Disclaimer- If you don't know the drill by now, you need more help than I can give you. This fanfic is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence and bad language. Welcome to number 20 in my Personality Conflicts series. Today's installment will drag us even further from show continuity. Once again, "Rangers" is all of them, "Turbos," "Warriors," and "Zeos" refer to the obvious teams, and "Astros" are the Astro Rangers. Warning- Gratuitous use of first movie events and dialogue. I hereby affirm that large parts of this are stylistic rip-offs from "Independence Day," "Earthsiege," and "The Earth Crystals." Thanks to Rain and Jeremy. Oh, and Kris? Here's your cameo.
At first glance, Earth doesn't seem all that important, on a galactic scale. No thriving space-going civilizations are based there. Its people have harnessed neither magic nor super-science, and are in fact thousands of years behind the rest of the galaxy in development. It is neither unspoiled nor unbearably polluted. In short, Earth would seem to be a rather unimpressive little mudball orbiting an unimpressive sun. So why does everybody want it?
No less than four villainous forces vie for its possession, something that would seem to be incredible overkill. They spend incredible amounts of time plotting and designing, trying to find the perfect way to make the planet theirs. Why? Perhaps because for the past five years, it has been playing extremely hard to get. Every attack from every quarter has been repulsed by the ever-growing number of Power Rangers on its surface. Under their protection, the Earth remains free, glowing a clear and slightly smug blue against the panorama of stars.
On a dark spaceship, two pairs of eyes watched the view. One watched acquisitively, glowing with unholy red light. The other, a clear crystal blue, seemed troubled.
"Master, I don't understand," Astronoma sighed, turning away from the screen. Brushing curly purple hair out of her face, she tilted her head to one side. "Why are we here?"
Her companion let out a rumbling chuckle. "Astronoma, my dear," Dark Specter replied, "this planet has achieved a worth far beyond its meager value. Think of it! Four of the greatest villains of the galaxy have failed to take it! When it is added to my empire, I shall reign supreme."
The pretty humanoid turned away, consternation still written on her face. "Four of the greatest villains in the galaxy," she muttered to herself. "But you didn't make the calls, warn them off attacking the ships." Astronoma had been responsible for contacting all four, and what she had seen had disturbed her greatly. Rita Repulsa, once the Empress of Evil, was renowned for being the only person to even partially defeat Zordon of Eltare. Astronoma hadn't been born then, but she'd grown up on the videos of Rita and her contemporaries. What had answered the com screen hadn't been a powerful evil sorceress, but a screeching ridiculous crone. Mondo and Gasket hadn't been much better. Instead of the ruthless evil machines she remembered, she had been greeted by two metallic buffoons. Even Divatox was a shell of her former seductive self, though she was in the best shape of the four. When Astronoma had announced Dark Specter's intention to take the Earth for his own, the pirate had fallen over laughing, then wished him the best of luck.
They say this planet is cursed, she mused, remembering the talk she had heard in bars across the galaxy. That it sucks the marrow of your being away, and makes you a mockery of what you were. Is this my fate? To become yet another incompetent buffoon? Suddenly she turned to Dark Specter. "Master, forgive my presumption, but let us leave this place! The Earth is cursed! It is well known that it destroys all who would take it. Surely there is a greater prize!"
Dark Specter merely rumbled, sounding rather like an erupting volcano. That was not strange, as he was currently in the form of Maligore, the Flame of Destruction. It was a form the shape-shifter enjoyed wearing when he captured or destroyed planets.
"Astronoma, you are too superstitious. This planet is not what destroys the attackers, but their own egos. They cannot accept being defeated by Zordon's Earthlings. We shall be different."
She cocked an eyebrow. "We shall accept defeat?"
"We shall not fail!" he corrected her with a chuckle. "I have a plan that will turn Earth's Rangers into nothing!"
Astronoma leaned forward. "Oh, tell me, Master. I am all ears."
On Earth, in a deserted construction site, Astronoma and a horde of Quantrons appeared. It was apparently the lunch hour, because there was no one to be seen anywhere around. Striding to the middle of the open area, she nodded. "Yes, here," she declared, pointing at her feet. "Turn on the Extractor!" she ordered. The Quantrons hastily scrambled to do her bidding.
Moving back a few paces, Astronoma watched as her minions turned the beam on the spot where she had recently stood. The ground quaked, and then began to split as something began to rise to the surface. It was a large purple egg, surrounded by a gray metal claw. Raising a hand, Astronoma signaled for the Quantrons to stop the beam. Moving forward, she caressed its surface.
"Yessss," she hissed lightly. "Soon, Dark Specter's plan will be in full swing, and those Power Rangers will never know what hit them." Backing off, she turned to her squad once again. "Open it!" The Quantrons turned the Extractor beam on the egg, which split open to reveal a puddle of purple goo. As the beam cut off, the goo began to bubble upwards, forming into a tall purple humanoid.
"Ahh, free at last! I am Ivan Ooze, master of evil. How can I repay you for freeing me?"
Astronoma smiled. "Dark Specter sends his regards, Ivan Ooze." She had the small pleasure of watching Ooze's purple complexion blanch slightly. "He would like you to do him a little favor."
"For the great Dark Specter? Anything!"
"Wreak havoc upon this town. Do with it as you will. Zordon of Eltar still lives, and his Rangers will no doubt come to stop you." She smiled wickedly. "Destroy them."
Ooze threw back his head and laughed. "With the utmost pleasure! I shall have my revenge on Zordon, and this world shall belong to the Dark Specter!"
"And so, when you have a right triangle, what formula is used to describe the cosine of the angle." Mrs. Finn surveyed her classroom, eyes narrowed. "Moose!"
The heavyset boy startled, almost falling out of his chair. "What?"
"Can you tell me the formula used to determine the cosine of an angle in a right triangle?"
"Uhh- baby formula?" the bully replied. Most of the class giggled.
"No." Mrs. Finn scanned the room. "Fred Kelman. Can you answer the question?"
"Um,- no, ma'am," Fred replied. The teacher sighed.
"Justin Stewart." It wasn't a question. The blue-clad genius looked up from his notebook.
"Adjacent over hypotenuse."
"Correct." Mrs. Finn turned back to the board when a strange sound caught her ear. It was a musical 6-note melody, sounding like something played on a synthesizer. Turning around, she saw Fred and Justin grimacing. Suddenly Justin made a queasy face.
"Mrs. Finn, I don't feel very well. Can I go to the bathroom?"
"Certainly, Justin. Do you need someone to walk you there?"
Kris Thomas, who sat next to Justin in every class possible, started to volunteer, but Fred beat her to it.
"I'll take him to the bathroom," the Red Turbo Ranger replied, getting to his feet. Quickly, the two of them rushed out of the room.
"I think Kris has a crush on you," Fred grinned, as the two of them ran through the halls. Justin grimaced.
"Don't remind me. Everywhere I go, she's all over me. Tasha's about ready to kill her."
"So you two really have a thing going?" Any answer was forestalled by their arrival at the bathrooms, the Turbo Rangers' meeting-place for in-school calls. Franklin and Rosa were already there, and soon Tasha ran up as well. Looking both ways, Fred tapped his communicator.
"We read you, Zordon," he whispered.
"Ai yi yi, Rangers! Teleport to the Power Chamber," Alpha's voice replied. "We have a major emergency!"
"We're on our way," Justin replied. "Tash, are we clear?"
The Yellow Turbo Ranger looked in both directions. "Yeah, we're clear." Tapping their communicators, the team transported out.
"What's the matter, Zordon?" Fred asked.
"Yeah, Alpha sounded more upset than usual," Tasha added.
Despite the distorting effect of the column, Franklin couldn't help noticing that Zordon looked exceedingly grim, more so than usual. "Rangers, something that I have feared for a long time has finally come to pass. Many thousands of years ago, when I was still free of this time warp, a creature known as Ivan Ooze arose from sleep to threaten the galaxy. Long before that, in time that was legendary even to my people, Ooze ruled an empire of unparalleled evil. His downfall came at the hands of a race known as the Meledan, but not before he utterly destroyed their people and plunged their world into centuries of ecological apocalypse.
"For a time, the galaxy knew peace, but unfortunately, Ooze escaped his confinement. The last few wizards of the Meledan had prepared for this eventuality, however, and a spell was set into motion, one which called six young people to the deserted, now healed planet of the Meledan. I was one of these six. Unlike the teams of Power Rangers that have defended the galaxy throughout the centuries, we were not given special powers, only a charge- to stop Ivan Ooze before he could once again conquer worlds. However, the six of us each had special skills and powers that would allow us to fight Ooze. Our leader was Lexian, Prince of Edenoi, and at that time, the Masked Rider. Already a White Morphin Master, I was second-in-command. Also on the team were Dulcea, Warrior of Phaedos, Narana, Princess of the planet Gaelara and a technical genius, Zarador, prince of the Zarakin, who have an astonishing control of animals, and Melita, Zeo Guardian." At this last name, Zordon's gaze grew far away for a moment, and then he resumed his tale.
"We took the fight to Ooze, something that had never been done before. He had set up shop on a small, uninhabited planet to construct his Ectomorphicon Titans, twin insectoid machines of mass destruction. During the battle, Lexian was wounded and I was forced to assume command. We defeated Ooze, dismantled his Ectomorphicons, and buried him in a hyperlock chamber in the ground. We left him there and had no reason to think about him again- until now."
Justin made a face. "Let me guess. That 'small, uninhabited planet' wouldn't have been Earth, would it?"
The sage nodded. "I am afraid so, Justin."
"And the site of that climactic battle, where you kicked Ooze's butt, that wouldn't have been the future site of Angel Grove, would it?" Rosa asked, folding her arms across her chest. Incredibly, Zordon actually looked slightly sheepish.
"Ooze was using the ley nexus to charge his machines. In retrospect, I suppose, we should have realized that the ley lines would attract civilization, and moved Ooze somewhere else, but we were tired, young, and deeply concerned about Lexian. The thought simply did not occur to us."
Tasha shrugged. "Hey, even Morphin Masters make mistakes. Don't worry, we'll kick his oozy butt into the next millenium."
"It may not be that easy, Rangers," Alpha informed them. "I am afraid Ooze has been released by a far more powerful agency, one we can not yet identify. You must use all caution against him."
"First we've got to find him," Fred reminded them practically. "Justin, Alpha, can you get a lock on him for me?"
"Um, you could say that," Justin replied. "He's downtown, in Courthouse Square, and he does not appear to be happy. He's starting urban renewal a little earlier than planned."
"Well, come on guys. Let's go save the world," Fred sighed. "Shift into Turbo!"
In five flashes of light, the Turbo Rangers were transported to the square, where Ooze was leaning against one of the six statues of the Morphin Rangers that had been put in almost five years before. He was zapping aimlessly, destroying buildings and sending people running for cover.
"Okay, Ivan, we're here!" Red Turbo cried. "You're obviously calling us out, so let's rumble."
Ivan snickered, sizing them up. "You're a little shorter than I imagined, Rangers. Zordon must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel these days."
Yellow Turbo snorted. "Better short than a slime-dripping prune," she shot back. Ooze recoiled in mock hurt.
"Look, Rangers, I'd love to spend the day trading barbs with you, but I have better things to do. Observe!" Ivan raised his hand to the sky, crackling purple energy shooting from it. The wind began to pick up, and the Turbo Rangers instinctively moved a little closer to each other. Green Turbo's reaction summed everything up in one word. "Uh-oh."
By and large, the Juice Bar is a teen hangout. As such, it isn't usually very busy during school hours. But there's always someone there, whether it's a home-schooler taking a break, the occasional early graduate like Billy, or a college student who just likes to hang out there. Today, Richie was polishing the juice bar, sipping a smoothie, and only half-listening to the news broadcast that Ernie had on.
"Marlene Maris, K-Grove News, with a special report." Snow crackled across the screen as the signal faded in and out. "Hours ago, Angel Grove Observatory detected a large group of objects, obviously artificial, moving into Earth orbit. Since then, communication around the city has been sporadic, frequently failing altogether, as if being jammed. Naturally, this is causing concern throughout the city. I'm here to interview Detective Trevor Park, the officer in charge."
Richie looked up from his drink, suddenly absorbed. Next to him, Ernie put down the glass he was drying, and both watched as the camera followed Marlene into Trevor's office, showing the usually cool and unflappable police detective growling into a phone. "Damn it, we've got a city-wide panic on our hands! We don't have time to just 'leave it to the Power Rangers.' Look, maybe if I had a damn Batsignal, I could do something about it, but they didn't exactly leave me their pager number!" He slammed down the phone in disgust. Looking up, he saw the camera. "Get that damn thing out of my office!" he roared, "before I chuck you BOTH out on the street!"
"Detective Park, what is going on out there?" Marlene asked, obviously uncowed.
"What's going on? All hell is breaking loose! And YOU aren't helping things any!"
The brunette reporter backpedaled quickly as Trevor advanced, a decidedly unpleasant glint in his eyes. "And what does the police department intend to do about it?"
"Pray," he replied shortly, gesturing to two of the other officers.
"May I remind you, Detective, that we are live?" Marlene said pointedly.
Trevor's response was immediate. "Ask me if I care." The camera suddenly tilted at a crazy angle and began moving far too quickly. Then there was a short swoop, and when the picture stabilized, it was filming the street outside the Angel Grove Police Department, 13th precinct.
"Of all the-" Marlene broke off, realizing that they were still on the air. "Remember, folks, you saw it here first. We were just thrown bodily out of the Police Department-"
She was suddenly cut off by her cameraman's cry. "What in the name of God is THAT?" The camera pivoted away from Marlene, aiming towards the sky, where a dome of purple energy was slowly closing over the city.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," someone breathed. It took Richie a moment to recognize Marlene's voice. Slightly louder, she continued. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here in downtown Angel Grove, where a huge dome of something purple has just surrounded us. It looks as if it covers the entire city, and seems to be a barrier of some kind. I think we can rule out natural causes and the usual criminal element here. This looks like a job for the Power Rangers."
Richie and Ernie looked at each other in concern.
Over at Angel Grove Elementary, Teddy Oliver was being bored out of his mind. He usually liked English class, but this teacher was perhaps the most unexciting one he had ever had. He couldn't wait until he was older, and he could get into Miss Appleby's class. Tommy always said she was one of the more interesting English teachers in the Angel Grove school system.
Still listening with one ear as the teacher droned on, he turned to the window and stopped suddenly. "Whoa!" he breathed, astonished.
"Mr. Oliver, do you have something you wish to share with the class?" Miss Nelson asked sharply.
"Um, yeah, I think so. You'd better come take a look at this." The rest of the class, including Miss Nelson, crossed to the windows with him. There were gasps of astonishment and worry as they watched a huge dome of purple energy move across the sky, blotting out the sun and throwing the city into a strange purple twilight.
"I think we're in deep trouble," Teddy murmured, to no one in particular.
"JUSTIN!" Red Turbo cried, turning to his friend. "What the hell did he do?"
Blue Turbo had his computer out and was typing rapidly. "It appears to be some sort of barrier. I can't really analyze it without the Power Chamber's equipment, but I think he's cut the entire city off!"
"Give the kid a cigar!" Ooze laughed. "Now, Rangers, I'd love to stay and play with you, but I've got work to do, bringing this city to its knees. So you can just play with my Oozemen!" Throwing his hands into the air, he shot lightning all around him. Everywhere the purple bolts touched, strange purple humanoid creatures rose up out of the ground. "Welcome to my nightmare!" With that, Ooze disappeared in a streak of purple light.
The Turbo Rangers set defensive stances as the Oozemen milled around them, far outnumbering them. "Fred, what are we gonna do?" Pink Turbo asked apprehensively.
Red Turbo did some quick calculations. "Twenty to one? I like those odds! Let's get 'em!" With a battle cry, he threw himself into the fray, quickly followed by his friends.
The fight was brutal. Far outnumbered by their foes, the Turbo Rangers fought valiantly, but were slowly being overwhelmed. Two Oozemen knocked Pink Turbo into a wall several times, only to be nearly decapitated by a series of Green Turbo's powerful kicks. Three Oozemen ganging up on Blue Turbo were driven back by Yellow Turbo swinging a discarded pipe as if it were a bo staff. But despite their courage and skill, for every Oozeman the Turbos splattered, there seemed to be five more waiting in the wings.
"Franklin, we can't keep this up!" Pink Turbo shouted over the noise of battle.
Green Turbo nodded. "We're gonna have to pull back! The problem will be convincing Fred of that. You know how much he hates to run."
"If he won't come, have Tasha knock him out," was Blue Turbo's contribution to the conversation.
"Cause if we stay here, we're gonna be dog meat," Yellow Turbo finished.
Leaping over a group of Oozemen, Green Turbo managed to get Red Turbo's attention by laying a hand on his shoulder and immediately ducking the counter-punch. "Fred, we've got to get out of here!"
"We can't just run away! Think what these guys will do to the city."
"If we stay, think what these guys will do to us! Then there'll be nobody to stop the REAL problem- Ooze."
Red Turbo sighed, simultaneously knocking an Oozeman into a wall with a back kick. "You're right, Franklin. Regroup!" The Turbos quickly moved back together. "We'll be back, Ivan!" Red Turbo growled. The five of them hit their belts and teleported out, leaving the Oozemen to scatter through the city.
Teddy's sixth grade class wasn't getting much work done. No one, not even the teacher could concentrate on the lessons with the dome outside, although most were trying. Teddy, however, was making no attempt to join in the lesson. Instead, he was absorbed in thought.
That thing's got to be some type of barrier, he mused. It must have been created to keep people in, and reinforcements out. But if no one can get in, then we're stuck with eleven Rangers. I wonder if Tommy's on the job. I have a feeling that things are going to get big.
Suddenly a loudspeaker crackled to life, startling them all. "Attention students," the principal announced, nervousness in his voice. "Communications are still sketchy, but we've been informed that there is a force of alien foot soldiers heading our way. You are to leave your classrooms and head for the gymnasium, where you will be evacuated in an orderly manner."
There wasn't time for the students to obey. The windows suddenly came crashing in under the force of several Oozemen. One reached out and grabbed Miss Nelson, who was closest. There was a crackle of purple light, and then she simply stood there, eyes blank and distant.
True to family tradition, Teddy didn't think; he reacted. Picking up a chair, he swung at the nearest Oozeman, knocking it into a wall before turning to smoothly kick the next one. "Everybody out of the school!" he bellowed, sounding a great deal like his brother. "NOW, damn it!" The shock of the unexpected language galvanized the class into action, and they began rushing out the door. Gritting his teeth, Teddy set himself for a fight that he had no chance of winning.
A forceful kick sent him flying out into the hall. Striking the lockers, he fell to the floor, the world swimming around him. Painfully, he rose to his feet as the Oozemen followed him into the hall. "I'd love to stay and chat," he managed, breathing deeply, "but I've got to go. In the meantime, though, why don't you have a bath?" Reaching up, he pulled the fire alarm, setting off both the sirens and the sprinklers. Then he ran off, disappearing into the quickly misting hallways.
The sounds of battle suddenly drew Teddy's attention as he ran through the halls. Pausing, he listened hard, trying to identify the direction from which they came.
"You keep- *thwack*- your hands- *whack*- OFF my family!" a voice cried, punctuated by the sounds of something striking a yielding, oozy surface. Teddy followed the noise to a fifth grade classroom, where Juan De Santos was keeping a pair of Oozemen at bay with Widowmaker, his ever-present baseball bat. Fervently, Teddy gave thanks that the teachers allowed Juan to carry his father's bat around as sort of a security blanket. Meanwhile, Emilia, Miguel, and Alejandro were holed up behind the teacher's desk, chucking erasers, pencil cans, and textbooks at their assailants.
"Mind if I join the party?" Teddy asked, leaping into the room. Between the two boys, the Oozemen were quickly taken care of, and were flowing merrily into the storm drains.
"Hate to see what that's gonna do to the ground water," Juan puffed, leaning on his baseball bat. "Thanks, amigo."
"No problem. But we can't hang around here. There's probably twenty or so of the things in this building. We've got to get out of here before they catch us."
"No argument here," Juan replied as the three youngest De Santos kids came out from behind the desk.
"I'm scared," Emilia confessed.
Teddy nodded. "Me too. We'll be all right, though."
"What happens if they catch us?" Alex wanted to know.
"Take a wild guess," snorted Miguel. Teddy shook his head.
"I don't think they'll kill us. I saw one of them do- something to Miss Nelson. It's like they turned her into some sort of zombie. It doesn't matter, though, because they're not gonna catch us. We're gonna get out of here if Juan has to use that table-leg of his to make us a new door."
"Watch what you say about my bat, Shaggy," Juan grinned. The five of them headed out into the corridors of the school, alert for any type of attack.
"Where are we going?" Alex asked.
"The youth center," Teddy replied. "Tommy once told me it's the most easily defensible building in the city."
"Forget the youth center!" Juan shot back. "We have to go home! Mom will be going nuts!"
Teddy grabbed the younger boy before he could move off. "You'd never make it! These things are probably all over the city! You won't be doing your mom any good by getting captured. We go to the youth center, and then we try to call home, all right? But none of us is going off half-cocked!" The two boys locked eyes for a long moment, then Juan nodded. As they made their way out of the building, Teddy had a sudden thought. Tommy must feel like this all the time.
"I can't believe this." Fred turned away from the viewing globe, his eyes shut against the images of the Oozemen sacking the city. "I think I'm going to be sick."
Franklin put a gloved hand on his friend's shoulder. "Look at it this way, Fred. At least they're not killing anyone."
"Yeah, and life as an oozed-out zombie is sooo much better," the smaller boy shot back.
The scene in the Power Chamber was an odd one. All five Turbos had removed their helmets, although they were still in their suits. Zordon watched in concern as the five young teens dealt with the current situation.
Rosa and Tasha were pacing in perfect unison, to the point where they were making Alpha dizzy. Franklin was running through every meditation kata he knew, which was a lot. Justin was half-invisible under one of the control panels, trying to jury-rig some type of special scanner. Fred, meanwhile, was glued to the viewing globe, helpless to look away from the images that he could not alter. One gloved hand kept going up to run through his dark hair, searching for the baseball cap he always wore. Now that Zordon thought about it, this was the only time he had ever seen Fred's hair for more than a few minutes.
"Bingo!" came the slightly muffled cry from Justin. Instantly the other four were at his side.
"Tell me you've got something," Fred entreated. Justin pulled himself out from under the console and shrugged.
"I've got a scanner. Whether it turns up any useful information or not remains to be seen. This thing should give us a clear picture of the dome's make-up, and some idea of what's going on outside. Hit it, Alpha!"
The scanner flared to life. One terminal immediately began spitting out printouts, and one of the screens flickered to life.
"Ai yi yi yi yi!" the little android cried. "We have a problem! A giant spaceship in Earth orbit has just released two mini-fleets! One's headed to New York, and the smaller one has headed to Miami."
"Shit!" Fred cursed, startling everyone. "What does it say about the dome?"
"Pure energy," Justin reported. "Blocks communication, teleportation, and physical transport."
Fred appeared to be thinking hard. "Can you punch through it?"
"Maybe once. But there's no way I could get fifteen people back here," Justin replied.
"You don't have to. I want to get six people out. Can we communicate inside the dome?"
"Sure. It only blocks communications going out."
"Good. Alpha, get on the horn. Get Tommy and any other Ranger still in Angel Grove and get them here immediately. I have an idea."
"It's about time!" Tasha cried. "We don't just keep you around for your looks, you know!"
The streets of Angel Grove were like a war zone. With communication of every kind either unreliable or non-existent, most people had given up on trying to figure out what to do and were just trying to stay out of the way of the invaders. On a side street in the business district, Lita Kino was desperately trying to keep from being overwhelmed by four Oozemen.
"Hi-yah!" Launching a powerful side kick into the nearest Oozeman, Lita took a moment to give thanks both for the karate training the Rangers had given her, supporting her black belt in Aikido, and the fact that she had worn flats to the office. Heels would have made it impossible to defend herself.
Ducking a punch, Lita grabbed the arm of her assailant, assisting his forward motion right into the wall. Another throw sent a second Oozeman flying into a dumpster, and a roundhouse kick took out a third. Suddenly a gibbering noise from behind caused her to whirl. Behind her, another fifteen goons were filing into the street. She was surrounded.
"Aw, shit," Lita sighed. "All right, boys, come and get it." The Oozemen advanced. Things were looking rather dark for Lita when the squealing of tires suddenly interrupted. She looked up to see a cherry-red convertible roar down the street and plow into the crowd of Oozemen, knocking them left and right, and splattering more than a few. Stopping the car, Parker O' Neil vaulted out of the driver's side without even bothering to open the door. With a series of punches and kicks, he made his way through the press of goons to Lita's side.
"Need a hand, Doc?"
"If I weren't ten years older than you and already dating somebody, I'd kiss you!" she shot back. Parker's presence soon tipped the scales in their favor, and the remaining Oozemen retreated, looking for easier targets.
"You all right?" Parker asked the psychiatrist, concerned.
"I am now," she replied, shaking her head. "If you hadn't shown up when you did, things might have gotten icky."
The reporter chuckled. "Tell me about it. This is gonna be the story of the century- if I live to file it," he added wryly, running a hand through his already disordered sandy hair.
"Where are you headed?"
"The youth center. It's the most defensible spot in the city, and the mayor is trying to spread the word that people should head there. Ernie's going to have a major influx on his hands. You want a ride?"
Lita nodded. "Please!" The two of them climbed into Parker's slightly oozy convertible and drove off.
"Damn!" Tyler Oliver cursed. "I don't think that shield's going to hold for much longer."
His wife, Terry, shrugged. "Doesn't much matter. They're coming in the windows anyway." Although their Morphin Warrior powers were gone, and had been for nine months, the two of them were hardly defenseless. Terry lazily twirled a staff while her husband wielded a green-handled katana much like the one he had carried in Rita's service. Plus, as a mage, Tyler had magically barricaded the door, which wasn't having much of an effect. The Oozemen slipped through his shields as if they weren't even there.
"Heads up!" Terry called. "Here they come!" The windows burst in at about the same point that the door fell down. The Olivers moved back to back, weapons held at the ready.
Suddenly Terry threw herself forward, staff spinning over her head in a silver blur. Quickly, she began to bat Oozemen left and right, as if she were at baseball practice. Beside her, Tyler was fighting with both his katana and bursts of magical flame. Unfortunately, for every Oozeman scorched or splattered, there seemed to be two to take its place. "Tyler?" Terry called over the noise of the fight.
"Never invite your poker buddies over for dinner again!"
He laughed. "Whatever you say." They fought a while longer, then it was his turn to call out. "Terry?"
"I think we're hopelessly outnumbered."
"I'd noticed that."
"I suggest it's time for a strategic retreat."
"Sounds good to me." By this time, the two of them had maneuvered themselves so that their backs were towards their second-story windows. Exchanging one glance, they joined hands and jumped, Tyler's magic helping to cushion their fall. A few Oozemen tried to follow, but managed only to splat themselves.
"I seriously doubt we're going to get back our cleaning deposit," Terry grimaced. Just then her communicator beeped.
"This is Fred," it said, not even waiting for them to answer. "If anyone can hear this, come to the Power Chamber immediately! We've got a major problem."
Tyler raised an eyebrow at his wife. "Think that means us?"
"No, but we should probably go anyway. They might need our help."
"Right." In mint green and lavender flashes, they teleported out.
"Fred, I hope you have a plan," Tommy grimaced, tearing his eyes away from the screen.
"Plan? Heck, no. I'm making it all up as I go along," the smaller boy replied. "Look, we've got a problem. Outside Angel Grove, we've got two space fleets moving towards New York and Miami. Alpha says that the larger one seems to be a fleet of battle ships while the smaller one is composed of troop carriers. Looks like our enemy is going to launch assaults on multiple fronts. We need the Zeo Rangers and the Morphin Warriors to go deal with the problem."
"Count us in," Tyler spoke up from his position by the costumes. "Terry and I will do whatever it takes to help out."
"You don't have any powers, remember?" Jason pointed out, not unkindly. "I know you want to be part of this, but it's just too dangerous."
"Maybe not," Billy mused. "I've been working on a method of temporary recharge for a while now. With Tyler's mage powers, it might work- but we'll only be able to power one of you."
"Me," Tyler decided. "I'm a mage, so I'll have more protection if necessary. Don't even think about arguing with me, Terry."
She sighed. "I wasn't. You've got that stubborn look on your face. I'll just- hang around and help Zordon and Alpha, I guess."
"Okay, then." Billy cracked his knuckles. "Justin's working on a way to punch through the shielding. It's only going to work once, so we'd better get this done now. Tyler, Terry, join hands." The pair did as he instructed, gazing into each other's eyes. "Terry, concentrate on purple energy flowing from you into Tyler." Then Billy motioned to Jason. "As Morphin Warriors, we'll provide the template for him to re-establish his connection to the Grid. Tyler, you're going to have to reach out with your powers and sort of- sense the set-up."
The former Green Warrior nodded. "Got it." He began to shine with a green light. For a long moment, nothing happened, and then the green began to darken, deepen. There was a flash, and when everyone's vision cleared, Tyler was dressed once again in the uniform of the Green Warrior.
"I'm not sure how long your powers will last," Billy told him, "so you'll have to be careful not to strain yourself."
Jason snorted. "That sounds familiar."
Terry chuckled, throwing her arms around her husband's waist. "You come back in one piece, hear me, Tyler Oliver?"
He smiled down at her. "You know it, Terry."
"I've got it!" Justin cried suddenly, interrupting the moment. "Everybody cross your fingers! Teleporting Rangers and Zords to the desert outside of town. From there, you'll call the others and explain the situation, right?"
Tommy nodded. "Right. Let's go." The four Zeo Rangers and three Morphin Warriors dissolved into their respective beams of light and flew out of the Power Chamber. Those within let out a collectively held breath as the massed teleport signatures made it out through the hole in the shield that quickly closed up again.
"Now," Fred declared, in a voice like steel, "to find Ivan."
The Oozemen had worked their way through the city, capturing everyone they could and transforming them into zombies ready to obey Ivan's commands. What Ooze hadn't counted on, though, was how much fight the people had put up. Most people in Angel Grove had been subconsciously preparing for something like this ever since the Power Rangers first appeared. Battles had raged through the streets, and were still raging throughout the city.
On a deserted street in the shopping district, a young black man slipped silently from shadow to shadow. His blue T-shirt and jeans were torn and dirty, and he looked as if he'd been through a major fight. As he warily scanned the street, he heard a clatter behind him. He whirled instinctively, hands coming up in a defensive position.
"Whoa, whoa! I come in peace!" The pink-clad Asian girl behind him raised her hands in surrender. Her clothes were in no better shape than his were, and he relaxed, standing straighter.
"Sorry, you just startled me. I've been ambushed by those purple things twice today."
"Only once here, but I had to crawl through an air vent to get out of the school," she replied. "I'm Cassie Chan," she introduced herself, extending her hand.
"TJ Carter," he replied, shaking it. "Listen, maybe we should stick together. Safety in numbers, you know?"
"Sounds good to me," she replied. Suddenly voices coming around a corner alerted them. "What's that?"
"I don't know. Let's go check it out- carefully." Slowly, the two of them crept to the corner of the building and looked around. A girl with light brown hair and a yellow shirt was sitting against the wall, while a Hispanic boy bandaged her ankle with strips from his black T-shirt.
"That ought to hold it, Ashley," he said in his slightly accented voice. Looking up, he saw TJ and Cassie, and instantly fell into a defensive stance between them and Ashley.
"Whoa, it's okay," TJ said quickly. "We're on your side. I'm TJ Carter, and this is Cassie Chan. We're hiding from those purple things too."
"Carlos, help me up," Ashley grimaced. Carlos relaxed, leaning down and helping her to her feet. "I'm Ashley Thompson, and this is Carlos Vargas," she introduced them. "I don't recognize you from school. Are you new in town?"
TJ nodded. "Yeah, I just moved down here from Oregon. I'm living with my uncle, and training for baseball. If I play my cards right, I could wind up playing for the Lions after high school."
"My parents moved down here because my dad was- transferred," Cassie added. TJ noticed the hesitation in her sentence, but said nothing.
"We were trying to get to the youth center," Carlos explained. "It's a designated monster shelter. Unfortunately, we got ambushed, and Ashley twisted her ankle."
"I think it'll be all right," Ashley said, quite unconvincingly. "I can walk."
TJ snorted. "Sure you can. You sound like my oldest younger sister, when she sprained her ankle playing soccer. 'I can walk! Put me back in the game!' All the while, her ankle was the size of a telephone book. Tell you what. Carlos, why don't you and I take turns supporting her? You look like you're getting a little tired."
"No, it's all right," he protested. "I can do it."
"Carlos, don't be ridiculous," Ashley grumped. "I've been slowing you down. This will get us to the youth center quicker." Carlos sighed, but relinquished her to TJ with what Cassie thought was quite a show of reluctance. As the four of them moved off in the direction Ashley indicated, Cassie watched as the black-clad boy's eyes never left Ashley's back. She grinned to herself. This could be interesting.
Bowing to her sparring partner, Lillian O' Neil grinned and wiped her forehead. "Good match, Ryan. Thanks."
Ryan Steele grinned. "Hey, it's always good to have someone new to spar with. JB was getting predictable." The blond boy ducked as his taller friend took a swipe at him.
Chuckling, Lillian threw Ryan a towel, and the two of them walked over to sit down on the dojo's benches. "So, heard from your dad recently?" she asked.
"Yeah, he says he's enjoying Norway. I miss him, but he says he might be coming home for a visit soon."
Suddenly a beeping noise from Lillian's bag distracted her. "I'd- better go get cleaned up," she said, rising quickly. "I have class in an hour."
Ryan and JB frowned at each other. "I thought you didn't have class on Fridays?" JB called after her, but Lillian had already ducked into the women's changing room.
"I read you," she said quietly into her communicator.
"Lil, this is Tommy. We've got a major problem. There's a huge force of ships moving towards New York City to launch an attack. We've got to stop it. Morph and teleport to my location immediately."
"I'm on it," she replied. Hopefully, when she didn't come out of the bathroom, Ryan and JB would just assume they had missed her leaving. "Zeo Shadow Power!" In a flash of black light, Black Ranger found herself standing on a field with the other Zeo Rangers. In the distance she could see the New York skyline.
"Here I am, fearless leader," she announced, turning to Red Ranger. "What's the plan, Stan?"
"All right, listen up," Red Ranger announced to the group at large. "We've got a huge, and I mean HUGE force of mecha coming our way. Air fighters, and Zordon's scans say they're fast and deadly. We're going to need Zord power to take care of these guys."
"Tommy, one problem," Green Ranger interjected. "We've got ten Rangers and eleven Zords. We're short one pilot."
"Yeah," Blue Ranger seconded. "The last time we had a major Zord battle, we had Lita pilot Super Zeo Zord IV, but we left her in Angel Grove."
Yellow Ranger shook her head. "Where are we going to find someone with enough of the power to pilot a Zord?"
"Especially in a place as full of cold iron as New York," White Ranger added.
Silver Ranger chuckled. "I think I know."
Red Ranger nodded. "I'd say it's our only chance. You guys wait here. I'm going to teleport into town and see if I can't get us a Zord pilot." In a flash of red light, he disappeared.
Gold Ranger cocked his head. "Where did he go?"
Janine Melnitz was typing away at her desk, trying furiously to get her latest pile of paperwork done so that she could leave early. The only problem was that every time she got close to the end, Dr. Venkman would come out and drop a few more bills on her with obvious relish. Suddenly a whooshing sound made her look up. She was almost blinded by a flash of red light, and when it faded, there was a tall young man with long dark hair standing in the foyer beside Ecto-1. She raised an eyebrow. "Can I help you?" she asked, surreptitiously checking the PKE meter that she kept in one of the desk drawers. Normal background. Maybe she'd just been seeing things.
"Um, yeah. Are the Ghostbusters in?" he asked.
"May I ask why you're calling?"
"Well-" he looked nervous. "We sort of met a while ago, and I kind of need their help for something."
"Janine," a tenor voice came from behind the filing cabinet. "Who're you talking to?"
"Why don't you come out and see for yourself?" she snapped back. "And don't bring any paperwork with you."
"I'm hurt, shocked, and appalled, Janine," Peter Venkman grinned, walking out of his "office." "That you think I would purposely- hey, Tommy! Long time no see!" the psychologist's expression changed slowly as he took in the look on Tommy's face. "This isn't a social call, is it?" he asked seriously.
Tommy shook his head. "I'm afraid not, Dr. Venkman. We've kind of got a problem."
Peter sighed. "When don't you?" Crossing to the stairs, he yelled up them. "Egon! Winston! Ray! Get down here, we have a problem!" As Venkman headed back towards the front desk, Tommy finally noticed his T-shirt. It was green.
Noting Tommy's raised eyebrow, Peter grimaced. "You know, I can't wear anything else? Half my wardrobe's either gone to Winston or Goodwill. It's annoying."
Tommy snickered. "Try going from green to white, or white to red. At least you had something to start with."
"Ahem!" Janine cleared her throat. "Do you mind explaining what's going on here?" she asked pointedly.
"Oh, Janine, this is Tommy Oliver. Some friends of his helped us out on a case a while back."
Just then, the other three Ghostbusters came down the stairs. Winston Zeddemore, Tommy noticed, was wearing a grey shirt and a pair of jeans, not a speck of pink on him. Egon Spengler's shirt was a light blue, and Ray Stantz was wearing a green sweater over a white turtleneck.
"Hey!" Winston greeted the newcomer. "Tommy, right? What brings you to this neck of the woods?"
Tommy decided that trying to dance around the problem would only delay things. "We've detected an alien invasion fleet approaching New York. We're going to try and stop it, but we're short a pilot. That's where you guys come in."
Janine raised a hand. "Whoa, whoa! Alien invasion? Come on, you don't really buy this, do you?"
"It's okay, Janine," Ray reassured her. "He's a Power Ranger."
While Janine was recovering from that shock, Egon looked at Tommy. "Forgive me for nitpicking, but don't you need whatever power you Rangers possess to pilot a Zord?"
Tommy nodded. "All except Super Zeo Zord IV. It's been jury-rigged to accept commands from anyone with any type of Green energy, not just Green Zeo." In unison, everybody turned to look at Peter.
"Hmm," Egon mused. "That's most fortunate, actually. Of all of us, Peter is the one who's held onto his power most efficiently."
Peter raised an eyebrow at his bespectacled friend. "You can tell all that from charting the laundry, can you Egon?" he asked teasingly. Egon raised an eyebrow right back.
"As a matter of fact, yes, Peter," he responded dryly. "The frequency of articles of appropriately colored clothing is actually quite a reliable barometer of the amount of Morphin energy each of us has left. Winston hasn't worn anything pink in months, and Ray and I are both down to perhaps one occurrence a week, quite close to random choice. You, however, haven't worn anything but green since November."
"Yeah, well, I'm just wearing it so it won't show the slime," Peter sniffed. Tommy chuckled.
"So, will you help us, Dr. Venkman?"
"Yes, but only if you start calling me Peter. The only person who calls me Dr. Venkman is Janine, and she only does it to annoy me."
"Deal," Tommy laughed.
"Wait," Ray said suddenly. "Isn't there anything we can do?"
Tommy chewed at his lip. "Well, we're cut off from the Power Chamber. We could definitely use some eyes on the ground."
Egon nodded. "I believe I have some equipment that will work. How long until the fleet hits New York?" Tommy looked at his watch.
"About twenty minutes. You guys gather up what you need, and I'll send some of the guys back for you in about fifteen. Meanwhile, I'll give Dr.- uh, Peter here a crash course in Zord piloting."
"Did you have to say 'crash?'" Peter complained, as the two of them disappeared in two flashes of light, one red, one a bright mint green.
"Welcome to beautiful downtown Miami," Trini sighed as the Morphin Warriors teleported into the heart of the city. Dark Specter's Quantrons were already there, ripping their way through cars and sending the populace running for cover.
"Well, looks like we're outnumbered twenty to one," Zack noted. "Anybody got any ideas?"
Skull shrugged. "We could round up a bunch of the local cockroaches and sic 'em on them," he suggested.
"You couldn't handle a Miami cockroach," Kimberly told him with a grin.
Jason unsheathed his sword. "Divide and conquer, guys. Spread out!" They did as ordered, jumping into the fight. Billy and Trini were back to back, whirling through the pack in a graceful and rather violent tornado. Skull covered Kimberly's back as she calmly picked off target after target with her bow. Jason and Tyler were hacking and slashing their way around, with Zack hard-pressed to keep up with them. Still, for every two they cut down, three more appeared in their places.
"This is not working," Skull gasped as Billy flew past him, striking a pine tree rather heavily.
Zack grunted as a powerful kick sent him hurtling to the ground at Skull's feet. "No shit, Sherlock."
"Jason!" Trini called. "We've gotta regroup!"
Kimberly shook her head. "No good, Trini, he can't hear you. You know how he gets in a fight."
"Yeah," Tyler agreed. "Nothing exists but the person he's pounding on."
"Then let's go to him," Billy suggested, rising to his feet once more. The six teens regrouped around their leader, who was outnumbered, outgunned, and obviously loving every minute of it.
"Do you ever get tired?" Skull asked, blocking a swipe by the nearest Quantron.
Jason shook his head. "Not in a good fight!"
"Geez, and you guys think I'M a maniac?" Tyler inquired. The three of them, armed with their swords, were carving a large path through their enemies. Suddenly, there was a purple flash, and a beautiful woman with curly purple hair appeared.
"Time to pick things up a bit! Bring in the heavy artillery!" Suddenly a fleet of armed motorcycles appeared.
"This is bad," Billy gulped. "Very bad."
Meanwhile, in a deserted section of Angel Grove, David Trueheart was not having a good day. His car was totaled, he'd been attacked by Oozemen, and he had no idea what was really going on. That was what bothered him the most. Ever since learning that Tommy was a Power Ranger, he'd been in on the major events. Whatever the Power Rangers knew, he knew too. But his communicator had been destroyed, and so not only was he completely in the dark, he was going to have to walk to the youth center.
Sitting down on a convenient chunk of masonry, he thought about how he'd come to be in this position. It had all started earlier that day, when he'd been driving to Angel Grove to meet Tommy for a sparring match.
The sky was clear and blue, the air was pure, and David was seriously enjoying himself. He and Tommy were supposed to have a workout at the youth center together, and then maybe get together with some of the guys for a picnic in the park. As he listened to the radio, he drummed his hands on the wheel of his 4x4 in time to the music, feeling quite content with the day and with life in general.
That feeling evaporated, however, when purple lightning began to rain all around his car. Cursing, he swerved to avoid one bolt that came a little too close. This was not going to be such a good day after all. Suddenly, he could see a barrier of purple energy arcing across the sky towards him. Quickly he calculated where it was likely to fall and stepped on the accelerator. If he didn't hurry up, he'd be crushed.
No sooner had he rocketed over the city limits, past the place where the barrier was about to touch down, than five purple beings had leaped onto his car. One had blocked his view. Try though he might, he couldn't shake them. Suddenly the car hit a curb, sending it flying. Landing on its side, the 4x4 rolled over twice, coming to a stop on one side, wheels just kissing a building. David pulled himself laboriously out of the car, giving thanks for seatbelts and airbags as he did so. Most of the purple things had been squished when the car had rolled, but two of them were still intact, and decided to jump him. That was their first- and last- mistake. The last of David's usually calm temper evaporated, and he ripped into his assailants far stronger than Tommy ever had. Dusting his hands off, he looked down at his communicator. It had been broken, probably in the crash.
David sighed. Since then, he had been walking towards the youth center, trying to stay out of the line of fire. Suddenly, a sound behind him made him turn. Three Oozemen had been trying to sneak up on him, failing miserably. Picking up a section of pipe from one of the ruined buildings around him, David hefted it, an evil smile on his face.
"All right, boys. Let's rock and roll."
The sound of the alarm startled the Turbo Rangers from their hastily convened strategy session. Quickly, they ran to where Terry was working the controls of the scanners. "Please, tell me you have good news," Fred said fervently.
"Well, I found Ivan," she responded. "You tell me if that's good or bad. He's in the park, with a bunch of Oozemen and zombies. Looks like they're planning something."
"Then let's go break it up," Franklin replied, reaching for his helmet. Fred nodded.
"Back to action!"
In a flash, the five Turbos were in Angel Grove Park. Before them, Ivan was giving a speech to his minions. He stopped, smirking at the five teens and resting his chin in his hand. "Nice of you to show up," he chuckled. "I've been waiting for you. There's someone I want you to meet."
"Who's that?" Pink Turbo cried.
"Me," a girl's voice came back. The Turbos turned to see Kris Thomas behind them, smiling coldly.
"Kris?" Blue Turbo began, catching himself at Yellow Turbo's sidelong glare.
Kris nodded. "That's right, Justin. I will be your destruction." As she threw her hands into the air, a bright purple light began to shine from her body. Tendrils of ooze burst from around her wrists, ankles, and neck, quickly covering her body. When it stopped, she was clad in a purple version of Red Ranger's costume.
"Purple Lightning Turbo Ranger, at your service," she laughed evilly. Then she threw herself at them, moving in a fury. Red Turbo ducked her first punch, but didn't move quite fast enough to escape the hooking heel kick that struck him in the side. He fell to the ground, but before she could finish him, Green Turbo tackled her, knocking her away. The two of them rolled over and over, with Green Turbo ending up on top. Beneath him, Purple Turbo jerked her knee up violently, causing him to collapse like an empty sack. Purple Turbo leaped to her feet to deliver the killing strike, only to find Pink Turbo blocking her way. The two traded punches and blocks while Blue and Yellow Turbos helped their green friend to his feet.
"You all right, Frank?" Blue Turbo asked, concerned.
Green Turbo nodded. "I think so," he breathed, his voice sounding slightly higher than normal. "Man, she fights dirty!"
"So does Rosa," Yellow Turbo pointed out. The two girls were circling, lashing out with everything they could think of. Suddenly, Purple Turbo back-flipped away from her opponent, giving the five time to regroup.
"Man, Kris might be a martial artist, but she was never this good before!" Red Turbo puffed.
"I think it's the ooze," Blue Turbo theorized. "It's enhanced her skills and made her the teeniest bit vicious."
"Vicious?" Green Turbo winced, his voice returning to normal. "What would give you that idea?"
Suddenly Purple Turbo pointed her arm at the five, who had to scatter as she began launching purple energy bolts. Yellow Turbo leaped into the air, coming down in a perfect flying kick. It struck home in Purple Turbo's shoulder, sending her sprawling. She quickly gained her feet, however, and struck out at Yellow Turbo with a whip of ooze, formed out of her suit. The lash snaked around Yellow Turbo's neck, cutting off her air. While she struggled to breathe, Purple Turbo used the whip to throw her opponent into a nearby tree. Yellow Turbo slumped to the ground and was still.
"TASHA!" Blue Turbo screamed. Heedless of anything else, he charged at Purple Turbo, who simply raised a hand and pointed it at him. Ooze flowed from it, covering him in an immobilizing cocoon.
"Who's next?" Purple Turbo asked sweetly, turning back to the Rangers.
"We are," Green and Pink Turbos growled in unison. They rushed her, but she simply dodged Green Turbo's punch, kicking Pink Turbo in the stomach. Then, spinning, she picked Green Turbo up and slammed him into a tree.
"Autoblaster!" Red Turbo cried, praying he wouldn't regret this. Pulling his pistol, he fired a shot, hitting Purple Turbo directly in the back. She fell to the ground, unconscious, a large smoking hole in the back of her suit. As he watched, however, the suit filled itself in, although she still made no move to get up.
"Very impressive, Turbo Ranger," Ooze applauded. Red Turbo whirled. He had almost forgotten that the morphological being was there. "You know what they say, though. He who fights and runs away..." Picking up the unconscious Purple Turbo, he teleported out. Red Turbo sighed, tapping his communicator.
"Bring us in, Terry. I'm gonna need three medical beds." Looking at the hardened slime encasing Blue Turbo, he shook his head. "And a chisel," he added. In five flashes of light, the Rangers disappeared.
"Geez, Dr. Spengler, do you think you have enough stuff?" Black Ranger whistled, as she teleported the last of Egon's gadgets onto the roof of the building. The blond physicist chuckled.
"I know it looks rather voluminous, but most of it is necessary, I assure you. Some of it will be used to scan incoming fighters, and this particular setup will be to communicate with you all during the fight."
Gold Ranger looked out over the side of the building. "Isn't this kind of- exposed? Granted, it's not the highest building in the city, but it's still pretty high."
"It has to be fairly high, or I won't be able to get the sensor readings I need. Besides, Winston and Ray have their proton packs, and between you and them, I should be well defended."
Black Ranger looked down as her communicator beeped. "That'll be Tommy. It's time for us to go. You sure you'll be all right?"
"Yes, of course. Go on." The two Rangers teleported out, and Egon turned back to his machines. "Peter, do you read me?"
"I copy, big guy," the psychologist replied, his usual cocky tone coming through the transmitter quite well.
"How are you doing? Adjusted to the Zord yet?"
"Oh, yeah. Aside from the fact that I don't know what half these controls do, that is. I'm afraid I'll try to turn on the windshield wipers and nuke New Jersey or something. Not that nuking New Jersey would necessarily be a bad thing."
Egon chuckled softly. Despite the flippant tone in Peter's voice, he could tell that his friend was worried. And why shouldn't he be? In less than five minutes, he was about to be involved in a major battle for the safety of the world.
"Egon?" Peter's voice was more serious now. "Still with me?"
The blond physicist cleared his throat. "Of course, Peter. I'm not going anywhere."
"Neither am I." The warmth in the psychologist's tone made it obvious what he was really saying.
Egon smiled to himself. "I should hope not."
"Don't worry about it, Egon. This is a Zord. These things are built to take whatever the bad guys can throw at them."
"Yes, and if I recall the news correctly, this is what, their fourth set?"
"Well, yeah, but only one set blew up," Peter replied.
"Just- be careful, all right?"
Venkman snorted. "I'm not going to get myself wasted, Egon. I'm not getting paid for this, remember?"
"So why are you doing it?" Spengler asked, playing along with Peter's money-grubbing image.
"Somebody has to. Why not me?"
Egon cleared his throat again. "I seem to remember you saying something similar just before we confronted Gozer."
"And look how well that turned out," Peter teased. Suddenly another voice broke over the com unit.
"This is Tommy. Everybody in place? Sound off."
"White Ranger, Super Zeo Zord I, 42nd Street."
"Silver Ranger, Super Zeo Zord II, Park Avenue."
"Purple Ranger, Super Zeo Zord III, outside of town and ready for takeoff."
"Peter Venkman, Super Zeo Zord IV, in the harbor and ready to move."
"Black Ranger, Super Zeo Zord V, ready for takeoff."
"Gold Ranger, Pyramidas, on the outskirts of town."
"Pink Ranger, Zeo Zord I, Central Park."
"Yellow Ranger, Zeo Zord II, Times Square, and causing a bit of a stir."
"Blue Ranger, Zeo Zord III, Rockefeller Plaza."
"Green Ranger, Zeo Zord IV, 5th Avenue, causing a traffic jam. The cops are clearing the area, though."
"Red Ranger, Zeo Zord V, ready for takeoff. Dr. Spengler, scanners picking up anything?"
Egon looked at the hastily assembled radar screen to his right. "Fast and low over the harbor," he reported. "Brace yourselves, because here they come!"
The attacking fighters began a strafing run, only to be met with return fire from the Zords. The three Ghostbusters on the roof watched helplessly as the sky was filled with bursts of light.
"Shit!" Skull and Tyler ducked behind a concrete retaining wall, listening to the sounds of the Quantron's fire echoing over their heads. "This is not a hopeful development," the White Warrior grimaced.
"Hmm. I think we need to fight fire with fire," Tyler grinned.
"Where are you gonna get- oh." Skull broke off, following the other's gaze to a motorcycle store. "But they're not armed!"
"They will be. Come on!" The two of them dashed to the door of the store, which had been shattered by an energy bolt earlier. Like a pair of gymnasts, they tucked themselves into perfect forward rolls, flying through the empty door.
"'Scuse me," Skull turned to the man cowering behind the counter. "Can we borrow seven of these?"
"Man, if you can stop these guys from wrecking my store, you can have 'em!" the proprietor replied.
"That's very kind of you," Skull grinned. Staying low, he dashed over to Tyler. "Okay, MacGyver, how are we going to arm these puppies?"
Tyler grinned. "Magic. Watch." Concentrating, he extended his hands. Green light shot out, wrapping around the seven motorcycles in front of them. Slowly, their forms shifted until they resembled-
"Sharks!" Skull cried. "Hey, those are the Shark Cycles!"
Tyler nodded. "Yeah, I thought they might come in handy."
"Hmm. Gave yourself a Great White, did you?"
"I ain't gonna drive a Sawfish," Tyler shot back. "Get the other guys over here."
"Right." Closing his eyes, Skull sent out a mental message to the other five Warriors. A very little time later, they arrived, some of them under their own power.
"Ugh!" Skull picked himself up off the floor, where he had been knocked when a Quantron had thrown Zack through the window. "Tyler's got a little surprise for you," he grinned.
"The Shark Cycles!" Kimberly cried. "Yes!"
"Now we can do some damage," Billy added.
"Thanks for the motorcycles, mister. Um- sorry about your store," Trini winced, turning to the proprietor, who was watching them from behind his counter.
The man waved a hand. "Forget it, kid. Just stop those guys while there's still something left of it!"
"Right," Jason declared. "Let's take this fight out of the city. Fewer people will get hurt."
Hopping on their Shark Cycles, the Warriors sped off down the road, the Quantrons in hot pursuit.
"Okay, my turn," TJ decided. Reaching out, he shifted Ashley from Carlos' shoulder to his own. "Comfy?"
"Yeah, very. Look, I just twisted my ankle. I think I can probably walk on it now."
Carlos shook his head. "I'm a soccer player, remember? I know a sprain when I see one, and your ankle was almost certainly sprained."
Ashley made a face. "I just don't like being a burden," she confessed.
"If you were whining and crying, you'd be a burden," Cassie chuckled. "As it is, you're less trouble than some of the kids I baby-sat."
TJ suddenly stopped. "Hold it, you guys," he whispered. "Do you hear someone fighting?"
Carlos nodded. "Yeah, around that corner." Moving quietly, the four crept up to the corner of the nearest building and sneaked a look around. A person wearing a red spandex suit was engaged in battle with six Oozemen. Although he was putting up quite a fight, they were obviously wearing him down.
"Is- that a Power Ranger?" Cassie asked. "I've heard about them, but I'd never thought I'd actually see one."
Carlos shrugged. "I don't know if he is a Ranger. He's certainly not one we've ever seen before."
"Well, he's fighting the bad guys, and he seems to be losing," TJ observed. "I think we'd better go help him. Cassie, you and Ashley stay here."
"Why should I?" Cassie shot back, hands on her hips. "I bet I'm as good a fighter as you are!"
"Someone needs to protect Ashley," Carlos explained.
Ashley shook her head. "Just hide me behind that pile of debris and give me a pipe. If you're going to help that guy, you'll need all three of you."
"Ash, we can't leave you alone," protested Carlos. One look in her eyes, however, and he realized her mind was made up. "All right, all right," he groused. Gently, he and TJ set her down behind the pile.
"We'll be right back for you," TJ told her. She nodded, and clutched a length of pipe to her as they moved off.
"Ki-yah!" Carlos's battle cry rang through the street, startling all of the combatants. An Oozeman sneaking up on the stranger looked up, only to be struck with a flying kick and knocked down the alleyway. TJ and Cassie were not far behind their friend, plowing into their opponents with a flurry of punches and kicks. The Oozemen were no match for the four fighters, and were soon turned into little puddles of goo.
"You all right?" TJ asked, turning to the man they had rescued.
"Yes. Thank you," he replied. Cassie thought there was a slight hesitation there, as if he had been struggling to get the thanks out.
"Who are you?" Carlos asked. "I don't remember seeing you before."
"I am known as the Red Astro Guardian. Why did you help me?"
Cassie looked at him strangely. "You were in trouble, and those guys are the ones ripping our city apart. Why wouldn't we help you?"
He looked at her for a long moment, cocking his head. "I owe you, then," he said at last.
TJ shook his head. "Forget it. We were just helping out."
"No, this is a debt of honor. I must repay you." He thought for a long moment. "Come back with me to my ship. For your favor of protection, I will make sure that you reach your destination in safety."
"Wait!" Carlos cried. "We have to get Ashley."
"Our friend," TJ explained. "She has a sprained ankle, and can't join in the fight." Even as he spoke, Carlos came back with Ashley on one shoulder.
"Ashley, meet the Red Astro Guardian," Cassie smiled, introducing them.
"Hi," Ashley replied. With only a nod, Red Astro dropped to one knee, taking her ankle in his hand.
"It's most definitely sprained," he told her, examining it. "And you tried to walk on it, didn't you?"
She blushed. "Well, we were under attack at the time. I didn't really have much choice."
He sighed. "Well, you're in no shape to walk back to the Megaship. Galaxy Glider, now!"
At his command, a strange floating skateboard-type device swooped down out of the sky. It floated next to Ashley, as Red Astro loaded her onto it. "It'll keep up with the rest of us, and we'll make better time than if one of us had to carry you. Come on." He turned on his heel and walked away, the others hurrying to keep up with him.
"Tommy, watch your back!" At Blue Ranger's shouted warning, Red Ranger spun his Zord around, pulling the trigger as he did so. His laser guns turned the fighters behind him into so much scrap.
"Thanks, Rocko," Red Ranger sent back. "How're you coming?"
"Well, I'm glad there's no Christmas tree up in May!" Blue Ranger aimed his cannons, picking off another swathe of fighters. New York was a war zone. The Rangers had prevented more than minor damage to the buildings, but the streets were filled with debris from all the mecha that they had downed. Multicolored lasers arced over the city as the ground-based Zords kept up a barrage of fire, downing the air fighters as soon as they could attack.
Red Ranger winced. As team leader, he had all communication channels routed into his cockpit. He could hear the explosions, the cries of his teammates, whether in exultation over a good shot or pain after taking a bad hit, and over it all, he could make out the calm voice of Dr. Egon Spengler acting as their eyes, directing them as best he could.
The thought of the physicist suddenly sparked memory of the newest member of the defense force. Flipping a switch, Red Ranger opened communications to Super Zeo Zord IV. "Peter, how are you holding up?"
"Yeehaa!" The psychologist's exultant cry sounded loud and clear. "'I have got to get me one of these!'" Venkman returned, prompting a chuckle. "Egon, think the budget will handle it?"
Spengler's amused voice crackled over the com. "I doubt it, Peter, especially if we have to pay for the dents you're putting in that thing. Adam, ten o'clock high!"
There was the sound of an explosion, then Green Ranger responded. "Thanks, Dr. Spengler. Tommy, power levels are holding steady, but if we have to fight through the evening..."
"I know, Adam. Jamie, Lillian, how are you doing?" The flying Zords always consumed the most power, and he was beginning to worry.
"Call back later!" Purple Ranger barked, strain in her voice. Red Ranger hurriedly flipped on a long-range screen and winced. Super Zeo Zord III was involved in a brutal midair dogfight with a fighter that seemed almost as intelligent as III's pilot. Still, the midair swoops and dips that Purple Ranger was pulling off seemed to indicate that she wasn't low on power just yet.
Black Ranger's com channel suddenly crackled to life. "This thing steers like a cow," she growled. "Tommy, when did you last have the alignment checked?"
He snorted. "Take it up with Justin. It's not my job. How's your power levels?"
"Steady for now. Adam's right, though. Once that sun goes down, we're going to be running on backup power, and I seriously doubt these guys are solar."
"Dr. Spengler, how many are left?" Pink Ranger's voice broke in.
"I'd say- uh-oh."
Suddenly Winston could be heard over the com. "You know I hate it when you say that, Egon."
"Egon, you mad scientist!" Peter called. "What's the uh-oh?"
"Reinforcements! They're coming from that sphere-shaped ship hanging over the harbor!"
"I see it, but it's out of range," Yellow Ranger cried.
Silver Ranger called, "Trey, can you hit it?"
"I can try," Gold Ranger responded. A shot of golden light arced across the sky, striking the sphere dead on."
"Holy- not a scratch!" White Ranger cried.
"If Trey can't dent it, then it's a sure bet our weapons can't," Red Ranger informed them. "Keep engaging the fighters. Dr. Spengler, see if there isn't a way through that thing's shields!"
"Right," the physicist responded. In the west, the sun crept ever closer to the horizon, reminding them all that time was running out.
After journeying through some of the less attractive parts of Angel Grove, Red Astro had led the four teens to Angel Grove Park, not surprising either Carlos or Ashley. From her position on the Galaxy Glider, the yellow-clad girl gave her friend a sidelong look. "What is it with this park and aliens, anyway?"
"It's a nexus of ley energy," Red Astro replied, startling her. "I landed here to allow my ship to make use of the energy to cloak itself against prying eyes."
"You mean it's cloaked?" TJ asked, impressed. "So where is it?"
"DECA, open bay doors, and drop cloak in vicinity," Red Astro ordered. In front of them, a hatch with a ladder shimmered into existence, startling the four humans.
"Whoa," Cassie breathed. "Pretty impressive."
"Follow me." Red Astro strode into the ship, giving them no choice but to follow. Once inside, he turned to look at them. "Power Down," he ordered. In a flash of red light, he became an attractive young man in what appeared to be some type of uniform. "I am called Andros," he introduced himself.
"I'm TJ, this is Carlos, Cassie, and you already know Ashley."
"And I am DECA," a feminine voice said, startling them. "I am the ship's onboard computer."
"Wow!" Ashley cried, her eyes lighting up. "Actual artificial intelligence?"
Andros nodded. "Yes, you could say that. DECA, I need a medispray."
"Working." There was a hissing noise, and a panel on the wall opened up. "Medispray complete."
Walking over to the panel, Andros retrieved the medispray and crossed over to Ashley. "The liquid in here is an accelerated healing chemical," he explained, applying the nozzle to Ashley's ankle. As he pulled the trigger, she jumped slightly. "That's cold!" she squealed. He chuckled.
"Yes, but it works." As the fascinated girl watched, the swelling in her ankle began to decrease noticeably, until the joint had returned to its normal size.
Carlos shook his head. "That's incredible," he whispered, moving closer. "Is it completely healed?"
Andros shrugged. "It should be. Ashley, give it a try- carefully." Sliding an arm around Carlos' shoulders, she lowered herself to the ground. Gingerly, she shifted her weight until she was standing on both legs.
"Wow, it's fixed!"
Cassie stepped forward. "Thanks. It's really nice of you to do this for us."
He shrugged again. "You helped me, I help you," he responded. "You can stay here until I figure out some way of transporting you to your homes in safety."
"Not to be rude," TJ began, "but why are you here? I mean, why are you on Earth?"
"Not by choice, that's for sure," Andros responded absently, typing on a keyboard. "Your planet is under attack by Dark Specter, one of the foremost evil villains in the universe. He released a morphological being known as Ivan Ooze, and it's his Oozemen that attacked me in the street. I've come to stop Dark Specter."
"All by yourself?" Cassie asked softly. Andros stopped typing for a moment, closing his eyes as if in pain.
"My reasons are- personal," he replied. The four teens said nothing, but the silence was expectant, waiting. "Dark Specter destroyed my home planet. We had no Rangers, only the Astro Guardians, my team and I." His voice had grown soft and his eyes distant, as if he were no longer in the present, but the past. "We were based in the Megaship, which was hidden in the shadow of one of our three moons. I was recovering from an injury incurred in battle when Dark Specter sent us a challenge. Face him, or he would trigger a device that would wipe out all life on our planet. We knew that we would have to fight. I was in no shape to face him, however, and my team knew it. So my second-in-command shoved me into a cryochamber and instructed DECA not to revive me until they returned- or their transformation devices did." He paused, unable to continue for a moment. "They died, facing Dark Specter, who triggered the device anyway. Our planet was not rich enough for him to add to his empire. He killed my friends, my family, my people. I am the sole survivor, and I am determined that Dark Specter will not escape me this time." He blinked, and then turned back to the console, seemingly embarrassed at how much he had said.
"DECA, any leads yet on the source of this jamming field?"
"Negative, Andros," the ship's computer replied. "I am unable to find any sort of magical or mechanical energy point causing the field around the city."
Andros cursed in a completely unfamiliar language, slamming his hand into the console. Over against one of the walls, Carlos looked thoughtful.
"Hey, I just remembered something."
"What's that?" TJ asked, cocking his head.
"Well, when the dome appeared over the city, it started at the top and worked it's way downward."
"So?" Cassie prompted.
"So maybe the generator's at the center of the field."
Andros shook his head. "Impossible. DECA would have found it."
"Well," Ashley began, "she said that she couldn't find magical or mechanical energy. Suppose it's caused by a mixture of both?"
"Well, DECA's sensors probably wouldn't pick it up. What exactly would a "mixture of both" be, though?"
"DECA, can you bring up a map of Angel Grove?" Ashley asked, ignoring him.
"Certainly, Ashley," the computer replied. A map flickered on the screen. "Good. Now, plot the course of the energy barrier." A purple line appeared on the map. "See, it's a perfect circle. The dome must be set to extend a certain radius from a center point."
"But we would have found the point in our scanning," Andros insisted.
Ashley shook her head. "I don't think so. DECA, show me the exact center of the circle." A red dot began to flash. Carlos, seeing the location of the dot, began to nod.
"Of course! The old Crane Chemical plant! It's got some huge electric generators, used to make it's own electricity before they shut it down."
Andros' jaw dropped. "I'm so stupid! Ooze must have infected the generators with his ooze! It conducts the electricity, and changes it into a sort of techno-magical energy! That's what the barrier is composed of."
"And if we can take out that generator," Cassie added, "you can take off."
Andros shook his head. "There's no we about this. I'll go by myself. The four of you will wait here. If I don't come back, DECA will find a way to get you home."
"You can't go without us!" TJ cried. "Look, what happens if you get outnumbered again?"
"They took me by surprise," replied Andros. "It will certainly not happen again."
"You don't know these streets like we do," Ashley added. "You'll get lost, especially if you have to fight Oozemen."
"Forget it. No one else is going to follow me into danger."
Suddenly DECA spoke up, breaking the silence. "Andros, may I speak to you privately for a moment?" He sighed, but moved off into a side chamber and shut the door.
"What is it, DECA?" he asked, resigned.
"My programming specifically states that Astro Guardians must be a team. I am allowed to follow the directions of one Ranger for a time, but if he does not rebuild the team at the first opportunity, I am no longer able to serve him."
"What are you saying, DECA?" he asked suspiciously.
"You need a team, Andros. There is no chance of you defeating Dark Specter alone. You would likely not even make it to the generator. Those four are willing to fight beside you, and your team needs four members."
"No. No way. I am not having anyone else die following me. Not after what happened to my friends."
"They will not be following you, Andros. They will be following their hearts. This is their planet under attack. Don't they deserve a chance to fight for it?"
"But- they're humans! What would they know about this?"
"What did Zordon's chosen know? And yet they have stood against all comers and made Earth's Rangers a force to be reckoned with."
Andros sighed. "I guess- I have no choice," he sighed. "I'll make them the offer."
"I thought you would." As Andros walked back out into the main chamber, he wondered how in the universe an artificial intelligence could sound smug.
The four teenagers looked up as he came back in. Taking a deep breath, he silently asked how he'd gotten himself into this mess, but there was no answer. "I've decided that you're right. I need- your help," he said haltingly. "However, you're not coming with me as is. You've already proven that you're strong and honorable fighters. If Dark Specter is going to be defeated, I'll need your help, and you'll need mine. That's why I'm offering you these." Four posts rose out of the floor, upon which rested four wristbands. "These belonged to the other Astro Guardians," he said quietly. "I'm offering them now to you. It may take us a very long time to defeat Dark Specter. Will you stand with me, to take him down and defend your world from his evil?"
"You know it," TJ replied.
Carlos nodded. "Most definitely."
"Indubitably," Ashley added.
Cassie was the last to respond. "I don't know. I mean, I never wanted to be a superhero." She looked at Andros, who did not reply, simply stared back at her. "I guess- yes, I'll do it. If you need me, I'm in."
"All right," Andros continued, almost smiling. "TJ, stand here." TJ stepped up to the indicated post. "You are warm and open, caring more about others than your own safety. For this reason, I ask that you become the Blue Astro Guardian. Will you fight for the people of the universe, for their freedom from tyranny and evil?"
"I will," TJ replied without hesitation.
Moving to the next post, Andros turned to Ashley. "Ashley, you are intelligent and generous of spirit, ready to open to any friend. I ask you to become the Yellow Astro Guardian. Will you fight for the people of the universe, for their freedom from tyranny and evil?"
She nodded. "I will."
The third post was for Carlos. "Carlos, you are protective of those you care about, ready to risk any danger for their sake. I ask that you become the Black Astro Guardian. Will you fight for the people of the universe, for their freedom from tyranny and evil?"
"I will," he replied strongly.
Last Andros moved to confront Cassie. As she stepped up to the last post, their eyes locked and something indefinable passed between them. Quickly shaking it off, Andros closed his eyes. "Cassie, you are strong of heart, mind, and spirit, defender of those in need. I ask-" his voice broke for a second, but quickly steadied. "I ask that you become the Pink Astro Guardian. Will you fight for the people of the universe, for their freedom from tyranny and evil?"
"I will," she replied softly.
"Then the four of you are now and forever Astro Guardians. Let's Rocket!"
The four followed Andros' lead as he punched a code into the wristband he wore. In five flashes of light, the five of them became the Astro Guardians.
"Wow!" Black Astro gasped, looking at himself. "We're Astro Rangers!"
Red Astro shook his head. "We're not Rangers. Only avatars of the Morphin Power can call themselves Rangers, or those few granted the title by the Morphin Masters. Aside from the mysterious Phantom Ranger, only your Earth Zeo Rangers and Turbo Rangers have won that right." He shrugged. "We can discuss that later, though. Now it's time to stop Ivan Ooze!" The four of them ran out through the hatch, heading for the Crane Chemical plant.
The highways around Miami are dangerous as it is. Most of the drivers seem to regard the roads as training grounds for the Indy 500, moving at speeds clearly in excess of sanity. Still, things can always get worse.
"'Let's get out of town,' he says," Skull grumbled, dodging a shot from a Quantron and a reckless Porche owner at the same time. "'No one'll get hurt,' he says. Jason, I am going to kill you!"
"You're gonna have to stand in line!" the Red Warrior hollered back. In front of him, a Cadillac was going far too slowly in the left lane. On his right, a truck made pulling over impossible. And slowing down was completely out of the question, unless he wanted to become Swiss Cheese. Only one option left. Pulling back on the handlebars, Jason popped a wheelie, riding up and over the Caddy's roof.
"You scratched my paint, you maniacs!" the driver bellowed as the rest of the Morphin Warriors roared over him."
"Mister," Billy called as he approached, "get your head back in the car, or you're gonna get more than a scratch!"
"Hello!" Zack yelled, dodging a slow-moving Explorer. "Left lane, passing! Geez, did you flunk Driver Ed?"
"This is Miami!" Kim yelled back, leaning to the right to avoid a shot from a Quantron. "Driver Ed means learning how to shift with one hand and give the finger with the other!"
"We can't use our weapons in this traffic!" Trini cried. "Too many civilians!"
"Head for that side road!" Tyler ordered. The seven motorcycles veered off, the Quantrons following close behind.
The road led up to a barred gate. Their enemies in hot pursuit, the Warriors didn't think twice. Two quick shots from Jason's cycle, and the gate was open. As they pulled into the turnaround, Kimberly cursed.
"Shit. I don't believe it."
"Where are we?" Billy asked, leaping off his Hammerhead.
"Gunther Schmit's compound," she replied, as the Quantrons roared in.
Zack groaned. "Aw, great!"
"Everybody scatter!" Jason ordered, drawing his broadsword. "Kim, try and get the place evacuated now! Everyone else, divide and conquer!" Kim ran off for the building, and the rest of the team broke up, readying for a major fight.
"I can't believe you used a chisel on me!" Justin grumped. Fred shook his head.
"You were morphed. It wouldn't even have scratched your spandex. Now quit complaining and help Terry find Ivan."
"Hrmph," Justin grunted. "Hey, I think we've got something!"
"What?" croaked Tasha. Her throat was still sore from Kris's chokehold, but she had refused to stay on her medical bed.
"Large surge of energy," Terry reported. "Looks like our purple friend teleported into the old Crane Chemical plant."
"That- that makes sense," Franklin chipped in, from where he still lay. "That place is full of vats and stuff that he could use to make all the ooze he wanted."
"He's probably going to step up his campaign to bring down Angel Grove, and probably move on to try and take the world," Rosa added, sitting up gingerly.
"Rangers, I am afraid I have bad news," Zordon interrupted. His face was exceedingly grave, and the five Turbos had the sinking feeling that they were not going to like what he had to say.
"As if we haven't had enough of that already," Tasha muttered hoarsely. "What is it, Zordon?"
"I have finally identified the ships in orbit. They belong to a being known as the Dark Specter. He is a shape-shifter of extreme evil and dangerous power. Dark Specter is single-handedly responsible for the destruction or conquest of over two hundred planets in the past few centuries alone. No doubt he has released Ooze to eliminate you, saving him the trouble and loss of soldiers."
"Great," Rosa groaned. "Another goon to deal with!"
Franklin nodded, pulling himself slowly upright. "And this one makes Divatox look like Mother Teresa," he added, swallowing.
Fred shook his head. "We'll deal with him later," he replied. "Right now, we have Ivan Ooze and his army to deal with, not to mention Kris. We need to teleport to the chemical plant and stop him, now, before this gets any further out of hand. Any objections?"
"The place is crawling with security," Justin warned. "Ooze zombies and those darn purple creeps."
"No problem!" Tasha replied. "We can take them easy."
Rosa raised a finger. "But we can't hurt the people. It's not their fault they got brainwashed by Ooze."
"And if they rush us, we're history," Franklin added gravely.
Looking up from the console she stood in front of, Terry shook her head. "I don't think that'll be a problem. Looks like Ooze's zombies are doing mainly grunt work, and most of them are at the construction site, putting those two things together. Security just seems to be Oozemen."
"Well, one way or another, we can't just stand around talking about it," Fred decided. "Everybody ready?" He was answered with a series of nods. "All right. Back to action!"
"Okay, Fearless Leader," Pink Turbo whispered. "How're we gonna get past THAT?" 'That' was the front gate of Crane Chemical, guarded by more than a dozen Oozemen.
Yellow Turbo shrugged. "I say we rush them," she offered. Red Turbo shook his head.
"We want to get inside quietly, Tasha. We don't want Ooze to know we're here. Franklin? Got any ideas, O descendant of GI Joes?"
"Yeah, but I won't tell you if you don't stop picking on my parents," Green Turbo shot back. "Come on. We're not going in by the front."
The five Rangers slipped around to the back of the building, taking care to keep concealed in the high weeds and low shrubbery of the abandoned lots. "There," Green Turbo pointed. "The fence doesn't quite reach the ground."
"I'll bet you anything that means the fence is electrified," Blue Turbo added.
"That is where our lovely Rosa comes in. Rosa, think you can fly over that thing?"
"If I get a boost. You want me to do it now?"
Pink Turbo nodded. "Wind Gliders!" In a flash of pink, a pair of stylized wings, made of some type of pink metal, appeared on her back. "Here goes nothing." Blue and Green Turbos picked her up and threw her up in the air. Their enhanced strength plus her own enhanced jumping abilities propelled her a good ten feet up, from which height it was easy for her to glide down on the other side of the fence."
"Now what?" Yellow Turbo asked. Green Turbo grimaced, the expression audible in his voice.
"Now she gets to catch me."
Thrown by his Red and Blue teammates, Green Turbo made an excellent three point landing- right on Pink Turbo. She cocked her head at him. "Aren't we moving a little fast?"
"Oh, shut up," he chuckled. Rising to his feet, he turned back to the fence. "Okay, there should be a control box somewhere along here," he muttered, almost to himself. "They always have a second one in case of emergency. Aha!" Pulling a set of tools out of nowhere, he went to work, his friends watching him in amusement. Even though they couldn't see his face, it was a good bet that the tip of his tongue was sticking out of his mouth in concentration. "There! All right, you can climb the fence now. The electricity and alarms are off- I think."
Red Turbo growled, but began to climb, the other two directly behind him.
"Those Galaxy Gliders are awesome," Black Astro said quietly. Pink Astro nodded.
"Yeah. Flying in certainly beats rushing the front gate," she replied. From the front of the line, Red Astro suddenly held up a hand for silence.
"Someone's on the other side of this wall," he said quietly. Beside him, Yellow Astro peered around the corner.
"It's okay," she told him. "Those are the Turbo Rangers."
He cocked his head, and she could almost see him raising an eyebrow. "THOSE are the Turbo Rangers? The first line of defense for your planet?"
"Yeah," she replied, not understanding.
He shook his head. "This place is more primitive than I thought. Look at them! They're half the size of any of us!"
"Size doesn't always make a difference," Blue Astro replied. "I should know. I've gotten my rear kicked on the sparring mats by guys six inches shorter than me."
"These guys have been defending our city for almost a year now," Black Astro added. "I think we should work together."
"It'd be better than worrying about whether we'll have to deal with them, too," Pink Astro added. Red Astro threw up his hands.
"All right, I can see I'm outvoted. But if they're this planet's defenders, Divatox must be slipping."
Slowly, watching for Oozemen, the five of them approached the Turbo Rangers, who were huddled in an alcove apparently discussing their attack. Yellow Astro had been a bit concerned that the Turbos would not take kindly to being sneaked up on. As it turned out, she needn't have worried. The Astros hadn't gotten within five feet of their destination when Green Turbo suddenly turned around for no apparent reason. He quickly alerted his comrades, who dropped immediately into fighting stances.
"Whoa!" Black Astro raised his hands quickly. "We come in peace, really!"
"Who are you?" Red Turbo asked, relaxing only slightly.
"We're the Astro Guardians," Red Astro replied, stepping forward. "We're here to deal with Dark Specter, but we can't do that until Ooze is defeated."
Blue Turbo cocked his head. "Looks like we have the same goal," he mused. "Why don't we work together?"
"That's what we were going to suggest," Pink Astro replied.
"If you think you can keep up with us," added Red Astro. The Turbo Rangers stiffened slightly, and Red Turbo cocked his head.
"Oh, I think we can handle that," he replied, a somewhat dangerous edge to his voice. "But I don't think we should go in all together. We'd make way too easy a target. Why don't we split up, in pairs?"
Red Astro nodded grudgingly. "That's a good idea. We'll each have somebody to cover our backs, and increase our chances of getting through by five." He paused for a second, then continued. "You're with me. Any objections?"
"None at all." The ice in the voices of the two boys was sufficient to freeze oxygen. "In fact, I think we should all split up by color. Make it easier for us to remember who's where. Green, why don't you go with the gentleman in black, here?"
"Um, yeah," Green Turbo replied, anxious to get out of the area before his leader went ballistic.
"Let's go," Black Astro agreed, no more comfortable with the tension than anyone else. Quickly, the ten warriors broke off into color-coded pairs, leaving Red Turbo and Red Astro alone.
"Well, I guess that leaves us this service hatch," Red Astro remarked.
Red Turbo nodded. "After you," he gestured. As Red Astro crawled into the hatch, he thought he could hear the boy behind him mutter, "This is gonna be a long trip."
Red Astro and Red Turbo made their way through the halls of Crane Chemical in crackling silence. Nothing had yet appeared, which was beginning to wear on their nerves as well. Normally, Red Turbo would have tried to start a conversation, but Red Astro's arrogance seemed to push all his buttons, and he didn't think he could trust himself to be professional.
"Where are they?" he said quietly. "I'd have thought someone would have called in by now."
"Most likely they're too busy fighting their way through security," Red Astro replied. "I'm surprised something hasn't jumped out at us yet."
Suddenly Oozemen began streaming in from a nearby corridor, filling the hall. "You had to say it, didn't you?" Red Turbo snapped, stancing. He ducked a punch, but wasn't quite able to avoid the kick that sent him hurtling into a wall. "Oh, forget this," he grunted. "Turbo Lightning Sword!" In a flash of red, the blade appeared in his hand. "How about we add a little iron to your diet?" he asked, slashing at the nearest Oozeman.
"Shut up and fight!" Red Astro yelled. "Spiral Saber!" His sword, which looked more like a drill, appeared in his hand, and the two of them began hacking and slashing their way through the press. Red Astro suddenly spun, his sword intercepting a blow aimed at Red Turbo's helmet.
"Thanks!" Red Turbo yelled. Red Astro did not reply, just threw himself back into the fight. Looking up, Red Turbo saw an Oozeman about to strike Red Astro from behind. Throwing himself into a flying kick, he knocked the attacker back ten paces. Red Astro looked back at them for a second, then returned to his fight. Red Turbo shook his head.
"You're welcome," he grumbled, then returned to the task at hand.
Kimberly slipped quickly and quietly down the hall, making sure there were no Quantrons in sight. She had found Gunther Schmit, and had convinced him to evacuate the compound, but the PA system wasn't working, and she now had to check the building personally. Currently, she was headed towards the gym, the last of her stops.
Running in, she stopped dead. There was one gymnast still present, one she knew very well indeed. Scott Mitchell, her ex-boyfriend, finished his routine on the rings and dropped to the floor, picking up a towel. Gathering her courage, Kimberly stepped forward. "Excuse me, sir, but you're going to have to evacuate the building. I'm afraid the compound is under attack."
He turned. "Sure it is, Melissa. I'm not falling for another- oh." He stopped, realizing that the person behind him was not the team's resident joker. "Who- who are you?" he asked, taking a step backward. A woman in a pink leotard wasn't all that frightening in and of herself, but the wooden bow she carried in one hand suggested that she wasn't there for a workout.
"I'm the Pink Morphin Warrior. You may have heard of us. We assist the Power Rangers of Angel Grove."
He blinked, and then stepped forward, squinting at her. "Angel Grove- Kimberly?"
"Who?" she asked, hoping that he hadn't recognized her.
"It is you! But- why couldn't I see it before?"
She sighed. "It's the power of my transformation, Scott. Only people who really care about me can see through the transformation, and then only if something gives them a reason to put two and two together. I guess my mention of Angel Grove did it. But we don't have time to discuss it. This building is under attack. We have to get out of here."
"But-" he started, then stopped. "It can wait. Where to?"
She gnawed a knuckle. They'd likely spent enough time there that most of the gymnasts and staff would have evacuated, taking the cars with them. "I don't know, exactly. Maybe we can get you to a safe spot on the grounds. Come on." The two of them headed out into the hallway, Scott following close behind her.
"Is this why you went back to Angel Grove?" he asked hesitantly. She shook her head.
"No. What I told you about a sick friend was the truth. He got better, though. This- this was the reason I stayed, though."
"Kim- I have something to tell you. I mean, I know we broke up and all, but I really did have feelings for you."
"I know, Scott," she smiled sadly. "Otherwise you never would have been able to recognize me. It just- wasn't meant to be."
Suddenly the window in front of them exploded inwards in a shower of glass. Instinctively, Kimberly threw herself in front of Scott, letting the material of her Morphin Warrior Costume take the brunt of the glass. When she looked up, she saw Skull getting slowly to his feet.
"That was some hit," he groaned. "Oh- Pink Warrior. Are you all right?" he said, concerned.
"I'm fine, Skull. And don't bother. Scott already recognized me."
"Oh, so this is your ex," he said quietly, looking Scott over. The taller, blonder man was definitely a gymnast, sporting far more muscles than Skull could ever hope to possess.
"Kim, is this- your new boyfriend?" Scott asked quietly. Kim nodded.
"Yeah. He is."
He smiled slightly. "You've got a heck of a lady there, Skull. Don't lose her."
"I don't intend to. Which brings me back to my reason for dropping in. That purple-haired nutcase just dropped in, and she's going toe to toe with Jason. Find someplace safe to stash Mitchell here, 'cause we've got a butt-load of Quantrons to deal with."
"Don't worry about me," Scott replied. "I'll hole up in Gunther's office with his golf clubs and paperweights. I'll be fine."
"You'd better," Kim replied. "We're still friends." Scott ran off, and she and Skull exchanged glances.
"We'll talk about this later," Skull told her. "Let's go kick some armor plated butt!" Together, they leaped out the window that he had just entered through, heading back towards the fight.
"This place is huge," Blue Astro whispered, looking around a corner. Blue Turbo nodded.
"Yeah. The biggest chemical plant in the city, 'til they found out it was illegally dumping on the outskirts of town. It's been empty for a while now."
Blue Astro shivered. "I can tell." The whole building echoed, not just the sounds made by the current occupants, but vibrations of what had been. Blue Astro felt that he could easily turn a corner and come upon a group of workers cutting off for the day. Pulling himself back to the present, he glanced over at Blue Turbo, who was studying the ceiling intently. "What are you looking for?"
"Alarm cables. Ooze is sure to have this place wired, and why make a new one when the old one will work just as well?" He pointed at a bundle leading from the window they had just passed. "There."
"Think we set it off when we came in?"
Blue Turbo shook his head. "Not a chance. One, if we had, this place would be crawling with guards. Two, I used my microcomputer to set up a field around us that kept the current going even when we broke the circuit. Trust me, we're okay."
"I'll do that. So what do we do now?"
"We go turn off the alarm system so that the others will have an easier time getting in. Follow me!" Blue Turbo took off down the hall, Blue Astro right behind. After a little walking, they found the alarm board, where all the alarms in the building came together.
Blue Turbo clucked his tongue disapprovingly, pulling a pair of pliers out of nowhere. "Look at this! Centralized alarm system, how inefficient. It's almost too easy," he chuckled as he snipped a few wires and twisted others together. Pausing for a moment, he shook his head. "Good Lord, I'm beginning to sound like Fr- uh, Green Turbo Ranger," he corrected himself.
From his position guarding the hall, Blue Astro watched in amazement. "That's incredible," he breathed.
"Aw, this is nothing. You should see Yellow Turbo Ranger. She can hot-wire a car in three seconds flat."
"I couldn't even do what you're doing." Detecting a note of discomfort in Blue Astro's voice, Blue Turbo looked up from the connection he was making.
"So? Everybody has different talents. Why should you feel bad about that?"
"Because I'm wearing blue!" Taking a deep breath, Blue Astro continued, a little more calmly. "I remember seeing the Rangers on the news all the time. Blue Rangers have always been geniuses. Even the guy who had these powers before me was a genius. This whole set-up- it's got analytical stuff I couldn't even begin to understand. I guess I just feel like I don't belong in the color."
Blue Turbo finished the last connection and turned to his companion. "Not all Blue Rangers have been technologically inclined," he replied. "The Blue Zeo Ranger isn't. Blue means different things in different disciplines. For Morphin and Turbo, it means intelligence and science-mindedness. For Zeo, it means a fun-loving, carefree personality, the one with the eternal sense of humor. I don't pretend to know how your powers work, but I can tell you one thing. If you weren't worthy of them, you wouldn't have them. It's not the color of the costume that matters. It's what's inside."
"Thanks," Blue Astro smiled.
"No problem." Laying a hand on the side of his helmet, Blue Turbo opened the helmet-com channels. "This is Blue Turbo Ranger, guys. The security system is off, so wherever you are, head for the main room." Breaking off communications, he and Blue Astro did the same.
The sound of laser fire echoed up and down the empty streets of New York. Out in the harbor, Super Zeo Zord IV targeted yet another group of goons firing on the Statue of Liberty. "I don't think so," Peter Venkman growled, pulling the trigger. Two green laser beams shot out, annihilating their targets. "Bulls-eye!" the psychologist crowed.
He had been blasting at air fighters for- well, he'd lost track of time, but he knew it was a while. Outside, the sun was creeping ever lower to the horizon, threatening to take their power source with it. Checking his energy gauges, Peter grimaced. With the sun gone, the Zords would be forced to switch to auxiliary power, which was limited, and certainly not enough to last the night. And unfortunately, the defenders couldn't rely on their opponents having the same problem.
While the majority of his attention targeted and destroyed the air fighters attacking his city, part of Peter's mind was involved with wonder at how quickly he had picked up the ropes of Zord piloting. He hadn't really needed Tommy's crash course. Somehow, he just instinctively knew what button controlled what reaction, and how to read the complicated instruments that told him what was happening to his Zord.
"Peter, five o' clock!" Pink Ranger's voice crackled over his radio. Swiveling his cockpit quickly, Peter fired, blasting the squadron clean out of the sky.
"Thanks, Kat," the Ghostbuster replied. "That was a close one."
"Tommy, we can't take much more of this!" Blue Ranger called. Venkman shook his head, hearing the exhaustion in the other's tone. They were all tired, especially him. He didn't have a full-strength set of powers to draw on, only a minor connection to the grid. His arms felt like they were made of lead, and his every breath seared his lungs. Still, he couldn't exactly give up.
"I know, Rocko," Red Ranger replied. "Dr. Spengler, any luck?" Static and the sound of proton fire answered him.
"Egon?" Peter called, worried. That didn't sound good.
There were a few more seconds of silence, and then the physicist's calm bass voice answered. "I'm here, Peter. A couple of fighters just got a little too close, but Winston and Ray are taking care of them."
Faintly, in the background, Peter could hear Ray's enthusiastic shouts, punctuated by proton blasts and Winston Zeddemore's, "Take that, buddy!"
The psychologist winced as an explosion suddenly rocked Super Zeo Zord IV. "Egon, give me some good news!" he yelled, rotating the cockpit to fire on another group of fighters.
"I wish I could, Peter. So far, all I've been able to get is that it's a standard reflective energy sphere. Totally impermeable to matter and energy. We can't even make a dent in it!"
"Damn!" Peter slammed his hand down on the armrest beneath him. "We can't keep this up forever!"
"Too bad we don't have Jeff Goldblum and a computer virus," Purple Ranger offered. Venkman's eyes lit up.
"That's it! Tanya, Adam, you're going to have to take the harbor for a second. I have a plan."
"What?" Green Ranger asked.
"What plan?" added Yellow Ranger. Peter did not answer, just set his screens to zoom in on the sphere. Around him, he could hear the crash of mecha being destroyed and several voices clamoring for his attention, but he ignored all of them, watching as the sphere opened a hangar to let out another wave of attack mecha.
"NOW!" Slamming his hand down on the "missile" button, Peter let loose a barrage of missiles, which streaked through the atmosphere towards the ship. Several were shot down by the air fighters, but there were far too many to take them all. One survived the onslaught, reaching the shield- and going right on through. It exploded in the ship's hangar bay, taking the entire ship with it.
Suddenly, as if by chain reaction, the air fighters all over the sky began exploding, raining debris to the ground. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then Peter let out a whoop. "Yeehaa! Take that, sucker!"
Silver Ranger was the first to find her voice. "Peter Venkman, what the hell did you do?"
"Well, I just remembered that Egon said the sphere was impervious to matter or energy. So I realized that there must be a split second window when they let the ships out. The rest was just a matter of timing."
"Nice job, Dr. Venkman," Red Ranger congratulated him. "It's over."
White Ranger's voice was thoughtful. "Is it? I'm not sure."
"I thought people only did this in the movies," Black Astro puffed. Ahead of him, Green Turbo chuckled.
"That's what everybody thinks. That's why the vent ducts make such a good entrance. They're so obvious, no one remembers to guard them." The two of them had infiltrated the plant through the ventilation system, and were currently crawling through the rather tight fit.
"I feel like I'm trapped in 'Die Hard,'" Black Astro grumbled.
"Shh. We're over one of the main hallways."
"A couple of zombies. Wait here." Green Turbo pulled the grate out of the way and dropped lightly to the ground. Two short grunts later, he called back up. "Okay, you can come down now."
Black Astro lowered himself to the ground to see Green Turbo tying two unconscious people up with a fire hose off the wall. "What did you do to them? Vulcan neck pinch?"
"Close. My dad used to be in the military. He taught me some really interesting nerve grips."
"Remind me not to get you mad at me," he muttered. The two of them moved off down the hall. Finally, to break the silence, Black Astro turned to his companion. "So- you and your dad are close?"
"Yeah. He works a lot, but recently, he's tried really hard to be home for us. We're probably not what anybody would consider a normal family. Some kids learn to play baseball with their dads. Mine taught me how to bypass a security system and build a Burmese Tiger Pit." Green Turbo shrugged. "How about you?"
"My dad- died, a long time ago," Black Astro replied haltingly. He'd only really talked about this before with Ashley, but the Turbo Ranger seemed as if he'd understand. "Heart attack. I was about six." He shook his head. "My mom was left with three kids to care for. I was the youngest. Sometimes, I just- feel so alone, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. Both my parents are alive, but sometimes even I felt isolated. My dad was always at work, my mom had to work a lot, and my brother, well, he was always involved in his own life. That's the great thing about being a Power Ranger, though. You'll never really be alone again. No matter what, someone is always there for you."
"But I'm not a Power Ranger," Black Astro replied. Green Turbo laid a hand on his shoulder.
"You're risking your life to help us battle the forces of evil. You may not have started as a Power Ranger, but you're one now."
Beneath his helmet, Black Astro smiled. "Thanks. That means a lot." The two of them quickly headed off for the main room of the plant.
"Umph!" Jason dodged quickly as Tyler slammed into the tree next to him. Offering the other man a hand up, he grinned.
"You all right?"
Tyler chuckled, dark eyes flaming with green light. "JUST fine." His sword glowing with green light, the Green Warrior threw himself back into the fight, hacking and slashing. Jason laughed to himself. Whatever the others might say about his berserker tendencies, Tyler had him beat by a mile.
"You seem to be quite a warrior," a voice said behind him. It was overly sweet and cutesy, with a hint of sultry heat behind it. Turning, Jason saw a well-built woman with purple hair, dressed in black spandex and holding a sword. Despite the woman's obvious- talents, it was the sword that held Jason's attention. Made of some sort of black metal, it ate all the available light, throwing no reflections anywhere.
"Who are you and what do you want?" Jason asked, raising his broadsword in challenge.
"I am Astronoma, right hand to Dark Specter! I am here to challenge you, Ranger."
Jason laughed. "You're a henchman. You're prettier than Goldar, but other than that, there doesn't seem to be much difference between you."
She snarled. "I am far more intelligent than that gold-plated moron could ever hope to be!"
"You must be," Jason acknowledged. "There were actually two-syllable words in that sentence."
Losing her temper, Astronoma charged. This was what Jason had been hoping for. From long experience, he knew that an angry fighter stood less chance of winning the battle than a calm one.
Pivoting out of the way of her strike, Jason slashed at her unprotected back with his blade. She executed a back flip over it, landing solidly on her feet and striking out at his head. He ducked, attempting to sweep her feet from under her. She dodged, though, and returned the attack.
Hacking, slashing, thrusting, and leaping, the two of them made their way across the battlefield in a whirlwind of motion. Once, one of Astronoma's cuts slipped through Jason's guard, making contact with his left arm. He yelled as the arm went numb. The blade was as cold as deep space. The fight continued, Jason's strength sufficient to block with one arm while his accelerated healing restored strength and sensation to his left. Both hands back in the game, Jason began to fight in earnest, far more careful now not to let Astronoma wound him.
Finally, with a desperate strike, Jason managed to hook Astronoma's blade from her hands. The tip of his sword presented at her throat made her freeze, staring defiantly into his eyes. "I'm not going to kill you," he growled, "even though it's what you would have done to me. Pick up your sword and get out of here."
She did as he commanded, shooting him a look full of fire. "This is not over yet, Ranger. Count on it." In a flash of purple, she disappeared. Jason took a second to catch his breath, and then threw himself back into the fight. As Astronoma had said, it wasn't over yet.
"Think our bosses have killed each other yet?" Yellow Turbo asked, peering around a corner.
"Nah," replied Yellow Astro. "That'll wait until after all this is over. They are kinda stubborn, though, aren't they?"
Yellow Turbo laughed. "Stubborn? Red Turbo Ranger is the most stubborn guy I know. I guess it comes with the color, because the Red Zeo Ranger and the Red Morphin Warrior are both stubborn as hell too."
Yellow Astro suddenly stopped, hauling Yellow Turbo back down the hallway. "Shh! There's a squad of Oozemen just around that corner."
"Your point is?"
"We can't just go out there and fight them!"
"We'll get creamed! There's at least twenty of them! Besides, didn't I hear Red Turbo Ranger say something about subtlety?"
"You've got a better idea?"
Yellow Astro examined the hall they were in and chuckled. "I think I do. Go get their attention and lead them back here."
"Got it." Running up the corridor, Yellow Turbo jumped out into the hallway. "Hey you! You're ugly, you smell bad, and Ivan dresses you funny!" The Oozemen looked up, looked at each other, and then rushed her. Yellow Turbo quickly turned around and ran back down the corridor. Turning a corner, she saw Yellow Astro just standing in the middle of the hall, holding onto a pair of fire hoses.
"Come on!" Yellow Astro cried. Yellow Turbo shrugged and poured on the speed. No sooner had Yellow Turbo run past her companion than Yellow Astro fell backwards, pulling on the hoses as she did so. The hoses were tied to the handles of the huge metal fire doors that were set almost into the sides of the hallway. They were so much a part of the walls that Yellow Turbo hadn't even noticed them until they began to move. More quickly than the Oozemen could run, the doors swung shut in the center of the hallway, locking against their supports. There was a loud clang from the other side, as the Oozemen couldn't stop in time, and then purple sludge began flowing under the door.
"Now wasn't that much easier?" Yellow Astro asked, pushing the door open.
"Absolutely," Yellow Turbo chuckled, following as they waded through the ooze. "But not nearly as much fun." Giggling, the two girls headed off down the hall.
In Florida, things looked to be going quite well for the Morphin Warriors. Astronoma had retreated, and the seven teens were quickly mopping up the last of the Quantron problem. "I think we've got 'em on the run," Zack puffed. Beside him, Billy nodded.
"Now, if this were a battle with Rita, right about now is when-"
A loud explosion suddenly deafened them, cutting Billy off in mid-sentence. As the Morphin Warriors picked themselves up off the ground, Billy finished his aborted thought. "This is when she'd send the monster," he sighed, looking rather unhappy.
Trini shook her head. "You and your big mouth," she scolded.
The monster was ugly, as most of them were. However, instead of being a silly approximation of something normal, this was hideous. It looked as if it might have been a tiger at some point in time, but now it stood on its back legs, and its once-white fur was blackened and singed. It growled at the Warriors, showing blackened, ugly teeth.
"What IS it with my spirit animal?" Skull wailed. "Why does everybody wanna make bad imitations of it?"
"I am Tigerfire," the monster growled. "And you are history!"
"Let's take him, guys," Jason responded. They charged.
Tigerfire attacked with claws and powerful strikes, not to mention an ugly, jagged sword. Skull, however, was too steamed at yet another mockery of his spirit animal to be stopped. The two of them went sword to sword, in a battle that was all about power, no finesse. Finally, a well-placed kick sent Tigerfire flying in one direction, while its sword went in another.
"All right, guys, let's finish this fight," Tyler declared.
"Not quite yet!" Tigerfire growled. A bolt of energy streaked out of the sky, surrounding the monster as it grew to mammoth proportions. "NOW let's finish it!" the newly huge monster growled."
"Shit! We need Zords!" Zack cried.
"Call Tommy in New York," Kim called to Jason. "Ask him if he can send us a contingent NOW!"
"I'm on it." Jason tapped his communicator, hoping very much that his signal would reach that far."
"What the hell is that?" Peter asked, as a strange shape materialized on the streets of New York. It looked like a man's body and the head of a Falcon, complete with huge wings spreading from its back.
"Looks like whoever's behind this sent in the big guns," Red Ranger transmitted. "I just got a message from Jason, saying he needs Zords down in Florida. Trey, you and the Super Zeo Zords stay here. Lil, you're in charge. Zeo Zords, come with me. We're heading to Florida."
There was a flash as the five Zords disappeared, teleporting out. Then Black Ranger's voice came over the com. "Peter, we're forming the Super Zeo Megazord. The process should be instinctive. Dr. Spengler, Dr. Stantz, Mr. Zeddemore, you'd better get down off that roof. We'll try to prevent as much damage to the buildings as we can, but it's still dangerous to be up there."
"Right," Egon replied. "We're heading back to the Firehouse. Good luck."
"We're going to need it," Peter grumbled, even as he began to drive towards the center of town.
"See anything?" Pink Astro asked. Pink Turbo shook her head.
"Not yet." The two of them moved silently down the hallway, keeping a close eye out for any Oozemen. The quiet finally getting to her, Pink Turbo glanced over at her companion. "You don't know quite what to make of this whole thing, do you?"
Pink Astro chuckled. "I never wanted to be a hero. The Blue Astro Guardian, he's been hearing stories about the Rangers since he was ten years old. He was thrilled with the whole thing. I just wanted to sing."
"Professionally? What type of music?"
"Rock, of course. Blue wanted to be a Power Ranger; I wanted to be Tina Turner." Pink Astro shook her head. "I used to be in a band, before we moved here. I wish we hadn't had to leave."
"Why did you? Your dad get transferred?"
Pink Astro sighed. "Something like that. That's what I tell people, but it's really- see, my dad owns this insurance company, and every time it opens up a new branch, he moves to the new place to personally supervise."
"Insurance in Angel Grove is a lucrative business," Pink Turbo chuckled. "He'll do quite well for himself."
Pink Astro sighed. "Yeah, well, it's not as if we really need the money. Heck, our family would be considered rich by anybody's standards. I just wish that my parents would pay me as much attention as they pay their bank accounts." She stopped, embarrassed. "I'm sorry, that came out so whiny. I shouldn't complain. I've got everything I need in life, and my parents do love me. They just- don't notice I'm around. I've got friends who'd kill for a life like that."
"Not me," Pink Turbo replied, sympathetically. "And I don't think you sound whiny at all. It's hard to be lonely, whether you're rich or poor. You an only child?"
"Yeah," Pink Astro nodded.
"I'm the fourth of eight," Pink Turbo replied. "My dad died when I was five. My mom's a consultant, so she's gone a lot." She chuckled. "My second oldest brother, he's a Power Ranger too. Blue Zeo. He's taken care of us six younger ones ever since Dad died. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're all pretty close, and we're always looking for someone to adopt into the family. If you ever want to come by, we'd be more than glad to have you."
"Thanks," Pink Astro replied quietly. "I might take you up on that."
Ivan Ooze chuckled, watching the images in a pool of ooze as his zombified minions completed the construction of his Ectomorphicon titans. "Soon, my machines will be complete, and I will have the power to crush Zordon's Rangers! My revenge on that pain-in-the-neck wizard will finally be complete!"
"Yes, Master," Kris replied in a monotone. "And I will take great pleasure in dispatching the Rangers for you."
"Easier said than done, Kris," Red Turbo spat. He and Red Astro stepped out of the hall into the main processing plant. The room was cavernous, two stories high with a catwalk running around the upper level. Vats of ooze bubbled merrily, and in the center of the room, a generator seethed with a strange purple energy.
"Well, well. Two little Rangers," Ivan chuckled. "I see you've brought a friend along, Red Ranger. But where's the rest of your pathetic little team?"
"Right here," Blue Turbo snarled, as he and Blue Astro came charging out of another hallway.
"And here," Pink Astro added, appearing on the catwalk, Pink Turbo beside her.
"Here," continued Yellow Turbo, from the catwalk on the other side of the room. Yellow Astro followed.
"And don't forget us!" finished Black Astro, kicking the grate out of the ventilation duct. He and Green Turbo swung down to take their places on the catwalk. Ivan was surrounded.
"Give it up, Ooze," Red Astro snarled. "You've got nowhere to go."
"That's what you think. Oozemen!" Purple forms began pulling themselves out of the vats, surrounding the Rangers. "You can play with them for a while. Purple Ranger, destroy them! I have other matters to attend to." In a streak of purple light, he disappeared.
Swallowing, Red Astro and Red Turbo moved back to back as the horde of Oozemen closed in. "This is going to get ugly," Red Turbo observed, falling into a fighting stance.
The six warriors on the catwalk exchanged concerned glances, then Green Turbo shrugged. "Well, here goes nothing! Geronimo!" Getting up onto the railing, he jumped, landing in the middle of the fight and immediately digging in.
Black Astro cocked his head. "You heard the man! Banzai!"
"Look out bel-oooow!"
"Eat boot, sucker!"
Kris raised a hand into the air, and ooze exploded around her, forming her costume. Then she too threw herself into the fight.
The resulting conflict was brutal. Two Oozemen attempted to beat Black Astro against a wall, but were stopped by Pink Turbo and Yellow Astro. Blue Turbo was sent hurtling through the air, crashing into Yellow Turbo and Blue Astro. Green Turbo and Pink Astro were back-to-back, sending Oozemen flying in all directions, while Red Astro was carving through the press like living lightning. For every purple thing splattered, though, another one pulled itself out of the vats.
Meanwhile Purple and Red Turbos were involved in the most brutal battle of all. The two of them traded punches and kicks with a ferocity that would have startled anyone who knew them. Slipping a hand inside his guard, Purple Turbo grabbed Red Turbo by the throat, bashing him into the closest wall. He retaliated by planting his foot in her stomach and pushing her away. She went reeling back, and he followed up his advantage, pummeling her with strike after strike.
"We can't keep this up forever!" Blue Astro cried. "These things just keep coming!"
"Thunder Scanner!" Green Turbo yelled. A silvery visor appeared over the eyeplate on his helmet. "The Oozemen are drawing their power from the generator, just like the shield is! If we take it out, we'll denature all of them!"
"Great!" Pink Astro shot back as she was slammed into a wall. "Got any ideas HOW!"
"We'll need the Turbine Laser!" Yellow Turbo called. "It's the only thing that'll make a dent!"
"Great, but we need Fred to call on it, and he's a little busy right now!" Pink Turbo replied.
Blue Turbo looked up. "I have an idea. Power down!" Blue light flashed, and Justin Stewart stood in the middle of the fight, hastily ducking an Oozeman's strike.
"Are you nuts!" Yellow Turbo cried. "Morph, you idiot! These guys'll make Hamburger Helper out of your blue behind."
He just shot her a grin. "Trust me, I know what I'm doing!"
"Skull and Rocky both say that a lot," Green Turbo mused. "It never makes me feel any better."
Red Turbo had just slammed into yet another wall when he heard a very familiar voice. "Kris! Let him go." Blearily, Red Turbo looked up to see Justin, unmorphed, standing stock still in one of the few quiet areas of the fight. Purple Turbo also looked, ignoring the rather unsteady Ranger still lying at her feet.
"Justin? That's not going to help you. I know who you are, remember?"
He nodded. "I know. But- there's something I have to say to you, Kris, and I want to say it as myself."
"Justin, are you nuts?" Red Turbo managed, levering himself to his feet.
"Go help the others, Fred," Justin replied, his voice brooking no contradiction. Red Turbo regarded his friend for a long moment, then threw himself back into the fight.
Purple Turbo cocked her head. "Alone at last," she chuckled. "Now, what was that you wanted to say?"
"Well- I always thought- I mean, you've always acted as if you had a sort of a crush on me, and I just wanted to say that- well, I kind of like you too."
"WHAT!" Yellow Turbo's shriek was clearly audible even over the noise of the battle. Both Justin and Purple Turbo ignored her.
"What about Tasha?" Purple Turbo asked, taking a step closer to Justin.
"Well, I like her, and all, but it's different from what I feel for you. That's- it's hard to explain," Justin continued, also taking steps to close the gap between them. Now the two of them were face to face. Suddenly there was a ripple in the ooze that made up Purple Turbo's helmet. It flowed back down into her suit, leaving her head exposed. Kris grinned slightly.
"Well, if you feel that way..." She reached out to him, laying her hands on his shoulders. He could feel her trembling slightly, and knew what was coming. Sure enough, she moved a little closer to him, eyes closed, lips heading for his.
Faster than the eye could follow, Justin pulled his Turbo Key out of nowhere, opened it, and jammed it into the ooze on the back of Kris' neck. "MOUNTAIN BLASTER TURBO POWER!" he screamed. There was a flash of blue light, sufficient to blind most of the onlookers. When it cleared, Justin was holding an unconscious Kris in his arms. Her clothes were normal, the last traces of Ooze gone from her body. Quickly he tapped his communicator. "Alpha, teleport Kris to the Power Chamber!" The girl's body disappeared in a flash of white light. Then Justin held up his key. "All right, time to get back in the game. Mountain Blaster Turbo Power!"
Blue Turbo rocketed back into the battle with a will. As he rejoined the action, Yellow Turbo gave him a sidelong look. "Boy, when this is over, we are going to have a very long talk."
"Yes dear," Blue Turbo chuckled.
"All right, guys, let's take this thing out!" Red Turbo called. "Turbine Laser!" The weapon appeared in the hands of the Turbo Rangers, who quickly fired it at the generator. The machine was unable to take the influx of power, and exploded, taking most of the Oozemen with it. Those who weren't destroyed in the blast quickly collapsed from lack of power.
Coughing and sputtering, the ten warriors pulled themselves painfully to their feet. "Is the dome gone?" Yellow Astro asked hesitantly.
"I dunno," Green Turbo replied, "but I think my spleen is."
Pink Turbo groaned. "It's okay, you'll grow a new one."
Looking around at the destruction, Red Turbo shook his head. "At least they can't stick us with the bill. Come on, let's go back to the Power Chamber, all of us. We need to discuss a few things."
Red Astro hesitated for a minute, then nodded. "You're right. We do."
"Alpha, this is Fred. Ten to teleport in." The ten of them were swallowed up in their teleportation signals and were gone.
"Forgive me, Master," Astronoma sighed, kneeling before Dark Specter. "I have failed you."
"Astronoma, my dear, your failure was minor. But Ooze, he is beginning to quite disappoint me," the shape-shifter mused. He had changed form once again. Now he seemed to be a large, black felinoid, with a velvet baritone voice. He lolled in his throne with the boneless grace common to the Fel'hari, which he currently resembled. "I suppose that I'll just have to speed the conquest of Angel Grove myself. Quantrons!" A platoon of the metallic minions appeared before their master. "Go to the town known as Angel Grove. Capture as many slaves as you can, and bring this city to its knees!" The Quantrons bowed, and vanished. Dark Specter then turned acquisitive green cat-eyes on the beautiful blue marble hanging in space.
"Soon, it shall all be mine," he purred. "Rise, Astronoma. I am not angry with you. Tell me, what did you think of the Red Morphin Warrior?"
"He is a mighty warrior, my lord, and extremely strong. The entire team will also be a force to be reckoned with."
"We will let Rita deal with them for now," Dark Specter decided. "Either they'll destroy her, or she'll get lucky and turn them into paste. Either way, I'm rid of an annoyance. You may go." Astronoma bowed and left the room hurriedly, grateful to have escaped punishment.
"I had to get her to demorph somehow!" Justin protested. He was receiving simultaneous chewings-out from Fred and Tasha, and was frantically attempting to defend himself against both. His leader was upset at his disregard for his own safety, while Tasha had taken exception to some of the things he had said to Kris.
"You could have been killed!" Fred growled.
"Look, I knew she had a crush on me. It was a good risk."
"And just what did you mean, you kind of like her too?" Tasha wanted to know.
Justin sighed. "She's nice, she's my friend. Besides, I had to make her think I had a crush on her too, so that she'd try and kiss me, and I could get my Key into the ooze. I knew the Key's goodness would denature the evil controlling her. End of discussion!"
Sitting in various places throughout the Power Chamber, most of the inhabitants were watching this by-play with amusement, except for Andros, who looked slightly disdainful. Carlos cocked his head. "Does this happen a lot?"
"Justin's not usually this careless," Rosa replied. "Normally it's Tasha that Fred's chewing out, for leaping before she looks."
"I can't believe you five have managed to defend this planet from Divatox for a year," Andros scoffed. "She must be slipping."
Fred turned slowly, hands on his hips. The other Turbo Rangers winced, seeing the flash in their leader's eyes. Andros was definitely in for it now.
"I have had just about enough of you and your attitude," Fred growled. "Look, I didn't ask for this job, and I didn't ask for Divatox to attack our planet. I'm fourteen years old! Most of my friends are spending their days playing baseball, doing their homework, and having fun. Me? I spend my time wondering if I'm going to live to see twenty, keeping space aliens from taking over the world, and lying to my father about why I'm never home! I'm sorry I don't fit your high and mighty standards, but nobody ever trained me to do this job! I just got a Turbo Morpher and got told, 'Oh, and there's an evil space pirate who wants to rule your planet, and you have to stop her. Nothing major.' I'm doing this the best I know how!"
"Yeah? A lot of good your best is when the planet's under some tyrant's heel," Andros replied. "You're just lucky you haven't had any real threats to deal with. Well, now Dark Specter's here. He's like nothing you've ever had to face."
"No? I'll tell you what real threats I've had to deal with," Fred shot back savagely. "I was part of the team that faced down Maligore, the Flame of Destruction. You gonna say he was a picnic? Or the Demons of Nyghtmayr?" Watching Andros' face pale at that last, Fred nodded. "I've spent nights where I couldn't sleep from the dreams I've had, watching my team, my friends get slaughtered because I wasn't quick enough, I made the wrong decision. But I haven't yet, and I don't intend to in the future. I've been risking my life for this planet, and I'm not about to let some jerk from another planet give me grief because I'm only fourteen. Now, I'll admit it, we could use your help. Ooze is tough, and Dark Specter's even worse. But I don't need your attitude, so if you wanna keep it, go take a hike!" Spinning on his heel, he turned back to a console, leaving a speechless Andros behind.
For a long moment, all was silent, then Andros sighed. "I'm- I'm sorry," he managed, as if forcing the words out was hard for him. "You're right, I've been a -jerk, I think the word is. It's just- I've been alone so long, it's hard for me to work as a team. I've just kind of fallen into the habit of doing everything on my own. But I've realized, I can't do that anymore. I need your help. Will you help me?"
Fred turned around, cocking his head. "It's hard for you to ask for help, huh? That takes a lot of guts. We have the same goal," he replied, extending his hand. "Welcome to the team."
Andros regarded Fred's hand for a minute, then took it gingerly. Smiling, Fred adjusted his grip and showed Andros how to shake.
Just then Terry came out of the back room. All of the occupants of the Power Chamber turned in her direction. "So- how's Kris doing?" Justin asked anxiously, earning him a look from Tasha.
Terry smiled a little wearily. "She'll be just fine, Justin. The energy of your Key healed any damage that the ooze might have done to her system. It's too early to tell if she'll remember anything. I'll keep her here for a while, just for observation."
"Ai yi yi!" Alpha cried. "And I have more good news- well, sort of. I found Ivan. He's at the construction site, charging up his Ectomorphicons!"
Ashley raised an eyebrow. "This is good news?" she asked of no one in particular.
"At least we know where to find him," TJ replied. Fred nodded.
"And I think it's time to take this slimeball down once and for all. Astro Rangers? Are you with us?"
"Well- we're not Rangers," Andros replied, "but we're with you."
"On the contrary," Zordon rumbled. "You have allied yourselves with us and fight to defend our planet from invasion. As a White Morphin Master, I am empowered to grant you the title of Ranger, if you wish. Do you accept?"
Andros picked his jaw up off the floor in time to nod. "Yes, of course! It's an honor."
Carlos grinned. "So now we really are Astro Rangers."
Cassie nodded. "Yup."
"And now it's time for us Rangers," Franklin emphasized the word, "to get back into the fight."
"Right," Fred agreed. "Back to Action!"
"Larry, behind you!" John Scott yelled. The Scotts and the Zeddens had gotten together for their weekly poker night when Ivan Ooze had attacked. At first, the five parents had decided to wait out the siege in the Zeddens' house, but when the Quantrons had spilled in through the windows, the fight had quickly spilled out into the street.
Leslie Zedden ducked as a Quantron slashed at her with its weapon. It was promptly knocked sprawling by a flying kick from Michael Lee. "Thanks," Leslie puffed as he helped her to her feet.
Michael grinned. "It's always a joy to assist a woman as beautiful as you," he grinned back.
Growling good-naturedly, Larry Zedden smashed his bo staff into the face of another attacker. "Lee, quit flirting with my wife and make yourself useful!"
Karen Scott couldn't help chuckling, despite the seriousness of the situation. Unlike Michael and John, she had no formal fight training, but after years of associating with the two of them, not to mention her martial artist son, she'd learned a few things. She and Leslie were both armed with heavy cast-iron frying pans, and giving a rather good account of themselves.
"Do you suppose the kids are all right?" she called. Her husband, plowing through a pair of Quantrons, shrugged.
"Wherever they are, I'm sure they're handling things."
Michael Lee shook his head. "Boy, when I came looking for Jason, I had no idea what I was getting into."
"Look at it this way," Larry grinned. "You're getting one hell of a workout." The five adults continued their battle, each wondering what was going on with the Power Rangers.
Ten flashes of color lit up the construction site as the ten Rangers teleported in. "I don't like the looks of this," Blue Astro muttered nervously.
Pink Turbo nodded. "And I don't like the looks of that!" She pointed up to where a huge robot, shaped something like a big hornet, stood, it's eyes glowing with red tracery.
"I think that one's uglier," Green Turbo replied, pointing to its companion, a vaguely scorpion-shaped device.
"Welcome, Rangers!" Ivan Ooze's voice startled them. The morphological being was standing in the center of the construction site, directly between his two instruments of destruction. "You're just in time for the final event of the night- your destruction!"
"I don't think so, Ivan!" Red Astro replied. "You're going down!"
"There're no more goons to stand between you and us," Red Turbo continued. "We're going to take you out."
"Big words for a little Ranger," Ivan sneered. "Unfortunately, it won't be that easy!" He began to laugh, and as he did so, something odd happened. His laughter seemed to- double, as if there were more than one person laughing. Then his form began to shift and stretch, until it split down the middle, forming two separate Ivans, both laughing evilly.
"Oh, man!" Pink Turbo groaned. "Ooze in stereo!"
"One or two, we can take him- uh, them, right, guys?" Black Astro asked.
"Right!" chorused the others.
"I think it's time for me to grow up!" the Ivans said in unison. Becoming fluid, they each raced to a machine, flowing into it.
"Aw, I'm gonna be sick!" Blue Turbo groaned.
"We need Turbo Megazord power, now!" Red Turbo cried. Leaping into the air, the Turbo Rangers quickly found themselves in their Zords.
"Andros, what are we going to do?" Yellow Astro cried. "We don't have a prayer of taking on those things without Zords!"
"Trust me, I have it covered. DECA, launch the shuttle and prepare for Astro Megazord transformation!"
Faster than thought, a blue and white shuttle streaked out of the sky, directly over the Rangers. "Going up," Red Astro chuckled. The five Astro Rangers dissolved into columns of light, materializing in the cockpit of the shuttle, which docked with the Megaship to form the Astro Megazord.
"Cassie, get me a hook-up to the Turbo Megazord," Red Astro ordered. "Ashley, you're Scanners. Find me any weak point on the scorpion one, pronto. TJ, how are our systems?"
"Everything's running fine, Andros," Blue Astro reported. "All systems go."
"Good. Carlos, you're weapons. What's our status?"
"Um, Astro Lasers at a hundred percent charge, Astro Megazord Saber ready to go, but that's about it. Looks like the missile launchers are out, and I don't think you want to know what the magnafield gauges say."
Red Astro grimaced. "Figures. Well, come on guys, let's go join the fight!"
In the cockpit of the Turbo Megazord, Blue Turbo suddenly looked up. "Fred, its Andros. They've got a Zord-"
"A very BIG Zord," Pink Turbo interrupted,
"And he says he's got the scorpion thing," Blue Turbo continued, ignoring the interruption."
"Good. Rosa, find me a weak point on hornet boy. Franklin, I want the Turbo Megazord Saber charged up to full. I think we're going to have a fencing match on our hands here."
"Anything you want me to say to Andros?" Blue Turbo asked.
"Yeah. Tell him to cross his fingers and buckle his seatbelt. This is going to be nasty." Then, with a clash of swords, the battle was joined.
The Angel Grove Youth Center was a bustling center of activity. Much of the northeast quadrant of the city had been evacuated there, and the crowding was high. Ernie had put a number of people to work feeding the assembled multitude, and there was a small infirmary in one corner treating the injuries sustained by the fleeing citizens.
Trevor Park looked over the crowded room, shaking his head. He had known for a while that something like this would come, but he hadn't ever really expected to see it. Luckily, no one seemed to be badly hurt, and no one had been killed yet, although it was unknown whether the zombie transformations were reversible or not.
Over in one corner, Lita Kino was talking to some of the younger children, obviously slipping back into her psychiatrist persona as needed. George Kelman was helping Arthur and Rebecca Kwan bandage up a boy who'd sprained an ankle and a wrist. The firefighter's expression showed that his mind was more on his son's whereabouts, though.
Sounds of chaos from the kitchen showed that Teddy Oliver and the De Santos children were still hard at work where Ernie had stuck them, making grilled cheese sandwiches for the masses. Daniel and Sarah Oliver were trying their best to look unconcerned, while Chelsea, home from college for the weekend, led a group of older children through a meditation kata. At a table, Maria De Santos simply stared off into space, no doubt worrying about Rosa.
"Detective Park?" a lightly accented voice caught his attention. Behind him stood Nina Vargas, a slightly heavy Hispanic woman in her early forties. "I'm sorry to bother you, but have you seen my son, Carlos? He was at the high school when- everything happened," she said quietly. Trevor reluctantly shook his head.
"I'm afraid not, Mrs. Vargas. I'm sure he's all right, though. He's a pretty resourceful kid."
She nodded, and headed back to sit with her oldest child, Julia. The pretty young doctor looked as worried as her mother did. Trevor sighed. He hoped very much that Carlos Vargas was all right. Adam had coached him in soccer over the summer, before heading off to college, and Trevor knew a little bit about the family. Nina Vargas had already lost her husband; she didn't need to lose her son, too.
Funny, though. Most of the high school had made it to the youth center in one piece, but Carlos Vargas wasn't the only missing child. Ken and Marianne Chan had been asking about their daughter, Cassie, and Ashley Thompson's parents, Roger and Jessica, had been looking for her. Looking over towards the infirmary, Trevor saw Roy Carter, an occasional golf partner, bandaging up a little girl's head. Roy had been looking for his nephew, Trevor recalled, a boy named TJ.
Trevor suddenly cocked his head. He had heard of the four missing kids. Carlos and Ashley were the best students in the freshman class, and TJ and Cassie were also said to be well behaved, with excellent academic records. They were the right age- and TJ, Cassie, and Ashley were all known to be martial artists- He shook his head. It was unlikely. Ah well. One way or another, he'd probably know soon.
"Ooof!" Red Ranger groaned as Tigerfire struck the Zeo Megazord with yet another blow. "Rocky, Adam! Status reports!"
"Shields are down by 25 percent," Blue Ranger reported. "Power is dropping in the main engine room. If we take another shot like that, we've had it!"
"Weapons systems can't get a lock on this guy. He moves too damn fast!" Green Ranger growled, his frustration evident.
"Shit," cursed Red Ranger. "This guy is serious! Kat, what do the scanners say about him?"
"Magically created, based on a tiger. Apparently, he's a magical expansion of a tiger's spirit signature."
"What does that mean in English?" Green Ranger asked archly, as the Zord rocked again.
"He's basically a big tiger with human intelligence," Pink Ranger replied. "He's as smart as a human, but he still thinks like a tiger."
"Hmmm. That gives me an idea. Tanya! Call Tyler and Skull. We're going to need them to distract this guy long enough to give us a clear shot."
"How?" Yellow Ranger inquired, already setting up the link.
"He's a tiger, more than anything else. And what distracts a male tiger faster than anything?"
"NO! Ixnay, notta, nein, no way, not a chance, nyet, absolutely not!" Skull's voice replied. "I ain't doing it!"
"Chill out, Skull," Red Ranger chuckled. "I want you to be a GUY tiger. Infringe on his territory or something."
"Although I'm sure you'd look cute batting your eyelashes at him," Kimberly teased.
"Tyler, I'm gonna need you to cast an illusion of a tiger the size of Tigerfire," Red Ranger continued.
"Using Skull as a template, right? You've got it, Tommy. Be ready to hit him when he's distracted. Casting now." There was a green-white flash from the ground below, and suddenly another tiger-like being stood there. This one, however, was white with black stripes and clear green eyes. The Skull-tiger examined itself.
"Not bad," it mused. Then it turned to the business at hand. "Hey ugly! You're hunting in my turf!"
Tigerfire turned to see who was addressing it, and growled. "This area is mine!" it hissed, lashing its tail.
"Now, just as long as he doesn't start marking his territory, we'll be all right," Blue Ranger muttered.
"Now, while he's distracted! Zeo Megazord Saber, now!" Tigerfire never had a chance. The sword struck home, and the monster exploded in a burst of light. Beside the Zeo Megazord, the illusory tiger faded into nothing.
"Well, that was fun," Skull growled. "Now what?"
"Now we head back to New York and see if they need our help," Green Ranger replied. In a series of flashes, the Zeo Rangers and Morphin Warriors disappeared, leaving Florida behind them.
CLANG! The Turbo Megazord reeled backwards from Hornitor's punch, sparks fountaining from its chest. The fight was raging through the streets of Angel Grove, rapidly clearing the last few people from the already empty streets.
"We've got to keep him away from the youth center!" Pink Astro cried over the com channel. "It's got to be full of people!"
"Tell her we'll do our best!" Red Turbo gritted out.
Beside them, the Astro Megazord was also taking a pounding. It ducked a swipe from one of Scorpitron's front claws, only to get whacked with the tail. "We can't take much more of this," Blue Astro declared. "Shields are down by 30 percent, we're running way too hot in the engine room, and another shot to our midsection might breach the power core completely!"
"We can't give up, either," Red Astro shot back. "Kysach!"
"What does that mean?" Pink Astro looked up.
"Let's just say that it shouldn't be used around anyone under fifteen," he replied. "Turbo Rangers excluded."
"And I'm sure Tasha's taking notes," Blue Turbo sent back. "How are you guys doing?"
"You don't want to know," Pink Astro replied.
"That's what we thought."
"Ai yi yi yi yi!" Alpha's voice suddenly filled both cockpits. "Rangers, we have more bad news!"
Yellow Turbo growled. "Oh, now what?"
"Dark Specter has released a horde of his Quantrons on Angel Grove! They're attacking the citizens and they're heading for the youth center."
"Damn!" Black Astro cried. "We've got to stop them!"
"We can't," Red Turbo replied grimly. "We're stuck here. As much as I hate to say it- I'm afraid they're on their own."
"Jerry?" Detective Stone looked up from the coffee he was nursing to see Trevor Park slide into the seat across from him. "You look like shit," the other man said bluntly. "Are you all right?"
Stone nodded. "Yeah, Trev, I'm okay. I haven't been quite this scared since I quit the force, but I'm okay."
"We'll be fine. The Power Rangers haven't let us down yet, have they?"
"That seems so strange to hear from you," Stone laughed, shaking his head.
"Hey, a man's entitled to change his mind," Trevor shot back, smiling a little. "Getting sent to another dimension can be an eye-opening experience."
"Mmm." Stone sipped his coffee. "Especially when you discover that the Ranger you've been sent with is your own son."
It was with some effort that Trevor refrained from doing a spit take. "What? I don't know what you mean, Jerry."
"Oh, come off it, Trevor. You pulled a major about-face after that trip, both on the Power Rangers and your relationship with Adam. Heck, even I noticed that the two of you stopped fighting all the time. Besides, I was a very good cop, and I'm now a fairly good private investigator. Five kids, or six, or ten, top of their class, good martial artists, constantly disappearing? Come on. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to put two and two together." He took another sip of his coffee, and Trevor frowned, realizing it was his fourth of the evening.
"Hey, go easy on that stuff. It'll rot out your pipes."
Stone snorted. "If I survived ten years of drinking that swill they have down at the station, nothing Ernie serves is going to rot out my pipes."
Trevor raised an eyebrow. "You're sucking that stuff down like you wish it was something harder. What's wrong, Jerry? You never used to be this bad under pressure?"
Detective Stone shrugged. "I guess- I'm just worried."
"About Skull?" Stone looked up, startled. "Come on, Jerry. My son's one of his best friends. It's no secret the kid crashed at your house more often than at home."
"Well- you know, those two knuckleheads were the closest thing to a family I ever had? Well, there's my sister, and my parents, but-"
"I know what you mean," Trevor nodded.
"Those two were like my own kids, Gene especially. His parents aren't bad people, but- he just kind of grew past them. They don't understand each other anymore, and that leads to fights."
"Don't I know it," Trevor grumbled, remembering all the arguments he'd had with Adam over the last few years.
"Anyway, Gene was spending most of his time at my place, and I noticed the change in him right away. You can imagine how floored I was when I saw that he was the White Morphin Warrior. Why doesn't anybody else recognize them anyway?"
"The transformation protects them from being recognized. Only people who really care about them can see through it."
Stone was about to say something else when an alarm began to blare. "What the hell is that?" Trevor asked, leaping to his feet.
"Proximity alarm," Ernie replied grimly. At Trevor's inquiring look, the heavier man grinned. "Hey, you weren't the only one in the military. I used to be a Marine."
Trevor scraped his jaw off the floor, shaking his head. "I'm going to have to ask about that later. For now, though, we'd better get ready. Looks like we've got a fight headed our way."
"Super Zeo Megazord Saber, now!" The dual swords combined into one, streaking towards their target with a deadly slash. The Falconer, however, was no longer there. It had taken to the air with a giant leap, and now hung before them, just out of reach.
"He flies, too?" Peter cried, astonished. "Not fair, not fair at all."
"I think he's laughing at us," White Ranger growled.
Suddenly the Zord was rocked from side to side as the Falconer pummeled them with missile after missile.
"Jamie!" Black Ranger cried. "Status report!"
"Shields are down 54 percent! We're running hotter than I want to imagine, and the next shot will probably blow us all the way to Oz!" Purple Ranger replied.
"Lillian!" Red Ranger's voice suddenly came over the com unit. "We're here! Need any help?"
"You have to ask?" Black Ranger replied tartly. "Get your red-clad butt over here, Oliver!"
"On our way!" As good as Red Ranger's word, the Zeo Megazord hove into view not too long after.
"I say we double-team him," Green Ranger suggested. "I'll lock lasers onto his head, you guys onto his feet. He can't get away from both of them."
"Better idea," Peter replied. "Why don't we clip his wings?" A laser shot out, searing one of the Falconer's wings. It screeched, and then again, louder as the Zeo Megazord blasted the other one.
"Now let's see you fly away," Silver Ranger taunted.
"Double Saber maneuver, now!" Red Ranger ordered.
"On it," Black Ranger responded. Two swords swung in unison, giving the Falconer no chance to escape. There was a brilliant flash, and then nothing.
"Now it's over," Peter declared, and promptly passed out on the floor of the Zord.
The youth center was a scene of utter chaos. Those who could not fight had been herded as far back in the building as possible, but the Quantrons were intent on carrying the fight to as many places as possible. Trevor Park, kicking and punching his way through the mass, continued to catch occasional glimpses of other parts of the action.
Ernie had apparently been telling the truth about his military background, because despite his girth, the juice bar's owner was carving quite a swathe through the monsters surrounding him. Watching his back was Teddy Oliver, armed with a bokken that one of the martial artists had left behind. The boy was causing some serious damage to his foes, causing Trevor to grin. Apparently it ran in the family.
Over in another corner, Marsha Sloan was beating a Quantron with a chair while her husband Gabe looked on in some astonishment. Lita Kino was a whirlwind of punches and kicks as usual, and the Quantrons were becoming rather reluctant to attack her. Beside her, Paul Hart was doing his best with the frying pan that somebody had tossed him.
A crashing noise caused Trevor to whirl, stancing. Behind him, he found a Quantron sprawled on the ground, and Hank Cranston standing over it, holding the remains of a potted plant. Their eyes met, and the blond man shrugged. Trevor threw himself back into the fight, grinning. Maybe Billy had inherited his backbone from his father after all.
George Kelman and Roy Carter were back to back, sending Quantrons in all directions. Behind them, Brian Taylor watched, slightly appalled, as his wife Louise threw a Quantron over her shoulder. Trevor chuckled. He thought he'd seen Louise in Tommy and Jason's Ladies Class on more than one occasion.
The Quantrons were Dark Specter's own personal army, programmed for battle and armed with some of the strongest weapons in the galaxy. They had the strength and reflexes of robots, something no human could ever hope to match in battle. Often the sight of them on the battlefield was enough to make a race give up. Most of the galaxy thought they were well nigh invincible.
They never stood a chance.
Most of the Quantrons, realizing they were outclassed, turned and fled. Those who remained were incapable of fleeing, or indeed, much of anything. Those were tossed out on the youth center's recycling heap. Trevor looked around and chuckled. The entire fight had resulted in nothing worse than a few cuts and bruises for the humans in the youth center.
"Power Rangers, eat your hearts out," he grinned, going back inside to start cleaning up.
"Andros! We're losing power to the shields! This thing's turning them into Swiss cheese!" Blue Astro yelped, as yet another strike from Scorpitron struck home.
Black Astro growled. "This thing's got three appendages it can hit us with, and we can only block two! We need another tactic!"
The cockpit rocked again, prompting a wince from Red Astro. "I'm open to suggestions!" he hollered back, fighting to keep the Zord on its feet.
"Tactical nuke?" Pink Astro offered sarcastically.
Yellow Astro chuckled humorlessly. "We must be desperate. That's beginning to sound like a good idea."
Beside them, sparks flew once again, as Hornitor took yet another swipe at the Turbo Megazord. "Fred, we can't take much more of this," Yellow Turbo warned. "At the risk of sounding like Scotty, I'm not sure I can hold her."
"We've got to figure out these guy's weak spots!" Green Turbo cried. Red Turbo cocked his head.
"I have an idea. Justin, get Andros on the horn. Tell him to get back to back and be ready to hit his jump jets when I say go."
"Ready," Red Astro responded.
"NOW!" Red Turbo cried. The two Zords flew into the air, and Hornitor's punch struck home- right in Scorpitron's face. The scorpion-machine reeled back, whining.
"Astro Lasers!" Red Astro ordered. "Now!"
Laser beams shot from the Zord, striking both Hornitor and Scorpitron, who cried out in unison.
"I am Ivan Ooze! You will never defeat me!"
"Yeah, we've heard that before," Blue Turbo chuckled.
"Turbo Megazord Saber, now!"
"Astro Megazord Saber, now!" Two swords sliced through the air, striking home in the metal bodies in unison. Hornitor and Scorpitron exploded, taking every speck of Ooze with them. For a long moment, silence reigned in the two cockpits. Then Pink Astro spoke for everyone.
"It's over. Let's go home."
In the Power Chamber, the two teams demorphed, sagging to the floor in exhaustion. They barely even mustered the strength to raise their heads when Zordon began to speak.
"Rangers, today you have faced a great enemy, one that most of the galaxy was afraid to face. You should be very proud of yourselves. I believe that Dark Specter, like those villains who came before him, has sorely underestimated you all once again."
"I know I did," Andros replied, sitting up gingerly. "I'm sorry I was such a pigheaded idiot. It's an honor to stand with you, and I'm available any time you need me."
"Same goes here," Fred replied warmly, raising up just enough to extend his hand. The two shook, then promptly collapsed back to the floor.
"And it is with great pleasure that I welcome the newest members of the Power Ranger team. Astro Rangers, it is good to have you with us. I will ask Alpha and Justin to fabricate communicators for you, and the Power Chamber is open to you any time you wish."
The Astro Rangers made appropriate noises of acceptance and gratitude, but still made no move to get off the floor. Terry, coming out of the back room, chuckled.
"Hard day at the office, kids? I've got some good news. First, the people at the youth center and throughout the city trashed the Quantrons attacking them with few injuries and no casualties." A ragged cheer went up, and she raised her hands for silence. "Plus, Kris is awake, with no memory of what happened to her or your true identities. Alpha told her that she'd been attacked by Oozemen, rescued by the Power Rangers, and then we teleported her to the youth center, which is where most of the north-eastern city's evacuees are right now."
"Oh man!" Fred cried. "Our parents! They're probably going nuts about us- well, Rosa's and mine, anyway."
"Yeah," Ashley realized. "Ours too. Can you teleport us to the youth center? We need to make up something to tell them."
"I think- I'll head back to the Megaship," Andros replied. "I need to get it back into orbit before someone notices that there's a fairly large section of the park they can't walk into."
Cassie cocked her head. "You will join us later though, right?"
He opened his mouth, then shut it again, smiling slightly. "Yes. I've been cooped up on that ship for way too long." He touched a button on his coat. "DECA, bring me back and prepare for take-off." In a flash of red light, he disappeared. The other four Astros looked at each other nervously.
"Well," Carlos sighed, "here goes nothing."
Franklin grinned. "Relax. They'll be so glad to have us back, they'll believe anything we tell them. Just say you found a safe place to hide and rode out the fight."
Before anyone could teleport out, though, seventeen flashes of light filled the Power Chamber as the Zeo Rangers and the Morphin Warriors appeared. The Ghostbusters had been left back in New York. They had been invited back to the Power Chamber, but had declined. Peter, still unconscious, had been taken back to the Firehouse, where Winston had predicted that he would sleep for a week.
Tyler, upon materializing, was quickly pounced upon by his wife, much to the amusement of the rest of the team. While the two were sharing a rather passionate "hello," the others were examining the four new arrivals in their midst.
"Who exactly are these people, Fred?" Tommy asked, removing his helmet.
Fred grinned. "That, Tommy, is a very long story."
"Now this is what I call a party!" Zack grinned. All twenty-six Rangers were gathered in Angel Grove Park, the only place big enough to support their gathering. The May sun was warm, and the college students were all home for the summer. People were laughing, playing volleyball, sparring, eating, and just generally having a good time. Also present were Tyler and Terry, back to their old unpowered state, and Doctor Lita Kino, who was currently arguing with Cassie over whether Tina Turner or Emmy Lou Harris was the better singer.
Currently, Zack was sitting under a tree with Carlos, the two of them just watching the action for the moment. "So, are you ready for your life to be completely turned upside down?" the Black Morphin Warrior asked his friend slyly. Carlos shrugged.
"If it brings me friends like this, you know it." His answer was slightly distracted, and Zack followed his gaze to where Ashley, Billy, and Justin were poking around the innards of some device. Zack chuckled.
"You like her, don't you?"
Carlos blushed. "It's that obvious?"
"Man, the last time I looked like that, I'd just fallen hard for Angela! Why don't you just go over and talk to her?"
Shaking his head, Carlos smiled slightly. "Maybe later. Right now, I'm just having a good time watching her."
"Hey, look over there!" Zack suddenly pointed in the direction of the food. Carlos turned to see Rocky, TJ, and Rosa apparently competing to see who could create the biggest sandwich- and then eat it. The Blue Astro Ranger seemed to be holding his own against the two De Santos children.
"That's incredible!" Carlos was amazed and slightly appalled at the amount of food that was about to go down his friend's throat. Zack chuckled.
"If he eats that much, Mrs. De Santos is gonna adopt him!" Both laughed.
"Oof!" Andros hit the ground again. Rolling onto his back, he looked up at Fred skeptically. "Are you sure you're not a black belt yet?"
The boy chuckled. "Well, Jason and Tommy have been kind of busy, so I haven't gotten to take the test yet. Come on." Reaching out, he helped the older boy to his feet.
"No more sparring. You beat me three out of five. Let's just take a rest." The two of them sank gratefully down under a tree, watching the action all around them.
"So, how do you like Earth?" Fred asked, leaning his head back against the tree.
"Well, all I've seen of it so far is someplace called 'the mall,' but it seems to be a nice place. I have a question, though."
Andros raised an eyebrow. "Shoot what?"
"No, I mean, go ahead and ask your question."
"Oh. Well, when Cassie, Ashley, and- Kimberly, I think her name is, wanted to take me to buy clothes, why did every male in the vicinity suddenly leave?"
Fred laughed. "Those three are shop-a-holics. Any male who's around when they decide to go shopping often gets dragged along to carry packages. Ask Trey about his experience with Kat, Tanya, and the mall."
"Hmm. Your planet and people are very different, but- I think I'm going to like being here. I certainly don't have anywhere else to go."
At the touch of darkness in Andros' voice, Fred laid a hand on the other's shoulder. "It doesn't matter. Earth is your home now, for as long as you want. You're always welcome here, with us."
Andros smiled. "Thank you."
Suddenly a shadow fell across them, and the two looked up to see Cassie standing above them, looking slightly nervous. "Is this a private conversation, or can anybody join in?"
Fred grinned. "Oh, look. I think Franklin wants to spar. I'll see you two later, okay?" The Red Turbo Ranger quickly made good his escape, leaving a slightly panic-stricken Andros behind.
"Look, if you don't want to talk," Cassie began, but he quickly cut her off.
"No! No, I'd- like that. I'm just- a little out of practice. For the last year or so, all I've had to talk to is DECA, and she's not exactly a great conversationalist. Please, sit down." She did so, and for a long moment, the two of them said nothing.
"Um," Cassie finally began, "I've been talking to some of the others, and they suggested we check out the Angel Grove Amusement Park. TJ, Carlos, Ashley, and I decided we wanted to go. You- want to come with us?"
"Well- what's an amusement park?"
"It's a place where they have thrill rides, like roller coasters, and- well, you get on these little trains, and they go really fast, and go up in the air- I'm not explaining this very well," she sighed. "It's a place where you go to have fun."
"That sounds- great, actually. It's been a long time since I've had any- fun."
"It must have been very hard for you," she said sympathetically. He could not answer, or even look at her.
"I survived," he said finally, his tone flat.
"Look, if you want to talk to somebody, I think you should go talk to Dr. Kino." His head snapped up. That wasn't how he had expected her to finish the sentence.
"The lady with the brown hair, in the green T-shirt," Cassie pointed. "The one who's in the middle of the water balloon fight with Jamie and Lillian."
"She's a psychiatrist, she's trained to help people. As to why she's in the water balloon fight, I think Jamie used her as a shield and Lillian soaked her. "
"Why would anyone want to throw a balloon full of water at another person?"
"Because it's fun! Come on, I'll show you." Grabbing his hand, she pulled him to his feet and out into the sunshine, towards the rapidly expanding water war. As they headed towards the soaking, Andros smiled slightly. Perhaps living on Earth wouldn't be so bad after all.