Disclaimer: The Power Rangers and all related characters belong to Saban Entertainment. Kimberly's Miami friends, assorted family members, and Lord Zedd's origins are of my own invention. If you'd like to use any of them, go right ahead. © August 2001
Author's Note: Brace yourselves for another "Letter" story, heavy on the angst. While there are many stories that try to explain the Letter, I decided to give it a go, with (hopefully) a new and interesting spin, revising my story "Hart of Darkness" to better explore the possibilities with this concept. Be sure to tell me what you think!
Chapter One: The Chessboard
Sunday, February 9th
In the spacious gymnasium owned and operated by Coach Gunther Schmidt, a group of young American athletes trained for the upcoming Pan-Global Games. Many of the determined athletes had devoted their entire lives to gymnastics. Most were recruited by Coach Schmidt while yet in elementary school, and had slowly progressed into champions of the sport.
However, one young athlete amidst the talented assembly hadn't spent her youth on balance beam or uneven bars.
Coach Schmidt recruited Kimberly during a scouting trip that led him to Angel Grove, California. Though she had only trained professionally for six months, the graceful young woman quickly became one of the team's most dependable performers for the floor routine as well as the balance beam. She was the most natural of athletes, and the determination she showed at every practice enabled her to constantly improve.
But there was a character trait even more amazing to those who came to know her. No matter how strenuous the exercise or demanding the instructors, the moment she stepped away from an exercise, grim determination melted into a warm smile. Her cheerful attitude permeated everything she did, and it was contagious.
She brought out the best in the people around her.
Coach Schmidt surveyed his team of athletes as they practiced on the varied gymnastics stations. As usual, he kept a careful eye on two of the most promising gymnasts: Kimberly and her roommate Renee Ryan. Pairing the two young women was no accident; he recognized early on that they were the foundation of his team. Over his career, the German legend had coached many world-class teams, and usually, no matter how much he had tried to foster group cohesion, there was always an undeniable current of competition between his best athletes. Internal strife inevitably led to failure. Coach Schmidt had hoped to avoid conflict by putting the two girls together in the same room, and it worked. Renee and Kimberly quickly became close friends, to the point that each would be genuinely ecstatic to see the other victorious.
"Coach, it's nine o'clock."
Gunther turned at the voice of his assistant coach and right-arm, Trevor Monroe. "So it is," he realized, glancing at his wristwatch with surprise. "Then it's time to call it a day."
Gunther made his wa blew his whistle, drawing the attention of his scattered athletes.
"Okay, everyone!" he shouted in his thick accent, "Great practice by all!"
Trevor then leaned toward the Coach, and whispered something in his ear. Gunther's face eased into a grin, and he nodded in agreement.
"You've all done a phenomenal job this week," he continued, "As a reward, I'm treating you to frozen yogurts. Now hit the showers!"
The group cheered their agreement as they separated into the locker rooms.
The girl's locker room buzzed with excited chatter as the team hurried to get cleaned up and dressed in time for the treat. After all, with a strict diet, it was a rarity to indulge in sweets. Even low-fat ones.
Renee hopped out of the narrow stall after a record-breaking three-minute shower. The dark young woman wrung her thick hair in a towel as she approached her locker, grinning at Kim, who pulled a sweatshirt over her leotard.
"Not taking a shower, Kim? I hate to burst your bubble, but you don't smell springtime fresh."
Kim smirked, grabbing a sweaty towel and launching it at her roommate. Renee yelped, ducking out of the missile's way.
"I'll take one upstairs," she answered, tying her hair in a ponytail.
"So, I take it you're not joining us?"
"I can't. It's Sunday!"
Of course. The newest athlete on the team steadfastly reserved her Sunday evening for maintaining her long-distance relationship.
"Kim, you can't live your life around your boyfriend's schedule."
"It's a compromise," Kim protested. "He calls me Thursday nights, and I call him Sunday nights. Scheduling time for each other guarantees that we don't wind up playing phone-tag."
Renee exhaled slowly. "Kim, don't you think you're being a little naive? I mean, here's the deal: your boyfriend is a hot, popular guy, whose girlfriend is three thousand miles away. You may talk to him twice a week, but who do you think he's with the rest of the time? I'm pretty sure he's not sitting in his bedroom staring at a picture of you."
Kim stared her friend square in the eye. "Renee, I trust Tommy. He'd never go out with anyone behind my back."
Renee held her peace for a moment, taking in her friend's unflinching expression. Kim's always wore her feelings on her sleeve; it was easy to see just how deeply her affection for the guy ran.
She was a young woman convinced she had a rock-solid relationship… but she wouldn't be the first to get burned.
"How do you know, Kim?" Renee's voice was soft, though her words were a challenge. "I mean, don't get me wrong; I'm sure Tommy's a nice guy and all… but he lives in California. You haven't even seen him since Christmas, and who knows when you'll see him again?"
"I'm moving back to Angel Grove after the Games," Kim announced.
Renee blinked in surprise. "Since when?"
"Since I got accepted to Angel Grove University," Kim answered with a wink. "My uncle Steve offered to let me stay with him over the summer, and then I move onto campus in August. Piece of cake."
She closed her locker and smiled at her roommate, forcefully dropping the subject. "Have fun, 'Ne. Okay?"
Renee pursed her lips before a frustrated sigh could escape. She did her best to smile. "Take care, Kim."
Billions of light years distant, circling an ancient star near the center of the daunting M51 galaxy, a skull-shaped palace occupied nearly seven hundred square miles of the planet's largest continent. The monumental edifice, the envy of every would-be galactic conqueror of the past several thousand years, was the headquarters of one of the most dangerous and feared villains of the cosmos.
The dreaded Master Vile.
During a lifetime that stretched beyond the mortal memory, the warlord had conquered every viable system in the central cluster of stars in his home galaxy
Yet he wasn't satisfied. The feared emperor of the entire galaxy sought to expand his stagnant holdings into the nearby Milky Way galaxy. His first attempt was foiled by a group of children known as the Power Rangers. His only daughter, Rita Repulsa, and her husband Lord Zedd had been trying to destroy these Power Rangers for some time. Millennia, in fact… when one included Rita's long imprisonment in Zordon's space dumpster. Despite the oft-depressing failures, however, both Rita and Zedd stubbornly refused to concede defeat. That is, until a deadly threat arrived.
The Machine Empire, another absurdly powerful race of evil, had also set their sights on the planet Earth. They invaded first the moon, forcing Zedd and Rita to flee. Rita decided to bring the entire court to Master Vile's home world, where they could coordinate a joint attack against the Machines, and retake the Moon Palace, and dominance in the Milky Way's struggle for power. So for the past several months, they had taken refuge in Master Vile's palace.
However, while Rita was more than happy to briefly return to the planet of her birth, the domestic situation was loathsome to her "better half."
Damn the Fates! I am Lord Zedd… twenty-eighth of the House of Zhept, Emperor of Phlegethon and a thousand systems besides! I will not bow to that insolent fossil!
By "insolent fossil," the enraged sorcerer referred to his despised father-in-law, who had the gall to take command of Lord Zedd's palace during his brief stay in the Milky Way, and order him about like some errand boy.
That only compounded the growing irritation that boiled his blood at the thought of his wife. Though married a very short time, he found himself rapidly growing tired of her. In fact, his long-held disgust with her, that had moved him to banish her into the space dumpster again, that mysteriously evaporated after she returned to his palace, had turned his heart cold toward her once again. Her endless nagging, spoiled complaining, and impotent magic were embarrassing at best, nauseating at worst.
Why in the name of Evil did I marry that hag? he wondered, gazing down upon the murky planet beneath the winding path that circled the palace. She has always been a second-rate witch whose powers I could easily outmatch by the time I was Heir. I banished her from my sight, condemning her to imprisonment; but the next time I laid eyes upon her, I declared everlasting love, and asked for her hand. WHY??
Zedd folded his arms as his gaze drew ever inward. I do not desire Rita in any capacity whatsoever. Her very presence… her voice… sickens me. There was only one woman I desire...
The Emperor's thoughts strayed to another woman. Young and naïve, laughably weak physically, unless granted power from another source. Sickeningly sweet and pure; always dressed in bright colors and all but skipping through her short life.
Yet, the erstwhile Pink Ranger had a unique allure. She was graceful and lithe, even without the Power to augment her skills.
And despite her powerlessness, her large eyes always blazed with strength. Strength, boldness, determination… spirit. Her spirit knew no bounds, despite her Human limitations.
She had potential.
But she managed to escape when I sent Goldar to kidnap her, and make her my wife, he reflected, his anger brimming anew. The spell I had Goldar cast on her didn't work, because her heart belonged to another...
Zedd's visor began to glow scarlet as his thoughts turned to another subject. The fearless leader of the Power Rangers. The former Green Ranger, who stubbornly refused the pull of evil to fight against it.
Time after time, Zedd and Rita before him aimed to destroy the persistent thorn in their side. The green candle, green crystal, an evil clone, countless mind-altering spells… and every time, Tommy stood up again, even more powerful than before.
I will have my revenge, Zedd vowed. He was to be my champion… molded of Evil and set loose upon the galaxy. No one will weasel his way out of my ultimate design! I will find his weakness… some way to crush him. I cannot seem to destroy his flesh, but perhaps…The evil Lord paused as an utterly new idea occurred to him.
Perhaps I can destroy his spirit…
A smile pulled the raw lips hidden beneath his mask as he was taken by a sinister glee he hadn't felt since before his regrettable marriage.
His plan bloomed all at once, founded upon a strategy crueler than merciless battle or even surprise attacks.
A strategy of subtlety, founded on lies.
To Be Continued…