Framed against the setting sun, Callan stood at the very crest of the hill and stared down over the city of Azhron before him.
The city was bathed in golden shadow and appeared deceptively beautiful in the evening light, but Callan knew exactly what those shadows were hiding. This was a place where evil gathered and plotted, where monsters protected by the city walls were free to stalk the streets, their evil tolerated and ignored by the city's king. Content to rule this dark city, Azhron's king was a man who had everything he'd ever wanted and only wanted more. The cities and lands around Azhron had held out as long as they could but had fallen one-by-one, and armed with his dark power, the king would no doubt eventually reach for the stars.
Or at least try to, Callan thought. Because this city had stood for long enough. At his back was an army of more than a thousand men. Having them follow him into battle chanting his name in victory was everything he'd missed. It felt like fire in his blood, like life itself.
One of the soldiers approached from behind. "Lord Callan," he began, "we await your command..."
Callan nodded and turned back to the army. "Fight the monsters in the city however you can," he called, "but the Shadow Knights are men - treat them accordingly even if they will not do the same." He paused, and raised his voice. "Fear no darkness! This night we strike as lightning, and I swear this city of evil will see no sunrise. To arms!"
From all around him came the roar of a thousand men shouting in victory. Callan smiled beneath his visor, and summoning his Power Blasters with a thought, the Grey Power Ranger turned back to the city and charged forward down the hill, a thousand soldiers sweeping down behind him in his wake.
Nobody ever invited winter to the Sunshine Coast, but it had a long history of showing up anyway. The sky remained beautifully clear and the sun still shone as brightly as ever, but with July came the year's shortest days, coldest nights and morning breezes with a chilling bite. At school, it took everybody a few days to recover from the week at Tallebudgera. School camp was an event celebrated almost as much as the final day of school in December, and we all found it hard to leave the week behind. But as life slowly returned to normal, a new goal came into sight - the two week winter school holidays, which were only a couple of weeks away and closing in fast.
But as every student can tell you, the end of term brings both good and bad, as exams and assignments all begin piling up. So with a towering pile of work that needed finishing, the second-last Saturday before the holidays saw me retreat to the Youth Centre for the afternoon, to one of the tables around the corner behind the Juice Bar where I steadily worked my way through assignment after assignment.
"Here you go Peter," came a voice, and I looked up from my workbook as Ernie placed a glass on my table.
"Ernie, thanks," I said, "but I don't have any..."
Ernie grinned. "On the house," he said. "Figured you could use it. Besides, you and Zac are my best taste-testers. I call it my Club Tropicana smoothie. Lemme know what you think."
"Thanks," I smiled, and as Ernie headed back to the Juice Bar, I leaned over and took a hesitant sip - it was actually pretty good, sweet but tangy.
"Thumbs up on this one Ernie," I called, but glancing back towards the bar, I saw Jason step into the building. Catching sight of me, he smiled and crossed towards me, pulling out a chair as he reached the table.
"Can I sit?" he asked.
"Sure, go for your life," I nodded.
He smiled and sat down opposite me, but glancing across the piles of books scattered around the table, he frowned. "Uh, Pete," Jason began, "you do realise that the weekend is for fun stuff, right?"
I laughed. "I'm like buried under homework right now," I replied, "and everyone else is busy this afternoon. Teresa and Scott are shopping with their parents, Sarah's at a netball game and I'm not sure about Brendan. I figured I might as well get something done today. What about you, why aren't you out enjoying the afternoon?"
"Same reason, actually," he replied. "Billy and Trini are at computer club, Kim and Tommy are on a date, and Zac's teaching a class this afternoon."
"So it's just the two of us," I said. "The outcasts of the bunch."
Jason smiled, and nodded to the open workbook in front of me. "What are you working on, anyway?"
I glanced down. "English assignment, due Monday."
He frowned. "Sorry."
I shook my head. "We have to write a story, six hundred words," I explained. "I know it sounds really geeky but this is totally my kind of thing. I love writing, I guess I just love stories in general, you know? Writing or reading them."
Jason smiled. "Lemme guess," he began. "Superheroes?"
"How could you tell?"
"Lucky guess," he replied.
"I don't actually read that many comics," I said. "I've just always liked superheroes, you know? Something cool about them."
Jason nodded, and leaned back in his chair. "My favourite comic book when I was younger was JLA, the Justice League," he said. "All the greatest heroes would team-up to kick butt, it was really cool. I've still got them all saved somewhere." He paused, smiling at memories long-forgotten, then glanced down to his wrist. "Speaking of which, still a couple of hours until we meet up with Ian at the Command Centre for training."
I nodded, suddenly remembering the appointment this afternoon I'd almost forgotten about. "It's a good thing you came along," I said. "I was so busy I almost forgot. It'll be great to see Ian again, though. I wonder what kind of surprises Zordon has in store for us?"
Jason leaned forward. "What makes you say that?"
"We were talking about Zordon before," I replied. "Like, he didn't tell you guys about our Power Coins, he didn't tell us about Brendan's or Ian's power coin. You gotta admit, the guy's good at keeping secrets."
Jason nodded slowly, looking away. "Yeah, I guess he is," he said. "I'd never thought about it like that before."
I frowned. "Are you okay?"
"Fine," he replied, looking back to me with a smile and reaching for my workbook. "Fine. So let me have a look at the masterpiece. Maybe I can offer a critique, or something..."
I smiled, and passed him my book. "Just be gentle, I'm very fragile..."
"You know, you were right," said Tommy, as side-by-side, he and Kimberly crossed the road, passed the Moffat Beach post office and continued down towards the beach. "That history essay can definitely wait until Monday. This day is too good to go to waste."
Kim smiled, feeling the sunshine on her skin. "The breeze has died down, the sun's warm - it is definitely the right kind of afternoon," she said, then took Tommy's hand in her own. "Particularly with the company."
Tommy laughed. "Speaking of which, what time do we have to meet everybody at the Command Centre?"
Kimberly glanced to her communicator. "Four o'clock," she said, "so we've still got two hours. Plenty of time."
"Cool," Tommy replied. "It'll be good to see Ian again."
Kimberly smiled, and turned to him. "I'm sorry, I've gotta ask the question - how come you like Ian so much?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, we know you weren't that big a fan of the Junior Team originally," Kim said. "I'm just wondering what's so different about Ian, that's all."
Tommy nodded. "That's fair," he replied. "I'm honestly not sure. The Junior Team seemed to jump into being Rangers too quickly, you know? Ian just seems like he knows that he doesn't know what he's gotten himself into. Does that make sense?"
Kim paused, then shook her head. "I'm sure if Billy was here, it would," she replied. Crossing the street, the two Rangers continued on past a grassy park where a large family was sitting around a picnic rug a few metres across from them, an elderly couple fussing over a grandson wearing a green and blue shirt. The boy was wielding a plastic sword and had what looked to have been a toy morpher strapped around his stomach.
"So Brett, your mother tells us you want to be a Power Ranger when you grow up?" the woman chuckled.
The boy nodded. "Of course," he replied, waving the sword wildly. "They get to save the world and stuff."
The two Rangers slowed to listen to the conversation. "If that was a real Power Sword, they'd want to be sitting a little further back," Tommy whispered, and Kim laughed.
The boy's grandfather smiled. "I see you've already got a colour picked out," he said. "Brett, the Green Ranger..."
But the boy immediately looked up. "I don't wanna be the Green Ranger," he frowned. "He's evil. I wanna be red, or maybe even orange..."
Hearing this, Tommy's expression fell, and he quickly looked away. Glancing across to the Green Ranger, Kim frowned, and she quickly steered him back down towards the beach.
"You shouldn't worry about things like that," she said. "He was just playing, he didn't mean anything."
Tommy shook his head. "It's not that," he said, then turned to her. "I just hear that a lot. 'Whoa, look out for the scary Green Ranger, he might turn evil again...'. You guys probably don't notice and that's cool, it's just being the ex-badguy..." His voice trailed off, and he looked away. "It's not something that ever gets easier to listen to, that's all."
Kimberly reached down and took Tommy's hand. "Yeah, but I know you're more than that," she said, "isn't that enough? C'mon, we've still got like half the afternoon to ourselves," and they continued down towards the beach.
"Okay, so there's food in the fridge, and I left a list of phone numbers by the phone in case you need them," said Mrs Thompson, glancing through the family home from Ian to the kitchen.
Ian nodded. "I'm sure I'll get by," he said.
"Still, remember, your brother is staying with the Evans family on the other side of town and I left the number to reach him along with the others," his mother continued, in that classic way of mothers everywhere. "We'll be back by Monday morning, but we can come back earlier if you need us..."
Ian couldn't help but smile. "I'll be fine."
His father appeared in the hallway behind his mother, a suitcase in either hand. "Kate, I think we've reached the point of genuinely embarrassing our son," he said, and leaving the suitcases in the hall, he stepped forward to clasp Ian's shoulder. "We won't be far, just checking out the new house. Have fun."
"Thanks," Ian replied.
Kate Thompson chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully. "Still," she began, "we'll call when we get in, just to..."
"You really don't need to worry," Ian said quickly, stepping forward. "I mean I'm probably going to head over to, uh, Lochlan's house to catch up on some homework, or something. Maybe even stay over. So I wouldn't call, I'm probably not going to be home."
Both parents nodded. "Are you sure you'll be all right?" Kate asked.
Ian nodded. "I prom..." he began, but just couldn't bring himself to say the word. "I'll be okay," he said. "Now c'mon, you're going to be late."
Kate glanced down to her watch, and suddenly realising Ian was right, both parents bustled outside and loaded up the car, both giving Ian light hugs before reluctantly - although that was, to be far, more on behalf of his mother than his father - getting into the family car and driving away.
But as they left, Ian couldn't help but glance down to the communicator on his wrist and frown, before looking back to the departing car and brushing the hair from his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he called softly, before turning and heading back inside.
It would take her months, Rita Repulsa reflected, to list every single reason why she hated the planet before her.
Standing in the observatory, the highest room in the Lunar Castle, and looking out over the grey moonscape towards the Earth, Rita didn't see a blue and white planet hanging peacefully in space but something that she should have been hers, something that kept inexplicably escaping her grasp. She'd done what most of those spineless humans crawling across the planet's surface had only ever dreamed of - acquired the power to fulfill her every wish, and when those desires had only gotten grander, she had simply gained more power in response. She was better than them, and by every right deserved to own them, every single person living to serve her and her alone.
That particular thought she didn't hate.
But even after all this time, not even Zordon suspected the witch's true motivations. Why she'd spent so long attacking one solitary city, desperately seeking to level it at any cost, and she took comfort in the thought. Defeating the Power Rangers was only a means to an end - once they were gone, nothing stood between her and her true goal. That didn't it wouldn't be an enjoyable end, though.
Watching as Zordon had chosen a Grey Ranger and thus completed the team had been a crippling blow, and it had taken her almost a week to recover. Until she remembered something important that it seemed Zordon himself had forgotten. An ancient foe, waiting for the opportunity to strike and take his revenge. Waiting, in fact, for the opportunity Zordon had just handed over on a platter. And even more importantly, this foe had something Rita needed.
Behind her, Finster appeared at the doors to the observatory and cautiously entered the room, announcing his presence with a cough.
"My Queen...?" he began.
She acknowledged his presence with a nod. "Yes, what is it?"
"I thought you should know, our deep space scanners just detected a teleportation trail moving through space towards Earth," Finster replied. "It should be here in a matter of minutes."
"And from what planet, Finster?" Rita asked.
"Incoming from Horath, my Queen," Finster said.
Rita could barely hide her delighted grin. "Excellent," she said, turning back to her resident scientist. "Then I think it's about time we got to work..."
Jason and I materialised in the Command Centre in twin flashes of red and orange. Everyone turned to us as we stepped forward to join the group, and it looked like we were the last two to arrive.
"We still waiting for anybody?" I asked.
Zac nodded. "Just Ian," he replied. "He's not here yet."
"We've still got a few minutes," said Trini.
Zordon glanced down over the group. "Alpha and I are just configuring the training programs for this afternoon," he boomed. "We'll only be a few more minutes," and the sage looked back to Alpha, standing by the console under his plasma tube.
Everyone nodded, and Teresa turned to Jason and I. "So what kept you guys?"
"Ernie's in one of his creative moods," I said. "He wouldn't let us out the door until we'd tried about three dozen new shake flavours."
Jason nodded. "Yeah. Just for the record, the Club Tropicana is great," he said. "The Guava Surprise on the other hand is, well, surprising."
Everyone laughed, and as Jason turned to the rest of the Senior Team, I stepped over to join the Junior Team, looking over to Sarah.
"So how'd the match go?" I asked.
Sarah smiled. "We kicked their butts," he said. "I mean, it was a pretty close game... nah, we kicked their butts."
We all laughed, and Brendan glanced to his watch. "Man, I wish Ian would get here."
Scott turned to me. "He's not kidding, either," he said. "We've been watching him bounce off the ceiling for the last ten minutes."
I smiled. "Well we haven't seen him since last week's training session."
"Exactly," Brendan replied. "Besides, I really want to talk to him about something."
On the other side of the room, Jason had walked over to the Seniors. "Hey guys," he said, lowering his voice. "I know this sounds a little weird, but do you think Zordon maybe doesn't trust us?"
Zac nodded. "Between the superhuman powers, the weapons and the fifteen-storey robots, definitely not," he replied, deadpan.
Kimberly smiled. "Yeah Jason, that's pretty left field."
"I'm serious," he replied, then glanced quickly up to Zordon's plasma tube before continuing. "I mean, in terms of what he tells us. He didn't tell us about the other set of power coins, about Brendan's or Ian's coin or about Ultramarine. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but that's a lot to withhold, you know?"
"He was probably going to tell us eventually," Trini said. "Things just tend to happen quickly around here."
Jason looked back up to Zordon, about to reply when a teleportation streak suddenly blazed down through the ceiling, and in a flash of silver light, Ian materialised before the team, glancing around the room and smiling. "Hey guys," he said, his blue eyes shining.
Tommy laughed. "Ian, hey," he said.
Brendan stepped forward, beaming one of his patented million-watt grins. "It's great to see you dude," he said. "We missed you."
Ian nodded, glancing from Brendan to the rest of us. "I missed you guys too."
"So how have you been?" Sarah asked.
"Good, really good," he replied, but he couldn't help thinking back to this afternoon with his parents, and his smile fell. "For the most part."
Kim frowned. "That means not good," she said. "What's wrong?"
Ian looked up. "The side effect of being a superhero," he replied. "I think, without exception I've lied to every single person I've ever met in the last couple of weeks. Getting my 'what I did on camp' stories straight was hard enough, and my parents think I'm studying with Lochlan right now. I get why we have to do it, I just, it doesn't feel that heroic, you know?"
Teresa nodded. "It's hard, but it's just a part of the job," she said.
"There's no real way around it," Trini added. "Trust us, it will get easier."
"Yeah, we've all got our excuses," said Kim. "Tommy and I are at the movies right now."
Billy nodded. "I'm currently scouring local businesses for rare software."
"Hey, I'm at a violin lesson," said Zac, then noticed everybody looking at him. "What?"
I smiled, turning to Ian and gesturing to Teresa and Scott beside me. "The three of us are at a karate lesson in the park with Jason."
Jason frowned. "I'm actually studying at the library right now," he said. "Sorry."
"Well you could've called," I said. "I mean, we went all the way out into the park to meet you..."
Ian smiled. "Thanks guys," he said. "I guess this is something I'll just have to get used to," and he paused. "Oh, and before I forget - I've got a big surprise for everybody, later on in the week."
"Wait, that's it?" Sarah asked. "C'mon, tell us. Our lives are already filled with more than enough surprises."
"Yeah," said Tommy. "What's the deal?"
Ian shook his head and grinned mischievously. "It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you," he said.
"Rangers," boomed Zordon suddenly, and we all turned to the interdimensional sage. "Ian, it is wonderful to see you again, you're looking quite well. Now, Alpha and I have spent the afternoon designing some unique training exercises for the twelve of you, which I hope will..."
Without warning, the Command Centre's alarm suddenly began flashing, the noise cutting Zordon off mid-sentence. Everyone immediately glanced around to each other and then across to Alpha, as the sentient robot began typing furiously at his console.
"Trouble in the city?" asked Jason.
"Affirmative," Alpha nodded. "Ayeyiyi Rangers! Something just teleported into Caloundra from deep space, cloaked so we couldn't see it coming. The sensors are registering a massive energy discharge in the street behind the library, down from the construction site. I'm picking up reports on the police bands as well."
Zac glanced around the group. "Man, somebody picked the wrong afternoon to start somethin' in our town," he said.
"Indeed," said Zordon, and we all looked back up to him. "All right Rangers, morph and head back into Caloundra. Let us show the world what twelve Rangers can accomplish."
I looked across to Ian. "You set?"
He grinned and flashed a thumbs-up. "Let me at 'em."
Jason nodded, and we all reached for our back pockets. "Okay guys, let's do it," he began. "It's morphin' time!"
We teleported into the city in twelve flashes of light, materialising on the road behind the library seconds later. But glancing around at the scene facing us, everyone was immediately lost for words.
"Whoa," breathed Sarah.
We'd arrived in the midst of a disaster. All down the street, cars had been flipped onto their sides and lay at weird angles across the road. Further down, we could see a bus lying on its side, the vehicle's windows shattered and undercarriage in sparking ruin. Power poles and street lamps seemed to have been physically torn down, live power cables lying across the pavement, while over beside the library, several people had been pinned to the ground by falling tree trunks.
"Okay, we need to help these people," said Teresa, looking back to the group, "before anybody gets really hurt."
I nodded. "I'm more worried about those power lines than anything else."
"You're right," said Jason. "Junior Team, clear the scene and get everyone to safety. We'll look around for our badguy."
"Right," we all replied, and as the Senior Rangers raced away, the six of us split up - Sarah and Scott ran down to the overturned bus, Teresa and Brendan dashed towards the library, and while Ian raced over to the destroyed cars, I summoned my sword and headed towards the fallen power lines. If I could cut them off at the source, they'd be no danger to anybody.
Across from me, Ian ripped a car door off its hinges, threw it away and dragged the unconscious person within to safety. "Wow," he said, looking around. "You guys have a really nice city, I mean, you can hear the ocean from here." He looked up, and noticed us all looking at him. "Oh. Right. Focus."
Brendan smiled, as he and Teresa lifted a fallen tree trunk and the people trapped beneath crawled to safety. "No, you're totally right," he said. "When the city isn't being blown up, flattened or actively demolished, it's actually a nice place to live."
I laughed, but glancing across to the other side of the street, I caught sight of a shadow darting along the top level of the construction site down the street before disappearing behind a girder, a suspiciously solid-looking shadow given what had happened down here on the street.
"Hey guys," I said, and the Rangers turned to me, "wait here a sec. There's something I'm gonna check out," and I turned and raced away.
"Be careful," called Teresa, and the Rangers went back to work.
Ignoring the Orange Ranger as I dashed away, the figure stood watching the group from the highest level of the construction site, standing on a thin steel girder seven storeys above the ground, his dark eyes never once leaving the Ranger dressed all in grey. Gritting his teeth behind his mask, the shadow reached down for one of the blasters at his belt.
"Zordon's new Grey Ranger," he growled, his voice low and dangerous. "I wonder if you're as skilled as the one you replaced..."
Hiding was simply not in his nature, but he knew an ambush was his only option, to draw the Grey Ranger out and observe him, his strengths and weaknesses, power and skill. The Grey Ranger wasn't alone, and the figure cursed his luck under his breath - he should've realised the team would stay together. Still, as he raised his blaster, his finger steadily tightening around the trigger, he knew it didn't matter. Everything that should've been his, would be, very soon.
Without warning, a blurred form swept past in a blaze of light, a shining silver sword flashing out of nowhere and slicing the figure's blaster in two. The warrior dropped the blaster in surprise, the two halves falling, ricocheting off the girder and disappearing into the void of air on either side. Looking up, he grimaced - the Orange Power Ranger stood before him, sword in hand.
"Whatever it is you're after," I said, raising my sword, "trust me pal, you ain't getting it." But standing there in front of him, my first impression was that I was facing an evil version of myself. He wore form-fitting grey body armour, his boots and gloves a darker shade of grey, with a small black triangle-design on his chest and blasters hanging at his belt. His helmet had a black visor with a silver mouthguard and looked to have been modelled after some kind of predatory dinosaur, like Jason's or Teresa's helmets but with the teeth and claws left on. And like me, he wore a coin around his waist, but whereas my Power Coin was gold, this coin was black, carved out of some kind of crystal, the markings on the coin strangely similar.
The warrior quickly backed away from me. "What I want is the grey one," he said.
"Ian?" I said, then shook my head. "Not on your life. Guys," and I raised my communicator, "I've got our badguy, top floor of the construction site..." But as I spoke, the warrior suddenly summoned a long blade and leaped forward, slashing the weapon towards me.
I raised my Power Sword and blocked the weapon with a resounding clang before batting the blade away and slicing forward with a horizontal stroke. He ducked nimbly under the blade, knocking me backwards with a rapid kick to the stomach before pressing forward, his blade slicing through the air. I stumbled back, quickly finding my footing on the narrow beam and expertly blocking his attacks. Ducking under a wide horizontal slash, he countered with a low slice, but I easily jumped up and back over the blade. He lunged forward, but I brought my blade down hard, knocking his sword down before sending him stumbling back with a lightning-fast elbow to the jaw.
With the advantage, I pressed forward, stepping towards him and slashing high. The warrior batted the blade away and retaliated, but I raised my sword, blocked his blade and forced it aside before striking home, the tip of my weapon carving through his body armour. He glanced down briefly, looked up and immediately began backing away, turning and racing across the girder away from me. I pushed forward and continued after him, slice after slice slashing through nothing but air. A vertical beam stood ahead of us - the warrior nimbly climbed around it, and as my sword cleaved neatly through it, he turned and took to the air, somersaulting over a wide chasm and dropping lightly onto a catwalk that passed underneath.
No sooner had the warrior landed when he looked up to see the Blue and White Rangers standing on either side of him. Scott leaped forward with a high kick - the warrior ducked under the blow and slashed his sword for Scott as Teresa raced forward, blocking the warrior's arm and forcing him backwards with a blow to the chest. Holding his hand out, the warrior's sword dematerialised, and he struck out for his two opponents, blocking a blow from Teresa and aiming a powerful punch for Scott's stomach. Scott batted away the blow as Teresa kicked high - the warrior dodged the blow before spinning away from the two Rangers and leaping over the railing down onto wooden scaffolding, the supports shaking as he quickly made his way through the wooden maze.
Watching him go, Teresa looked back up to me. "Peter, are you okay?"
"Don't worry about me!" I called. "He's after Ian! Get to Ian now!"
Beneath us, the warrior negotiated his way through the maze of girders and catwalks with ease, putting as much distance as he could between himself and his opponents. Diving down onto a lower plank and rolling to his feet, the warrior came to a sudden stop as hard-light arrows whizzed through the air and thudded into the platform before him. Looking up and around as more arrows rained down on him, he spotted the bow-wielding Pink Ranger standing over him and immediately darted to the left, racing across a connecting catwalk - only to stop short again as Zac suddenly dropped down onto the catwalk before him.
"Dead end dude," the Black Ranger said, and charged.
Without slowing down, the warrior ducked to the side and raced away from Zac, reaching the end of the catwalk, clambering down several metres of support poles before following a walkway out towards the street. But at the end of the beam was nothing but empty space, an atrium of air. An empty, oversized freight elevator hung suspended in the void down below, and hesitating only a second longer, he took to the air once again, somersaulting down onto the platform, finding his footing and immediately turning to see if he'd been followed.
"Power Rangers," he muttered, seeing various brightly-coloured figures climbing through the site towards him. "Be gone, all of you."
"Then do yourself a favour," said Tommy, suddenly behind him. "Don't turn around."
The warrior spun around, immediately swinging a high roundhouse punch towards the Green Ranger. Tommy saw the move coming and ducked under it, striking his opponent back with an uppercut and landing several rapid punches to the warrior's chest. The warrior quickly recovered, blocked and batted away Tommy's fists before smashing him back with a powerful backhand. As Tommy stumbled away the warrior spun on the spot aiming a high tornado kick, but the Green Ranger caught his opponent's foot in midair and spun the warrior away. The warrior regained his balance quickly, and Tommy charged back across the hanging platform.
Racing towards the warrior, he leaped into the air with a high kick, but the warrior stepped around the attack, retaliating with a flurry of punches. Tommy spun under the blows, effectively dodging every attack, before kicking away his enemy's left arm and aiming a lightning-fast heel to his jaw. The warrior narrowly blocked the kick, and smashed Tommy back with a rapid right hook. He charged forward to continue the assault, but Tommy was ready, deftly blocking the warrior's attacks, grabbing his arm and knocking him back with a well-aimed judo chop just as the warrior landed a blow to his shoulder. The two combatants spun away from each other and crashed to the floor.
The warrior quickly jumped to his feet and Tommy tried to follow him - but blinding pain suddenly shot through his body. He cried out in surprise as his legs collapsed beneath him and he dropped to the floor, confused and dazed. All of a sudden, he just felt so weak... As the warrior advanced, he desperately backed away, weakly stumbling back across the elevator before reaching the edge and running out of space. What was happening to him? Why was he suddenly paralysed? He frantically glanced up and around, desperately looking for help, and saw the Red Ranger standing on a girder several floors above.
"Jason!" Tommy cried, when in a sudden flash of light, the Green Ranger demorphed.
Watching the fight from above, Jason looked on in fear as Tommy collapsed, and immediately realised what was happening. His powers had given out on him. Zordon had warned them about this. He glanced around on all sides, calling out to anybody within earshot. "Someone get down there! Get to Tommy!"
Sarah and Billy were closest to the freight elevator, and seeing the danger, they both leaped to the rescue. Quickly crossing steel beams, the two Rangers took to the air and dropped down through the elevator railings, landing side-by-side between Tommy and the warrior. Summoning their Power Weapons with a thought, the Purple and Blue Rangers stepped towards the warrior.
Realising he was outmatched, he quickly turned away from the two Rangers, racing towards the edge of the elevator and leaping into the air, bouncing off a support beam to get a clean uninterrupted path through the girders to the street below.
"Oh no you don't," muttered Jason, and gritting his teeth, the Red Ranger dived off the beam that he was standing on, catching a scaffolding pole and swinging underneath it, soaring through the air on a direct course towards the fleeing warrior.
His momentum keeping him airborne, Jason smashed into the warrior in mid-flight, forcibly changing his path through the air and immediately swinging out with a right hook. The warrior blocked the blow and struck back, but Jason grabbed his armoured gauntlet, and using it for leverage, slammed both feet against the warrior's chest, the warrior crashing out of control to the ground as Jason dropped down onto a girder and snagged a support beam to catch his balance.
I can't believe I just did that...
Clearing the construction site, the warrior crashed through the leaves of a tree growing beside the pavement and painfully hitting to the ground. Somehow managing to roll to his feet, the warrior took a minute to catch his breath. But as he found his bearings, he looked up to see another Ranger standing before him, this one dressed entirely in grey.
Approaching the warrior, Ian sized the team's adversary up. "So, you're new in town, right?" he said. "Well, me too, and I gotta say you're really not making a great impression."
The warrior's eyes narrowed behind his helmet. "You," he said angrily, "you with everything that should be mine. And I shall take it back!" The warrior charged forward in a frenzy, swinging blows furiously - Ian reacted instantly, dodging the warrior's punches, stepping around a low kick and blocking a move with his elbow before forcing the warrior back with a blow to the helmet. The warrior recovered and kicked high - Ian spun under the blow, struck away a right roundhouse punch, kicked the warrior's boot away and summoned his Power Blasters as he turned. The warrior spun back towards him and attacked, but Ian raised the blasters and fired, the blasts slamming the warrior back across the street in a blaze of sparks and smoke.
"Ian, you okay?" asked Brendan, as he and Trini dropped down beside him.
Ian nodded. "Fine," he replied, and the two Rangers nodded and leaped after their opponent. Ian made a move to follow, but glancing down, he noticed several drops of what had to have been the warrior's blood on the pavement, doubtless the result of Ian's blast. He reached down and scraped up some of the liquid with his thumb and forefinger, noting it seemed to cling to his fingers.
"Hmm," he said aloud, as Billy joined him, the other Rangers racing past them and catching up to Trini and Brendan. "It's weird."
Billy nodded. "Probably due to his alien physiognomy," he said. "C'mon," and they quickly followed the other Rangers.
The team immediately formed a circle around the defeated grey warrior, but behind us, Jason was slowly helping the still-dazed Tommy to the ground. Reaching the ground level with the powerless Ranger still leaning on his shoulder, Jason had just begun to help him out towards the street when there was a flash of flame, and the two Rangers looked up in surprise to see Rita Repulsa herself a few metres away.
Jason immediately stepped in front of Tommy, summoning his sword with a thought and raising the weapon. "Back off Rita," he said.
The witch rolled her eyes and made no move to attack. "Still blindly following orders from Zordon, are you Jason?" she asked.
"Better than getting beaten down constantly," Jason replied. "What's the loss-rate so far, Rita? Fifty, sixty?"
The witch smiled. "We can trade insults all day," she said, "but if you are going to listen to me then you should know something - at some point in the future, probably a lot closer than you think, that great leader of yours is going to make a huge mistake. And mark my words, it will cost you dearly." And without waiting for a response, she turned and walked away.
Tommy glanced to Jason. "What was that about?" he asked.
Jason shrugged. "No idea," he replied. "Maybe she just needs a hug..."
Out on the street, everybody steadily closed in on the grey warrior, who was ignoring everyone and focussing his attention entirely on Ian.
For his part, Ian's curiosity was rapidly being replaced by shock. "You're here for me, aren't you?" he asked. "Why?"
"You have the nerve to address me?" the warrior replied.
Ian shook his head. "What have I ever done to you?" he asked.
"Answer him," said Trini, raising her Power Daggers. "What do you want?"
"He wants the same thing I want," said Rita Repulsa suddenly, stepping out of the shadow of the building site and striding towards us. As one, we all turned to Rita, watching in silence as she made her way towards the warrior, supremely unconcerned about the ten Rangers around her, before turning to him. "You stand no chance of victory today," she said, her voice oozing honey and acid. "I can help you, but you're going to have to trust me."
The warrior lowered his head, then nodded. Rita smiled, and turned back to us. "Have a pleasant afternoon Rangers," she said with a wicked grin, as her wand began to glow. "We'll be seeing you."
Seconds before the pair teleported away, the warrior turned back to a still-speechless Ian. "This is not over," he said ominously, and with a flash of flame, we were alone on the road.
Our heartbeats returning to normal, everybody slowly lowered their weapons, glancing around to each other as Jason stepped towards us, Tommy hidden from view in the shadows of the building site.
"Everyone okay?" he asked.
"We're all fine," said Kimberly. "But what the heck was that about?"
"That warrior," puffed Zac. "He was..."
"After me," Ian said suddenly, glancing around the group. "He did all this, lured us out, just for me. Why? I've never seen this guy before in my life."
There was a minute of silence as we all looked to each other, nobody able to answer Ian's question. Finally, Trini stepped forward. "Zordon will probably know, if anyone," she said, and wary of the bystanders watching us, she glanced quickly over to Tommy. "But I think we need to head back to the Command Centre, right now."
"You're right," Jason said, "let's go," and with that, we reached for our communicators and teleported away.