of the question. The Purple Racer was aggressive and not afraid to strike the enemy where it hurt. Any protests Porto had raised about the possibility of betrayal had been proven wrong for now at least. She still couldn’t fault him for giving Sonic Nova as little reason to turn on them as possible.

“Next time ask before ordering my Ranger to withdrawal,” she told him.

“Yes my Queen.”

She turned her attention to the periscope and watched the battle between the Turbo Rangers and Gasket’s machine. As the Turbo Megazord finished the machine monster with a Spinout, she remembered that she would need to get Porto to step up production of Sonic Nova’s Turbo Zord. That along with the other improvements she wanted him to make would mean that the next time her warrior faced off against Zordon’s brats, they would be eliminated.

“Making some of her weapons a part of her armour gave a clear advantage,” Porto noted, more to himself, but aware that Divatox could hear him. “Next time we’ll be able to use some of the other toys I installed.”

“Just be sure she is ready when I need her,” Divatox instructed.

“Of course, my Queen,” Porto replied. “Come along Purple Ranger, we have work to do. You should place your power into Standby Mode for now.”

Purple Racer nodded and removed her helmet, revealing the empty face of Ashley Hammond. She didn’t know what had been done to her after that although she knew that something had changed. It wasn’t a spell, for she had been in Angel Grove long enough to recognise the sensations of being placed under a spell even if she couldn’t fight it. This was different, a physical presence sifting through her mind, dredging up all of her negative emotions and burying anything positive. She remembered a face, no faces, each a mask expressing some emotion that twisted her thoughts and leaving her in a state where while she was aware of her actions, she was incapable of stopping herself. And whenever she thought she had found the strength to break free, she felt something clamp down on her mind, clouding her judgement and making her trust the pirate to know what was right.

She had hurt the Turbo Rangers and she was appalled at herself for doing so. But those emotions were quashed by the delight she had taken in harming them and an overriding desire to do so again. She knew it was wrong, but she just couldn’t fight it.

The larva Porto had placed in her ear was now secreted deep within her skull where it released chemicals that altered her thought processes. As long as it remained, she would never break free.

====

Power Chamber

“It’s no good Zordon, I checked the readings and it was definitely a Turbo Ranger,” Alpha reported.

The Turbo Rangers had not been in a good state when they had returned. The battle with the Purple Ranger had taken its toll and while their powers had healed most of their wounds, they still needed the help of Power Mountain’s Medical Bay to fully heal.

In the meantime there had been some debate about the exact nature of their opponent.

“Divatox does not have access to our systems and lacks Lerigot’s abilities to link others to the Power of Turbo,” Zordon replied.

The Power Chamber’s computers had analysed the information recorded by the Turbo Ranger’s helmets during the battle. By merging the five sets of data and their own observations, Zordon had been hopeful to learn the identity of their new foe. So far they had only managed to determine that Divatox had stolen her Ranger’s appearance from Tasha.

“I don’t care how they did it, she kicked our butts,” Tasha griped.

For the five teenagers it didn’t matter whether or not they had been facing a Ranger or something pretending to be a Ranger. It had been five-on-one and they had only just managed to hold their own. Admittedly she had had the element of surprise, but it had been the speed of her attack that had surprised them.

“We’re used to being the fast ones,” Franklin reasoned. “We’ve always had the advantage of using speed and numbers.”

It was true that the Power of Turbo was better suited for speed than it was for strength. Using their minds, their teamwork and their speed to their advantage, the Turbo Rangers had managed to overcome foes that were bigger and stronger.

“Maybe Porto is smarter than we thought,” Rosa offered. “He’s built all sorts of things for Divatox in the past.”

“Porto is capable of building a device similar to a Turbo Morpher,” Zordon admitted. “However I do not believe he has the ability to allow a human to use that power without killing them.”

The Speed Force was raw energy and not compatible with the anatomies of most races. It normal required complex rituals to refine it into a safer form like the Power of Turbo. There had been a few humans on Earth who Zordon suspected were capable of using the Speed Force in its unconverted form, but a look into their history revealed that their bodies had been altered either by accident or magic to handle withstand the incredibly corrosive power.

Porto was known as an inventor and a mechanic, but not for his knowledge of Ranger powers. The amount of technology and magic involved made it very unlikely he had managed to duplicate the process on his own. Zordon started to wonder if he had help and if so, from whom?

“Alpha and I will continue to look for a solution,” he promised. “In the meantime it is important that you return to your normal lives.”

“Oh no, we’re going to be late for class,” Justin realised.

The others rolled their eyes but after a few comments about nerds, the five teenagers vanished in a shower of sparks, leaving Zordon to his thoughts.

====

The next day passed without a monster attack, surprising everybody. They knew it was unlike Divatox to resist the urge to press an advantage. They didn’t know that Porto had used the possibility of having her new Ranger’s Zord completed as a way of convincing her to hold back. He had also appealed to her need to prove herself superior to the other villains by suggesting waiting until one of her competitors made a move before sending in her Ranger to humiliate them.

It was the day after that Lord Zedd decided that using the Rangers’ powers against them was a good idea. He created a monster called Copy Otter from an old photocopier that had for some reason been tipped into a river and a nearby otter. There had been a few pepper seeds inside one of the photocopier’s drawers and they had been incorporated into the design.

With a full squad of Z-Putties at his disposal, Copy Otter had appeared in the Business District of Angel Grove and started his attack. Fortunately it was a Saturday and most of the commercial businesses were closed. Those unfortunate enough to be in the area found themselves suffering the effects of the fumes from the pepper spray he spayed in their direction while the exploding shellfish he threw made running away hazardous.

Of course the Z-Putties were doing what they did best, harassing those unable to fight back and generally causing problems. That soon stopped when two blurs, one green and the other pink knocked the foot-soldiers off their feet.

“That’s enough!” Pink Turbo told them as the blurs slowed to reveal the Pink and Green Turbo Rangers.

“We’ll handle these goons,” Green Turbo called to the others.

“All right!” Red Turbo answered before turning his attention Copy Otter. “We’re taking you down!”

“Oh yeah, says who?” Copy Otter asked. “Here’s a pepper for you!”

He threw a red pepper in the direction of the three Rangers. Yellow Ranger moved swiftly and knocked it back with the flat of her Turbo Blade.

“We don’t eat on the job,” she told him.

“Really, how about some sea food?” Copy Otter asked.

“Huh,” the three Rangers asked, confused before he produced a handful of shellfish. “Oh.”

“This is what I call shellshock!” he boasted, flinging the shellfish and then a handful of starfish in their direction.

Green Turbo shifted and shot the incoming projectiles out of the air with his Auto Blaster.

“You’ll pay for that,” Copy Otter promised.

“Oh yeah?” Blue Turbo asked. “Turbo Hand Blasters!”

Copy Otter chuckled. “That is exactly what I was waiting for. Now behold my special power… Copy!”

The rod on his arm glowed and his shoulders flashed. There was a bright burst of light and then two balls of light left his shoulders and flew into his waiting hands. The light faded and he was holding a pair of Turbo Hand Blasters which he immediately fired at Blue Turbo, knocking him down.

“Justin!” Yellow Turbo cried.

“You okay?” Red Turbo asked.

“Ugh,” Blue Turbo complained. “Those things pack a punch.”

“You’ve done it now,” Yellow Turbo. “Nobody hurts my friends, except me. Turbo Star Chargers!”

“Turbo Lightning Sword!” Red Turbo called.

“Copy!” And Copy Otter was soon holding a Star Charger in one hand and a Turbo Lightning Sword in the other.

“No fair he copied our weapons!” Yellow Turbo complained. “Isn’t there a law against that?”

“That’s cheating!” Red Turbo added, for a moment considering the possibility that a police officer would turn up just to insist on fair play. He dismissed the idea when he realised most of the time it would be the Turbo Rangers forced to play fair.

“You think that’s cheating, wait until you see this,” Copy Otter promised. He looked over at where Pink and Green Turbo were making short work of the Z-Putties thanks to their super speed and raised his arm again. “Copy!”

Then he charged, striking Yellow and Red Turbo with copies of their own weapons as a speed that the Rangers normally used to completely out pace their foes. After he had forced the two to separate he ran circles around the Red Turbo Ranger before swinging his Turbo Lightning Sword to hit him hard in the chest. He threw down the sword so that he could grip a Star Charger in each hand; like Yellow Turbo he had selected the knuckle duster form. Then he tore into Yellow Turbo, pummelling with an assortment of jabs and punches. His last blow to the midsection put her down next to Red Turbo.

“Guys!” Blue Turbo called as he made his way over to his friends.

“He’s got our weapons and our speed,” Yellow Turbo groaned. “Now what?”

Copy Otter’s arm scanner glowed again.

“Copy! He’s got our weapons and our speed,” he repeated in a perfect imitation of Pink Turbo. “Now what?”

“That’s enough!” Green Turbo warned as he and Pink Turbo joined their friends.

“You’re right,” Copy Otter told him dismissively, “I have more important things to copy. So let’s end this. Pepper bombs!”

He unleashed a volley of exploding peppers followed by a round of exploding sea food. The three Rangers were caught in the open and blasted through the air.

“Guys!” Green Turbo cried.

“Uh oh!”

Copy Otter tried to run off at high speed, but Pink Turbo was just as fast and blocked his path. He turned to run in the other direction and Green Turbo was already there with a closed fist ready to strike. Copy Otter was knocked off his feet at the two Rangers summoned their weapons.

“Turbo Wind Bow!” Zordon and Alpha had given up trying to get Rosa to call the Turbo Wind Fire by its real name. She had repeatedly told them it was a bow and it didn’t have anything to do with fire.

“Turbo Engine Cannon!” Originally Zordon and Alpha had wanted to call this weapon the Thunder Cannon, but after some confusion with the special Thunder Cannon that was secured to Green Turbo’s Zord, the teenagers had started to refer to it as the Engine Cannon.

“Fire!” they called together, unleashing a volley of shots that knocked the monster over.

“Oh that’s good,” Copy Otter commented as he picked himself up. “I’ll have one of each. Copy!”

He duplicated their weapons and opened fire, catching all five Rangers in the blast. The five teens groaned as they tried to pick themselves up and groaned again when they discovered that the copies of their weapons were good enough to combine together to form the Turbo RAM. This didn’t look good.

====

“Porto, that idiot monster is about to finish off the Power Rangers,” Divatox growled. “Tell your Purple Ranger to get down there and stop it. And then destroy the Power Rangers.”

“Yes my Queen,” Porto replied. “I have just completed a new weapon for Sonic Nova to use in battle. This will be a good time to test it.”

====

“Fi-huh!”

The loud rev of an engine stopped the monster before he could fire.

The Rangers turned in time to see Purple Racer racing in their direction on a quad bike. They narrowly managed to get out of the way and it was clear from the way that she didn’t attempt to slow down or change course that she had no problem crashing into them. Copy Otter didn’t move and was promptly knocked over. Nobody noticed that as she had passed Copy Otter’s Turbo Power Weapons, Purple Racer had tapped them gently, causing them to vanish as they were absorbed by her powers.

“This planet belongs to Queen Divatox,” she told the flattened monster. “Leave now!”

“Leave? I’m just starting!” Copy Otter replied as he held up his arm. “Copy!”

His ability to create duplicates was tested by the size of the object, but after waiting for a short time he was able to climb aboard his own quad bike. He revved the engine and tore down the street, then turned the bike around ready to charge back toward the Purple Ranger. The pepper bombs he had thrown around earlier had eliminated any parked cars, leaving the whole street to play in.

Purple Racer revved her quad in response, confident that she would win. Copy Otter had made a duplicate without knowing all of the original’s abilities. She was certain that he could not have copied her vehicle’s special features. When Porto had built the Sonic Nova he had looked to some of the Dianthe’s other vehicles for inspiration. As a result the simple quad cycle now boasted a number of optional extras. And after successfully managing to connect it to the Purple Racer’s powers, all he needed was the right opportunity to fully activate it.

They turned the throttle and sped forward.

“Flight mode!”

The wheels folded down and turned into thrusters, allowing the quad to gain height. Purple Racer flew over the monster before landing again. After the two combatants turned their vehicles around they charged again with Copy Otter prepared for her trickery, only for Purple Racer to do something different.

“Back Cutter!”

A long serrated blade slid from the rear of the vehicle and as she passed her opponent, Purple Racer forced her quad to spin to the right, bringing the sharpened blade into contact with the duplicate’s left tyres.

With two flat tyres Copy Otter was left vulnerable as Purple Racer charged in his direction once more. This time a circular saw extended from the front of the machine and she first raised and then lowered it in a way that sliced through Copy Otter’s crippled quad.


Sonic Nova in Quad and Attack Mode

“Sonic Nova, Attack Mode!” she cried.

The front panel of the quad flipped down, extending the reach of her saw. Two powerful sonic cannons rotated upward rest under the handle bars. The rear section to the quad was pulled forward, extending the rear blade, at the same time shifting the position of the back panels so they now surrounded her as a type of armour. Although she was forced to stand due to their not being enough room to sit, Purple Racer was riding a mobile fortress and Copy Otter was in trouble.

“Hey can’t we talk about this? Words are much better than violence,” Copy Otter tried. “You know my favourite word? Copy!”

Purple Racer opened fire before he could scan her armour. While he dodged the cannon blasts he failed to avoid the saw blade, which decimated his scanning attachment. He looked up in pained surprise as the saw blade descended and the cannons opened fire a second time.

With Copy Otter gone, Purple Racer turned her attention to the Rangers.

====

On the Moon, Rita and Zedd were furious that an evil Turbo Ranger had messed up their plans. Losing to Rangers was bad enough but losing to another monster was unforgivable. And so they decided to do something about it.

“Powers of evil, make my monster grow!” Zedd intoned, aware that he couldn’t use one of his growth bombs since the monster was in no fit state to use it.

====

Dark lightning struck the remains of Copy Otter, restoring the monster in giant form. The Rangers responded in typical fashion by calling in their Zords, leaving Purple Racer to watch as the Megazord formed.

====

“Oh dear oh dear,” Porto mumbled as he watched the battle. “She is going to be so angry if this doesn’t work.”

It wasn’t a brilliant plan in fact it wasn’t even a good plan. There was so much that could go wrong every instinct told him to abandon the idea. But as he watched the battle and heard Divatox start to rant, he decided it was better to go ahead so at least he could claim he tried.

“Rygog, fire a torpedo,” he instructed.

“What’s the target?” Rygog asked.

Porto sighed. This was where he realised just how bad an idea it was. “Sonic Nova.”

There was silence, which Porto assumed was Rygog deciding whether or not to obey and if he would have to accept part of the blame when it backfired.

“Fine,” came the eventual response as the ship shifted in response to a torpedo launch.

Porto steadied himself and started to push buttons, remotely adjusting both the Purple Racer and her machine.

“Now I just need to make those adjustments.”

====

The Megazord had formed and the battle had started. Copy Otter had not regained his scanning device and therefore was unable to fight back at full strength. However his exploding peppers made it increasingly difficult for the Rangers to get close. A barrage of exploding shellfish struck the Megazord in the left leg.

“Chest Blaster!” Red Turbo ordered.

The Megazord unleashed the full power of the energy emitters fitted to its chest plate, destroying the remaining peppers before Copy Otter could throw them. The Rangers took the opportunity to close the distance and land a solid kick to the monster’s side.

“Guys we have incoming!” Pink Turbo warned as the torpedo struck the ground where Purple Racer had been stood watching.

“Did she just destroy her own Ranger?” Yellow Turbo asked. She was shocked at the ruthlessness Divatox showed. Even by the pirate’s standards, that was cold hearted.

“No, look!” Green Turbo replied.

Purple Racer had jumped off of her quad at the time the torpedo landed, but both she and the vehicle were within range. And both were subjected to the effects of the weapon as they grew to giant size. Purple Racer now matched the Megazord in size and her vehicle had expanded to the point where it was large enough for a Megazord to ride it comfortably.

Purple Racer climbed onto her new Zord and revved the engine.

“Guys, this isn’t good!” Green Turbo warned.

And he was right. The front of the Sonic Nova opened, revealing its twin cannons, which swivelled up and down at the fired, striking Copy Otter up and down the length of his body, lifting him off his feet and propelling him backwards. She adjusted the Zord so that it was facing the Megazord and fired again. For some reason the Rangers hadn’t moved out of the way.

“Oh yeah?” Copy Otter asked as he dragged himself out of the building he had been thrown into. “Try this!”

He fired another barrage of peppers, which were cut to pieces by the Zord’s spinning blade; it appeared that since growing larger the saw was able to move from side to side and change the angle of the blade. For good measure it also tried to slice the Megazord’s arm, but the Rangers shifted their machine enough for it to miss.

The cannons swivelled as the saw blade rose to its maximum height. The wheels rotated and the thrusters activated, allowing the large Zord to hover. Then the Zord moved forward rapidly, the cannons blazing as the saw blade swung from side to side on its way down the length of the monster.

“Sonic Nova, Spin Out!” Purple Racer called, causing the Zord to spin in a circle as it passed through the monster, its energised rear blade delivering the final blow as Copy Otter exploded.

Purple Racer turned her attention to the Megazord. With a grunt she leapt from the saddle of her Zord and landed in front of the Megazord. Without pause she smashed her fists into its torso, causing the Megazord to stumble back. The Megazord responded with a punch of its own that hardly fazed her; the Rangers had been right that the Power of Turbo would prevent all but the strongest attacks from causing lasting damage.

She grabbed the Megazord and threw it over her shoulder. The Megazord used its left hand to redirect itself into a flip and rounded on her with a right hook. She rolled with the blow and attempted to sweep the legs, but the Megazord jumped. On the next blow their fists connected, throwing both the Megazord and Purple Racer to the ground.

“Fred we need to withdraw,” Green Turbo urged.

The others looked uncertain, but trusting their friend knew what he was doing, they agreed, ending the battle with Purple Racer standing victorious.

====

Power Chamber

“What was that about Frank?” Tasha demanded after they had powered down. “We could have taken her.”

Justin and Fred both nodded in agreement. While Purple Racer had proven a powerful opponent, it was just an oversized Ranger suit against a Megazord’s armour. In they end they had been confident of a win.

“We didn’t need to fight,” Franklin argued back. “Look she showed up to stop Copy Otter and destroy the five of us, right? She wasn’t there to conquer the planet. So if we’re not there she has no reason to fight.”

“Alpha?”

As much as they wanted to defeat the evil Turbo Ranger, the Rangers knew they had a sworn duty to reduce the damage caused by monster attacks and to protect the lives of innocents.

“Ai-yi-yi, Franklin’s right,” Alpha confirmed. “Purple Racer has left the scene and has taken her Zord with her. Local rescue crews have moved in to restore order.”

“A simple and effective way to end the battle Franklin,” Zordon commended. “You were wise not to escalate the battle. There is a chance that Divatox might realise what happened and in future order her Ranger to continue an attack to stop force you to remain.”

He looked down at the young Rangers, proud of the way that they had handled their recent encounters. He would ask Rocky, Adam and perhaps Tommy to speak with them about their experience dealing with evil Rangers.

“Alpha and I conducted a full scan of Purple Racer during the battle. We were able to confirm that she is indeed using the Power of Turbo and likely possesses a Turbo Key and Turbo Morpher similar to your own.”

That was an important discovery since it allowed Alpha and Zordon to find a way to identify her despite the distortion her powers would cause.”

“We hope that we will be able to learn her true identity by matching her unique signature within the Morphing Grid.”

“Zordon how did they manage to build a Zord so quickly?” Justin asked.

It was not easy to build a Zord. It was not just a case of building an armoured body and a few parts. There were delicate connections that needed to be made for it to work properly.

“Divatox has a fleet of large vehicles at her disposal,” Zordon answered. “I believe that Porto used one of those vehicles as raw materials for the Purple Turbo Zord. Since the Dianthe’s vehicles are capable of changing size in a similar way to how your Turbo Zords can alter their size Porto only needed to connect the vehicle to her Ranger’s powers. Using the torpedo this time would allow her powers to remember how it should look when full size.”

After conducting their scans Zordon had come to the conclusion that Porto had spent as much time stabilising the powers as he had creating them.

“So now we have an evil Ranger running around with her own Zord,” Tasha stated.

“While the cars the Dianthe possess are powerful, they are just machines and incapable acting on their own,” Zordon told her. “They lack much of the technology found in your Turbo Zords.”

“He’s right,” Fred said. “The moment she jumped off her Zord it stopped moving. It is just a very powerful giant vehicle.”

The problem was that now it had been connected to Purple Racer’s powers there was a chance Porto would be able to improve it. They had been lucky during their last encounter. They needed stop Purple Racer before somebody got hurt. And while he hoped that they could get through to her, they needed a backup plan.

“Zordon, Can you use the scan to find a weakness in her armour?” Tasha asked. “Just in case we can’t undo… whatever Divatox did to her.”

“Alpha and I have been working on a way block the Power of Turbo,” Zordon replied. He didn’t need to add that it would be a last resort. Nobody doubted that Purple Racer was a victim of Divatox’s schemes.

With nothing else left to do the Rangers returned to their normal lives while Zordon and Alpha continued to work on the problem.

====

Porto was pleased. Purple Racer had been praised by Divatox, which meant that as she was his creation, he had been praised by Divatox. It seemed that Divatox had chosen to interpret the Rangers’ departure as an act of running away rather than an attempt to stop the fighting. Porto was just relieved that she hadn’t blamed him.

The Zord idea had worked and had provided a method to provide Zords for his other Rangers. Of course he would need to complete work on the Purple Turbo Zord first, but once that was done. And then there were the duplicated weapons that Purple Racer had managed to palm during the battle. He chuckled to himself as he held the remains of Copy Otter’s scanning device, which had been severed during the battle. With a little work he had an idea of how to put the remains of Zedd’s monster to use.

He looked to the far side of the workshop where the template for his second evil Turbo Ranger was nearing completion. Finding a suitable Ranger had been difficult and he was still not convinced that she would not fail during her first mission. But if she did he would just move on to the next and hope that Divatox would leave him alone. That was the best he could do.

End of Part.

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

The Dark Racers Part 4 – The Midnight Runner

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers.
Author’s Note: In the original version of this story I had intended to use minors characters from the show as the Dark Turbo Rangers. It made sense to use people who were involved in their lives but not major characters. When I worked on the extended version I decided to use Ashley as Purple Racer, Cassie as Silver Racer and Carlos as Black Racer instead. TJ makes an appearance too.

The Dark Racers Part 4 – The Midnight Runner

Porto knew he had been pushing his luck. Following the debut of the Purple Racer and then the less impressive but still triumphant appearance of the Silver Racer, Divatox’s engineer had decided to press ahead with building his next evil Turbo Ranger. He should have known that his luck would never hold long enough for him to be successful three times in a row. Especially since he had decided that his third attempt would produce two new evil Turbo Rangers instead of just one.

It had been a mistake and the two humans he had chosen had been nothing but trouble from the start.

====

“Bring it on fish face!” TJ yelled. He held his baseball club at the ready.

TJ Johnson lived with his uncle in Angel Grove. His parent had sent him there to get an education and a safer life. They had decided that despite the risks of monster attacks, it was a safer environment for their child. TJ had adjusted to his new home, had joined the Baseball Team and settled down at school. Apart from the regular disruptions that caused the citizens of Angel Grove to seek shelter, his life had been better.

Unfortunately that better life had taken a turn for the worse when he had drawn the attention of Divatox and her crew. TJ had been selected by Porto to serve as the new Gold Racer, the fourth in his series of evil Turbo Rangers. The boy had proven to be a natural match for Red Turbo and Porto had based the template of his suit on the Red Turbo Ranger’s uniform.

The problem was that the boy had been armed at the time the Piranhatrons had tried to snatch him and his baseball bat had helped prevent them from swarming him. Even when he had been transported to the ship, the boy had continued to fight. He had made a mess of Porto’s workshop before Rygog had intervened.

For some reason after he had been subdued and taken to a cell, Elgar had though it a good idea not to remove the baseball bat, which meant the moment the door had been opened, the Gold Racer had made a break for freedom.

“Do be careful,” Porto urged. “I don’t want him damaged.”

The Piranhatrons continued to rush forward, but the young man continued to lash out, hitting them as hard as possible. Eventually though the odds were too great and they managed to pin him down long enough for Porto to place a larva in the youth’s left ear.

“That’s better,” Porto decided as he saw the fight vanish from the Gold Racer’s eyes. It was clear that TJ was resisting, but the larva had evolved to control its host and the boy soon succumbed. “You’ll make fine addition to Divatox’s forces.”

He missed the scowl that appeared on the Gold Racer’s face, before TJ’s expression turned blank.

====

Carlos Vallerte was a boy with a secret even if he didn’t know. His family had lived in Angel Grove for years due to the Ley Lines that crisscrossed the city, which they used to shield them from the eyes of those that would hunt them. For Carlos was not completely human; generations earlier a female of his line had fallen in love with a vampire and even though she had not been turned, she had conceived his child. Those genes had carried down through the generations, remaining dormant. Sadly that unnoticeable difference between Carlos and his peers made him a perfect candidate for Porto.

Indeed when Porto had noticed the dormant genes and determined that they could unlock extra abilities, the Black Racer powers had been designed to take advantage of his heritage. His not-quite-human biology did nothing to stop the larva from taking control of his mind.

====

When Porto had created his first evil Turbo Ranger, he had discovered that in order to connect a human to the Power of Turbo – a power derived from the extra-universal energy known as the Speed Force – he needed to inject the human with a potential lethal cocktail of chemicals to alter their physiology and a modulator device to control the initial flow of power. Purple Racer had proven that the technique was sound and with a small change to the modulator Silver Racer had shown no signs of the priming solution after her first battle. 

As Carlos and TJ stood ready to accept their new powers with arms at their sides, Porto decided that he would take the opportunity to test the improvements he had made to the priming fluid and the modulator. He had gave Carlos his new improved variation of the priming solution, gambling that if anything went wrong the boy’s non-human heritage would mean that he could change back to the original recipe. He had attached a modified modulator to TJ’s chest that would absorb less of the initial energy surge and make the whole process quicker.

“You will be the Black Racer,” he told Carlos as he handed him his Turbo Key. “I think we shall call you Shadow Stalker.”

He then turned to TJ and placed a Turbo Key in his hand. “And you will be known by the name Magma Flare as the Gold Racer.”

Although they were a team and their powers were similar, each of Porto’s creations had their own unique strengths. By drawing on a secondary link to the Speed Force they could bolster their powers, but doing so placed additional strain on them; it was a potentially powerful tool he planned to use when their usefulness neared an end.

The Purple Racer’s powers were the most adaptable since Porto had used rewritable components when building her morpher. It meant that at any time he could upgrade her abilities and she could add new weapons to her arsenal as she had done when she touched Copy Otter’s duplicates of the Turbo Power Weapons. However her morpher was the least advance because it had been the first he completed and later models included those things he had been unable to add the first time.

Purple Racer’s morpher had a secondary link to the Speed Force that when used could generate an energy field to slow the momentum of objects or people. Porto theorised that by directing the energy through her armour she would be able to direct the ability to the point where she could freeze and object or paralyse a person. It made her the fastest of the group.

Silver Racer could not affect the speed of physical objects to the degree that Purple Racer could; there was some overlap in their abilities but each morpher had been fine tuned to focus on their own strengths. The secondary feed on her morpher meant that her armour could absorb certain types of energy and transform it into light which could either manifest as a blinding flare or an energy bolt. She had already used the ability once although her lack of caution had made the attack backfire when it had blinded Purple Racer. Porto expected that she could do the same thing using sound but didn’t want to think of the chaos such an attack would create if Silver Racer didn’t learn to use it properly.

Black Racer’s capabilities had yet to be tested, but Porto had designed them for stealth. As such Black Racer’s armour could absorb light, sound and heat, making him undetectable. When moving fast enough he could phase through solid objects. Such a state made him immune to physical attacks. The downside was that while in such a state he could not cause physical damage to the world around him, although he could disrupt electronics. Porto also needed to find a way to reduce the time needed to switch between states since Black Racer was vulnerable during the transition.

Finally there was Gold Racer whose powers were the culmination of Porto’s work. Porto had designed the Gold Racer’s armour to allow him to use any ability associated with the Speed Force. That meant any ability possessed by the other evil Turbo Rangers and a few extra tricks. Gold Racer could use the secondary feed from his morpher to gather increased body mass, making him super strong and almost invulnerable for short periods. Of course like the Black Racer, Gold Racers full abilities had not been assessed and were only a theory, but Porto expected him to be the most powerful of his creations.

He glanced at the clock and realised he was late.

“Oh dear, Queen Divatox will be waiting for us,” Porto told them. “Activate your powers.”

“Shift into Turbo!” Carlos and TJ cried.

Porto had based the Black Racer powers on Green Turbo and he was pleased with the result. The Black Racer’s armour seemed to absorb light causing him to appear translucent. It was clear the new formula for the priming fluid had been a success. Porto promised to use the new mix in the creation of future Rangers.

Then he had turned his attention to Gold Racer and had almost panicked. The new modulator had clearly not worked and the Turbo Morpher was starting to overload as it drew an increasingly lethal surge of energy into TJ’s body; it was only the activation of Gold Racer’s powers that stopped the excess energy from killing him.

He shuffled for the door, motioning for Black Racer to follow. Once through he sealed the workshop as the modulator failed and the Gold Racer powers exploded.

====

Divatox had been observing Silver Racer as she trained with Rygog and Elgar. The two underlings had not taken it easy on Cassie as they worked to improve her skills. It appeared that pain was indeed a good teacher as the girl’s reactions had increased and she had clearly started to use strategy to keep the two from attacking at the same time.

Just as she was about to end the training, the Sub Craft shook violently. A loud explosion was heard and the hull seemed to buckle. Outside a golden ball of energy shot off into space.

“Porto!”

====

Porto pulled himself to his feet, checked that Black Racer was unscathed and then nervously opened the door to his workshop. He was not surprised to find the room had been decimated by the uncontrolled energy. The Speed Force was highly destructive and his first impression was that nothing had survived the explosion.

“All those inventions lost,” he lamented. “She will be furious.”

“Porto!”

He fought the urge to run. There was nowhere to hide. At least he could offer the Black Racer as a partial success.

“Yes, my Queen?” he answered as an angry Divatox stormed into the room and stopped short, taken aback by the utter destruction before her.

“What was that?” she demanded.

“A slight miscalculation on my part,” Porto offered. “It won’t happen again.”

“See that it doesn’t,” she almost snarled. Then she spotted Black Racer for the first time. “And what is that?”

Porto breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed that spotting the Black Racer had been enough to distract Divatox from her rant. And since he could present the Black Racer as the end result of his failed experiment, there was no reason she would find out that his mistake had cost her a Turbo Ranger.

“Allow me to present Shadow Stalker, the Black Racer,” he said.

Divatox seemed pleased as she ran her hands over her newest Ranger. Given what he knew of her tastes, Porto considered it lucky that Carlos was still morphed.

“Very nice work Porto,” she commended. “We’ll send him to Earth immediately.”

“Of course, my Queen.”

“And clean this mess up,” she added with a dismissive wave. “Zedd and Rita would never Finster to make this sort of mess.”

“At once,” Porto agreed eager for her to leave.

Behind him there was a loud groan and some of the debris shifted. He fought back a wince. Nothing could have survived that sort of explosion, could it?

“What happened?” TJ groaned as he tried to clear what remained of a cabinet from his legs.

And at that moment Porto knew that his luck had run out and any chance to pretend that the explosion was a result of creating the Black Racer was also gone.

Instead of being angry though Divatox was staring at the bare-chested teen with a hungry expression.

“Why Porto, you never told me you had a spare,” she teased before walking over to the clearly confused TJ.

Porto saw the boy wince as the much older pirate ran her hands over his body. A part of him was tempted to intervene and save the boy from a fate no sane person should endure: a night with Divatox. Another part of him that was dedicated to his continued survival and good health quickly dismissed such a foolish notion.

She sniffed the air. “Ah, fresh meat. Have him cleaned up and sent to my chambers. I haven’t sampled a young human before.”

Porto nodded and breathed a sigh of relief once Divatox had gone. He had seen the look of disgust on TJ’s face and realised that the human was no longer under their control. It was only the boy’s confusion that prevented him from attacking. And if he sent him to Divatox’s bed chamber in such a condition she would likely kill the boy and punish him for good measure. No, he needed to think of a reason to get the human off the ship before she called for him.

====

The Power Chamber’s sensors had detected the explosion from the Sub Craft and had analysed the golden energy that had left the vessel. It had not taken long for Zordon and Alpha to deduce that Porto had tried to create another Turbo Ranger. They had been relieved that it appeared the attempt had failed; based on their understanding of the Power of Turbo that sort of explosion suggested a catastrophic failure of some sort.

They could only hope that nobody had been killed in the incident and that maybe it would mean there would be no further surprises from Divatox. The sounding of the alarm meant that whatever had happened hadn’t stopped the pirate from attacking.

====

While TJ had been safely locked away until Porto could find a way to dispose of him, Purple Racer and Silver Racer had been sent to Angel Grove to draw out the Rangers. As Zordon had suspected following the Turbo Rangers’ previous encounter with Purple Racer, Divatox was not above using her evil Rangers to draw the Turbo Rangers into battle.

It was clear that Purple Racer and Silver Racer had been ordered to create havoc but had not been instructed to injure anybody. They mostly targeted parked cars, street furniture and the odd fire hydrant. They were aware that they didn’t need to do anything more to get the Turbo Rangers’ attention.

As the five Turbo Rangers arrived the battle started with Pink and Green Turbo fighting Silver Racer while Purple Racer held her own against Red, yellow and Blue Turbo. A flurry of punches and kicks combined with the use of weapons heralded the beginning of an intense battle.

====

“Now,” Divatox ordered as she watched the battle. “Send in my Black Racer.”

====

Black Racer stealthily approached his target, using his powers to remain hidden until the last possible moment. There was a moment where Carlos knew he was completely vulnerable, solid enough to see and to be injured, but still unable to cause physical harm to his opponent. Fortunately the Turbo Rangers were so involved in the battle they never noticed the attack until it was too late.

Yellow Turbo had been the first target and when Black Racer appeared he had held little back. He had slammed into the Ranger with all the force he could muster and had then pummelled her until the others had noticed. The moment they had done so, he had darted for the shadows, disappearing only to reappear and clip Green Turbo from the side.

Stealth attacks, hidden weapons within his armour and every dirty trick in the book culminated in a vicious opponent. And when he coordinated his attack with Silver Racer, who activated her Flare Attack, the Rangers found themselves blinded.

“Divatox is ready to accept your surrender any time,” he told them as a blow from a stiletto spike on Silver Racer’s heel almost punctured Green Turbo’s lung.

“Rangers never give up,” Red Turbo told him.

“You’d know that if you were a real Ranger,” Yellow Turbo added.

Black Racer shrugged before pulling a very large weapon from somewhere.

“We’ll see how defiant you are after this: Shadow Hammer!”

A very long handled hammer similar to something seen in a fairground appeared in his hands. He raised it high and swung it into the ground. The vibration threw the Turbo Rangers off their feet as the street cracked. With a burst of speed he shot forward, using his momentum to increase the force behind his hammer as it smashed into the Rangers.

“Turbine Laser!” Purple Racer called while the Turbo Rangers were grounded.

Silver and Black Racer joined their comrade as a large weapon flew toward them. The Turbo Rangers had not seen this weapon before, but they were experienced enough to know that when an enemy pulled out a large gun with a name it was best not to be standing in its way. It soon became clear the Black Racer didn’t care if they stayed in place or ran away as he gave the order to fire.

“No!” Blue Turbo cried before darting back into the line of sight. “Metallic Armour, Power Up!”

Not sure what their rash team-mate was up to, but trusting that it was important, the others followed suit, with Red Turbo activating the Tyre Shield for added protection. It didn’t work as the Rangers were struck by the blast and knocked through a nearby building. They were lucky they emerged from the other side and that the building had been cleared because the blast had managed to level it. Had the Rangers not been in the way the damage would have been much worse.

“This is the last time you will be allowed to walk away Turbo Rangers,” Purple Racer announced. “We’re the Turbo Racers, and the next time we meet we’ll be aiming to take you down permanently.”

Before the Rangers could gather themselves to respond, the three Turbo Racers had gone.

====

“What were you thinking? You could have killed us!” Tasha yelled.

Justin glared back defiantly. He was in just as much pain as the other Rangers and was not in the mood to listen to one of Tasha’s lectures about his recklessness.

“I was thinking that Turbine Laser was powerful enough to take out half the city; what was I supposed to do?” he demanded. “You saw how much power that thing had. Think how much damage they could have caused if we hadn’t stopped it. There was a monster shelter nearby; do you think reinforced concrete would have stopped it? The Metallic Armour protected us; those people had nothing. I never told you had to jump back in there with me.”

“Yeah as if I was going to let you get yourself killed,” Tasha retorted.

It was hard to remember sometimes but Justin and Tasha were especially close. They had bonded during their time in the orphanage and that bond had grown stronger when they had become Rangers. It was an odd mix of friendship, family and the possibly the start of something more. When she got on his case it was because she was worried about him, but that concern and annoyance normally gave way to light-hearted remarks as the situation calmed.

“Ai-yi-yi, Justin was right, the readings for that weapon were off the scale,” Alpha supplied.

“While I do not approve of risking your lives more than necessary I applaud your courage,” Zordon told them. “The Turbine Laser is an incredibly powerful weapon and you actions saved the lives of many innocents today.”

“These Turbo Rangers are powerful,” Rosa conceded.

“Turbo Racers,” Franklin corrected.

“Whatever they call themselves, we’ve had out butts handed to us almost every time we’ve fought them.”

Aside from their first encounter with the Silver Racer, the Rangers had lost several battles with Divatox’s creations. And it seemed that Black Racer was even more dangerous due to his ability to sneak up on them.

“We need to find out who he is,” Fred stated.

The others nodded. While knowing the identities of their opponents had not helped so far it robbed Divatox of the satisfaction of keeping them in the dark. Maybe learning his identity would give them a clue to breaking whatever control Divatox was using. The Turbo Rangers wanted to be optimistic, but it was clear they had their doubts.

====

Porto studied the remains of the Gold Racer’s Turbo Morpher. In the end he had to admit it was a lost cause and the re was no chance he could repair it. And with the destruction of his workshop he could not make anymore. He had been shocked to discover that two prototypes had survived, but they would take time to finish and he doubted Divatox would spare him the time to work on them or be patient enough to wait for results.

He had been pleased that there had been no adverse side effects from using the Turbine Laser. The large weapon had been designed to be used by a minimum of four Rangers due to the way it drew large amounts of energy through their morphers. He had been worried that using it without Gold Racer would have caused them to lose their powers as well. Other than exhaustion that would pass, there had been no lasting damage.

Which was just as well because following the success of Black Racer the Dianthe Queen was already demanding that they be sent back to finish the Rangers off. Having heard Purple Racer’s declaration that they would take the Rangers out next time they met, he knew Divatox would be more impatient than usual. He just hoped than when the time came the Turbo Racers would not disappoint.

====

Detective Park had identified two missing teenagers that Divatox might have used as her Black Racer. TJ Johnson and Carlos Vallerte had gone missing on the same day and their guardians had call the police as soon as they realised they were missing. The news that there were two missing teens caused additional concern after the explosion Zordon had detected. Was it possible Divatox had accidentally killed one of the missing boys or did it mean there was one more evil Ranger to come? He knew the Rangers would never ask for the former over the latter possibility, but he also knew that they desperately hoped there would be no further additions to the pirate’s forces.

The Turbo Rangers had been run off their feet by just three Turbo Racers; the pirate had grown tired of referring to them as evil Turbo Rangers. The addition of Black Racer had added a new dynamic to their battles since the Rangers’ Power enhanced senses were unable to provide any warning whenever he used his stealth abilities. He had also been able to improve Silver Racer’s usefulness by giving her clear instruction about when and how to attack.

And the Turbo Rangers had discovered that they were at an even great disadvantage during Zord battles. The Turbo Racers were unable to form their own Megazord, but the use of their powers allowed them the ability to grow to Megazord size at any point in a battle without assistance from Divatox. The three Turbo Racers had repeatedly used a strategy where one would grow to force the Turbo Rangers to summon their Zords allowing the two remaining Racers to attack with their own Zords.

It had proven a sound strategy. The Turbo Racers had obviously realised that the Rangers needed all five Zords to form the Megazord. Removing just one Zord permanently would prevent them from doing so. And Black Racer’s Zord, which had been based on a Hummer, had proven itself tough enough to smash into any of the Zords.

The problem seemed to be that whenever they thought they had seen everything, the Turbo Racers came up with a new surprise. If the Turbo Rangers wanted to triumph it seemed they need to spring a few surprises of their own.

“We need to figure out what they’ll do next and then find a way to stop them,” Franklin decided. His eyes shifted to a picture of his family and knew what had to be done.

====

With the success of the Turbo Racers it seemed Divatox had all but forgotten about TJ, much to the relief of her more intelligent crewmen. The pirate’s affairs always caused problem for her underlings who had to deal with the wrath of a woman scorned.

So after being deposited in a small room, TJ had been left alone. One of the Piranhatrons delivered food twice a day and despite the room being small, it had all the facilities he needed with the exception of a way to leave.

Despite the failure of the Turbo Morpher, TJ had emerged unscathed. The process had been successful enough to eliminate all traces of the priming chemicals from his blood and had protected him from the explosion. However the same could not be said for the larva Porto had placed in his ear. The shockwave had liquefied the small creature and as TJ had slept the remains had been ejected from his ear, leaving him free from outside control.

Now it was a matter of escaping, which TJ knew would be a present. The previous time he had been armed and had some value to his captors. Since he was back to being locked in a room and could recall a large explosion, he suspected that was no longer the case. That didn’t mean he would find his way out, just that he needed to be patient.

End of Part

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

Night School

Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers, they belong to the current copyright owners. The Night Rangers were the creation of John Chubb.

Night School

It was another day on Daos and for Jeff Kincaid it was an introduction to the finer points of becoming a Night Ranger.

"The Night Saber," Mark said as he held the silver cylinder so Jeff could see. "Primary weapon of the Night Fighters and the Night Rangers." He give it a twist and a metal guard sprang out. "The cross-guard is optional," he explained before twisting a second time, which caused a metallic blade to emerge from one end of the cylinder. "Useful when you use it as a normal sword, but…" another flick and the sword ignited with blue energy, "not so helpful when using the energy blade."

A quick twist caused the weapon to revert to its default form. Of course the weapon had other functions such as search light and scanner, but it was mostly suited to cutting down enemies. He tossed the weapon to Jeff and watched the teen examine it closely.

"You’ll be getting training from the elders," Mark promised. "The powers give you an instinctive knowledge of how to fight, but practice is the best teacher."

Even though Jeff tried to follow the movements Mark made to switch the Dark Saber between its various modes, he was unable to learn everything just by watching. But by the end of the demonstration he understood that while it was called a Night Saber, the standard weapon of the Night Ranger could be transformed into a variety of weapons just be manipulating the cylinder and having a clear idea of what was needed.

Next he was given a dark cloak with a large hood. Although it seemed heavy when he took it from Mark, the moment he put it on the weight seemed to vanish. He pulled the hood up and was surprised to find that he could see through it.

"There a visual receptors built into the material," Mark explained. "They allow you to see what’s going on around you even when you have the hood locked in place and help with the camouflage."

In addition to the visual sensors there were visual projectors built into the cloak. Combined with the dark colour and light absorbing action of the material, it allowed the user to project the image of what was behind them onto the surface, making it appear that there was nothing to see. It was not a perfect method and Mark had warned him that it would likely only fool those not paying complete attention to what was going on.

"Perfect for striking at boring outposts that never get any excitement, less useful when robbing a high security vault," Mark warned.

"Why isn’t black?" Jeff asked.

"Because as a colour black is rarely found in nature and not much use except on parking lots. Any skilled lookout will be looking for something unusual and that would tip them off. Greys and darker tones look more natural and absorb light better… You’ll find the cloak will adjust without your input, but you can override it. In daylight, well a tatty grey cloak helps ensure that people don’t bother you."

The next item was an arm brace that Mark explained were only given to Night Rangers and those leading groups of Night Fighters. In addition to an energy shield, the brace offered a communicator, mini computer and remote control system for some of the Night Rangers’ equipment.

"Which leads us to your Zord," Mark said.

Since the Night Rangers were not recognised as Rangers, they could not ask the Morphin Masters to provide them with Zords. Instead they built their own machines, something that the Morphin Masters and Galactic Council fiercely protested but were powerless to prevent. Given the Night Rangers disregard for rules concerning escalating a battle, the Night Zords were built for offence.

"The Night Rangers based their Zords upon the predators of the night," Mark explained. "Both real and mythological… by Earth standards."

Jeff recognised some of the machine before him. The bat, the wolf, the owl, the fox, the snake and the lion were all night time hunters on Earth, although he was quickly coming to realise that what an Earthling considered to be a lion and what the rest of the universe considered to be a lion were very different. The imposing bear, a creature Mark identified as a velociraptor, the cougar, the leopard, the tarantula, the scorpion and the tiger. There were two more Zords in the hangar: the Tasmanian wolf and the demon bull that was still incomplete.

"Unlike other teams the Night Rangers don’t associate a Zord with a colour," Mark told him. "You pick a Zord you want and if it hasn’t been claimed by somebody else it’s yours. If it has or if there is something you prefer well we can always ask the techs to try and build it; I warn you now our engineers are good but they are painfully slow when it comes to completing their work."

Jeff studied the Zords before him. He was drawn to the incomplete demon, but something pulled him toward the wolf. It was a feral looking beast with large wings on its back. He could feel the eyes of it onboard computer watching him and as he drew near it snarled. Jeff ignore the threatening growls as he reached out and touched it. At once the machine stopped as its grey metal armour turned dark blue.

"Looks like you have a Zord," Mark said. "Don’t worry about the colour, you can change it if you want. Just try and remember to keep it dark and stay away from hot pink."

And finally Mark pulled out the Blue Night Morpher. handed him a morpher very similar to the one Kincaid had seen Mark use before. He remembered he had used this morpher during his first mission as a Night Ranger, but Mark had asked for it back before they had journeyed to Daos.

"As you know this is the Blue Night Morpher," Mark told him. "When you are fully connected to the Spirits of the Night you’ll be able to draw on its full power. In the meantime it will offer the same protection as a Night Fighter receives. I tweaked the appearance so that only those who know the difference – other Night Rangers – can tell which you are using. To activate them just say: Blue Night Ranger Activate… you can change the command to something better if you want."

And with that Jeff was fully equipped to start his quest to become a Night Ranger. Now it was a matter of taking the challenges ahead and learning from the Elders of the Acexta to use his abilities to their fullest.

"Next stop: the Pit of Night," Mark told him as he led the way out of the temple toward one of the known entrances. "This entrance is home to some minor spirits. Most of those wishing to become Night Fighters come here for their first time. Once inside one of the creatures will challenge you. If you defeat it it will be bound to the Night Fighter and will connect you to the Spirits of the Night."

"And if I fail?" Jeff asked.

"We’ll need to find another candidate… don’t fail."

"Any useful advice?"

Mark thought for a moment. "The more powerful you appear to be the more powerful the opponent you will face. Think about it when deciding what to do."

Jeff considered the advice and with a shrug removed his cloak and morpher. He stashed his Night Saber in his back pocket and moved his sleeve to cover the arm brace. He noticed an approving look on Mark’s face, which quickly disappeared as he made his way to the entrance. He could see a barrier of some kind and after looking back for approval, Jeff Kincaid stepped forward to meet his destiny.

====

The Pit of Night as it turned out was another dimension filled with hostile spirits, minor demons and weird creatures. And in a place so barren of life, the appearance of a fresh soul drew the interest of the many occupants. Over time a hierarchy had developed within the Pit of Night that decided the order in which the denizens were allowed to attack their prey. Only when the older demons had decided that a single human was not worth their time and turned away did the smaller creatures venture forward.

There was a brief squabble and then one of the creatures stepped forward. It growled a challenge and then attacked, bind the contract with its actions.

Jeff responded to the attack with a swivel kick, bringing the creature down. He whipped out the Night Saber, earning the sudden renewed interest of the old creatures and with a single slice cut out the creatures legs. He stepped back as he had been instructed and waited for the creature to decide its fate. When it adopted a submissive posture he deactivated the Night Saber and pointed the end at the submissive creature. A leash of dark blue energy coiled around the beast’s neck, binding it to his will.

With a nod to the angry creatures that watched him, Jeff departed.

====

The sensation was overwhelming as Jeff felt his connection to the Spirits of the Night, the hostile spirits bound to the will of the Night Fighters flare. He could sense them, all those creatures that had faced the challenge and been forced to submit. Once hostile they no longer posed a threat and whispered words of warning in his mind.

"It’ll pass soon," Mark promised. "After that you will only hear them if you want to."

The priests of the Acexta actually communed with the enslaved spirits, using them to track the villains the Night Fighters sought to defeat. While reluctant they were unable to lie to their masters.

"So am I a Night Ranger now?" Jeff asked.

Mark chuckled. "You didn’t think it would be that easy did you? That was just a dweller. The spirits the power the Night Rangers are fully powered demons that have been enslaved since these morphers were first forged. When you fight one of them you are offering it a chance for freedom and there is no way that it will be fooled into thinking you are harmless."

"So what do I do?" Jeff asked.

"Now you train properly until you are ready to conquor your demon and become a Night Ranger," Mark told him. "This is where things get painful."

====

Training had been hell. Jeff had believed that when it came to a fight all was fair. His trainers had proved to him that there were still things he was unwilling to do. And when they had identified those weaknesses, they had drilled him day after day until they beat the perceived weakness from his system. They broke him emotionally, physically and mentally, driving him to the brink and then stepping back to allow him to recover.

He didn’t know how long he had suffered their brand of training, but it was only when he had started to fight back that he had realised that it had had a purpose. He had grown focussed and ruthless in his fighting style. He no longer pulled his punches after realising that nobody was going to go easy on him in return.

He continued to fight back and as he did his skills improved. His ability to use his weapons and his skills had grown and thanks to the constant punishments he had learned when to use them and when to rely on his hands and feet.

As his Night Saber rested against his foe’s neck he waited for his opponent to signal surrender. When instead of accepting the offer as he was supposed to, the opponent tried to attack, Jeff put him down hard; Jeff had learned from an earlier experience that sometimes granting mercy could only lead to his own death. The ritual the Night Fighters lived by served to keep them alive. With his new found ruthlessness, Jeff had proved himself ready to take the final challenge.

====

The demon Jeff finally faced was not what he had been expecting. Mark had warned him of a vicious beast desperate to break free of the Night Rangers, but the demon that powered the Blue Night Morpher had come to terms with his enslavement.

Still the battle had been brutal as the blue skinned demon had refused to hold back. Jeff had used his Night Saber and his armour to dominate the unfortunate demon, not stopping until the beast was kneeling at his feet. As he bound the creature he realised that it was more than just the power of the Blue Night Morpher: over time it had become an amalgamation of those that had previously held the powers. They had changed the demon and he in turn had preserved their knowledge.

"Spirits of the Night, fill me with your power!" Jeff bellowed as he had been instructed. He felt the surge of dark energy rush through him. He refused to let it control him, fought it as it attempted to overwhelm him and then took control. "Blue Night Ranger, Activate!"

His morpher seemed to growl as it flashed with blue light and when the light faded, the Blue Night Ranger stood, ready for action.

End of Part.

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

The Master’s Plan

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, they belong to Saban Brands. This is a fan work and not for profit.

The Master Plan

Drac’cuul had failed and had been imprisoned in a data storage cell. His two underlings had been sentenced to death and the executions had already taken place. The criminal known as the Master had escaped justice and had seemingly vanished. Law enforcement throughout the galaxy had been place on alert.

In truth they needn’t have worried. The Master had departed and would not return for some time. He sought the power of the Lord of Dragoria’s armour and rather than wait for it to repair itself, he had journeyed a decade into the future to find it. There he had used the technology at his disposal to dismantle the working armour and copy its inner workings. He had then reassembled the armour and left intact, knowing from his history texts that the armour still had a destiny.

Using the knowledge he had acquired from the armour and his own twisted genius, the Master had built a new healing capsule that he called the Lazarus Chamber. He hoped that the machine would rebuild his battered body, restoring him to a healthier form. While he wished that it would repair all the damage he had suffered at the hands of the Punishment Demons that had tortured him to the point of death over what had seemed an eternity, he was prepared to settle for the repair of his vital organs. After that anything else would be considered a bonus.

The process was painful. The machine had been constructed in a hurry and made no allowance for anaesthetic or other refinements. He relied on his tremendous willpower, something that never failed him in all his misadventures, to sustain him through the procedure. He felt the inner mechanisms as they tore through flesh and bone and crudely sewed them back together. It was a long process and as the repairs became more complex, delicate and precise, the pain increased. The rot caused by infection was cut away and replacement material had been forcibly grown from the healthy sections left behind. His genetic structure was purged or impurities, returning it to an earlier state from before he had started his quest for immortality and power.

The pain was far greater than a normal regeneration and lasted much longer. And as he screamed in agony he knew that despite the suffering the experience would be nowhere near as effective as the real thing. It was only fitting in a way that repairing the damage caused by the Punishment Demons would require him to endure even more pain than they had managed to inflict upon him. Eventually the process had completed and the chamber had opened, allowing the naked, quivering form of the Master to tumble out and collapse into unconsciousness. Two centuries had passed but to a time traveller it didn’t matter. His exhausted body twitched from the memory of the experience as his mind sought refuge in devising new ways to achieve his goals.

As his mind filled with dreams of triumph and the prizes such a victory promised, his sleep calmed into a restful night of recovery.

====

Onyx

There are nice ways to wake up and there are not-so-nice ways to awaken. For Garvin this was not one of the nicer ways. Awareness returned very suddenly as his mind recalled the events that from his perspective had happened just seconds earlier. Garvin had been walking through the halls of the United Alliance of Evil’s headquarters carrying a pile of reports for the Grand Monarch to read when he returned. Something had caused him to stop and look around before continuing. Then he had felt something prick the back of his neck and had fallen forward.

His eyes widened as he remembered the laughter that had surrounded him. The shock forced the after effects of the sedative from his system allowing him to take full account of his situation: he was tied to a wooden chair in a white room. It was cold enough that he could see his breath and as he struggled against the ropes he realised that he had been stripped of his formal robes. The rest of the room was empty lacking any form of decoration.

A small hiss drew his attention to the wall opposite him. A section of the wall had moved, revealing a large monitor. The screen crackled and a recording started to play. His breath caught as he realised he was watching himself from a recording made some months earlier…

“In conclusion I move that since Minion has indeed failed and that his sponsor has either been destroyed or is too afraid to face the wrath of this council, all claims made by ‘the Master ‘ be stricken from the record.”

As Garvin, a low ranking official within the Alliance of Evil finished his speech, the assembled members nodded in agreement. There had been a lengthy enquiry into the events surrounding Minion; Maxell had been keen to ensure that there would be no further objections to his rightful control over the Alliance of Evil.

As he looked down at the assembled villains, he could tell that the vote was a certainty. It was only through deference to proper procedure that he bothered with a show of hands and the tedious task of counting and valuing the votes were counted and weighted according to the political standing of the member. He glanced at the result and noted that with a single spoiled vote, the decision had been unanimous. His position was secure once more and the planet Earth that was the cause of so much dissention was the next topic of debate. This would be when the real arguments started.

“The vote is carried, we will now move onto the next item of business,” he declared.

The video ended and the monitor returned to its hiding place inside the wall. Another section of wall moved and Garvin realised that it was a carefully hidden door. A human walked through the door, ignoring Garvin’s state of discomfort and the chill in the air. He made a show of flexing his gloved fingers, sending a clear message that Garvin was the only one that found the conditions uncomfortable.

“Too afraid to face the wrath of this council, Garvin?” he asked. There was some amusement in the tone, but it didn’t hide the dangerous edge. “Or perhaps you should say I was exceptionally busy taking care of other matters, hm?”

It was all Garvin could do not to recoil from the sight of his captor. When he had identified the newcomer as human he had been unable to make out his features. Now though it was obvious that this was a monster.

“You will have to forgive my appearance,” the Master told him. “The healing process had little time set aside for cosmetic niceties.”

Indeed the machine had repaired his damaged organs, knitted his shattered bones and removed the rotting flesh that had been kept at bay only by the jury-rigged life support system he had managed to construct. But repairing the skin in a way that did not leave it covered with scars had been asking too much. As was the repair of his damaged right eye. But the Master had been in similar situations before where a return to his former glory was a series of steps rather than a simple fix.

The process had used genetic material scanned by the Black Dragon’s armour and held within the computer files of the Master’s TARDIS. The result had been that the rebuilt Master was less than pure Time Lord. His cells were a merger of his existing DNA merged with those of aliens and the three Punishment Demons. It both a curse and a blessing.

“What do you want?” Garvin asked.

“Only to talk my dear Garvin,” the Master replied. “I need some information and in my experience a man in your position is an excellent source.”

“You mean because I am a senior aide to the Grand Monarch of Evil?” Garvin guessed.

The Master leaned in close, his yellow left eye staring deep into the depths of Garvin’s terrified mind. There was no he could hide his fear and from the smile on the Master’s face, it was clear that he did not consider Garvin to be anything more than a source of information.

“I mean because you are well aware that your existence will end if you fail to do so.”

“I can’t give you any sensitive information about the United Alliance of Evil,” Garvin protested. “I made vows when I was given my position. I will not break those oaths.”

“Good,” the Master almost purred in his ear. “Your little club is of no interest to me. You have other knowledge that I need. Tell me everything I wish to know and I will release you.”

Garvin looked defiant, but the Master had ways of getting what he wanted.

“Answer my question Garvin! I AM THE MASTER. You will OBEY,  you WILL OBEY,  YOU WILL OBEY! Now answer me!”

In the past the Master had relied upon a form of hypnosis to get his way. In his repaired body he had access to additional skills that allowed his mind to tear through Garvin’s head, seeking the answers even as Garvin struggle not to comply. It was all a matter of wanting to completely dominate his opponent, something the Master was more than comfortable doing.

What he gained were not the absolute answers he desired, but a trail of random hints, wild speculations and unconfirmed rumours. Somebody had been doing their homework and Garvin had been assisting them in the mistaken belief that he was serving the Grand Monarch’s will. Still it was enough to give him a starting point and anew destination.

====

The Crown Galaxy

Once a rich and powerful place to live, eons of decadence had led to a society on the brink of collapse. Socially, economically and ideologically diminished those that had not left knew that it was a matter of time before what was left collapsed. Freedom, creativity and any motivation to do anything to improve their situation had vanished under the oppressive rule of their queen. She had enforced her will on all of her subjects and in doing so had destroyed her kingdom.

Even now with the end of her rule only a few years away, she failed to take heed of the warnings. She stubbornly refused to aid her people, concentrating instead on her own needs. For the Queen of the Crown Galaxy had a secret known only to a few of her most trusted servants – by which she meant those completely under her control. The Queen had reached the end of her natural life long ago and had been using the life force of her subjects to cling to life. Those that had supposedly left their homes to find new worlds to settle had more likely than not ended up murdered at her command. The special green gemstone housed in the setting of her ring, which she had been gifted at some point before her corruption, absorbed the souls of those around it and fed a part of their life energy into her body.

It had started with one or two servants every few months, but over time her need for more and more life energy meant that thousands of lives per day were sacrificed to her selfish quest for immortality. So long as there were subjects for her to sacrifice she would survive. Planets had been turned into slaughter houses, teleporting victims into her presence long enough for her gem to snatch away their lives. The bodies were almost instantly removed since she had expressed a distaste for the sight of dead bodies. And so the cycle continued, the gem consuming the souls of the innocent and the queen feeding from the morsels of leftover energy it offered her.

So when a strange grinding noise could be heard throughout the corridors of her palace there was nobody to investigate the source. Nobody moved to intercept the badly scarred man as he made his way through the corridors of power. Nobody attempted to stop the intruder as he stepped into the throne room. Not a single guard or citizen placed themselves in front of their queen as the intruder kneeled before the throne and awaited her attention.

“Who dares disrupt my contemplation?” the Queen demanded. It wasn’t the figure on the throne that spoke. Instead she used a lowly human she had yet to process as her mouthpiece.

“I apologise for the intrusion oh wondrous Queen of the mighty Crown Galaxy,” the Master replied, not raising his head as a show of humility. “I come to aid your kingdom.”

“And how would you accomplish that?”

The Master smiled. “By offering you a source of endless souls: me.”

“You are lying!” the Queen accused.

“Am I? You know I speak the truth. The ring that you wear allows you to feel the truth of an individual’s soul. I can provide the means to end your… hunger,” he promised although finding the correct word to describe the need to absorb souls on a continuous basis proved difficult.

He could sense the interest mixed with distrust, but he knew that ultimately greed would override caution and his offer would be accepted.

“We accept,” she told him imperiously, offering her hand.

He crawled forward, keeping his eyes averted from her gaze. When he reached the hem of her long white dress he straightened and took her hand in his. He leaned forward and gently kissed the back of her hand.

“Thank you for your faith in me, I will not let you down,” he promised as he withdrew.

It took a moment for the Queen of the Crown to realise that something had changed. The shock slowed her reaction, but it soon dawned on her that he had stolen her precious ring.

“How could you betray me, the gem told me you were being honest?” she demanded.

The Master stood, allowing the charade to end as he looked at her.

“The Soul Stone does not detect the truth, but rather it detects lies and does so by assessing the truth in a person’s soul through the eyes,” he explained. “I didn’t look upon you so it could only sense the sincerity of my words, something I have grown accustomed to faking.”

He slid the ring onto his finger and pointed at the Queen of the Crown. A burst of green light engulfed her puppet, absorbing the unused soul. Another burst of light engulfed the Queen seconds later as he transferred the soul energy to her weakened form.

“You see my dear this gem is semi-sentient; it lacks intelligence but possesses a great desire to absorb as new souls, even yours. And while it fed some of the life force it stole to you, it was constantly draining your life away, leaving you in need of more and more lives to exist.”

He paused as he removed the gem from the ring and placed it in his pocket. He discarded what he considered to be a now useless ring. discarded the ring.

“And so in a way I kept my promise to you. I have ended your hunger.”

“And my gem?” she asked.

“Mine,” he told her. “I intend to keep my word and find a way to satisfy its hunger as well.”

~Just as you will help me to satisfy mine,~ he thought as he walked away, leaving the Queen to contemplate the enormous task that awaited her as she tried to restore her kingdom without any means of enforcing her will on her subjects. He could almost see the fear creeping across her face as she realised there was a good chance she would be overthrown. Although given that his first act to sate the hunger had been to feed it the lives of as many of the Crown’s population as it desired, there were likely not many left to oppose her.

Of course that also meant that rebuilding her kingdom would become an even greater task for her.

~No good deed comes without a price,~ he thought. ~A willing ally would not hurt.~

He reached into the pocket of his black tunic and pulled out a scroll of parchment.

“Consider this a token of good faith.” he told her. “Use it the knowledge contained within wisely and your kingdom will become great once more.” He did not mention that it would take her centuries to rebuild to the point where she could hope to regain complete control of the Crown Galaxy let alone expand beyond its borders.

====

Another place

The Master was evil. He had long abandoned the pretence that anything he did served a higher purpose other than his own. He was a mass murdering maniac with no qualms about hurting innocents so long as he benefited. Today was just another stepping stone in his pursuit of power.

The plain white and immaculately clean walls of the private hospital wing he had leased under an assumed name provided soft beds with clean bedding and a supply of pain killing drugs to make his patients comfortable. Were it not the fact that those in his care had been brought there against their will and knew they were unlikely to ever leave, some might have mistaken the Master for a caring person. They certainly would failed to see the monster that lurked beneath the friendly face he offered the hospital’s managers.

The ward was securely locked to prevent escape and the beds while comfortable also featured heavy restraints to keep the occupants in place. Nine beds had been placed to accommodate nine bodies. Eight of those beds were occupied by members of the Master’s own race. He had carefully selected them to assist him in his latest endeavour. The ninth remained bed empty for now as that was intended for future use. He had spent months tracking his ‘volunteers’, confirming that while they were fully initiated Time Lords, they were loners that nobody would miss. Seven would have been enough but he had planned for redundancy just in case one proved unsuitable. Confirming that they all retained the correct number of lives had been an important part of his strategy.

“One of the great failings of the Time Lords is how they only keep watch over their favoured politicians and likely troublemakers,” he stated, drawing the attention of his prisoners. There was no point pretending they were guests just as he doubted any of them would believe him if he told them that they would remain alive when he was finished with them. “Our fellow Time Lords never cared about the ‘inspired dropouts’…”

For once he spoke the truth. On the planet Gallifrey, home world of the Time Lords, there was a special place where citizens as young as eight years of age were escorted. It was considered a rite of passage to be taken as part of an initiation into Time Lord society. Not all were chosen. Some were incapable of meeting the demands of their future roles whilst others were deemed unworthy for either physical, mental or just political reasons. Those that passed the scrutiny of the High Council of Time Lords and deemed suitable for training were required to partake in a strange, wondrous and often horrific ceremony where the insignificance of their lives was made clear to them. It was believed that understanding how small they really were would help them dedicate themselves to the service of their people.

The Untempered Schism was a tear in the fabric of space and time through which it was possible to glimpse the Time Vortex in all of its glory and with that glimpse achieve a momentary view of the Pattern of Existence. Nobody was certain why the Schism was there. Some felt that Gallifrey was a blessed world and that the tear had been left there in the knowledge that one day it would help them achieve amazing things. Others had concluded that the tear was a result of some experiment the planet’s leaders had conducted that had gone terribly wrong. Either way most agreed that it was the prolonged exposure to the Great Schism that had allowed the people of Gallifrey to develop a natural affinity with time and space.

And so they held the ceremony once a year to induct those children that had demonstrated the physical and mental strength, along with the intelligence needed to become Time Lords. Each child was forced to stare into the Untempered Schism for just a moment. Many tried to look away after just a glimpse while others refused outright. All were forced to look for the allotted time before they were released. Their reactions were noted as part of their assessments.

In those brief seconds they were able to see the entirety of time and space. Their bodies were also flooded with radiation. Such exposure caused immediate, drastic and unbelievably painful changes to their young bodies. The initiate’s mind would develop new pathways that extended into the Fourth and Fifth Dimension, granting them the means to fully comprehend what they were seeing. Those that survived the experience were forever changed by what they had witnessed. With the correct care and guidance, most recovered and settled into their eventual roles as either upstanding members of Time Lord society or minor roles as technicians and engineers.

There were also those that did not recover from the ordeal. Despite specialist help and attempts to force the mind to reconstruct itself, the instability remained. Many dropped out of the Academy and returned to their previous lives, after steps were taken to erase the knowledge of all they had seen. Those that graduated struggled to find a place in Time Lord society often left the planet to pursue their own interests or becoming dangerous renegades that abused their new status. It was said that they fell into three groups: those that were driven mad, those that were inspired, and those that ran away.

The Master remembered his induction. He had seen reality in all its form and splendour, and he knew that it needed his guidance. He had witnessed the chaos and had promised to bring order. Everything he had done since had been with the view that he would save existence from itself by ruling it with an iron fist. But even at the age of eight he had accepted that he lacked the ability to force the citizens of the universe to bow down to his authority. That required power, something he was finally on his way to achieving.

The discovery of the Energems made his task easier. Each gem possessed a unique ability and when used correctly they would grant him the power to crush his enemies. In the meantime the gem he had secured from the Queen of the Crown meant he had been able to set a number of schemes in motion.

The Green Energem with its ability to manipulate spiritual energy had been of great help in stabilising his damaged body although it could not cure him completely; the Master should have succumbed to death long ago and one way or another it seemed unlikely he could evade death forever.

However the use of the Green Energem had a price. The gem needed souls to remain sentient and the long it remained in his possession the more it tried to influence him to concentrate purely on securing the life energy it desired. For the time being he intended to pass the gem to a new host that would be more likely to fulfil its needs. Later he would reclaim it, by which time it would be fully charged with fresh souls. Then he would put its power to good use. First though he needed to make certain that it would accept him as its true owner.

Each of the prisoners had experienced the Untempered Schism and had seen eternity. Their sanity had survived the experience, but they had long ago left their world to pursue whatever obsession the Untempered Schism had burned into their minds. The Master had taken an interest in them following their graduation and had discovered that most were content to spend their existence devoted to a single task.

“…Which means they never noticed when you disappeared.”

“Why are you doing this to us?” one asked.

He called himself The Namer, a traveller dedicated to personally travelling to every unnamed planet, moon and piece of space rock, and after taking time to study them, giving them a formal name to be placed in the records of Gallifrey. The Time Lords allowed him access to update their maps because it saved them from having to assign qualified Time Lords so that they could be identified and monitored. Exactly who he expected would want to carry out the monitoring of such objects, especially those that would not have an impact of Gallifrey was unclear. But those that knew him did admire his attention to detail. The Master barely recalled his name.

“You cannot even begin to fathom the plans I have made,” the Master replied. “Your lives are a small part in achieving my aims. Why you? Because you were the first ones I encountered. Because you were foolish enough to trust me. And now that you are here and have all been secured, we can proceed. The Time Lords laughed at you, but deep inside you have held on to the belief that you were intended to contribute to something greater.”

He raised his hand, allowing them to see the Green Energem, the Soul Gem as he preferred to think of it, resting atop his ring. He closed his fist and the gem flashed once, bathing the patients in sickly green light. The Soul Gem flashed again and the eight captives ceased their struggles as their collective life energy was drawn into the depths of the jewel. His control over the gem’s abilities had grown during its time in his possession. At first he had been unable to fight its demands for fresh souls, but now he could slow its consumption, drawing out the process and keeping the unfortunate victims at the brink of death.

With a small nudge he pushed them over the edge, smothering their life signs. He was well aware as his victims gasped that their Time Lord biology would attempt to save them by triggering a regeneration. That was why he had chosen Time Lords; a single human could provide a small amount of energy, but the energy released by a regenerating Time Lord was incredible.

He waited until the process was triggered before allowing the gem to feed, feeling the rush as their bodies were spontaneously converted into energy. Under normal circumstances the old body would be converted from matter to energy, providing the fuel for the formation of a new healthy body. With the Soul Gem siphoning the excess energy before the body could use it, the unfortunate Time Lords were unable to create their new physical forms. The Soul Gem absorbed every last erg of power, placing it at his disposal.

Eventually the energy was exhausted although he was aware that the Time Lords had not yet expired. In a rare show of mercy or perhaps just to prove that he could control such matters of life and death, he used the Soul Gem to push their less-than-physical forms into the void with the other wraiths.

“You are a greedy thing,” he stated, looking at the gem and noting the way its green surface seemed to spark with energy. “All that energy and so little of it useable. Did you enjoy the taste of Time Lord souls?”

The gem grew warmer which he assumed meant yes.

“I can find more,” he promised. “Those were the dregs of Time Lord society. They lack the exposure to the power of the Time Vortex others possess. Imagine how the more powerful Time Lords would feel when you consume them. Work with me, do as I ask and I will give you the souls of every Time Lord on Gallifrey!”

He meant every word of it and had no reservations about feeding a constant stream of Time Lords to the gem’s incredible hunger if it meant that he would gain what he needed. That his plans would make him unable to complete his side of the bargain was not a factor since the gem judged him solely on the basis that he was willing and fully capable of fulfilling his promise.

The Soul Gem desired souls, the more powerful the better. The gem was also sentient and capable of understanding his offer. From the warmth that ran down his arm it was clear that the gem accepted his offer. And with its full allegiance, the Master was free to move on to the next phase.

====

Armistice Station

Many wars had been ended thanks to the Armistice Station, a moment space platform that allowed the leaders of both sides to meet in relative safety and with a guarantee of mutual safety – the sort of guarantee where if one side betrayed the truce then neither would survive the encounter. And while the two beings that had hired the station’s facilities were not enemies and unlikely to declare all out war on each other, they were untrustworthy and likely to do whatever they needed to to guarantee that they emerged with the better deal.

They arrived at the same moment and walked from their vehicles toward a table that had appeared in the centre of the room. Since they were not the leaders of vast armies the station was only providing minimal facilities.

The Monk reached back and used a control to summon the remote stretch on which he had placed the body he had secured. On the other side of the table the Master placed a small casket.

“Mortimus, I see you managed to make it here,” the Master greeted.

Despite their use of the station neither man had a reason to dispose of the other. Double-cross maybe, but not dispose of. In fact they were old friends who had moved through their planet’s schools system together before leaving. The Master with his unstable need for order had gone on to become a megalomaniacal power hungry criminal while the Monk, or Mortimus as his peers knew him, had followed a more chaotic career changing history for his own amusement.

Despite their different views on order and chaos, their meeting was purely a matter of trade. The Master had a number of parts that Mortimus needed to continue his adventures and the Mortimus had a readymade body that the Master would welcome to continue his quest for immortality.

“I’ve kept my side of the bargain,” Mortimus replied. He was eager to leave as soon as possible. Being around the Master, even when the Master did not intend him harm, was not good for his health. “I hope you have kept yours.”

“The fluid links and bacteria packs are yours for the body,” the Master answered. “The price of the navigational array was more than we agreed, so I require an additional fee.”

“We had a deal!” Mortimus argued. He was not prone to violence and his protests sounded a little weak.

“And I changed it,” the Master responded without a sign of regret. He considered Mortimus a peer but certainly not a threat. “The new deal is generous and compulsory; I require is one of the devices you acquired at some point and in return I will not take your life.”

“No, absolutely not.”

“You can give me the body and the device or I can take them along with anything else I consider of value,” the Master promised. “Or do you really think you can stop me?”

“You will regret this,” Mortimus promised as he handed over the items, snatched up the casket and returned to his ship. He waited until he was inside before adding: “Especially when you discover the little surprise I left for you.”

Physical violence was not the way that Mortimus chose to handle things. Attacking the Master was unthinkable, as was drawing a weapon on him. Handing over a body that had been exposed to some of the deadliest diseases ever recorded knowing making the body an infectious death trap was something he was more comfortable with. Especially since bu the time the Master discovered his trickery Mortimus planned to be far away.

“Until the next time,” the Master replied, gathering his ring and the floating stretcher. Out of earshot he added: “Which won’t be too long if you want the code to unlock that box.”

Neither had gotten exactly what they wanted, but then for two Time Lords the trade had gone as expected. Both expected some form of double-cross and would be angered that they had been tricked despite the grudging respect they would feel that the other had managed to deceive them. Then they would find a way to overcome the setback and proceed with their plans. both had places to go and things to do. Time didn’t matter so much to a Time Lord; revenge could come later.

End of Part

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

The Night Raider

Disclaimer: The Power Rangers are the property of Saban Entertainment and I lay no claim to them. Jeffrey Kincaid, Lord Crucible, and all other characters relating to them are the property of John Chubb. This is a COE retelling of the Night Rangers’ story, which began in The Forgotten Night. The events in this chapter follow on from the ending of The Emperor’s New Rage.

The Night Raider

Inquirius

They didn’t like him. He couldn’t blame them since he didn’t like himself very much either. They were light and pure, and kind to all the animals, while he was … not. On a part of the planet where nearly everybody wore a distinctively coloured garment of some sort – for even those who wore black had found a way to distinguish the glossy shine of their clothes from the dull matte of ordinary apparel. His drab grey cloak, which lacked any indication that he had attempted to make them draw attention from those around him, had the effect of causing him to stand out. His clothes were dark and dreary in a place filled with colour a cheer. Naturally it made those nearby uncomfortable.

That he wore a weapon and had made no effort to conceal it drew more attention. For this was Inquirius, a planet dedicated to learning and education, where information, questions and answers were the foundation on which the society prospered. And he had arrived at the Illumina, a vast complex that had been handed over to the Morphin Masters and those associated with them as a place of tranquil enlightenment. It was also one of the best places to gather information in the Universe.

Morphin Masters and their students communed in intellectual and spiritual discussions. Few carried weapons within the halls and those who did had the decency to hide them from view. Weapons suggested a tendency toward violence and those prone to violence were not welcome.

Naturally Jeff Kincaid stood out like a sore thumb. For a start Jeff was not a Morphin Master, his kind were never promoted to that sort of level, few managed to achieve an official rank above that of Power Ranger; there were many that argued that they were not even worth of the title Ranger although Jeff knew from experience that those that challenged them on the issue ended up in hospital. And while the Illumina was open to all those who sought enlightenment, Rangers were normally too busy protecting the worlds they had been assigned to defend, to visit. But it was his tainted aura that drew the attention of those around him. There was an undefined darkness about him that unsettled the more pious visitors.

It wasn’t Jeff’s fault. By nature he was a good person, a man of honour and extremely brave – for he had faced the things that lurked in the darkness and emerged stronger from the experience. However life had taken its toll on the young man, leaving a dark stain on his soul that shaded the inner light from those around him. Experience had turned him cold and cynical, less likely to believe that if he followed the rules he would be protected when he could make his own rules and protect himself.

The problem was that for all their rhetoric about not judging others and giving everybody a fair chance to show the true nature, the majority of the great and the good were prone to judge by first impressions. Those who knew of the organisation he belonged to readily believed the rumours and whispered half-truths instead of taking the time to find out the truth. He was a pariah because those that he sought to protect preferred to think of him as a part of the problem, not the solution. They just couldn’t understand that while the Universe wanted heroes that were upstanding characters, they needed people like Jeff even more.

He walked quickly and purposefully through the building, ignoring those around him. He was aware that he was breaking protocol by not stopping to acknowledge the various Morphin Masters or pay his respect to some of the more senior figures that had crossed his path. He simply didn’t care for the pomp and ceremony; to him it just got in the way of him doing his job.

It was a level of arrogance that caused others to comment. That he had been allowed entry to the Illumina when he lacked the most basic of manners and was clearly armed was surprising to those who watched his progress. The few who knew what he was just shook their heads and carried on with what they were doing. To those ignorant of his status, his behaviour was suspicious. As he made his way unhindered through to areas where others were stopped and turned away, suspicion turned to anger and jealousy. With each step he took the unease those around him felt intensified. Some wanted to stop him but none dared. The Illumina allowed his progress and they were not brave enough to challenge its judgement.

Finally he reached his destination, the Grand Library, a place filled with the collected reports and knowledge from countless worlds. The room was filled with ornate tables and benches with thick green leather cushions. The bookcases rose from floor to ceiling, providing a source of knowledge beyond what was stored in the vast computer archive. Around the room were passageways leading off to where the experts on various subjects were willing to educate those in need and vendors were ready to supply information that was more difficult to acquire for the right price. He studied the doorways and having located the one he was after, set off to reach his goal, only to find his way blocked.

“This is a private library,” the person in front of him stated. Others nearby were nodding although Jeff noted the Illumina’s own staff did not want to get involved.

Jeff shrugged and stepped around the man, intent on carrying on his way without violence. Unfortunately it seemed that such a casual dismissal of the other’s challenge was treated as an insult.

“State your business!” the man, which Jeff noticed wore the insignia of a Red Morphin Master demanded.

“My business is my own and since I am here, you can assume I have a right to be here. Now stand aside and stop wasting my time.”

Jeff could sense the tension in the air. Had he been anywhere else he suspected he would have been under attack. Of course violence was strictly forbidden in the Illumina, so harsh words and poor attempts to appear intimidating were the best they could manage. "I have an appointment with the Xenotome.”

There was a gasp from the room. The Xenotome was a huge book containing all the knowledge within the Illumina and a few things besides. It was so valuable that few were granted the privilege of reading it; in the wrong hands the book could prove a dangerous weapon.

“Why?”

Jeff spared him an amused look. “Because I asked nicely and the Keeper agreed.”

That response did not put those around him at ease. Given his dark appearance many were prepared to assume the worst.

“The Xenotome is only for the eyes of those worthy of looking within its pages,” another Red Master cried angrily. “Not for the likes of you!”

Jeff shook his head at how judgemental they sounded. He had learnt the hard way that there was a difference between dark and evil that could not be determined by superficial things like appearance. It seemed that these Morphin Masters had not yet reached that level of understanding. The calls for him to leave intensified. Some looked to be on the brink of breaking the rules and attacking. Had he been a normal Ranger, Kincaid would have backed down to avoid the need for violence. But he was a Night Ranger and knew that rules were there for guidance, not blind obedience.

Instead he lowered his hood, allowing those present to get a good look at him. His face was hard, his eyes cold as they moved over the crowd. A scar ran the length of his face, a wound he had yet to heal. It gave him a very sinister appearance.

“I didn’t ask your permission, Morphin Master,” he replied tersely. He had little respect for Morphin Council and even less for those that judged him without knowing his story. “The Xenotome is available to any Ranger who requests to see it, so long as the Keeper agrees to that request.”

That was true. Originally the Xenotome had been available to all, but given the likelihood that some would abuse its knowledge, only those associated with the Morphin Masters were granted permission and even then they needed to be at least a Ranger.

“Only with the consent of their Morphin Master,” a studious Yellow pointed out.

He spared her a brief nod before answering: “I don’t have a Morphin Master.”

Whispers filled the room. They believed him a rogue, perhaps a disgraced Ranger that had been stripped of his power, who had somehow managed to bypass their security. Jeff did little to put them at ease, although he showed no outward signs of aggression. The Red Master it seemed had had enough. Unable to think beyond his limited understanding of black and white, he decided Jeff Kincaid was a threat and attacked.

“Next?” Jeff asked when moments later the body of the young Morphin Master landed on the floor. Out of respect for the rules, Jeff had left the other warrior alive, although the broken bones would remind him of his failure, if the broken sword he had attempted to draw didn’t serve as a permanent reminder.

The assembled Morphin Masters took offence at one of their own being brutalised by a traitor despite the fact he was only defending himself. Weapons were drawn and combat stances assumed as they prepared to make him pay for his crimes.

“ENOUGH!”

The chamber suddenly fell silent, the power of an older White Morphin Master calming the anger that seemed to ripple through the chamber.

“This is a place of peace and learning. Fighting is not permitted here under any circumstances.”

He gestured and the fallen Red Master was healed although his sword remained shattered.

“I expected better of you,” he continued. “If you want to fight go back to your Ranger teams where you will be welcomed on the front line, do so, because you are not suited to the life of a Morphin Master.”

“He is an intruder!” someone accused, pointing at Kincaid.

“He has done nothing wrong,” was the response. “He was attacked, abused and denied his rights, rights that are afforded every disciple of the Power. It is not the place of those in this room to grant or deny his request. You should be grateful that he didn’t decide to take your actions personally. We cannot afford the loss of so many Morphin Masters.”

“You’re welcome,” Jeff muttered.

“And you!” the old master growled, turning his attention to the younger man. “Don’t think for a moment that you can appear innocent in all this. You are well aware of how others react to you and why, yet you did nothing to calm the situation. If anything, you tried to provoke them.”

Jeff laughed. It seemed no matter how innocent he was they would always try to blame him in the end.

“I didn’t provoke him,” he answered. “He attacked me and I allowed him to crawl away.”

“What part of ‘do not escalate a battle unless forced to do so’ do you not understand?” the White Master demanded, allowing his aura to flare.

“The part that applied to me, White Master,” Jeff replied, loosening the restraints on his own powers, relishing the sudden nervousness of those around him. “You know as well as anyone that the rules are only there for guidance and are open to interpretation. I don’t have the benefit of your great brotherhood of Morphin Masters, I’m alone. So you’ll excuse me if I take every threat seriously and react accordingly.”

His arguments surprised those around him. Few dared to show such insubordination. They also detected the sorrow in his voice when he spoke of being alone.

“So the rumours were true?” the White Master asked quietly, not reacting to Jeff’s power. The power of the Night was to be respected, but not necessarily feared. “I had heard reports of what had happened, but nobody could be certain. The Council did not see the need for observers on Daos. It made confirming the facts of the matter… difficult.” There was a pause before the White Master continued: “I am sorry for your loss and share your grief for the events that transpired. But never allow yourself to believe that you are alone; you are as much a part of this brotherhood as any Ranger and we will stand at your side – I will stand at your side – if you need us.”

“And then condemn me after for doing what must be done,” Jeff accused.

The older man sighed. “I do not agree with your methods. I doubt many others would even accept that you are performing the duty handed to you by fate, except perhaps Zordon, but that is the way it has always been and you know that and you continue regardless. That tells me more about you than your powers ever could.”

“You know what I intend to do?” Jeff asked, worried that the Morphin Master might attempt to stop him; a true Power Ranger did not seek revenge.

“Your duty,” was the reply. “You might think of it as revenge, but ask yourself this: would you still seek to destroy him if he had betrayed somebody else?” He looked off to one side. “The Keeper of the Xenotome awaits you, Night Ranger. Do not let me prevent you from learning what you need and then leaving.”

Jeff nodded his thanks before heading towards the door he had identified earlier. Beyond the door was a room that reminded Jeff of one of the churches he had been forced to attend on Earth, complete with pews, alter and a font.

“Do not let the appearance disturb you Jeff Kincaid,” a female voice warned. “Just like your powers, this room shifts according to the subconscious of the visitor and over the millennia it has developed a sense of humour.”

While she spoke, Jeff tried to identify her location. His past had made him paranoid and recent events had made it worse. Something about the setting made him uneasy and given that he was used to making others uncomfortable, he didn’t like the feeling at all.

“This room is built on a foundation of knowledge and wisdom, not ignorance and fear.”

Jeff spun around and finally caught a glimpse of the Keeper of the Xenotome.

“The uncontrolled benefits you reap from your powers will not aid you here,” she warned, not the least bit affected by his aura, “but they will not hinder you either.”

She walked over to a bookshelf that Jeff had failed to notice before and removed the smallest book. When she placed it on the altar it expanded into a massive book.

“You sought the Xenotome, Jeff Kincaid, and the Xenotome granted your request.” She paused, allowing him to scrutinise her appearance.

She was much younger than he had first believed and from her shape and what little he could see of her face, quite beautiful. She wore a long white gown with a veil that covered her lower face as well as her hair. On her left shoulder she wore the insignia of a White Morphin Master and the broach on her right side indicated that she was a native Inquirian.

“Huh?” He suddenly processed what she had said.

“Does it not stand to reason that a book as powerful as the Xentome would gain some level of sentience?” she asked, falling back into her native habit of asking questions. “Does it not make sense that the Book of the Unknown should use that sentience to determine whether or not those that ask should be allowed to read its pages? Would it surprise you to learn that the Xenotome has recorded the names of those that would seek its knowledge and when they would be permitted to do so?”

“No,” he admitted.

“Do you think that this is any more surprising than some of the things you have seen? Is it not possible that before you leave you will learn something even more surprising, perhaps even disturbing?”

“You’re right,” he told her after thinking about it. Was a thinking book that much of a surprise in a Universe filled with demons and Power Rangers?

“The book revealed many things to me before you arrived,” she told him. “The Xentome told of the loss of your team and allies, although it did not predict the events that would lead to their demise. While the Book of the Unknown contains many predictions, none referred directly to the Night Rangers.”

Jeff nodded. He was relieved that was the case although he noticed she had not ruled out the existence of any predictions involving the Night Rangers.

“Ask your questions and if the answers are known they shall be shared,” she told him.

“Why did he do it?”

“The Book of the Unknown does not hold the reason for your comrade’s treachery. It only states that he was not acting under the influence of an outside force and committed the act of his own free will.” She read the next line and then continued. “The evidence does not rule out the possibility that somebody had convinced him to turn, only that he made the decision.”

“Were there any other survivors?”

“Kinega made certain that all those on Daos were destroyed; the other Night Rangers did not escape him. I’m sorry.”

“Where is he now?” Kincaid demanded.

“I cannot tell you,” she answered. “Mark Kinega no longer exists.”

“Somebody got there first?” he asked.

“No,” she told him. “Those that persuaded Mark Kinega to betray you sought a new leader, a being capable of acting as a vessel for some of the oldest, powerful and most evil creatures in existence. They chose Kinega because as a Night Ranger he had already developed a bond with the darkness within himself. When he accepted the offer and provided the necessary sacrifice, Mark Kinega was replaced by a new creature: Crucible.”

“So there is no way to redeem him?” Jeff asked, hoping the answer was no. As far as he was concern Mark had made his choice and nothing he did would ever redeem him.

“Mark Kinega is gone, perhaps forever,” she answered. “As long as Crucible exists there is no chance to redeem Mark Kinega. And only death will release Crucible’s grasp.”

“What should I do?”

“The Xenotome cannot tell you that. It does however tell of a way to slow Crucible’s rise to power. If you choose to do so you will face great danger and find that it will be a costly decision, but the sacrifices will be worth it. The Night Fighters will arise again one day to aid a new generation and they shall led by the one who escaped Kinega’s treachery.”

“Me?” Jeff scoffed. “I’m a Blue Ranger and a reluctant one at that. What do I know about being a leader?”

“You will learn all that you need to learn, but first there is the time heal,” she answered.

“What do I do? Where do I go? I want to go and stop him, but if he’s as powerful as you said…”

“Calm yourself Jeff Kincaid,” Dimitria instructed. “The book tells of Crucible’s rising, but it is not an immediate concern. The actions you take now will delay him and set in motion the events that will lead to his downfall. Listen carefully Night Ranger, hear what must be done and know that I am sorry that the task falls to you.”

====

The end had come for the people of Zyaibreeah. The battle had been surprisingly short but then there were very few who thought of it as a battle; most would come to regard it as a mass slaughter. The people had fought hard and their Rangers had tried their hardest to protect their world from overwhelming odds. However they had been outmanned, outgunned and unable to call for help from neighbouring worlds. The odds had definitely been against them.

They had fought hard and despite the fact they were guaranteed to lose, they had fought on bravely. In the end though the valiant efforts were for nought, their enemy was just too well-trained, too vicious and too numerous for the Rangers to prevail. As the hours had passed the continued bombardments and simultaneous attacks around the planet had left the Rangers stretched to their limits.

And once the enemy commander had shown himself, the Rangers had been unable to rally any sort of counter offence. While his troops had overwhelmed them, he was in every way their superior. He had spared them no quarter and expected no mercy in return. He had played with them for a short time, honing his skills it seemed while his forces mercilessly hunted the rest of the population. But once it was clear that there were only a few stragglers to find, he had decided it was time to end the game.

As they stood against him, some with more difficulty than others, a chill ran through them. His powers felt strange to them. They felt the familiar flow of magic and yet there was something sickeningly different at the same time. And the smile he wore was cold and slightly feral. Everything about him suggested that he could and would destroy them with very little effort on his part.

“Congratulations Rangers,” a man said, appearing at the side of the warrior. “You’ve fought well, a shining example to Ranger teams across the Universe. Nobody could deny that you are brave, loyal and dedicated. Your skills in the ways of the Power are unquestionable. Had you been facing a different opponent you might have been allowed to live. Unfortunately for you, Crucible’s task requires him to destroy all life on this pathetic little world.”

He paused, allowing the Rangers to accept their fate.

“Crucible would like to extend his thanks for your services; you have proven excellent teaching tools. Your efforts have allowed Crucible to come to terms with his new powers and hone his skills. Sadly for you, you no longer present a challenge for him and as such, you are no longer useful. You are here so Crucible can master the last skill he needs: destroying the enemy.”

“Why are you doing this?” the Red Zyaibreeahn Ranger asked, “You said he’s learnt all he can, what would he gain by killing us?”

“While killing you would have very little benefit, it will allow Crucible to demonstrate that he has moved beyond the old ways of thinking. In the past he might have spared a defeated opponent; as Crucible he cannot afford such moments of noble weakness. You see, Crucible used to be a Power Ranger, like yourselves. Well not quite like you; he was a Night Ranger, the scourge of evildoers everywhere. He was shown how unappreciated his skills were to those he served and granted a new existence as Crucible.

"Unfortunately he failed his first attempt to prove himself, but I’m sure he will catch up with the last Night Ranger sooner or later. In the meantime destroying your team will be the final step needed to solidify his new identity.”

As he spoke, Crucible extended his right hand toward the White Ranger. He closed his fist and the Ranger collapsed, screaming as the twisted powers of the Night Ranger was unleashed. Fuelled by the power of some of the oldest and most potent villains to ever exist, Crucible’s powers were beyond those of a Night Ranger. His ability to destroy with a gesture was a sign of his power.

“As you can see Red Ranger,” the man continued as he watched the White Ranger tear at his own body to stop the torment, “death is not the worst thing that can happen to you today.”

The White Ranger glowed brightly as the soul destroying magic fed on his powers. Then with a final scream he burst into white flames and disappeared.

“Out of gratitude for your services, I promise Crucible will grant the rest of you a swift death.”

“Hey!” one of the Rangers dared to call, moving forward to attack. He never had a chance to rethink his actions as a sword was driven into his heart.

The man looked from the fallen Ranger to the creature known as Crucible and nodded approvingly.

“Make no mistake Rangers; you will die here today, one way or another. Accept your destinies and I promise this will be over painlessly. Fight and even though you will die screaming, it will still be quick.”

The Blue Ranger attacked, throwing his spear at the so far unbeatable warrior, hoping to catch him off-guard. Crucible caught it easily, examining it briefly before crushing the enchanted wood and tossing it aside.

“Against a lesser warrior your tactic might have been successful… perhaps you’re so tired that you’ve forgotten that you face an opponent who has already defeated you countless times.”

~No,~ he thought as he noticed the expression on the Ranger’s face despite his helmet, ~more likely you still haven’t come to terms with the danger you face.~

Having changed his mind, Crucible levitated the remains of the weapon and propelled the pieces back at their source. The Ranger was lifted from his feet by the multiple projectiles as they ripped into his chest and threw him backward.

“No!” the Pink Ranger screamed as he collapsed. “How could you?!”

Their foe didn’t react although his handler appeared amused by her outrage. “Crucible is evil beyond your ability to comprehend. I warned you that resisting would not delay the inevitable, just make it a more painful experience. Your friend chose to attack and Crucible responded as he would to any opposition: he crushed it. However since you seem to have some fight left in you, I withdraw my offer. It will not be painless now, but you have my word, this won’t take long.”

Taking that as permission, Crucible was running towards the Rangers before they could react. He summoned a sword and slashed at his opponents as he passed them. Four strokes of the blade, and two Rangers collapsed in pools of their own blood. Their special suits were of no use against the blade that had been forged from the darkest magic.

He abandoned the sword against the next two, decapitating the first with a chop of his hand before breaking the second’s neck with her bare hands. That left only the Green Ranger, whom he had saved for last. The two warriors stood face to face, eyes meeting as the Ranger discarded her shattered helmet. There had always been a special form of relationship between them; perhaps it was the darkness that lurked within the Green Ranger powers that caused Crucible to give the hero a more personal fight to the death. It was evident that the Green Ranger knew she would die; only her pride forced her to ready herself for final combat.

“Well this has been fun,” Crucible’s companion commented. The Green Ranger had lasted longer than he had expected although it was clear Crucible had been playing with her as they exchanged increasingly violent blows. “But now it is time to end it. Farewell, Green Ranger.”

Now was the time for Crucible to prove himself. The last time he had been asked to destroy a team of Rangers he had allowed one to escape. This was his opportunity to prove that he had learnt from the experience and accepted that his days as a Night Ranger were over. He didn’t disappoint and with the death of the Green Ranger, Mark Kinega’s transformation into Crucible was made permanent.

====

Daos

Dimitria had provided him with the clues he needed, but it was Jeff that had put the pieces together and realised what needed to be done. It was amusing to him that had he been on Earth he would have been having another miserable Halloween waiting for little kids to call and then arguing with his mother when he handed them candy. Not that whatever he was about to do would be considered pleasurable, but given a choice, he didn’t want to be back in his old life.

It had been a while since he had last set foot in the headquarters of the Acexta Order on Daos. Kinega had taken him there to complete the final trial needed to become a Night Ranger. It was on Daos that he had stared into the Mirror of Night and seen the darkness inside soul. It had been there that his own darkness had manifested as the dark spirit that had been trapped with the Blue Night Morpher. He had battled the darkness and conquered it. The dark spirit had surrendered to his will and he had emerged as the Blue Night Ranger.

On the same trip Kinega had shown him the Pit of Night, the place where those that wished to join the ranks of the Night Fighters faced the dark spirits that had been trapped by the Acexta Order since their formation. Within the Pit of Night a potential Night Fighter would either defeat the darkness or would be consumed by it.

Then Daos had been a place filled with people, life and purpose. Now the Acexta Order was gone, part of the dowry that Mark had paid to consummate his new position and the planet was ruined.

But Jeff had not returned to the planet for sightseeing. He had returned to prevent Crucible using the Acexta Order’s power against the Universe. He had come to make sure that the Pit of Night and the creatures trapped within could not be used to provide Mark, Crucible, whatever he was calling himself, with any further help, just as the Keeper had suggested.

The Mirror of Night had been taken during the raid, but it had been impossible for them to take the pit. And while it was possible to use the Mirror of Night as a conduit to the spirits within the Pit of Night, doing so would be beyond Kinega’s abilities. Jeff intended to make certain that the dark spirits remained trapped within the Pit of Night forever.

====

“No!”

Since his transformation, Crucible had been mostly silent, accepting the advice of those around him and doing as he was told. While it was accepted that one day he would be their leader, for now he was being trained in how to use the gifts he had been granted by the creature that had taken him as their vessel. He had endured pain and punishment without complaint, so his sudden cry of anguish shocked those around him.

“What is it?” Savrod asked, concerned.

“The Pit of Night,” Crucible answered. “Kincaid… Kincaid’s planning to so something to seal its power. He plans to break the link.”

The ceremony that had transformed Kinega into Crucible had given him access to the creatures trapped within the Pit of Night, the Spirits of the Night as Savrod had called them. As the conqueror of the Acexta Order he had become master of the Pit of Night and all that dwelled within in. Now it seemed that Kincaid was trying to take his power.

Savrod managed to school his features to hide his concern. He wasn’t worried about Kincaid’s plan harming Crucible. While the power of the spirits trapped within the Pit of Night was impressive, it was only a fraction of the power Crucible would gain given time. The loss of the Pit of Night would do little more than set him back.

Still if Kincaid was on Daos, it seemed a good time to eliminate the nuisance. And there was always the chance that Kincaid was aware that Kincaid was bonded to the Pit of Night and intended to use the bond against Crucible rather than breaking it. That would be an unwelcome turn of events.

“We’ll depart immediately,” he assured his leader. “Kincaid’s pitiful attempt to defeat you will only lead to his destruction.”

Crucible nodded in response and once again Savrod had to hide his disappointment. Crucible was powerful and a formidable warrior, but he had yet to show any ability to command others. And since that was what Savrod had been seeking when he had approached the Night Ranger, it made him wonder whether he had made the wrong choice.

No, he had made the correct choice; it was just a case of ensuring that Crucible was given the opportunity to grow into his new role. Perhaps Kincaid would provide the desired result.

====

“Spirits of the Night, hear me!” Kincaid’s voice echoed through the darkness of the Pit of Night.

He knew that his actions were reckless. Night Rangers were not supposed to enter the Pit of Night once they had completed their trial. Yet Kincaid had broken that rule and stood on the other side of the barrier between the Pit of Night and Daos. He was unmorphed, yet confident enough to draw the attention of the creatures that occupied the dark place. Most chose to ignore him, but those that sensed the opportunity his presence gave them turned to face him.

“I offer you a wager,” Kincaid continued, “a simple challenge. If you succeed then you will be released. If you fail then every creature within this place will be bound to the Night Rangers, forever and you will never be able to move beyond the barrier accept at their command.”

“And what challenge do you propose, Night Ranger?” one of the creatures asked.

Kincaid smirked. “I offer you the same challenge that every Night Fighter gives when they enter this place, nothing more and nothing less. Except I extend this challenge to all that reside within the Pit of Night. For fifteen minutes the barrier between this place and Daos will be open. Should any one of you step beyond the barrier in that time, every creature within the Pit of Night will be released. All you have to do is pass me and nothing will stand in your way.”

He drew a metal cylinder that resembled a small torch. He flicked the activation switch and a blade of light emerged from the end. He pushed the button above the switch, locking the switch in place.

“Just one little Night Ranger and maybe a few weapons,” he promised. “I won’t even morph.”

And that was the challenge. It was a deal the spirits trapped within the Pit of Night couldn’t ignore. They wanted their freedom and despite the danger Kincaid posed, they knew it was their only chance. But the Pit of Night was much larger than many believed, more of a dimension than a physical space, and while there was a huge collection of dark creatures close to the barrier, the stronger spirits were much further away, skulking in the darkest depths. And despite his confidence Kincaid knew that only those that took the challenge would be bound by the agreement. He hoped it would be enough.

He could sense the moment that the creatures chose to attack. He smirked as he tightened his grip on his Night Saber, hoping that he had not been overconfident. As the swarm of hideous beasts pounced he allowed himself to let the Power guide him, whispering a solemn promise:

“None may pass.”

The battle that followed would only last for fifteen minutes, but in that time Jeff Kincaid showed why the Night Rangers were the elite of the Acexta Order. The Night Fighters could face one spirit at a time, he faced all comers. At first the grunts charged forward one at a time and were easily cut down by his glowing blade; their claws slid off his long black coat. Then the numbers started to increase as wave after wave crashed against the one-man barricade. Two, then four, then twelve… the numbers were relentless, constantly increasing as Kincaid moved with incredible speed and skill, a smile gracing his face as he abandoned himself to the Power. He kicked, dodged, hacked and punched the aggressors back. He was unmovable and the light from his Night Saber seemed to grow brighter with each of the attackers he destroyed.

But he was also hurt. His body ached from the many cuts and scratches he received as the onslaught continued. Although his clothing had been designed to offer some protection, but it was only able to resist damage, not stop it altogether. He was being pressed back by the weight of numbers, but somehow he found the strength to remain on his feet. Never before had he moved so fast, his body a blur in the darkness, the flash of his blade the only clue to where he had been. The grunts were too numerous now to count and they were growing more powerful with each wave.

“Spirits of the Night Fighters, lend me your power!” he called, summoning strength from those creatures that had been conquered by those that had entered the Pit of Night before him. Their power belonged to the Acexta Order and since Kincaid was the last of his kind, that meant they were his to command. Of course that number increased with every attacker he managed to cut down.

A burst of light shot from his hands, incinerating all that stood in its path. With a single attack he had brought himself precious seconds. Yet even now he knew it would not be long before he was overwhelmed again. The stampede of dark creatures appeared endless. He was about to be overcome when a blue barrier surrounded him.

“Fifteen minutes,” he told them as the creatures pounded angrily on the barrier. “You’ve had your chance and you failed. Now your powers belong to the Acexta.”

As he was speaking he moved toward the barrier that would take him back to his previous position outside the Pit of Night. He was hurt, badly. The wounds he had received were bleeding and some were likely infected. As the adrenalin faded he could feel that something was wrong with his left leg. It hung at a strange angle below the knee and from the difficulty he had breathing, he knew there was a chance his ribs had been broken too. He turned to leave, only to find his way blocked. Jeff groaned; it looked like he wouldn’t get away after all.

“Hello Jeff, fancy meeting you here.”

====

Dimitria ran her hands over the Xenotome. Currently she was studying the Book of Daos, a history of the Night Fighters, Night Rangers and all things associated with them. It listed their enemies, their powers and theories about how the Night Ranger powers were capable of evolving as the roster changed. The book was self-updating with new facts added by the clerics on Daos. It was saddening to know that thanks to Crucible, very little would be added in the future.

She read and reread the prophecy before her. It told of the fall of the Night Rangers and their eventual rebirth. It spoke of the return of the Night Fighters, the coming of the One and the transformation the Night Rangers would undergo. It was a prophecy that appeared in several texts and seemed to relate to a number of groups.

“The Kincaid,” she whispered, studying the drawing upon the page. A man was shown dressed in a long black coat and armed with a sword, stood atop a pile of defeated foes. And underneath she saw the words that had become a part of the prophecy surrounding the ‘Coming of The One’.

“None may pass,” she read.

The next page showed a clash between two armies. She was confused how that could happen. Jeff Kincaid was one man on his own. Where would he get an army?

====

“Did you think I would let you get away with this?” Crucible asked, before backhanding the injured Night Ranger. “You should have crawled under a rock and stayed there, Kincaid. I might have let you survive a little longer.”

Jeff was aware that he was in a bad situation. Not only was Crucible standing in front of him at full strength while he could barely stand, the villain had brought a squadron of featureless soldiers with him. Given the angry mob of creatures behind him and he couldn’t see a way out. Or could he?

“It’s over Jeff,” Crucible told him. “Last time you were lucky to escape. This time you don’t have a Zord to protect you.”

Jeff ignored Crucible, trying to decide if the ridiculous plan that had suddenly formed in his mind had a chance of succeeding. He knew it was a risk, since both groups would want nothing more than to rip him apart. The question was whether the deal he had struck with the spirits held within the Pit of Night was as binding as he hoped. In the end he decided he had nothing to lose, a decision that made him laugh.

“Something you find funny Jeff?” Crucible asked, as his grip tightened.

“I was just wondering how you plan to leave here,” Jeff admitted.

“The same way you intended,” Crucible replied.

“Ah but that’s the problem,” Jeff continued, ignoring the burning pain in his chest. He didn’t know if it was Crucible’s doing or his previous injuries and was not in a position to care. “When you became Crucible you gave up being a Night Ranger and everything that entailed. As far as the Pit of Night is concerned you never succeeded in the trial; your little soldiers there certainly didn’t win the right to leave. And now you can’t leave the Pit of Night until you do so.”

“Well once I’ve disposed of you I’ll make short work of whatever creature I have to face,” Crucible replied, not concerned about his companions.

“Good plan,” Jeff agreed. “Only problem: I don’t think they are willing to wait.”

As he finished talking there was a low growl and for the first time Crucible noticed that they were surrounded. His followers shifted nervously, a few drawing their weapons. Then with a snarl, the spirits pounced, tearing into the soldiers. Crucible snarled in response as one of them dared to attack him. He threw Jeff to the side, allowing the Night Ranger to make a hasty retreat to the far side of the Mirror where he almost collapsed.

“Hardrive?” he queried, hoping the Defiant had not been destroyed.

“You rang?” the computer asked in a particularly drawn out and slightly creepy tone.

“Get me out of here,” he ordered.

He could feel the poisons his body had absorbed during his battle seeping through his body. It would take a while to heal his wounds, assuming he was still conscious enough to make it to a healing bed. In hindsight he realised he should have hired an assistant, even if it was only to carry his broken body away after he won.

“By your command,” Harddrive responded.

Seconds later Jeff Kincaid disappeared leaving Crucible and his forces at the mercy of the Pit of Night.

====

It was a slightly battered Crucible that finally emerged from the Mirror of Night. The fight had lasted longer than he had expected. Those accompanying him were gone; Crucible had willingly let them fight the creatures, knowing they would be destroyed. It had offered him the time to draw upon his new powers in order to pass through the barrier and escape. As he had done so he knew that Kincaid had won the day. The Pit of Night and the majority of the creatures that lurked there that would have been swayed to Crucible’s side were now bound to Kincaid’s powers. Those that could be called upon were older, more powerful and would demand a heavy price for their services. Still he had a feeling that one way or another they could be useful in the future.

“Set up a guard station around this world Savrod,” he ordered once he was back on board his ship. “Daos will be of use to us in the future.”

Savrod nodded and gave the necessary orders. He didn’t see the importance of the planet, but he did understand that for Crucible to rise to the level Savrod expected, the new villain needed an empire. Daos was as good a place to start as any.

“And then… find me Kincaid.”

Savrod sighed. It would seem that Crucible was not going to rest until the Night Ranger was dealt with. Not completely a bad thing, loose ends were never a good thing, but if Crucible became too obsessive about hunting down Kincaid, he would likely overlook the other things he needed to do, such as conquering the Universe. For the time being there was very little that Savrod could do. He had recruited Crucible to be a leader and even though his priorities were different, Crucible was indeed acting like a leader. Given time, he hoped that Crucible would at least listen to his suggestions. Tracking down Kincaid would not take very long; he was just worried about what his leader’s next obsession would be.

“As you wish,” he said with a slight incline of his head. Behind him the crew were already carrying out their leader’s instructions. “It will not take long; the information you provided suggests there are only a few places he would go.”

Crucible nodded and turned to once again look at the planet below. He knew Kincaid better than those around him. In some ways there was a connection between them that had started when he had recruited Kincaid to serve as a Night Ranger. Somehow he knew where his former comrade would go.

“Set course for Earth,” he ordered. “We’ll find Kincaid there.”

In the end he realised that his intuition was not due to any sort of link with Kincaid. It was because he knew Jeff was injured. And without the Night Ranger to issue instructions, the ship would follow the programming built into its computer system, programming that Mark Kinega had written.

====

Once Jeff had returned to the Defiant, the ship had departed from Daos at maximum speed. With the pilot unconscious, Harddrive had followed his programming and made a few short jumps to throw off any pursuing craft. Then the computer had directed the vessel to as many obscure planets as possible, making certain that the ship was seen by those who made a profit from selling such information. Then it had jumped again to a completely random destination where it had stopped to assess its options.

Harddrive had been programmed to handle a number of scenarios including the possibility that all the Night Rangers were incapacitated. Its processor quickly assessed the most likely source of aid, given that most Morphin Masters would likely refuse assistance to a Night Ranger, despite their oaths to aid all of those opposed to the Dark side of the Morphin Grid. The Council was more likely to throw Jeff in prison for war crimes than heal him. In the end it seemed that there was only one place where help could be guaranteed: Earth.

Unaware that Crucible had already drawn the same conclusion, the ship sped off, carrying Jeff Kincaid back to his home once more.

====

Dimitria skimmed through the last few sections of the Book of Daos and then closed the Xenotome. The book did not tell her what would happen between Kincaid and Crucible, only that their conflict would continue and would be one of the most personal battles in history. It was uncertain how their skirmish would influence the battle between Good and Evil, although she suspected that Crucible would be occupied chasing Kincaid for a while and would not become a major player for some time. When he did though she knew that the Universe would be in trouble.

There was nothing she could do though. She was the Keeper of the Xenotome, charged with allowing others to access its knowledge while protecting it from those who would seek to abuse that knowledge. She could only share the information when it was requested, not when she thought it needed to be. It was an obligation she took seriously, but sometimes, when she was forced to watch events take their course, it was a heavy burden to carry.

End of Part

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

Thrill of the Night

Disclaimer: The Power Rangers are the property of Saban Entertainment and I lay no claim to them. Jeffrey Kincaid, Lord Crucible, and all other characters relating to them are the property of John Chubb. This is a COE retelling of the Night Rangers’ story.

Thrill of the Night

Leroy’s Dojo and Shootfighting Arena, Port Clinton

The two teens circled each other. It had been a gruelling fight, but neither man was willing to back down. While both sported bumps and more than one bruise, they were too stubborn to say the two words: “I quit!”

Jeff Kincaid and Pat Kinkle had been fighting for twenty minutes when when Jeff’s friend Bruce Greene walked in. He didn’t say anything as he observed the fight. Jeff was on the defensive and he didn’t want to distract him; he knew the young man well enough to know that he would be getting a second wind before too long.

Bruce’s prediction was right on the money when Jeff managed a leg sweep that knocked Pat down. Jeff was back on his feet in an instant, his foot on pressed against Pat’s throat. To his credit Pat managed to hold on for a few seconds before conceding defeat.

“I quit.”

Jeff nodded and removed his foot, shaking Pat’s hand as he got up. The two embraced briefly before Jeff spotted Bruce and walked over to him.

“Hey what’s up?” Jeff asked his friend.

“Not much,” Bruce replied. He seemed to study Jeff for a moment, deciding whether or not it was any of his business. “You seemed to really cut into Pat back there.”

“I have a lot on my mind,” Jeff answered. “Pat just agreed to spar with me and I took him up on the offer; I had a lot of aggression to work out.”

Bruce didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. He knew Jeff well enough by now to know that the boy would talk to him, assuming he was ready to talk. And if he wasn’t ready to talk then Bruce knew better than to try and force him.

“My mother got in touch with her lawyer,” Jeff told him. “She’s trying to ramrod a judge into getting visitation rights to see me.”

“And the problem is?” Bruce prompted.

“I can’t stand her, even small doses of her,” Jeff told him, his face taking on a darker aspect. “I can barely handle being around her for the hearings; do you have any idea what it would be like if I had to live with her?” He paused for a moment before he continued. “And I would end up living with her Bruce. This is just a stepping stone for her, a way to get my life under her control again. She knows my grandmother won’t be around forever and although the court sees Leroy as a suitable guardian – and he is like a father to me – she’d do everything in her power to change that. She’d use everything to make him appear unfit for the task; she’d probably arrange things so he could never go near children again just to be sure.”

“My dad’s a good man!” defended Bruce.

“We both know that,” Jeff agreed. “But my mother would turn every screw to convince a judge that he was a monster. She’d use every bit of dirt she could dig up… she’d even use the shoot-fighting thing as an excuse. You know how scared my grandmother is when I do it.”

“Do you think you should stop?”

“Hey I love doing it. Why should I stop?”

“Well if you find yourself living with mom again…” said Bruce.

“Good point, I’ll think about it.” Jeff took a pause before he spoke again. “So what’s up?”

“We got a new member. I need someone to show him the ropes.”

It was obvious that that was not what Bruce had wanted to begin with. The contract stashed in his jeans was evidence of that. But clearly he wanted something to keep Jeff’s mind off of his current problems. Usually Jeff would have been annoyed, but today he appreciated the effort.

“No problem. Who is it?” Jeff asked, looking around. “Where is he?”

“Over there. His name is Mark Kinega.”

Jeff saw an olive skinned man with brown hair on the far side of the training area, looking at a few of the old flyers. At a guess, Jeff was willing to bet he was seventeen.

“Okay, I’ll do it. You owe me one for this.”

That was how minutes later Jeff stood in the ring awaiting the newcomer Mark Kinega, hoping that he was not wasting his time and that the newcomer had some sort of fighting ability. Otherwise he was in for a long day. Luckily he didn’t have to wait long as Mark made his way to the ring.

Jeff and Mark sized each other up without saying a word. When they had had enough, they faced off, bowed and fell into fighting stances.

Mark lunged forward with three punches followed by a front kick which Jeff backed away from. Jeff then ducked down and tried a leg sweep which Mark jumped to avoid. From there they worked their way through a series of amateur moves with neither making contact.

~This guy has got fast reflexes,~ Jeff though as threw a punch. Jeff considered himself fast; this guy was… sudden.

Mark grabbed his arm and spun him over, causing Jeff to hit the ground hard. Jeff’s response as to try to force Mark forward to relive the pressure on his arm. When that didn’t work he opted for a guaranteed method of forcing a release, and hit his opponent with a low blow.

Mark retaliated with a low blow of his own, which while expected, proved to Jeff that his opponent had the desire to win. Of course Jeff was too stubborn to allow himself to be taken down so easily. The fight went on from there with neither fighter besting the other until they both collapsed in the middle of the ring.

“You’re pretty good Kincaid,” Kinega said after a while.

Jeff looked at his opponent. Usually he didn’t like to be called by his last name. It reminded him of the bullies that had made his life hell. In this case though he had the feeling that the name was a sign of respect. He also had a feeling the other man had been holding back. “You’re not too shabby there either Kinega,” he said finally, wondering where he could learn to fight like that.

Then they both got up to tend to their bruises and they hit the showers.

====

Mark left the gym and made his way to a side alley. Once there, hidden from the native population, he pulled back the arm of his shirt to reveal a metal brace.

“Engage orbital bounce!” he commanded.

At Mark’s command the device glowed briefly. Then he was transformed into an aura of red light and was teleported up to where a red and black ship waited in orbit.

Mark rematerialized on the bridge of a spaceship, his spaceship. It was one of the fastest ships in the galaxy, but its ability to flee was one of its least important features.

“Hello Hardrive, status report.”

“You have one new message,” the computer responded, causing Mark to shake his head. The computer was state-of-the-art, but had been patched together so often that it had picked up a few quirks. One of which was its need to convey information by quoting television. “Big giant head on line one!”

Mark guessed who the ‘the big giant head’ was as he activated his main viewer and found Zordon looking at him.

“Hello Mark, how goes the mission?”

Simple and to the point. Zordon knew better than to waste time with niceties. The difference between Zordon and others Mark had encountered though was that Zordon kept contact brief out of respect for Mark’s work. The others did so because they either feared or despised everything that Mark and his companions represented.

“I hate to say it Master Zordon, but you were right. I may have found my first candidate on Earth.”

“Excellent news Mark,” the ancient being replied. “I will relay your success to the other masters.”

“He has the skills we need. I’ll need more time to make sure he has the attitude,” Mark told him. He could sense the reply and added: “He has potential, I’m not denying that. If I were looking for Power Rangers he’d be a likely candidate in an emergency. But you know that’s not what we’re trying to find here and if he isn’t strong enough he’ll be killed… or worse."

“I can see that leadership is starting to agree with you Mark," Zordon said. "And I am pleased you have taken your responsibilities seriously. What is the candidates name?"

“Jeff Kincaid,” said Mark.

Zordon paused for a moment as if in deep thought although Mark knew that the White Master was trying to sense Jeff within the Morphin Grid. “I believe your instincts are correct and he will make a fine addition to your team. While he would not be my first choice for a Ranger, he would make an excellent Night Ranger. However, you are the leader and it is your right to proceed as you see fit. If you decide to recruit him I must insist that you do not train him on Earth; he will benefit from the guidance of the elders.”

Zordon broke contact and Mark started to review Kincaid’s file. His computer had pulled records from sources across the planet to allow him to build a profile on his potential recruit. It would take time – for he was determined that he would make certain that he chose the correct candidate-, but his team didn’t have to deal with the constant threat of alien invasions so there was no urgency.

====

A few weeks later

Jeff left the gym and started to make his way home. His thoughts were back to being a jumble again as he thought about his mother’s renewed fight for visitation rights. It seemed that the lawyers she had hired had found a way to shift the hearing to another court and that the judge was likely to grant her requests. Jeff didn’t want to be put through the emotional cyclone of dealing with her again.

Suddenly he felt a tingle throughout his body as he then felt himself being pulled across the sky. He materialized and after looking around wondered if he had hit his head a bit too hard during a sparring session. Either that or he was on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

“Where the hell am I?” he wondered.

“Toto you’re not in Kansas anymore,” said a voice.

Jeff spun around to see who was speaking, but there was nobody there. “Who said that?”

“That was my computer Hardrive,” said the voice of Mark Kinega as he entered the bridge.

Jeff had gotten to know Mark quite well in recent weeks. The other man had been a regular at Bruce’s place and the two had trained together. Kincaid still had the feeling that Mark was holding mark during their practices.

“Why’d he call me Toto?” he asked.

There were so many questions that had needed asking, but for Jeff, that seemed the most important.

“It’s his way,” Mark said fondly. “We crash landed on a planet a few years ago and some of his circuit boards were damaged. We replaced them, but since then he’s been picking up transmissions from all over the galaxy; even television signals. Over time his language banks have been filled with television jingles.”

“Can’t you fix it?” asked Jeff.

“Yes we can!” Hardrive called out.

“But I don’t really want to,” Mark said, ignoring the latest outburst. Hardrive’s communication hub was one of the most advanced systems on the ship. The computer intercepted and rerouted signals from across known space giving Kinega and his comrades access to a spectacular amount of raw data, which proved invaluable in their line of work. Unfortunately Hardrive lacked the ability to filter the signals he received until he processed them and due to memory leakage some of those signals worked their way into his vocabulary; why they had designed Hardrive’s language centre to share runtime with his signal processing was unclear, but Kinega had to admit that it worked. He also wasn’t sure why the computer had been spending time watching children’s television. “It gives him a personality. These computers can be pretty stuffy it they don’t have something to occupy themselves.”

“All right, enough about the computer,” Jeff said, remembering where he was. “Where am I and what am I doing here? What are you doing here?”

“Okay, well where do I start?” Mark pondered “First in case you haven’t guess, I’m not from this planet. My home is a long way away and I have no intention of going back there. I’m human with a few minor differences. As for why I’m here, well the answer have to be: you. I take it you have heard about the Power Rangers?”

“The super heroes who trash monsters in California, yeah I’ve heard of them,” Jeff said. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Well… I’m sort of a Power Ranger.”

Jeff could not believe his ears as the next second he broke out laughing. “Oh that’s a good one. First this ship and then you’re telling me that you are a Power Ranger. No offence, but I think I know you well enough to know you are not Power Ranger material. Now what’s really going on?”

Mark decided to prove his point and brought out a small device. “Red Night Ranger, activate!” When he was finished he was wearing a black and red costume with a red helmet. The face on the helmet was scowling.

Jeff was shocked at this turn of events and more than a little confused. “Hold on, Power Rangers don’t have costumes like — that.”

“Of course they do,” Mark countered, then thought about it. “Well, I do anyway."

He deactivated his powers. It was too early in the day to waste them on demonstrations.

"Most Rangers don’t look like that of course, but then I’m not exactly a normal Ranger. I’m part of a very different team that’s not limited to this planet.”

“Not limited to Earth?” Jeff was growing more and more confused.

“I’m a Night Ranger, Jeff,” Mark told him. "Despite what others might say."

“And what is a Night Ranger?”

Mark sighed. He really hated having to tell this story. Doing so meant he had to confess something about himself. Still if he wanted Jeff to join him he needed to explain.

"When the universe was in its infancy there was only good and evil. The fight was one of survival between two opposing forces. Everything was in balance. Although primitive it was a simple war. Then there came the shadows, those who either didn’t want to fight or chose to fight only to suit their own aims. The clear line between good and evil became distorted by shades of grey. And when the great beings left and the lesser creatures were entrusted to continue the fight, the discovery of magic meant that the line between good and evil barely existed.

“In the new war, many chose to serve the side of good, fighting to preserve the rights beliefs and freedoms of the individual as well as focusing on the goal of peace. Those who sought to serve evil were those who were self serving, disrespectful and thought that peace was achieved through oppression, benefiting the select few at the expense of the many. And of course there were always those who looked out purely for themselves, changing sides at a moment’s notice if it served their purposes.

“But the great beings would not be forgotten. Many fought in their name and some went even further. One race sought to become like the greater beings and explored the deepest depths of what it meant to be evil. Even by evil standards they committed unforgivable acts and were thought to be destroyed by the forces they unleashed. Their name has been lost to ages but the beings they unleashed have not.

“The Horde, Horrors, Youkai and Orgs, there are an unlimited number of names for these creatures, creatures of pure evil that prey on the corrupt as well as the innocent. These are creatures that transcend beyond the world as we know it.

“At this time the warriors of good needed a way to counter this new threat and to deal harshly with the ones who sought to create them. Most evil could be fought by the armies filled with noble warriors under the command of skilled leaders. Simple and open warfare of the type that suited a large number of Power Rangers. The new threat was much smaller and less likely to follow a pattern of invading worlds. They were more like predators and their actions either beneath the notice of Rangers or demanding a different approach. Some hid in plain sight maintaining images that hid their dark activities.

“And because of their nature but those they encountered were normally weaker creatures, whereas the more primal forces were not so easy to defeat with the power of light and love – for they were so dark that the light dimmed in their presence. These creatures that dwelled in the darkness knew of no limit to the evil that they could or would do; they were at home in the darkness of the night as well as using the cover of darkness for their evil deeds. Because they hid their natures so well, normal Rangers could not attack them without breaking the rules that governed their powers.

“A new force was needed, one that could fight them on an even playing field without worrying about the restrictions placed on most Rangers. An order of monks decided that confronting the darkness was more important than remaining with their fellow Morphin Masters. They vowed to eradicate the evil that hid in plain sight as well as the dark spirits that were either above or beneath the notice of the Morphin Masters. They formed the Acexta Order and retreated to their homeworld where nearly every member of their population joined their quest. Over the course of many years their number grew and they were even able to trap some of the creatures within the core of the planet Nocturnea where they could use them to test their warriors.

“Many entered the Pit of Night, only to be destroyed by the evil within. For it was easy to enter but before they could leave they had to face one of the many demons contained within. The first man to emerge from the pit became the first Night Fighter. He would not be the last.”

“So you’re telling me that you’re a Power Ranger who fights evil spirits in a pit?” Kincaid asked sceptically. He was starting to think Kinega was insane.

“No I am not mad,” Mark told him, an amused look on his face. “I thought the same thing when I was recruited. Of course I knew about Power Rangers, but this Night Ranger thing — well it is a little bizarre. Besides, I didn’t say he was a Ranger.”

Jeff snorted but didn’t say anything. A part of him wanted to hear the story.

“The Night Fighters were not the champions of the people, but they were their most dedicated protectors. The methods and powers they used could not be condoned by the authorities. Some tried to arrest them, but most just treated them with hostility.

“The problem was that most of the monks that chose the path of the Night Fighters were human and their bodies were also human and vulnerable to the side effects of drawing on the darker energies they needed to fight evil. The dark spirits they called upon corrupt those that try to wield their might without agreement. After a decade at most many Night Fighters showed show signs of the darkness consuming them. And while there was no great risk of them turning to evil, there was a high risk of their bodies being burnt from the inside out. A way was needed to channel the darkness without being destroyed by it.”

“And that solution would be the Night Rangers,” Jeff guessed.

Mark nodded. “Not immediately. Officially only those that draw energy from the Morphin Grid are allowed to call themselves Rangers. There are a few others that have earned the right to use the title; Earth is an exception because their Rangers are recognised as such by their mentor. And then there are the Night Rangers; the Night Fighters didn’t request the right to call themselves Rangers, they took the name and challenged anybody who disagreed to make them stop. That was before my time, but I heard there were plenty of broken bones while the matter was debated.

"The first Night Rangers were an accident. A young scientist had been experimenting with some old morphers that no longer functioned and had found a way to power them without the Morphin Grid. He configured them to create suits of generic armour that could be used by the Night Fighters in battle. The suits offered protection and solved some of their problems, but were little more than armour. And eventually the Night Fighters agreed that having a whole planet of generic soldiers was not the same as having a team of Rangers, so they would not call themselves Night Rangers. Of course that decision changed when they did successfully build their own team."

"So the Night Fighters created some powers, the Power Rangers disagreed, there was a big fight and after they won the argument the Night Fighters backed down?" Jeff clarified.

"Indeed. Now the mass-produced armour of the Night Fighters allowed them some protection and with a few alterations held a constant power supply. Those that used them were not as powerful as Power Rangers, but they had numbers and that was what they needed to fight the darkness. However they still needed a way to fight the darkness on an even footing. The creatures they fought were resistant to light; they had no such protection against the darkness. Some had taken to capturing demons and forcing them to give them power while others argued there was no need to wield the dark powers at all and that the risks of doing so were there for a reason.

"Then they found a way. A young man joined the Order having flunked out of the Morphin Academy. He had been trained to be a Ranger, but his heart was pure and his intentions were good, but the world had corrupted him to the point where the Morphin Masters refused to allow him to become a Ranger. They judged him based on all he endured without realising that while shrouded within the darkness his soul remained pure. He was I guess a Broken Angel.

"It was a complete accident that he stared into the Mirror of Night, a dangerous magical artefact said to contain a demon. The spell upon the mirror was supposed to show the darkness within his soul and amplify it while showing all his desires. If he had accepted what was offered, the demon within the mirror would strike and take over his body. But this man was a good man and while the mirror absorbed the darkness around him and amplified it, it could only twist what was on the outside.

"He had been given one of the generic morphers when he had joined the Order, and when he had sensed the darkness within the mirror, he had morphed,” Mark explained, showing Jeff his morpher. “The demon inside the mirror corrupted and disfigured his powers, making him appear evil. It poured its darkness into the morpher, not realising that once it did so a connection was formed that would never be broken. A battle took place as the man fought the demon for control. He triumphed, but just as he was about to slay the demon, it surrendered to him. It would serve him and his successors, providing the power he needed in return for its life. He agreed and the deal was done. His powers were now a part of the darkness powered by a powerful demon, but that darkness was countered by the light within his heart; he remained a good man.

"Twelve more demons were bound by those that were worthy of doing so. Thirteen warriors emerged powered by the darkness to lead the Night Fighters. They took the name Night Rangers and this time nobody dared to complain.

"This morpher is connected to that first demon and has been passed down from Ranger to Ranger. Each time a successor is chosen he or she faces the a demon within Mirror of Night. If they successfully tame the demon that powers their morpher they become the next Night Ranger; those that fail are never heard from again."

"And if they don’t take the test?" Jeff asked.

"Then the Night Ranger powers will fall dormant and they will only be able to access the generic armour of a Night Fighter," Kinega answered. "Although if that happened they would be ‘encouraged to surrender the morpher so that a more suitable candidate can use it and they will be given a new morpher."

There had only been thirteen Night Morphers. The Order had tried to create more, but even when a candidate had successfully defeated a demon, they had never been able to force its subservience.

"The result is a warrior that can fight the darkest evil on its own terms and match the evil warriors on an equal footing. Night Rangers journey into the night to protect people from the evil that the dark spirits represent. The evil of greed, lust, pride, gluttony…”

“The seven deadly sins,” Jeff interrupted.

“Yes exactly,” said Mark. “Except the evils they fight rarely fall into a pattern that the villains most Power Rangers face choose. Rarely do they send down a monster to destroy the world. They assume a physical form and spread their corruption. For them the spoils of war can consist of a single soul. And believe me, they have the power to do whatever they want by themselves. Whether it be money, power, people, there is really no limit to the evil that they can accomplish. Over the centuries there have been some mortals that have allied themselves with the spirits of darkness, learning to draw the darkness into themselves and wield it as a weapon. Transformed by the darkness they can take on monstrous and powerful forms. The last lot almost wiped out their entire galaxy.

"The Night Rangers are darker than the average Power Rangers. They are just as dedicated to the defeat of evil, but their methods are those that would normally be associated with the villains they fight. Of the three rules applied to the Power Rangers only one has ever been applied to the Night Rangers as well: Never use the power for personal gain; as long as they fight for the greater good, everything else is fair game.”

Jeff took it in for a second. “So what you’re saying is that there are these evil monsters that are actually spirits, some of whom have joined forces with ordinary people. And that you are a member of a team of Power Rangers that have been corrupted by an evil artefact and now fight them on their terms?”

“That’s about it,” Mark said, offering a wry grin. “Hard to believe isn’t it?”

Jeff was silent, thinking. There was no doubt that Mark was telling the truth, or at least the truth as he knew it. That did leave a few questions though. “Okay, say I believe you, what does this have to do with me?”

“Many years ago the Night Rangers engaged a powerful enemy. Many Night Fighters were killed in the battle and even the Night Rangers did not escape unharmed. Several died during that fight, some died from their wounds after the battle was over; some were never found. It takes time to rebuild a team after so many losses and for a time the Night Rangers were willing to continue as a smaller group.

"That changed a few years ago. The Red Night Ranger and two of his comrades were killed in action and a prophecy was uncovered warning about a new threat that would require the Night Rangers to be at full strength. I was chosen to become the new leader of the Night Rangers and my first task was to seek out those that could help rebuild our ranks.

"There are only four of us left at this time, which leaves me with six replacements to find; three of the morphers were never recovered. I want you to be the first of those new Night Rangers.”

Jeff took in the news and thought about it for a second. Then he broke out in laughter.

“What’s so funny?” asked Mark.

Jeff tried to calm himself for a second then spoke. “I just can’t believe it. You want me to be a Power Ranger?”

“Night Ranger,” Mark corrected him, “and yes you would have made a good Power Ranger. But Night Rangers are very different to Power Rangers. There are less rewards and the dangers are unimaginable. We’re feared and reviled by those that are supposed to be on our side; there are groups dedicated to our destruction because they believe we are evil. The authorities don’t recognise us and do everything they can to hide our existence; we are expected to keep our existence secret even from our fellow Rangers although we’ve never bothered too much about that. Those that know of us would likely deny having anything to do with us in case they are deemed guilty by association.”

“I’m sorry, but I have enough problems right now without playing super hero. I’m just not cut out to be a Power Ranger, day or night. Now if you don’t mind I’ve got to get back to the hellhole that is my life.”

Mark sighed. He had been told it would not be easy. The analysis of Kincaid had confirmed he would need a lot of convincing. A list had already been made of alternative choices, but Kinega wanted Kincaid. There was something that refused to let him give up. “If that’s your decision then fine. But just in case let me give you this.” Mark reached across one of the consoles and gave Jeff a small card. “If you change your mind just fold the top left corner. You’ll be teleported up here to Defiance and the Morpher will be waiting.”

“Defiance?” asked Jeff.

“That’s the name of this ship”

“I thought the ship was named Hardrive.”

“No the computer is named Hardrive; the ship is named Defiance.”

“Whatever, I gotta go, now if you can beam me back down to where I was I’d be happy.”

Mark moved to the controls and beamed Jeff back down.

“He’ll be back,” Mark said as he stared at the empty spot where Jeff Kincaid once stood. At least he hoped that he would. Mark still had a few weeks before he had to move on to the next possibility. So the question was how to nudge Kincaid in the right direction during that time? "Let me see Kincaid’s file again Hardrive. Looks like you were wrong about just asking."

====

The next day Jeff was leaving school when he was stopped by Jessica Farrell. She was a lab partner of Jeff’s in theatre class and Jeff had quite the crush on her. Jessica had long stringy blonde hair and dressed in a grunge style. She kind of liked Jeff, but they were pretty much at the ‘just friends’ stage in her mind.

“Hey Jeff, are you going to be ready for the theatre presentation tomorrow that we have to do for class?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’ve been going over the monologue for a while now,” Jeff told her, “I’ll be ready.”

“Great, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jeff was ready to ask her out on a date but the words didn’t come to his mouth. Jessica walked away as Bruce came up to his best friend.

“What happened?”

“I got scared,” Jeff admitted.

“Of what, her saying no? If she does, she’s the one passing up a good thing.”

“Bruce,” Jeff started. He sighed, forcing himself to relax. “I’ve been burned a lot of times in the past. I really don’t want to get shot down again.”

Jeff was about to walk off, just as he had done so many times before, but this time, Bruce had other plans.

====

When the phone rang at Jessica’s house a few weeks later, she ignored it knowing her parents were home. She was a little surprised when she was told that the phone call was for her.

“Hello?”

“Yeah Jessica, this is Bruce Greene I’m a friend of Jeff Kincaid’s.”

“What can I do for you Bruce?” she asked.

“Well my friend Jeff has missed something for the project and I can’t get in contact with him on it. I was wondering if you can pick it up for him?”

Jessica thought about it for a minute.

“Where is it?”

“It’s at Leroy’s Shootfighting Rink on First Street.”

She knew the place, having passed it a few times. She had never stepped foot inside though.

“All right I’ll be right there,” she said before hanging up.

~One down one to go,~ thought Bruce as he searched through his book for Jeff’s number. ~I’m so good at this I ought to have my own television show.~

====

Jeff ran down to the gym and caught Bruce at the front door.

“All right Bruce what’s the big emergency?”

Bruce had to stall for time, if Jeff was impatient it would be a disaster.

“Yeah well ah…”

He didn’t have to wait long since Jessica was coming. She took a look at Jeff, then at Bruce. “Why didn’t you call and tell me you found him?”

Jeff was confused. “He was supposed to call you?”

“He told me you had left something that we needed for the theatre project tomorrow,” Jessica explained.

Jeff got defensive. “No I didn’t!”

“Then why did your friend call me?”

Both Jessica and Jeff turned to glare at Bruce.

“All right Bruce, what’s going on?”, asked Jeff.

“Look Jeff, you like this girl but…”

“You like me?” interrupted Jessica.

Jeff’s face turned red, but before he could find the courage to answer there was a flash of light and a group of black tuxedo garbed warriors. Their faces were hidden behind half-white, half-black helmets painted with a pair of bright red lips.

“What are these guys?” asked Bruce.

“I don’t know,” Jeff answered as the newcomers moved in to attack. “Bruce get Jessica out of here. I’ll hold them off.”

Jeff fell into a fighting stance and fought the attackers as Bruce escorted Jessica away. Unfortunately just as Bruce thought they were safe enough away another group appeared. Bruce was not a slouch when it came to physical combat and demonstrated how he had gotten to be so respected in the gym as he launched himself into battle.

“Run Jessica. RUN!” he yelled.

Jessica turned to run when two of the faceless goons grabbed her and teleported her away. The remaining attackers teleported soon after, having had enough of Jeff and Bruce.

Jeff looked around. “Where’s Jessica?”

“She was just here,” Bruce answered, looking around. “I told her to run when those red robots appeared. Perhaps she got away.”

“Let’s split up. I’ll look north.”

“I’ll look south,” Bruce replied as they split up.

When Jeff was far enough away, he activated the device Mark had given him teleported himself back up to Defiance.

====

Mark was sat in the pilot’s chair as Jeff teleported on board, reviewing some of the scout reports for other candidates. Over the last few weeks he had tried to appeal to Jeff’s sense of duty, his need to belong and even his desire to get away from his mother, but nothing had worked. “Have you changed your mind?” he asked without looking up.

“That depends. What can you tell me about black clad freaks with red lips that kidnap teenage girls?” Jeff demanded.

Mark thought about it for a moment before clicking a button. He flicked through the images of known underlings seeking a match. “Black clad freaks… did they look like they were wearing tuxedos?”

“Yeah, do you know them?”

Mark turned back to the controls and ordered Hardrive to scan for any ships in the vicinity.

“Klingon battle cruiser off the port bow,” Hardrive reported.

“You just described a platoon of Hedonian Soldiers,” Mark said.

“Hedonian Soldiers?”

“They are the grunts of the Hedon Empire,” Mark explained. “Part of an old society that studied the ways of the dark powers. Except instead of taking that darkness and turning it into something that evil would learn to fear, like the Night Fighters, they were corrupted and used the darkness for their own pleasure. Their society decayed until they were unable to produce anything for themselves. Of course only the elite could afford to buy the luxuries they needed, the rest had to become soldiers in return for the things they needed to survive. They’re the sort of thing the Night Fighters were created to fight although given their nature we rarely encounter them.”

That wasn’t quite true. Most of the Hedonians could be battled by normal teams of Rangers. It was impossible for such teams to completely defeat the threat, they could only vanquish it for short periods due to the limitations of the rules. Only the Night Rangers had the disposition to permanently end such darkness.

“What are they doing kidnapping a girl from Port Clinton?” Jeff asked.

Mark didn’t answer immediately, contemplating the answer. Why would they pick on a single girl? Unless of course she had been one of a number of girls taken for the same purpose. The Hedonian hierarchy did use souls and blood as part of their rituals although they were not as extensive as other practitioners like the Moabians. In the end he decided it was best not to mention the possibility that the Hedons were simply looking for innocents to corrupt and swell their ranks.

“It’s not like them to target Earth,” he said. “This world isn’t as magically inclined as some others. However some of the hierarchy have some very, very sick tastes. It wouldn’t be beyond them to send soldiers to collect innocents to feed that hunger. You really do not want to know more than that.”

Jeff was starting to get anxious. “So what are you going to do about it?”

Track them down and rescue the girls was the obvious answer, but Kinega knew that this was the opportunity he had been looking for. Finally he had found something Jeff Kincaid cared about enough to consider his offer.

“Well I really can’t spare the time right now, I need to finish putting together my team,” Mark told him. “Once that’s done I can look into it. Might take a while though… unless you want to reconsider of course.”

Jeff thought about it for a moment. He knew Mark would not help him unless he agreed. Night Rangers it seemed didn’t have to save every damsel. Given the choice he knew what his decision would be. “All right, I’m in.”

“Great, now tall we have to do is find their ship and mount a rescue mission.”

“Just the two of us?”

Mark grinned. “Consider it an initiation.” He didn’t mention that Hedonian’s were usually handled without the use of powers. He didn’t want Kincaid to change his mind. “When this is over, if we succeed, we’ll see about getting you properly trained, but in the meantime this morpher has enough charge in it to keep you from serious harm.”

He handed Jeff a blue morpher that had similar decoration to the one he had used earlier. Until Jeff passed the test to claim the powers of a Night Ranger, the morpher would offer some protection.

“When do we get after the ship?” asked Jeff.

“Hardrive, if the linker is still transmitting. Give me a hell yeah!” He looked a bit sheepish when he saw Jeff staring at him. “Sometimes it helps if you know a few lines. Hardrive prefers it.”

“Hell Yeah!” Hardrive replied after performing a quick scan.

“Then set course and let’s go get ’em.”

And before long, Defiance streaked across the cosmos. The signal was apparently easy to track. Defiance made it’s way to it’s destination, a resort planet called Amia.

“The pleasure planet for those whose tastes cannot be met by the usual hives of villainy. Not many use this planet though, it doesn’t cater for those of their persuasion,” Mark explained.

“What’s Jessica doing down there?” Jeff asked.

“Some of the hierarchy enjoy taking something pure and corrupting it,” Mark admitted. “In this case I suspect they wanted them to amuse the troops. Comfort women to amuse the generals and boost the morale of the lower ranks.”

He didn’t mention that they were likely looking for breeding stock rather than prostitutes. An army had have soldiers after all. They needed to concentrate on getting the girl back and for that they needed a way to get in. Mark thought for a moment then came up with an idea.

“We’ll do a frontal decoy. You attack from the front and I’ll take Defiance down there and knock out the internal defences.”

“Uhh, no disrespect here. But what do I attack them with?” Jeff asked.

“Good question. Once you’re fully powered we can see about sorting you out with a Zord. In the meantime if you go down to the landing bay, you’ll find a battle pod waiting. The interface is telepathic so knowledge of how to use it should come naturally.”

Jeff went down to Defiance’s loading bay as instructed. He didn’t stop to question how the knowledge of the ship’s layout had burnt its way into his mind. Nor did he question how he knew instantly where his battle pod was parked.

The craft left Defiance’s landing bay and flew out towards the pleasure base. Jeff kept the defences busy while Mark flew Defiance in and teleported to where the central control computer was located. He activated the intruder control field, rendering all hostiles unconscious in a matter of seconds.

And with that it was over. They never found out who was responsible for the kidnappings, although their efforts did cost the dark forces a considerable number of soldiers. most had fought back the moment they recovered from the stun effect, only to meet the untamed fury of two Night Rangers. The prisoners, and there were a lot of them, were freed and Mark would later ask the Morphin Council to transport them to their respective homelands.

====

After Jeff returned from space, he and Jessica completed their project together and got a good grade as a result. Jessica for her part showed no signs that she remembered her experience, a result of the relaxants Mark had used.

Deciding that this time he would find the courage, Jeff asked her: “are you doing anything tomorrow afternoon?”

“No,” she answered.

“Well I was wondering if you wanted to go out for lunch tomorrow?”

Jessica thought about it for a second and then agreed. “Sure, why not?”

Jeff’s heart was jumping for joy, but despite his happiness he knew that in the near future Mark Kinega would come seeking his services. And when that happened there would be no turning back. He would become a Night Ranger.

End

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

Ch’rell Shock, The Shredder Returns

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, Mutant Turtles or Doctor Who. They belong to the respective copyright owners. This is a fan work and no profit is being made from it.

Ch’rell Shock, The Shredder Returns

Springwood
The past

“Ninja Technique: Ice Carpet!”

Less than two months had passed since Serpenterra had wiped the small town off the face of the Earth. The ground was molten, still cooling from the awesome power the machine had unleashed. To step upon the burning soil would have meant death. Some had already tried to access the lost town only to discover that despite the thin crust that had settled, it could not hope to support the weight of a tiny rodent, let alone a human. That was why as Saki walked over the melting ice he had conjured, Saki was relieved that he had been taught some of the ancient secrets of the Ninja.

The power he had summoned came from the Morphin Grid, channelled through his body and directed with a combination of hand movements, words and mental imagery to generate a moving block of ice on which he could stand as he was transported to the place where the statue of the town’s founder had once stood. The ground steamed as the heat turned the ice to water and the water fell onto the hot ground. Only his focussed mind and determination kept the ice intact as he reached his destination.

“Very good Saki,” his master said when the reached the place he desired. “This will do.”

“Yes master,” Saki acknowledged, dropping to one knee while fighting to keep the ice intact.

His master was unable to assist him in his current form. Once a proud warrior, the alien known as the Shredder had been punished by his own people for heinous crimes. His body had been ripped apart leaving only the brain-like creature within – for Shredder’s race were capable of building bodies for themselves in order to survive their environments. Shredder’s replacement form had been damaged thousands of years later during a battle with the Power Rangers of Earth. Now he sought a new means to renew himself.

“There is great power in this place, Saki,” Shredder mused. “The damage has created a wound in the Earth I can use.”

After their recent defeat at the hands of the Power Rangers, Shredder had been determined to regain his former strength. And the first step to doing so required him to absorb a large amount of heat and radiation. The decimated town was a perfect choice.

“Leave now Saki,” Shredder instructed. “Return when I summon you.”

As he spoke, the Shredder managed to levitate himself from the icy platform, allowing Saki to withdraw to safety. In the past the Shredder had relied upon his own strength, alien technology, alien ninja training and Earthly minions. Now he planned to pool all of those resources together to create a new power that would gain vengeance on his enemies. Superior technology, alien power and ninja magic combined with the evil genius that the Shredder represented. Combined together those forces would make him unbeatable.

Saki was out of sight as Shredder lowered himself onto the ground. The earth beneath him cracked as the surface bubbled violently. Slowly his body was pulled into the inferno as the next phase of his plan commenced.

====

New York City
September 1998

Saki regarded the smashed remains of his master’s armour. He had been surprised that anything had survived; the Shredder had been fortunate to possess the technology needed to teleport a short distance, but doing so had meant sacrificing the armour and had permanent disabled most of the alien’s technology.

Still Saki had felt compelled to seek out the remnants of his master’s former body regardless of its state. He had always been intrigued by the odd sensations he had felt when touching the metal. It seemed familiar.

“And so it should,” a voice said.

Saki turned with the speed gained through years of practice, his eyes searching for signs of the intruder who had managed to enter without his knowledge. His eyes narrowed as he palmed a weapon ready to teach the intruder a harsh lesson.

The cloaked figure dodged the knife thrown in his direction, flicking the blade that followed it aside with practiced ease. This was not a simple fool, but a skilled practitioner of the fighting arts; he could have easily given the other warrior a challenge. He had no interest of continuing the battle though, simply because he was not certain he could restrain himself from killing Saki if they fought for too long.

“Who are you?” Saki demanded.

“Somebody who knows a lot more about the history of that armour than you Oroku Saki,” the ninja answered. “Or did you believe the lies your master told you?”

“Master Shredder would not lie to me!” Saki snarled.

“Of course he would,” the stranger countered, “if it would gain your services. The Shredder is linked to your family and your master needs that link.”

He could sense that Saki did not believe him and decided a different approach was needed.

“He told you that he was called the Shredder and that he built this armour using his technology. The truth is that this armour was built for a samurai lord in Japan named Oroku Nagi. It is the armour that carries the name ‘Shredder’.”

“Oroku Nagi?”

“Your ancestor. Many generations ago he led a large army across Japan, conquering as they went. He was eventually defeated and his army was disbanded although a few remained and helped him found the Foot Clan to seek revenge. When they were defeated a second time, Oroku Nagi was executed.”

He paused, allowing Saki to absorb the truth about his family’s history, knowing it would help to break down the man’s loyalty.

“Oroku Nagi had never accepted his own mortality. In his life time he selected some of his closest advisers and set them the task of finding him a way to live on after death. The Shredder is the evidence of how close they came.”

He held out his hand toward the armour, causing it to glow slightly.

“The Foot Mystics used the knowledge they acquired to bind Oroku Nagi’s essence to his armour, creating the creature known as The Shredder. He built a new army.”

“The Shredder is the evil spirit that resides in the armour of my ancestor?” Saki asked. He wasn’t certain if he should consider the stranger a fool or a very inventive liar.

“With the rebuilt Foot Clan at his side, The Shredder rampaged once more. And this time it took far more than soldiers to stop him. In the final battle, it took magic and sacrifice to subdue the evil spirit within the armour, preventing it from controlling its metal body. From that moment on it became just a suit of armour.”

A suit of armour with a very powerful and vengeful spirit attached to it. One that needed a living soul to give it the motivation and purpose. Saki was the obvious choice due to his bloodline to help unleash The Shredder’s wrath.

“Sometime later an alien named Ch’rell was deposited on Earth. Ch’rell’s race were little more than large brains with eyes and teeth. On their own world they used telepathy to control their environment. But as a criminal, Ch’rell was banished from Ultrom. On Earth he retained some of his abilities, but needed protection from the unfriendly environment. He found your ancestor’s armour hidden away in storage and used his powers to control it. Later he placed himself inside the armour and added technology favoured by the Jakanja, an alien ninja clan. He claimed control of The Foot and used them to prepare the way for a Jakanja invasion.”

“Then why are these alien ninjas not here?” Saki asked.

There was some genuine interest. His master had mentioned his alien allies and had taught Saki some of their techniques.

“Ch’rell’s people chose to check up on him and realised the threat he could pose to them. They conspired with some of The Shredder’s enemies, leading them to believe that Ch’rell was The Shredder. Together they defeated him and he remained imprisoned for generations. When he was released he once again took control of the Foot Clan and moved to America. It was pure luck that he happened to meet you here.”

The Shredder had grown stronger when the descendent of Oroku Nagi was close by. Ch’rell had used that connection alongside his technology in his portrayal of the ninja warrior known as Shredder.

“And so the question must be asked: do you continue to follow an impostor, or do you claim your rightful place as leader of The Foot?”

That decision would determine what happened next.

====

Japan

Ch’rell had failed to notice them when he had stolen their master’s armour. They were the Foot Mystics, the priests that Oroku Nagi had commanded to secure his immortality. They had been the ones that had called upon the dark powers and transformed their fallen master into an evil spirit. They had cast the enchantments that had allowed the newly formed spirit to possess the armour of their fallen leader. They had then used their knowledge to guarantee that when their master called, his army would be there to obey.

They had failed and The Shredder had been defeated. They enchantments they had used to allow the spirit to use the armour as a body had been broken, trapping The Shredder within the armour. They had been locked away with the rest of his followers and had been unable to stop the Ultrom named Ch’rell when he had taken the armour. Ch’rell’s time as the Shredder came to an end and it seemed the spirit they had worked to preserve had been lost.

But then the Shredder had reappeared in America, working alongside Oroku Saki, a descendent of Oroku Nagi. Being close to Saki had awakened the slumbering spirit of The Shredder, even as the Ultrom continued his charade. When the armour had been seemingly destroyed in a confrontation with the Power Rangers, Saki had retrieved parts of the armour where the spirit remained.

Now with The Shredder on the verge of returning, the spells that kept his armies secured were failing. The Foot Mystics and the army they had amassed were on the move. Except this time instead of conquering everything in their path, they moved silently through the shadows to cross the sea and reunite with The Shredder.

====

New York City

Saki drew the sharpened blade across his palm. Crafted from a piece of his ancestor’s armour, it sliced through the skin, drawing blood. Under the stranger’s guidance, the descendent of Oroku Nagi drew a series of runes on the metal armour, drawing mystic energy through his blood and channelling it into the armour, replenishing the evil spirit on his ancestor. Deep within the armour the spirit of The Shredder stirred.

“I Oroku Saki, descendant of Oroku Nagi, claim my heritage. Grant me your power my great ancestor and use my body to claim vengeance.”

The stranger had warned him that it would be impossible to control the armour and claim its power. The spirit known as The Shredder could not be subjugated and if ejected from the armour it possessed, would seek a new form. Instead Saki offered the spirit a partnership between family. He would provide the spirit with a body and the spirit would enhance Saki’s abilities with its own. Together they would recreate the Shredder and revive his army.

He felt the acceptance as the spirit of The Shredder shifted from the armour and bonded with his body. He cried out as the spirit tore through his soul, entwining itself into his essence, uniting them into a single being. The ancient armour his ancestor had built had been reshaped into crude weapons – there had not been enough to act as armour. Forty eight shurikens, a large sword, a pair of sais, and several other weapons had been crudely crafted and placed close to where Saki sat. A set of shoulder spikes, pads and arm gauntlets along with a metal helmet were the best he could manage.

The pain ended as the bonding completed. The armoured pieces Saki had crafted had been infused with The Shredder’s power, transforming them from crude metal plates into formidable armour. The weapons had been honed to a sharp edge and were ready to be used by the new Shredder. The shurikens had been enchanted to further the warlord’s goals. The sword was now a perfect replica of Oroku Nagi’s blade and guaranteed to cut its way through his foes. Each weapon contained a small green gem stone, a fragment from the Soul Stone that had been cut away during the creation of the Soul Gem. While they lacked the powers of the finished article, they shared its ability to channel spiritual energy, a property Oroku Saki would find useful.

“And now, my descendent: we shall be avenged!” the stranger told him.

For the first time Saki had a clear look at the intruders face. It was twisted and malformed, but the resemblance was clear. He had been speaking with The Shredder the whole time.

====

Springwood
September 1998

The process was complete, the dark energy within the tainted ground had provided him with the fuel his life support technology needed to repair the damage he had suffered. It had taken a long time, but then repairing the damage caused to a brain was not the sort of thing that could be rushed. Fortunately the process had been relatively painless. It had however been exceptionally boring and Ch’rell was eager to take his revenge on those that caused him so much inconvenience.

As he rose through the cooled soil he sent a message for Oroku Saki to meet him. They had work to do and building a replacement body would be the first step. He suspected enough time had passed for his servant to have gathered all the needed materials and secured the facilities needed for manufacture. It was therefore slightly annoying when he reached a suitable hovering height and discovered that Oroku Saki was nowhere in sight.

A little put out that his servant was late, he sent another message ordering him to hurry up. He then waited for the half hour he estimated it would take for Saki to arrive using the ninja techniques he was so proud of. When the ninja failed to arrive he started to worry that maybe he had run into problems. Fortunately the technology that had repaired him had also been upgraded during his time underground. It had been a simple matter to divert some of the energy into thrust, allowing him to move back along the path they had taken many months earlier.

As he did so he took notice of the strange creatures that had arisen from the scorched earth. It was clear the destruction had poisoned the ground in more ways than one. He could count numerous groups of malevolent spirits growing stronger by the day. The plants and animals that inhabited the broken land had been mutated by its power. From the look of some of those he passed even death was not a reprieve from their torment. He had no doubt the ghosts that roamed the city would give anything for a way to leave.

When he reached the edge of the city, Oroku Saki had still not appeared and Ch’rell was forced to accept the likelihood that his servant had abandoned him. He would pay for such treachery but before Ch’rell could track him down there was still the matter of needing a body. With that in mind he flew off down the road, promising himself that Oroku Saki would rue the day he turned his back on Shredder.

End of Part

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

Lightspeed: Intruders and Thieves

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to whoever holds that copyright. I also do not own Doctor Who, which belongs to the BBC or the concept of the Infinity Gems, which belongs to Marvel Comics. The Soul Gem used in this story is based upon the Soul Gem from Marvel, but has been modified to fit my needs. A full description of the Soul Gems’ abilities can be found in the Knowledgebase.

Lightspeed: Intruders and Thieves

10 September 1998

To the casual observer it was just another monster, although even by demon standards this one was extremely hideous. Vaguely human it was a combination of putrid flesh and stolen organs, soaked in the blood of the innocent humans Pierre had sacrificed.

There were warnings surrounding the raising of the dead, although for those deluded enough to actually attempt such acts they were more of a guideline to success: for every soul returned to the world of the living another soul was needed to take its place was the normal rule intended to provide balance. But that rule only applied in the case of a willing exchange where a person offered their own life so another could live. In the case where there were no willing sacrifices, the ceremony required more souls to fulfil the contract. Pierre had been very generous in his offering and there were many unexplained disappearances that could have been pinned on him.

He renewed his dark chant, using incantations that were normally forbidden in Queen Bansheera’s court; even the Hell Goddess had her limits. As he spoke the mass shifted on the stone slab, the many parts merging together to form a single and exceptionally healthy humanoid body. Pierre had been careful to choose the right parts, knowing that his plan required a specimen of exceptional strength. Bright light burst from the living corpse as nature tried to return it to its previous state.

“Soul of the fallen, renewed by my hand, take your form, by my command!”

The soul had been carefully selected for the task and had been pulled painfully from its resting place; it had been subjected to twenty years of suffering in the space of a few months. Pierre with the help of his fellow demons had broken the innocent mind while teaching it what it needed to know to function as an adult. They had also poisoned his thoughts and memories, placing the blame for his suffering on a man he had been taught to hate. And with that hatred he was willing to do anything for revenge, even serve Queen Bansheera.

“Impressive Pierre,” Diabolico commented as he inspected the finished work. He had taken a personal hand in breaking the child, offering a few kind words while directing others to inflict pain. “Is it done?”

“Not yet,” Pierre spoke. “The enchantments need to be sealed, or else they will break down in a matter of hours. Once the final offering is made, the process cannot be reversed and he will be alive.”

“Then proceed,” Diabolico instructed. “I will make certain Queen Bansheera knows of your sacrifice.”

Pierre bowed and then gestured to the Batlings to unlock the heavy chains that had held their new warrior in place. As soon as he was released, his body sprang into action, striking at the Batlings, dispatching them with ease before turning on Pierre. The demon did not offer any resistance as his creation’s hand slid around his neck. The spell required the shattering of the human’s soul to anchor him to his new body. While having him kill a human would have been preferable, it would have lacked the blind rage. Pierre’s death tethered the tortured soul and prevented it from moving on willingly.

With a growl the construct tossed Pierre’s body aside and froze as it realised what it had done. The wizard’s corpse exploded into a swarm of flies, his magical energy seeking out his brother Jinxer while the rest attacked his murderer. In the background a high pitched grinding noise could be heard, but Diabolico assumed it was part of the ceremony.

“Enough!” Diabolico commanded, causing the flies to land on his back where they turned into a sickly black mark. Diabolico ignored that as he addressed the court’s newest servant. “You have proven yourself worthy of serving Queen Bansheera. Now, this is what you will do…”

But the human failed to respond, his mind broken by his experience and unable to accept the mindless murder it had committed. The taking of a demon life was not enough to lock the distressed soul in place and after so long without comfort, it chose to retreat into the after life.

“That’s the problem with soul magic,” a voice said from behind. “Equivalent exchange is always greater than you realise.”

Diabolico turned to confront the unfortunate soul that that wandered into his domain. The figure wore the robes of a monk of one of the many religious groups that had sprung up around the planet during the time the demons had been absent. He was about to summon some Batlings to feed on the stray when he took the opportunity to study the human a little closer and realised he had been mistaken.

“The Sorcerer!” Diabolico accused, remembering the one that had led the armies against Queen Bansheera. “You will be destroyed!”

The response was the raising of a pale hand and a placating motion. On closer inspection there was a small blue stone held with the palm of his hand. As Diabolico stared he found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on giving the order to attack. The pressure on his mind was incredible and despite being a demon, it was almost too much for him to cope with.

“Enough!” Almost was not enough in Diabolico’s case and with a sudden snap, he returned to his senses. “Parlour tricks will not save you.”

“Then I count myself lucky that I can provide a service that will,” the priest replied. “Know that I am not the one that caused your imprisonment. Your problems with him are not my concern. I am here to assist you in restoring Queen Bansheera’s kingdom.”

“And what could you offer me that would make it worth keeping you alive?” Diabolico asked, gripping the monk by the collar to make certain he could not escape.

The robed figure needed all of his centuries of practice not to flinch from the treatment. To do so would likely cause Diabolico to dismiss him as anything more than a nuisance and dispose of him. “I have knowledge that will assist you. I know that this ceremony will fail and that you are wasting your time. I also know a way to complete your plan without this ceremony.”

“And in return?” Diabolico was not foolish enough to believe that such an offer would be made for free.

“All I ask in return is that you let me take the remains,” the monk answered, pointing to where the construct was starting to strain against the spells. Without Pierre to renew the magic he had placed there, they were starting to weaken. The construct’s body started to glow around the edges, a clear indication that the soul within was struggling to break free. The priest waved his hand idly in its direction; the light faded. “You have little time remaining. Do you really want to throw away a final chance to succeed?”

If nothing else it appeared that he had convinced Diabolico that he could be useful.

“Perhaps we do have something to discuss,” Diabolico agreed. “Now, explain!”

====

Twenty years earlier.

The man drove his car along the twisting road with his two children secure in the backseat. It was raining and the driver lost control. The car spun off the road and over the cliff, crashing down on the rocks below. Shockingly the man and his children survived, but the car’s fuel tank had ruptured and the battery had started to short-circuit, causing sparks. With only a limited time the man knew he had time to save only one of his children. He could only release and carry either his son or his daughter to safety.

“Oh dearie my, which one will die?”

The man turned as he heard the voice, shocked and angered to see a demon standing before him. The flames and everything else around him seemed to have stopped.

“What do you want?” the man demanded, his hand moving to a gun he kept in his jacket.

“If I wanted to kill you I wouldn’t have slowed down the fire,” the demon responded. “I’ve come to make you an offer.”

Seeing that the man was not going to ask, the demon pressed on.

“You can only rescue one child. The other will die. Give him to me to raise as my own and know that he shall live. But which shall you choose?”

The demon enjoyed playing with the emotions of others. It enjoyed the torment it saw upon the man’s face as he tried to decide which child he would give up. The demon enjoyed the knowledge that it had won.

“Neither!” the man decided, shocking the demon as he rushed to the car.

The demon laughed as it watched the man struggle, knowing full well that he could not carry one child away and return for the other before the car exploded. He heard the man say something to his son before grabbing his daughter and running. The boy somehow managed to free himself from the car and screamed for his father to help him. And that was when the car exploded. Nobody noticed the noise of a TARDIS dematerialising because of the noise, nor did they notice the slight distortion around the car.

====

He had grown better as he had aged. In the early days he would have settled for obvious changes to history as a means of bolstering his ego. Now much older he found it more satisfying to change the little things and watch events escalate from there. The subtle adjustments to history meant there was less chance of somebody undoing all his hard work. Although in this case he was driven more by curiosity about how the humans would cope when face with the return of Queen Bansheera and her demonic court.

Earlier that day he had visited a morgue in a little town that by his calculations no longer existed. There he had removed the body of a boy that was the same age as the crash victim. He had then journeyed to the instant before Pierre had grabbed the child’s soul and had merged his transport around the burning vehicle, suspending the flow of time for a few precious moments.

He had removed the young boy from the burning car and placed his body in a storage capsule, frozen in a moment of time. Then using advanced medical procedure he had pulled the child’s soul from the body, tearing the link between body and soul that was already on the brink of snapping an instant before it did so. Thanking the advanced technology of his race for allowing him to perceive and manipulate and otherwise intangible thing, he transferred the soul to the body he had stolen earlier and placed that body in the car. The shock of being torn from its host and then forcibly inserted into a new body meant that for a few seconds the child picked up from where he had left off: screaming for his daddy.

And then he left, allowing events to continue as they were supposed to. The car exploded, the child died and Pierre snatched the child’s soul at the moment of death. As far as history was concerned, the events of that night occurred as they needed to.

As he returned to Diabolico, he worked upon the body of the child. Using knowledge taken from some of the greatest surgeons he manipulated the young body, ageing it artificially so that by the time it had finished, he was looking at a young man in his twenties. That his machine had pushed the body to the peak of health meant it was physically the warrior Diabolico desired.

~And now it shall become the same mentally,~ he thought.

After all that effort the rejoining of body and soul was a little anti-climatic. Given the right conditions the body recognised the soul was a part of itself and the soul recognised the body as its natural home. Still a monster from the treatment it had been subjected to, it was was ready to serve Diabolico.

And the body he had collected would be used for one of his other experiments. He chuckled as he considered how easy it would have been to use his manipulation of history to gain power for himself. But power did not really appeal to him; while he could be decidedly naughty, he was not evil.

====

Mariner Bay
29 September 1998

The Lightspeed Aquabase had been designed to include quarters for the majority of its personnel. However there were some that preferred to spend their free time on dry land. For those needing transport to and from the Aquabase, it was necessary to either use the transport tunnels that ran beneath the surface of the sea bed or when the tide permitted, hitch a ride on one of the submarines that journeyed back and forth on a regular basis.

However just because transport between the land and the Aquabase was possible, did not mean it was easy. Security was tight due to the sensitive nature of the Aquabase’s function. Those wishing to enter required a special token that would unlock the security door. Personnel watching from a nearby room were on hand to make sure that nobody tried to sneak through. Given that demons preferred not to touch the waters of Mariner Bay, the likelihood that they would try to sneak on board the submarine or gain access to the service tunnels were high.

On the other hand security around the submarine was surprisingly lapse. Two men were supposed to stand guard on the dock, but given how quiet their day was normally, they had retired to a small room to drink coffee. They hadn’t even noticed the slight fizzing of their drinks as they sipped them. A few minutes later both guards were asleep, unable to stop the masked figure from walking in and removing breathing apparatus from the store room.

When the submarine departed, nobody noticed the stowaway attached to the side of the submarine. He remained unnoticed as the submarine docked with the Aquabase and he detached himself. The Aquabase’s cameras were obscured as he swam under the submarine in search of the airlock that led to a service entrance. Only when he emerged from the airlock did he encounter security; a knee to the mid-section followed by a blow to the head soon solved that problem.

He carefully made his way through the Aquabase, avoiding the various personnel until he reached the office of Captain Mitchell. He managed to force the lock and sneaked into the empty room. A brief search followed before he located the drawer where the dangerous Titanium Morpher was stored. He looked up at the sound of running as the door opened and security guards entered.

It was obvious there had been an alarm either on the door or the drawer and his actions had triggered it. He weighed the possibilities of trying to bluff his way out, but dismissed the thought entirely when he noticed one of the Rangers in the crowd. There was no way she would be fooled.

With that in mind he reached a decision, vaulted the desk and barrelled into the first two guards. He didn’t stop to fight, just punched anybody that tried to grab him before making his way to the exit. By that time the alarms had sounded and the various exits were locked down. Fortunately he had planned for such an event and moved towards the hangar where the Lightspeed Rangers’ hummer was maintained. A few buttons raised the connection tube into position and he took off at a run, confident that the guards would not risk gun fire inside the pressurised tube.

He was not surprised when he heard the engine of the Hummer as the Rangers gave chase. He stopped running and refitted his breathing mask. The torture of the last twenty years had revealed a small magical gift that since his awakening he had found himself capable of using. And after experimenting under the tutelage of Diabolico and the other demons, he had discovered a way to use that gift to unleash bolts of focussed magical energy. He didn’t aim for either the Rangers or their vehicle. Instead he targeted the walls, breaking the pressure seal. As he was sucked out of the transport tube, water poured in, forcing Lightspeed technicians to activate emergency bulkheads. However, that in turn prevented the Rangers from giving chase. The thief was gone and the Titanium Morpher was missing.

“At least we know he can’t use it,” Joel commented in an attempt to lighten the moment.

Despite his words he was just as worried by this turn of events as the others. After all if the Titanium Morpher was useless, why steal it? He couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen.

End of part **THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**