Author's notes - hey! Welcome to the next story in my line of POV stories. Jokermask, you inspired me on this one, when you suggested that it'd be a great idea to do one of these for Lord Zedd. I agreed :). You ever hear an actor saying that it's more fun to play a villain, because the villain can get away with things that the heroes can't? It's true for writing villains, too. This was a lot of fun :). Zedd was always my favourite villain - sure, he had a couple of bad days, but he always did it with such style, and had such a talent for zippy one-liners. Like my other POV stories, this one is only five short chapters. I want to write a story for every one of my core characters, so there's six to go. I've got some great ideas, but it's slow going at the moment, so it might be a few months before my next story. I've gotta get these characters right, you know, and that takes time.
As a quick aside, yes, this story includes original characters. All my stories are set in my own series (and there's a scene here between Zac and Teresa, two characters who don't agree on anything, but who still like each other a lot. It's an interesting dynamic, and one I wanted to explore. The "shelf" moment is their code word for putting something on a shelf to deal with later, whenever Ranger-business pops up). However... the original characters get, like, two scenes. This is about Zedd. As you can imagine, Zedd doesn't like sharing.
With that out of the way, on with the story. I hope you guys and gals like Omega :).
This has never been about good or evil.
And despite what that sanctimonious twit Zordon would have you believe, this has never been about power, either. This has always been about one thing.
I am Lord Zedd, emperor of all I see.
At least I was. Until him.
Zordon has been a thorn in my side ever since I first attacked the planet Eltar and he managed to turn back my forces. Forever jealous of my greatness, Zordon dedicated his life to thwarting me on a self-righteous quest to prove his own moral superiority, as if such a thing even existed. We fought across the galaxy, locked in endless battle until the day my servant Rita tricked Zordon into banishment. It should've been my greatest victory, but even in defeat, Zordon had the nerve to defy me. Trapped in the time-warp by Rita, Zordon took Earth as his new home, and he defended the planet as he'd defended Eltar, keeping me at bay for centuries. Matters elsewhere eventually required me to delay my conquest of Earth, so Zordon's precious humankind were spared. Until two years ago, when Rita's defeat finally drew me back to take this wretched planet as my own.
But in the meantime, Zordon had recruited a team.
I've never encountered a more annoying group of young people in my life. I'm sure Zordon and that infernal robot of his did that deliberately. It seems like every time I blink, there's more of them. I wonder if he's ever considered just cloning them. That would seem to be so much more efficient than recruiting off the street. I'm not sure what burns more, that Rita was so humiliated by mere children, or that every day, I risk suffering the same fate. Yet there they remain, standing against me at every turn, brainwashed by Zordon's usual clap-trap about doing the right thing. No matter what I throw at them, they find the strength to keep fighting. The resilience of those kaleidoscopic clods puzzles me. Not to mention, they share a fanatical devotion to each other that I simply do not understand. The twelve of them spend every minute of free time around each other. If I was their parents, frankly, I'd be concerned.
But for all the pain they cause me, enemies make you great. Over the centuries, I've made more than a few. Today, thanks to an old ally, the Power Rangers became the least of my problems.
I was standing at the balcony of the observation room in my lunar palace, staring out over the rocky landscape to the blue planet hanging smugly before me. It feels like every day, the planet itself reminds me of my failures, taunting me from just out of reach. It's so close I can almost hold up my armoured gauntlet and wrap my fingers around it, and yet still, it is not mine. I heard footsteps echoing off the stone floor behind me and realised that Goldar was approaching, probably to report another in a long line of failures.
"What is it Goldar?" I asked. "Can't you see I'm busy plotting?"
"My master," Goldar replied. He came to a stop a few metres away and paused to catch his breath. Wary of keeping me waiting, he soon spoke. "Finster has spotted two of the Rangers in the park," he panted. "Now is the perfect time to attack!"
I spun around to thank Goldar for an observation I'd made ten minutes ago, when I felt the tiniest shudder of movement vibrating up through the stone tiles beneath us. It could've easily been a meteor impact on the dark side of the moon, but as the trembling grew stronger, I realised this was something far more malevolent.
"Goldar," I began, looking around in alarm. "What is that?"
"Sire, we're under attack!" the golden warrior shouted, and swung his sword wildly above his head. I stepped aside before I was decapitated. "We need to…!"
"Don't be ridiculous," I said. "Nobody would dare attack me here," and I paused. "Is Finster still working on that earthquake monster? I warned him about that."
Without warning, the room went dark. Goldar and I spun to the balcony to see a massive black spaceship cruising low over the castle, blocking out the view of the stars and shaking my fortress to the foundations as it passed. The roar of the ship's engines through even the thin atmosphere around the castle was deafening. The ship had two enormous wings on either side of its body, with a hooked beak on the underside of the body beneath the bridge. Underneath the main superstructure, the ship's distinctive clawed landing gears sat tucked up against the body. As Goldar and I watched, the ship continued on a course straight for the planet below. Once it was safely out of range, the lunar palace stopped shaking.
"Lord Zedd," Goldar simpered. "I recognise that ship! That's the Iron Vulture!"
I nodded, and Goldar felt heat begin to radiate off me as my body started glowing. "And that can only mean one thing," I said, as the Iron Vulture reached the Earth's atmosphere. "Crulger."
"No way girl," Zac said with a laugh, and bounced the basketball across the court to Teresa. "You're crazy!"
It was a fine Saturday morning. The sun wasn't too high yet, and the city park was already full of people jogging, playing soccer on the grass, or flying kites in the breeze. Teresa had met Zac in the Youth Centre earlier, and after trying a couple of Ernie's new breakfast smoothies, they'd headed into the park and found the basketball courts empty.
Teresa took aim, and the ball bounced off the backboard. "What?" she smiled, enjoying the game. "All I'm saying is that I agree with Ian. A holiday in the country sounds nice."
"Nicer than a big city?" Zac asked. He took a shot, and the ball sank through the hoop.
"It'd be relaxing," Teresa replied, and jogged after the ball. "And it'd be really peaceful and quiet."
"Those sound like other ways of saying boring," Zac said. "Look at Springfield! There's so much to do and see in that place. And don't you remember seeing the city lit up at night from the tourist centre by the river? You can't tell me that wasn't awesome."
Teresa threw the ball, and it rebounded off the board and dropped through the hoop. "No, that was amazing," she agreed. "But in the country, you can go hiking or horseback riding, or just hang out and soak up the sun."
"Big cities have parks and beaches, you know," Zac said. He threw the ball one-handed, and missed by a mile. "As well as movie theatres, arcades, clubs…"
"They also have pollution, traffic and noise," Teresa added brightly, catching the ball. "I think the countryside is romantic. What if Angela didn't like the noise of a big city and wanted a holiday out west?"
"Ouch," Zac replied, clutching at his heart. "Cheap shot. I like that, though. You're thinking outside the box."
Teresa laughed. "Thanks. But that's what I…"
Shadow fell over the park, plunging everyone into darkness. The joggers came to a confused halt, while the nearby soccer players tripped over each other and tumbled to the grass. The basketball fell out of Teresa's hands, and the two Rangers turned to the sky as a massive bird-shaped spaceship passed between the city and the morning sun. The ship was far enough away that the ground wasn't shaking, but they could hear the roar of the great beast's engines. Without slowing down, the ship continued across the sky, and everyone blinked and covered their eyes when the sun reappeared high above them. The two Rangers watched as the ship passed over the city and disappeared over the horizon, heading west but banking slightly to the north.
The basketball rolled away onto the grass.
"Shelf?" Zac asked.
"Shelf," Teresa said quickly. "Let's go." And the two Rangers grabbed the basketball and raced away.
The clink of metallic instruments in an apron announced Finster's presence, and Goldar turned to him as he scurried through the throne chamber.
"Lord Zedd?" Finster asked. "The Rangers are aware of the Iron Vulture's arrival on Earth! My readings show they're mobilising as we speak."
I paused, lost in thought for a minute. Neither Goldar nor Finster was brave enough to break the silence. At least they'd learned something. Goldar couldn't help but notice the glow from my body began fading.
"Of course the Rangers will involve themselves," I growled softly, rolling through scenarios. "We can count on those nuisances to interfere, can't we? Why didn't I think of that?" and I turned back to the Earth. Finding the Iron Vulture's trail through the atmosphere wasn't difficult. Using my gifted sight, I soon spotted the ship, cruising low over Borneo as it descended.
"Crulger's touching down in the South China Sea," I said, and reached for my Z-staff. "Which means that's where we need to be. Finster, stay here. Goldar? Move."
The morning was quiet and still as cormorant fishermen worked to the soft glow of the lanterns on their bamboo rafts, floating in the channels between sandy islands. The sun was only just making its presence felt over the horizon, and on all sides, jagged stone peaks jutted out of the mist like the teeth of a great predator. But as the Iron Vulture descended out of the sky, the fishermen looked up in alarm, their faces frozen in fear as their birds began squawking, while rice farmers tending their fields across the channel scurried to safety. Unnoticed in the chaos, Goldar and I appeared in twin flashes of flame on one of the sandy islands. Glancing around, I indicated the jungle behind us, and we stepped back into the shadows of the forest.
As we watched, the Vulture approached one of the larger islands and then touched down with a roar of exhaust. A hatch slid open on the underside of the ship, folding down to meet the sand.
"Lord Zedd," Goldar murmured beside me, "if Crulger is stealing something from a planet that belongs to you, we must stop him!"
I waved my hand irritably. "Enough Goldar," I snapped. "I appreciate your enthusiasm, but Crulger could be on Earth for any number of reasons. If he's just here to annoy Zordon, then I couldn't care in the slightest. But I don't think his motives are that simple."
Footsteps echoed across the water, and I looked back to the ship as Crulger himself stepped out onto the sand. He hadn't changed from when we'd last worked together. He was still small and unassuming, wrapped in a flapping black cloak with silver boots and crimson gloves. His face was hidden by a white mask that protected his identity. The rumour was that his face kept changing, but it was a rumour I knew he'd cultivated. What was more unsettling were his eyes. They were soulless and hollow, black without pupils. There was an old saying on a planet I'd once enslaved, that eyes are the windows to something deeper. This was possibly true. Whenever I look into the eyes of the Rangers, I see so much hope and good-will that it sickens me. But Crulger's eyes? They were empty, filled with little more than a yearning for carnage. They'd always reminded me of a black hole, devoid of life or light.
Magic was never his strongest skill. Crulger relied far more on the limitless supply of blades and knives he kept in the folds of his cloak. He once told me that he keeps a blaster in there too, just in case. In hundreds of years, I'd never seen him use it. He may have been annoyingly pompous, but his self-obsession made him no less deadly with a dagger in hand.
Immediately behind Crulger was his general Drektor, his yellow eyes burning brightly through the morning mist. Crulger's slimy second-in-command, Drektor was a hateful beast that even Finster would've turned his significant nose up at. Drektor was equal parts ooze and man, although somewhere under all that dripping blue slime was a powerful warrior with a short fuse and total loyalty to his boss. I've never liked him. The Destroyer knows, it wouldn't be hard to be more efficient than Goldar, Baboo or Squatt, but think of the cleaning.
Ignoring the crowd of rice farmers behind him, Crulger stepped towards the water's edge, and looked up to the towering rocky peak facing him from across the channel. Behind him, a dozen of his loyal shock troopers followed him out of the ship, all wearing black armour and carrying various weapons.
"These are the coordinates," Crulger said. "This must be the place."
"It's not much to look at," dripped Drektor, gazing around.
"I suspect that's why they hid it here," Crulger said, then nodded to the mountain and folded his arms across his chest. "Drektor? It's all yours."
Drektor reached back as one of Crulger's soldiers handed him a shoulder-mounted cannon. Resting the weapon against his body, Drektor took aim at the side of the mountain and pulled the trigger. The mountain shook with the impact as a cloud of pulverised rock was thrown out into the air. But as the cloud of dust began to settle, Crulger narrowed his eyes and spotted a glint of something silver in the low light.
"Troops, up there!" he shouted, pointing. His soldiers obediently charged into the water. The channel wasn't deep, and they soon reached the island opposite and began to scour the rubble.
I looked to the horizon, my sense of unease mounting. Did all twelve of them sleep in this morning? Of course, the one time you actually needed them and they were all busy. Typical.
I turned back as the soldiers returned to Crulger carrying a small silver chest.
"Crulger," Drektor oozed, "do you see?"
Crulger nodded. "The writing on the side of the chest, you mean?" he asked. "That is Dhalian. This is exactly what was promised. A map to the final piece of the Omega Sanction. Get it onboard the Iron Vulture before we're interrupted!"
Of course. He was after the Omega Sanction. Watching silently, I tightened my grip around my staff without realising it. Goldar heard the metal warping and bending in my hand, and turned to me with surprise.
"Sire? You're… glowing."
The sky suddenly lit up. Everyone turned to the horizon as twelve streaks of lightning shot down towards the beach. A second later, all twelve of the Power Rangers had materialised in a line facing Crulger, Drektor and the Iron Vulture.
Stepping forward, the Black Ranger looked from the chest in Crulger's hands to the smoking crater in the side of the mountain. "Yeah," Zac began. "We're gonna need you to pay for that."
"Ah, the locals," Crulger grimaced. "Soldiers, get the chest onto the Iron Vulture. Drektor, deal with these idiots."
Drektor stepped forward with a cruel grin. "My pleasure," he said. "You know how I love making a statement." He swung his arm back, and it grew in length as he swept it towards the Rangers across the beach. Three of the Rangers dived to safety as Drektor's arm struck the rest of them away in a shower of sparks, the force of the blow launching them into the water. But Trini, Kimberly and Brendan rolled to their feet, unfazed, and charged towards their attacker.
Crulger faltered. Reaching into his robes, he pulled out a handful of serrated throwing daggers, and flicked them towards the three Rangers. With a thought, Trini and Brendan summoned their Power Weapons and struck the daggers out of the air. Crulger growled in annoyance, and glancing behind him, he pulled another two daggers from his cloak and threw them straight for the cowering rice farmers.
"No!" Kimberly shouted. Her Power Bow appeared in a flash of light, and she took aim and fired, deflecting the daggers in midair. But the distraction worked. As the rest of the team raced forward to join her, Crulger disappeared into the hull of the Iron Vulture, and the hatch sealed shut. With a great roar, the ship's engines fired. The blast threw the Rangers off their feet, and forced Goldar and I to retreat.
Without wasting another second, the ship lifted off the ground, turned to face the western sky and shot up into the atmosphere, soon disappearing from view.
The Rangers picked themselves up off the sand.
"What was that about?" Peter asked.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Sarah said.
"That guy was bad news," Tommy said.
"What gave that away?" Brendan murmured, and pointed to the daggers lying on the sand.
"Should we get those weapons and take them back to the Command Centre?" Scott asked. "Maybe it'll help Zordon tell us who that guy was."
"Good idea," Billy nodded.
The two Blue Rangers jogged over to where the daggers had fallen. As they reached for the knives, I nodded to myself. The other Rangers were still by the water, and with the forest between them and myself, I stepped out of hiding and casually addressed Goldar.
Across from us, Billy looked up and saw Goldar and I. Keeping silent, he tapped Scott on the shoulder.
"It's exactly as I feared," I said to Goldar. "Crulger is here because of the Omega Sanction."
Goldar growled. "Sire, we cannot let him rebuild the sanction!"
"If that really was a map to the final piece, we may already be too late," I said. "We don't have a second to waste Goldar. I think it's about time I dropped in on my old ally Crulger and paid him a visit." With that, I struck the dirt at our feet with my staff, and the two of us vanished.
Across the sand, Teresa stepped over towards Billy and Scott. "Are you guys okay?" she asked.
Scott turned to his sister. "We gotta get back to the Command Centre," Scott said quickly. "Like, right now."
To be continued.