The problem with the moon is that it just has no atmosphere. As a matter of fact, it doesn't have much of anything, being a small, cold, dead planetoid floating in space. Any tourist would quickly grow weary of the constant vista of rocks, craters, rocks, old lava flows and more rocks. And over all of that lies the pervasive dust, dust that has never been stirred by a breath of wind. The dust covers everything and gets in everywhere. No space on the moon is free of it.
It makes housekeeping a total pain in the rear.
Rita Repulsa was a witch. Witches, as a general rule, weren't big on housekeeping. Most of them had servants, slaves, or animated whisk brooms to take care of the little things, such as cleaning, cooking, and dealing with telemarketers. However, Rita Repulsa, daughter of Master Vile and former conqueror of worlds, was no ordinary witch.
She was an excruciatingly BORED witch. Ever since the arrival of Dark Specter, she hadn't really been able to indulge herself in a truly evil, fiendish plan. The monarch of the Alliance of Evil had claimed Earth for himself, and even if Rita WERE able to destroy the Power Rangers, she still would lose the planet. Seriously, she was beginning to wonder if the effort was even worth it. So she cleaned.
She scrubbed her castle from top to bottom. She made Goldar and Rito wear aprons and maids' caps to dust, which afforded her only a bit of amusement. She'd cleaned portions of the dungeons that hadn't been seen in YEARS, until the floors were clean enough to eat from. And every time she ran across a memento of her life with Zedd, she chucked it away ruthlessly.
She didn't miss him at all. She was just bored.
When Goldar came to tell her she had visitors, she was currently involved in a deep cleaning of what used to be Finster's workroom. Goldar did a double-take upon seeing her in a ratty t-shirt and jeans, but held onto his aplomb admirably.
"My Queen, Gasket and Archerina are at the front gate," the Titan informed her. "They're requesting an audience with you."
Rita blinked up at him through dusty bangs for a moment. Then she seemed to shake herself back to normal. "Very well," she decided. "Tell them to wait in the throne room, I'll be down in a minute."
Goldar bowed. "Yes, my Queen." Turning, he headed down the corridor. Rita watched him go for a long minute, then sighed.
"I wish he wouldn't call me that."
True to her word, it only took a few minutes before Rita Repulsa appeared in her throne room, clean and clad in her witch's robes. After all, if you can't use magic to zap yourself clean, what good is it?
"What's this about, Gasket?" Rita asked, immediately upon arrival.
The Machine prince bowed. "My dear lady Rita, it has come to my attention that we have both suffered severe reversals of fortune. I have expended the majority of my forces against those brats, your empire has been, well, halved, and we both have found ourselves forced into secondary positions by the arrival of Dark Specter. If either of us wish to change our circumstances, I feel that we're going to need to work together."
"So... what you're proposing is an alliance," Rita replied slowly.
"Indeed. But not one of those fake pacts that members of the UAE enter into so frequently, where it's known that they intend to stab each other in the back first chance they get. Equal partners-- we share the work, the blame, and the spoils. After all, this is the Earth. There's more than enough glory to go around."
The witch cocked her head. "Supposing I agree, what do you bring to this little party?"
"Eventually, a substantial amount of warriors and resources," Archerina supplied. "But for now, we'll fix and rebuild your Monster Maker. It may be magical in nature, but it's a machine at its heart."
"And how would you get these warriors and resources?"
Gasket smiled coldly. "Why, from the very place I'm entitled to-- the Machine Empire that I am rightfully heir to."
The smile was contagious, spreading first to Archerina and then Rita. "A coup," Rita mused. "That could present some interesting possibilities. We'll have to keep this knowledge from the Rangers, of course. They'll be easier prey for the two of us if they don't realize our new capabilities."
"As it happens, I have a plan that will take care of all of that," Gasket replied gleefully. "If you'd care to hear it?"
Rita's smile broadened. With a gesture, she summoned a tray containing three goblets, two of machine oil and one of wine. "A toast, then, to a very fruitful venture for all of us."
Archerina giggled, as the trio clinked glasses. "And the Rangers won't
know what hit them."
High school was not, Fred Kelman reflected, unduly different from middle school. The work was harder, true, but it was generally the same schedule of reports, worksheets, and strange readings that he'd had to put up with for the past eight years.
Today, the object his attention was Earth Science. He wasn't exactly sure why they called it that; it wasn't as if the school taught Eltaren Science as well. As near as he could tell, it was a mixture of ecology, geology, and astronomy, none of which was given any in-depth treatment. Then again, most kids his age hadn't been exposed to as much practical science as he had.
He was right in the middle of a fascinating discussion of water tables when his communicator toned. With relief, he set the book down on the table beside his bed and tapped his communicator.
"I read you, Zordon," he acknowledged. "What's up?"
"Rita Repulsa has sent a monster down to the Stone County Hydroelectric Plant," came the reply. "The five of you must come to the Power Chamber immediately."
Fred nodded decisively. This was MUCH better than water tables. "We're on it, Zordon," he replied. "Fred out."
Making sure his door was closed, Fred hit the button on his communicator that would teleport him to the Power Chamber. In a column of spitting red sparks, he disappeared.
When he rematerialized, he discovered that the other four Turbo Rangers were already there, obviously having dropped everything to answer the call. Rosa was still dressed in her gi, a damp towel around her neck. "Rita WOULD attack in the middle of my practice session," the Pink Turbo Ranger groused.
Justin snorted. "I was in the middle of some particularly delicate connections," he agreed.
"He's modifying a Fuzzbuster," Tasha told the others, tucking the lockpick in her hand behind her ear. "Though what he's going to do with a modified radar detector is beyond me."
"I suppose we shouldn't even ask what you were up to?" Fred indicated Tasha's black gloves and the burglary tools she was tucking away in a pocket.
"You better believe it, buster," she replied smartly.
Ignoring his teammates, Franklin handed the book he was holding to Alpha. "So what's the problem, Zordon?" the Green Ranger asked.
Next to him, the robot startled. "Aiyiyi! The Encyclopedia of Vampires?"
"You never know," Franklin grinned.
Choosing to ignore this particular conversation, Zordon instead answered Franklin's first question.
"Rita Repulsa has sent a monster down to the Stone County hydroelectric plant," the ancient wizard explained. "Unfortunately, the electrical interference is so great that I cannot get any other information on the creature."
"The hydroelectric plant! But that provides most of the county with power!" Justin protested. "If Rita takes that out, she'll paralyze Angel Grove. "
Tasha rolled her eyes. "So we're going in blind, huh?"
Zordon nodded. "I am afraid so, Tasha. In addition, communications will no doubt be spotty inside the plant. I may be unable to help you."
"Blind and deaf," Franklin grimaced. "Lovely."
Fred shrugged. "No help for it. Just everybody be DAMN careful, and we should be all right. Shift into Turbo!"
A bright flash of multicolored light, and the Turbo Rangers found themselves in the lobby of the plant.
"This is a BIG place," Pink Turbo observed. "How are we going to find this thing?"
"Got it covered," replied Green Turbo. "Thunder Scanner!" The silvery device appeared over his visor. "Justin, give me a hand here?"
Blue Turbo nodded. "You got it, Frank." Summoning his hand-held computer, the Blue Turbo Ranger crossed to his friend, plugging the computer into a port on the side of the scanner.
"Analyzing the energy fields in this place," Blue Turbo explained, his fingers flying over the keys. "Rita's goons are psychomagical in composition, so they should stick out like a sore thumb, even in the middle of all this electromagnetic force." There was a moment of silence, then he made a sound that suggested he was frowning beneath his helmet.
"I've got a signal. It's surprisingly weak, though," he reported.
Red Turbo looked over his friend's shoulder at the screen. "What does that mean?"
His blue teammate shrugged. "Could mean a lot of things. Maybe it's really really weak... but I doubt it. Could be screening it's own energy somehow... or maybe it's an electric monster. That would cause the magical signature to be partially buried under an EM signature."
"Won't know until we find it," Yellow Turbo pointed out. "So let's go find this thing and kick it's butt!"
Her teammates nodded. "Right." Disconnecting, Blue and Green Turbos led the team through a door, into the belly of the plant.
It was the smell of ozone that alerted Red Turbo. Electric generators do not, as a general rule, ionize the air around them. An ozone smell is indicative of a live, unshielded charge somewhere nearby.
"Tire Shield!" he yelled. The black mantle appeared on his shoulders just in time, as a bolt of electricity hurtled through the air and struck him directly in the center of the chest. It should have cooked him, but the insulating shield stopped the charge, hurling him backwards into his friends.
With a loud crash, the monster leaped down to stand on the plant floor, facing off with the stunned Rangers. It was fully eight feet tall, and vaguely rodent-like. Beady black eyes watched them with a crazy gleam, an image only enhanced by the hectic red circles on the creature's cheeks. School-bus-yellow fur covered the fat, hamster-like body, and the tail was shaped somewhat like a lightning bolt. The Rangers stared at it in horror.
"It's... a Pikachu," Green Turbo said slowly. "She's sent us up against a goddamn Pikachu!"
Suddenly a large notecard materialized in Red Turbo's hands. Flipping it open, he read it out loud.
This is the Pikalator, my newest monster and your destruction. Hope you like extra crispy! Insert maniacal laughter here.
Yours, Rita Repulsa, Empress.
Red Turbo looked up at his teammates. "Okay, that settles it. Rita Repulsa has OFFICIALLY gone off her rocker."
"My sibs are never gonna forgive me for this..." Pink Turbo muttered.
It was at this point that the Pikalator, tired of being ignored, launched
a lightning bolt at the Rangers with a bellowed "PIKACHUUUU!" The Rangers
dodged, the creature rushed them, and the fight began in earnest.
The lunar sky was clear and bright, since it takes an atmosphere to support clouds. The sun was currently hovering about 35 degrees above the horizon, casting long and icy shadows on the ground. It was one of those moments where you'd expect the wind to be whipping and whistling around your ears, except of course, there was no wind on the moon.
The members of the newly created alliance were gathered on the lunar plain, where several spell components had been gathered, ready to be set into motion. Goldar and Rito went through the gathered equipment as Gasket explained the plan one last time.
"My father is far too arrogant. Being constructed primarily of iron, he feels that he has nothing to fear from magic or magic-users. Hence, the Skybase sensors are not configured to detect magical upwellings of any nature. That's where you come in, Rita. Your magic will create a teleport bubble around us that will transfer anything within it into the Machine Skybase. Since the magic will be aimed at our surroundings and not worked on us directly, Archerina and myself should not have any trouble with our ferrous composition interfering with the spell.
"Once there, we will split into three groups, each with a very important mission. Goldar, Rito, the two of you are assigned to find Klank's lab and obliterate it. I want it completely smashed, with no trace left of anything it contained."
Goldar blinked. "You don't want to loot it first? There might be something in there that would be useful."
With a shake of his head, Gasket dismissed the objection. "Everything Klank creates has a booby-trap in it somewhere, and it's not worth trying to get all the information out of him to let us disarm it. Just destroy the entire lab and we'll start over from scratch.
"Archerina," he continued, "you will have to find the main lab, where the battle robots are produced. Shut down production, destroy any active models, and place this reprogrammer on the computer. That will ensure that any further products of the main lab are loyal to us, and not to my father."
"And what will you do, my love?" the female robot inquired.
"I will be going to the heart of the matter," he replied. "If you want the body to die, you must cut off the head. The only way to wrest control of the Machine Empire from my father is if he is no longer alive to control it."
The others nodded. Gasket's plan had a high chance of succeeding, since he was able to provide the troops with maps that even Rito and Goldar could follow. If everything went well, it would be a fast, brutal, surgical operation. But if it failed, there would likely be no recovery.
Rita nodded. "Is everyone ready?" At the affirmations she received,
she waved a hand. "Everyone stand within the circle then," she instructed.
Once all four were within the circle that she had dug on the ground, she
raised her hands to the sky and began chanting. Despite the lack of atmosphere,
her voice seemed to echo from one end of the plain to the other, building
and redoubling in an eerie counterpoint to itself. Green fire licked from
her hands, and began to flicker in the lines drawn on the dusty ground.
As Rita's chanting grew stronger, so did the flames, licking higher and
higher until Gasket, Rito and Goldar were encased in a bubble of green
energy. Then there was a flash of brilliant emerald light, and when it
cleared, the circle was empty.
"How can something that big move so fast?" Blue Turbo demanded, crouching behind a low wall. The Pikalator had run them up stairs and down, demonstrating incredible speed and agility.
Pink Turbo nodded. "You'd think an eight-foot hamster would corner like a '57 Pinto, but NOOOO. It's dodging everything we throw at it!"
"Anybody know how to deal with a Pikachu?" Red Turbo wanted to know. Currently, the five Rangers were tucked into a small alcove on the second level catwalks of the plant. Fast and agile as Rita's monster was, it wasn't particularly bright, and lost track of the Rangers easily, when they weren't in visual range. And the smaller, slimmer Rangers were able to marginally outdistance the Pikalator on the narrow metal stairways of the plant. So now the five of them were hiding, having managed to lose the Pikalator as they came down from the third level.
Despite her featureless helmet, Yellow Turbo managed to look sheepish. "Thrwkagnstgrndtyps," she mumbled, not meeting any of her teammates' visors.
"What?" Green Turbo asked slowly.
"I said, they're weak against Ground types. Onix, Graveller, Geodude, that type of thing. Rock Pokemon." Clearly embarrassed, Yellow Turbo stared defiantly back at the other four, daring them to laugh. None of them had suicidal tendencies, however.
Red Turbo sighed. "Well, none of us have any skill at magic or monster-making, so that's probably out. Anything else, Tash?"
She scuffed the toe of her boot against the concrete floor. "Well... A lot depends on whether Rita made this thing based on the game or the cartoon. In the game, Pikachu are tough, but they have problems against Ground-types, and a lot depends on the strength level. If this is Ash's Pikachu from the anime, though, we're in trouble. It's not a normal Pikachu, having its strengths increased all out of proportion, and it's weaknesses minimized."
"Better assume it's Ash's Pikachu, then," Green Turbo replied. "Rita probably did her research before letting this thing loose."
"You said it's weak against Rock and Ground types," Blue Turbo began. "So... could we ground it out somehow?"
Yellow Turbo shook her head. "Not if it's Ash's. That thing once beat up an Onix twice its power level."
Jerking a thumb over her shoulder, Pink Turbo indicated the generators on the main floor. "Overload it?"
"No good. It channels excess energy."
"Maybe a short circuit," Red Turbo mused.
With a sigh, Yellow Turbo shrugged. "I really don't know, guys. Ash's Pikachu is the good guy, it's designed to be practically undefeatable."
Pink Turbo folded her arms across her chest. "But this one doesn't have the writers on its side. We have got to find SOME weakness on this thing!"
"Well," her yellow teammate began slowly, "on those few occasions that Team Rocket manage to pull off a trap that actually works, they usually insulate Pikachu in one method or another. So if you insulate it, it won't be able to bring its electric power to bear."
"And we can beat the crap out of it." Red Turbo finished.
"That may not solve the problem entirely," Blue Turbo mused, "but it WILL slow it down. If you three can keep that thing busy and on the upper levels until I call, I think Franklin and I can whip up something that'll take the Pikalator out for good."
Pink Turbo nodded. "And I think I know just where we can find the insulation."
Rito Revolto did not know the meaning of the word "finesse." It was only one of many words he didn't know the meaning of. It wasn't so much that Rito was stupid, although he would never qualify as a member of Mensa. Instead, Rito was best described as uncomplicated. Give him a clear-cut mission plan, and he was perfectly capable of carrying it out. Unfortunately for him, the Rangers had a habit of introducing unplanned variables into every equation.
On the other hand, Goldar DID know the meaning of the word "finesse." He was even capable of exhibiting it on occasion. But as a member of a race known for its ferocity in battle, he tended to prefer a full frontal assault to any other method of attack. And that, unfortunately, tended to lead to him being outflanked by the far more numerous Power Rangers.
Given their personalities, it wasn't very surprising that Rito and Goldar had chosen to take the most direct route to Klank's lab. The fact that this route lay through several battalions of Cogs was no more than a minor consideration for them. Despite their lack of intelligence and record of losing to a team of Spandex-clad teenagers, one fact remained-- Rito and Goldar were very good at what they did.
A swift sword thrust dispatched yet another of Mondo's minions, and Goldar shot a glance at his partner, kicking the wreckage away as he did so. Rito was hacking and slashing at a large knot of Cogs, humming some annoyingly cheerful Earth song as he did so. The Titan shook his head. Even up to his waist in battle and shattered robot parts, Rito still managed to act like a five-year-old human child. Four years ago, Rito had driven Goldar completely up the wall with his antics. He'd been unable to believe that such a fool could actually be the son of Master Vile, and had prayed to the Darkness every day to deliver him from the torment. Now, though, Goldar couldn't imagine what life would be like without his friend.
Feeling Goldar's eyes upon him, Rito looked up from his work and beamed. "Some fun, eh Goldie?"
Goldar shook his head. "Yeah, Rito. I haven't had this good of a workout in years!"
A few corners and many Cogs later, the two henchmen reached their destination. Wordlessly, they took up positions on either side of the door, weapons ready. Reaching out, Goldar palmed the sensor plate, causing the lab door to slide open. This was instantly met by a volley of laser fire so intense that a visible trail of ozone was left in its wake.
"I think they're expecting us," Rito cracked.
"I think they're too dug in for us to move them," Goldar shot back. "We can't open fire on them from the door-- we'd be sitting ducks!"
Rito cocked his head. "Goldie... didn't Gasket say we were supposed to destroy the lab and everything in it?"
"Yeah," Goldar nodded. "So?"
The skeleton unmistakably grinned, despite his lack of facial muscles. "So... who says we have to go in there to do it?" With the peculiar shimmer that accompanied subspace retrieval, Rito produced a small starburst grenade. Goldar gaped.
"Rito," he managed finally, "every so often, you actually manage to be brilliant!"
"Thanks, Goldie. You open the door, I'll toss it in."
The Titan did as he was asked, and the two henchmen quickly threw themselves in opposite directions, hoping to clear that door before the grenade went off.
They just made it.
A gout of flame roared out of the doomed lab, filling the hallway and singing the walls, floor, and ceiling for several feet in either direction. The wall directly opposite the door sagged a little, being partially melted.
Sitting up, Rito surveyed his handiwork. "I'd call that a job well done, wouldn't you, Goldie?" he asked. From his end of the devastation, Goldar snarled.
"Ask me again when my ears stop ringing," the Titan grumped.
Holstering her Autoblaster, Pink Turbo shook her head. "Never thought I'd be grateful the school made us take Home Ec," she mused, examining her handiwork.
"Who knew you could sew?" Red Turbo agreed. The three young Rangers had appropriated three of the full-bodied, rubber-lined suits that the plant workers used when making adjustments to the large generators. The suits were, of course, designed for adult men, and large men at that, and quite unwieldy to boot. That hadn't stopped Pink Turbo, who had used her Autoblaster to cut and weld the full-body suits down into insulated body armor fit for a Turbo Ranger. Rubber gauntlets and boots protected their hands and feet, while sleeveless tunics covered their torsos down to the hips. Then Pink Turbo had used the lower setting on her laser to actually seal rubber coverings around the limbs of her friends. The joints were left uncovered for ease in movement, but the trio were fairly confident that the Pikalator would be unable to hit such a small area on a moving target.
Yellow Turbo snorted. "You know you're going to have to cut us out of these things when we get done," she pointed out. "I'm not anxious to see whether they'd disappear when we demorph."
Her teammate shrugged. "Look, I could go at that stuff with a hacksaw and you wouldn't get a scratch if you were still morphed. Don't worry about it."
"You did good, Rosa," praised Red Turbo. "Now let's go find that Pikalator."
Cocking her head, Yellow Turbo sniffed. "I don't think that's going to be a problem. I smell ozone."
The three Rangers drew their sidearms just as the large electric monster came charging towards them along the catwalk. Pink and Yellow Turbos opened fire on it, while Red Turbo flipped into an aerial somersault, coming out into a plummet that brought both his heels into contact with the Pikalator's skull.
"PIKAAAA!" it bellowed, electricity flaring in defense. Red Turbo flipped away, unhurt by the charge. For a second, the Pikalator stared at him in bewilderment, trying to clear its head. Then its cheeks began sparking, and three electrical arcs shot out, striking each Ranger directly in the chest. The energy died away, leaving three unharmed Rangers and one very confused Pikalator.
"Pika pi CHU?" it demanded.
Yellow Turbo snickered. "Watch your language," she admonished. "This is a kid's show."
Seeing that its electrical attacks were ineffective, the Pikalator decided to fall back on the old standby of trying to beat the crap out of the Rangers by hand. It charged at Pink Turbo, lashing out with one pudgy foreleg. The blow connected, sending her reeling.
As it began to turn, the yellow hamster-creature was pelted by a barrage of yellow and red laser fire. It bellowed, launching another electrical bolt, not at the firing Rangers, but at the metal beams above and behind them. The current flowed in a loop, turning the beams into a large electromagnet. With a jerk, the magnetic force jerked the Autoblasters out of Red and Yellow Turbos' hands.
"It made an ELECTROMAGNET?" Red Turbo squawked. "That thing is smarter than it looks!"
"Oh, like that's hard," scoffed his teammate. Then the two of them had to throw themselves to either side to avoid the charging Pikalator. Unable to stop on the slick metal floor, the creature rammed into the wall, leaving a large dent.
Yellow Turbo threw her leader a glance. "You were saying?"
"This is getting embarrassing," he replied, as the two of them moved
to regroup with Pink Turbo. "Justin and Frank had better get their little
project finished soon. I don't know if my ego is going to hold out."
Archerina slipped through the corridors of the Machine Skybase like a steel wraith. The massive complex had been her home for a time, and with the computer memory all machine intelligences possessed, she still remembered the best way to get where she was going. Of course, the fact that most of Mondo's troops were preoccupied with Rito and Goldar's full-scale assault didn't hurt, either.
The few guards she met along the way were dealt with quickly and quietly. For all her delicate, feminine appearance, Archerina was as deadly a combatant as her husband. As a matter of fact, that was one of the reasons Gasket had married her.
Reaching the door to the main manufacturing lab, she palmed the switch, laser pistol at the ready. It wasn't her favorite weapon; she much preferred her bow, as it was far more powerful. Unfortunately, it required two hands, which made it awkward in some situations.
No gunfire greeted the opening door, and Archerina slipped inside warily. The manufacturing lab seemed completely empty, but her circuitry was humming with tension. Mondo was NOT the type of person to leave his major source of troops completely unguarded. If she couldn't see the guardian, it just meant that there was a trap waiting for her to trigger it.
Well, I can't just stand around here waiting for it to jump out at me, she reasoned. Might as well get on with my mission. I'm sure I'll run into whatever's waiting for me soon enough.
Pistol held at the ready, Archerina carefully slipped across the floor to the main computer. Punching up a status report, she was that the manufacturing plant was currently in a dormant cycle. She nodded in satisfaction; with no robots currently being built, her job would be a great deal easier. Pulling the reprogrammer out of her dimensional pocket, she quickly connected it to the computer.
The sensation of something behind her was all the warning Archerina got, but it was enough for her to throw herself sideways, narrowly escaping the blade that scythed through the air where she had been. Rolling upright, the female Machine turned to face her attacker.
It was tall. That was her first impression of it-- the thing had to be at least seven feet in height. As far as Archerina could tell, it was a humanoid skeleton made entirely of polished steel, though most of its body was hidden in a voluminous black hooded cloak. In one bony hand, it held a scythe equipped with a long, gleaming, wickedly curved blade. She had no doubt that it could slice through her body as easily as through butter.
"And who are you supposed to be?" she asked nonchalantly, shifting slightly. The thing had the look of something that could move very quickly, without warning.
"I am the Reaper," it replied, in a voice like lead coffin lids. "Prepare for the harvest."
Archerina threw herself into a forward roll to escape the strike that would have taken her head off. Mondo's been reading up on human legends, I see, she mused, firing even as she gained her feat. Have to tell Gasket about this particular design.
The Reaper managed to block most of Archerina's shots, spinning its scythe in a blinding whirr. Then in a leap roughly reminiscent of a grasshopper, it was airborne, black cloak spread around it like bat wings.
Archerina recognized the move. It was designed to lure the target into firing blindly, in a panic. Most of the shots would go wild, into the cape, but the target would be kept in one place long enough for the Reaper to connect with a devastating strike. On most combatants, it would have worked, but Archerina had run across this particular move before. Instead of launching a panicked volley of shots at the robot, she calmly held her ground, waiting for one particular shot. Then she smoothly pulled the trigger, her blast taking the Reaper directly through the head.
She turned away as the now-mindless metal skeleton crashed heavily to
the ground behind her. "Not bad," she murmured, already turning back to
the computer. "But we can do better."
It seems to be a law of nature that telephones must ring at the most inopportune time imaginable. This law also extends to helmet communicators. A crackle of static sounded in Red Turbo's ear, just as he was ducking a swipe from the enraged Pikalator. Tucking into a somersault, he rolled out of the Pokemonstrosity's reach, tapping the side of his helmet as he did so.
"This had better be good," he snarled, leaping to his feet. "I'm a LITTLE busy right now!"
Blue Turbo's voice crackled over the link. "We're done! If you can lure that thing down to the ground floor, I think we're ready to take it out once and for all."
His teammate snorted. "Easier said than done, Justin. This thing's finally figured out that it has the advantage if it makes us come to it!"
"Yeah, well, you'd better think of something fairly quickly. This setup isn't exactly stable." With that, the transmission cut off.
Growling out a curse, Red Turbo snagged his two female teammates and dragged them behind the nearest barrier. The Pikalator, seeing that it's quarry had retreated, began launching energy bolts at them in a steady barrage.
"Okay," Red Turbo said flatly, jerking his thumb at the electric rat, "we need a way to move this battle onto OUR terms, and we need it NOW. Tasha, any thoughts?"
"Well, smart or not, it's still basically an animal," Yellow Turbo mused. "It acts pretty much on instinct. If you challenged it to a match, it would have to react-- Pokemon don't forfeit."
Her leader snorted. "Okay, but what type of Pokemon could we mock up on such short notice, with absolutely no materials?"
Yellow Turbo twitched her shoulders uncomfortably. "Well... our best bet would probably be a Jigglypuff. All you really need there is to sing... and be pink."
In unison, Red and Yellow Turbo turned to look at their third teammate. Despite her featureless helmet, Pink Turbo clearly blinked. Then she quickly raised her hands in defense.
"OOOOH no! Not no way, not no how. You are NOT getting me to impersonate that... that... THING."
"Come on, Rosa," Red Turbo pleaded. "It's our only chance. If we don't take this battle back onto our terms and soon, this thing may charbroil the entire plant. Nobody ever said being a Power Ranger would be glamorous all the time."
Yellow Turbo nodded. "Besides, who's going to know, other than us and Zordon? Come on, a hero's gotta make sacrifices. And I know you know the song..."
Her friend let out a frustrated growl. "I have four younger siblings, of COURSE I know the song." Pink Turbo sighed. "All right, Fred, but you owe me a chili-cheese-dog with extra fries at the Surf Spot for this."
Standing, she flipped over the barrier, summoning her Power Gliders in mid-flight to allow her to land behind the Pikalator. As the creature turned to face her, Pink Turbo took a fighting stance and a deep breath.
"Jiiigglypuuuuuff," she crooned, sounding surprisingly like the creature she was attempting to imitate. Behind his helmet, Red Turbo raised an eyebrow.
"I didn't know she could get that high, did you?" he asked quietly. Yellow Turbo shook her head.
Taking a low crouching stance, the Pikalator flared its aura, causing energy to crackle from its cheek circles. "PIIIIKAAAA!" it bellowed, accepting Pink Turbo's challenge.
Cocking her head, Pink Turbo flashed her friends a quick "victory" sign. "Puff!" she chirped, then turned tail and ran. The Pikalator quickly pounded after her, and Red and Yellow Turbos weren't far behind.
As the parade reached the second floor, Red Turbo's helmet crackled again. "Fred, is that you? I can hear the catwalks shaking..." Green Turbo observed.
"Yeah, we're on our way, Frank," Red Turbo replied. "Justin's little surprise ready?"
After so many years of friendship, the leader of the Turbo Rangers could almost hear his friend nod. "Yeah, but there's a problem... the way the field's set up, we're going to have to drop the Pikalator into the very center of it if we're going to defeat it."
Red Turbo cursed. "NOW you tell me... okay, Frank, we'll handle it." Tapping the side of his helmet, he switched frequencies.
"Rosa, slight change in plans. I need you to lead the thing to the second floor catwalk area overlooking generators two and three. Once you get there, activate your Gliders and jump. Get as much distance as you can. If you can make it to the other side of the catwalk, that would be great."
"What are you going to do?" she demanded. Ignoring her, he turned to the girl beside him.
"Tash, I need you to head down to the first floor with Frank and Justin. If the Pikalator misses the field, we'll have to be waiting to take it out with a full barrage of firepower."
His yellow teammate regarded him speculatively. "You're about to do something stupid, aren't you?"
He raised a hand to the back of his neck, head cocked in Ranger shorthand for a sheepish grin. "Define stupid?"
"I hate you," she grumbled, but broke off from the chase to do as instructed.
Ahead, Red Turbo saw Pink Turbo leap off the edge of the catwalk, glider wings extended. Behind her, the Pikalator skidded to a stop, front feet barely kissing the edge of the drop. At the sound of running feet behind it, the creature tried to turn, but not fast enough. Without breaking stride, Red Turbo dropped his shoulder in a perfect football tackle, plowing into the Pikalator with enough force to send them both hurtling over the edge and down into the field.
Brilliant light flared, accompanied by an electric snap and the definite smell of ozone. The flash was so strong that even the four watching Turbo Rangers had to raise their hands to their eyes, polarized visor plates unable to compensate for the brightness.
"FRED!" Green Turbo yelled, as the light began to die. The two generators that Justin had modified now stood silent, a haze of gray smoke hanging between them. For a moment, there was nothing, and then Red Turbo staggered out of the cloud. Scorched and battered, he was leaning on his Lightning Sword as if it were a cane.
"You MORON!" his four teammates chorused, rushing to support him. Red Turbo chuckled weakly.
"As I recall, I never said I was the most strategically gifted Red Ranger that Earth has," he coughed.
Green Turbo shook his head. "That was the DUMBEST thing I have seen you do in... at least six months," he decided, slipping an arm under his friend's shoulders.
"Frank, I make BAD PLANS. It's just that they work. My whole strategy with Shadowborg was 'Throw enough heroes at him and he'll go away.'" Red Turbo shook his head. "Come on. Pikalator's history. Let's get back to the Power Chamber."
Still clustered around Red Turbo, the Rangers teleported out.
Gasket had faced little to no opposition on his trek to the throne room of the Machine Empire. Only two ceremonial honor guards stood outside the ornate doors, and they were simple Cogs, easily dispatched. For a long moment, Gasket simply regarded the heavily ornamented portal with a face expressionless even for a robot.
"He's grown far too complacent," the Machine Prince mused to himself. "He thinks himself invincible, and the Empire suffers from his delusion. Grandiose gestures, petty vendettas... this is not how one wages a war, not even a war of attrition."
Gasket shook his head. "Well, today ends his deluded reign... and a new age for the Machine Empire shall be born." With those words, he drew back his hand and struck the metal door before him, palm first. The doors flew open with a tortured groan, and Gasket strode into the inner sanctum of the Machine Skybase.
"Gasket!" Mondo blustered, as his first-built son marched across the floor to face him. "What is the meaning of this intrusion?"
The younger machine's gaze took in his mother and brother cowering behind the throne, then dismissed Klank and Orbus with a casual glance. Tilting his head slightly, Gasket fixed his father with a measuring gaze.
"I believe it is called a coup, Father," he answered pleasantly. "I'm here to take command of the Empire, command that you would not give me. Now, you can hand it over willingly... or I will take it by force." Gasket's hand moved to rest on the hilt of his sword.
"Preposterous!" Mondo boomed, steam hissing from his ears. "I will never give the Machine Empire to a traitorous upstart such as you!"
Accepting that with a nod, Gasket drew his sword from its sheath. "Very well, then, Father. Then let us settle this at last."
With a cry, the Machine King threw himself forward, sweeping his staff in a deadly arc towards Gasket's head. The slimmer robot ducked, throwing himself into a side roll that allowed him to regain his feet quickly. Then, sweeping his sword around, Gasket attacked with a high cut to the head, which Mondo only barely deflected.
In terms of sheer skill, the combatants were evenly matched, and of course, robots do not suffer from fatigue as the human body does. The battle was a brutal ballet of flashing steel, as Mondo and Gasket attacked and parried, dancing across the floor in a pattern too complicated to comprehend.
At last, however, Mondo's thick solid body, chosen for it's imposing, regal appearance, began to take it's toll on the older machine. Less agile or flexible than his son, Mondo was finally unable to dodge quickly enough as a sword stroke slipped through his guard, tearing his metal shell open across the belly. With a strangled groan, Mondo fell to his hands and knees.
Shoulders heaving as his cooling systems attempted to compensate for his exertion, Gasket stepped up to stand beside his fallen father. For a long moment, he simply regarded the older robot with impassive features. Then he grasped his sword in both hands and raised in above his head.
"Long live the King," he intoned. Then the sword swept down.
At first, silence reigned in the throne room. Then, hesitantly, Machina took a step forward.
"Gasket," she began tremulously, "I always knew-"
"Save it, Mother," he cut her off, not looking up from Mondo's internal circuitry. "I've never trusted you, and I'm not about to start simply because Father is dead. Ah, here we are," he interrupted himself, pulling a chip from Mondo's body.
"Father's personality component. To ENSURE that he stays dead this time." Dropping the chip to the ground, he stepped on it heavily. It made a very satisfying 'crunch.'
The Machine Queen wrung her hands, casting a glance at her younger son. "But Gasket, where am I supposed to go?"
Her older son shook his head. "Frankly, mother, I don't give a damn. But I hear Aradon is always looking for new concubines. Perhaps he'd be willing to take you in. There's a private shuttle in the hangar bay. Take my brother and go."
Machina bowed and scurried out, Sprocket trailing along in her wake. As Klank and Orbus moved to follow, Gasket reached out and snagged the pair. "NOT you two," he informed them. "Not yet. I have... a few adjustments to the computers that I'd like you to make."
The two flunkies exchanged glances and just sighed.
"Really, I'm perfectly all right," Fred protested, as Alpha finished the last of his scans. "Between my Ranger suit and Rosa's extra insulation, I barely got singed."
"Yeah, but you still smell like barbecued dog hair," Tasha replied, elbowing him.
Franklin shook his head. "I'm just glad you weren't actually BARBECUED, Fred. You took a big risk." His friend just shrugged uncomfortably.
"Rangers, in defeating the Pikalator, you have no doubt saved Angel Grove from a city-wide blackout, and widespread chaos," Zordon informed them. "You are to be congratulated. However, with two of the generators out, some areas of Angel Grove are experiencing a power shortage. It should only last a few days, and the emergency services such as hospitals, police, and fire departments are all quite safe. Things could have been much worse. Angel Grove High, though, has been closed for the duration of the shortage." The interdimensional being slanted a look at his Red Turbo Ranger, who grinned cheekily.
"Come on, Zordon, you know I don't think that far ahead," Fred replied.
That got a chuckle from Zordon. "Indeed. You have all done exceptionally well, Rangers, and I am very proud of all of you."
Rosa shifted uncomfortably. "Um... thanks, Zordon... but... about those sensor logs..."
"Don't worry, Rosa, I have had Alpha classify them. No one will see them unless absolutely necessary," the floating head assured her.
"Thanks, Zordon," she replied, smiling in relief.
Behind her, four voices were suddenly raised in a chorus of "Jiiigglypuuuuuf...." Growling low in her throat, Rosa spun around... to confront four teleport streams.
She shook her head, a slight smile creeping across her face. "I'm going
to kill them," she announced. Then she teleported out as well, the sound
of Zordon's laughter behind her.
At Rita's castle, the festivities were in full swing. Discordant music echoed through the castle, and laughter floated on the air. So what if it was metallic and/or shrieky? Everyone was having a good time.
Raising his glass of oil, Gasket commanded the attention of all the party-goers for a moment. "Ladies and-- whatevers, congratulations on a job well done. The Machine Empire is ours once again, with all the resources and power that entails. And it could not have been accomplished without your help. So to Rita Repulsa and her entourage, I propose a toast."
Glasses clinked, beverages were sipped, and a very convivial atmosphere permeated the room. After a little while, however, Archerina noticed that Rita had slipped away from the group. A few moments later, the female machine found the sorceress on the balcony, staring down at the Earth.
"You miss him, don't you?" Archerina said quietly.
"What?" Rita spun around. "No, not at all! I'm just appreciating the view!"
The robot shook her head. "You're an awful liar, you know. Or maybe it's just hard to hide from someone who understands the condition."
For a moment, Rita stood frozen, then she seemed to deflate. "Isn't it ridiculous? I fed him a love potion to make him marry me... and I'm the one who wound up in love at the end."
"Love makes no sense, Rita. That's why most villains stay away from it. But you know, I think the Rangers may have the right idea. I know I've never been so happy."
Sighing, Rita rested her elbows on the balcony, looking much, much younger than before. "I miss Zedd, Archerina. Not Larry Zedden... though actually, I kind of liked him. I miss my skinless, noseless, grouch of a husband... who bought me dead roses for our anniversary and live ones for my birthday. Who'd order takeout Chinese or Mandravian stuffed snake, depending on his mood."
Archerina rested a hand on the other woman's shoulder. "I know it's difficult, Rita, but don't ever think you have to hide it from us. After all, how could we possibly condemn you for falling in love?"
"Thanks," Rita smiled. "Come on, let's go back in before Gasket wonders if we were eaten by a lunar dust bunny."
The two went back into the party, laughing. As they rejoined the group, Gasket intercepted them, handing them each another glass. "One more toast, ladies. To the New Alliance! May it be fruitful and long."
Rita nodded. "To the defeat of our enemies and the fulfillment of our dreams."
Last was Archerina. "To the future," she finished, and the three drank.
Not far away, a set of eyes blacker than space watched from the airless shadows. A hissing chuckled rolled out, but went unheard.
Ah, yes, to the future. To the future, indeed.