"Beware of jealousy, my lord, the green-eyed monster/ which doth mock the meat on which it feeds."- "Othello," William Shakespeare.
Angel Grove is
beautiful at night. The monster damage is invisible, and the lights of
the city shine like a thousand stars in the darkness. Even the harbor district
looks good, from a distance. There are a number of good places to look
over the city. Hunter's Point and Miller's Ridge are two of the best-known.
At Miller's Ridge, teens are generally too busy making out with each other
to notice the view. Hunter's Point, on the other hand, is far less frequented.
Tonight it was totally empty, not a soul around- except for the two draconic
shadows watching the gem-studded vista below with acquisitive eyes.
Think of it, Jealysy! one hissed. An entire world, ours for the taking!
Jealysy swatted her companion upside the head. Fool! Don't be so eager, Malyce! That was our master's mistake. He was so certain that none in this world could stand against him that he failed to properly study the situation. We shall not repeat Nyghtmayr's folly.
Malyce, the more burly of the two, rubbed his head sullenly. What will we do, then?
Jealysy smiled, an evil expression that curled across her dragon-like features as if in slow-motion. The oldest technique known to warriors, Malyce. Divide and conquer. The Rangers shall fall, and we shall have avenged our master and our brothers, and secured us a world for the plucking, all in one swoop. Hideous silent laughter echoed through the hills, disturbing more than one dream in the city below.
where do you want these?" Tanya Sloan asked, setting the last box of papayas
down on the juice bar counter.
"Right there is fine, Tanya," the slightly paunchy bartender replied. "I'll get to them later. So how's Pitt?"
"It's great, although I miss all my friends. We keep in touch of course, by letter and communicator, but still, it's sad not seeing them every day. One thing I really miss is the sunshine! I certainly wouldn't be dressing like this in a Pittsburgh February." She spun, showing off her yellow short-sleeved shirt. Ernie chuckled.
"No, I don't suppose you would. So how long are you home for?"
"Four days. I've got a long weekend, thanks to some of my professors canceling all the classes, and my parents know I'm a Ranger, so I just teleported home for the weekend. Maybe later I'll head up to Northwestern, pay Adam a visit." She grinned.
"So after you help me load all my food supplies into my pantry, what are your plans for the day?"
She sighed. "Well, I have to help my mom move some stuff up to the attic. After that, I'm joining the Turbo Rangers for a picnic in the park. That'll be interesting."
Ernie snorted. "That's one word for it." The Turbo Rangers- Fred Kelman, Justin Stewart, Franklin Park, Rosa De Santos and Tasha Young- were the most unpredictable, eclectic group of friends that Ernie had ever had in his juice bar. The fact that they were also Earth's major line of defense against evil aliens from outer space only made hanging around with them more- interesting.
Tanya laughed. "I haven't talked to Tasha that much recently. I used to mentor her, and I think it's time we got the communication channels re-opened. I'll see you, Ernie. I've got some heavy lifting to do."
"Bye, Tanya," he waved as she sped out the door.
"So who brought
the food?" Those were Fred Kelman's first words upon joining his friends
for their picnic in the park. Three thumbs jerked in the direction of Rosa
De Santos, who smiled.
"And we have quite a selection. Ham sandwiches, roast beef, turkey, tuna salad, peanut butter and mayonnaise…" As Rosa enumerated the food choices on her fingers, the other four all groaned good-naturedly.
Franklin Park chuckled, looking up from his book. "She is DEFINITELY a De Santos," he grinned. Rosa stuck her tongue out at him.
"I'm a growing girl!" she defended herself.
Justin Stewart raised an eyebrow. "You keep eating like that, and the only direction you'll be growing in is out."
"HEY!" Rosa immediately pounced on her blue friend, tickling him unmercifully around the ribs. Laughing, Justin flailed around helplessly, trying to knock her away. The other three just sat and watched.
"Should we help him?" Tasha Young asked, sounding slightly bored. The other two looked at each other.
"Nahhh," Fred and Franklin replied in unison. "Justin can take care of himself," Fred added.
Suddenly a flash of black lightning and a sudden breeze alerted the party to the presence of something evil. Rosa left off tickling Justin, and all five Rangers rose slowly to their feet, turning towards the source of the wind. Standing behind them was a dragon made entirely of shadow.
"Anybody got any ideas who or what THIS is?" Fred asked his friends. The other four shook their heads.
I am the Minor Demon Jealysy, humans. Surrender now, and I may yet spare your miserable lives!
Tasha snorted. "Everyone who's heard this speech before, raise your hands." Five hands shot up.
"Look," Justin began, "we've kicked every villain butt from here to Topeka. Why don't you just give up and go away?"
"Why do we even bother asking each other these questions?" Rosa added. "We always know what the answers are going to be. It's formula."
"Let's skip to the point where we morph and beat her," Franklin suggested. "I want to get back to our picnic." Despite their confident joking, the Turbo Rangers were nervous. They had heard about the team's two previous run-ins with the Demons of Nyghtmayr, and knew they were up against a formidable adversary."
"I think Franklin's got a plan," Fred agreed. "Shift into Turbo!" In a flash of multi-colored light, the five thirteen year-olds were transformed into the Power Rangers Turbo. Jealysy merely laughed, regarding them contemptuously.
Young fools. Do you believe that those outfits will protect you against my power? A bright light flashed, accompanied by a sound like thunder. When their vision cleared, the Turbos were alone in the park.
"I guess she's gone," Red Turbo said slowly. "Let's head back to the Power Chamber and talk to Zordon about this." He reached out a hand to Pink Turbo, who had fallen to her knees from the shock of the attack. Suddenly his hand was knocked away as Green Turbo stepped between them.
"Keep your hands off her," Green Turbo growled. "She's with ME, hot-shot, and don't you forget it."
"Yeah?" Red Turbo replied, not backing off. "You want everything, don't you? I bet you want to be leader, too."
"Fred, Franklin, what are you doing?" Yellow Turbo cried, trying to pull her two friends away from each other before blows could be exchanged. Suddenly a hand fell on her shoulder, pulling her away from the two of them. Yellow Turbo turned to see Pink Turbo standing behind her.
"Keep away from my man, Tasha," Pink Turbo warned.
"Rosa, have you gone nuts? I'm not interested in Franklin."
"That's good to hear." Yellow Turbo whirled at the voice behind her. It was Blue Turbo's, but the tone was so threatening that she had barely recognized it. "You're with me, Tasha, and don't you forget it."
Yellow Turbo pulled out of Blue Turbo's punishingly tight grip on her wrists, controlling her desire to hit him with some effort. "You don't own me, Justin. What is wrong with all of you?"
Suddenly a flash of yellow light caught everybody's attention, and all five Turbos turned to see Yellow Ranger teleport in. "You guys! You're under Jealysy's spell!" she cried, running towards them. "You have to fight it!"
Suddenly the world flashed white, and the ground fell out from under them. Yellow Turbo barely had time to curse before the white turned to black, and she knew no more.
"Ohh, never again,"
Tasha mumbled. "I will NEVER let Justin talk me into that roller coaster
again!" Levering herself up, she examined her surroundings. They appeared
to have landed in a forest. Gray mist swirled around them, making it impossible
to see more than a few yards in any direction. The trees around them were
black and bare, and seemed to be dead. In any direction, the woods were
preternaturally silent. Tasha made a face. "Yuck. What is this place?"
"You got me," Tanya replied, sitting up next to her. "But we're all by ourselves, and we're both unmorphed."
It was true. Both of them were out of costume, and none of the other Turbo Rangers were anywhere in sight. Tasha stood cautiously, helping Tanya up as well. Tanya shivered, looking around her. "Maybe we should morph again. This place seems like it could be dangerous."
Tasha nodded, pulling her key out of a pocket. "Shift into Turbo! Dune Star Turbo Power!"
"It's morphin time! Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!"
Yellow light flared, but nothing happened. The two girls regarded each other in worry.
That won't work here, a mental voice said. The two girls whirled to find an image of Jealysy and another demon watching them. You're in the realm of Morphyus, the home of the Demons of Nyghtmayr. Here, you play by our rules. Oh, by the way, this is Malyce. We are all that remains of the dynasty of Nyghtmayr, and we shall be your destroyers.
"Where are our friends?" Tasha asked furiously, taking a step towards the Minor Demons. Her temper, never the best, was frayed to its limit by the events of the day.
Jealysy sniggered. Oh, they're around. Good luck hunting for them, Yellow Rangers, because they'll also be hunting for you. With that, the image disappeared, leaving the two girls alone.
"What did she mean by that?" Tanya asked. Tasha shrugged.
They didn't have to wait long for an answer. A blur of red suddenly left the bushes and attacked them. As it approached, the two of them could see that the blur was actually Fred Kelman. "Fred, don't!" Tasha cried, blocking a particularly nasty kick. "We're your friends, remember?" He spin-kicked her away, sending her into a nearby tree. "Oof. Guess not."
Tanya set her stance as Fred advanced on her, and nearly gasped as she saw his eyes. They were black, not just in pupil or iris, but a complete solid black, with no features whatsoever. "He's under some kind of spell!" Tanya cried, dodging a powerful punch. "Must be Malyce. Minor Demons can evoke the emotion that they're named for."
"So how do we break it?" Tasha yelled, rising to her feet.
"With friendship," replied Tanya. "I don't know him well enough, so you're going to have to talk him down."
Tasha swallowed. One slip, and Fred would pound her into hamburger meat. Tasha had no illusions about her fighting ability or Fred's. Gathering her courage, she tackled her friend, pinning him to the ground. "Listen to me, Fred," she said quickly, her tone of voice urgent. "It's me, Tasha. Remember me? Remember all those hours we spent in the youth center, you teaching me to fight? Remember that time I helped you with your math homework, and we spent three hours on it, until you finally understood the concept? Or that junior high dance, the one that Divatox and her Piranhatrons crashed? Do you remember how we double-teamed that one that stole your baseball cap?" Fred's struggles were growing less, but his eyes were still that featureless obsidian. Tasha racked her brains for something else to say.
"Come on, Fred. You're too strong to let Malyce control you. What happened to the guy who can out-stubborn Tommy Oliver AND Jason Scott? To the leader who never lets us lose confidence in ourselves? We all look up to you, Fred. You've pulled our buns out of the fire so many times. Don't you DARE leave me now."
That did it. The last of the black left Fred's eyes. Warily, Tasha got off him, watching him to see what he would do. He startled her by throwing his arms around her neck in a tight hug. "Thanks, Tash," he whispered. "I needed that."
"Get your skinny red butt away from me," she joked, uncomfortable with such an open display of affection. He pulled back, smiling at her. Suddenly his body was surrounded by red light, and he disappeared. Faintly in the background, Tasha could hear Jealysy's mocking laughter. With a growl, she rose to her feet.
"This isn't over yet," she told the woods at large. "Count on it."
Tanya placed a hand on the younger girl's shoulder. "You beat their spells, Tasha, both of them. It'll take longer for them to recast them, because this time, Fred will be fighting. We'll rescue him before that happens."
"I hope you're right," Tasha sighed. Then she and Tanya began to walk, knowing that sooner or later, they would encounter another Turbo Ranger.
"One thing I
don't understand," Tanya said suddenly, breaking the silence between them.
They had been walking along the bleak and misty path for a few minutes,
alert at all times for an attack by one of the Rangers. "Why didn't Jealysy's
spell affect you?"
Tasha pondered that for a moment, a thoughtful expression on her face. "Well," she said slowly, "jealousy, the emotion, is fear of losing something that you have. It's about power, control. I've been a shelter kid most of my life. I've never really had any friends, family, or possessions to worry about losing, and I realized a long time ago that the only thing in my world I can control is me. Maybe Jealysy's spell couldn't find any place to grab on."
Tanya looked at the younger girl speculatively. "You say you don't have anything to be afraid to lose," she teased "What about Justin?"
Tasha blushed bright red, an unusual occurrence for her. "THAT is none of your business." Tanya laughed aloud. Although she and Tasha looked very similar, they rarely acted alike. The Yellow Turbo Ranger's current reaction, however, was so much like Tanya's reaction to questions about her relationship with Adam had once been. It was just too funny.
"Glad you think this is so amusing," Tasha shot back acerbically, but a smile was beginning to touch her lips as well. Suddenly a pair of blurs dropped from the trees above them. Tasha and Tanya quickly took back to back stances as Franklin and Rosa began to advance on them. A quick look told the two Rangers that their friends were in the same state that Fred had been. "I'll take Rosa," Tasha called over her shoulder. "You probably know Franklin better."
"Oh, sure," Tanya grumbled as Tasha threw herself into the fight. "Stick me with the black belt." She and Franklin began to circle, as she racked her brains for something to say that would break through Malyce's spell on him.
"Rosa, you have to remember," Tasha pleaded. "You and me, going shopping for your mother's birthday present? We must have canvassed every store in the mall, and checked out every guy there too. Or remember the fight at the water park, when you and that Piranhatron fought all the way down the waterslide, and at the bottom, I hit him with an inner tube? Come on, Rosa, you have to come back to me. You're the only other girl on the team. Who else can I talk to about girl things? You're the only one I know who really understands me. Fred, Franklin, and Justin are great, but they're guys! You know how that is. Please, Rosa, come back."
Listening to her friend's words, Rosa began to shudder as the black faded from her eyes. This time, Tasha held the other girl tightly and did not pull away when Rosa wrapped her arms around her in return. As Rosa's shivering grew less, Tasha looked over to where Tanya was dealing with Franklin. "Come on, we'd better go help Tanya. Looks like Frank's giving her some trouble." Rosa nodded, and the two of them headed towards the other fight, Tasha still supporting her teammate.
Tanya ducked a round-house kick, mentally wondering if martial arts proficiency was genetic to the Park family, or if it was just a product of living in that house. "Franklin, don't you remember me? It's Tanya, your brother's girlfriend. The one you dropped water balloons on? Adam and I were kissing after our date, and you and Fred soaked us to the skin. Franklin, you've got to remember. For Adam's sake, for your own sake, please remember!"
"Franklin." Rosa's quiet voice immediately caught the Green Turbo Ranger's attention. Cocking his head, he took a step towards her, lowering his hands from their attack position. "Remember me? Dancing at the Christmas party, working out in the youth center? Do you remember our first date? We spent the whole night watching each other instead of the movie. And at the end of the night, you finally got up the nerve to kiss me- even if it was just on the cheek." Seeing Tanya and Tasha's interested expressions, she gave them an evil glare. "Breathe a word of this to anyone and you die," she growled.
Tasha chuckled, taking up the thread. "Franklin, you have got to be one of the most stubborn people I know. We both know you inherited your dad's backbone. What happened to the guy who took a poisonous squid barb in the chest and went on to storm Scorpina's starship? The one who spent six hours teaching me a kata? Where's the guy I can talk to about almost anything that bothers me? Come on, Franklin, come back to us. We're your friends."
The black left Franklin's eyes, and he lunged for Rosa and Tasha, throwing his arms around them with a sob. Before they could break apart or do anything else, however, Franklin and Rosa disappeared from the three-way hug in a greenish-pink flash of light.
"Shit!" Tasha cried viciously. "I'm gonna kick those Demons into next week when I get my hands on them."
Tanya sighed. This WAS getting frustrating. "Come on, let's get moving. We've got one more Ranger to find." The two of them began to walk again, waiting and watching for Justin Stewart.
As the two of
them walked, Tanya studied the younger girl. Of all the Turbo Rangers,
Tasha was really the only one Tanya knew very well. Tanya had enrolled
in the Little Angel's Haven Mentor program, and had been assigned to work
with Tasha. At first, the younger girl had been suspicious of the attention,
but Tanya had persevered, seeing in the lonely young girl a reflection
of herself as a child. Although Tanya had found her parents, she still
vividly remembered the years she had believed herself to be an orphan.
Because of those shared experiences, Tasha and Tanya had forged an extremely
Tasha generally kept her feelings locked deep inside, where nobody could see them, but over time, Tanya had learned to read the other girl through body movements. Right now, Tasha was worried sick about her friends. The younger girl might act tough and independent, but she had formed extremely strong bonds with the rest of the Turbo team. Tanya sighed. She thought of Tasha as a little sister, and would hate to see her hurt.
Tanya's thoughts were interrupted as a blue-clad form shot out of nowhere, tackling Tasha and knocking her to the ground. The two rolled over and over, finally coming to a stop with Justin on top, his hands moving towards Tasha's throat. In a move that Tanya doubted came from any of the boys, Tasha swung a leg up, hooked it around Justin's neck, and pushed him off her, rolling and coming upright as she did so. The two of them circled each other warily.
"Justin, it's me, Tasha. Do you remember me? You taught me to fight, remember? And I taught you how to hot-wire a car. Remember how we spend hours studying for that big science test? We stayed up until almost midnight, and drank more Coke than I'd ever consumed before in my life. Remember how we set Lita up with Max at the Christmas party?" Justin cocked his head, obviously listening to her, but there was no flicker in his obsidian eyes.
"Justin, you're the smartest guy I know. A lot of kids call you a nerd, but you're not. You're smart, and funny, and I really like being with you. You're always the one I rely on to watch my back in a fight, and you're the only one who understands what it's like to be a shelter kid." Tasha swallowed. "You're- my best friend, Justin."
Even as the black left his eyes, Justin was swallowed up in a flash of blue, leading Tasha to slam a fist into her hand. "Damn it! I feel like I'm in a bad episode of Sailor Moon!"
Very good, Yellow Rangers. I must say I'm impressed. The two girls turned once more to see Jealysy smirking at them. You managed to defeat all of my Rangers. I didn't know you had it in you.
"They're not yours, dragon-breath," Tasha growled. Tanya placed a restraining hand on her shoulder.
"What now, Jealysy?" The older girl's voice was hard and sharp as a flint. The Minor Demon shrugged.
We raise the stakes. If you want your friends, simply follow this road. It will lead you to our castle- if you're brave enough to enter. We'll be waiting for you. With that, Jealysy's image dissolved into so much black mist, revealing a pathway through the fog. Tanya and Tasha looked at each other quizzically.
"Do we follow?" Tasha asked.
Tanya sighed. "Do we have a choice?" That answered, the two of them set off along the path, wary of any attack that might come.
"Now that is a big castle," the Yellow Turbo Ranger remarked, looking up
at the huge black structure rising out of the mist.
"Yeah, I think Count Dracula would feel quite at home here," Tanya agreed. "Shall we enter by the front door or look for a service entrance?"
Shrugging, Tasha began to head towards the main gate. "They already know we're here. Might as well take the direct approach." As the two of them crossed the drawbridge, neither of them noticed the flickers of light running through the ebony wood. Not until the flickers coalesced beneath Tanya, forming a vortex that pulled her down almost immediately.
"Help!" Tanya cried, now up to her waist in the swirling white light. With a desperate lunge, Tasha grabbed her friend's hands, tugging with all her might.
"It's- no- use!" Tasha grunted. Pull though she would, she could not budge Tanya, who was being drawn deeper and deeper into the vortex with each passing second. Tasha was now straining, almost crouching on the ground as she tried to pull Tanya from the hole's grip.
"Let go, Tasha!" the Yellow Zeo Ranger cried. "No sense us both being captured."
"Forget it," Tasha snapped, looking the other girl straight in the eye. "I don't abandon my friends."
Tanya bit her lip as Tasha continued to tug, the two of them still being pulled steadily into the light. "I'm sorry, Tasha, but somebody has to rescue the others. Don't worry about me, I'll be all right." With that, Tanya let go of her friend's hands, pushing the younger girl away as she did so. Tasha fell onto her rear end and watched in horror as Tanya disappeared into the light.
"NOOOOO!" For a long moment, Tasha just stared at the featureless drawbridge where Tanya had disappeared. They had all gone now, and she was truly alone. Suddenly she shook her head violently. No, she was not alone. She was a Ranger, which meant that the other Rangers were always with her. Face set with determination, she rose to her feet. "You think I'll give up, Jealysy?" she yelled, not really caring if the Demon could hear her or not. "Well, I won't! I'll get them back, and I'll boot your butt from here to Hoboken!" With a confident stride, she made her way across the drawbridge and into the castle proper.
In the throne
room of the castle, Jealysy and Malyce watched this turn of events with
interest. "Well," Jealysy remarked snidely, "she's turning out to be a
great deal more troublesome than I thought. I'll arm the castle defenses,
make her run the gamut of the emotions of Nyghtmayr. We'll see if that
doesn't take some of the fight out of her."
Malyce shifted impatiently. "I don't understand, Jealysy. Why can't I just go down there and take care of her? She can't even morph! It would be like taking candy from a baby."
Sighing, Jealysy turned to her companion. "Let me explain something to you, rockhead. Right now, our little Turbo Ranger is burning with a righteous, selfless fury. All she is thinking about is rescuing her friends."
"So, you moron, that means that right now, she is good. You, on the other hand, are pure evil. She lands one shot on you, and you are a little pile of black goo on the tiles, comprende?" Malyce subsided, but not happily.
Tasha made her
way slowly through the dark halls of the Castle of Nyghtmayr, alert for
any sort of attack. But despite her wariness, she wasn't quick enough to
avoid the wall of dark energy that shot up out of the ground, encircling
her. A cold wind blew through the hall, unobstructed by the energy barrier,
and Tasha shivered. "Okay, what now?" she growled, squashing her fear down.
A soft sob answered her. Turning, she found herself standing in her old room at the shelter. Lying on the bed in front of her was a much younger version of herself. Without thinking, Tasha took a step towards the crying girl. She remembered this scene only too well. She had been six years old when her mother had dropped her at the shelter and never looked back.
"Why?" the younger Tasha sobbed aloud. "Was I bad? Didn't she love me enough? My fault?"
Present-day Tasha shook her head. "No, no, it wasn't," she said raggedly, around the lump in her throat. But her younger self could not hear her.
"All alone. Mommy, come get me! I want to go home!" the child wailed, and Tasha had to shut her own eyes against the wave of despair that suddenly washed through her.
Despair. Tasha's eyes shot open. Tanya had told her about the Rangers' previous meeting with the Demons of Nyghtmayr, and how they had attempted to break the Rangers' spirits with the emotions they controlled. Well, it wasn't going to work. She wouldn't let it. Deliberately, she closed her eyes to the little girl sobbing on the bed and forced herself to remember what had come later.
She had cried herself to sleep, and had awakened much later, sometime in the middle of the night. Sitting up, she had found a little boy standing in her doorway, watching her with sympathy.
"What do you want?" she had asked, trying to sound tough and failing miserably.
"I heard you crying in your sleep," he responded, making his way into the room. "You want to talk?"
She snorted. "What's to talk about? My dad's dead and my mom dropped me off here without a second thought."
"Sounds a little like me," he responded. "My mom died a while ago, and my dad just couldn't handle it, so he dropped me here in the shelter. My name's Justin Stewart." He extended his hand to her, and after a second, she took it.
"Tasha Young," she said reluctantly. "Where you from?"
"Foggy Creek, originally. Then my Dad dropped me here, and he's been all over since. I get letters from him occasionally, but what I really want is for him to come home for good. Where are you from?"
"Blaise Street, over in the harbor district," she replied. "My dad got caught in a hold-up one night, and ever since then, my mom's kind of been losing it. She's going crazy, and apparently doesn't want me along for the ride."
"That shows she still loves you," Justin told her. "She dropped you here because she wanted something better for you than what you'd get from her."
Tasha sighed. "Maybe. Or maybe she just doesn't care."
"You've got to keep hoping, Tasha. In this place, it's almost all we've got."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Almost?"
"Well, we've always got friends." He grinned at her, and after a long moment, she smiled back. In that moment, she knew that she had found someone who would stand by her for a long time.
Coming out of her memory, Tasha found that the walls and illusion had dissipated around her. Warily, she moved off, keeping an eye out for further traps and tricks.
the passage, she was not surprised when another enclosure rose out of the
ground. Setting her stance, she waited. "All right, what emotion is this?"
she asked the air.
"Aw, look at Tasha, in a fighter's stance," a voice sneered behind her. She turned to see the other four Turbo Rangers looking at her with expressions of disgust on her faces. It had been Fred who had spoken, but Tasha had been almost unable to recognize his voice through all the distaste in it.
"What, you think you're a fighter now, Tasha?" Franklin asked in disbelief.
Rosa sniffed. "As if. You're probably the weakest of us, you know that?"
"Yeah," Justin chimed in. "Franklin and I are black belts, Fred's a brown belt, and Rosa just earned her red. You don't even take a martial art."
Franklin spoke again, taking up the litany. "Every time there's a Piranhatron fight, we have to bail your butt out. You're weak, and helpless. Even when we're morphed, we're all so much better than you. You don't bring anything to this team! Fred can lead, Justin's the brain, I know all the spy stuff Dad is teaching me, and Rosa's learned all the healing Rocky can teach her. What can you do? Nothing."
In the face of her friends' disdain, Tasha hung her head. "What CAN I do?" she asked softly. "I can hack into computers, but Justin can do that. He can hot-wire cars, too, and Power Rangers don't need to pick locks or pockets. What good am I?"
You're our fighting spirit, Fred's voice said in her memory. Tasha's head snapped up as she recalled a similar conversation she'd had with him not too long after the events on the Island of Muranthias. She had been expressing her doubts about being a member of the team, not really understanding what she brought to it. Now what he had said to her came rushing back.
You're our fighting spirit, he had told her. Everybody has a breaking point, a point beyond which they can't go on. Yours is so much higher than anybody else's, though. Even when the rest of us want to quit, you go on, and you take us with you. You're as tough as iron, and even when you're not, you won't let the rest of us down. You have something I don't, and Franklin doesn't, and Rosa doesn't, and Justin doesn't. You don't break. You just keep going, and we need that, more than I could ever say.
As the memory of Fred's voice faded, Tasha glared at the illusions before her. "I know you now," she growled. "You're Doubt, making me unsure of myself. Well, I've got news for you. Maybe I'm not a martial artist, but I can fight. I made my way through three Turbo Rangers to get here, and I'm still alive. Maybe the others have to protect my butt in a fight, but that's normal. We're RANGERS. We do that sort of thing for each other all the time. There's no shame in that. Maybe I'm not a genius like Justin, a leader like Fred, a spy like Frank, or a healer like Rosa, but I don't have to be. I'm me. That was good enough for Lerigot, good enough for my friends, and it's good enough for me."
Around her, the images puffed into nothing again. "Two down, Jealysy!" Tasha shouted to the air. "Let's see who breaks first."
An unknown time
later, a chittering sound caught Tasha's attention. She stopped, looking
around herself. She hadn't seen an enclosure appear, but considering the
darkness in the passage, that didn't really mean all that much. The chittering
repeated, and Tasha finally caught sight of her newest challenge. Stuffing
her fist into her mouth, she backed away, trying desperately not to panic.
A spider twice as tall as she was stalked towards her.
OHGODOHGODOHGODNONONONOOOOO! Tasha's thoughts ran into each other, and only her diamond-hard stubbornness allowed her to keep her grip on sanity. She hated spiders, hated them with a passion only reserved for Elgar and Rygog. Fear, she thought hazily, with one of the few remaining rational corners of her mind. It's the illusion of Fear. But it looked so REAL. How could she possibly stop being afraid of it?
You know, there's no such thing as giant spiders, a voice said in her head. It sounded vaguely like Justin's, from one of the thousands of conversations the two of them had had over the years. Tasha clung to it, hoping the logic of Justin's argument would keep the fear at bay. Looking at the spider in front of her, she took a deep breath and began listing all the reasons that the creature before her could not exist.
"Number one, spiders quite simply do not get that big. No creature that hatches out of a gelatinous egg can," she informed it, repeating what Justin had told her so long ago. "A permeable membrane of that size would dry out long before the spiders could hatch." The spider, hearing this, promptly shrank. Now it was merely the size of a horse. Emboldened by this, Tasha continued to quote.
"Two, when something increases, its mass, and therefore its weight, increases on a cubic curve, while the cross-section of the legs only increase on a square curve. Quite quickly, the legs would be too small to support the creature." The spider shrank again. Now it was only tall enough so that Tasha could look it in the eye, if she had had any desire to do so- or enough eyes, for that matter.
"And finally, there's the problem of breathing. Insects and arachnids breathe through tracheal tubes that run from their 'skin' to their bloodstream. Those tubes can't be longer than an inch or so, otherwise no air gets down them, and the spider suffocates." This spider shrank again, this time to the size of a tarantula. Tasha grinned. "Yeah, much better." Then she stepped on it. It made a rather satisfying "crunch" under her sneaker, then puffed into nothing, not even leaving a smear on the flagstones. Whistling, Tasha moved on.
Tasha had apparently
made better time than Jealysy had expected, because after the spider, she
came almost immediately to the throne room. The first thing she noticed
were the crystals on the walls, in which Fred, Franklin, Rosa, and Tanya
were suspended, in hideous mockery of the uniforms in the Power Chamber.
Their eyes were open, but they were not moving, resembling nothing so much
as a series of flies trapped in amber.
The second thing Tasha noticed was the attractive fourteen year-old girl lolling on the throne in the middle of the room. Her skin was a pale white, and her hair and eyes were jet black. But it was the cold, cruel, slightly amused expression on her face that tipped Tasha off to her identity. "Jealysy," she hissed.
The other acknowledged the identification with a nod. "Very good, Yellow Ranger. In this world, we Nyghtmayr Demons can assume any form we choose. I rather like this one. But you haven't said hello to my other friend here. Where are your manners?" Tasha turned, following Jealysy's gesture, and stopped dead.
Because the third thing she saw was Justin Stewart, standing next to the throne, eyes as dead and blank as they had been in the forest. Cold rage sluiced through Tasha as she took a step towards them. "What did you do to him?" she asked, her voice deadly quiet.
Jealysy shrugged. "Not much. A little magic, and he'll do anything I say."
Tasha snorted. "Magic? More like testosterone."
Laughing, Jealysy agreed. "You're probably right. Still, whatever the reason, he is under my complete control. That doesn't mean all that much now, but given a few years, he could be very- useful." Jealysy licked her lips, leaving little doubt in Tasha's mind what the Demon meant.
"Over my dead body," Tasha snapped.
"If you insist." Jealysy gestured to her. "Justin, kill her."
Justin stepped down from the throne, slowly advancing towards Tasha. The two of them began to circle, watching each other warily, each waiting for the other to make the first move.
Suddenly Justin attacked with a blinding flurry of punches and kicks, forcing Tasha to back away from him. She ducked under a vicious spinning kick, aiming a desperate footsweep at his legs. However, he simply leaped over it and pressed his attack. Backing away, Tasha quickly ran through the things that her friends had taught her. The problem was, Justin knew most of them as well, and was a much better fighter than she. It was unlikely that she was going to be able to talk him down right now. She shook her head. "Sorry, Justin," she panted. "Nothing personal." As he moved in closer to her, she jerked her knee up. Unfortunately, he sensed what she was about to do and dodged at the last second, taking her strike on the meaty part of his thigh. Then he slammed her to the ground, knocking the breath out of her. As he reared back for the killing strike, an idea occurred to her.
"If this doesn't work," she muttered, "I'm gonna feel REALLY stupid." Quickly, she reached up, snagged him around the neck, and pulled his head down to hers, planting a quick kiss on his lips. Immediately, the black was gone from his eyes, and Justin collapsed, rolling off Tasha with a very silly grin on his face. Tasha shook her head, getting to her feet. "Men. Sheesh."
Jealousy rose slowly, losing her human form as she did so. "This ends here, you little brat. I'll destroy you myself. Malyce! Deal with our little Blue Ranger, will you?"
"Right away, Jealysy," the other Demon growled. Launching itself from the shadows, it landed in front of Justin, who had just regained his feet. The Blue Turbo Ranger set himself for a fight, the silly grin long gone. The two of them circled each other cautiously, each looking for openings in the other's guard. Suddenly Malyce's barbed tail lashed out, aiming for Justin's head. The boy dropped into a split, causing the tail to whiz harmlessly over his head. Then, leaping to his feet, he launched a roundhouse kick into Malyce's face, momentarily disorienting the Demon.
Meanwhile, Tasha and Jealysy were going at it hammer and tongs. Both were completely consumed with thoughts of destroying the other. Tasha dodged a swipe of Jealysy's claws, retaliating with a powerful spinning backfist to the Demon's nose. She quickly had to dodge, however, as Jealysy swiped at her with her powerful tail.
Justin was beginning to worry. Malyce was far stronger than he, and it was obvious that he couldn't count on Tasha coming to his aid any time soon. Justin controlled his breathing with an effort, but could tell that he was beginning to tire. Apparently Malyce could tell as well, because he lashed out with his tail once more, knocking Justin's feet out from under him. The boy hit the flagstones with an audible expulsion of breath. Winded, Justin could only watch as Malyce raised a claw-tipped hand for the finishing blow.
"NO!" Tasha cried. In an instant, everything was forgotten except her worry and concern for Justin, and how much she cared about him. She threw herself into a perfect flying kick, streaking across the room towards Malyce.
The realm of Morphyus, home of the Nyghtmayr Demons, is perhaps best described as the realm of the subconscious, of dreams made real. The Demons themselves are simply solidifications of emotions, the emotions of darkness, evil. In Morphyus, all emotions are made real, made solid, and emotions such as friendship and love are made stronger than any. This, by the way, is all to explain what happened next.
In flight, Tasha began to glow with a brilliant white light. Her kick struck home in Malyce's chest, touching off an explosion of white and knocking the Demon back approximately twenty-five yards. As Justin, Tasha, and Jealysy watched in astonishment, Malyce was consumed by the light, melting slowly into a little puddle of black goo, which quickly dissolved into nothingness. Jealysy was the first to regain her equilibrium.
"You little bitch!" the Demon hissed. "I'll tear you apart!" The Demon sprang at Tasha, who barely dodged in time. The two of them were then immediately embroiled in a fight that made their previous battle pale in comparison.
Justin slowly levered himself to his feet, completely ignored by the two combatants. "This has been a really lousy day," he muttered to himself, looking around. Tasha was clearly at a disadvantage, even though she was currently holding her own. If he couldn't get her reinforcements fast, they would both likely be Demon chow- or worse. He couldn't hold back a shudder, remembering what it had felt like to be under those spells. Turning to the crystals holding his friends, he forced himself to think. They were crystal, but what type? Quickly, he drew his pocketknife and chipped at the crystal holding Fred. The blade left a line, but not a deep one. All right, the crystal, whatever it was, was not quite as hard as steel. So- Looking around, Justin found a sword made of some black material. Testing it, he found that it was harder than steel. Taking a deep breath, he hauled back and struck the crystal containing Fred with all his might. The container shattered quite satisfactorily, dropping the imprisoned Ranger to the ground. As Fred knelt on the stones, gasping at the resumption of his bodily functions, Justin went on to free the other three. Once everyone was coherent again, he quickly filled them in on what had transpired. "And I think I know how we can beat Jealysy," he finished urgently.
"How?" Rosa asked, leaning heavily on Franklin. "We're none of us strong enough to lift so much as a feather, and we can't morph."
"We can't morph, but that doesn't mean that the Keys don't work," Justin replied. "This place makes emotions real, somehow. If we can transmit our love and friendship to Tasha, she can annihilate the evil that Jealysy is composed of."
"And that's where the Keys come in," Franklin realized. Tanya looked at the four in confusion.
"What are you talking about?"
"The Turbo Keys give us sort of a- psychic connection," Justin explained, as the four Rangers pulled their Keys out of their pockets. "Another of Lerigot's little bonuses, apparently."
"Why didn't you ever say anything about this?"
Fred looked up at her seriously. "It's something private. It's kind of hard to explain how it feels, and it's not something you casually mention." Then the four Turbo Rangers focused on each other. "By the power of these keys, make us one!"
"Mountain Blaster Turbo Power!"
"Desert Thunder Turbo Power!"
"Wind Chaser Turbo Power!"
"Red Lightning Turbo Power!"
Tasha, still fighting with Jealysy, felt the power of the link slamming into her, and instantly understood what her friends were doing. "Dune Star Turbo Power!" she called, surrendering herself to the energy. Her body began to glow, first yellow, then white, as a series of images, drawn from the most powerful friendships she had ever known, ran through her mind.
//Red Turbo and Yellow Turbo, slowly sliding towards the edge of a cliff. "Let go! Tasha, we're both gonna go over!"
"Dream on, Fred Kelman. If you think I'm gonna let you be Piranhatron bait, you've got another think coming."//
// Justin and Tasha sitting at a table in the youth center, books all around them. "I just can't get this! I'm just too stupid."
"You're not stupid, Tasha, you're just stubborn. Now put it to good use. Once again, definition of osmosis."//
//Rosa and Tasha, guy-watching at the mall. "What do you think of that one? Cuter than Franklin?"
"Come on, Tasha, nobody's that cute."//
//Green Turbo and Yellow Turbo, trying fix one of Blue Turbo's devices. "We're never gonna get it working in time!"
Yellow Turbo kicks it. "You were saying?"//
Eyes glowing with white fire, Tasha glared at Jealysy. "For my world, for my friends, you are history!" Suddenly, she spun into a perfect spin kick, catching Jealysy along the side of the head. The world flared with white light, as the Demon dissolved into nothing.
"Oh, man," Rosa
groaned, sitting up. Looking around, she saw that the six of them were
sprawled on the grass of the park, around the remains of their picnic.
"We made it! We're back!"
"All right!" Franklin yelled, hugging her. As the rest of the team began to sit up, more than a few ashamed looks were exchanged.
"Look, guys," Fred began, "I'm sorry about what I said and did today."
"Me too," Justin agreed.
"Me three," Rosa seconded.
Franklin nodded. "Yeah, same here. But we just have to remember that it was Jealysy's spell, not really us. I don't think it'll happen again."
"Definitely not," Tasha pronounced. "We're too close for that. Friends?" She extended a hand.
"Friends," the other four responded, placing their hands on top of hers. Then the four of them broke apart. Tanya grinned.
"Well, I think I'm gonna go back to the Power Chamber and fill Zordon in on what happened," she told them. "Anyone else want to come?" The others looked at her for a second, and she nodded imperceptible at Tasha and Justin, who were studiously avoiding each other's eyes. Comprehension lit the faces of the other three.
"Oh, yeah. I probably should go, too," Fred agreed. "Franklin? Rosa?"
"No, we're going to go to the juice bar, work out," Franklin replied, his arm still around Rosa's shoulders. "We've got some stuff to talk about, too."
Fred nodded, and the four of them cleared out, leaving Tasha and Justin alone in the park.
"So," Tasha began nervously.
"So," Justin responded. They looked at the ground for a few more minutes.
Tasha finally exploded. "Oh, this is ridiculous. Look, I don't hold anything that happened there against you, all right?"
He nodded. "All right, but- do you regret any of it?"
"What would I- oh." She stared at him in sudden comprehension. "That kiss. Well- um- to tell you the truth-" She chuckled. "Actually, you're not a bad kisser- for an egghead."
He grinned. "Well, you're not so bad yourself- for a tomboy."
"Tomboy? Why I oughta-" She left the threat unfinished, however, and simply smiled at him. "Come on, let's get back to the shelter. They'll probably be wondering where we are."
"You got it." The two of them walked off, hand in hand.
The End... for now