Return Of The Great Power
Book 3 – Living With The Power
Chapter 2: Family Ties
Last Revised: January 16, 2009
AN: I thank you all who've emailed and reviewed this story and showed me such enthusiasm about me continuing this story. In all honesty, I've had this chapter partially done since November 2006, but other projects have gotten in the way, inspiration came and went, and real life decided it was going to intrude. Again, I do appreciate all the support. However, I need to ask all of you that if you email or review me, please remember I'm a full time college student with a full time job. Add to that, I have family issues right now. I ask that after I've replied to your emails or reviews, please, please, don't push me for updates. All pushing is going to do is upset me, piss me off, and make me not even want to work on the story anymore. There have been several instances of this in the last couple of months, and it not only annoys and aggravates me, but it makes trying to work on the story even harder, because I feel like I'm being hounded for updates. I have other projects going on, and I understand that this one has been on going for almost five years now, but I can only work on stories as I have inspiration and a desire to do so. I'm not about to put out pieces of work that I don't think are very good, or are a good enough representation of my work. I refuse to be one of those authors that updates to please people and presents spotty work, at best, each update. Again, thank you for the support, you will never know how much the positive comments and feedback mean.
Disclaimer: The Power of Three triangle idea came from Weesta's story "Crossing Paths" and I asked for permission to use it a long, LONG, time ago when that story was being written. Credit for it goes to Weesta.
"Though miles may lie between us, we're never far apart, for friendship doesn't count the miles, it's measured by the heart." – Unknown –
"Friends are like stars, you can't always see them but you know that they're there." – Unknown –
On The Plane
7:30 P.M (Sydney Time)
"How much longer?" Marcus asked from where he perched on the arm of Tommy's seat.
"About three hours, Kiddo," Tommy told him, his face showing his understanding. The trip from Angel Grove to Australia was turning out to be longer than expected. Their layover in Hawaii had extended the trip by almost four hours. The kids, Justin included, were getting tired and cranky, as were some of the adults.
"This sucks, Tommy," the young boy grumbled. "At least you're enjoying the trip." Marcus pointed to the person in the seat next to Tommy.
Tommy turned his head to see what his young charge was looking at and found Kim was sound asleep on his shoulder. "That depends - I could watch her sleep at home." Marcus let out a laugh. "I'll let you in on a little secret – Kim drools in her sleep."
"TOMMY! I DO NOT!" Kim protested, making their audience of one laugh even more. "Sweetie, are you alright?" she asked the young boy.
"I'm sick of sitting, Ms. Hart."
Kim gave him a sympathetic look. "Tell ya what, why don't we walk around and stretch our legs. And you, little man, can call me Kim."
The Pink Ranger climbed over Tommy and into the aisle. Taking her charge's hand, she led him to the front of the plane.
11:30 PM (Sydney Time)
"Thank God!" Aisha gasped when the plane landed at Sydney Airport.
"No kidding," Rocky grumbled as the group of eighteen made their way off the plane and into the terminal. Everyone stopped just past the gate, stretched, adjust bags and took a minute to catch their bearings.
"What now?" Ally asked, looking to Jason, Rocky and Tommy.
Jason just grinned and helped Kat with her backpack. "Well, we need to go down to the baggage claim and get our bags and the gear."
"My Grandda Aidan said he'd be waiting to pick us up outside," Katherine told them, smiling. She'd called her Grandfather from Hawaii to let him know about their layover and delay. She hadn't been back in Australia, let alone seen her family, since her cousin CeCe had graduated from College, and that had been two years before.
"Wow Jase, going to get to meet Kat's family," Rocky teased. "Serious stuff there, dude!"
The Green Ranger pinned his Red teammate with a look that could have melted steel. "Not all of us had the luxury of growing up knowing our significant other's family."
"Break it up, both of you," Tanya told them in a no-nonsense tone.
"Yes Ma'am!" they grinned at her, causing her to roll her eyes.
Nearly a half hour later the group found themselves outside in the darkness, staring at the two stretch limousines that Kat's grandfather was standing in front of. "Grandda!" Kat laughed, dropping her bags and rushing head long into his arms for a hug.
"Kitty!" the old man laughed. He was tall like Kat but he was almost as filled out as Jason. He looked a little intimidating to the group.
"Wow!" Trini quipped. "How old is Kat's grandpa? If I didn't know any better, I'd say he's about early sixties."
"I'm almost seventy-six, Ms. Kwan." Trini had the grace to blush but laughed when Kat's grandpa hugged her. "Welcome to Australia, kids. I'll bet you're all hungry and tired. Let's get you loaded up and get you to the hotel."
Quickly, they loaded bags and gear into the trunks and climbed into the two sleek black cars before heading north from the airport.
"Wow! Look! It's the Opera House!" Ally called out as they passed over one of the large bridges. Kat's grandfather had decided a limo ride through the city before heading to the hotel wouldn't hurt, so they were downtown Sydney, enjoying the City Center and its sights, which were all lit up thanks to the late hour.
"It's a beautiful city," Tanya grinned. She'd accompanied Kat two years before to Cece's graduation and the pair had explored the city for nearly a week.
"Let's just hope that we don't have any close calls like last time," Adam murmured. Rocky, Aisha, Kat, and Jason all shot him looks while Tanya took his hand. Those who hadn't been present were well informed of the last group trip to Australia that had resulted in Rita and Zedd getting married.
"Bite your tongue, Frog Boy," Aisha growled, her voice low and almost deadly. Both Rocky and Jason touched Aisha's arms, telling her in silent fashion to calm down.
"I want a nap," Jennifer yawned, stretching carefully before curling into a ball again next to Chris.
"And food," Rocky grumbled. The kids started laughing, knowing their sensei was often a bottomless pit when it came to food.
"I wonder what the others are talking about?" Kat wondered out loud, her head resting comfortably on Jason's shoulder.
"Who knows," Rocky laughed. "With their luck, Trini's giving them a history lesson!"
The other limo was pretty silent. All three of the kids – Steven, Marcus and Brianna – plus Zack, Kim and Trini were all sound asleep. Tommy and Billy were cradling their girlfriends while Justin enjoyed the sights from the window.
"Awesome! We are going sight-seeing, right?" the Beige Ranger asked as he turned his gaze to his older teammates.
Tommy and Billy shared grins. "Justin, I highly doubt Kat will let our trip pass without taking us sight-seeing, especially with her knowledge that you and the other kids have never been here before," Billy assured him.
Justin's face split into an ear to ear grin. "I'm hungry and I think I need a nap," Tommy yawned while Justin and Billy nodded.
"We all are, and we are all in need of extra sleep."
"How much longer?" Justin asked as the limos headed north, out of Sydney toward the Hillards' resort.
"Probably another half hour or so," Tommy told him. "The resort is near the coast." Yawning again, the White Ranger rested his head against his girlfriend's and drifted off for a nap.
"They've arrived in that wretched orange kitty's homeland," Scorpina reported.
"Good. Give them a day to adjust and then attack!" Ivan ordered, his eyes glowing purple.
Tommy could help the smile that drifted onto his face. Once he and Kim had settled into their room, he'd gone to take a shower. Now he was done and coming out of the bathroom he discovered Kim sleeping. Shaking his head, Tommy tossed his dirty clothes down at the end of the bed they were sharing and crawled under the covers.
Kim immediately snuggled into his arms. Her head found its way onto his shoulder, an arm snaked around his waist, and one leg wrapped around one of his. Tommy just chuckled and tightened his arm around her. "I love you Beautiful," he sleepily yawned into her hair, before dropping off into the land of dreams.
Aisha laughed when Rocky flopped down on their bed. He'd been making sure the kids were settled while she unpacked their clothes and checked their gear. "I'm exhausted," he mumbled.
Proof of how tired he was came when Aisha leaned over him, unsnapped his jeans and began tugging them off. He offered no smart ass comments nor did he try to tease her.
"Boy, you really must be tired. Usually when I try undressing you, I get teased."
"I'm too pooped to do much of anything," he half grinned at her. Working together, they rid him of his shirt before Aisha pushed him flat on his back again, straddling his hips as she did.
"Is there anything I can do?" she softly asked, leaning forward to peck kisses to his now bared chest.
Rocky just groaned in response. "If you keep doing that, we're going to have a problem." A low, husky laugh escaped Aisha's lips even as she continued to torment him. "Sha, I'm serious," he growled out, even as his hips thrust up against hers.
Aisha moaned and shifted against him, seeking the friction. Rocky understood her actions, his hands sliding up her bare thighs. A gasp came when Rocky's hands worked their way under her panties and cupped her ass, fingers flexing against the softness.
"Rocky!" she whimpered, shifting against him again, frustration evident. They hadn't taken their relationship into the realm of the physical for fear of destroying what they had. While neither were virgins, they both silently acknowledged that they'd never wanted anyone they way they wanted each other.
"Sha, stop a minute," Rocky groaned.
"Number one, I don't have protection," he sighed. "Number two, I hate to say this, but we need to talk about this before we just blindly do it."
Surprise more than disappointment coursed through her. Rocky was known for his carefree attitude and joking around, to see him so serious when he was so utterly aroused she could see the need for pleasure clouded in his eyes, scared and excited her all at once. "God, I hate it when you're right," she grumbled, lying down on his chest, hoping to calm them both.
"It's a good thing I'm not right all the time then, huh? I don't think I'd like you hating me all the time."
"Hmm," Aisha managed, her body relaxing as sleep started to take over. Sighing, Rocky rolled her off gently to her side of the bed. Once he was free, Rocky shut off the bedside lamp and came back to curl up with Aisha.
"I love you, Aisha."
Billy swallowed nervously when he came out of the bathroom and was greeted by the sight of Trini bent over, rummaging through her suitcase. Not only did the thong she was wearing show off her firm, perfectly rounded behind, but he also caught glimpses of her breasts as she moved. Closing his eyes, the Blue Ranger tried to calm his hormones and failed. Even though he wasn't an inexperienced virgin, there was something about seeing Trini like he was that made him more nervous than he'd been his first time.
"Enjoying the view?" Trini's amused voice asked. Billy flinched when he realized that Trini had gotten her sweats on and was facing him, hands on her hips, her breasts barely covered by the spaghetti strap tank top she wore.
"Trini, my apologies; I did not mean to stare."
The Turquoise Ranger laughed. He looked so flustered and cute. She approached him, reaching out to take his hand as she did. "Billy, relax. You do realize, eventually, you're going to have to get used to me being undressed."
The Blue Ranger swallowed, not sure what to make of Trini's statement, or rather the boldness she displayed in uttering the words. "Why's that?"
A low, sexy laugh escaped as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Because I plan on making love to you, once we're a little more settled in this relationship."
Hazel blue eyes widened and a smile spread across his face. "You promise?"
Adam lay on his side, one arm tucked under his head while the other was wrapped around Tanya's waist. He couldn't help the smile that drifted onto his face as he soaked in the moment of simplicity. 'This is why I get up every morning, why I fight a battle I'd once given up' he thought, bringing his hand up to cradle her cheek as she slept on.
It wasn't that he didn't appreciate his wife – he knew he told her all the time how he loved her and was thankful for her in his life. His biggest thing was he never took the time to just stop and enjoy the moment. Hectic jobs and busy lives left little time for much else.
"Adam," Tanya's sleepy voice sounded.
"Go to sleep, you're staring," she told him, her lips curving into a sleep smile.
"Sorry," he sheepishly replied.
"I love you, so much," she whispered, snuggling close to him.
The Black Ranger just smiled back. "I love you too."
Jason flopped down on the bed next to Kat, panting and sweaty. "Holy cow," he gasped.
"I'll second that," Katherine breathed out, her voice catching on the last word. "Someone had some serious frustration to work out."
"I wouldn't have thought so, but I just proved myself wrong," Jason grinned. "Are you okay?"
Katherine smiled lazily before rolling toward him, her breasts brushing his chest. They'd taken a quick shower together which had only intensified their need for each other after such a long trip where they'd had to pretty much behave themselves.
A bout of hot, sweaty, intense sex had followed, culminating in their mutual release. Now they were content just to cuddle with one another. "Jason."
"I love you," she told him, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head on his chest.
"I take it that means you're fine?"
"Better than fine, I'm wonderful."
The Green Ranger yawned and held her tighter. "Let's sleep."
Kat nodded. "I'll second that."
Justin was sprawled on his bed, comic books spread around him. The Beige Ranger looked deep in thought, but looks were often deceiving. He missed home. They'd barely been gone two days and he already was homesick for his family, for the familiar surroundings of Angel Grove, but most of all, he missed Katie Jane.
"I miss home too," Zack told him, coming from the bathroom where he'd been taking a shower.
Justin looked up, a frown on his face. "I miss K.J. I know I shouldn't, but I do."
The Gold Ranger rolled his eyes at his young friend. "Justin, you like her more than just as friends, right?"
"I think so."
"Then it's normal that you miss her. I miss Angela. It also doesn't help that the others are all paired with each other and we're not."
The younger Ranger nodded. "Nice to know I'm not crazy. I guess I feel kind of weird. I mean, she knows a secret very few do, or ever have."
Zack grinned. "Its nice to have understanding where before we had so much secrecy and no one understood the fatigue, the tension, or the worry and stress."
Justin nodded. "You're right. So, are you ready for the tournament?"
"I wish. I'm doing the Team Ninja Competition with Jason and Trini, the Free Style, Kickboxing, and the Karate competitions."
"Kat, Tanya and I are teaming up for the Ninja Competition. I'm going to do the Kickboxing and Karate too."
Zack laughed. Kimberly had a spreadsheet of who all was doing what, so he knew in the morning they'd get an idea of what was what. "This is going to be an interesting vacation."
Justin chuckled. "Yeah, it is."
The next morning proved to be an interesting experience. Tanya and Zack had wake up duty for the kids while the others took advantage of the health club. The guys chose to lift weights while the girls took an aerobics class and a swim in the Olympic sized pool outside.
Once the kids were awake, Tanya took them out to the pool and let them splash around while she sat and talked with the other girls. The group of female Rangers hadn't been laughing and talking more than ten minutes when a group of guys started irritating them.
"Check out the hottie in the black and purple," one of the guys told his friends. "With a body like that, I'd bet she'd wring a guy dry in bed."
Tanya looked appalled. Very deliberately, she lifted her left hand and brushed her hair out of her face, making sure the sun caught her wedding and engagement rings.
"Man, she's married. You'd never score with her anyway; she's wearing a one piece. Now that gorgeous Asian in the turquoise and blue tank and shorts, I'll bet she's tight enough to make a man scream."
Trini's eyebrows shot up when the other guys groaned in agreement. "How about the leggy blonde in the white, orange and green bikini? Couldn't you imagine those long, toned legs wrapped around you?"
It was Kat's turn to be angry, though the girls did notice the blush that had spread across her pale skin. "Are you blind? Look at the hot girl in the red and yellow bikini. She looks like she'd pack a punch in bed."
Aisha just rolled her eyes and leaned back against the lounge she was sitting on. "He couldn't handle me," she grinned, causing the others to laugh.
"Rocky can barely handle you," Trini teased. "None of them could handle us; our own guys have trouble keeping up with us."
Kat laughed, Tanya shook her head and Aisha applauded. Kim remained silent behind her sunglasses. "Well, they'd better watch their mouths, because here come the guys." Four heads turned to stare at the seven males that had just entered the pool area and were currently looking for them.
"I'm telling you, the chick in the pink bikini with white flowers is my type! I can just imagine those gorgeous strands of hair spread out on my pillow and those tan legs wrapped around my waist!" The five guys in the pool groaned at the mental image.
"Watch and learn," Kim grinned, standing from her lounge. She moved toward the pool, approaching the huddle of guys at the edge. Quietly, she crouched down and grinned. "Gentlemen, as lovely as my friends and I are in our swimwear, and as flattering as the attention is, knock it off, suck your drool back into your mouths, and quit being a nuisance." With that, Kim abruptly turned and strode toward the group of seven guys who were such an important part of her life.
"Smooth," Tommy grinned at her, leaning down to kiss her upturned lips. His hands slid to her hips, his fingers tightening on the thin straps of her bikini bottoms.
Kim smiled a lazy smile at him and let out a throaty laugh. "I'm surprised you let me handle that on my own."
Tommy rolled his eyes and took her hand when the eight of them walked over to where the other girls were sitting. "You looked like you had it all handled. Besides, wasn't it you who told me 'I can handle myself'?"
Kim rolled her eyes and pushed him out of the way so she could plop down onto her lounge chair again. "And what are your plans for the day?" Kim asked the guys.
"Well, the opening ceremonies for the tournament are at five and the dinner starts at seven," Billy ticked off the night's events. "Until then, I don't think any of us have anything planned."
"I have an idea, but I doubt the kids will go for it," Trini suggested.
By that time, the six kids were standing with the adults and Justin. "What's your idea, Trini?" Steven asked, curious.
"Well, how about you guys swim until ten-thirty and then go inside and eat lunch and do homework until noon. Then maybe we can go through our routines, tweak them if need be, and scout out rooms and times?"
The six looked at each other and nodded. "Do we have a schedule for our events?" Chris finally asked.
"We do," Aisha grinned. "Kat, Tanya, Justin and I aren't participating in as many events, so you'll be with one of us during the first day."
"Cool. You know what, it's almost ten now," Ally spoke up. "Maybe we should head in, shower, and get started."
The other five seemed reluctant to go inside but agreed none the less. "Where should we meet you, Billy," Jennifer asked.
Billy smiled. "Meet me by the elevators in thirty minutes," he told them as they checked their watches and then gathered their stuff before trooping inside.
"Need some help, Billy?" Tanya asked.
"I'll have Justin with me; I think we'll be okay." Together, the Blue and Beige Rangers excused themselves, Billy leaning down to kiss Trini before heading in after the kids.
"What about the rest of us?" Jason asked, unsure what they were going to do.
"Let's head in," Kim responded. "We still need to check gear one final time and what not."
The remaining ten nodded and then headed in themselves.
At precisely twelve-fifteen, the team met in the ballroom. Several other teams were already there, practicing and having team meetings. The group from Angel Grove was surprised at the nasty glares they received from not only the students but some the coaches as well.
"Rocky, why are they looking at us like that?" Marcus asked, looking up at his sensei.
"Probably because of me," Kat murmured, squeezing Jason's hand when he laced their fingers together. "My uncle hasn't kept it a secret that I'm coming from the States to compete."
"Not to mention your college graduation picture and several dance recital pictures and one of you in the cast from Swan Lake are hanging in the lobby," Rocky commented.
"Gee, I didn't know Ballerinas could perform Martial Arts," a twenty-something young man with an obvious European accent sneered when the group found room to spread out.
"I didn't know they'd started letting jack asses into the country," a new voice shot back. The team turned and found themselves face to face with a woman nearly identical to Kat; the only differences were the auburn brown hair and piercing green eyes.
"Cece!" Kat let out, rushing forward to hug the new arrival.
Cece smiled. "Kitty," she happily replied. "Sorry I wasn't at the airport with Grandda to meet you." Turning, Cece stared at the rude young man. "You should be ashamed of yourself. This tournament is supposed to be about sportsmanship and teamwork. You certainly aren't showing the kids a good example. Why don't you find your team and leave these kids be?"
The young man walked off, muttering under his breath. "It's a good thing you showed up, Ce, I'd hate to have to rearrange his face," Tanya laughed.
Cece let out a stream of laughter. "I know. Now then, why don't you introduce me to everyone Kitty?"
Kat and Tanya laughed. "This is Adam, Tanya's husband," Kat started, pointing to the young man in a black and white bandana, white tank top and black pants.
Cece reached out and shook his head. "It's nice to put a face with a name."
"Likewise," Adam grinned.
"This is Billy Cranston and Trini Kwan," Kat pointed to the pair, who were both stepping forward to shake Cece's hand. Billy wore a blue tank top and white pants while Trini wore a turquoise bandana, white tank top and a pair of black trousers.
"Standing next to them are Zack Taylor." The young man in all black with a gold bandana grinned and shook her hand. "Justin Stewart." The younger boy in beige pants and white tank top shook her hand. "And the kids from Rocky's school; Ally, Steven, Chris, Jennifer, Brianna and Marcus." As one, the six students bowed respectably to her.
"My, my, such well mannered students," Cece winked at them.
Kat laughed and then continued. "This is Aisha Campbell, and Rocky DeSantos." Cece turned to stare at the red and yellow clad couple.
Aisha and Cece shared a quick handshake and a grin. "Thank you for agreeing to compete, Sensei," Cece told Rocky, performing a formal bow for him.
"We're happy to. You've got an eclectic mix of competitors," Rocky told her.
"Thank you. My father tried to make the field diverse."
"And last but not least, this is Kimberly Hart, Tommy Oliver, and Jason Scott," Kat introduced the last three as the unit they presented.
"Well, well, the infamous Kim, Tommy and Jason," Cece grinned. Kimberly offered her hand, but Cece pulled the pink and black leotard clad gymnast into a hug. "Thank you," Cece whispered into her ear.
Kim pulled back, confused. "For what?"
"You have no idea how much your relationship with her helped her get past her fears."
The Pink Ranger blinked in surprise before turning to Kat, who wouldn't meet her gaze. "The feelings are mutual." Kim waited until Kat looked at her, silent communication between them as they thought of Kat's diving and Kim's gymnastics.
Cece nodded and then moved to hug Tommy. "You, I've heard all about. It's nice to finally meet you in person." Cece studied the red, green white and black clad man carefully.
Tommy blushed and hugged her back. "Same here."
Last, it was Jason's turn. Cece's eyes widened, taking in the green tank top and black pant wearing man. 'Oh baby!' she thought, grinning. "My, my, Kitty, you sure know how to pick men."
"CECE!" Kat screeched, reaching out to smack her cousin's arm even as Jason and Cece hugged.
"I'm only stating the truth, no need to flip out," Cece grinned. "Now, my father will be coming down to join you in a bit. I've got to get back to work."
"G'day Cece!" Kat called to her cousin, who was bouncing off out of the ballroom.
"Alright gang, let's warm up!" Rocky ordered as the group dropped into their warm-ups.
"Wow!" the kids gasped when they reentered the ballroom a few hours later and found bleachers set up on three of the walls while the other had a stage set up in front of it that extended a fair ways into the center of the room. There was a results table, a check in table and a judges table, each in front of the bleachers facing the stage.
"How many teams are participating in the competition Sensei?" Brianna asked when the group was shown to a section blocked off and set aside for them.
"Honestly Bri, I don't know," Rocky told her, taking a seat next to Aisha on a bench.
"Guys, best behavior, quiet down, they're getting ready to start," Tanya told them.
All the teams quieted when a tall gentleman with blonde hair and deep green eyes walked up to the front of the stage, a microphone in hand. "I'm Barry Hillard, owner and CEO of Hillard Hotels, and I'd like to welcome you to the North Sydney Hillard Hotel. This is the first time we've done an event like this, so please bear with us. Now, just so you know, the first through third in each event will receive a trophy to take home. All others will receive a certificate and ribbon for participation. Your staff representative also has t-shirts and gift baskets for your team. And now, it's my great pleasure that I open this week long competition!"
All the competitors and teams applauded as Mr. Hillard left the stage. While the other teams dispersed, Kat's uncle signaled for them to stay put. He made his way over to them, grinning.
"G'day," he greeted, hugging Kat. "Kitty, you look wonderful."
"Thank you, Uncle Barry. Allow me to introduce everyone – Rocky, Aisha, Adam, Tanya, Justin, Zack, Brianna, Marcus, Jennifer, Chris, Steven, Ally, Trini, Billy, Kim, Tommy and Jason."
"Sorry I wasn't at the airport to meet you, we had some last minute problems here. Did you all sleep well?"
"Yes sir," Rocky grinned. "The resort is beautiful."
"Good. Thank you. I do hope you'll be able to make it to my father's in a few days."
"Uncle Barry, we're staying on a few days after the tournament to visit Nan and Grandda," Kat informed him.
Barry smiled. "That's why Ma's in such an uproar. You all will enjoy your visit to my parents' place, it's wonderful." The team laughed and nodded. "Don't forget the dinner starts in twenty minutes. I'll see you then, and probably tomorrow."
"Goodbye Mr. Hillard!"
"You okay?" Tanya asked Kim after dinner. While Rocky, Jason and Justin were going over last minute practice with the kids, the others were tweaking their own routines.
"I've got an uneasy feeling," Kim told her as the pair prepared to spar. Other than Trini, Tanya seemed to be the only one who could remotely keep up with Kimberly's routine enough to challenge the Pink Ranger. Kat didn't have enough Martial Arts training and most of Aisha's moves were too alike Kim's in the sense that they were evenly matched.
"Uneasy about what?" Tanya asked.
"That's just it, I'm not sure," Kim told her. "Something's not right."
Just as Kim said that both women shivered. "Kim, look over near the door. There's a guy standing there staring at us."
Casually, Kim rotated around as if she were stretching and nearly had a heart attack in the process. Turning around, she couldn't hold the panic off her face nor could she stop it from alerting any of the others over their mutual link. "Kim?" Tanya calmly murmured.
"Mike," Kim whispered, ashamed that he could get to her like this just by showing up.
"Kimmie, is that you?" he drawled, stopping next to Kim and Tanya.
"What are you doing here?" Kim tried to growl, but it came out in a whisper. The panic rising in her almost choked her until she felt the soothing presence of Trini, the protectiveness of Jason and Tommy's love seep into her. And then she felt the team ring around her, both literally and figuratively.
"I'm here to compete," he told her, smiling. They stuck together to the bitter end, he noted with satisfaction. Not much longer now, and Master Vile's plan for them would be complete and the Pink Crane would be his.
"Compete?" Justin snickered, sizing the man up. While the younger male was not scared of Mike, he knew to be cautious; Mike had been under Master Vile's control once, there was no telling what he could or would do.
"Yes. I train at an academy in New York. We were invited to compete."
Kim let out a shaky breath when Tommy took her hand.
Handsome, as much fun as it would be to drop him out of your Falcon Zord, it wouldn't be appropriate to Zordon's memory or our legacy as Rangers.
Tommy squeezed her hand again. "I look forward to competing against some of you. Maybe you and I could meet up for lunch, Kimmie?"
"I'm sorry Mike, the kids need my undivided attention."
Rocky and Jason shook off Kat and Aisha's hands and moved to stand between Kim and Mike. "We're not in the US, you have no authority here," Mike hissed at them.
"I work for Interpol, I have authority most anywhere," Jason told him. "Don't make a nuisance of yourself. I'd hate to see your team disqualified for harassment of other teams."
Mike stepped close to Jason and hissed. "Watch yourself, Green Dragon. You can be eliminated easily and the little Crane can disappear."
Stepping back, Mike smiled with satisfaction when Jason's eyes glowed green before he turned and walked away.
"Jason?" Trini asked.
The Green Ranger turned his brown eyes on Kim. "He knows about our extracurricular activities."
Shock spread through the group. The kids instinctively moved closer to their chaperones, not sure what was happening. "Then we need to be careful," Tommy uttered.
The next morning saw everyone down in the ballroom and conference rooms at nine. Breakfast had been in the restaurant an hour and a half before. Now, the teams were getting any last minute schedule changes and signing in for their first events.
"What's the verdict?" Tanya asked. Jason and Tommy didn't look happy, and their displeasure was spreading over the team's link.
"Kim, Billy and I are facing Mike and two others from the New York team in the Team Ninja Competition," Tommy told her. Tanya paled.
"Then I say let Kim kick his ass," Trini commented. "If she's going to get over what happened, she's got to face this head on."
"Trini's right," Zack commented. "Knowing Kim as well as we all do that's the only way she'll be free of it, and of him."
All eyes turned to where Kim stood with Justin, Kat, Aisha and the kids. "I'll be the one to tell her," Tommy spoke, and then turned toward his girlfriend.
The group of Rangers held their breath as Tommy pulled Kimberly aside. Aisha and Kat moved over to the others, confused looks on their faces until Jason silently told them what Tommy was telling Kim. Each of them felt their hearts break a little more when they saw Kim bury her face in Tommy's chest.
Round 1 – Team Ninja Competition
Kim trembled as she, Billy and Tommy stretched near the ring for the Team Ninja Competition. Her boyfriend's anger was rolling off him in tangible waves while Billy's nerves were almost drowning her own out. She watched Jason pacing, with Trini and Zack trying to calm him. The trio had finished their fight an hour ago, barely scrapping by a victory. Taking a deep breath, the Pink Ranger tried to stead herself. Closing her eyes, she let herself push everything around her out of her mind. She could sense Adam and Kat heading toward Tommy, while Justin and Rocky crouched down with Billy. Kat, Tanya and Justin had lost their match, and were eliminated, while Rocky, Adam and Aisha had dominated their match. Kim couldn't help but smile when she thought about that – those three were known for being successful at team competitions. When Aisha and Tanya crouched down with her, she jumped in surprise.
"Nervous?" Tanya asked, reaching out to run a soothing hand down Kim's arm.
"Yes, but not for the reason's you'd expect," the Pink Ranger hastily explained.
"He's not stupid enough to go against Tommy, and he could care less about facing Billy; it's you he wants."
When Kim opened her eyes, she noticed Tanya was glaring at Aisha, who was staring at Kimberly's face. "I know that, Sha."
"Be smart," the Yellow Ninja warned.
The careful, serious brown eyes of the Pink Ranger turned to stare into the intense gaze of one of her best friends. "I've faced my demons, Aisha. I'm where I always wanted to be. He can't break my wings a second time, not if I won't let him. What he put me through, both real and imaginary, I won't let him do it again."
Aisha said nothing, just nodding, while Tanya reached out to hug Kim. "We love you," Tanya murmured. "Remember that."
"Red Ninja Martial Arts, you're up," one of the organizers spoke to the group, who slowly came together. Kat's cousin Cece sat with the kids in the stands, all of whom looked tense and nervous.
"This is it," Justin whispered, reaching out to take Kim's hand and give it a squeeze.
"Good luck," Trini bid the three who were soon standing facing one another. In a display only ever seen by each other, the trio fisted their hands over their hearts, shot them into the circle they formed, and then bent their arms upward at the elbow. No one but the Rangers noticed the pink, blue or white sparks of energy that accompanied their actions.
The three Ninjas soon moved out of the circle of their friends and climbed into the ring, bowing to their opponents. Mike stayed in the ring while Kim and Billy had to both talk Tommy into stepping out. "Why?" he demanded, his face blatantly sharing his anger.
"Because he's expecting you or Billy to fight him, not me," Kim explained. "If anybody deserves to kick his ass, it's me." Her voice was firm, strong, and killing any argument Tommy could think of.
The White Ranger begrudgingly nodded and slipped between the ropes with Billy. "You're going to face me, Pink Crane?" Mike leered at her. "I'm surprised." Kim's face betrayed nothing. She blocked his punches and kicks with scary accuracy before she pulled off a maneuver that had him flying into the ropes, impressed that she was using her Ranger moves in civilian form. "Now, now, Kimmie, what would old Z say if he knew you were using your Ranger moves?"
"First of all, he'd wish you to hell. Second, he's not here, so we'll never know. Third, I learned these moves after my days in spandex." That said, Kim spun around, faking a side kick while ducking down to leg sweep him. She smiled in satisfaction as his body thumped down onto the mat and he let out a groan.
"Point for Red."
Tommy and Billy shared a surprised but excited look. "I didn't know she had that in her," Tommy murmured in wonder, his eyes following Kim's every move.
Billy just grinned. Kim always had been the one to spring surprises on people. "Kimberly is full of avenues we'd never known before. Looks like I'm up." The Blue Ranger grinned, jumping into the ring as Kim came out to rest.
Kim laughed and bumped her fist against Tommy's. "Thanks. I don't think he was expecting me to fight back that much."
"Apparently not," Tommy responded, grinning like a mad man.
Swallowing hard, Kim reached over and laid her hand on Tommy's arm. "I know you wanted a piece of him. Thank you for letting me fight my own battle."
The White Ranger nodded. "I didn't want to, but I know you had to. And I'm proud of you."
"Your turn," Kim replied as Billy came out and Tommy went in.
On the edge of the ring, Trini and Zack did everything they could to occupy Jason's attention. The Green Ranger was ready to pulverize Mike, despite the fact that the first round had gone to Kim. "She doesn't need your feelings on top of her own, and Tommy's," Trini scolded her childhood friend.
Jason glared at her. "He hurt her, Trini. Am I supposed to sit back and just forget that happened?"
"Don't think I don't remember that, but Jason, she's got to grow up sometime. You can't protect her forever."
The Green Ranger's feelings of inadequacy and fear for his little sister found their way across his and Trini's mutual link. "Trini…"
"I know," she reassured him.
"Go Kim!" Justin called as the Pink Ranger slipped back into the ring against Mike.
"You're going down, little girl," Mike laughed, swinging out at her, only to have her block it. "I'll make you beg, on hands and knees, for me to spare you, for me to take you."
Kim rolled her eyes. "Wrong time and place," she taunted back. "And besides that, I could have you crawling for me."
"Kim! LOOK OUT!" Tanya called out in warning, just a fraction of a second too late to be of help to her teammate.
Billy had to restrain Tommy when Mike's foot smashed into Kim's face, her nose immediately pouring blood everywhere as she flew to the mat. "Oh God!" Kat cried out.
Kimberly lay on the ground, groaning, her head spinning dangerously every time she opened her eyes. She struggled not to swallow the blood, and turned on her side, so that she was almost curled into a ball. She took several deep breaths, trying to center her focus on the world around her and not the pain of her injury. As she did so, she reached out to reassure the others over their link that she was fine. Carefully, with the applause of the crowd, she pushed herself to her knees.
"Ms. Hart?" the referee asked.
"I'm fine, just give me a second," Kim mumbled, reaching up to pinch her nose to stop the bleeding.
"Pick a teammate to continue for you," he told her sternly.
She saw Mike watching her intently, gloating when his eyes met hers. 'I'm done holding Tommy back. Mike is about to learn the meaning of pain,' she thought wickedly to herself. "I pick Tommy."
Gasps went up from the Rangers as Tommy eased into the ring. The first thing he did was help Kim to her feet and out of the ring before he turned and faced Mike. "Ready Tommy?" Mike taunted.
"He's a dead man," Justin uttered from the side of the ring where he stood with Rocky and Adam.
"Oh yeah," Rocky responded.
Tommy and Mike bowed to each other before they both stepped back. "Going to avenge your little pink whore?" Mike hissed, just low enough for only Tommy to hear as they circled one another.
For once, Tommy didn't respond verbally, he just moved forward, channeling all his training into defeating Mike. He knew that letting his anger direct his moves would almost surely result in him losing the match, while giving his enemy the satisfaction in knowing he'd not only gotten to Tommy, but that he'd hurt Kimberly.
Mike found himself becoming increasingly frustrated with the White Ranger, who was only fighting the match, not letting their outside differences interfere with the fight. 'Father, this isn't working!' he thought, his message going to his father via their personal connection.
'Retreat for now, I have a plan' a voice hissed in reply.
"Point for Red! Match!" the ref called, stopping the fight.
Mike and Tommy bowed before rejoining their teams, but not before Mike uttered, "This isn't over, Oliver," as he exited the ring.
Tommy stared him straight in the eyes and coldly spoke, "I'm counting on it." After parting, Tommy moved over and knelt before Kim, who was sitting with Aisha and Kat. Her bloodied uniform top was off, revealing a pink sports bra. Aisha was holding a rag to her face to staunch the bleeding while Kat was carefully wiping the Pink Ranger's face with a wet cloth. "Are you alright?" he gently asked.
"He just bruised my pride," she told him, her voice muffled by the rag, as she reached out to cup his cheek with her clean hand.
It was then that the hotel was suddenly rocked by an explosion and someone shouted, "We're under attack!"
The Rangers rushed out of the building and looked up into the Sydney skyline. Right there for all to see was a large, black and silver ship, and from an opening in the ship, a horde of Quadrafighters were flying out. As the fighters descended, the ship began to disappear from sight until it was completely gone.
"Looks like a job for those of us with aerial Zords," Kim sighed, removing the rag she held to her face. Swiping a hand across her nose, she sighed when she saw the bleeding had pretty much stopped.
"Jason, Zack and Kim, you're with me. The rest of you, keep the civilians calm and watch out for the kids. Tanya, you're in charge," Tommy issued orders.
With a nod from the others, the four raced off across the grounds. Seconds later, four high flying Zords streaked across the sky, followed by four multi-colored suited figures leaping up from the group.
A short distance away, a dark cloaked figure stood, an evil smile spreading across its lips, which was the only facial feature visible under the hood. "Bye bye, pesky Rangers."
The team had no time to react when they suddenly found themselves disappearing.
"Game plan?" Zack wanted to know as the four Rangers maneuvered their high-flying Zords through the air.
"I…um…I haven't got the slightest idea, to be honest," Tommy chuckled.
"How about we draw them away from the city?" Kim spoke up, her tone definitely telling the guys they were being dense.
Jason grinned inside his helmet. "Bringing up a topography map now." The Green Ranger punched a series of buttons on the console in front of him. The three dimensional map came up in front of him, giving him a good view of the surrounding area. "We've got a mountain range to the west," he all but laughed.
"You two up to finding how far you can push your Zords?" Kim's amused voice could be heard by all.
"I'm game," Jason cracked.
"Always," Zack's laughter echoed through their communications line.
"Zack, you're with Kim. Jason, you're with me," Tommy ordered. "BREAK!"
The four Zords broke into two groups, and drew the Quadrafighters' fire and attention away from the city. Zack was in the middle of a barrel roll when his Zord was rocked by an explosion. "SHIT!" he yelled, struggling to right his flaming Eagle Zord. His left hand held the control column while his right hand began to punch a series of buttons, his object to stop the fire on his Zord.
"Zack!" Kim all but demanded he respond.
"They hit the tail! I have no idea how much damage they did, I'm still trying to put the fire out before I lose control," he ground out between gritted teeth.
"Hang on, let me take a look," Kim's voice echoed in his cockpit. He watched on his computers as Kim flew the Crane Zord as close to his tail end as she could.
"Superficial. We won't know the extent of the damage until we start pulling a few maneuvers a few thousand feet higher."
Grumbling under his breath, Zack nodded though he knew she couldn't see him. And then he got a good look at the horizon before him and his computer, which showed the Quadrafighters gaining on them. "Guess we're about to find out, we're almost to the mountains."
"If you eject, make sure you turn on your homing beacon so I can grab you when we're done."
"Smart ass," she laughingly muttered, even as she felt her stomach tighten at the sight of the Eagle Zord steadily climbing higher. "Here we go."
Not far away, Jason and Tommy were out-flying the bulky Quadrafighters at every turn. Both the Falcon and Dragon Zords had sustained laser fire hits, but neither was critically damaged.
"How are we doing?" Jason called out as he rolled his Zord to the left to avoid falling debris.
"So far so good," Tommy grinned under his helmet. "Any sign of Kim or Zack?"
Jason pushed a button on his console and swore. "Looks like Zack took a good hit to his tail. He and Kim are about five minutes behind us."
"Let's take these guys out and set a trap for the ones gunning for Kim and Zack."
"Tommy, we've got military planes headed in our direction," Jason notified his best friend.
"This is the Royal Australian Air Force. You are unidentified crafts in our airspace. Identify yourselves."
Both Rangers rolled their eyes. "This is the White and Green Rangers."
"I said, identify yourselves!" the pilot ordered. "You have ten seconds to do so, or you will be considered hostile craft and shot down."
Jason chuckled when Tommy started cursing under his breath. "Plan, Bro?"
"Let them catch up," Tommy sighed. "It'll be hard to argue when they see a giant White Falcon and a Green Dragon in mid-flight."
"So you say."
"Sounds like they've spotted us," Jason sarcastically informed Tommy.
The White Ranger just shook his head. "Look, you need to head back to your home base, Pilot. We're being chased by Quadrafighters. The Pink and Gold Rangers are luring them into a trap even as we speak. We'd hate for you and your fighters to get caught in the crossfire."
"Yes Sir. We'll evacuate the area immediately," the pilot responded.
Both Rangers sighed in relief. "Thank you. Rangers out," Tommy uttered.
"Its done, my lord," Scorpina spoke up as she entered the bridge. "Michael has sent all but Gold, Green, Pink and White into the desert."
"Good. As soon as they land, Scorpina, begin phase two of Master Vile's plan," Ivan ordered.
"Yes my lord."
"Go ahead Alpha."
"Ai yi yi! Kimberly, the others have disappeared from our scanners," Alpha 5 informed the Pink Ranger.
"What?" Zack's voice cut into the conversation as he and Kimberly continued to try and take out the Quadrafighters.
There was a pause before the android started again. "One minute they were at the hotel, and now they're gone. Alpha 6 is trying to find their energy signatures, but we can't. It's as if they just vanished into thin air."
Kim mouthed a cuss word and slammed her fist against the wall of her cockpit. "Alpha 5 alert Tommy and Jason. Zack and I are slightly busy at the moment."
"Of course. Command out."
"Kim?" Zack tentatively called.
Heaving a sigh, Kim turned her head toward Zack's Zord. Through the glass of the cockpits, they locked gazes. "Zack, can you still fire your rockets?"
The Gold Ranger grinned sardonically under his helmet. "Wing-tip rockets are operational."
"Good. Let's go."
The four walked into the lobby and found Kat's cousin with the kids. "Is everyone alright?" Kim asked.
"Kim!" the kids called out, racing toward her. The Martin kids immediately hugged her, holding on tight. She frowned when she felt them tremble and did her best to physically reassure them that they were alright by hugging them close.
"The others are missing," Cece explained, worry in her voice and suspicion in her eyes.
Jason moved closer to her, taking her arm firmly in his hand until she turned to look at him. "Are you sure?" he demanded.
"Positive," she spoke firmly. "My father has looked everywhere, there's no sign of them."
Zack stepped closer to her then, hoping to ease her fears. "Monster attacks aren't new to them; Angel Grove has them all the time," he pointed out. "They're probably still hiding."
Tommy remained silent through it all, his eyes taking in their surroundings and who might be listening to them. When he saw a dark figure in a shadowed corner, his eyes narrowed and his instincts kicked into overdrive. "Cece, how busy are you?"
"Not very, why?"
"Can we leave the kids with you? We're going to have to go and look for the others, and I don't want the kids getting lost in the process," Tommy explained.
"Sure. Dad's cancelled the rest of the day's events. Can I take them sight-seeing?"
Tommy smiled at that, hoping to put her at ease. "That's perfect." Turning to the kids, he addressed them. "Guys, listen to Ms. Hillard. We're going to try and see if we can find the others."
The six kids nodded and headed to their rooms to change and grab their backpacks. Once they were out of earshot, Cece started in on the Rangers. "Alright, what's going?" she insisted on knowing. "They just up and disappeared."
"We're going to find them," Jason tried to reassure her.
Shaking her head helplessly, she whispered, "Does this have to do with Tanya and Kat having been Zeo Rangers?"
The four stared at her in shocked silence. No one but their parents and Ernie, though it was still suspicion there, knew about their secret. "Say what?" Zack croaked.
"You didn't know?" Cece asked, a sinking feeling in her stomach at having given away Kat and Tanya's secret.
"We knew; how did you?" Jason all but barked.
"I found their Zeonizers on Kat's dresser in high school, when I came for a visit. I'm not stupid, I figured it out. They never told me the full story until just before my graduation. Let me guess, you all were teammates?"
Kim smiled and nodded, hoping to ease the taller brunette's mind. "Cece, we're going to find them, I promise. We've got help." With that, the Pink Ranger held up her communicator.
"Oh God," the Aussie's eyes grew wide and filled with tears.
"We'll be back soon, just watch the kids for us, please," Tommy pleaded with her.
"Of course. You just be careful."
"Adam?" Tanya called for her husband. When she got no response, she tried shouting for the others. "Kat? Justin? GUYS!"
The Purple Ranger spun around, a slight panic filling her. The group, minus Kim, Tommy, Jason and Zack had been together when they'd been transported to wherever they were. Now, she was alone. Tapping her communicator, she tried to contact the base. All she got was static. "Not good."
"No, it's not, little Panther."
Tanya's body went on alert and her blood froze. "Who's there?" She had a pretty good idea, but she wanted to be sure she could draw her opponent out.
"Just your friendly, neighborhood psychopath," the voice whispered in her ear, causing her to shiver.
The Purple Ranger swung out with her arm, only to find no one was behind her. "SHOW YOURSELF!" she demanded.
"I think not," the voice laughed. "Have fun finding your way home." Seconds later, her world went black.
Kim shivered when the four Zords streaked away, leaving the four Rangers standing in the middle of the Australian Outback. "Someone want to explain how the hell we're supposed to find the others?" Zack wanted to know.
"Alpha 5 said the last trace of the others was out here," Tommy reminded him.
"How was he able to trace them?" Jason asked, still slightly confused on the technical aspects of what Alpha had done while they'd been looking for the others.
Kim touched his arm and smiled. "Kat and I are still connected, even though she has her own animal spirit now."
The Green Ranger nodded. Kat and Kim would probably always have that connection, he surmised, because they'd shared an intense power on such intimate levels at one time. While he, Zack and Trini had shared powers with Rocky, Adam and Aisha, it had never been on the same level that the Pink and Orange Rangers had. The Ninjetti powers were far more connected to their owners than the original Ranger powers had been.
"What now, oh fearless leader?" Zack questioned Tommy.
"Jason and Zack, head east. Kim and I will go west. If you don't find anything in the next three hours, meet back here and we'll go from there," commanded the White Ranger as he handed out their orders.
The other three simply nodded and followed his plan, splitting into two groups.
An hour and a half into their trek, Jason and Zack stopped to rest. The Green Ranger paced back and forth like a caged tiger while the Gold Ranger sat on a rock and rested. "Jase, pacing isn't going to find her any faster. Besides that, you're making me dizzy and scaring the hell out of me."
The Green Ranger had the grace to blush at his friend's words. He stopped pacing and turned to face Zack. Staring at one of his childhood best friends, he could only wonder how said friend was dealing with the situation. "You okay?"
"Worried," Zack admitted. "We haven't exactly had too many group tests of being split up where we didn't know what was on the other side waiting for us."
Jason nodded and turned to scan the horizon. The sun was directly more than past overhead by then, telling him it was later in the afternoon. "Let's head back," he finally spoke up. When he got no response he turned back to Zack, only to discover that the Gold Ranger was no longer with him. "Zack!"
"Time to see what you're made of, little pathetic dragon. Good luck!" a voice hissed in his ear before the world went dark.
"Okay, I'm getting worried," Kim huffed as she and Tommy stopped.
"They're here somewhere. It's sand and hills, Kim, they won't be hard to spot," Tommy reassured her.
The Pink Ranger glared at her boyfriend. "Guess what, oh fearless one? You forgot one key element."
"And that is?"
The White Ranger found he had no comeback for that. "Good point." Spotting a fairly decent sized boulder, Kim bounced over to sit down, her feet finally having had enough and her head swimming. Closing her eyes, she leaned back. "Beautiful, are you alright?"
"Dizzy from the nose bleed," she told him. "What I wouldn't give for a pool right now." After a few minutes and no response from Tommy, Kim opened her eyes and found him no where in sight. "TOMMY!"
"No one can save you now, Pink whore. Have fun in the Outback!" Before the Pink Ranger could react, her world went dark.
Groaning at the stifling heat surrounding her, the blonde haired Orange Ranger rolled onto her back and opened her eyes. Looking around, she noticed the dense jungle she was laying in. "What the hell?" she muttered, pushing up on her elbows. "How'd I get from the hotel to a jungle?"
Worry and fear shot through her, causing her to bring her left wrist up. Her eyes widened when she saw the limb devoid of her communicator. "You've got to be kidding me."
Fully sitting up, she reached behind her and found her morpher missing as well. "Oh, shit." She brought her hands up to cover her face while she tried to think logically about her situation. She fought back the panic, but it was getting increasingly hard not to want to sit there and have a good cry. It had been a long time now, since she'd felt this powerless.
"Trust your heart."
Kat's head snapped up and she looked around the small clearing she was in for a source for the voice she'd just heard and found none. Shaking her head, she wondered if the panic was making her hear things.
"Trust you heart."
She knew she'd heard that voice, and still no one was with her in the clearing. "Trust my heart?" she muttered in question. "Okay."
Shaking her head, the Orange Ranger pushed to her feet and took in her surroundings. Closing her eyes, she let her heart guide her. Feeling a familiar tug on her link with the others, she smiled. Turning toward a barely visible path in the foliage, Kat plunged into the unknown.
The first thing the Red Ranger's eyes took in was the ground, far, far below him. The second thing his eyes noticed was the tree branch he was precariously perched on, the one that was all that was standing between him and a long, hard fall.
"HOLY SHIT!" he freaked out, before his common sense kicked in and told him to calm down. "I hate trees," he uttered crossly, his mind momentarily going back to the one time as a child when Aisha had dared him to climb a tree and he'd fallen and nearly broken his neck. Carefully, so as not to fall, he climbed down the tree, finding himself in a cold, dense forest.
"Guys?" he called out for his friends, hoping one of them was nearby. "Guys! This isn't funny!" he yelled.
When no one answered, he felt a spear of panic stab his gut. Bringing up his wrist, he felt that panic slide into terror when he saw his communicator wasn't where it should have been. As if by chance, he reached for his morpher and felt his stomach tighten even more when he discovered he didn't have it. His first thought was to look around the clearing for them both, but deep down, he knew he wouldn't find them. "No communicator, no morpher, means I'm on my own," he sighed heavily.
"Trust your instincts."
Rocky's head snapped up and he peered around the small clearing surrounding the tree. There was no trace of a person being anywhere near him, no movement in the bushes of even any animal that could be intelligent enough to have spoken those words. "You're seriously going crazy, Rocko," he told himself.
"Trust your instincts."
One eyebrow cocked, Rocky uttered, "You've got to be kidding." Shaking his head, he did the only thing he could think of – he sat on the ground and began to meditate. Closing his eyes, he opened all his other sense to the world around him. It was then that he felt the faint tug on his link with the others, particularly Aisha and Adam. Jumping up, he headed off into the forest in the direction he knew that tug was coming from.
"The job is done," Mike cracked, grinning like a maniac as he walked into his father's quarters.
"One phase is, yes," Master Vile told him, smiling. "Now, if Ooze can get his act together, we'll be able to go ahead with out other plan."
"I want them both to suffer – him to watch me make her mine completely, and her to watch me kill him, slowly."
Vile's smile was even more wicked than before. "In due time, my son, in due time. For now, we wait for the others to perish, so that they don't interfere with our plans."
"It won't be long; they're in the desert, distracted by dark magic. They won't survive long out there without food and water."
"Good, let's begin the next phase of our plans."
"Are you sure, Alpha?" the question from the Red Space Ranger had the android nodding. If he'd had eyes, Alpha 5 knew he'd have probably rolled them at Andros.
"I'm positive. We lost contact with Tommy, Jason, Zack and Kim about four hours ago. Just like the others, their energy signatures just up and vanished."
The Red Space Ranger sighed heavily and sat back in his chair. "All right. Lost Galaxy is helping us repair the Megaship now. Trey and Aurico are on standby, and I've had Leo call Carter and Wes. All of the teams are on standby at this point."
It still amazed Alpha that humans had finally tapped into the Morphin' Grid without assistance from alien technology. It was even more incredible that he'd managed to keep them a secret from Zordon's Rangers, but it had been Zordon's wish that those who'd served under him would be able to lead peaceful normal lives after their time in uniform was over. If Alpha knew one thing, it was going to be that the Morphin Rangers weren't going to be happy about being kept in the dark, especially given how many teams were actually on Earth now.
"Alpha 5, have you even told them about the others?" Andros suddenly asked.
"No," the little android responded. "They're dealing with enough as it is, I couldn't heap on the fact that there have been three other teams since yours without angering them. They'll be told in due time, but for now, can I please have those frequencies?"
Andros nodded, though he didn't agree with Alpha; Tommy and Jason both would be upset that they hadn't been told. "Transmitting now."
"Thank you, Andros. Alpha 5 out."
The dread welled so fiercely and so fast that she didn't have time to shove it down. Her heart felt empty and the warm feeling that she'd had in the pit of her stomach since she and Tommy had gotten back together was gone. She couldn't sense Jason's constant reassurance or Trini's calming presence. Vaguely, she could feel Tommy and Billy, but every time she tried to grab onto it, the feeling seemed to disappear like smoke.
"This can't be happening," she uttered in disbelief, closing her eyes and wrapping her arms around herself. Everything she'd learned in therapy fled, everything she'd worked so hard to hold onto and get over was drown out by the sheer intensity of fear.
"Trust your heart, Kimberly," a soft voice whispered, the sound floating to her ears gently.
"What?" she called out, eyes opening as she spun around in a circle. No one was there, which made her feel even more alone that before. She could have sworn…
"Trust your heart; it will never steer you wrong."
"Trust my heart?" she repeated out loud. How could she trust her heart? The voice was wrong, it had steered her wrong, once, a long time ago. She was still dealing with the consequences of that misstep; she wasn't about to trust something that had led her down a path she never wanted to travel ever again.
The voice came again, this time more insistent. "The heart always leads you back to where you belong."
Closing her eyes again, the Pink Ranger attempted to block everything else around her out save for the steady beat of her own heart. 'Tommy? Billy?' she reached out along the Rangers' common path to the two she could just barely feel. A sudden tug on her heart sent her off in the direction she knew they were in.
After hours of climbing around in the deserted mountains, Justin let out a frustrated sigh and sat down on the ground in a spot clear of snow and pine needles. He was lost, tired, hungry, and irritated. He hadn't seen any sign of his friends since they'd disappeared from the hotel together.
He kept telling himself he was a Power Ranger, and this was par for the course, but he couldn't keep the swelling terror completely down. He had no communicator, no morpher, and it was as if the link shared between him and the others was suddenly gone, which he'd thought was impossible given the magic that bound them together.
"I hate this!" he hissed, jumping up and kicking a nearby boulder. He let out a gasp of shock when he felt phantom arms around him and Kat's soothing voice in his ears. "Kat? Tanya?" he murmured, closing his eyes. His adopted parents and sister meant the world to him, but Kat and Tanya had been the first to be friend, mother and sister, to be family to him after the death of his own some years before. As close as he was to Kim, Trini and Aisha, he was closer to the two women who had first taken him under their wings.
"Trust your mind, Justin."
He spun around, looking for signs of whomever had said that but found none. "The hell you mean 'trust my mind'? I'm losing what's left of it."
"Trust, and you shall see."
He felt suddenly calm and then vaguely felt the girls. Shaking his head, the Beige Ranger took off running for the bottom of the mountain.
Billy's logical mind told him there was no way he could have gone from the hotel to a forest in the blink of an eye. The part of him that had come to truly believe in the magic of being a Power Ranger knew it was more than possible. For once, he closed down the scientific part of himself and opened his senses to the world around him. He felt the light breeze, smelled the pine trees, heard the chatter of squirrels and the chirps of the birds, but there was no one save himself in the clearing.
"Okay, the most logical place for everyone to be is where?" he asked himself out loud as he looked around. It was then that he realized that not only did he not have his communicator or morpher but he couldn't feel Trini, or any of the other Rangers. Alarm began to spread through him. Swallowing hard, he closed his eyes and dug down into his well of power. He still couldn't feel them the way he had at the hotel; when they were together at the hotel, it was like carrying a bright, shinning star inside of his heart, and now it felt like a lightning bug in a jar, slowly dying. He could feel faint traces of Tommy and Kimberly's power, and almost chucked it up to the fact that they were the most bonded, therefore their powers were undeniably stronger to locate, but somehow he knew better.
"Trust your mind."
Billy blinked and looked around for the source of the voice. He still saw no one though he knew he'd heard a voice. "Hello?" he called out. "Anyone there?"
No one answered, causing Billy to shiver. "Trust your mind," he heard the voice whisper again.
"What?" he muttered. Blinking, he thought about the words the voice kept saying. 'Trust my mind?' Quietly, he looked around, began calculating the wind factor, the probability of direction, and once he was satisfied, he headed off in the direction, straight into the forest, that he believed the others were in.
The first thing to pierce the darkness was the soreness that sank bone deep. The second was the smell of pine trees and the brisk coldness nipping the air. With a groan, the Green Ranger cracked an eye open and looked at the world around him. "Desert to Forest and Mountains, gotta love it," he groaned as he rolled onto his chest before pushing up to his feet.
Looking around, Jason knew in his heart that the others wouldn't be anywhere near him, not after the way they'd all suddenly disappeared; naturally they'd be separated from each other. Lifting his arm, his jaw dropped when he noticed his communicator was gone. When he reached around for his morpher, he almost instantly knew it wouldn't be there. "Rita's island all over again," he huffed. As he searched the immediate area for signs of the others, he thought about his situation. He knew that eventually he was going to need food and shelter, given the time of day and the cold winds that seemed to drill right through his karate uniform.
"Trust your instincts."
Letting out a sigh, Jason stood perfectly still, closed his eyes, evened out his breathing, and opened his senses. Almost immediately, he felt a slight tug from Trini and a fainter one from Zack, but none from the others. When he reached out to his childhood best friends, to use that link between them to find them, he felt the link itself just simply fade away and shut off. Something was going on, and he intended to find out what.
"Trust your instincts."
Opening his eyes, Jason looked at the well beaten path up the mountain and then the barely visible one leading through the forest and down into the valley beyond. Decision time. While normally he'd have gone up the mountain, something was tugging on him, pulling him toward that downward path.
With a shaky breath, Dulcea sank to her knees. Dizziness rocketed through her, making her stomach clench as her last meal attempted to revisit her, and leaving her weaker than she'd ever felt before. To ease the tension in her body, and attempt to hold down her food, she took several deep, cleansing breaths before she opened her eyes. The light blue figure before her had knelt as well, and she could feel his power arcing between them, feeding her what strength he could even though he was not physically with her.
"Dulcea?" Her name was whispered so softly she almost hadn't heard him. She smiled sadly when he reached out to touch her cheek and only felt a whisper of his power.
"Six have been set on their course, but it should not have taken that much energy, even this far away," she wheezed out finally, noting that she still felt unstable after having given so much of herself to help their young charges.
"When you started, there was no dark magic attacking you," he explained. "While you were under, your body seized."
"Master Vile," she stated, watching him nod. "And something else. I felt it, there on the edges, just waiting to strike."
"The youngest of his brood," the figure told her. "And unfortunately, he's the most normal and yet, the most psychotic."
Dulcea's eyes darkened. "Normal? One of Vile's children? It's just not possible."
He nodded. "I'm afraid so. He's the one, Dulcea, the one who clipped the Crane's wings."
Anger so fierce and so hard grabbed the Master Warrior by the throat. She would do anything in her power to damn this being, to keep him from touching the Crane once again. "Ninjor, I need to help the others. If she has any chance to be free of him…"
The Blue Ninja nodded in agreement. "Draw on my power if you must; we shall protect the Crane until the others are able once more."
"Thank you, old friend."
The second he opened his eyes, Adam swore he was on Phadoes again. The canopy of a dense jungle loomed overhead and the dark, moist scent of the jungle floor rose up around him. When he saw a Cockatiel fly overhead, he knew he was still on Earth. Sitting up, he felt the intense, empty feeling in his chest, where his heart was, where he'd always felt his friends. He blinked back the pain of their absence, unconsciously rubbing his hand over his chest, and concentrated on trying to reforge the link.
Briefly, his connection to Rocky and Aisha flared to life, but by the time he tried to trace it, the feeling had disappeared. He was left once again feeling lonely and incomplete.
"Trust your heart."
Spinning around, the Black Ranger looked for the owner of the voice. His gaze narrowed and his body tensed when he saw no one. He knew that voices often had owners, and seldom came from the dead with advice like that. It mad him suspicious.
"Trust your heart."
He had a seriously sarcastic reply for that on the tip of his tongue – how was he supposed to trust his empty heart? He couldn't feel his friends or his wife, he was lost and upon further inspection, much to his dismay he was missing both morpher and communicator. "Right, this isn't good," he muttered crossly.
"Adam, trust your heart."
He frowned; he knew that voice from somewhere! Taking a deep breath, Adam closed his eyes and dug deep for the power he knew in his heart resided in his body. It was then that the bond between him, Aisha and Rocky flared to life again. He gave a gasp and had just enough time to get a general direction from it before the link faded out again. With a grin, he tore off down the unseen path towards his friends.
As far as her keen eyes could see, Trini saw barren plains in all directions. She knew it wasn't impossible, but she'd been in a large city, and she knew there was no place like this remotely close to where she'd been. Quietly, she sat down and logically went over everything in her head. They'd been at the hotel with the kids while Tommy, Jason, Zack and Kim had gone out on a mission to draw the Quadrafighters away from Sydney and destroy them. Next thing she knew, she was in the middle of what looked like a barren version of the African Plains. There wasn't an animal or person in sight. "At this point, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if my animal spirit suddenly showed up," she cracked to herself, chuckling a little.
Reaching for her wrist, she felt her heart suddenly freeze – no communicator where there should have been one. "Wow, Vile and Ooze are taking a page out of Rita's book now. I'll bet I don't have my morpher either." She didn't bother to act surprised when she didn't find the object in question. Slowly letting the air leave her lungs before dragging it back in, the Turquoise Ranger attempted to even her breathing and enter a meditative state.
"Trust your mind."
Large, almond colored eyes widened as the pretty Asian Ranger looked around her. No one was even remotely close enough to her to have spoken those words so softly in her ear. "I'm losing my mind, hearing voices that aren't there." Shaking her head, Trini closed her eyes again and dug for her power. Nothing happened. The place in her soul where her friends were a constant was empty; it felt strange after months of never truly feeling alone to have gone back to that.
"Trust your mind."
Her eyes snapped open a second time as she looked around. Tentatively she called out, "Hello?"
"Trust your mind, Trini."
This time, the voice was accompanied by a sudden flair of familiar power – Jason and Zack. Scrambling to her feet, Trini reached for the link only to find it fading before she could get more than a taste. Gritting her teeth, the Turquoise Ranger replayed the surge of power to herself, over and over again, and then began a dangerous sprint in the direction it had come from.
Tanya felt the moist heat saturate her skin. One second she was in the desert, the next she was in a jungle, practically in a sauna. "I know this isn't right," she grumbled. "Guys? Adam? Kat? ANYBODY?"
When no one answered, she immediately moved to use her communicator to find them, only to discover her communicator wasn't there. "Wonderful," she huffed out. Reaching behind her, she found her morpher missing as well. "Damn it, I'm all on my own."
"Trust your instincts."
Blinking in surprise, Tanya spun around, expecting someone to be there. No one was, which set her on alert. "Hello? Is somewhere there? Can you help me?"
When the only answer she received was eerie silence, Tanya reached for her Ninja Powers, only to feel them blocked, along with any hope of finding the others. However, the power briefly lit up in her soul, smacking of familiar presences. Kat. Justin.
"Trust your instincts."
Shrugging, and without a second thought, Tanya lunged into the bushes at full speed, just like her spirit animal.
Pine trees, snow, and clear blue skies greeted Zack's eyes when they opened. He lay on the pine needle covered ground and attempted to get his bearings. For some unexplainable reason, he felt strangely empty, like he had after transferring his power to Adam years before. He clenched his eyes shut and dug deep for his Ninja powers. He felt a small wave of vibration, which he was able to identify as Jason and Trini, but other than that, nothing.
Sighing, he sat up and brought his left wrist up, only to find no communicator. "Oh hell no," he muttered, dread curling wickedly in his stomach. Reaching behind him, he began to clamp down on the panic and feat that came with discovering with his morpher missing. "Not again!" he winced.
Resigned to the situation, the Gold Ranger forced himself to his feet and looked around. The area around him looked like no human had ever touched it. There were no paths through the thick density of the trees.
"Trust your heart."
Zack's eyes narrowed as he slowly turned in circles, looking for whoever spoke. "Who's there?"
Silence followed. Zack felt the tension fill his whole body as he searched for the speaker. "Hello?"
"Trust your heart."
Pushing the chaotic feelings down, Zack pondered the words. His heart? A grim expression formed on his face. Images of the time Rita had sent the team to the Island Of Illusion came rushing back. He would never forget the helplessness of not being able to contact Zordon or being unable to morph. But the team had overcome that, by believing in themselves enough to get past their worst fears. Maybe, just maybe, this wasn't much different. His friends were his heart; the family they'd made was everything to him. A smile drifted across his lips and then he let out a gasp; he felt Jason and Trini so strongly for a second, as if they were right next to him.
Turning, Zack began making his way through the trees, hoping he'd find his friends down the path his heart was telling him to go down, and soon.
Curled on the hard ground, she awoke, groggy and disoriented. The last thing she remembered was being at the hotel, worried about those who'd gone to face their enemy. "Okay, not good," she muttered, feeling like she'd been drugged. Shaking her head, Aisha pushed herself up to a sitting position. What she found was a mountain behind her and a snow covered forest before her. Bringing her left arm up, she quickly discovered her communicator was gone. She took two calm, cleansing breaths and reached for her morpher. Gone. Her mind went blank; she knew she needed to remain calm.
"Trust your mind."
Eyes narrowed while she carefully scanned the area around her. No movement caught her eyes. 'I must be losing it' she wryly thought, shaking her head at herself. Sighing, she stood; dizziness swamped her, accompanied by the empty feeling in her chest. 'Guys?' she called out over their link, only to find the link was empty. 'Rocky? Adam?' No response and her blood ran cold.
"Trust your mind, Mother Bear."
Aisha gasped softly, recognizing the voice. Trust her mind? Pursing her lips, she let her eyes roam the forest. Almost invisible among the snow and fallen trees, her eyes spotted a path, no bigger than a foot width in size, leading into the vegetation. With determination filling her, Aisha began to make her way down the path.
He was home. That was the first thought that popped into his head. He was standing on the same mountain where he'd discovered his true heritage and his brother years before. The sun beat down the same, the air smelled the same, and he could see the animals moving to find shade from the sun. But despite the similarities, there was one blaring difference – something inside felt empty. He'd felt so full the day he'd discovered his past, but he didn't feel that way now.
He and Kim had just been talking about her nosebleed, he remembered, and now she was gone and he was supposedly all the way back in Stone Canyon. Something wasn't right. Turning, he called to his friends but found an eerie silence bouncing back at him from where they should have been. Swallowing, Tommy frantically reached for Kimberly and felt nothing. He jerked his wrist upwards and moaned in disbelief when he saw no communicator. Instinct alone kept him from reaching for his morpher, knowing it wouldn't be there. This had happened before, once, a long time ago. Even as memories swept him away, he heard the voice.
"Trust your instincts."
His body went taut; he knew that voice. Turning carefully, he scanned the mountain around him for the familiar figure. He found no one. Grumbling under his breath, Tommy carefully made his way off the mountain to the desert below. Sam's and David's house wasn't far away, he'd just hike there. Even as he made the hike down, the landscape changed. Stopping after ten minutes, he grunted his anger and looked around. It was as if he'd made no progress.
"Trust your instincts."
Closing his eyes, Tommy centered himself, his mind forming a plan of action, and then he felt Kim and Billy across their link. His eyes snapped open, blazing white, and he leapt off the mountain before landing lightly on his feet. Surprise was still there even as he began to sprint away.
Ninjor gasped when Dulcea collapsed in the center of the circle of power they'd called. "Dulcea?"
"I've done all I can," she rasped weakly. "It's up to them now."
Nodding, the Blue Ninja closed his eyes and shot his power out of his body, hurling it toward the Rangers.
Master Vile growled. "That wretched witch Dulcea and bumbling ninja Ninjor are trying to help them!"
"I thought you said they wouldn't make it out of this?" Mike demanded. "I want to torture the two of them with no interference!"
Master Vile rounded on his son, snarling. "Don't take that tone with me, you insignificant offspring. They may have gotten help, but that doesn't mean they'll escape!"
Mike stood watching as his father stormed from the room. His father was a prime example of why the Rangers had always won – he underestimated them and overestimated himself. The humans were a rare species – they hardly gave up, they made the sacrifice of self when all other options were extinguished, and they loved selflessly. It would take time, but his plan to undermine their faith, their courage, and their trust in one another, but he would. He'd succeed where others had failed.
He'd destroy the Rangers right down to the core.