Actions

Work Header

Fractured Crystal: A Power Rangers Story

Chapter Text

 

 

 

August 26, 1996

Plateau of Mystery

Mojave Desert, CA

 

 

Adam:

 

It's hard to breathe. It's been less than ten minutes since the one place that I thought completely invulnerable to a direct assault by Rita and Zedd was blown sky high…literally. I can see the air visibly roiling with the heat waves emanating from the top of the mountainous plateau that the Command Center was situated on.

We lost. I still can't believe it, that these words are actually forming in my head. Despite all of the sacrifices that we've made—as did Jason, Trini, Zack, and Kimberly before us—as Power Rangers, despite risking the lives of the Aquitian Rangers and our own going on the Zeo Quest…

Somehow, those two evil menaces managed to pull off the plan of the century.

No more Power Rangers.

I don't know what to do, or how to deal with this all. As pathetic as it might seem, a part of me just wants to curl up in a ball and hide away. I know that I shouldn't feel this way—I am a Power Ranger after all, or was—but I can't help myself. I don't know how I'm going to get through this.

And Rocky…

I look at Rocky and I have to fight the urge to run to him and curl up around him and cry into his shoulders, the way that I did when my mom got cancer when I was in the 2nd grade and Father had her shipped off to a private care facility unwilling to have to be bothered with her care because he was so busy.

That night I literally cried myself to sleep after running away to hide out at Rocky's place. He was so cool, he hugged me and let me curl into him and just cry and cry…

That same urge fills me now. But for a slightly different reason. I need something familiar, something sure to hang on to. And Rocky, he needs it too, I can tell. As stupid and girly as it sounds, it's probably the only thing that would keep us both sane at this moment. Rocky has always been my rock, the one person that I considered a part of myself.

He's so lost.

Anybody else—even Billy and the others, would think that he's bummed about the explosion, on pins and needles wondering about Zordon and Alpha, if they managed to survive…

But I see differently. I see it in the way his shoulders are set and the look of befuddled agony that is shining from his eyes. Yeah, he's definitely torn up about the mess we're in right now, and he's going to focus on that, but I know that the loss of the Command Center and possibly Zordon and Alpha 5 only compounds the more personal loss that he and I are suffering right now.

I know that in his heart of hearts, Rocky is struggling with the most significant loss of all.

Aisha.

She's gone, and God, I have to strain with everything in my body to hold back the desire to scream out my grief and rage…

I don't understand why she chose to willingly leave us behind. She's been my best friend, my sister in all but name and blood for nearly my entire life. I don't know how I would have survived all the way to high school if it wasn't for our fashion forward, mother bear. No matter how dark my life has been, she has always been there to knock some sense into me and keep my spirits up. As long as I had her and Rocky by my side, I never lost hope that as dark as my life was at times, things would eventually get better.

But now she's gone. And as I see Rocky try to hold it together, when I know he is literally about to burst apart with grief—

A part of me can't help but hate her a little.

I respect her choice to help that African tribe with the plague that is ravaging their village, to seek out her heritage and help protect the animals. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to choose to step away from us, from her duties as a Power Ranger. I know that she wouldn't callously rip herself from our lives without any trouble…

The only thing that I can do, is fight down my grief and pain, hold Rocky together and make it through this crisis we're in right now. After that, I have to get Rocky alone so he can let it all out. No matter how bad I feel about her being gone, he's got to be feeling a hundred times worse. But he's strong, stronger than I am for sure. He'll keep it together, for now.

Right now, we have to get to the remains of the Command Center and hope that somehow Zordon and Alpha managed to make it out alive. Because without them, we're doomed.

What do we do now?

o0o

 

Katherine:

 

I can't believe Rita and Zedd have won.

As I look around the ground where we were teleported to, littered with the smoldering wreckage of what used to be—in my opinion at least—the one place that Evil couldn't touch, I feel like there's no hope left. If those evil creatures could cripple us so much, what hope do we have of beating them back? What hope does the planet have?

I know that the Rangers in the past have faced similar situations to this. Tommy and Billy told me about the time that Tommy as the evil Green Ranger nearly destroyed the Command Center, Alpha and Zordon in a way much like this.

Somehow though, I thought that those incidents would have been a thing of the past now, that with the Zeo Crystal restored, the dark times would pass by. I thought that we would be one step closer to putting a permanent end to the evil of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd for good.

What happens now? What hope do we have? The Crystal is gone, we have no Power, no Zords. Zordon ad Alpha might be…

I'm not going to finish that thought, it's too horrible to imagine…

I'm just glad that we're all relatively safe right now. Especially our new friend Tanya. She's about the only bright spot in this nightmarish situation. I can't believe how cool and collected she is right now, while the rest of us are running around with our heads cut off! She's absolutely incredible! I love and will dearly miss Aisha, we all will. Still, of all the potential candidates she could have sent to take her place, I'm just glad that she chose someone as terrific as Tanya. Assuming we make it out in one peace, I can wait to get to know her better…

We may be down, but Rita and Zedd are making a big mistake if they think that the Power Rangers are out. I believe that somehow we'll find a way out of this.

We've just got to…

 

o0o

 

Tanya:

 

This is so crazy, I definitely have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I've barely adjusted to the fact that I'm back in the United States—again, and that I'm now a part of a group of people fighting a hidden war against evil space aliens, and that I have two streams of thought running through my mind of where I was and what I was doing before whatever weird spell Master Vile cast to turn time back happened, and my thoughts now; now, we're standing amidst the wreckage of the base of the Power Rangers' operations to protect Earth.

Everything has been happening so fast...

Meeting Ahshalla's grand-niece Aisha, learning of her identity as a Power Ranger, taking her place in delivering the shard of the Zeo Crystal to reassemble it and break the evil spell…everything's seemed like such a strange dream.

Now it's like the scene of a nightmare…

Getting a first glance look at some of the evils that Aisha and her friends have been fighting for years was a terrifying moment for me. Not only were those two monsters ugly, I could 'feel' the darkness of their beings—in the manner taught to me by Ahshalla over the past few years that I've spent being sheltered by the tribe.

But nothing compares to the enormity of what I see in front of me now...

Twisted metal, blackened by fire litters the ground beneath our feet, even though we are hundreds of yards away from the site where the explosion took place moments ago. If any of us had been any closer to the epicenter of the blast…we would have been vaporized in seconds. Even as far below as we are, the waves of boiling heat roiling around us has me on my knees, gasping for breathable air.

Even though I've only just met Billy, Katherine, Adam, Tommy and Rocky—Aisha's closest friends—little more than an hour ago, strangely enough, I feel extraordinarily calm and at peace, knowing that they're here by my side. I know that their hurting so much. I feel so bad for all of them, especially for Billy. The look of utter loss on his face…

I hope, for all their sakes that some way, some how, Zordon and his robot assistant Alpha 5 managed to survive. Loosing them would crush my new friends.

But as I stare at the acrid smoke ascending from the charred remains of that strange, yet extraordinary place, I just don't see how.

Aisha, I hope that your prayers are ascending on your friends' behalf…

Oh Zordon, Alpha…may the Power that you speak of, be with you now…wherever you are…

 

o0o

 

Rocky:

 

I feel so lost.

I want to scream into the desert sun, and let myself fly apart. But I can't, not now. There's too much going on right now, and I know a meltdown from me is the last thing that the team needs at this moment.

I know that Adam understands me, he always has. I see him sending subtle looks in my direction, and I love him for getting me, for getting how messed up I'm feeling right now, how betrayed and how pissed off I am. I may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but I know that he's hurting too, almost as much as I am. I can see his fingers twitching, and if we make it out through this nightmare alive, I foresee an incredible amount of sleepovers and teary cuddles in our future.

The others, they don't get it. They won't understand why I'm fighting the urge to march up to the new girl, Tanya and holler abuse and curses in her face. Not because she's an awful person, God forbid. She seems like a spunky kind of gal. I'm sure in any other circumstance, I'd either flirt with her like crazy or go out of my way to make her feel welcome, like Billy has, or Katherine or even mi hermano, Adam.

But right now, all I can do is hate her, because of what she represents to my mind.

Aisha chose her, chose her tribe over the Power Rangers. Over her friends.

Over me.

I don't know how I'll ever be able to forgive her for that, for what she and her people have taken from me.

I feel like an utter bastard. I don't think all of the Hail Marys and Our Fathers in the world could be enough to absolve me from the black rage and hate and grief that is choking the life out of me right now.

And I hate myself most of all.

Why, dammit? Why didn't I get the courage up to confess how I really felt to Aisha? Before she made such a irreversible choice? I had so many chances, so many years that I could have told her how I really felt about her.

But I was a coward. I played the funny man. The flirt, the one who's constantly chasing after girls and willing to go out with anyone except the one woman that I've been saving my body and my soul for.

And now, what? I'm too late.

And to make matters worse, I can't complain about it to anyone except perhaps Adam. Because I know how my girl thinks. I may not know exactly what happened in that African safari, but I know that if there had been any other way to get the Zeo sub-crystal, Aisha would have taken it in an instant. She'd never leave, not without at least talking to us, to me.

So I push down all of the bitterness, all of the sadness, all of the blind rage bubbling up inside and focus on giving a shaky smile to my spirit brother, and focusing on Tommy as he mentally runs through our collective options without the Zeo Crystal, without Zordon, or Alpha.

I'm going to fight. We're going to beat this thing and send Rita and Zedd packing once and for all.

No matter what, I won't let them have this victory.

For Aisha's sake, I'm going to do all I can to support the team.

It's what she would have wanted.

At the very least, I can give her that.

 

o0o

 

Billy:

 

This can't be happening, this can't be happening, this can't be happening…

If there is a Deity of some kind out there, please don't let this be happening!

I—I don't know what to do.

How can we fix this?

The Command Center…it's completely totaled.

The one place that felt more like a home to me than my actual house.

Gone.

And Zordon and Alpha…

I can't stop the wail that rips its way from my mouth as I look at the blackened plateau once dominated by that incredible Eltarean edifice. The pain I feel in my heart is so great, I can barely feel the surge of electrical energy still arcing through me; the only time I ever felt as broken and crushed by the world as I do now was when I placed a tulip inside the pine coffin where my mother resided in repose as a child.

For the first time in a long time, I feel utterly clueless.

That implosion was so powerful that it's energy is emanating even as far below the plateau as we are currently.

How could anyone, even someone as wise and powerful as Zordon survive such a destructive force? As jumbled as my brain is now, I still find myself attempting to run mental calculations of the percentage chance of Zordon surviving the detonation much less, Alpha.

From a practical standpoint, it's absolutely absurd to think that he could still be alive.

I can't operate from logic right now. All I can do is hope with every fiber of my being. My mind is being overrun with questions that I don't think anyone can begin to answer, let alone answer to my satisfaction.

The dominating ones are, how in the nine circles of hell did Goldar and Rito manage to skulk about in the Command Center completely undetected until the very moment when it was defenseless with us gone to see off the Aquitian Rangers and only Tanya and Alpha to guard the Zeo Crystal that had just been reconstituted only minutes ago?

And what do we do now, that we've lost the Crystal and given Rita and Lord Zedd everything they need to gain ultimate power and destroy the entire planet? How do we stop them?

Please, Zordon wherever you are, please be okay! Never did we need your words of wisdom and your guidance until now!

 

o0o

 

Tommy:

 

I failed.

I failed myself, I failed Zordon, I failed my team…

I failed the Rangers who entrusted the fate of the planet, of their own lives as well as that of their families and friends…

I've failed the world…

Rita and Zedd have the ultimate power now, in the Zeo Crystal. They can raze this planet into the ground, and there's not a damn thing I, or any of the others with me can do to stop them.

Not if Zordon is really gone for good…

The scream that comes out of Billy's mouth at the sight of the charred remains tears at my soul. This has to be killing him.

Damn it! How could I have been so—so arrogant thinking that with our proper ages restored and the Hydro Hog destroyed, Rita and Zedd would slink off into their Palace and rage and wait to plot for another day? I used to serve Rita! I know the way she thinks! I should have known that the pair of them were playing a much longer game than we were…

Thank God, Kimberly is safely away from all of this. I miss her fighting by my side as the Pink Ranger, but never have I been as glad as I am now that she gave her Power to Kat. If she had been affected by all the craziness of the last couple of weeks, or God forbid, caught in the explosion…

I'd die. Simple as that.

I don't know where we go from here. The others are depending on me to keep it together, to figure out some kind of solution, but I just don't know how to go on.

But I have to try.

This might be the end of the Power Rangers, but I owe too much to Zordon, to Alpha, to Jason and Kimberly and my team to give up now.

But how do we protect the Earth now? How do we go on, without our powers? How do we stop Rita and Lord Zedd without Zordon backing us up?

I really don't know…but I do know one thing.

We're the Power Rangers.

Powers or no powers, we will find a way to save this world from destruction…

Chapter Text

Chapter 1: Destruction, Victory, and Consequences

o0o

 

The events that transpired over the past hour seem almost beyond belief…

At the very moment when we thought that the darkest hour of our experience as Rangers lay behind us—with the spell altering the time line of Earth broken, the Aquitian Rangers able at last to safely return to their own planet after a heroic defense of Earth, the Zeo Crystal in our grasp, and the restoration of our Powers in sight—Lord Zedd, leader of the alien forces seeking to conquer Earth launched a surprise assault. This unexpected move brought catastrophe to our resistance, our mentor, and our world.

Two of his servants, Goldar and Rito Revolto managed to penetrate the defenses of our Command Center, implanting an implosive device. Adding insult to injury, the two then teleported into the main chamber of our Command Center and stole the Zeo Crystal; the only power source capable of restoring our lost powers.

The news that the evil designs of Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa had become a success was a crushing blow to our morale, but little did we know that in a matter of seconds, the world as we knew it would come crashing down around our ears in an overwhelming and final blow; that our lives as Power Rangers were about to come to an end…

o0o

 

A sharp stab of pain struck Tommy Oliver—formerly the White Ranger and leader of the defensive force against intergalactic threats known as the Power Rangers—against his rib-cage, his muscles straining as he forced himself to ascend the steep incline leading towards the smoldering wreckage of what was once their Command Center.

 

His tired frame wracked with fatigue and exhaustion, Tommy was tempted to throw himself unto the ground in defeat. Despite the nearly overwhelming desire to collapse, Tommy willed the remaining reserves of his strength into his legs as he powered on towards his destination.

 

Just ahead of him, he could see the shirt tails of Billy's checkered shirt as the normally mild mannered scientific genius who served as the Blue Ranger ran towards the ruins as if his life depended on it. Behind him, he could hear the grunts and gasps for breath as his teammates Rocky DeSantos, Adam Park, Katherine Hillard and their newest member Tanya—Aisha's replacement—kept close to his heels. He longed to say something, anything that could encourage his friends and allies, but his own heart was frozen in fear and a suffocating blanket of despair. All he could do was follow Billy's footsteps as the six teenagers raced back to the ruins of the place which barely an hour ago was perhaps the most secure facility on the planet.

 

As he ran on, it seemed that the shrill whistle of the wind as it sped past his racing form, began to take on the thin, high pitched cackle of his former Mistress and the enemy that in his heart of hearts Tommy hated the most, Rita Repulsa:

 

Why continue fighting, Tommy boy?' the hateful voice seemed to sneer, 'You've already lost. Look around you! The Command Center is nothing but a pile of rubble, your powers have been completely decimated, and your precious Zordon has been blown to high-heaven! Look! See the results of you leading the team of Power Rangers! You know that things would have been different if Jason was still leading the team! Barely a year and a half as leader, and you've already blown through two sets of Powers, three sets of Zords, one of the most powerful energy sources in the universe, an entire command outpost, and an intergalactic sage to boot! Bravo, Tommy! Bravo!

 

Each poisonous word dug its pointed barb deep into the recesses of Tommy's soul, echoing and re-echoing within his mind until the only thing that he could see in his mind's eye was the sight of his sworn enemy cackling with unsurpassed delight. So lost and chaotic was Tommy in the tempest of his self-condemning thoughts, that it wasn't until he slammed face-first into the rigid back of Billy, that Tommy was able to tear himself from his own inner monologue and focus on his surroundings. In spite of himself, Tommy's heart skipped a beat at the sight before him. Behind him, he could hear the aborted shouts and gasps of the others as they also beheld what Evil had wrought.

 

The plateau upon which the ancient command outpost once proudly stood, was the very picture of destruction, like an apocalyptic nightmare. Nothing was left standing. Charred stumps of masonry and several scattered lumps of blackened, metallic lumps of molten slag was all that remained. Here and there, small fires were still burning, an acrid smoke darkening the air above them. Tommy's eyes watered as the smoky air stung at them. His lungs burned as he inhaled the stench of burned metal and rock. Almost unwillingly, his eyes were drawn to what he remembered as the center of the room that held the crystalline tube that permitted their mentor and friend Zordon to communicate to them from the time warp prison that he had been trapped into over ten thousand years ago.

 

All that remained were jagged shards of crystal jutting from molten slag. At the sight of the enormity of his failure, Tommy's knees buckled and he found himself slumping unto the ground in speechless shock. Just ahead of him, Billy appeared to be petrified to the spot as his eyes were glued to all that remained of their teacher and guide. Katherine began to quietly sob just behind Tommy, as she too fell to her knees and clung to his shoulders for support. Tanya looked stricken at the sight and she began to hug herself and rub her arms furiously as if suppressing a sudden chill. Adam was riveted to the spot, his eyes haunted with grief as a few feet to the side, Rocky stood staring at the remains of Zordon's glass tube, his eyes smoldering with a growing rage.

 

"I can't believe this," sobbed Katherine as she tried to regain her composure, "I—I thought that th—the Command Center was the o—one safe place that Rita and Zedd could never touch!"

 

"How could Zordon and Alpha have survived this?" whispered Billy as he took in the scene of devastation. He shook his head in denial, his cobalt-blue eyes haunted by a pain so severe that Tommy had to close his eyes to avoid the sight.

 

Furiously, Rocky kicked at a pile of broken rock near his feet, his mouth spewing a venomous stream of Spanish obscenities, only a few recognizable to Tommy's ear. He started towards the molten remnant of the tube, but was restrained by Adam, who clearly recognized more of what had to be blistering curses as he tugged Rocky to him and hugged his red-clad friend, whispering soft words that none of the others could make out, causing Rocky after a couple of moments to deflate as quickly as he had exploded and slump against the Black Ranger's wiry frame, letting himself be directed to a large slab of stone. As the pair of them sat down, Tommy forced himself to his feet. He felt, rather than saw Katherine rise up behind him and follow him to a smaller piece of stone, large enough to accommodate the two of them as they too sat down. After a few moments, Tanya and Billy took their seats on the slab of rock occupied by Adam and Rocky.

 

As the six teens sat despondent, images rushed unbidden to their minds of the countless times they would stand together within the circular space framed by the circuit boards and super computers of the Command Center, receiving counsel and ancient wisdom from the kindly sage who had looked past their rather unique backgrounds and seen in them the potential to serve as the world's elite fighting force against the forces of Rita and later, Lord Zedd. Now, they would no longer hear the high-pitched tones of Alpha 5' laughter or shrieks of dismay. They would never be graced with the deep, rumbling tone of Zordon as he encouraged them whenever the battles against Zedd and Rita would become too burdensome to handle.

 

"He's gone," whispered Tommy in abject misery as he took in the desolation and the haunted faces of his friends. "And without him, the Earth has no chance against Rita and Zedd."


 

o0o

 

Over two hundred thousand miles above the ruins of the Command Center, within the damned halls of the Lunar Palace, the oft-thwarted and irredeemable bride of Lord Zedd, the space sorceress known as Rita Repulsa cackled with irrepressible glee as she moved back from the enchanted lens of her Ritascope and turned to face her husband, the venomous and dastardly crimson Overlord of Darkness, Lord Zedd. His chrome-plated visor glimmered in the firelight of the torches burning on the walls of his Chamber of Command. He along with the rest of the Court awaited expectantly the pronouncement of their Queen.

 

"Well?" demanded the deformed sorcerer, his exposed muscled arm tightening its grip on the heavy Z-tipped silver and chromium Staff as he stepped towards his wife. "Out with it, woman! Did our plan succeed?"

 

"Succeed?!" screeched Rita in unholy glee as she sauntered over to the side of her husband and sovereign. "Zordon's Command Center has been blasted into smithereens! That old bastard won't be watching over anything, ever again!"

 

"Really?" whispered Lord Zedd, as arches of lightning raced up and down his Staff. "Truly? Zordon and his pesky band of Powerpuffs are finally out of my hair, forever?"

 

At that Rita burst into a fresh screech of victory as she yanked her husband and shoved him towards the balcony of the Lunar Palace.

 

"See for yourself!" screeched the exultant sorceress. Behind her, the footmen of Zedd's court, an azure vampiric mutant named Baboo and his lighter skinned goblin companion Squatt muttered with barely contained anticipation as the powerful Monarch activated his second sight, his visor glowing a sickly red as he cast his gaze down over two hundred thousand miles unto a concealed mountainous plateau in a mystically shielded section of the Mojave Desert. The entire Chamber began to glow with a crimson light as the evil warlord slowly chuckled, then began to bellow with whoops of triumphs.

 

Rita screeched with laughter again as she guessed at what her husband was observing, her own wand beginning to glow a dull red as her dark powers began to react to her extreme happiness. Squatt and Baboo squealed in glee and began to jump up and down, clapping their hands.

 

"At last!" roared the evil Monarch, as he lifted his gaze from the Earth, "after ten thousand years of countless monsters and expended magic, I finally get my victory over that jumped up, two-bit sorcerer of Eltar! The Earth has been rendered utterly defenseless! The Power truly exists no more!"

 

"No more rotten Power Rangers!" declared Rita, slamming her wand on the stone floor. "Victory is ours at last!"

 

Her exultant words triggered a fresh roar of delight from Lord Zedd, who leaped down to where his Queen stood and dipped her into a low bow before swinging her up and twirling her around the ancient hall, to her girlish squeals.

 

"Squatt! Baboo! Heed my command!" thundered Lord Zedd as he whirled around to spear the two henchmen under his dark gaze. "Summon all of our old friends! Get the most rotten, putrid, decomposed delights evil magic can muster! Get the lava juice flowing! I want music! I want screams! It's time to get this party started!"

 

"At once, your Most Terrifying Grotesqueness!" stammered Baboo as he grabbed Squatt by the scruff of his neck and teleported to see his master's command carried out.

 

With another bark of hideous laughter, Zedd grabbed a surprised and aroused Rita by the waist and dragged her unto his chrome plated lap as he sighed in delight upon his throne.

 

"We'll have the grandest party that has been seen in eons my silver-haired conical pet," he rasped in satisfaction as silver tipped claws began to work their way beneath the ceremonial dress of his Empress. "While Zordon's children mourn their loss and imminent destruction, we shall celebrate. As for the climax of our victory party, we shall descend down upon the Earth and use the Zeo Crystal to burn that wretched world into the ground!"

 

Rita's shrieks of delight slowly began to morph into husker moans as his claws found the patch of delight that had been neglected for several millenia and Lord Zedd began to burrow his chrome-plated face into the side of her neck, as they began a long awaited and far more sensual celebration. As she began to squirm delightedly in his lap, the space concealed behind the chrome plated exoskeleton protecting his pelvic area began to tighten almost uncomfortably in a way that it hadn't for more than ten thousand years, on a burning moon in the Aldac-17 Quadrant of the Ikibor Galaxy.

 

Had the exultant pair however cast their magical sight towards the opposite side of the moon, they might have decided to rethink the advisability of having a party at that particular moment of time, as the first tendrils of a very long and dark shadow began to cast its deadly pall across the eaves of the Lunar Palace…


o0o

 

The dull roar of thousands of Viriox Nuclear-powered engines emanated across the opaque seas of space, interspersed with the whirring sounds of tens of thousands of mechanical soldiers as they marched across the behemoth, fiery asteroid housing the immense might of the Machine Sky Base.

 

As the armies of mechanical drones went about their varied duties, a slightly taller five-foot two-toned mechanical drone with a mini-drone perched on his right shoulder shuffled quickly as he approached the veranda of the Sky Base where the he was summoned to give a fresh report concerning their target.

 

At last, gears whirring furiously with exertion, the mechanical footman known as 'Klank' entered the august chamber and at once bowed low before the figure standing before the veranda overlooking the third planet of the Sol System in the Milky Way Galaxy—also known as Earth.

 

"You're late," pronounced the figure without turning its head to face the drone. The figure's voice had a distorted metallic tone distinct to the 'citizens' of the powerful and seemingly limitless Machine Empire. Even so, it was decidedly frosty, causing the drone to cringe as once again he bowed his head low behind the shadowed figure.

 

"A thousand apologies, your Majesty!" exclaimed the minister drone. "I bring news concerning the targeted territory as you requested."

 

"And?" barked the figure.

 

"It is as your spies reported six kinic cycles ago, your Majesty. The creatures known as Lord Zedd and his wife Rita Repulsa have lowered the defenses of their Palace and are preparing a celebratory party for their victory over the wizard, Zordon of Eltar! The galactic gossip is that they managed to destroy the strategic command outpost of the Eltarean and destroyed his access to the physical dimension. The paltry defensive measures he had set in place were destroyed very recently! Most importantly my liege, according to your spies, Lord Zedd has not detected our approach at all!"

 

The figure in the shadows began to laugh chillingly at the news. Turning around, he stepped into the light, revealing a rather rotund and tall richly clad machine, designed in blue and silver Na'Quat plating, a large crown adorning his head. As the Machine King stepped forward, the minister drone shuddered at the waves of dark power emanating from his creator.

 

"Excellent news, Klank!" boomed the Machine King, as he slammed the heavy Na'Quat staff designed with a massive Gear unto the metallic flooring. Sparks danced upon impact.

 

"Lord Zedd is a sniveling, incompetent ingrate! It is almost unimaginable that he once commanded an empire that struck fear into the hearts of a thousand planets, almost rising to a level when we could have considered him a suitable ally! It seems the millennia have drained him of his sensibilities as well as his power! I will be doing the universe a favor, blotting that bumbling would-be king and his loathsome bride out of existence!"

 

Klank nodded frantically, not wanting to further arouse the anger of his Master.

 

"Very true, Sire." Klank demurred. "Shall I give the order to begin the assault now, your Majesty?"

 

"Not yet," replied the Machine King, "let the witless worms enjoy their little party for a little while longer. Once they are completely lulled into unawareness, then launch the Quadrafighters and strike hard and without mercy! I want those idiots completely vaporized!"

 

"It will be done as you command my King!" exclaimed Klank, as with a pirouette, the Chief Minister of the Machine Empire rushed away to alert the Quadrafighter units.

 

If the Machine King had possessed a face of flesh and blood, his lips would have curled into a cruel smirk as he whirled around and stepped once more towards the shimmering blue-green planet nearly 350,000 miles away. As it was, his mechanized eyes glowed a bright golden color as he stretched forth his scepter in the Earth's direction.

 

"So, Lord Zedd dares to lay claim to the Zeo Crystal, which by rights belong solely to me? He will pay dearly for his arrogance. And once the little fool has been dealt with, I will quickly establish control over this backwater planet and at last gain the powers of the Crystal for myself! With its powers at my command, the Machine Empire shall reign supreme!"

 

Exultantly, the Machine King gave in to his mirth as he anticipated another galaxy conquered, providing raw materials for the expansion of the Empire, and access to ultimate power. Only a little while longer…


o0o

 

Earth

 

Adam watched Rocky with growing concern as he fought to keep his hands from intertwining with that of his closest friend. In the messed-up state of mind they all were in, he was worried that such a movement might trigger another outburst.

 

After his explosive round of cursing, Rocky had grown completely still, staring woodenly at a pile of burning rubble. Adam knew that it wasn't only the terrible situation they were in that had his normally cheerful friend in such a dark and violent mood. It was also due to the notable absence of the one girl who could keep them both hopeful, even in the darkest hours.

 

Looking past his brooding friend, he stared over at the tall African-American young woman who had been chosen by the third member of their trio to take her place as a Power Ranger. To his pleasant surprise, Tanya was taking these shocking events surprisingly in stride, her concerned eyes resting on Billy, who was probably the person most hard hit by this disaster. Adam thought he could begin to see what must have attracted Aisha to her and led her to surrender her piece of the Zeo Crystal to her and send her in her place. She had all the makings of becoming an amazing Power Ranger.

 

But Aisha, we need you, Adam thought mournfully as he turned his gaze to the despondent figure of his friend and leader, Tommy.

 

I can't imagine how guilty and conflicted Tommy must be feeling right now, he thought. As the leader, Tommy was sure to be second guessing himself and the decisions that he made since the whole debacle with Master Vile began.

 

His ears perked up as Tommy sighed explosively, fingers clenched around two medium-sized pieces of what must have been the outer walls of the Command Center. He was shaking his chestnut brown hair in disgust as he looked around the ruins.

 

"What a mess," sighed the white-clad teen, his boots scuffing the ground in front of him. "Look at this place! It's been completely wiped off the map!"

 

Adam watched as the visibly frustrated teen launched the broken masonry in his hands towards the large pile of broken stone several feet away. Tommy hung his head after his throw, so he didn't see where his projectile landed. Adam's keen eyes however followed the broken stone as it flew straight into the side of the large pile in front of them. It skittered off to another scattered pile, where it laid, forgotten, but the Black Ranger's eyes widened in surprise as the momentum of Tommy's throw caused some of the rocks in the pile to shift, revealing a brilliant glimmer of golden-white light.

 

What was that, he wondered. Could that possibly be what I think it might be?

 

He said nothing at first, because it was possible that the light of the hot August sun had just reflected off of a piece of broken glass. But as the seconds rolled by and the glow didn't fade, Adam found himself standing up and stepping forward a few feet for a better view. He could see Rocky out of the corner of his eye sitting straighter, a look of concern on his face, but Adam pushed that aside and turned instead to the despondent forms of the Pink and White Rangers.

 

"Tommy?" he called, raising the pitch of his voice enough to attract the longhaired teen's attention. "Uh, I think there's something you got to see."

 

As around him, his friends started to stir with curiosity, Adam pointed towards the large pile of rubble where, in the gap precipitated by Tommy's throw, a gap revealed a shining light.

 

"Guys, is that what I think it is?" he called out. Rocky, now standing next to him, gasped in shock at the view.

 

"Guys!" hollered Rocky, "is that—?"

 

Katherine jumped up, her mouth shaped in a surprised 'O'.

 

"Can it be?" she gasped, a hand flying to her mouth. Billy, his attention now diverted to the rocks as well jumped up in surprise as he caught the glow.

 

"Come on!" the blonde-haired teen said, urgently. "Hurry!"

 

Quickly, all six made their way to the spot that Adam pointed out to them. Ignoring the dust, and the sharp and jagged rocks littering the ground before them, they dropped to their knees and started to shift away as much of the broken rocks as they could. For the next several minutes, the only sounds heard were the grunts of exertion and the sound of skittering rocks and small boulder sized masonry, as the Rangers dug into the large pile, endeavoring to widen the gap through which the steady white glow of some object could be seen.

 

As the six teenagers dug and shifted rock out of the way, the gaping void of misery and defeat which had been choking each of their spirits in different ways and to differing degrees began to lighten as a spark of hope began to burn in their hearts. Unknowingly, as each teen lifted and worked on widening the gap, a similar thread of thought began to loop in their minds, becoming almost a prayer or a mantra.

 

Please, by all the Powers that are, let this light be what we think it must be!

 

Bit by bit, the gap suffused with light grew wider and wider, until at last, with a strain of his muscles, Billy lifted the last heavy obstruction in their way and heaved it over to the side, the glowing object at last laid bare before their astonished eyes.

 

Exchanging jubilant glances with each other, the spark of hope burst into a solid flame as reverently, Tommy reached into the space created and pulled out the one object that could prove to be the answer to their crippling dilemma.

 

"It is!" exulted Tommy as he cradled the glowing object in his hands, lifting it into clearer view in front of his companions. "It's the Zeo Crystal!" As he lifted the artifact into the sky, the Rangers, now more hopeful than they had been since the explosion, gathered in a semi-circle around Tommy.

 

"All of the sub-crystals are still connected!" said Billy in awe. He exchanged a brilliant smile towards Adam. "Your eyesight is incredible Adam! Thanks to you, we have a fighting chance now!"

 

Bashfully, the Korean-American teen dipped his head, a slight blush suffusing his cheeks at the unexpected praise.

 

"Billy's right," agreed Tommy as he spared a grateful glance at the boy at his side. "You given us new hope, Adam!"

 

Adam shook his head as he glanced away from the two boys over to Katherine.

 

"Rito and Goldar must have dropped the Crystal during the explosion," he posited. "I can't believe it survived the blast intact."

 

Katherine nodded as she pointed at the glowing crystal.

 

"It's amazing," she agreed, "but does it still have its Power?"

 

Barely had the words gone out of her mouth when an audible hum filled the air as five distinctive flashes of light—pink, blue, red, yellow, and green—irradiated the Crystal's surface, causing the Australian young woman to step back with a gasp of surprise at the unexpected display.

 

"I think it heard you," replied Rocky wryly. As Tommy held the vibrating Crystal our at arms length, Billy stepped closer to him, his shock and surprise fading into concern as he witnessed the power surge.

 

"I don't think you should hold it Tommy," he cautioned the White Ranger cautiously. "It might be better to set it down, we don't know how the blast affected its volatility."

 

"You're right, Billy," said Tommy. Slowly and carefully, he set the ridged Crystal on the ground before their feet. The second he set it down however, the Crystal glowed a blinding white as a shock-wave of energy swept through the startled teens, rooting their feet to the area surrounding the Crystal as the earth around them began to crack and break apart.

 

"Woah!" exclaimed Rocky as he waved his arms wildly as he tried to get his balance. On the other side, Tanya staggered as she held onto Billy for support.

 

"Well, I think we're about to find out!" she cried as with a large rumble, the ground beneath their feet began to sink. "Is it ever going to stop?!"

 

"I don't know!" exclaimed Billy, straining to make his voice heard amid the rumbling and convulsions of the earth around them. "The blast must have triggered some kind of reaction in the Crystal!"

 

"Ah! We're sinking!" cried Rocky as the ground beneath them abruptly shuddered as it precipitously dipped an additional six inches below the surface. Next to him, Adam's face blanched as he struggled to force his feet to move.

 

"Let's bail out of here!" he shouted over the dull roar of the splitting earth. As Tanya attempted to follow his suggestion, her eyes widened on horror as she found herself stuck to the ground.

 

"I can't move my legs!" she exclaimed, shrilly. Tommy began tugging at his own legs, finding them as stuck as Tanya's. The others did the same, to the same result.

 

"None of us can!" yelled Katherine, her blond hair whipping from side to side as she attempted to try different angles in an attempt to free herself.

 

"Hang on!" ordered Billy as the magnetized area they were stuck in sunk further, this time by several feet.

 

Another shockwave of energy rocked the six teens, who all began to scream shrilly as the ground below their feet began to plummet at an accelerating rate. Vainly, they attempted to jump, but they remained rooted as the earth fell ten, then thirty, then fifty, then a hundred feet below the surface. The terrifying experience took on a heightened edge of terror as the earth their feet were stuck too began to break apart as they sped down the gaping precipice beneath the surface.

 

Soon they were scrabbling in vain for some kind of support as they began dropping at an accelerated rate and the ground beneath completely disintegrated, leaving them plummeting in mid-air.

 

Desperately clutching at any part of their companions' bodies they could reach, the air screamed past them as they dropped faster and faster.

 

Soon, the rate of speed at which they were plummeting was so great, they one by one began to black out. Soon all of the Rangers were unconscious, unaware that a glimmering energy barrier began to emanate around them as they fell, the light fading into darkness as they plummeted to an unknown destination.

 

Finally, over seventy miles below the Earth's surface, their deathly journey came to an abrupt halt, unknown to them as the sphere of energy surrounding them impacted squarely upon cold, metal. As the energy field winked out of existence, the unconscious forms of the Rangers lay scattered in a pile of dusty boxes and dirty cloth as the overwhelmed teens unknowingly began the next stage in their journey as Power Rangers…


o0o

 

Back on the moon, the mood was loud, crude and rowdy as scores of mutant lifeforms milled around the wide hall of the Chamber of Command, transformed into a hellish version of a dance hall. All around, Tengas, Putties, and other unsavory creatures drank steaming goblets of lava juice, ate from the heavily set buffet off to the side and exchanged wild stories about past misdeeds as near the iron throne of Lord Zedd, a line of aliens led by Rita herself danced in circles to the raucous chorus of the dreaded battle song of the famously vicious evil space sorceress (and distant relative) Bandora the Dreadful; most often sung before her forces invaded another doomed world:

 

o0o

Listen up, you foolish creatures!

I am the greatest and most dreadful witch of all, BANDORA!

o0o

Do Do Ra Do Ra! Do Do Do Ra Do Ra!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra Bandora!

Do Do Ra Dora Do Do Dora Dora!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra Bandora!

o0o

Viewed from so far away this planet is like a shimmering sapphire,

But with my magic sight I see the truth…

Just what a worthless, garbage planet it is!

o0o

Do Do Ra Do Ra! Do Do Do Ra Do Ra!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra! Bandora!

Do Do Ra Do Ra! Do Do Do Ra Do Ra!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra Bandora!

o0o

It stinks because it's been befouled by the indigent fools oozing from the slime!

But soon these fools all will be,

Nothing more than mashed potatoes beneath my feet!

Totbat, Buckback, Griforther, Priripcan, now let's go!

o0o

Do Do Ra Do Ra! Do Do Do Ra Do Ra!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra! BANDORA!

Do Do Ra Do Ra! Do Do Do Ra Do Ra!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra! Bandora!

Do Do Ra Do Ra! Do Do Do Ra Do Ra!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra! Bandora!

Do Do Ra Do Ra! Do Do Do Ra Do Ra!

Do Do Ra Ra Do Do Ra Ra! BANDORA!

DORA!

 

As the song switched to an equally evil, but well-beloved tune, Lord Zedd soon had his bride and his Court chanting in a tune less chorus:

 

No more Power Rangers! No more Power Rangers!

No more Power Rangers! No more Power Rangers!

 

With a roar of ecstasy, Lord Zedd wheeled his wife around and allowed her to lead him the Devil's Waltz, so deliriously happy, he didn't even bother to sneer when the albino dog-faced monster maker Finster dashed from his own private quarters and interrupted their revelry, just as Rita managed to dip him!

 

"Forgive me, your eminences! I do not mean to disturb you two—"

 

"Then don't!" screeched Rita as she heaved her husband up from the dip she had placed him in, with surprising upper body strength.

 

"But—but there really is something that the two of you must see!" protested the oft-maligned and little appreciated monster maker, tugging on his ears in distress.

 

"Not now!" ordered Rita as she swung her hips lewdly in Lord Zedd's direction. "This is the most fun that I've had in ten thousand years!"

 

"But…but—" attempted Finster in vain.

 

His next words were drowned out by the sudden flash of light and ominous rumbling as without warning, the Palace suddenly began to shake as if in the epicenter of a severe earthquake.

 

With a screech, the music and revelry came to a halt as several more flashes of light—this time accompanied by the distinct sounds of explosions—and more shockwaves sent the assorted guests scrambling for the exits. Despite the loud protests of Rita, the room was soon emptied of all lifeforms save for those of the Court, who gathered near the startled Lord Zedd.

 

"What. In the name of all wickedness, was that?!" demanded Zedd, stalking over to the visibly frustrated Finster.

 

"That is just what I've been trying to tell you, my Lord!" huffed the ancient mutant petulantly. "It appears that we are—under attack!"

 

Horrified gasps filled the room.

 

Mind whirling madly, Rita dashed towards her trusty Ritascope, peering anxiously through its enchanted lens to see what was attacking their palace. Her strangled gasp of horror had Zedd bounding closer to her.

 

"Well?" demanded the overlord anxiously, "what is it? What do you see?"

 

Slowly the self-styled Empress of Evil withdrew her gaze from the Ritascope and turned slowly to face her husband, her usually haughty face now chalk-bone white with shock and fear.

 

"Zeddy?" the sorceress whimpered. "I think we're in trouble!"

 

"Why?" exclaimed Zedd, "who dares to breach the palace of the Sovereign of Evil?!"

 

Bottom lip trembling, Rita began to wail.

 

"Ah! We're being attacked by the Machine Empire! What are we going to do?!"

 

Her bald announcement caused the normally confident sorcerer to stumble back in shock.

 

"The Machine Empire?!"


 

o0o

 

Miles away on the Machine Sky Base, the rotund Machine King surveyed his new territory in great satisfaction. Next to him were two mechanical beings as well; one a tall and sturdily built gold and steel female robot adorned in blue and purple and iron, and the second a rather tiny robot very similarly attired to his two companions, right down to the stubby crown with crystalline masses growing out of it. All three were jubilant at the report given concerning the launch of their assault.

 

"Ah!" exclaimed the mechanical despot with maniacal glee. "How fortunate we are, my mechanical Enchantress! An entire galaxy just waiting to provide raw materials for my Machine Empire!"

 

"Hmm…yes, it is quite lovely," replied the Queen. "But you forget my dear, this galaxy has been claimed by Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd as their own."

 

"A minor detail!" retorted the King good naturedly. "Come! See for yourself!"

 

He chuckled in amusement as his Queen and his first built son and heir saw the holographic imagery of their Quadrafighters blasting the once imposing Palace of the self-styled Emperor and Empress of Evil. It now sported gaping holes and large blackened burn marks, the few rather pitiful minions of the Fools (clay foot soldiers indeed!) were easily being routed by the superior might and relentless onslaught of his soldiers.

 

"Even now," he boasted to his appreciative audience, "those piteous peasants are fleeing for their very existence!"

 

As the King and Queen gave in to their mirth at the routing of their enemies, their son jumped up and down in excitement.

 

"Oh boy, oh boy!" he shouted as he watched the proceedings. "You really have them by the gears, huh Daddy?"

 

"Precisely!" boomed the Machine King.


 

o0o

 

 

As blast after blast commenced the work of reducing the Lunar Palace into space rubble, the discomfited rulers reeled in shock as all of their careful planning and millennia of effort went up in smoke.

 

"My Lord!" squealed Finster, struggling to maintain his balance as more energy blasts continued their work of destruction. "I regret to report that there are no resources available to mount a successful defense against the armies of the Machine King! I will prepare at once for our immediate departure!"

 

He staggered out of the main Chamber and went to begin those preparations amidst the high-pitched wails of Rita as a particularly close blast, sent her tumbling to the ground.

 

"I can't believe it!" she screamed in rage. "Zedd! This is all your fault!"

 

To his immense shame, the mutated sorcerer couldn't even refute his wife's poisonous words. There was no reason for the Machine King to want to invade this sector of the universe, so far removed from their normal haunts unless there was an overwhelming incentive for his invasion. And that could on mean one thing…

 

Somehow, that rusted bucket of bolts must have heard of the legendary powers of the Zeo Crystal and come to claim it for himself! And to add insult to blasted injury, the inexplicable delay of those bumbling numbskulls, Rito and Goldar was evidence that somewhere along the line, they managed to screw up an absolutely perfect plan to overwhelm their enemies and gain ultimate power in one fell swoop! Damn them to the eternal pit fires of Apophis the Mad!

 

Without the Zeo Crystal, even the combined magic that could be mustered between himself and Rita would not be enough to eliminate the armies of the Machine King! That left him, as much as it galled him to have to admit, only one viable option…

 

They would have to concede defeat to the Machine Empire and flee…

 

The decision made, he snapped his visor towards his wife, kicking her heels in rage upon the stone floor.

 

"Cease your caterwauling at once, you idiot woman!" he snapped, irritably. "Get back on your feet and pack! We'll have only moments to escape before the Machine King himself steps foot on the moon! And think about possible places that we can escape to!"

 

Not giving her time to spout her usual useless drivel and complaints, he rushed towards their private quarters to gather up all of his most valuable scrolls and tomes of dark magic. Not to mention his chrome polish. As humiliating as this setback was, he was nothing if not a survivor.

 

This would not be the end...

 

He would make sure of that!


 

o0o

 

 

"How exciting!" exulted the Queen of the Machine Empire as she observed the continuing assault against the once powerful Lord Zedd and Rita. "Look at their minions run!"

 

The King chuckled some more as he drained his flask of boiling cog oil.

 

"Let them run!" he declared. "There is no place to hide!"

 

They laughed merrily at the discomfiture of their hopeless rivals. It was fortuitous that the powerful, but rather loose-tongued ruler of much of the M-51 Galaxy, had set the tongues of the universal gossips wagging when he boastfully advertised his intent to claim the Zeo Crystal for himself.

 

It had been a minor effort to track his movements with a small but heavily cloaked squadron of Quadrafighters and follow him to the location where the Crystal had been hidden tens of thousands of years ago, by their most hated enemies! Once the report had returned that Vile and his son-in-law Zedd had managed to remove the Crystal from its protective enchantments, the order had immediately been given to direct their Sky Base towards the distant Milky Way Galaxy and leave the conquest of the Atir Quadrant in the capable hands of their faithful general, Venjix.

 

It had taken several weeks of travel to get to this obscure system of planets, but the entertainment now being provided—as well as the promise of gaining more territory in addition to the long coveted Zeo Crystal—was well worth the long trip.

 

"Now," continued the Machine King, "it will be only a matter of time before we harness the full potential of the Zeo Crystal for ourselves. With that Power finally on our hands, we will overturn the current balance of power in the universe and crush all those who stand in our way! We will be the supreme Evil in the universe! Even the Monarch of the United Alliance of Evil himself will bow his head in obeisance to us!"

 

"Yeah, Dad! The Dark Specter will never know what hit him! You'll be the Head of all the powers of Evil!"

 

The Machine King chuckled at the exuberance of his young heir. The boy was right however.

 

"Well said, my son!" he replied.

 

They broke into fresh gales of laughter as they thought about the Power soon to be in their grasp. So focused were they on their approaching triumph, it completely escaped their notice when a curiously designed foot soldier, his head far bulkier and angular in appeared than that of their Cogs and fitted with a heavy metallic breastplate protecting its vulnerable cybernetic enhancements slowly began to back away from the exultant family, disappearing in a flash of white light…


 

o0o

 

 

"I hate packing in a hurry," grumbled Rita as she lugged a heavy black traveling case behind her, "I always feel like I'm forgetting something."

 

"Silence, my infuriating peacock!" snapped Lord Zedd as he hoisted his own traveling case upon his shoulders. "Save your complaints for after we get inside Sepenterra! We've finally gotten the only chance we're ever going to get to survive this attack by the Machine King, so we don't have time for your gripes and sniveling!"

 

Rita huffed in irritation, but quieted down as the sad processional of the once proud Court made their way out of the heavily damaged Palace and started trudging along the path towards the only thing standing between them and oblivion, Serpenterra, the personal attack craft of Lord Zedd.

 

"Indeed," panted Finster as he lugged even more heavy luggage above his head. "I have managed to place a light protective barrier around us to deflect random blasts by the Machine Empire's fighter craft, but it will only prove effective as long as we can take advantage of this lull in the attack! If they resume their full assault again before we reach the safety of Serpenterra, I hardly need to say that our days will be numbered!"

 

With that, the deposed aliens made their way through the pathway away from their long home. Remaining silent, to avoid alerting any potential sensors, the group managed to get three quarters of the way towards Sepenterra before the sound of sharp explosions behind them signaled the resumption of the attack.

 

Only a few hundred feet away from their salvation, Rita suddenly halted with a shriek, causing the line behind her to fall into disorder as the Tengas and Putties carrying their stuff tumbled to the ground.

 

"Wait a minute!" screeched the evil sorceress as she looked in all directions. "I just remembered! Where are those two knuckleheads, Rito and Goldar! They haven't been back since they blew up Zordon's Command Center and stole the Zeo Crystal! We can't go without them!"

 

"We have no choice!" growled Lord Zedd venomously. "It's clear that even though the Command Center was destroyed, those two blithering idiots failed to obtain the Zeo Crystal! We don't have time to search for them, we'll just have to mail them a forwarding address!"

 

"Address to where?" mumbled Squatt miserably.

 

The innocent comment caused them all to freeze.

 

"An excellent and overlooked question," moaned Finster. "As powerful as Serpenterra might be, it can only hold a finite amount of energy before needing to be recharged. We must plot our course of escape precisely, or we will run out of fuel and drift into oblivion!"

 

The bald pronouncement had all of them falling into a miserable reverie. Just where precisely could they go? It would have to be a place either so far away that the Machine Empire would never be able to reach that territory—but also Serpenterra—or a place ruled by a sympathetic being powerful enough to cause even the Machine King to pause before striking. And considering that the path to ultimate power didn't lend itself well to making friends…

 

Several minutes passed by before Rita jumped up with a shout.

 

"I know!" she exclaimed happily. "I know a place where we can crash, that's close enough to get there in Serpenterra and ruled by someone nasty enough to keep even the Machine Empire away!"

 

"Well?" replied Zedd, uncomprehendingly.

 

"Think about it," continued Rita, "who's the most powerful and evil person we know besides the rulers of the Machine Empire, who's also close by?"

 

Finster gasped in dismay, recognizing immediately where his Queen was heading with her lead up. Zedd on the other hand, just looked at her in confusion.

 

"Why—I am of course!" he sputtered in outrage. Squatt and Baboo nodded in agreement, but quickly bowed their heads when Rita bared her teeth at them.

 

"In your dreams, Tinsel Teeth!" she sneered. "You know who I'm talking about!"

 

To Zedd's everlasting shame, it took a number of seconds for him to connect the dots and follow his wife's line of thought. When he finally realized however, he jumped up from his resting spot in horror.

 

"Oh no!" he growled. "If you think for one moment that I will—humble myself before that egotistical, arrogant, cowardly—"

 

"You can, and you will!" screeched Rita as she immediately began marshaling her psychic connection. "I'm calling my Daddy! We're moving in with Master Vile!"

 

As Zedd choked with inarticulate fury, she launched her astral call into the void of space.

 

"Daddy! I need to talk to you! Come in where ever you are! Papa, can you hear me?!"

 

A wellspring of evil energy bloomed behind her, and she swung around, her sour face brightening as the smoky astral form of the demonic evil ruler of the M51 Galaxy took shape.

 

"Is that the sour tones of my dastardly daughter I hear, calling?" boomed the spectral form of Master Vile.

 

"Yes, Daddy Meanest! And I have a little favor to ask!"

 

Master Vile's head swung in every direction as the nearing sounds of explosions rocked the area where they were having their unholy communion.

 

"What is that awful sound in the background?" demanded the despot.

 

"That's the thing!" screeched Rita anxiously, "The Machine Empire is invading, and I— heh! —need a place to crash!"

 

"The Machine Empire?!" exclaimed Vile. "The Machine King and his odious Queen are the only creatures that I have ever encountered in my quest for Power, more evil than myself! They destroy everything they touch!"

 

"Exactly, Daddy!" simpered Rita piteously. "So how about it? Will you let us crash for a while with you?!"

 

Master Vile huffed unpleasantly as he took in the ragged group before him, sneering particularly at a glowering Lord Zedd.

 

"I suppose you'll be bringing that husband of yours," he grumbled. "Oh, all right. I'll leave a skeleton key for you under the mat, just don't wake me when you get in!"

 

As his projection shimmered away, Rita crowed in victory as the Putties and Tengas began gathering up the fallen luggage and began eking their way the last hundred feet or so to the cargo hold of the massive serpentine Battle Zord. Soon only Rita and Zedd remained, the latter stubbornly planting himself right where he stood, refusing to move.

 

"I object!" he roared. "I refuse to move in with that decrepit dictator, you call a father!"

 

"Well get over it!" yelled Rita, "it's a done deal! All we have to do is load everything up and we're off to live with Master Vile!"

 

"Never!" retorted Zedd. "I will never place myself under the tender mercies of that madman, not even to save my very existence!"

 

"You can, and you will!" hissed Rita, more menacingly than he had ever heard her before. Before he could object further, she darted forward, and grabbing him by the horn of his visor, she began yanking him behind her as she marched towards the massive form of Sepenterra, ignoring the yells of protest emanating from her husband.

 

In less than an hour, the once mighty dark sorcerer who could boast the title of Emperor of All I See found himself buckled into his own Zord, with only the barest essentials with him and the pathetic entourage of Courtiers surrounding him while his own Queen punched in the coordinates and fired up the engines as they prepared to cower in the domains of that wretched Master Vile as an escape from a rival Empire! What a humiliating conclusion to a battle for power that raged unchecked for over ten thousand years!

 

With a growl of unbridled rage and bitterness, he smashed his fists against the iron throne as Serpenterra slowly ascended into the void of space and prepared to accelerate and blast past the blockade of the Machine Empire's forces, arches of lighting racing up and down his exoskeleton.

 

"Mark my words, Machine King!" he vowed solemnly. "You will pay dearly for your treachery someday! I will be back! And when I return, I will grind your entire House into dust and melt your forces into molten scrap metal! I will rule this galaxy with every drop of evil I possess! And no one—no one!—will ever be able to stand before my Power! I swear it!"


 

o0o

 

 

14 million light years away, at the edge of a distant sector of space known as the Kerova Galaxy, a massive metallic space fortress hung in the void of space. Thousands of small two-fighter attack craft flew in and out of its multiple docking bays. Within the behemoth fortress, nearly fifty thousand mechanical foot soldiers known as Quantrons bustled about the vast space station, carrying out their assigned tasks.

 

One particular Quantron teleported into a silent hall, and quickly made its way to the central hub of the Dark Fortress. A door slid open, and the cybernetic done walked into a control room. The dominating feature of the room was a massive metallic throne. The chair was facing a massive viewing screen and contained a figure sitting quietly, concealed in the shadows.

 

The drone stood at attention for several minutes, before a sharp, and cold voice sliced through the air.

 

"Report."

 

The drone walked up to the back of the chair and began to deliver its report. Had any human been present on that ship, they would have found the lengthy debriefing entirely baffling as the drone seemed only able to make a variety of vibrational sounds. The being sitting in the throne however, was more than able to understand the drone's report perfectly. Once the report was delivered, the Quantron stepped back exactly thirteen paces, saluted, then spun around and exited the room.

 

For the next several minutes, all was silent as the mysterious figure contemplated the information. The eerie silence was then broken once more, by a light, throaty, feminine laugh. The chair slowly began to turn, and upon the completion of its circuit, it revealed the nature of the creature in command of the legions in service on the massive station.

 

A tall, thin human woman lounged comfortably on the throne. She was young in appearance, no older than 21 years of age. Her face was pale and shimmered with glitter and a purplish eye shadow that accentuated the light color of her eyes, giving her an exotic and sultry look.

 

She was dressed in a tight, black space suit, made of a leather-like material. It was accentuated by a silver corset that displayed her voluminous bosom, and a pair of Na'Quat wrist bands, each of them armed with a jutting razor-sharp blade. She had an intricately styled mass of shimmering platinum blonde hair.

 

Despite her sensuous appearance, one glance at her would be enough to warn anyone from thinking to take any unwarranted liberties, for her eyes were cold as ice and a crackling aura of seething dark magic clung to her like an extra layer of skin.

 

"So," mused the woman to herself thoughtfully, "it seems that the Machine King is showing his traitorous colors at last. No wonder he broke off the negotiations for the excavation of Na'Quat ore so abruptly. Now, what to do, what to do?"

 

She fell silent for a few minutes before she slowly began to smile. With a look, she summoned one of the Quantron guards. It snapped to attention the second it came before her presence.

 

"Get me Ecliptor!" she ordered.

 

As the drone ran off to deliver her summons, the woman sat back in her throne and conjured a holographic board displaying several figures in various positions and most notably a miniature facsimile of the Machine King, his Queen, his heir and his Chief Minister.

 

"So, you want to betray the Dark Specter, do you?" whispered the woman aloud as she directed a movement, causing the board to shift as several pawns now surrounded the Machine Empire leadership.

 

"Well, you'll get your chance to try. Search for the Zeo Crystal if you wish, dear Machine King. All the Zeo Crystals in the universe won't be enough power for you to rise above the Supreme Monarch of All Evil. But since I hate playing fair, expect a big surprise. You'll find the Crystal, and deliver its Power—to me."

 

With a chilling smile, she banished the board as the hiss of the door's hyperlocks releasing signaled the arrival of her loyal general.

 

You think you can stab the Dark Specter in the back? Very well you mechanical fool, let the games begin…

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Realignment 

o0o

 

Hundreds of feet below what was once the Command Center, Tanya groaned as she slowly regained consciousness. Opening her eyes just a crack, she noticed that it was dark and somewhat chilly. Her body ached all over, like she had been running full tilt along the grasses of the savanna near the settlement where her adopted tribe lived.

 

Why am I so cold? wondered Tanya as she began to stretch out her legs in an effort to ease the aches that she was feeling so abruptly. She winced as she felt a sharp twinge from her right calf. She must have run into a concealed boulder or something—it wouldn’t be the first time she’d had an accident like that.


I must not have put enough wood on the fire last night,
she decided finally as chills racked up and down her body. Ashalla is always telling me to be mindful of the fire at night.

 

Another stab of pain, caused her to bite her lip. Slightly irritated now, she shook out her right foot—

 

—and froze for a reason other than the cold, when her foot landed on something very warm and fleshy.

 

Tanya’s eyes snapped open and she lurched into an upward position. Why was there a person in her room? She never had anyone with her, except for Ashalla! She kicked lightly at the fleshy object at her feet as she rubbed her eyes. Was that a—was that a boy near her feet? As quickly as she could, she pushed herself off of the ground—which seemed unusually solid and hard—and ignoring the flare of pain in her calf, glared at the body which had been only inches from her feet. It was a boy! And even stranger—a Caucasian boy at that! How on earth could someone like that end up in her personal—

 

Suddenly a wave of dizziness swept through Tanya as an onslaught of memories rushed to her mind. She shook her head, and started breathing faster as it all came back to her…

 

Meeting Aisha…

 

Learning about the true nature of Mama Ashalla’s  personal totem…

 

Learning about Aisha’s secret as part of humanity’s sole line of defense against extraterrestrial threats…

 

Receiving the Zeo Crystal from Aisha, and finding herself in a strange futuristic room with a number of kids who were Aisha’s friends, and the strange yet wonderful being known as Zordon…

 

I remember! Tanya thought as she began looking around. They had been falling for what seemed like an eternity after the ground started shaking. She focused harder on the boy at her feet. It was Billy! She stooped down and checked for his pulse, which thankfully was steady.

 

We must have all fainted during the fall…

 

Sure enough, as she looked around her, she could make out the forms of other prone figures laying on top of dirty rags and dusty boxes, some filled with scrap metals and circuits and who knew what else.

 

Turning back to Billy, Tanya began to light shake the boy in front of her as she willed him to wake.

 

“Come on, Billy! I need you to wake up! Billy, can you hear me? It’s me, Tanya! Wake up! We’ve got to get out of here!”

 

Her heavy heart lightened when Billy slowly started groaning as he slowly regained consciousness. His eyes snapped open, and he shot up like a rocket. He turned, his mouth opening to say something, but he froze when he noticed Tanya.

 

“Tanya?” he asked doubtfully, squinting at her in the darkened room. “Where are we? What happened?”

 

A tremulous smile broke across Tanya’s face, and heedless of her nebulous status with the others, she leapt at him and crushed him in a tight hug as she wordlessly poured her relief into her embrace. Billy found himself automatically returning the hug, awkwardly patting Tanya on the back as his mind rapidly replayed the events of the past several minutes, perhaps even hours. Eventually though, he found himself pressed for breath as Tanya squeezed just a tad too tight.

 

“Tanya—as happy as I am to see that you are relatively unharmed—I do—need to—breathe—if you would—be so kind—”

 

Eyes widening, Tanya released Billy quickly and scooted back, wincing as she faced her new friend.

 

“Sorry Billy,” she said weakly, “I didn’t mean to squeeze the life out of you. I was just so relieved—”

 

“It’s okay,” he replied with a small grin. “I understand the spirit in which your gesture was made. No apologies are necessary.”

 

Smiling gratefully at Billy, Tanya looked over once more the strange place they had landed in.

 

“Do you have any idea where we are?” she asked, as she moved to Katherine and started shaking her awake as well.

 

Frowning, Billy moved over to where Rocky and Adam were strewn across a box of rusty metallic plates. He applied himself to the task of rousing them as well.

 

“I’m not 100% certain,” he admitted while he attempted to rouse his fallen companions, “but I do have a few suspicions.”

 

The next few minutes were taken up in awakening the last four teens, who were also relatively unharmed from the fall, if also a bit sore. Soon everyone was rising to their feet, staring around them in some bewilderment.

 

Soon everybody was on their feet and looking around curiously at their strange surroundings.

 

“Man, I wonder where we are,” sighed Tommy after confirming that no one was hurt. He ran a frustrated hand through his chestnut brown locks as he looked around. “Billy? Do you have any ideas?”

 

The technical expert of their team shrugged as he stared around the metal tunnels.

 

“Well I may be wrong,” he mused thoughtfully, “but now that I’ve had some time to study our surroundings, I think that it may be possible that we’re in the subterranean tunnels that form the foundations of the Command Center. Some of these junk parts appear to be a part of the control console of the main computers.”

 

That stirred the other Rangers, and they looked around their surroundings with sharper eyes, looking for any clues that could confirm or deny Billy’s hypothesis. As they investigated, a shout from Rocky had them quickly gathering around the red clad teen, as he crouched before a box that amidst all of the scrap metal, boasted a discarded item very familiar to the Rangers. A rusted copy of the distinctive face of the robotic guardian of the Command Center, Alpha lay on top of the heap. Rocky pointed at the new evidence with a grimace.

 

“I think we can safely say that we’re underneath the Command Center,” he said. “This must be where all the Command Center equipment came to die.”

 

It was a maudlin joke, and nobody laughed, but Adam did nudge Rocky a bit as he shook his head wryly at the valiant effort.

 

“Great,” sighed Katherine as she dusted herself off and helped Tanya pick at some noticeable cobwebs that she had acquired during the fall. “We’re in the tunnels, which is better than falling endlessly through the Earth into a fiery chasm, but what now?”

 

Before anyone could respond to her pointed query, a loud clattering sound cause them all to jump. As more crashing sounds echoed through the silent corridors, the Rangers closed ranks, searching for the source of the strange disturbance. An even stranger vibration sound began to echo and reecho throughout the cavernous space.

 

“Where’s that sound coming from?” asked Billy as he twisted his head around, trying to pinpoint it’s source.

 

“I don’t know,” said Tommy as he turned and motioned to the others to follow him as he began to pick his way through the damaged metal junk gathering dust, “but let’s follow it. Stick together.”

 

“Right.”

 

Slightly stumbling, the Rangers followed the tall form of their leader as he cautiously began to explore the chambers beyond their sight.

 


 

o0o

 

 

Unbeknownst to them, the large swath of destruction where the Command Center once proudly stood  began to transform into a veritable storm as a surge of energy crackled and snapped between the broken slabs of stone. Arches of white and red lightning flickered as stones began to levitate and reassemble themselves.

 

Slowly, slab after slab of broken stone and twisted metal fitted together, and the walls of the ancient strategic command outpost began to be rebuilt.

 

The Command Center was rising, again…

 


 

o0o

 

 

As they made their way through the metallic tunnels, the weird vibrational sound faded away. By that point though, it seemed like there was almost a magnetic pull, drawing them towards some final destination. The Rangers didn’t fight the pull, but instinctively let it guide them while their eyes peered into the gloom of the deserted lower halls of the Command Center.

 

As they walked on, they froze suddenly as a familiar and distinctive voice suddenly echoed all around them.

 

“—Re-establish communication with data pathways. Serial ports enabled.”

 

Tommy exchanged a startled glance with Billy. Could that be who he thought it was?  The blue clad genius had paused mid-step, eyes narrowed as he focused his hearing.

 

“Guys,” he called out at last, waiting until the others who had continued forward turned back to face him, “I—I think that voice is Alpha.”

 

Just then came the distinctive cry of, “Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi!”

 

The all too familiar cry, caused all of the Rangers to break out into smiles of relief. It was Alpha! Somehow he had managed to survive the implosion after teleporting  them out!

 

Tommy shook his head, his grin brilliant.

 

“Man, that sure sounds like Alpha!”

 

With lightened hearts, they started picking their way through, until another strong tremor rocked them. Shocked, they pressed into each other to keep themselves steady as the ground beneath them shook, raining loose metal parts and torrents of dust and grime over their heads. They huddled there, motionless, until the tremor stopped.

 

“What was that?” whispered Kat, “another earthquake?”

 

They all turned to Billy, who shook his head negatively and attempt to appear nonchalant by the tremor, though the truth burned in his eyes.

 

“It was probably just the foundation settling,” he opined, cautiously stepping forward when the corridor   seemed completely still once more. “Hopefully, it was nothing.”

 

Just then the voice of Alpha 5 echoed throughout the corridor.

 

“Rangers! Rangers, step into the vortex.”

 

The teens looked at each other, confused.

 

“The vortex?” asked Tommy anxiously. Billy shrugged, as lost as any of them were. Still feeling the strange sensation of a pull, the group of bewildered teens began to move through the giant labyrinth of interconnected tunnels in search of the mysterious vortex, Alpha mentioned.

 

Nearly twenty minutes of wandering around after an elusive feeling however, brought them out of the junk-filled corridors to empty, yet clean and gleaming corridors. Faintly, they could hear a faint thru ming sound that grew louder and louder as they were drawn on. Hearts racing, they turned into another corridor and noticed a green glow. Moving towards it, they were completely shocked at what lay before them.

 

A large set of slightly rusted metal doors lay before them, split into four panels, each one bearing the emblem of a lightning bolt. Just behind it was a strange mass of green-yellow energy of some kind. They jumped slightly as the doors slid apart with a hiss and the mass of energy boiled out of its confines, hovering in the air before them like some gelatinous mass.

 

“What is that?” asked Tanya, her voice tinged with awe.

 

As the corridor about them gleamed with that greenish glow, Tommy took in a deep breath before stepping towards the roiling mass, hand outstretched. They needed to know what kind of strange substance it was, but he couldn’t let any other Ranger take the risk. It had to be him.

 

At least I’d actually be doing something right for a change, he thought to himself as his hand crept closer and closer to the swirling mass.

 

“Tommy!” protested Billy, eyes alight with concern for his long-time friend. “Be careful!”

 

Tommy acknowledged his friend’s concern with a grateful glance of appreciation, but continued his approach, until he thrust his hand into the swirling light.

 

Katherine gasped in concern, while Rocky’s hands tightened convulsively where they had rested, over Adam’s triceps.

 

Tommy expected to feel a stab, or the feeling of intense burning, but that’s not what he felt. Frowning slightly, he pulled his hand from the swirling mass and examined the residue on his fingers.

 

The other Rangers all released the breath they had been holding, relieved beyond words that their friend and leader had not been harmed by his move. As the others exchanged relieved glances, Tanya stepped forward, curious as she stared at Tommy rubbing his fingers together silently.

 

“How does it feel, Tommy?” she asked quietly. He frowned again for a brief second as he wracked his brain for an accurate word he could use to describe what he felt, then shrugged as he settled for:

 

“Cool. And a bit sticky.”

 

Just then, they could hear Alpha once again. This time, he sounded a bit impatient.

 

“Rangers,” came the voice of their friendly automaton, “please step into the vortex.”

 

Turning towards the vortex, Tommy steeled himself, then stepped through it, disappearing from sight.  Behind him, Tanya and Kat exchanged encouraging smiles and hands clasped together, stepped through as well. Exchanging quick glances, Billy stepped through next, followed by Adam. That just left Rocky, who cast his glance around the room and back towards the swirling green energy. He knew that the others were safe, but all the same, a part of him didn’t want to brave walking through that energy.

 

Luckily for him, the decision was made for him. As he dawdled, turning his back to the vortex, a blue checkered, flannel covered arm shot back through and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. Tugging sharply, Rocky’s yelp of protest was swallowed up into the swirling vortex as he was pulled in.

 

All the Rangers accounted for, the vortex withdrew itself behind the doorway, and with an echoing hiss of metallic hydraulics, the lightning bolt inscribed door slid close.

 

The sheer brightness of the vortex blinded the Rangers as they felt themselves being shunted off in an indeterminable direction. It was only when the vortex withdrew itself and faded into the ether, that they found their sight returning.

 

Only to have their eyes widen in shock at what lay before them.

 

They found themselves in a gleaming metallic bunker style room. It had the feeling of vast roomy space. As far as the eye could see, glittering panels and instruments beeped and chirped. There were a number of computer consoles, many of them inscribed in languages that were clearly alien in origin. A large globular steel framed screen—oddly reminiscent of the Viewing Globe held pride of place just to the right of a large map displaying the continents of Earth. And in the center…

 

All of the Rangers’ hearts clenched as they saw a massive redesigned plasma tube, held in place by a metallic base. It was devoid of any presence, further heightening anxiety about the ultimate fate of their beloved mentor and friend.

 

Still, the room itself served as a sufficient distraction, and they found themselves holding back gasps of awe as they explored the amazing and roomier environs.

 

“This is absolutely incredible,” breathed the newest member to their team, as she stared around the room. “What is this place?”

 

“The next generation in Strategic Command outposts,” replied Billy as his analytical mind mentally began measuring and calculating the potential usage of the incredible amount of equipment that lay in perfect order around them, “I’ve seen the plans for this in the mainframe of the Command Center, but I had no idea that this place actually existed.”

 

He turned and stilled as he gazed at Tommy, who was frowning as he stared around the state-of-the-art equipment, his eyes unfocused as if he was recalling something…

 

“Tommy?” he asked quietly.

 

Tommy blinked twice, before turning to face Billy, smiling wanly.

 

“Uh, Billy? Did you say something?”

 

The sandy-haired teen’s eyes narrowed as he studied the profile of his friend, who began to squirm under his relentless stare.

 

Just then, the sound of metallic feet began to echo through the room as out of a previously unnoticed side room emerged a face they had been longing to see.

 

“Hello, Rangers,” chirped the gold, crimson and royal-blue plated robotic assistant, Alpha 5 as he walked in.

 

“Welcome home.”

 

 


 

o0o 

 

 

“Alpha!” exclaimed the Rangers as they crowded in around the beloved automaton, relieved to see him completely unharmed.

 

“Rangers!” cried Alpha, “thank goodness that you are all unharmed! I’ve never been so worried in all of my mechanical life!”

 

Beaming, Katherine brushed away joyful tears as she embraced the robot.

 

“I think we’re the one who’ve been worried the most,” she said as she made room for the other teens to greet Alpha in their own way. “Alpha, we thought you were gone forever!”

 

 “Oh, it’ll take more than a little implosion to bring me down, hehe.” Alpha replied with his unique flair as he looked for one Ranger to another. Stepping away from them, he inputted some commands into the main console just in front of the plasma tube, before turning back to face them.

 

“I’m pleased to report that all systems are online, and fully operational,” he said. He stared as the Rangers took in the strange new room they found themselves in.

 

Rocky found himself at a loss of words to express everything that was running through his mind. He stared enthralled at everything around him before trying to communicate his thoughts to Alpha.

 

“Alpha, how did you—I mean—where did this place come from?”

 

“The Chamber has always been here,” replied the robot kindly, recognizing the mountain of questions just simmering within all of the Rangers, “when the Command Center was constructed, this Chamber was built deep underground for the event that certain operations would need to be conducted in as much secrecy as possible, or at such a time that the main Command Center was ever compromised in an attack by the forces of Evil. Consider it if you will, as an underground bunker, only to be utilized in the event of an emergency.”

 

The teens took a few moments to take that in, minds whirling with new information. Adam leaned forward anxiously as he faced Alpha.

 

“Alpha,” he asked, a note of worry in his voice, “what happened to Zordon? Did he make it out?”

 

Instantly the level of tension rose as all of the Rangers turned to witness Alpha’s response. Tommy felt his heart skip a beat as the robot hung his head.

 

“Oh Rangers,” he heard the robot say, “I’m so sorry, I should have said this sooner…”

 

Tanya gasped, Billy’s eyes shut tightly and Rocky stumbled from his perch at those solemn words. Katherine place her hand over her mouth as she stared at Alpha in horror.

 

“You mean—Zordon, he—he’s—?”

 

Alpha’s head rotated rapidly from face to face in confusion, before his sensors picked up the heightened chemical responses that humans exhibited during times of intense grief. Wildly, he shook his head, hands raised as if to ward off a terrible vision.

 

“Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi!” he cried. “Rangers, no! Don’t even think it! Zordon is completely fine!”

 

The declaration shook all of the teens out of their grief stricken thoughts as they stared at Alpha in amazement.

 

“You mean, he—he’s alive?” asked Billy, his voice a couple touches higher pitched than normal, evidence of his rattled state of mind.

 

“Of course he is!” exclaimed Alpha 5, exasperatedly. “In fact, here he comes now!”

 

The Rangers whirled around and following the path of Alpha’s pointed finger, focused on the Plasma Tube, now alight with a swirl of incandescent energies as the familiar visage of Zordon lowered into the view of all.

 

GREETINGS, MY YOUNG FRIENDS, boomed the ethereal voice of the Eltarian sage.

 

A collective release of breath echoed around the Chamber as the Rangers greeted the appearance of Zordon with a hail of relieved sighs and surprised shouts. The intergalactic being chuckled fondly as he gazed down at the faces of his Rangers, taking in their shocked expressions.

 

“Thank goodness you’re alright!” exclaimed Katherine tearfully as she attempted to collect herself as she gazed up towards that wise face. “We thought that you didn’t make it.”

 

I ASSURE YOU, MY DEAR THAT I WAS IN NO WAY HARMED BY THE IMPLOSION DEVICE SET BY RITO AND GOLDAR. Zordon replied with a smile. INDEED, I WAS FAR MORE CONCERNED WITH YOUR SAFETY THAN MY OWN, AS I KNEW THAT YOU WOULD MORE LIKELY BE HARMED BY THE IMPLOSION THAN ALPHA AND MYSELF. I AM RELIEVED THAT YOU WERE ALL UNHARMED AND REMAIN IN RELATIVELY GOOD HEALTH.

 

The teens all broke out into smiles, except for Tommy, who just stared forward emotionless. His uncharacteristic silence earned him a furtive glance from Billy, who elected to not say anything for the moment.

 

I APOLOGIZE FOR NOT REVEALING THE EXISTENCE OF THIS CHAMBER TO YOU BEFORE HAND, HOWEVER I COULD NOT RISK ANY LEAK OF THIS LOCATION MAKING ITS WAY TO RITA OR LORD ZEDD.

 

He gazed down upon Tanya solemnly.

 

AND TO YOU MY DEAR, he continued, I OWE A SPECIAL APOLOGY. I DID NOT ANTICIPATE YOUR ARRIVAL BEING MARRED BY SUCH A TRAUMATIC EVENT. I REGRET THAT YOU HAVEN’T HAD AN EASIER TIME IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW SURROUNDINGS.

 

Tanya smiled as she looked around at everyone. “It’s been a bit crazy,” she admitted, “but thanks to everyone here, I think I got through everything just fine.” She exchanged a small smile with Katherine before turning back to face Zordon.

 

THOUGH THE FORCES OF RITA AND ZEDD HAVE STRUCK A TERRIBLE BLOW AGAINST US, THEY WILL BE DISAPPOINTED TO LEARN THAT THEIR ATTEMPT WAS HARDLY ONE THAT WILL CRIPPLE US NOW OR IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE. RANGERS, BEHOLD THE VIEWING GLOBE.

 

The Rangers turned to the heavily modified Viewing Globe now just to the right of the plasma tube, and gasped in delight as they witnessed the last bits of stone fit into place in a flash of electrical currents as the exterior of the Command Center stood proudly once more, as if nothing had ever occurred to it.

 

AS YOU CAN SEE, rumbled Zordon, THROUGH THE POWER OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL, I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RECONSTRUCT THE EXTERIOR OF THE COMMAND CENTER. UNFORTUNATELY, IT WILL BE SEVERAL MONTHS BEFORE THE UPPER LEVELS OF THE COMMAND CENTER WILL BE ABLE TO BE USED AGAIN. IN THE INTERIM, THE ZEO CHAMBER WILL SERVE AS OUR BASE OF OPERATIONS. MANY OF THE SYSTEMS AVAILABLE IN THIS CHAMBER ARE MORE ADVANCED THAN WHAT YOU MAY HAVE BECOME USED TO IN THE PREVIOUS COMMAND CENTER. IT WILL BE AN INVALUABLE TOOL IN OUR FIGHT AGAINST EVIL.

 

“I’m sure it will be,” said Billy. “The systems here are indeed very impressive.”

 

THOUGH WE HAVE MANY REASONS TO CELEBRATE, said Zordon on a more somber note, I’M AFRAID THE TIME TO DO SO IS NOT NOW. IT IS MY REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT A GREAT AND POWERFUL THREAT HAS ENTERED OUR GALAXY, AND EVEN NOW PREPARES TO LAUNCH AN OVERWHELMING ASSAULT UPON THE DEFENSELESS POPULATIONS OF EARTH.

 

“A powerful threat?” questioned Adam. “Do you mean Rita and Zedd?”

 

I WISH IT WERE SO, ADAM. HOWEVER THIS EVIL FORCE IS FAR MORE HOSTILE, EFFICIENT AND TERRIBLE THAN RITA REPULSA AND LORD ZEDD COULD EVER HOPE TO BE, EVEN AT THE ZENITH OF THEIR COMBINED POWERS.

 

The pronouncement was stunning, causing Tommy and Billy to look at each other in alarm. Alone among the six, the two longest serving Rangers knew first hand the depths of depravity to which Rita descended in her battles against the Earth. Even more so, they both continued to carry the scars of the first and most terrible battles against Lord Zedd that nearly cost them Tommy’s life as well as his powers—and did cost them the life of their oft-mourn friend, Trini Kwan, the first Yellow Ranger of Earth. In less than a month Zedd had nearly crippled their team; Tommy’s torture, subsequent power loss, and Trini’s death leading Jason and Zack—the Red and Black Rangers—to give up their powers and join the Global Youth Summit in Switzerland.

 

Even with their team restored with the arrival of Aisha, Adam, and Rocky—later to include Katherine—and Tommy becoming the White Ranger, as well as the new powers and allies that they gained over the past year, they had barely been able to hold Zedd back. And now there was a new enemy more evil and depraved than even Lord Zedd?

 

They turned back to join their stunned teammates who were looking at Zordon with expressions of mingled shock, and horror. He sstared back grimly as they processed the shocking revelation.

 

RANGERS, IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU LISTEN CLOSELY TO WHAT I ABOUT TO TELL YOU, he said authoritatively. WE MUST PREPARE OURSELVES TO FACE THE THREAT OF THE DREADED MACHINE EMPIRE. IT IS THE ONE OF THE FEW THREATS THAT MAY PROVE TO BE UNSTOPPABLE.

 

Aghast, the Rangers stared at Zordon. Then the air was filled with questions, with Alpha anxiously attempting to calm them down.

 

“The Machine Empire?”

 

“—I don’t get it. Who are they?”

 

“How come we’ve never heard of them before?”

 

“Where did they come from?”

 

“How can we fight them without our powers?”

 

“What about Rita and Lord Zedd?”

 

“What are they coming around here for?”

 

“Can we stop them somehow?”

 

It wasn’t until the acrid smell of burning metal hit their nostrils that they realized that with all the questions and Alpha’s attempts to restore order in the Command Center, the poor robot was starting to short circuit, prompting them to settle down, and make sure that Alpha was okay.

 

“I’m sorry Alpha, Zordon,” said Billy on their behalf as he double checked to make sure that no permanent damage to the automaton’s circuitry was present. “I guess there’s just so many things that we need to know.”

 

AND SO YOU SHALL, BILLY. I WILL ENDEAVOR TO CONVEY ALL OF THE RELEVANT INFORMATION TO YOU ALL, SO YOU MAY BE PREPARED. NOW, LISTEN CAREFULLY, ALL OF YOU. THE MACHINE EMPIRE AS ONE MIGHT GUESS, IS AN EMPIRE COMPLETELY MADE UP BY MECHANICAL BEINGS. THEY HAVE MADE IT THEIR MISSION TO AMASS AS MUCH TERRITORY THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSE AS IS NECESSARY TO PERPETUATE THEIR REPLICATION, AND TO CONTROL ALL NON-MECHANICAL LIFEFORMS. THESE CREATURES ARE UNLIKE ANY OTHER MECHANICAL LIFE-FORM IN EXISTENCE, AS THEY ARE CONSTRUCTED FOR ONLY ONE PURPOSE: EXPANSION AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL ELSE. THEY KNOW NOTHING OF DECENCY, MORALS OR FAIR PLAY. THEY ARE PITILESS, CRUEL, AND SHOW NO MERCY TO THEIR VICTIMS. THEY WILL WAR RELENTLESSLY UNTIL THEY HAVE DESTROYED ALL RESISTANCE. THEY DELIGHT IN RUINING HABITABLE WORLDS, KILLING ALL BUT THE FEW SLAVES NEEDED TO AID THE IN STRIPPING EACH CONQUERED WORLD OF ITS MINERAL AND FUEL DEPOSITS IN ORDER TO EXPAND THEIR EVER EXPANDING ARMY. THEY FEED ON ENERGY, AND HAVE TURNED ENTIRE STAR SYSTEMS INTO BARREN REALMS, DEVOID OF ALL LIFE. THROUGHOUT THEIR LONG EXISTENCE, THEY HAVE CONQUERED SEVERAL GALAXIES AND ARE AMONG THE MOST POWERFUL FORCES OF EVIL IN THE HABITABLE UNIVERSE.

 

The Rangers looked at each other in dismay. How could they face something so relentless and powerful? Billy started running simulations and projections of their capabilities even as Power Rangers and shook his head in despair. Even with their powers fully restored and access to their complete arsenal, their powers wouldn’t be enough to stem the tide against such an overwhelming force.

 

He turned to ask Tommy something and paused. Tommy was completely still, staring steadily in Zordon’s tube without blinking. His eyes were cold and his entire frame was wracked with a strange tension. Billy edged closer in bewilderment. What was Tommy’s issue?

 

The normally confident and positive thinking teen huffed nonchalantly. That made Billy’s eyebrows rise. Did he just—blow off Zordon’s warning? A few feet away, he espied Adam looking at Tommy quizzically.

 

Zordon gazed steadily at the uncharacteristically silent young man in charge of the Rangers. He too recognized the incongruous mannerisms, however he also could read the tension in his body and the spark of hurt shining in his eyes. He understood what he longed to ask, but dared not say aloud without encouragement.

 

I TAKE IT TOMMY THAT YOU HAVE SOME QUESTIONS?

 

“A couple,” answered Tommy woodenly, “The Machine Empire wouldn’t normally enter this sector of the galaxy, would they? Not without a really good reason. A reason that we provided them, didn't we?"

 

His terse question caused alarm bells to ring in Billy’s mind. Where was Tommy going with this? It was very unusual for their leader to take such an antagonistic tone with their mentor. Something was up.

 

Zordon didn't appear to have been offended by Tommy's questioning. In fact, he appeared to have been anticipating it, for he calmly faced the leader of the Rangers as he stared defiantly back.

 

YOUR REASONING IS NOT ALTOGETHER INCORRECT TOMMY, answered the Eltarian. THE MACHINE EMPIRE HAS TRAVELED FAR BEYOND THEIR NORMAL HAUNTS AND TERRITORIES AND SEEK TO CLAIM THE EARTH AND THIS GALAXY AS THE FINAL CHAIN IN THEIR QUEST FOR COMPLETE DOMINION OVER THE KNOWN UNIVERSE FOR ONE REASON AND ONE REASON ONLY. AS YOU HAVE DEDUCED, THEY HAVE COME FOR THE POWER OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL. 

 

 "I see," said Tommy, his voice hard and brittle. "And how did you know that this Machine Empire would be gunning for the Zeo Crystal? Better yet, maybe you can explain how long you've known about this whole mess."

 

His voice was now undeniably frigid, and even Tanya and Katherine were now glancing at Tommy hesitantly. Rocky, Adam and Billy exchanged furtive glances and Billy stepped a little bit closer to Tommy, laying his hand on his shoulder as a sign of support.

 

"Tommy," said Billy quietly, "maybe now isn't the best time to be getting into—"

 

"Billy," retorted Tommy, shrugging the other teen's hand off of his shoulders, "now is the perfect time."

 

Adam stared uncertainly at the long-haired teen.

 

"Tommy—"

 

But Tommy, ignoring their protests focused his gaze on Zordon in a rare show of defiance. His eyes flashed with an indecipherable emotion as he glared at his mentor.

 

"Go on," he challenged, "tell us when you found out about the Machine Empire's arrival. And then, maybe you can explain why you found it so convenient to hide the truth from us!"

 

Zordon stared sadly into Tommy's face. He could see the hidden emotions swimming in his eyes and recognized what he needed to do.

 

YOUR SUSPICIONS, TOMMY ARE CORRECT. I DID INDEED POSSESS KNOWLEDGE OF THE APPROACH OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE, SEVERAL WEEKS IN ADVANCE. THERE WERE IMPORTANT FACTORS HOWEVER, THAT PLAYED INTO MY DECISION TO REFRAIN FROM IMMEDIATELY ALERTING YOU AND THE OTHER RANGERS TO THEIR APPROACH. IF YOU WILL ALLOW ME, I WILL EXPLAIN MY REASONING WITH ALL OF YOU.

 

The other Rangers were shocked by the candid admission of Zordon, and stared at each other, askance. Why did Zordon keep this from them until now? What could possibly be the reason? Billy mentally reviewed all of the major events that had taken place over the past few weeks that may have played a part in Zordon's decision making process. When could he have gotten that information? The only possible time he could think of was the suddeness with which Zordon revealed to them the need to—

 

With a flash, Billy realized what Tommy must have intuitively understood. He pushed past Tommy to face Zordon directly, mind aflame with the realization he had made.

 

"Zordon, is that the reason why you had Tommy and the others go on the Zeo Quest?" he asked pointedly. Adam and Rocky's attention swung from Tommy to Billy. For his part, Zordon appeared untroubled by Billy's analytical leap.

 

YOU ARE CORRECT IN PART, BILLY. KNOWLEDGE OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE'S APPROACH DID INDEED PLAY A PART IN MY DECISION TO SEND YOU ALL ON THE QUEST TO RECOVER THE ZEO CRYSTAL. HOWEVER MY KNOWLEDGE OF OUR PRESENT CRISIS EXTENDED FAR BEYOND THE LAST FEW DAYS. IT WAS KNOWLEDGE OF THE APPROACH OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE THAT INFLUENCED ME TO RECOMMEND A RANGER TO ENTER THE CAVES OF DECEPTION IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT ITS MIGHTY POWERS DID NOT FALL INTO THE HANDS OF EVIL.

 

"You knew, even back then?" gasped Katherine. "Then why didn't you ever tell us?" 

 

As one, all of the Rangers focused their gaze upon Zordon. Before he could answer however, Tommy glanced at his teammates before glaring back at Zordon, his shoulders begin to shake with repressed emotion.

 

"You didn't trust us with this knowledge, did you?" Tommy hissed. "Or more specifically, maybe you just didn't trust me."

 

THAT IS A MISTAKEN ASSUMPTION, TOMMY. replied Zordon, a frown forming on his spectral face for the first time since the unexpected confrontation.

 

"Really?" Tommy shot back. "Then why didn't you tell us earlier? Did you think that we didn't deserve to know that a greater threat was on its way? Maybe if we had known that the Machine Empire was on its way, we would have done things differently—been better prepared. Been more careful!"

 

I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU FEEL HURT THAT I DID NOT CONFIDE IN YOU OR YOUR TEAM, replied Zordon as he glanced at each of the confused and disappointed visages before him. PLEASE UNDERSTAND, I DID NOT WITHHOLD THIS KNOWLEDGE BECAUSE OF LACK OF TRUST, BUT AS A PRECAUTION. YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE TRUE NATURE OF THE PERIL YOU HAVE BEEN FACING THESE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, HOWEVER I WILL EXPLAIN WHAT I COULD NOT AND DID NOT FULLY EXPLAIN TO YOU BEFORE.

 

DURING THE ARRIVAL OF MASTER VILE TO OUR SOLAR SYSTEM, I WAS CONTACTED BY AN OLD ASSOCIATE OF MINE, A FELLOW MEMBER OF THE A SPECIAL ALLIANCE WHICH I WAS HONORED TO SERVE A ROLE IN, KNOWN AS THE COUNCIL OF LIGHT. MY ASSOCIATE REPORTED TO ME THAT RUMOR HAD SPREAD THROUGHOUT SEVERAL GALAXIES OF THE BOASTS OF MASTER VILE THAT HE WOULD CLAIM THE POWER OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL FOR HIS OWN. THIS RUMOR HAD FALLEN INTO THE EARS OF AGENTS OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE, WHO IMMEDIATE BEGAN MASSING AN ARMADA TO TRAVEL TO THIS SYSTEM AND PREVENT THE CRYSTAL FROM FALLING INTO VILE'S HANDS. I KNEW THAT YOU WERE ALREADY UNDER ENOUGH PRESSURE WITH THE CONSTANT ATTACKS BY RITA AND ZEDD, AS WELL AS THE ADDITIONAL PERIL FACED WITH MASTER VILE'S ARRIVAL TO OUR GALAXY. I KNEW THAT IT WOULD SERVE NO PURPOSE TO INFORM YOU OF A THREAT THAT WOULD NOT MATERIALIZE FOR WEEKS TO COME, WHEN YOU WERE ALREADY FACING SUCH POTENT ADVERSARIES. I ALSO DID NOT WISH TO ALERT RITA, ZEDD, OR MASTER VILE TO ANY ADVANCE NOTICE OF THE APPROACH OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE'S FORCES. IF ANY OF YOU HAD POSSESSED KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR ARRIVAL, AND BEEN CAPTURED BY THE ENEMY AS WAS OUR FRIEND NINJOR, THE KNOWLEDGE GAINED WOULD PROVE TO BE CATASTROPHIC TO OUR CAUSE. 

 

"What do you mean, Zordon?" inquired Tanya—probably the only one among the Rangers least affected by the revelations. "How would Rita and Zedd gaining this knowledge create more problems for us?"

 

AN EXCELLENT QUESTION, MY DEAR, replied Zordon, as he turned to face Tanya. IF MASTER VILE HAD OBTAINED ADVANCED NOTICE OF THE ARRIVAL OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE, IT IS MORE THAN PROBABLE THAT HE WOULD NOT HAVE LEFT AS PRECIPITOUSLY AS HE DID. ADDITIONALLY, AS A RULER OF A GALAXY MASTER VILE WOULD MOST LIKELY ATTEMPT TO FORGE A TEMPORARY ALLIANCE WITH THE MACHINE EMPIRE, IN ORDER TO RID THEMSELVES OF A MORE IMMINENT THREAT: YOU. IF SUCH AN ALLIANCE WERE TO BE MADE, THIS PLANET WOULD SWIFTLY BE DECIMATED BY THE COMBINATION OF THEIR FORCES. YOUR LIVES WOULD HAVE BEEN FORFEIT. I COULD NOT TAKE THAT CHANCE. 

 

"So, you were trying to protect us?" asked Rocky, doubt clinging to his voice.

 

THAT IS CORRECT, ROCKY. I DID NOT WISH FOR YOU TO BECOME OVERWHELMED BY SEEMINGLY INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS AND LOSE YOUR HOPE AND THE WILL TO FIGHT. AND THAT IS PART OF THE REASON WHY I HAD YOU RECOVER THE CRYSTAL, THEN SEPARATE IT INTO ITS SUBDIVISIONS BEFORE SCATTERING THEM THROUGH SPACE AND TIME.  I HOPED THAT THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE CRYSTAL WOULD DISCOURAGE MASTER VILE AND LEAD HIM TO RETREAT, THUS ENSURING THAT THE MACHINE EMPIRE WOULD NOT PURSUE THEIR PLANS TO ACTIVELY ATTEMPT TO GRASP THE POWER OF THE CRYSTAL. ALAS, I DID NOT ANTICIPATE MASTER VILE'S FURTHER ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY YOU...NOR HIS ULTIMATE AND MOST SUCCESSFUL PLAN TO ALTER THE FLOW OF TIME THROUGH THE POWER OF THE ORB OF DOOM.

 

The Rangers, all of them except for Tommy accepted Zordon's words, seeing the wisdom in his strategy. The White Ranger however remained silent.

 

IT WAS AT THAT TIME THAT I REALIZED THE IMPORTANCE OF RECOVERING THE CRYSTAL AT ONCE. I KNEW THAT ITS POWER WOULD BE THE ONLY THING ABLE TO NULLIFY THE EFFECTS OF THE ORB OF DOOM; THIS NEED WAS COMPOUNDED WHEN RITA AND LORD ZEDD SUCCEEDED IN DESTROYING YOUR POWER COINS. I KNEW THEN THAT ONLY THE ZEO CRYSTAL WOULD BE ABLE TO RESTORE YOUR POWERS AS WELL AS YOUR NATURAL AGES. THAT IS WHY WHEN I HAD DEVISED THE WAY TO SEND YOU ALL SAFELY TO AND FROM THE RESTING PLACES OF THE CRYSTAL PIECES, AND THE HELP OF THE AQUITIAN RANGERS WAS SECURED, I SENT YOU ON THE ZEO QUEST.

 

Zordon now focused his attention especially upon the recalcitrant White Ranger. He understood the ill-placed guilt that Tommy felt concerning the loss of the Power Coins and the Command Center, and willed his words to penetrate his defenses and touch his heart.

 

ONCE YOU HAD ALL RETURNED SAFELY FROM YOUR JOURNEYS, he continued, IT WAS MY INTENTION TO INFORM YOU OF THE NEW THREAT, ONCE THE AQUITIANS HAD BEEN SAFELY SEEN OFF AND TANYA FULLY APPRAISED. AGAIN, I UNDERESTIMATED ZEDD'S RESOURCEFULNESS. I WAS SO FOCUSED ON YOUR JOURNEY AND THE RESTORATION OF THE CRYSTAL THAT I DID NOT DISCERN THE PRESENCE OF RITO AND GOLDAR, UNTIL THEY ATTEMPTED TO ABSCOND WITH THE COMPLETED CRYSTAL AND TRIGGERED THE IMPLOSION THAT DESTROYED THE COMMAND CENTER.

 

TOMMY, he continued, REST ASSURED THAT NEITHER I OR ANY MEMBER OF YOUR TEAM CONSIDER YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY OF THE RECENT MISFORTUNES AND SETBACKS WE HAVE SUFFERED. I HAVE BEEN AND REMAIN VERY PROUD OF HOW YOU HAVE SERVED THE TEAM AS LEADER. WERE IT NOT FOR YOUR NOBILITY OF SPIRIT, RARE TALENTS OF LEADERSHIP, AND INCREDIBLE SKILL AND OPTIMISM; I FEAR THAT THE PAINFUL AND TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES THAT WE HAVE FACED IN RECENT WEEKS WOULD HAVE PROVEN TO BE OUR DOWNFALL. INDEED, YOU HAVE FULLY JUSTIFIED NOT ONLY MY OWN FAITH IN YOUR LEADERSHIP, BUT ALSO THE FAITH OF THE PREVIOUS LEADER TO THE POWER RANGERS, OUR FRIEND, JASON. I AM EXTREMELY GLAD THAT I LISTENED TO HIS RECOMMENDATION THAT YOU TAKE HIS PLACE AS THE LEADER OF THE POWER RANGERS.

 

Tommy's eyes widened in shock, as did Billy's. This was the first any of them had heard of Jason playing a role in that surprise announcement nearly a year and a half ago. 

 

"What?" breathed Tommy. "You mean, Jason is the reason why I became the leader?" 

 

JASON PLAYED A CRITICAL ROLE IN MY DECISION MAKING PROCESS, confessed Zordon. THOUGH JASON WAS AN EXCELLENT LEADER, HE FELT THAT THE TEAM WOULD BE IN BETTER HANDS, IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO LEAD. AT THE TIME, THOUGH HE HAD NOT YET DECIDED TO LEAVE FOR THE GLOBAL YOUTH SUMMIT, NOR DID HE REALIZE THAT ALPHA AND I WERE CRAFTING NEW AND STRONGER POWERS TO REPLACE THE FAILING POWERS OF THE GREEN RANGER, JASON BELIEVED IN YOUR ABILITY. WHEN YOUR INITIAL POWERS FAILED, HE IMMEDIATELY OFFERED TO PASS THE RED RANGER POWERS TO YOU, ALONG WITH THE MANTLE OF LEADERSHIP. OF COURSE, THAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE AT THE TIME TO DO AS WE LACKED THE SWORD OF LIGHT. ONCE THE POWER OF THE WHITE RANGER WAS PREPARED HOWEVER, I HONORED HIS REQUEST TO GRANT YOU THE POSITION OF LEADERSHIP WHICH YOU HAVE SINCE NOBLY BORNE. NEITHER HE NOR I HAVE EVER HAD CAUSE TO REGRET OUR DECISION.

 

Tears stung in Tommy's eyes as he processed information that he had never known before. Even though he made such a mess of things since becoming the White Ranger, Jason and Zordon still had confidence in him? The knowledge moved him like no other part of Zordon's explanations had. Shaken, he exchanged a long glance with Zordon, his eyes wordlessly communicating his acceptance of Zordon's explanation and apology for doubting him. Zordon nodded in acknowledgement of the unspoken words, before doing something no one anticipated.

 

RANGERS, he said as solemnly as he had ever addressed them before, I BELIEVE THAT I OWE YOU ALL MY SINCEREST APOLOGIES. I DO NOT EVER WANT YOU TO FEEL AS IF MY TRUST IN ANY OF YOU HAS WANED. YOU STAND HERE BEFORE ME, PRECISELY BECAUSE OUT OF ALL THE POTENTIAL INDIVIDUALS WHO COULD HAVE SERVED AS A POWER RANGER, YOU HAVE SHOWN YOURSELVES TO BE THE ONES THAT I CAN TRUST WITH GREAT POWER AND KNOWLEDGE. IF I HAVE NOT BEEN AS FORTHCOMING AS I COULD BE OR OUGHT TO BE, UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS ONLY BECAUSE I CARE FOR YOU THAT I SHARE WITH YOU AT TIMES ONLY ENOUGH INFORMATION FOR YOU TO EFFECTIVELY CONTINUE YOUR ROLE AS EARTH'S ONLY LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST INTERPLANETARY FOES. I MAY NOT ALWAYS BE ABLE TO INFORM YOU OF THE REASONS BEHIND MY REQUESTS, BUT KNOW THAT AS A PARENT OR A TEACHER SEEKS THE BEST FOR THE CHILD OF THEIR CARE, SO I, AS YOUR GUIDE IN THE WAYS OF THE GREAT POWER SEEK NOTHING LESS THAN YOUR SAFETY AND SUCCESS IN EACH TASK YOU FACE. FORGIVE ME, FOR NOT MAKING THAT CLEAR.

 

Tommy tremulously smiled as he accepted a squeeze on his shoulders by Billy and shared looks of solidarity with the other teens. Turning to Zordon, Tommy nodded once as well, in acknowledgement of Zordon's words and that it was accepted by the Rangers. 

 

I THANK YOU FOR YOUR TRUST RANGERS, replied Zordon, relieved. AND NOW, IT IS TIME THAT YOU BECOME FULLY ACQUAINTED WITH OUR NEW ENEMY. BEHOLD THE VIEWING GLOBE.

 

The Rangers looked towards the Viewing Globe, and blanched as they witnessed images of thousands of rust colored ships, shooting energy beams from the limb-like protrusions on their attack craft. Thousands upon thousands of silver or rust colored mechanical robots materialized, waving spears and shooting energy beams from their eyes.

 

THESE ARE THE COGS, THE FIGHTING FORCE OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE. THEY ARE EXTREMELY RESILIENT AND FORMIDABLE FOES, CAPABLE OF INTELLIGENT THOUGHT, WHEN SO ORDERED BY THEIR MASTERS. THESE FIGHTING MACHINES CAN BE MANUFACTURED BY THE DOZENS, EVERY HOUR. THEY POSSES FAR GREATER STRENGTH THAN EVEN THE TENGA WARRIORS, AND MUST BE FULLY DISMANTLED IN ORDER TO STOP THEM FROM ACCOMPLISHING THEIR MISSION.

 

Rocky whistled as he watched the footage of the Cogs at work.

 

"Man," he groused, "those are some seriously nasty pieces of work. They look like they wont stop just because of a few jabs and kicks, unlike the Z-Putties or the Tengas."

 

THEY ARE INDEED FORMIDABLE, agreed Zordon. HOWEVER EVEN MORE POWERFUL FOES AWAIT YOU. BEHOLD THE LEADERSHIP OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE.

 

The images in the Viewing Globe changed and now showed a strange quartet of mechanical beings, ostentatiously designed. The Rangers eyes were drawn especially to the rotund robot with a large rotating crown upon his 'head'.

 

THOUGH THE EMPIRE IS VAST AND PRONE TO MUCH INFIGHTING, THE UNDISPUTED MASTER OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE IS MONDO, THE EMPIRE'S MACHINE KING. HE IS UTTERLY RUTHLESS AND WILL STOOP TO ANY END, NO MATTER HOW DISTASTEFUL IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE VICTORY AGAINST HIS ENEMIES. HIS POWERS ARE VAST, AND HIS RESOURCES PRACTICALLY ENDLESS. BILLIONS OF MACHINES OBEY HIS COMMANDS.

 

The Viewing Globe focused on the apparently female robot who, though wearing no crown, was draped in glittering fabric and plated with gold. She snapped a metallic fan as she stalked the screen. Tanya shivered at the creature and drew closer to Katherine, who attempted to reassure her with a small smile.

 

MONDO IS AIDED BY HIS QUEEN, MACHINA. SHE IS AS UNSCRUPULOUS AS HER HUSBAND AND EVEN MORE VILE. BEWARE HER FORM, FOR SHE IS A FORMIDABLE MARKSWOMAN AND NOTABLE ASSASSIN.

 

The images changed to a squat, smaller copy of King Mondo. This robot boasted a smaller crown, with glowing crystals. 

 

THIS IS THE FIRST BUILT SON AND HEIR APPARENT TO THE MACHINE EMPIRE, PRINCE SPROCKET. DO NOT BE FOOLED BY HIS SMALL SIZE AND YOUNG APPEARANCE. PRINCE SPROCKET IS EQUALLY AS CRUEL AS HIS PARENTS AND FAR OLDER THAN HIS APPEARANCE SUGGESTS. 

 

Next, the Globe showed a strange mismatched robot, one half a brilliant silver and the other half a dull copper. He carried a miniature robot upon his shoulders, its face also multi-colored. They appeared to bow and scrape before the other three robots.

 

AND LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST ARE KLANK AND ORBUS, THE FOOTMEN TO THE THRONE. THEY ARE IN CHARGE OF DIRECTING THEIR KING'S MECHANICAL FORCES, AND OFTEN SERVE AS HIS REPRESENTATIVES TO THE WORLDS THAT THEY INVADE. THEIR LOYALTY TO THE MACHINE KING IS ABSOLUTE, AND THEY ARE WILY AND CUNNING.

 

TOGETHER, THEY FORM THE ROYAL HOUSE OF GADGETRY, THE RULING FAMILY OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE. THEY WILL STOP AT NOTHING UNTIL THEY OBTAIN THE ZEO CRYSTAL AND CONTROL THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

 

"I can't believe that Rita and Zedd would put up with this level of competition," remarked Adam as he stared at the Viewing Globe, aghast. 

 

YOU WOULD BE CORRECT, ADAM...IF THEY POSSESSED ENOUGH POWER TO OPPOSE THEM. HOWEVER, NOT ONLY ARE THEY NOT ABLE TO RESIST THE MIGHT OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE, MY SENSORS DETECT THAT THE LUNAR PALACE HAS BEEN DECIMATED BY THE FORCES OF KING MONDO; RITA AND ZEDD HAVING FLED TO SAFER HAVENS IN SERPENTERA. 

 

That news caused the Rangers to swing their gazes to Zordon in shock. Rita and Zedd...gone? What should have been welcome news, instead shook their confidence as nothing could. 

 

"Zordon, what chance do we have against the Machine Empire then?" asked Tommy. "We were barely able to protect the Earth from Rita and Zedd. There's no way, even if we have our Power Coins restored that we'll be able to stand up to these guys."

 

"Tommy has a point," whispered Katherine. "What hope do we have against them, if Rita and Zedd ran at the first sign of trouble?"

 

I AM AFRAID THAT I HAVE NO EASY RESPONSE OR ASSURANCE TO GIVE YOU, RANGERS. Zordon's face grew grave as he stared at the frightened teens. IT IS TRUE THAT YOU WOULD BE HARD PRESSED TO FACE THESE NEW FOES, EVEN IF YOU HAD YOUR POWER COINS COMPLETELY RESTORED. THE ARMIES OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE NUMBER IN THE BILLIONS, AND THEIR COGS WOULD PROVE RESISTANT TO YOUR NINJA POWERS. 

 

WE DO NOT YET HAVE ANY DATA ON THE CAPABILITY OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE TO INCREASE THE SIZE OF THEIR MECHANICAL ATTACK MACHINES AT WILL, HOWEVER THEY DO POSSESS THE ABILITY TO CONSTRUCT ZORD-SIZED ROBOTS, WHOSE POWERS WOULD EASILY BE A MATCH, OR EVEN EXCEED THE POWER OF EVEN THE SHOGUN MEGAZORD. 

 

"Then how can we beat them?" asked Adam.

 

Zordon paused for a moment, choosing to word his next statement carefully.

 

THE ODDS MAY APPEAR TO BE OVERWHELMING, he said. BUT DO NOT LOSE HOPE. AS I SAID, I HAVE BEEN PREPARING FOR THIS EMERGENCY WITH THE AID OF ALPHA 5. WE HAVE DEVELOPED TECHNOLOGY THAT WILL ENABLE YOU TO ACCESS A NEW LEVEL OF POWER, FAR IN ADVANCE OF ANY POWERS YOU HAVE WIELDED UP UNTIL NOW. THIS POWER HAS BEEN MADE ACCESSIBLE TO US DUE TO YOUR SUCCESSFUL QUESTS TO REUNITE THE SHARDS OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL. BEHOLD, THE FULLY ENERGIZED AND RESTORED ZEO CRYSTAL.

 

Twin bolts of lightning flashed from his eyes, and the Rangers were amazed to see the Zeo Crystal, floating in the air above them.

 

WHEN THE CRYSTAL WAS REASSEMBLED, explained Zordon, I PLACED PROTECTIONS ON IT THAT WOULD PREVENT IT FROM BEING TAKEN BEYOND THE GROUNDS OF THE COMMAND CENTER. AS YOU DISCOVERED, THOUGH RITO AND GOLDAR TOOK THE CRYSTAL FROM US, THEY WERE UNABLE TO BYPASS THE PROTECTIONS PLACED, WITH THE CRYSTAL IN TOW. 

 

WHEN I SENT YOU ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL QUESTS, IT WAS NEVER WITH THE INTENTION TO MERELY RESTORE YOUR LOST POWER COINS. I KNEW THAT THEY WOULD NO LONGER BE AN EFFECTIVE POWER AGAINST THE MIGHT OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE. THAT IS WHY FOR MANY WEEKS, ALPHA AND I HAVE BEEN SECRETLY DEVELOPING TOOLS THAT WILL DRAW THEIR ENERGY FROM THE ZEO CRYSTAL. ONCE INFUSED WITH THE POWER OF THE CRYSTAL, YOU WILL GAIN ACCESS TO INCREDIBLE POWER. THESE HEIGHTENED POWERS WILL GIVE YOU THE EDGE NEEDED TO REPEL THE FORCES OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE.

 

As Zordon revealed the measures taken, Billy found himself lost in thought. With startling clarity, he understood at last why Zordon had refused to send him along with the others during the Zeo Quest. The realization brought a pang of severe disappointment to his heart as he realized what would have to occur. With the disappointment however, was a deep set conviction that events had proceeded as they were meant to. He looked up to notice Zordon observing him steadily. He nodded once, to signify his acceptance, and stepped forward when Zordon fell silent.

 

"Before we continue any further," said Billy quietly. "I have something that I need to say."

 

I BELIEVE I KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY, replied Zordon. YOU MAY PROCEED AS YOU WISH.

 

With a sad smile, Billy turned to face the other teens who were looking at him quizzically.

 

"Billy?" questioned Tommy. "What's up? What does Zordon mean?"

 

With a deep breath, Billy accepted his new destiny.

 

"As you know," he began, "the Zeo Crystal, though incredibly powerful, naturally divides itself into five sub-divisions. These new powers, whatever they are, will only be available to us if only five individuals take possession of a specific shard. There can only be five new Rangers. Anything more would destabilize the balance of the Crystal. That means one of us would have to step down."

 

The teens were brought up short by that unexpected fact. Next to Katherine, Tanya sighed and stepped back.

 

"I think that should be me," she said. "You guys have had more experience at this than I have. You'll be better able to handle the Power."

 

The room instantly erupted into protests by the others. Rocky however, looked unusually thoughtful as he thought through what Tanya had said.

"I don't know," he mused. "Maybe she has a point."

 

"Rocky!" snapped Katherine, aiming a glare at the red clad teen. Adam too, looked at Rocky askance. The Red Ranger frowned as he crossed his arms defensively.

 

"What?" he demanded, "is what I'm saying so wrong? In case you haven't been paying attention, we're facing something that goes beyond the worst we've ever had to deal with as Power Rangers before. We were barely able to make any kind of headway against Rita or Zedd, let alone when they got married. Now, we have to face a threat that makes those two look like rank amateurs at best. Maybe this is a fight better left to those of us who have had a little more experience. That's all that I'm saying!"

 

Before the difference of opinion could spiral out of control, Billy cleared his throat, silencing the other Rangers. Once he had everyone's attention, he turned to face the slightly withdrawn young woman who had been selected by Aisha to take her place. 

 

"I appreciate the offer Tanya," he said gently, "but I don't think your suggestion is a viable option. The fact that only Tommy, Katherine, Adam, Rocky, and Aisha were able to participate in the quest to reunite the Zeo Crystal suggests to me that the Crystal's powers can only be accessible to the ones who are able to claim it. You were with Aisha when she discovered the sub-crystal, and I believe the crystal imprinted itself on you when you accepted Aisha's role as a Ranger. You may be new, but the Power itself chose you."

 

He smiled wryly at the emotions displayed on all of the Rangers' faces at his words. Already, he felt at peace with his decision. He reached over, claiming Tanya's hands in his own. 

 

"Tanya," he continued, "the power of the Zeo Crystal was never meant for me. I served my time as a Power Ranger, and if I had the chance, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. But this is your time, your destiny. I can't and won't mess with that just for a chance to try to wield a Power that I was never meant to hold." 

 

Releasing her hands, he smiled encouragingly at the others who were displaying various degrees of emotion.

 

"Don't worry about me guys," he said patiently. "It's not like I'm going to just up and walk away from you all. If I've learned anything at all from our experience with the Aquitian Rangers, it's that I still have a lot to offer in service of the Rangers, even outside of uniform. I might be able to accomplish more good here, in the Zeo Chamber, than I ever could as an active Ranger."

 

YOUR REASONING IS SOUND, BILLY, interjected Zordon. WHILE I AM SADDENED THAT YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE FOR THE FORSEEABLE FUTURE TO ACTIVELY BATTLE WITH YOUR FRIENDS, I AGREE WITH YOUR ASSESSMENT. YOU WILL PROVE TO BE AN EVEN MORE VALUABLE ASSET TO OUR CAUSE HERE IN THE ZEO CHAMBER, THAN AS AN ACTIVE RANGER. DURING OUR MOST RECENT TIME OF UPHEAVAL, YOU PROVED TO BE AN EFFICIENT GUARDIAN AND GUIDE TO THE OTHERS, AND PROVED CRITICAL IN THEIR QUEST TO CLAIM AND RESTORE THE UNITED ZEO CRYSTAL. I BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO BE AN EFFECTIVE GUIDE IN AIDING THE RANGERS IN THE MASTERY OF THEIR NEW POWERS.

 

Billy nodded and faced the others. They still appeared somewhat conflicted, but Tommy stepped forward at last and drew the scientist into a brief, but unexpected hug.

 

"Man, you know that I understand how it feels to have to give up the power," he said to the stunned teen. "But remember man, you'll always be one of us."

 

"Tommy's right," agreed Katherine as she too swept Billy into a tight hug. "And we'll support you 100%. You've done so much for us, and we'll never forget it." 

 

One by one, Rocky and Adam came up and signified their acceptance of Billy's decision. At last, Billy approached an emotional Tanya and swept her into a brief hug of his own. 

 

"Congratulations, Tanya." Billy said warmly. "You're officially a Power Ranger." 

 

Tanya's smile lit up the room as she hugged Billy back, before moving to stand next to Katherine, who squeezed her arm with a welcoming smile.

 

AND NOW RANGERS, boomed Zordon, I ASK THAT YOU ALL STAND BEFORE ME, AS I INTRODUCE YOU TO YOUR NEW ZEO POWERS AND USHER YOU INTO THE NEXT PHASE OF YOUR DESTINY.

 

With a new air of determination, the five selected Rangers gathered just in front of Zordon's plasma tube, prepared to accept the weight of their new powers. 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Zeo

o0o

 

 

 

In the void of space, the Dark Fortress hung like a bloated spider. All about the massive station was an unending bustle of activity as the forces of the mysterious yet fast rising heir of the United Alliance of Evil, Astronema prepared for an assault on a star system critical to the Alliance's plans. Strangely enough however, the  attention of the mistress of the Dark Fortress was not focused on the soon to be launched assault, but rather on the activities of a powerful bloc in the Alliance that recently broke ties with the Alliance to attempt to become the dominant power in the Universe. In her private chambers, the Princess of Evil focused on the board containing a holographic projection of the defected leadership of the Machine Empire: King Mondo, Queen Machina, Prince Sprocket, and their Chief Ministers Klank and Orbus. 

 

The hiss of the hyperlocks releasing, signaled the arrival of Astronema's invited guest. The platinum blonde haired sorceress waited patiently while her life-long protector and closest adviser marched into her War Room and bowed before her.

 

"Well?" she inquired, arching one perfectly formed eyebrow. "What is the situation in the Sol System? Has the Machine King made his move?"

 

The legendary warrior Ecliptor nodded in confirmation of what she had no doubt already suspected, given the recent movements of the Royal House of Gadgetry. 

 

"You are correct, my Princess," he said. "It is confirmed. Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa have fled the Sol System en route to the M-51 Galaxy. They are most likely seeking to take shelter with Master Vile."

 

"I see. And what of the Crystal? Has the Machine Empire managed to obtain it?" 

 

The cyborg general shook his head in the negative, to her delight. 

 

"No, Astronema. There has been signs of the Crystal's energies fluctuating, which indicates that it is indeed in use. I do not believe that it is in Mondo's grasp however. It is entirely possible that rumors of Zordon and his band of Earthling Rangers' destruction have been greatly exaggerated, though no official confirmation has yet been made."

 

Astronema's eyebrows rose in surprise. Now that was a interesting piece of news.

 

The acclaimed Princess of Evil leaned back into her throne as she pondered on that delicious little tidbit offered by Ecliptor. While Lord Zedd had grown embarassingly sloppy over the past several moon rotations since his unexpected and bizarre wedding to the classless Rita Repulsa, she was not surprised that he might have failed in eliminating the legendary thorn in Evil's side. Zordon was without question, among the most powerful of the motley collection of warriors and sages that made up the annoyingly persistent sect known as the Council of Light. It was no accident that even at the height of the now legendary Great War, Rita was at best only able to trap him in a temporal warp. He was a truly formidable opponent, having crossed blows even with the Supreme Monarch of Evil himself.

 

If he had managed to secure the Zeo Crystal and infused his precious Rangers with that ancient Power...

 

She found herself chuckle at the thought. What a mighty blow it would be for the Machine King's ego, to have been thwarted by a gang of do-gooders like that! The Rangers of Earth, though only active for a few Earth years had already developed a reputation for disruption, what with their memorable jaunt through the territories of the late-Count Dregon of Edenoi, a one time member of the Alliance. She could only imagine the chaos that would descend upon Mondo's forces if the Rangers had access to the Crystal's power. Why, she may not even need to lift a finger to punish the traitorous King after all...

 

Leaning forward, she fixed Ecliptor with an fierce glare.

 

"Has the Dark Specter been appraised of these developments?" she demanded.

 

"No, Princess. He has not."

 

Rising from her throne, the young woman stalked over to the central controls where an imposing monitor showed the scattered stars of distant planets and galaxies.

 

"Establish a secure line with him, immediately!" she ordered.

 

"As you wish, my Princess," replied her general as he immediately snapped orders to the Quantrons and had them inputting the access code to signal the Supreme Monarch of her request for an audience. In a matter of moments, her request was granted. Flashes of dark arcane energies manifested as the image of the Supreme Monarch soon filled the observation port. 

 

Though long used to the Monarch, Astronema couldn't help but shiver a little as she gazed upon the monstrous features of the gargantuan being. Even through a commnications channel, she could feel waves of his dark power emanating through the void, thrumming along her own dark power. The Monarch's glowing eyes dimmed a bit as he beheld the visage of his most loyal acolyte, and heir. 

 

ASTRONEMA, rumbled the demonic Overlord, MY FAITHFUL ONE. WHAT NEWS IS SO URGENT THAT YOU HAVE SUMMONED ME?

 

Bowing before her dark Master, Astronema could feel his burning glance as she faced him.

 

"My Lord, I have grave news to report to you," she said. "Mondo, the sovereign of the Machine Empire has betrayed his oaths of fealty and cooperation with you, and seeks to gain access to Power that will enable him to depose you and claim the title of Supreme Monarch of All Evil for himself." 

 

She stumbled back at the blast of power that emanated from the Dark One as his anger rose. 

 

THAT FOOL DARES TO CHALLENGE ME? thundered the Monarch as pure dark power arched around his body. WHAT HAS MONDO DONE?

 

"He has broken off all trade with the Alliance for the mining of Na'Quat my Lord, and directed a massive armada to the distant Sol System, in an attempt to harness the mighty power of the Zeo Crystal. With it, he plans to challenge you for your throne."

HE MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO GAIN THAT POWER! proclaimed the creature long acclaimed as the greatest of Evils in the entire universe. AS POWERFUL AS I AM, EVEN I WILL BE HARD PRESSED TO REPEL ANY ATTACK FROM HIM AT SUCH A CRITICAL TIME, WHEN I AM ABOUT TO LAUNCH MY FINAL CAMPAIGN TO DESTROY ALL OF MY ENEMIES! HE WILL SPOIL MY PLANS! WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED OF THIS SOONER?!

 

"Forgive me!" said Astronema, wincing at the pressure of his magically fueled rage. "I could not offer mere conjecture and hearsay to you, when such a severe accusation is against one that has proven in the past to be one of your most efficient and effective agents! Nevertheless my liege, the evidence that I have obtained is incontrovertible! He has even struck against Lord Zedd, who had claimed that territory in your name and was on the cusp of securing a great victory against the most persistent of your foes, Zordon of Eltar." 

 

The Dark Specter fumed at the unexpected news, turning blazing eyes upon his 2nd.

 

TELL ME EVERYTHING, he commanded.

 

And Astronema did, informing him of all that her spies had been able to ascertain of the rumors of Master Vile making a play for the Crystal, his subsequent failure and return to his territorial haunts, the assault of Lord Zedd against the Eltarian sage and successful destruction of his command outpost, the rumors of Zordon's death and the arrival of the Machine Empire to the Sol system, routing Zedd's forces from the galaxy, and their daring insult to the Dark Specter as the Machine Empire's leadership sought the power of the Zeo Crystal for themselves. 

 

Silently, the Dark Specter brooded over the recent turn of events. A furtive glance towards Ecliptor convinced the Princess to add the latest tantalizing tidbit that had been uncovered by their network.

 

"My Lord," she added deferentially, "it is however possible that the Machine King has not gained the Zeo Crystal. My agents have been following his movements closely and have detected a strange fluctuation in the energy signature of the Crystal. It is now on the planet Earth and based on our findings, it is more and more likely that Zordon survived the destruction of his base and managed to access the Zeo Crystal's power for himself."

 

She watched apprehensively as the Dark Specter pondered on the news he had been presented with. Expecting an even greater explosion of rage—for she knew that of all of his many foes, Zordon of Eltar remained his greatest opponent— she was shocked to hear the torrent of laughter that echoed and re-echoed through the Dark Fortress as the Dark Specter greeted the news of the possible survival of his greatest enemy with amusement.

 

EXCELLENT, he rumbled at last. IT APPEARS THAT MY PLANS HAVE NOT BEEN DAMAGED AS MUCH AS I FEARED.

 

"My Lord?" inquired Astronema. She didn't understand his sudden shift in emotion. Why was he...happy?

 

LORD ZEDD'S HUMILIATION AT THE HANDS OF THE TRAITOROUS MONDO WILL SERVE AS A SUFFICIENT PUNISHMENT FOR ATTEMPTING TO LAY HANDS ON WHAT I HAVE CLAIMED FOR MYSELF. ZORDON IS MINE; MINE TO CONQUER, MINE TO DESTROY. THAT IS A LESSON THAT THE MACHINE KING WILL LEARN FOR HIMSELF, IN THE MOST HUMILIATING WAY POSSIBLE. 

 

ASTRONEMA, he called as he fastened his dark gaze upon her, YOU WILL SEE TO IT THAT THE MACHINE EMPIRE IS TIED UP IN BATTLE WITH ZORDON. I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT HE IS THE ONE IN POSSESSION OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL. YOU WILL RENDER SUFFICIENT AID TO KING MONDO TO ENSURE THAT HE REMAINS EMBROILED IN THE SOL SYSTEM, THEN FOLLOW THE PLAN I WILL REVEAL TO YOU EXACTLY AS I TELL YOU. LISTEN CLOSELY...

 

As the Dark Specter revealed his strategy to handle the defection of the Machine Empire, Astronema began to understand why the Dark Specter had found amusement in her report, and soon found herself equally amused. What a deliciously ironic way to punish the Machine King! It would be especially galling after being handed defeat after defeat at the hands of the enemy he was clearly underestimating. And best of all, it would require very little direct intervention on their part at all, leaving them free to take care of their true objectives in preparation for the coming campaign that would secure the Dark Specter his sovereignty over the entire inhabited universe! 

 

"An inspired plan, my Lord!" she said at last. "I will see to the preparations at once! Mondo will pay dearly for his insult, I can assure you of that."

 

OF THAT MY FAITHFUL ONE I HAVE NO DOUBT, said the behemoth despot. BUT REMEMBER ASTRONEMA, YOU HAVE FAR MORE IMPORTANT MATTERS TO SEE TO. DO NOT PERMIT THIS MATTER TO DISTRACT YOU FROM YOUR NOBLE PURPOSE.

 

"As you command," she replied, eyes flashing with pride. "I will not fail you, Dark Specter!"

 

SEE THAT YOU DON'T! rumbled the Supreme Monarch of Evil as he cut the connection to the Dark Fortress, the observation port turning clear once again.

 

Astronema let out a relieved sigh as the waves of pure Power that had been battering her psychic shields faded to a glimmering note. Though her power had grown exponentially, it was still no easy feat to stand in the presence of pure Evil. She made her way to her throne and sat heavily on it. It was a few minutes before she felt collected enough to face her general who had knelt upon the Dark Specter's arrival and remained so as he departed. 

 

"Ecliptor, rise." She waited until he was standing before her, before fixing him an inscrutable stare.

 

"I have a little assignment for you," she said at last. "I need you to pass along a little message to the Machine King on behalf of the Dark Specter, as well as a little gift."

 

"I can leave at once, my Princess," replied Ecliptor. Astronema was pleased by his immediate preparedness to depart, but shook her head in the negative.

 

"That won't be necessary," she said. "We'll leave Mondo a little time to test the effectiveness of his forces against that of Zordon, if he is in fact alive. Should his army fail, then and only then will you need to pass on my message to him, as well as my little gift. You'll remain on standby until I summon you."

 

"Very good, my Lady."

 

As Ecliptor exited her quarters, Astronema turned towards her board. With a flick of her finger, two new players materialized on the board. With a dark smile, the Princess set the new players around the increasingly isolated figures of the Royal House of Gadgetry.

 

Looks like things are going to get very interesting for you, Mondo. Let's see how powerful you really are...

 


 

 

o0o

 

The anticipation in the Zeo Chamber rose to a fever pitch as the newly appointed Rangers stood before Zordon. Even the four more experienced Rangers found themselves nervously anticipating what they would receive from the recently reunified Zeo Crystal. 

 

Standing slightly apart from the other five, Billy looked on with a pang of longing as he prepared to step into his new role as a technical consultant for the new team. Under Alpha's able tutelage he had quickly become acclimatized to the advanced systems of the Zeo Chamber, and now aided the robot in encoding the last loose "strings" in the fabrication process for the Ranger's new arsenal. 

 

At last, they were ready for the initialization phase and Billy nodded once to Zordon, signaling that everything was now ready.

 

Upon his signal, Zordon gazed down at the five Rangers who would serve as the 2nd generation of the Power Rangers. He was filled with pride at their willingness to serve and a hint of fear, for even he could not predict how they would fare once the invasion of the Machine Empire commenced.

 

RANGERS, he said solemnly, THE TIME HAS NOW COME FOR YOU TO TAKE THE FIRST STEPS IN YOUR NEW DESTINY, AND ACCEPT THE POWERS OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL. ARE YOU PREPARED TO RECEIVE THE POWER?

 

Tommy looked around at the others. Upon their nods, he turned and inclined his head towards Zordon. 

 

"We're ready Zordon," he declared, pushing his feelings of guilt into the back of his mind. There would be time enough for that later, but they had a mission and he wouldn't allow himself to drag his team down. 

 

VERY WELL TOMMY, replied Zordon before turning to face Billy and Alpha 5. ACTIVATE THE ZEONIZERS.

 

Alpha stepped aside to allow Billy the opportunity to summon the first and most critical part of the Zeo Rangers' new arsenal. Tapping in the activation code, Billy pushed a small green button.

 

The Chamber lit up with a flash of white light as five sets of wrist mounted devices materialized on a clear space on the main console. Tanya's mouth formed a perfect 'o' of surprise as she witnessed the spectacle, but all of the assembled Rangers felt their pulse race as they saw the new mediums through which they would tap into the Zeo Powers.

 

THESE DEVICES ARE YOUR NEW ZEONIZERS, said Zordon. THROUGH THEM, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DRAW ON THE POWER OF YOUR RESPECTIVE ZEO SUB-CRYSTAL. AS YOU CAN SEE, THEY ARE WORN ON BOTH WRISTS AND INTERLOCK IN ORDER TO ACTIVATE THE MORPHING SEQUENCE. THE ZEONIZERS ARE CALIBRATED TO DE-MATERIALIZE INTO A POCKET DIMENSION WHEN NOT IN USE, RENDERING IT FAR MORE UNLIKELY THAT THE ENEMY WILL BE ABLE TO STEAL OR OTHERWISE NEUTRALIZE YOUR ABILITY TO MORPH. 

 

"They're amazing!" exclaimed Katherine. 

 

THEY ARE INDEED, agreed Zordon. THE ZEONIZERS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR NEW ARSENAL. IT IS THROUGH THESE THAT YOU CAN TAP INTO THE ZEO CRYSTAL. YOU WILL NOTICE THAT YOUR RIGHT ZEONIZERS CONTAIN A RETRACTABLE CRYSTAL. THIS CRYSTAL WILL ABSORB THE ENERGY OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL, AND FUNNEL IT THROUGH THE MORPHIN GRID IN ORDER FOR YOU TO SAFELY ACCESS THE POWER. AT THIS TIME, PLEASE CLAIM YOUR ZEONIZERS SO WE MAY BEGIN THE INITIALIZATION PROCESS AND COMPLETE YOUR NEW BONDS TO YOUR SUB-CRYSTAL.

 

As each Ranger claimed a set of their new Zeonizers, they could feel a small jolt of energy as the devices calibrated to their unique energy signatures. 

 

Billy couldn't help the thrill of excitement that rushed through him as he saw that the devices were working exactly according to their specifications. Together, he and Alpha inputted the last code to fully initiate the bonding process. Once completed, he smiled encouragingly at the Rangers.

 

"Everything looks good to go from this end," he said. "Good luck, guys."

 

As one the Rangers turned back to Zordon, who stared at them steadily.

 

RANGERS, YOUR COURAGE AND SACRIFICE HAVE BROUGHT US THE IMMEASURABLE POWERS OF THE ZEO CRYSTAL. THE CRYSTAL WILL BESTOW UPON YOU POWERS BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION.

 

As he spoke, the Crystal separated into it's five sub-divisions, illuminating each Ranger standing beneath it in a nimbus of colored light. The Rangers looked up in awe at their sub-crystals, feeling the rush of pure Power wash over them.

 

KATHERINE, proclaimed Zordon, FROM THIS MOMENT ON, YOU WILL BE KNOWN AS ZEO RANGER I, PINK.

 

Katherine gasped in euphoria as a Pink helmet, with a oval geometric motif materialized above her head then descended upon her. Bolts of Pink energy suffused her form and in a flash, Katherine was gone and Zeo Ranger I now stood in her place. 

 

The others looked on appreciatively at the sharp new geometric designs of their Zeo battle suits, and Katherine beamed underneath her helmet as for the first time since she became a Ranger, she possessed a power that was hers. She truly felt like she owned the title of Pink Ranger, at last.

 

"This is incredible!" she said at last, as she admired her new form. 

 

TANYA, said Zordon as a Yellow helmet, with an equal sign motif materialized above her. YOU WILL BE KNOWN AS ZEO RANGER II, YELLOW.

 

The newly anointed Ranger stood peacefully as the helmet descended, transforming her into Zeo Ranger II. For the first time, she felt truly at peace with her decision to take Aisha's place as a Ranger. 

 

ROCKY, ADAM, AND TOMMY continued Zordon as he focused on the male Rangers, THE SUB-CRYSTALS WHICH YOU RECOVERED HAVE GIVEN YOU NEW COLOR DESIGNATIONS. ROCKY, YOU WILL NOW BE KNOWN AS ZEO RANGER III, BLUE.

 

Rocky stepped forward as a Blue helmet, with a triangle motif materialized and descended above him, stiffening as he was suffused with the Power. As amazing as the rush of energy felt as it transformed him into Zeo Ranger III, he wasn't so callous that he didn't notice the slight start and then slumped shoulders of the former Blue Ranger as he witnessed the transformation.

 

I don't know if I'll ever be able to be what you were to the team as Blue Ranger, Rocky vowed silently to himself as he glanced at his friend, but I'll do everything I can to ensure that your legacy is unsullied...

 

ADAM, YOU WILL NOW BE KNOWN AS ZEO RANGER IV, GREEN. 

 

The quiet teen stepped forward as the Green Helmet formed with rectangular motif. As it descended upon him, for a moment, he found himself visualizing the deep waves of the sea, then the rich foiliage of a lush forest. As his battlesuit materialized around him, Zeo Ranger IV stood tall and firm as he acknowledged the ancient Power and claimed it for his own.

 

AND FINALLY TOMMY, concluded Zordon, YOU WILL CONTINUE TO SERVE AS THE LEADER OF THE ZEO POWER RANGERS, AS ZEO RANGER V, RED. 

 

As Tommy stepped forward, he felt his eyes blur as he thought about his encounters with the first Red Ranger of Earth, Jason. A Red, star emblazoned helmet materialized and descended upon him, suffusing him in crimson light. 

 

I promise you bro, Tommy thought as his new battlesuit materialized into place and Zeo Ranger V stood tall among his fellow Rangers, I'll honor you. I won't make the same mistakes as I have in the past. I'll lead these Rangers to the best of my ability, just as you did. 

 

As the Rangers adjusted to the new wellspring of Power within them, the Zeo sub-crystals, de-materialized into their respective geometric shapes and melded with each Ranger, completing the bonding process. 

 

Billy exchanged a congratulatory look with Alpha 5 as the Zeo Rangers successfully bonded to their Zeo sub-crystals. He turned to face Zordon who wordlessly exhibited his relief and pride at their success. The Eltarian then turned back to the newly anointed Zeo Rangers, who removed their helmets, revealing eyes alight with new fire and purpose. 

 

YOU HAVE NOW SUCCESSFULLY BONDED WITH YOUR INDIVIDUAL SUB-CRYSTALS, boomed Zordon. HOW DO YOU FEEL?

 

"Man," said Tommy with a grin as he exchanged looks with the other Rangers, "I—I feel completely re-energized, like I could take on the world!" 

 

"Me too," concurred Adam with a lop-sided grin, as he clenched his fist. Sparks of Green energy sparked within his hand. 

 

IN TIME, YOU WILL GAIN MANY NEW ADDITIONS TO YOUR ZEO ARSENAL TO AUGMENT YOUR NEW POWERS, said Zordon. HOWEVER, YOU MUST FIRST ACCLIMATIZE YOURSELVES WITH YOUR INITIAL ARSENAL. 

 

With that, Alpha 5 stepped forward towards the new Rangers. 

 

"Rangers, each of you will possess access to your standard sidearms, which will give you the edge in combating the ground forces of the Machine Empire. Your first tool is the Zeo Laser Pistol. It is your standard weapon when combating the Cogs. Each pistol draws its power from your Zeonizer, and produces a photon-thermal beam that can pierce the unique armor of the Cogs, rendering them inoperable. At times the Cogs may wield a type of spear, capable of emitting a powerful blast of energy in addition to its use in mortal combat. At such times, you will be better served utilizing your Zeo Batons. They are collapsible, and will serve as both a defensive and a basic attack weapon."

 

The Rangers eagerly pulled out their new weapons, marveling at the workmanship and design. 

 

"These are rocking!" exclaimed Rocky as he inspected his Baton. "Those mechanical rejects won't know what hit them!"

 

"Rangers," cautioned Alpha, "your new combat weapons are indeed effective, however there will be times when they will not produce the effect you wish in routing the enemy. At such times, you can combine your Baton with your Zeo Pistol to create an even more powerful blaster, the Advanced Zeo Laser Pistol. You will be able to draw on more of the Zeo Crystal's power, making it an even more formidable weapon at your disposal."

 

IN ADDITION, interjected Zordon, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SUMMON IN TIME OF NEED, YOUR INDIVIDUALIZED ZEO POWER WEAPONS. THESE WILL ENABLE YOU TO TAP INTO EVEN GREATER LEVELS OF POWER, SUFFICIENT TO CUT DOWN ALL BUT THE TOUGHEST OF YOUR FOES. 

 

KATHERINE, AS ZEO RANGER I, YOU WILL WIELD THE ZEO DISC. IT'S PRIMARY USE IS DEFENSIVE, ENABLING YOU TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR TEAMMATES WHEN ASSAULTED BY HOSTILE FORCES, HOWEVER IT ALSO CAN BE USED AS A HAND TO HAND WEAPON. 

 

In a flash of Pink energy, Katherine now held the Zeo Disc in her hands. She marveled over the workmanship and smiled gratefully at Zordon as she held it close.

 

"This is wonderful Zordon," she said confidently. "I will bear it with pride."

 

TANYA, continued Zordon, YOU WILL RECEIVE THE ZEO DOUBLE CLUBS. IT CAN SERVE AS BOTH A CLOSE QUARTER AND LONG RANGE WEAPON. THESE CLUBS WILL BE AN EFFECTIVE TOOL IN COMBATING OUR MECHANICAL FOES.

 

Tanya looked quizzically at first as the Zeo Double Clubs materialized in her hands. She felt the weight of them then nodded appreciatively.

 

"I think I can work with this," she said at last. "I will use them with care."

 

Next Zordon turned to Rocky. ROCKY, he said, YOU WILL BEAR THE ZEO TONFA. THEY ARE AN ANCIENT WEAPON UTILIZED BY MARTIAL ARTISTS THROUGHOUT THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN REGION. THEY ARE VERY EFFECTIVE WEAPONs THAT CAN BE USED TO ROUTE THE ENEMY.

 

Rocky blanched a little as he received the Zeo Tonfa. He'd used Tonfas before in martial arts training, but he'd never been really good with them.

 

Looks like that will just have to change, he thought wryly to himself as he nodded his thanks.

 

ADAM, YOU WILL BEAR THE ZEO AXES. THESE AXES ARE FORMIDABLE WEAPONS THAT USED IN CONCERT, WILL GRANT YOU VICTORY AGAINST ANY OPPONENT.

 

Adam nodded solemnly as the Zeo Axes appeared in a flash of emerald energy. They were a little different to his Power Axe, he thought as he tested their weight. He was confident however, that they would be easy to adapt to.

 

AND TOMMY, YOU WILL BEAR THE ZEO STAR SWORD. NOT ONLY IS IT AN EFFECTIVE WEAPON THAT CAN BE USED IN COMBAT, BUT WHEN FULLY CHARGED BY YOUR CRYSTAL, WILL EMIT A DESTRUCTIVE WAVE OF ENERGY THAT WILL DISABLE YOUR ENEMIES.

 

Tommy nodded appreciatively as the Zeo Star Sword materialized in his hands. The shape was different from Saba, but he knew that he would be able to use this weapon with ease. 

 

"And if ever you are caught in a battle against the Cogs and find yourself unable to morph without compromising your civilian identity, you will now possess an enhanced measure of strength and endurance that will enable you to buy enough time to find a safe place to morph!" added Alpha. 

 

THE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL ARE VARIED AND EFFECTIVE, said Zordon to the team, HOWEVER, IT IS YOUR HEART AND YOUR BOND AS A TEAM THAT WILL RENDER YOU A FORMIDABLE CHALLENGE TO THE FORCES OF THE MACHINE KING. AS LONG AS YOU WORK AS ONE, AND AVOID WORKING AT CROSS PURPOSES WITH EACH OTHER, I HAVE EVERY CONFIDENCE THAT YOU WILL ULTIMATELY BE VICTORIOUS IN YOUR BATTLE WITH THE MACHINE EMPIRE.

 

The Rangers took in his advice, solemnly. They were determined that they would be the ones walking away from the coming battles against the Machine Empire. In conclusion, Zordon activated the holographic panels that adorned the back of the Zeo Chamber. Turning around, they saw to their surprise replicas of the original Power Ranger uniforms. Billy swallowed convulsively as he noted the replica of his own uniform. 

 

I AM VERY PROUD OF ALL OF YOU, said Zordon with a small smile. AS POWER RANGERS YOU HAVE SERVED YOUR PLANET WELL, BUT THE POWER RANGERS AS YOU HAVE KNOWN THEM ARE GONE FOREVER. IN THEIR PLACE HAS EMERGED A NEW AND MORE ADVANCED FIGHTING FORCE. YOU HAVE NOW BECOME THE POWER RANGERS ZEO, THE NEXT LEVEL IN THE FIGHT AGAINST EVIL. 

 

And so the Zeo Rangers stood, their powers restored as they prepared to face the newest threat to their world.

 


 

o0o

 

 

 Pitch black smoke was belched from the pipes of the mines that were processing the precious Na'Quat ore from the massive asteroid that served as the Sky Base for the Machine Empire's Royal family. Thousands of Cogs marched emotionlessly through the vast length of the asteroid as they went about their separate duties. Hundreds of Quadrafighters flew in and out of their loading bays, each division of fighters sent out on a mission of total annihilation. 

 

At the highest point of the asteroid, stood the massive halls of the Royal House of Gadgetry. Within the Royal Halls, pandemonium reigned as Klank and Orbus, the loyal footmen of the throne found themselves slammed into the massive gears of the base as their sovereign and creator unleashed his wrath.

 

"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, YOU MISERABLE EXCUSE OF A MACHINE?!" thundered King Mondo, eyes glowing with power as he stalked towards the fallen footmen. A swipe of his Royal Staff sent sparks flying as the Chief Minister was sent flying into the railing. Behind him, Queen Machina and Prince Sprocket huddled together as they witnessed the terrifying wrath of the Machine King. 

 

"Yo—Your Majesty!" stammered Klank as he shuddered under the weight of King Mondo's displeasure. "Forgive me, but I simply can not explain the possible reasons for their escape! I made your orders explicitly clear to the Quadrafighter pilots!"

 

It was as if talking to a wall. Mondo swung his heavy Staff at the terrified Minister who gave the closest mechanical approximation to a squeak as possible, and threw himself out of the way just in the nick of time. The Staff smashed against the pipe railing of the Royal Veranda, cleaving through the metal and sending a boiling spout of steam into the void of space. 

 

"Answer me!" roared the Monarch. "I gave specific orders that Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa be completely destroyed! I demand to know who's at fault!"

 

Little did he know that the culprit was literally underneath his gaze. Prince Sprocket's internal gears whirred furiously as he struggled to devise a way to escape his father's displeasure. He had been in charge of the attack fleet that had been charged with ensuring that the deposed warlord and his noxious bride would be turned into space dust upon any attempt to escape. It really wasn't his fault though! He needed a valuable tune up and wasn't about to go about it unaccompanied by an escort! Sure, it had happened just as the wretched creatures had staggered out of their ruined fortress, but needs must when one wanted to remain top-of-the-line! He hadn't expected his order to his escort, to have been disseminated throughout the entire attack fleet! But the miserable heir knew that the King would not be inclined to hear such excuses now. So he did what any thinking scion of royalty would do when facing royal discipline. He threw the more vulnerable employee under the proverbial bus.

 

Shuffling as quickly to his father as his little motors could take him, the little prince practically threw himself in the rampaging Monarch's path. 

 

"Father, it was his fault! It was his fault! I was perfect!" squealed the rotund prince, as he spun around and threw a nasty mechanical glare at the discomfited Minister.

 

Struggling to his feet, Klank gave a pleading glance towards the misbehaving prince.

 

"Now your Highness," he said humbly, in an attempt to make the heir of the Empire see reason, "you know that is simply not true!" 

 

Sparks flew out of Mondo's gears as the his rage spiked—to his son's great amusement and pleasure. "How dare you contradict my son and heir!" he roared at the trembling Minister. "Worthless piece of scrap heap! I demand strength and resolve from those who enter my service! Not feeble excuses or malicious accusations!"

 

"Yes Sire!" whimpered Klank miserably. "Terribly sorry!" 

 

"As you should be!" snapped the irate King. "How is my glorious Empire to be seen as the ultimate power in the universe if my Cogs can't even destroy the likes of Rita and Lord Zedd?!" 

 

His tirade would have continued for several kinic cycles uninterrupted, but he found himself cooling down remarkably when his sultry mechanical temptress lightly laughed, fanning herself next to her son.

 

"Now, now darling. Your oil pressure is rising too high over such an insignificant miscalculation," she purred. "The fact remains that for all of his grand legend, Lord Zedd fled at the very mention of your name! That alone will haunt him for the next thousand years! You won't have to worry about that bumbling fool attempting to challenge you again, my love. He is nothing like his pestilent father-in-law, Master Vile! And even he remains safely locked up within his domains, to avoid your implacable wrath!"

 

The King re-established control over his simmering rage as he considered his beloved's words. True, his show of overwhelming force no doubt had shattered that idiot Zedd's intergalactic reputation irreparably. And he was no longer underfoot to feebly attempt to challenge his claim over the Zeo Crystal...

 

With a low hum, he quieted down and turned his gaze towards the Earth, giving Klank and Orbus time to collect themselves. His sensors detected the energy signature of the Crystal in a medium sized human city where according to his spies, Zedd and Rita had been directing their forces in an attempt to conquer that area for years! 

 

"Klank!" he bellowed at last, as he swung around to face his bumbling, yet skillful Minister. The robot dropped immediately into a position of humble fealty as he awaited his Master's word. 

 

The Machine King nodded appreciatively at his Minister's groveling. It reminded him of why he kept that bungler around...

 

"I will give you a chance to make up for your abysmal failure with Rita and Zedd," he said in a calm tone. "You will take a squadron of Cogs and go down to the area that contains the signature of the Zeo Crystal. I want you to infiltrate the city and determine the humans' defensive capabilities. Once you have done so, I want you to launch a preemptive strike, upon either mine or Sprocket's command! You will crush their defenses and discern the location of the Crystal, then deliver the Crystal to me! Is my will made plain to you?" 

 

"Oh yes, Sire!" exclaimed Klank as he bowed low. "I will secure the artifact for your Majesty, you can count on it!" 

 

"See that I can!" replied King Mondo threateningly. "For if you manage to fail me again and bungle up such a simple task, you will find yourself spending the next thousand years sweeping tin shavings on the dark side of Alpha Centauri!"

 


 

 o0o

 

It had been another long tiring day for Henry Mullivan, a member of the crew representing the Angel Grove Construction Company. They had been hired to construct a new building to the massive Industrial Plant that dominated the outskirts of the city. They had been digging the foundations for the eventual building over the past several days and finally were on the cusp on finishing the first part of their assignment. 

 

Amazingly, their project hadn't been assaulted by any of those monster creatures that had been focused on their little neck of the desert over the past few years. Things had been awfully quiet, with little to no reported sightings of aliens or the multi-colored band of superheroes who regularly fought against them for the past couple of weeks. 

 

While grateful for the return of semi-normalcy, Mullivan couldn't help but feel a touch of concern in his mind at the long absence of the Power Rangers. Even after three years of their help, most of the citizens of Angel Grove had absolutely no clue who or what those mysterious warriors were. As he hefted another heavy bag of dirt over his dusty shoulders, his mind raced with questions that had become more and more typical since events out of a whacked-out fantasy game had alarmingly come to life, in full stereo color. 

 

What exactly were the Power Rangers? Were they humans, like the rest of the population? If so, who were they? Were they some obscure military, special forces type group? Or were they special FBI agents? Or CIA? And if they were aliens, like the freaks that regularly attacked their city, then did that explain why they never attempted to reveal their identities to the public? Did the government know who and what they were, and where they came from? Did they have some sort of deal with the White House or something? 

 

He shook his head as he placed the sack next to the twenty or so sacks that were already lining the big truck they were using to haul away the dirt. As he turned, he noticed his co-worker Keith Erskine nonchalantly puffing away at a cigarette as his head bobbed to the sounds of what was ironically, 'Enter the Sandman' by Metallica. 

 

Sneaking up behind the guy, he crept close to the rocking man's ear then screeched, loudly. 

 

"Shit!" screamed his friend Keith, nearly jumping out of his uniform as he immediately scrambled off of the hood of the truck and whirled around, probably expecting to see some kind of freaky alien. He glowered at Henry, as the younger man broke down, cackling at his reaction.

 

"Son of a bitch!" growled Keith as he punched the laughing Henry on the shoulder. "You nearly scared me to death, you bastard!" 

 

"Good!" Henry retorted good naturedly as he rubbed at the spot where he had been punched. "That'll teach you to dream about Sandmen when your scrawny little ass ought to be hauling dirt out of the construction site!" 

 

Grumbling now, Keith made a rude gesture at Henry and shut off the boombox, settling it in the passenger seat of the truck and adjusting his construction hat. 

 

"Yeah, yeah," he groused, "put a lid on it, Mullivan! Let's go!" 

 

The two of them made their way back towards the site where several other men were busy with clearing out what would become the site for the foundation of the new plant building. As they were walking, Henry paused, frowning as he heard what sounded like an abnormally tweaked set of gears...kind of like the type you might find in certain old clocktowers...

 

Keith rolled his eyes when he nearly ran into the suddenly stiff form of his best friend and annoying co-worker, who was now focused on a lonely set of 'dozers, parked off to the side. 

 

"Man," groused Keith as he thumped Henry on the back, "you're the one who said that we needed to be heading back to the site! Dude, what gives?"

 

Henry didn't respond, as he focused on the strange sound. With a huff, Keith turned to head off without the lug head...

 

Only to fall to the ground in a heap, gurgling as blood spurted out of several holes around his throat and lungs.

 

Henry heard the muffled 'thump', a sound that sounded even stranger than the strange sound he had been listening for. He turned around to see what his older, yet somehow more irresponsible friend was up to, only to start as he saw the still form, blood leaking from him only to soak into his uniform. And just a few feet away...

 

"Oh, shit!" he managed to say, before he too fell backward, the back of his head exploding. Blood sprayed in jets, as pieces of bone and brain matter littered the dirt ground. As his body collapsed next to that of his friend, a Cog stalked forward and inspected the bodies before turning around and marching back to Klank, along with a scouting squad of of about fifty Cogs. 

 

[Targets. Elliminated. What. Are. Our. Orders.] ?

 

"Begin scouting out the surrounding area," ordered Klank, his trusty companion Orbus perched upon his right shoulder as per usual. "Kill all of the humans you find. Our approach must not be detected by their defensive forces until we have infiltrated their city and confirmed their defensive capabilities."

 

[Very. Well.] replied the Cog as it re-entered formation and the squad began to split into smaller groups of ten. As they began to spread out to initiate their infiltration, Orbus levitated into the air after the departing Cogs.

 

"Remember!" shouted the miniature co-Minister to the Cogs, "Don't be seen by the humans! King Mondo will have your gears if our forces are detected by the humans!"

 

Orbus floated back to take his normal perch on Klank. "Well, it looks like everything is proceeding according to plan!" 

 

"What a relief!" exclaimed Klank as the two observed the Cogs moving through the construction site. The wretched humans barely had time to react, before they were mown down by the Cogs' artillery. Soon the only moving things were the mechanical foot soldiers of the Machine Empire, as they studied and observed the human technology and mapped out the terrain. 

 

"With any luck, we'll be able to report back to King Mondo without incident and initiate the launch of our glorious invasion!" 

 

The two co-Ministers laughed as they oversaw the operation. It wouldn't be long now, before the Earth would be supplying the Machine Empire with more precious raw materials and the long sought for Zeo Crystal rested in the grasp of their illustrious Master. Soon machines would be the ultimate form of life throughout the entire universe!

 


 

 

o0o

 

 

 The Rangers were still inspecting their new battle suits and weapons when a loud blaring sound was heard as the Zeo Chamber's alarm system activated. Above the global locator monitors, red and yellow lights rotated to each klaxon.

 

 "What's going on? What's that sound?" exclaimed Tanya, extremely surprised by the unexpected disturbance. She turned to the others and was startled to see their faces hardened and taunt. She looked over at Billy and Alpha who immediately began typing in commands as they began tracking the cause of the disturbance. 

 

RANGERS, THE MOMENT I HAVE BEEN DREADING HAS ARRIVED. Zordon said. OUR SENSORS HAVE PICKED UP A DISTURBANCE NEAR THE ANGEL GROVE INDUSTRIAL FACTORY, AT THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE CITY. BEHOLD THE VIEWING GLOBE.

 

Tanya and the other Rangers focused their attention on the Viewing Globe, and were startled to see about fifty Cogs scattered throughout what looked like the site of a construction project. The mechanical foot soldiers for the Machine Empire were apparently inspecting the machines used by the construction company, and moving towards the industrial plant proper. 

 

IT APPEARS THAT KING MONDO HAS ORDERED THE COGS TO INVESTIGATE THE EARTH'S TECHNOLOGICAL ABILITIES, AND MOST LIKELY IT'S DEFENSIVE CAPABILITIES. THIS APPEARS TO BE A SCOUTING PARTY.

 

"Oh no!" moaned Katherine, as she pointed at something that was hard to see, but still recognizable. "Zordon, can you sharpen the focus?"

 

The Globe zeroed in on the sight that sparked Kat's request, and a chill ran down the spines of the Rangers as they saw the mutilated remains of what must have been the construction crew, strewn across the ground in the wake of the Cogs' attack.

 

"How could they do that?!" shrieked Tanya, the blood draining from her face at the macabre sight. "Those were innocent people! They had absolutely no way to defend themselves!"

 

THIS IS BUT A SMALL TASTE OF THE HORRORS THAT AWAIT THIS PLANET, IF THE MACHINE EMPIRE IS ALLOWED TO GAIN A FOOTHOLD, said Zordon. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU STOP THE COGS BEFORE THEY INFILTRATE THE CITY AND ARE ABLE TO GAIN ACCESS TO THE COMPUTER NETWORK OF THE CITY. THEY ARE SEEKING TO DETERMINE THE THREAT LEVEL THAT HUMANITY POSES. 

 

Tommy's eyes flashed angrily at the sight they were witnessing. He turned to the duo tracking the movements of the Cogs. 

 

"Billy, is there anything else we need to get back into action? We've got to stop these guys before anyone else gets seriously hurt or worse!"

 

Billy looked up from the computer array he was busy working with and took in the thunderous expression on Tommy's face. He could tell that their leader was shocked by the callousness of the Cogs. 

 

"I've just checked the energy levels of the Zeo Crystal. Everything appears stable for now, you guys should be able to test out your new powers." he said, as he reviewed the readings. "All you guys need to do is complete the link of the Zeo Crystal to the Zeonizers by activating the morphing sequence."

 

"All right," replied the Red Zeo Ranger as he turned to Zordon. 

 

IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO BEGIN YOUR MISSION AGAINST THE MACHINE EMPIRE, agreed the Eltarian. IN ORDER FOR YOU TO FULLY ACTIVATE YOUR ZEONIZERS, INTERLOCK YOUR ZEONIZERS AND CALL OUT THE ACTIVATION PHRASE 'IT'S MORPHING TIME', THEN YOUR NUMBER AND COLOR DESIGNATIONS.

 

"All right," said Tommy as he turned to the others. "It looks like we're going to get a first taste of how powerful these guys really are. Everyone ready to rock?"

 

The other Rangers nodded, determined to put a stop to the first attempt by the Machine Empire to invade their planet.

 

"Okay, all systems are go." said Billy, his eyes betraying the anxiety he attempted to conceal as he turned to face the Rangers. "Good luck, guys. May the Power protect you." 

 

"Thank you Billy," said Tommy with a grateful glance at Billy, "for everything."

 

Then turning to stand at attention with his team, Tommy pushed his arms out, before interlocking the two Zeonizers in a cross formation. As the Zeo medallion snapped out and locked in place, initiating the morphing sequence, he barked out the activation phrase: 

 

"It's Morphing Time!" 

 

"Zeo Ranger I, Pink!" shouted Katherine, as Pink energy coalesced around her, forming an oval before resolving into the battle suit of the Pink Zeo Ranger.

 

"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!" yelled Tanya, Yellow currents of energy briefly forming the equal sign before shifting her into her Yellow Zeo Ranger battle suit.

 

"Zeo Ranger III, Blue!" bellowed Rocky, breathing in deeply as Blue flashes of energy jolted through him, forming a downward pointed triangle before seeping into him and materializing his battle suit as the Blue Zeo Ranger.

 

"Zeo Ranger IV, Green!" intoned Adam, the rush of Green currents forming into a rectangle before resolving into his new form as the Green Zeo Ranger.

 

"Zeo Ranger V, Red!" called out Tommy, feeling the fire of the Red energy flare around him, forming a five-pointed star before shifting him into the form of the Red Zeo Ranger.

 

As the rush of energy settled, gone were the dusty and tired forms of five teenagers who had only a couple of hours before survived a massive implosion and exposure to several shocking secrets. In their place stood the newly constituted Power Rangers, Zeo. 

 

"Initializing teleportation sequencing now!" said Alpha, quickly inputting the coordinates to the industrial plant. Soon five crackling columns of Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, and Pink energy phased through the Zeo Chamber and rocketed towards the site of their first battle. 

 

"Oh, ai-yi-yi-yi-yi!" exclaimed the automaton as he began inputting the tracking algorithm, coordinating with Billy as they began tracking the teleportation signals of the Rangers. 

 

"Good luck, Power Rangers. We're all counting on you..."

 


 

 

o0o

 

The assault leader of squad 493.083 elef paused in mid-stride as his subordinates continued pawing through the inferior and primitive technology of the Earth inhabitants. His sensors began firing warning signals as five dangerously high energy signatures suddenly flared up near their position. 

 

[Assume. Battle. Formation.] ordered the Cog, as his head turned in each direction, searching for the source of the strange energy readings. [Intruders. Have. Been. Detected.]

 

Barely had the words been registered by the other Cogs, than a series of yells split the air, startling the mechanical soldiers as first a Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, then Pink suited figure flipped through the air, landing on top of a construction truck trailer. 

 

Immediately the Cogs were put on alert, and they swarmed into their battle formations, two Cogs immediately departing to alert their commanders who were a ways away, overseeing the infiltration process. 

 

[Intruders. Identify. Yourselves.] demanded the Cog leader, as his fellow machines bashed their chestplates in preparation for deployment. [You. Are. Trespassing. On. The. Territory. Of. The. Machine. Empire.]

 

Behind his helmet, Tommy sneered in disgust, his blood boiling at the words of the mechanical soldier. Turning to Tanya, he quietly began to give advice.

 

"Don't worry about any specific fighting style," he said curtly. "Use whatever movements you're comfortable with to disable these freaks. Let your connection to the Power guide you." 

 

"Okay," said Tanya as she glared at the mechanical attack bots from behind her helmet. "You can count on me." 

 

Turning back to the posturing Cogs, he pointed at the one who issued the command. 

 

"Go and tell King Mondo, that if it's a fight he wants, then it's a fight he's gonna get!" thundered the Red Zeo Ranger. "This planet is off limits to the Machine Empire!"

 

As the Cogs beat their chests in agitation, the Red Zeo Ranger steeled himself for the inevitable fight. 

 

"All right, ready guys?" he called. 

 

"Ready!" they replied, before all five shifted into a fighting stance.

 

"Power Rangers, Zeo!" they exclaimed. 

 

The Cogs began to surge in the direction of the truck trailer. [Eliminate. Them.]! ordered the squad leader.

 

"Let's do this!" called out Rocky as he jumped down into the incoming swarm. With the battlelust swimming in their veins, the other four Zeo Rangers echoed his battle cry with yells of their own as they flipped down to the ground of the construction site and spread out, each one heading towards a different squadron of Cogs around the construction site.

 

As three Cogs ran in her direction, Katherine lashed out with her foot. Her boot caught the first Cog in a kick that sent it stumbling out of its trajectory and into a sand pile. Warding off the punch of the 2nd Cog, she slapped its metal face, sending it spinning into the pile as well. The 3rd rushed on her, and soon she was busy blocking its rapid-fire blows. She back flipped, then leaped into the air, kicking out at the Cog. It managed to match her air kicks, but it staggered as she landed two sharp chops against its neck. 

 

The Pink Ranger let out a breath as she scanned the immediate area for other incoming robots and nearly got slammed by a sharp metal pike. With a gasp, she dropped onto her back, the projectile sailing over her to slam into a nearby truck. Rolling to her feet, she yanked out her Zeo Pistol and squeezed off three bolts of the crimson energy blasts, grinning behind her helmet as the bolts hit home, causing the three Cogs to drop to the ground. Electricity and sparks poured from them as they spasmed, their systems overloaded by the pistol's fire power.

 

That was a close one! Katherine thought to herself as she holstered her sidearm and charged towards another group of Cogs, who were converging on her position. Luckily my reflexes are even better than ever thanks to the Zeo Power...

 

Several feet above her, Adam traded blows with two Cogs on a metal platform just above an embankment of sand. Ducking the left hook of the Cog, Adam struck right at the stomach before shifting his stance and chopping at the Cog in the back. His enhanced strength caused the robot to stagger, slipping off of the platform and into the embankment below, tumbling into Katherine's first victim. He didn't even notice, as he dodged the swings of the second Cog before grabbing it's right arm swinging it into place. A classic one-two punch later, it was joining its partner on the downward tumble through the sand. 

 

Straightening himself, Adam pushed back the urge to crow at the successful routing of his first two opponents and used his vantage point to observe the other fights taking place throughout the construction site. His gaze sharpened as he focused on the Yellow Ranger surrounded by no less than five Cogs. 

 

Oh man, he thought to himself, she may not be able to handle that many at once. I better go and—

 

Sparks flew from his suit as two bolts of laser fire smashed into him, causing him to wince and stagger at the sharp flare of heat and the concussive force the blasts produced.

 

"Woah!" he muttered to himself as he turned to see four Cogs rushing towards him, one of them displaying a complex series of gears as it's face plate slid up and two more bursts of lasers spat out. He ducked and threw himself to the 'ground', barely dodging the laser bursts. Heaving himself up, he shook his head in exasperation.

 

Great, they have the ability to shoot lasers out of their faces too?!

 

As they came within range, he pulled out his Zeo Baton. As it's collapsible blade extended, he moved into a stance normally practiced by Tommy due to his use in the past of Saba. 

 

Time to see what these batons can do, he thought grimly to himself as he swung the baton at the Cog leaping forward...

 

Just a few feet away from the trailer where the battle had started, Tanya found herself surrounded by several Cogs, leaping back as one of them shot a laser burst at her. 

 

Sparks leapt from the ground, briefly obscuring her sight. Covering her face instinctively, she found herself being slammed into the trailer. 

 

These robots are no joke! Tanya groused mentally, as she shook of the dizziness that the attack produced and used her enhanced abilities to soar over the charging Cogs, landing in a crouch in a clear spot. 

 

I can't believe that Aisha and the others have been doing this kind of thing for years! 

 

Lifting herself up, she squared her shoulders as two more stalked towards her. She brushed aside the first one and instinctively ducked, sweeping out her left leg. Her move caused an unseen third Cog to flip forward, slamming face first into the ground. Rising to her feet, she moved back slightly, avoiding the wild swing of a Cog to her right. Aiming a kick to its stomach area, she swung up her right foot as it stumbled forward, slamming it down onto its back. Using the downed Cog as a booster, Tanya leaped up, her body guided by the Power within her twisting into a corkscrew kick that sent the next Cog several feet into a pile of granite blocks, exploding into a shower of sparks and flying parts as the force of the blow caused it to implode. 

 

Landing on her back, Tanya flipped to her feet and assumed a new battle stance, her blood singing.

 

Let's see you deal with the new girl now!

 

Fifteen yards away, Rocky ran up a partially constructed wall and back flipped over the heads of the group of Cogs who were on his tail. Landing into a crouch, the Blue Zeo Ranger blocked the kick of the Cog to his right with his forearm before rising and after blocking a chop by the Cog on his left, kicked out with his right foot and sent the metal sucker flying. Dropping back down unto his left knee, Rocky sharply elbowed an approaching Cog. Surging forward, he began blocking a series of punches from another Cog in front of him. He ducked the right swing of the robot, but just as he was starting to think that the robotic rejects didn't know how to navigate a fight, he was stunned by the robot's left hook. He grunted in slight pain as his solar plexus was pummeled by three rapid jabs. The force of the blows sent him stumbling back a few feet.

 

Damn, these bastards pack quite a punch! thought Rocky as he rubbed the area where he had been struck ruefully. As the Cog attempted to follow up with another right hook, he parried the blow and smashed his fist into its stomach, before grabbing it by the back of the neck and heaving it into an incoming group of four Cogs. Arcs of electrical current flickered as the group tumbled to the ground, disabled by the beaten Cog. 

 

Luckily, he mentally smirked to himself, so do I...

 

Tommy's right arm rang with the force of the punch that he stopped point blank. He didn't let that deter him however, striking out with two rapid punches and a sharp thrust with his elbow that sent that Cog skittering to the ground. 

 

He back flipped twice to avoid the next wild swings and ducked, sweeping another mechanical 'bot by the legs with his left arm. As more converged to duel with him, the Red Ranger snapped his legs together and fueled by the Zeo Crystal, leapt back twenty feet into the air, landing on the edge of the metal platform where Adam was dispatching the last of his opponents.

 

"Had enough?" taunted Tommy, as nine Cogs gathered below the platform. He was answered by furious robots as they beat their chests in a clear rage. 

 

"Huh, guess not." Taking a deep breath, Tommy leapt into the air again. Energy crackled through him as he launched himself at the Cogs, his body assuming a flying kick position. Red motes of energy flashed as he hammered at the Cogs with his feet. With one last kick, Tommy used the momentum to flip backward and land into a crouch. Rising, he assumed a defensive position in case the robots got back up. 

 

But it seems they'd had enough of the unexpected resistance. Concealed behind another large sand pile, Klank and Orbus watched with dismay as their prized robotic ground troops were dismantled by the multi-colored menaces. The miniature companion of the Chief Minister shook it's head frantically as it's sensors picked up the energy output of the unexpected opponents. 

 

"Oh no!" squealed the robot. "King Mondo is not going to like this one bit! No indeed-y!"

 

"Don't even mention it!" moaned Klank in distress. "Send the signal for retreat! We must regroup at once, and report to His Majesty!" 

 

"Right away!" replied Orbus as he sent the signal to the Cogs who were still functional. 

 

As the other Rangers rushed to back up their leader, the Cogs still able to move began to stagger away, stumbling over the sparking and dismantled forms of their counterparts. 

 

As they watched, the discomfited squadron of robotic soldiers were sucked into a distortion of air that looked like a giant gear, before it disappeared. 

 

"Alright!" said Tommy as the last of the robots disappeared into nothingness. "That'll teach them! The Power Rangers are back and better than ever!" 

 

Then as one, they snapped to attention before sweeping their right arms out in a kind of salute.

 

"Power Rangers, Zeo!" 

 


 

 

o0o

 

"Wh-Wha-What in the seven labryinths of Feoldor the Crass was that?!" cried Machina in shock, stumbling away from the Gear which served as their visual scanner. She turned to her husband, who stood stock still. "Darling! Darling! How could worthless humans, beat our glorious and galactically feared forces?!"

 

But the normally verbose King of the Machine Empire was silent.

 

As so he remained, as his bride raged over the humiliating defeat, and his son Sprocket whimpered in dismay in a corner. It wasn't until Klank and Orbus appeared in the Royal Observatory that the proud King whirred into life.

 

"Klank! Orbus! Who were those costumed intruders?!" he bellowed. 

 

Orbus ducked underneath Klank, who immediately slumped to his knees. "Forgive us, your Majesty!" he cried from his humble position. "I can't explain where such formidable opposition came from! It was my understanding that Rita and Zedd had disposed of the Terran contingent of the Power Rangers weeks ago!" 

 

He immediately cowered, expecting a blast from the Royal Staff. It was several long moments before he dared to lift his head. Immediately he quailed at the glowing visage of his creator and King. The entire Sky Base began to quake, as the Machine King's power began to seep from under his tightly maintained energy core. 

 

The tremors quickly died, as Mondo leashed his power. He knew immediately who was behind this unexpected resistance. Only one Being in this sector of the universe had the skill and wisdom to harness an energy source as potent as the Zeo Crystal!

 

"So, it appears that the incompetence of Zedd and Rita knows no bounds." mused the Machine King. "They weren't even able to put paid to that despicable Eltarian menace!" 

 

"Oh, your Majesty!" cried Klank, "Whatever shall we do?"

 

"Do?!" boomed the ruler of the Machine Empire, "What else? This is nothing! It is merely a minor setback! We have accomplished our objective, and now know who will oppose us and the form of the opposition. We will continue our observation and intelligence gathering, using alternative methods of extraction. Once we have gained the knowledge of the full measure of the Earth's military defensive measures, we will crush them with our mighty Armada!" 

 

"That's my Pops!" cheered Sprocket, perking up at the confident tone of the King. 

 

"Zordon of Eltar clearly underestimates our Empire, if he thinks that we will conduct our war in like manner as those buffoons who dare to call themselves Masters of Evil! With such numbers and superior technology on our side, it will be only a number of days before we overwhelm the feeble resistance efforts of the Earthlings and rip every spark of Zeo energy from the rotting corpses of his precious Rangers!" 

 

His words lifted up the morale of the other members of the Royal House, and they were soon busy crafting strategies for the future assault soon to burst over Angel Grove and the cities of the human world...

 


 

 

o0o

 

"Ai-yi-yi! Rangers!" cried Alpha 5 as the Zeo Rangers teleported back into the Zeo Chamber. "Thank goodness you are all alright!" 

 

The Rangers unfastened their helmets as they wound down from their first clash with the Machines. "Thanks Alpha," sighed Katherine as she flopped onto the raised dais upon which the tubes featuring the original Power Ranger suits and weapons were settled. "That was a tough battle."

 

EVEN SO, YOU DID EXTREMELY WELL RANGERS. Zordon graced the triumphant team with a look of unadulterated pride. YOU WERE ABLE TO ROUT THE SCOUTING FORCE OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE, AND DO SO WITHOUT HAVING TO TAP INTO SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF POWER. YOU ARE ALL TO BE CONGRATULATED. 

 

The tired teens smiled at Zordon and the fussing Alpha as he scurried here and there, checking on them. Tommy slowly rose to his feet and approached Billy, who was busy studying a readout of data compiled from their first battle. 

 

"Hey man," whispered the Red Ranger as he clasped Billy's shoulders in a friendly squeeze. "Do you think there's anything we can do for those guys who got killed at the construction site? I don't like the idea of them just laying there like that. Their families should know what happened."

 

Billy nodded in solemn agreement. "Yeah, I know Tommy. I've alerted the Angel Grove police force and reported their deaths as a drive-by gone wrong. It might not be enough to keep them from suspecting an alien attack, but it'll ensure that their families will be contacted relatively quickly. Other than that, there's not much more we can do."

 

"At least it's something," replied the long-haired teen. He lowered his voice a bit more, so his next words wouldn't be overheard by any of the others. 

 

"I missed you out there man. I wish there was a way we could make you an active Ranger again." 

 

Billy smiled and shook his head. "I wish there was," he said with a heavy sigh, "but for now that's just not a viable option. Still, at least I'll be able to do something to help you guys with your mission."

 

"You mean, our mission," interjected Tommy as he squeezed his friend a little tighter. "As far as I'm concerned, you're still a Power Ranger. That'll never change, even without the uniform. I don't what I'd do without you here to help me." 

 

Billy looked searchingly into Tommy's earnest face, touched by the other man's heartfelt words. He grinned crookedly, and clasped Tommy's hand in a brief squeeze. 

 

"You know I'm always on your side," he said.

 

Tommy smiled back before heading towards Zordon's tube. 

 

"Zordon," he said reflectively, "do you think that there's any chance that the Machine Empire might give up on trying to get the Zeo Crystal, now that they know we're using it?"

 

UNFORTUNATELY, I MUST SAY THAT THE ANSWER IS 'NO', replied Zordon. THE MACHINE EMPIRE DOES NOT ACCEPT DEFEAT LIGHTLY OR GRACEFULLY. WE HAVE ONLY BOUGHT A LIMITED WINDOW OF PEACE, AS THEY PREPARE ALTERNATE MEANS OF GAINING ACCESS TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE PLANET'S DEFENSIVE SYSTEMS. SOON, THE FULL MIGHT OF THE MACHINE EMPIRE WILL BE BROUGHT TO BEAR. YOU AND YOUR TEAM MUST REMAIN VIGILANT. WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN THEY WILL STRIKE NEXT, OR THE MANNER IN WHICH THEY WILL DO SO.

 

"I was afraid of that," sighed Tommy. He turned and watched silently as the other Rangers celebrated their win. He was glad that they won too, but he just had a nagging feeling that just wouldn't go away...

 

The worst was yet to come...

 

Would they be able to survive the coming storm?