Title: "The Darkest Night"
Written by: Shawn Chapter 1/1

Summary: A mysterious new enemy slaughters Lord Zedd, forcing Zordon to break the Code of the Rangers in order to protect the Earth. Tommy and Kimberly navigate the emotional waters of their recent breakup. AU.

Category: Angst/Romance/Drama/Violence/Love Making/Death Rating: MA

Timeline/Spoilers: AU from the moment Jason, Trini, and Zack go to the Peace Conference. In this story they don't leave the team, but Adan, Aisha, and Rocky join as Rangers. Jason and Tommy co-lead the team. This story picks up a year later during the time of Power Rangers Zeo, only Zeo never happened. The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers are Tommy, Kim, Jason, Trini, Zack, Billy, Aisha, Rocky, and Adam.

Disclaimer: Disney owns it all now. I own the right to make PR a bit more adult, a bit more serious, and a bit more dramatic.

Authors Notes: The mental image I want my readers to have of the Rangers outfits, Zords, and Angel Grove is in line with Mighty Morphing Power Rangers: The Movie. The outfits will be the body-armor type and the city is big, bright, and more what you would expect from a real city instead of what's portrayed on the TV show. Expect a more serious approach to protecting the Earth and how Zordon commands the team.

Authors Notes 2: All Rangers are 18 and the story is set near the end of their senior year of High School.

Dedicated to: SYuuri aka Liz the Great:)

"If it is meant to be, our hearts will find each other when we meet. And if our hearts melt together so will our bodies and souls. Then every word and every touch will fuel our passion flame. I will be yours, you will be mine, and we will be one." - author unknown

"Be patient wild eyes. Soon will come a storm to tame you. Let her winds surround you. Match her fury and let fires reign. There is no escape. Nature means what she does." - author unknown

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The Command Center Zordon's War Room

Tuesday, April 6, 1997 7:30 PM

The mountains of Angel Grove

"To say I am disappointed in both of you would be quite the understatement."

Sighing quietly, Kim ran a frustrated hand through her shoulder-length brown tresses while seated next to her ex-boyfriend and team leader. Clad in her post-mission Grey sweats, her right foot impatiently tapped over the granite floor in the Power Rangers newly official War Room. It took three dozen Aquitar engineers over nine months to hollow out and rebuild the new Command Center inside the mountains of Angel Grove. She kept her gaze focused on the ethereal image of Zordon's new spectral tube while hating that this felt all to much like when her father called her in his home office when she was in trouble as a child. Only the circumstances today were quite a bit more serious. Add in that her jackass ex-boyfriend... whom she still loved like crazy and hated nearly as equally, hadn't so much as apologized yet. Oh well, she surmised that the sooner they got through this private meeting the better. "With all due respect, I refuse to not speak my mind when I feel I'm being disrespected."

"Shouting angry obscenities at your team leader during a mission wasn't the most professional way to handle your dispute, Kimberly," Zordon noted carefully as to not make her feel as though he wasn't taking her claim seriously. "There's a time and place for airing your grievance. But in the field during a mission Tommy's word is law unless overruled by myself. That is the chain of command. Are we clear?"

Now pissed at two broken chromosome-having men... okay, just one and whatever Zordon was made of, Kim gave a respectful nod, craning her neck about to ease a aching note of soreness that had crept in. "It won't happen again."

"Thank you," Zordon replied. Having known and even enjoyed in a parental sort of interest in their romantic relationship for some time, he's feared the day would come when being in love would collide with their duty as Rangers. Nonetheless, the protection of the Earth came first above all else. Of that they needed to be reminded. But only after Kimberly had her say. "Now that is out of the way, Kimberly, please tell me in your own words what happened and why you felt Tommy disrespected you during the mission?"

As Kim began detailing her account of what happened over Arizona desert four hours ago, Tommy made sure he didn't glance at her so much as even out the corner of his eyes. Though he tried to hide it, his hands were still shaking as he was beyond furious with her... even though he missed her terribly. But stubborn as a mule, she refused to understand no matter what that he was only trying to protect her. He couldn't understand why she refused to see that. For now though he felt silence was his best course of action.

"... That was when the Horde creatures tore through the ground with their machines searching for the Gromorum artifact. Trini thought there was a good possibility that the wild attack on downtown LA was a violent diversion because all of our research and intelligence about the possible location of the Gromorum pointed outside of California," Kim detailed.

"What made you break formation with Tommy's airborne-Zord team just before they engaged the towering Bracken creature?" Zordon questioned.

Kimberly loaded her personal data-pad into Zordon's computer terminal. "During the battle I was monitoring alien frequencies in the area and picked up stray communications about the Arizona location. Specifically the word 'Shrelq-escue', which in the Horde language means Holy," Kim explained. "We've known for months that the artifact was on Earth and if the Horde discovered it the world would end. So with that in mind I contacted Tommy immediately while breaking formation and setting a new course for the desert."

"Against orders," Tommy asserted his first words since entering the War Room. Clipped and biting, he was as cold as she was. Both of them broken in more ways than one.

Rolling her tongue around the inside of her mouth, Kim held her frustration in check as best she could. Two weeks after they broke up and she's never been more miserable or upset with him. She willed her personal life aside for the moment. With Zordon looking on, she continued, "I told him I thought the attack on LA was a trick and that the Horde may have found the real artifact in Arizona. I traced the communications frequency and headed there."

Tommy's mind grazed over the cold fear that gripped him when he saw her Zord break formation, bursting through the clouds away from him. "I told her to have Billy analyze the frequencies."

"I have the exact same scanning arrays on my Crane Zord that Billy has here at the Command Center. And I know how to use them as well as he does."

"You had no idea what type of force the Horde had in that desert location, nor did you leave with my permission."

"I followed my gut instinct and was trying to prevent a global holocaust cause if the Horde get their scaly hands on that artifact the Earth's going back to the age of the dinosaurs," Kim vehemently argued her case. "I made a decision and hit the upper atmosphere as fast as I could heading towards the signal's origin. That was until 'you' hit the leader-kill switch on my Zord, suspending me in mid-air."

Finally Tommy glared at her. "Aisha and Zack are both still healing from serious injuries that could have killed them when they encountered the Horde creatures without the full support of the team. In their case they were ambushed. You'd be flying directly into it and would have gotten yourself killed."

"Death is a part of this job and I'm not afraid of it," Kim fired back, meeting his piercing gaze with her own ire. "If the artifact had been found then we needed to know that and it didn't make sense for the entire team to head to the desert in case I was wrong. I did know there was a chance I could be wrong, but if I wasn't I had to try."

"And I had to make the decision I did in order to try and save your life."

"You would have never done that to Jason or Adam."

"Are you accusing me of playing favorites or being sexist?"

"You know I am as capable as any Ranger on the team and I've been one longer than you. If I was right, which I was, I could have held my own until you guys got there."

"And if they jammed your communication it would have been you against a army, and then your death would have been on my hands."

Verbal daggers were exchanged with no end in sight. Kim didn't back down. "You disrespected my abilities and my instincts. The same instincts that have saved your life on more than one occasion."

Tommy pointed at her. "You didn't follow orders!"

Kim slapped his hand out of her face. "Fuck your orders!"

"Enough!" Zordon's words boomed throughout the entire room. "Our team's duty is the protection of Earth. I expect, no demand maturity and that you respect each other. And as far as this matter goes seeing as how I monitored it here, the matter will be settled this way."

Tommy and Kimberly were fuming and deathly quiet, awaiting whatever was to come.

"Kimberly, first and foremost Tommy is the leader. You do not disobey orders. Not even when the outcome was as victorious for us as this one. Just as our luck in recovering the artifact has prevented a horrible catastrophe, this night could have easily ended with Tommy having to tell your parents that you died today. You are hereby suspended from active duty for one week."

Fighting to control her temper, Kimberly ate her anger for the sake of respecting Zordon. "Alright. It won't happen again."

"As for you, Tommy. Kimberly's skill and instincts have served us well over the years and you should have given her at least a chance to see if she was right, which she was. You immediately de-activated her Zord when you could have ordered her to stay a safe distance away from the desert while monitoring all activity in the area. Its clear to me your personal feelings for her got in the way of your duty this time. And trust me, I don't say this lightly. I have all the faith in the world in you, but this time you were wrong. And neither of you should have entered into a shouting match mid-fight. That was careless, immature, and could have easily gotten you both killed. Tommy, you are suspended from the team for two weeks as well. Jason will fill in as leader during that time. Now both of you go cool off and make peace with the decisions you've made in your personal life. The Command Center isn't a place for romantic drama. Settle that on your own time. Dismissed."

Flying out the door nearly as swift as her vaunted Crane Zord, Kimberly felt a strong hand grip her forearm when she smashed her hand against the elevator button down the long hall. She spun to face Tommy, her eyes on fire. "What you did out there today hurt me so bad in front of everyone."

With his arms now crossed, Tommy stared at her. "I was trying to save your life."

"You purposely held me back when I know for a fact you would not have done it to one of the guys. Its only because we used to date, past tense, as in we don't anymore." She thought she caught a note of sadness cross his face. It clearly matched her own. Her voice lowered to something somber. "You didn't trust me."

"You didn't listen to me."

"You know that I know what I'm doing."

"I also know Aisha was in a coma for a week and Zack nearly died. If you got hurt..." He wasn't even able to finish. His gaze turned away even as she invaded his personal space.

"How many times have I almost died waiting to hear if one of your bone-headed ideas had gotten you killed or not? she dared him to defy. "I've seen you do things that made me want to strangle you, but I always trusted that even as scared as I was... I believed in you."

It was only when Tommy saw tears wet her eyes did he feel the sheer weight of what he'd done. But she just didn't see things from his perspective. Perhaps she couldn't. But none of that mattered now as he had hurt her deeply, something he swore he would never do. Never.

When the elevator door slid open Kimberly stepped inside, then raised her hand. She wanted no more of his company. "Today, you didn't believe in me. Something that I didn't think was possible. And now my heart is broken all over again. As if our break-up hadn't... she shook her head, willing back tears. I thought you knew me best."

Tommy's voice trembled as he tried to express something so hard for most people to comprehend. "As politically incorrect as this is to say, while all our lives are in my hands yours matters the most to me. You just... you can't... I need you. Don't you know that?"

His pleading expression melted something within her. But the cold was ever present as well. Their break-up never felt right, but the way things were going wasn't working either. Still, her heart missed him every beat it took. But at the moment she couldn't stand the sight of him. It hurt too much. After a deep breath, she breathed a sad little, "Goodnight."

The elevator door shut, robbing him a chance to say or do anything to fix this. All Tommy could do was lean back against the wall, bow his head and brood over how lost he truly was.

His Beautiful... was gone.

******

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The home of Kimberly Hart

1717 Dante Drive

Tuesday, April 6, 1997 11:39 PM

Angel Grove, Ca

Getting chewed out by "The Boss," missing out on dinner, a brand new episode of Beverly Hills 90210, dealing with a broken heart and now insomnia? Feeling thoroughly screwed by life, Kimberly was sure she just couldn't win tonight. Everything that could go wrong did.

Well, not exactly. Every man, woman, and child on Earth didn't die. "Woo Hoo for saving the world," she tried to cheer herself up with that uninspired outburst, sitting up in bed as the dark surrounded her. Sadly, no amusement was found as she couldn't fall asleep to save her life. Her body language screamed frustration and not even a cup of delicious hot chocolate and a sexy romance novel put a dent in her tension.

"Men," she growled, shaking her head while mentally bitch-slapping the Y-chromosome and all the crap they put women through. Although at the same time the object of her anger was also the other half of her missing soul. Dramatic and over the top as that teenage thought was, it still felt right. It always felt right with Tommy.

Breaking up with him... she could only imagine the feeling being similar to losing a limb. The phantom pain was with you every second of every day. Her reasons for ending their relationship felt right at the time, no matter the razor-sharp agony of letting him go. Being on the team, dealing with school, being Rangers and the daily hell that came with the job, on top of their relationship having no air to breath and no real time for it left her mentally and physically drained. She knows she gave up. It was her choice, for her reasons, and the best thing for her at the time.

It was just all to much at once. Not to mention they were arguing more, talking less, and facing the very real "sex" issue that was finally rearing its ugly head.

Kimberly grabbed her pillow and buried her face in it, then tossed it aside. She was to tired to cry yet again and the healing torn muscles in her shoulder flared angrily. Not to mention the strained Achilles tendon in her foot and sore ribs. Her mom's already given her the third degree about yet another "gymnastics" injury. The lies were mounting with no end in sight. The incredible Ranger powers greatly enhanced their invulnerability and amplified their healing ten fold. But they weren't impervious to injury or pain. They healed super fast, but took home every single blow. There was no luxury in being a Ranger.

An honor, yes. But no luxury.

Slipping out of bed, Kim did some of her best thinking on her feet. She walked around her bedroom, mindful of the squeaky floorboards she avoided as she knew every one. A glance out her second story bedroom window found the streets empty. Okay, so today she was right and her assumption saved the world. If Tommy had trusted her abilities none of the ugliness that followed after he hit the kill-switch on her Zord would have happened. She was even thinking of calling him today and maybe talking about... well, she wasn't miserable with him, but she sure was without him. What they had wasn't working and she was out of strength to fix it. At least at the time. "Its not like he fought for me," she thought bitterly, her heart clenching once more that when she spoke the words that ended them he only stared, nodded, and then walked away.

Did she mean so little to him?

No.... deep down she knew that he loved her with all his heart. But her Mom talked to her about a man's pride and how a woman, while never accepting disrespect because of it should always know it played a huge part in a mans decision making. She couldn't say she fully understood it or thought it really made sense, but her mom's wise words stayed with her. So did the pieces of her broken heart. The phone that no longer rang at "their" time right before bed. Shared lunches at their table, simplistic and silly as they was.

His kisses... his arms around her... being called Beautiful. She missed it all every single day, but couldn't ever tell him that. The equivalent of male pride in a woman was her self-respect. Hers wouldn't allow him to know how many nights she's cried over him, or how the sight of other couples caused her heart-ache, or that she dreaded the day he moved on as she's given him no reason to stay.

For now though she just had to deal. There were no other options and pining over a guy she dumped wasn't gonna solve anything. At least he got a stiffer punishment from Zordon than she did. That gave her a small smile, though the hurt in his eyes when the elevators doors close brought tears to her own. They weren't working together, but being apart felt so wrong at the same time. She just didn't know what to do and now she was dog-tired and needed sleep.

Taking a seat at the end of her bed, Kim brushed a hand through her hair and yawned. She thought of calling Sha or Trini, but the late hour might not find them in the best of moods. Maybe a little TV and some laughs would help her unwind and relax enough to catch some shut-eye. At least it beat lying in bed wide awake all night long.

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The home of Tommy Oliver

901 West End

Tuesday, April 6, 1997 11:39 PM

Angel Grove, Ca

Her name was Madeline Saunders.

Age 25, a recently returned Marine from Iraq. From today's newspaper article she was a career military officer and a highly decorated one for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. The color picture featured next to her obituary was one taken just before her first deployment. She smiled proudly in uniform, flanked by her beaming mom and dad. Her blue eyes were the color of sapphires as she looked ready to take on the world. She was attractive in that girl-next-door sort of way, survived by four brothers, as she was the only girl born to John and Janine Myers. Apparently they'd wanted a girl since their first son and was finally blessed on the fifth try.

Tommy wasn't sure when his mild obsession with the local newspapers obituary section began, but there was a part of him that sought out the history of those lives he couldn't save. Two weeks ago he pulled Madeline's broken body from the wreckage of a Federal building that collapsed in downtown Angel Grove during one of Lord Zedd's attacks. The woman's face stuck with him as the dead often did. The first person he'd found that he recognized from the obituary section was over six months ago. From then on whenever the Rangers assisted rescue crews in searching for survivors and aiding in the recovery of bodies he'd found himself curious about the lives lost. He wasn't able to see them as only casualties. To others maybe she was just a woman who lost her life tragically in a war not her own. But to someone else she was a daughter who used to chase the family dog in the backyard and dated the boy with the crazy braces.

She wasn't just another face. She was... they all were someone to Tommy. And through the obituary section he'd learned about who they were and how they lived. Only Kimberly knew of the photo album under his bed. A dark testament to a part of him he couldn't quite explain and didn't really understand. Nineteen articles of victims he'd personally touched in their final moments, now immortalized to him as real people and not just victims.

Scissors worked to cut the article from the newspaper page, and then then tucked inside the clear plastic of a blank page in his album. Another lost loved one to this unending war with Lord Zedd. And though the Ranger way, hone through blood and honor was to never attack both he and Jason had pleaded with Zordon man times to allow them to attack Zedd's castle and flat out kill him.

"To become as cruel, heartless, and angry as our enemy is to ultimately become them. Rangers do not kill in cold blood. That is our way. That will always be our way. And I never promised it would be an easy way."

Wise words from a man who'd lived a hundred lifetimes over. Sighing, Tommy tucked his album back under his bed and then laid back over the covers. Wired from today's physical and emotional events, he couldn't sleep to save his life. His dad's asked him why he looked tired all the time these days. How could he begin to explain. The lies he'd told his parents seemed like a mountain ever growing. He'd seen so much death by age 18 that he felt far older than his his modest years.

He wanted to nail Lord Zedd to the wall and tear his heart out. He wanted to never know what a dead child looked like or how its grieving mother sobbed over the small body. He wanted the carefree laughter to return to his team. He wanted to think of them all as just friends again and not soldiers. He wanted to have Kimberly back in his arms and for them to have time and space to solve their problems and find their way back to each other.

He wanted her to understand that she just couldn't die.

Tommy knew that was the most unfair thing to expect of any living human being. He was barely over 18 years old and acting as if he and Kimberly would be together forever. But all he could judge was the way his heart felt in the here and now. The future would take care of itself as it always did. For now though, she had to live. And today she pushed things too damn far and could have gotten herself killed.

Yet again her keen senses and clever mind won the day. When he should have applauded her insight, he claimed her right to act on it without so much as giving it a second thought. What she couldn't see was that he was trying to keep her safe. Keep her alive. Keep her with him.

Deep down he knew he was wrong. She called him on it, that he wouldn't have done that with Jason or Adam. Behind the impenetrable curtain of confidence he exuded was the very raw sense of loss that's been building ever since he took the mantle of leader. Zordon never gave a outright reason why he took leadership from Jason and gave it to him. Secretly he's worried Jason would resent him no matter how long ago it was. But Jason's never said a word about it once and loves him like a brother. In truth Tommy would follow Jason to hell itself to battle Satan and every demon there. There's nothing the original Ranger did that he isn't mirroring himself. But only recently has he begun to wonder if maybe Jason grew weary of the incredible burden leadership carries.

What if he asked to have it taken away? Once the mere thought would have been crazy. But now...

Tommy paced his room, switching off his night light. The White Rangers enjoyed the dark. It was good for brooding and he was definitely in the mood for that. Somber, but true.

In truth, he missed Kimberly more and more each day. The pain never lessened the days that passed as their break-up grew further in the rear view mirror of life. Her reasons for ending them were... well, to a great extent he understood. Things were bad and they weren't getting better. What she did, she did what was best for her. Maybe not what he would have done, but he still respected it. And it wasn't like he had time to truly fix things with school and being a Ranger eating anything resembling free time away. He was dealing cause he had to as there was no other choice.

Still, his actions today hurt the woman he loved. He didn't trust her, but fell prey to his own fear of losing her. As the casualties mounted in recent months he'd found his grip growing tighter around all he had control over. Tonight was was majorly pissed at him and might even hate him a little. But she was alive and that mattered more to him than anything. Zordon did what he had to do as overall leader and that was that. For now though this was the hand God dealt him.

Fixing things with Kim... there was no guarantee of that happening. He felt himself growing angrier by the day at all that he couldn't fix and his perception that Lord Zedd was being giving freedom to kill at will while all they could do was react. His broken heart was bleeding into a intense rage at everything. Sometimes he thought Kimberly's love was the light that led him through the solitary darkness.

Without it he felt lost. Worse than that, he felt broken.

Now she probably hated him on top of it. The way she briskly wiped away tears from her face he knew he was never meant to see when those elevator doors closed came back to him in a flood of emotion. Of course she loved him with all her heart. But he hurt her and that wasn't going to be easily forgiven

Not that he'd forgiven himself in any way, shape or form.

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Two Days Later

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The Command Center

Zordon's War Room

Thursday, April 8, 1997 3:34 AM

The mountains of Angel Grove, California

"The very definition of morality is a system of conduct and ethics that is virtuous," Zordon's voice dominated over the room full of his chosen Rangers. Gathered only minutes ago out of bed and their homes, he assembled the team with a heavy heart. For today, the very Code of the Rangers would be broken. And nothing would ever be the same again. "The Rangers, past, present, and future stand for the defense and preservation of life throughout the galaxy. We were never designed to be a attack force. We are keepers of the peace. We represent what is right and just no matter the dire circumstances."

The War Room, with its low-ceiling-ed, hand-painted replica of the War of Delta Prime where seventeen Rangers gave their lives to save the Delta Prime star system lorded over the circular marble table where eleven occupied high-back chairs resided. In various stages of sleep-dress, the Rangers awaited the reason for their very early emergency summons.

"Alas, the winds of change have come and we must respond." From the corner where his dimensional tube was located, Zordon continued. "Alpha, the lights." His trusted ally for over a millennium pressed a wall-switch, shrouding the room in darkness until a towering photo-realistic hologram rose from the center of the table. The clear image focused on a familiar castle that roused a series of shocked exclamations from the assembled. The structure was decimated, with billows of mystical smoke rising from several blustering fires. And what of the massive alien warship hovering above the ruins. "Lord Zedd, Rita Repulsa, and all loyal to have have been murdered by a being... an abomination known as Crysis."

With a hand grazing the modest stubble on his chin, Jason couldn't take his eyes off the charred remains of Lord Zedd's castle. Nor the enormous battleship hung ominously above it. "Who or what is Crysis and how did he kill Zedd?"

"The origin of Crysis is unknown," Zordon began to detail as he sensed his team was wide awake now. "The Galactic Database of the Alliance has no information on him prior to the destruction of the planet Valorum two years ago. There is no evidence of his home world, his alien race, allies, or even his face. Only his voice, spoken before the desolation of a world has been captured. He is, for all intents and purposes, a phantom."

"An incredibly powerful one." Resting his half-empty coffee mug back down, Billy rested his hands in his lap while addressing the team, "I've been up all night ever since the attack began researching all known data about Crysis. He is a master of Tech-Sorcery, a merging of technology and sorcery fused to create anew. He attacks whole worlds, seizes them, sells its inhabitants for slavery, rapes the planet of any viable resources, and then destroys it long before anyone can stop him."

"Lord Zedd wasn't Darth Vader and all, but he wasn't a pushover either," Rocky interjected, and then offered a polite nod of thanks to Alpha for a cup of steaming tea. He was fast waking up. "How did Crysis kick his butt?"

For his young, powerful charges Lord Zedd was a vile, inhuman creature who killed without remorse. But there was a sense of control they felt in defending the Earth and awaiting his eventual downfall. Zordon considered if perhaps they'd gotten cocky after so many victories. But their were bad guys and then there was Crysis. The latter being a monster in ever sense of the word. "Rangers, Crysis possesses the absolute master of sorcery and technology. He boasts a advanced star-ship nearly two miles in length, filled with various races of alines beings sworn to die at his command. All of them genetically and artificially altered to become vicious weapons in service of their God, Crysis. Lord Zedd wielded powerful magic, but against a force we know so little about he was likely caught off guard and destroyed. Our cloaked satellites monitoring Zedd's castle alerted us to the attack. I personally summoned Billy to keep watch four hours ago."

"Why weren't we called sooner?" Tommy inquired with a mild edge to his voice. He was clearly surprised. "We could be up there by now."

"You'd be dead by now," Zordon answered his team leader, who seemed taken back by such a claim. "Crysis knows we are on Earth. He knows we know he is up there and he hasn't attacked Earth yet. Careful planning is necessary. Unfortunately time isn't a luxury we posses."

"Why do I get the feeling he's not afraid of us." Kimberly glanced around the table while typing her brown tresses into a ponytail. "You'd think he'd come after his greatest threat immediately. Especially in the dead of night."

"Matters are far worse than an immediate attack." Zordon altered the holographic imagery. It switched views from Lord Zedd's destroyed castle to a massive crater on the dark side of the moon. One now alive with alien activity as towering red and gold machines, as well as scores of workers appeared to be burrowing into the depths of the moon's surface. "Galactic Alliance Intelligence believe Crysis used a device on the planet Malacore less than thirty days ago that... for lack of a better term, cloned the planet." The hologram display deviated to a gorgeous emerald world with only one huge continent. "This footage was taken moments before Crysis's device struck the world. It was filmed by a Malcorian on-board an escape pod." A massive beam of red energy struck the green world, enveloping it in a shroud of crimson that quickly consumed the entire planet. Just as incredibly, a immense wave of green energy began forming on the other side of the world. A second planet began to swirl into view as the original burst in a colossal explosion as the escape pod's footage began to shake violently. Hushed gasps erupted from all those present.

Aisha shook her head, brown eyes drawn to the horrific display. "My God. How many lifeforms were on the planet?"

"Nineteen billion. All destroyed," Billy replied as silence reigned for a long moment. Trini bowed her head, while Katherine covered her mouth with her hand. Rocky shut his eyes and sighed. Onscreen the second world, forming inside a force-shield of some sort began rapidly taking shape as gargantuan chunks of the original flew in all directions. "The device Crysis used is believed to analyze a planets core on a sub-atomic level and then absorb the chemical composition. The result is the destruction of the original world for a new. If harnessed, Crysis could create the cloned world anywhere he saw fit. He could sell the worlds to the highest bidder or create a empire for himself that no armada could destroy."

"Here comes the punchline," Adam pointed out as onscreen the second world quickly blackened from its core outward into a horrid dark husk floating in space, lifeless and charred as if burned from the inside out.

"The device Crysis used didn't work. But reports are he never halted in its development. And now we believe the second test try is Earth." Zordon ended the video feed from the destroyed world, switching back to the dark side of the moon. "Billy and I believe that Crysis needs the planet intact before his device can accurately calibrate the proper calculations. The Malacorian's defended their world with weapons of mass destruction, similar to but far superior to Earths nuclear weapons. The resulting radioactive fallout may have caused the error in the planet's cloning process. Again, that is a assumption at best."

"So a direct attack on Earth isn't likely?" Katherine questioned what was on everyone's minds. "We know Earth's governments will nuke anywhere they land no matter what we ask of them. If Lord Zedd had ever attacked elsewhere we would have had a catastrophe on our hands."

"So then what are they gonna..." Kimberly formed the words until she gave serious thought to what Zordon was leading them to see. She sat up straight, her jaw tightening. "He has no plans of landing on Earth. He's gonna move the moon and let it do all the work for him."

"Exactly," Zordon declared. "He's building a gravitational array on the moon's surface that will move it so close to the Earth the horrific natural disasters will kill every man, woman and child on the planet while leaving the world untouched by the ravages of nuclear fallout."

Tommy learned early on since becoming a Ranger that one couldn't decipher Zordon's facial expressions into what he was feeling. But the tone of his voice, that was another thing entirely. Ever since their leader began speaking he'd picked up on a note of grief and restrained anger in the ageless wizard. One he'd never heard before. All of it leading to one inescapable conclusion. "What do we know about the devices being built on the moons surface?"

Billy enlarged and augmented the onscreen images to included metallic compositions, size of the devices and radioactive properties being tracked. "Its a device that will alter the moon's gravitational orbit. By my estimation it'll be completed in three hours or less. Keep in mind I have no definitive conclusions."

Nodding, the Ranger's leader rose from his seat. "Zordon, we can't stand back and wait this time."

"We must boldly and defiantly act against this aggression." Zordon insisted. "Crysis must not simply be stopped, he must be destroyed along with his technology for the sake of the entire galaxy." The wizard paused momentarily. "I welcome any other options."

If he were present Kimberly would have hugged Zordon. He sounded so unlike himself in that he had no way to avoid this extremely dangerous course of action. The Code of the Rangers defined him, its creator. Breaking it was killing him. "We knew it would come to this one day, Zordon. Lord Zedd wanted to conquer the planet, but his personal vendetta against you paralyzed his attempts. He played into our hands. Crysis isn't going to sit up there and just keep trying day after day. Either we kill him or he will kill us."

"Are we not going to try and apprehend him? Trini interrupted, her gaze roaming the table. "Bring him before a Galactic Alliance Tribunal and let him be tried before the entire galaxy. Let the Tribunal execute him if that's the judgment given."

"Did we do it to Zedd?" Kim replied.

"We should of." Trini then considered the differences and how Lord Zedd would never have been taken alive. They would of had to kill him and up until today that went against the Ranger Code. "Look, I understand our need to go in all guns blazing, but do we do that at the expense of what the Rangers stand for?"

"If the option to capture Crysis presents itself, I agree we should take him before the Tribunal," Jason agreed to an extent. "But right now, today, we have the lives of everyone on Earth to weigh against the laws of justice. We have no luxuries to hope for. Crysis must be stopped here and now," his fist pounded the table.

"He's murdered nineteen billion people already. But today we can stand against him," Zack said. "Lord Zedd was a rookie compared to this guy. We gotta go in and go in hard or there will be no tomorrow."

"He knows we're coming." Tanya sat her coffee down. "Make no mistake about that. He's aware we going to try and stop him. He'll be ready for a war."

"Then we'll bring hell to his doorstep." Kimberly fought a mild smirk when she caught Tommy string at her lips. He always liked it when she talked tough. For a short moment they were in love again and not miles apart. "Zordon, what's next?"

The room fell silent as Zordon contemplated countless years of honorable service versus the actions tonight's attack called for. "Like Trini, I would prefer justice to reign. But the safety and security of Earth must come first. To that end the reason you weren't all brought here as soon as Crysis attacked Lord Zedd was due to Billy and I preparing your Zords for the inevitable battle to come." A complex red-outlined grid of massive star-ship above Lord Zedd's castle came into view. "We've isolated a core reactor here," a laser point directed everyone's attention to a section of the ship, deck 5, near the engineering room. "If a specially augmented E.M.P bomb were set off here theoretically the entire ship would shut down. The opportunity to take Crysis or kill him would greatly increase. His foot soldiers and Elite Guard, while deadly, are within our ability to defeat despite being outnumbered. But Crysis himself and his Tech-Sorcery, very careful measures must be taken."

Jason had heard enough. The Rangers first leader was ready to go. "What's the plan?"

Zordon brought up surveillance footage of the dark side of the moon once more. "With Tommy suspended as team leader, Jason will lead this mission. He will be seconded by Billy, who will remain here at the Command Center to assist both teams with real-time intell. Kim will take third during the mission."

Tommy bit his tongue for the sake of what they were about to do. Pride had no placed here.

"Jason, Kimberly, Aisha, Rocky, and Tanya will take our new Winged Prey Zords and attacked the gravitational device. Coordinates are being sent to your on-board navigational arrays now," Zordon explained. "Tommy, while not a mission leader on this excursion will lead a second team that will board Crysis's vessel. Katherine, Adam, Trini, and Zack will accompany him with our E.M.P bomb. If the option to capture Crysis presents itself then take it. But your first priority is to stop him by any means necessary. And though it pains me to order this, deadly force is authorized."

"How do we get on-board his ship?" Tommy asked. "And how accurate are our schematics?"

Billy leaned forward. "We've scanned his entire ship from top to bottom. I'm confident we know what we're dealing with. You'll pilot a small cloaked shuttle and will rendezvous with one of the transport ships making constant supply runs from the crater site to the main ship. We're tracking it at twenty-seven minute intervals. You'll fly beneath the transport ship and dock on-board the main ship."

"There's so much that can go wrong here it's not even funny," Katherine noted while going over the main ships decks. "A military operation like this requires days of proper research and strategy. But I guess we play with the cards we're dealt."

Zordon watched his Rangers converse amongst themselves about the mission, possible options should complications arise, and what to do about their families when they wake up and each of them are gone. That drew quiet a few chuckles around the room despite the dark day ahead. At last the time had come to go. "Rangers, we face the extermination of the human race." His words drew them back to the here and now. "We have a job to do. I suggest you get ready, arm yourselves, and meet with your team leads in private. We begin in 20 minutes. Dismissed."

One by one they filed out of his War Room. Each and everyone of them as special to him as if they were his child. Now grown, battle hardened, and ready to face the unknown. He prayed, in his own way, for the safety of each of them. "Alpha, are the shuttle and the Zords readied?"

"All are flight-capable. We are ready."

"Good. Then may the power protect us."

******

******

The Command Center

Winged Prey Zord Hanger Bay

Thursday, April 8, 1997 4:20 AM

The mountains of Angel Grove, Ca

While pacing back and forth, Tommy heard the last second preparations Trini and Katherine were making in the rear of the shuttle he was going to pilot shortly. Adam was securing the E.M.P Bomb in the cargo hold. Standing at the top of the boarding ramp, he scanned the hanger bay for any sight of Kimberly. What he wanted to say to her, he didn't know. There was so much wrong with them that these brief moments before all Hell broke loose weren't near enough time to fix anything between them. But he needed... he absolutely needed a moment alone with her.

And then he saw her.

Between the Eagle and Hawk Winged Prey Zords, Jason held court with his team, no doubt going over his last minute instructions. Kimberly's gaze found his intense stare and held it for a long moment, and then she looked away. The team broke off to their respective Zords as Tommy stalked off the boarding ramp to his shuttle towards Kimberly. Ignoring his pursuit, she began backing towards a shadowed loading dock on the other end of the hanger, turning away from him into the darkness.

A strong hand grabbed at Kimberly's forearm and before she could pull away she was being pressed hard to the back wall. Air fled her lungs before Tommy inhaled her next breath, kissing her with such savage hunger. Kissing her so thoroughly, as if he'd never see her again.

Her mind exploded with rage and frustration, but her body melted in his powerful embrace. His arms tightened around her, while her arms curled round his neck, her tongue effectively fucking his mouth as badly as her body craved that one last line they'd never crossed. There was so much wrong with them, but so much right about this angry, passionate moment. Maybe it was the dangerous mission that shoved their very real problems into the background for the moment. Maybe it was the boldly confident way his eager hands roamed her body, causing her to arch and whimper, the heat of his hard arousal shooting heat throughout her body. Her nails dug into his shoulders, gasping around his tongue, her body clenching around the phantom of him she so craved.

Tommy claimed her hot little mouth, having been starved for far to long of the taste of her. He drank fully from her lips, his hands ghosting down to squeeze her backside before circling her waist. Oh what he would give for circumstances to be different. For them to have already made love for the first time. Because had they he swore he would bury himself inside her right now and forget the whole damn world. Take her until she cried out his name.

At last, a seconds or a lifetime later Kimberly broke the kiss on the wing tips of a husky gasp. She relinquished her hold around his neck as he did the same around his neck. Her eyes sparked with raw desire and fiery anger that he could just take her like this. But she sought this dark quiet place while knowing he would follow. She sucked in a deep breath, her gaze intense. "Don't you dare die."

Tommy didn't smile. But a weight lifted nonetheless. "You either." Kimberly was gone no sooner had the words fled his lips. After a moment of modesty he made his way towards the shuttle and whatever fate had in store.

******

******

"The Rune"
Domminair-Class Warship

The throne room of Crysis

Thursday, April 8, 1997 4:40 AM

Far side of the moon

For Crysis, the power wasn't in the act of killing. It was with the power to kill. To wield life and death as weapons at his command alone. Creation dominated all. For one to own that power meant immortality. And he would own that power by any means necessary. But first... he had a debt to repay.

Surrounded by an inferno... blustering flames ushered him into existence long ago, so it was fitting that gusting fires lit from the stone pyre-pits surrounding his domed throne room roared around the gathered. This mammoth structure built in honor of a living God was forever sweltering. A mirrored floor reflected the stars above, offering an almost unimaginable sense of awe when one entered. The Ventra-glass dome overlooking the vastness of the cosmos revealed the jewel of the universe below.

Earth.

Primitive in technology. Its people without value as slaves to any world. But its rich natural resources and the specific chemical composition at the planet's core made it not only an incredibly easy conversion to fit other alien species Eco-requirements, but it was the only world of its like in all the universe that could be successfully cloned. A fact that only made Crysis inevitable journey here more destined than ever.

Seated atop a throne of crushed bones, Crysis addressed his Elite Guard. "They mass against us, my brothers." With towering flames encircling the grand hall, four cloaked beings on bended knee bowed their heads. "Zordon is sending his accursed Rangers to kill us. Our mere presence has given them no choice. No way to back out. And no other viable options."

"ALL HAIL CRYSIS!" the four chanted loudly, their powerful words echoing ominously around the vast hall.

"Their Code of Honor... of Justice... of the preservation of life will be broken!" Crysis clenched his flesh fist as he rose from the throne before his Elite Guard. "Zordon's based his very existence on the defense and protection of peace for all. Yet who has killed more than the self-rightious founder of the Power Rangers? Who has more blood on his hands... more hidden sins than the wizard from Eltar?"

"ALL HAIL CRYSIS!"

The cursed, billowing cape of dark, living smoke flowed over the powerful dark frame of Crysis. White, dead eyes narrowed angrily. Skin as dark as deep space, his grotesquely altered body, an unholy merging of flesh, technology, and sorcery was as far from human as one could imagine. An expressionless face of stone spoke. "For two hundred and seventy-five years we suffered... were tortured and imprisoned for crimes we did not commit. All in place of the one who truly deserved to be punished. And while we rotted away in hell, Zordon was cheered and adored throughout the cosmos. But today... Now my brothers!! Zordon of Eltar will answer for his crimes at long last!"

"ALL HAIL CRYSIS!!"

Black Cyborg-metal containing, built around, and torn into flesh peeked from behind the heavy smoke-cloak of dark energy. "We will butcher his Rangers, decimate his world, and lay waste to his legacy. WE WILL BREAK HIM!" Crysis raised his cyborg fist, alerting Thanos, Nomad, Void, and Ruckus to rise. "Thanos, are we ready?"

The massive, hulking yellow-skinned monster hissed, "An armada of our fighters await their Zords at the dig site, Master." Upon rising to his fool nine-foot tall height, he clearly towered over Crysis. His strength, that of legend. As was his appetite for destruction.

Peering through the broad window glass overlooking the Earth, Crysis jaw tightened. All his life has led him to this very moment. His vengeance was at hand. "We have caught them off guard. They scramble to engage us. Our plan has worked perfectly. They think all we want is their pathetic planet. But they will soon learn the truth about Zordon."

Crysis faced his Elite Guard once more. Like him, born into a hellish world of slavery. Expected to die, and yet they persevered against all odds. Banded together. Evolved. And then slaughtered their captors.

Thanos the Beast. A stronger being Crysis had never known. Nomad's ability to spirit-jump and possess a being's consciousness was an invaluable weapon at his disposal. Void wielded the power of teleportation with deadly intent. As for Ruckus...

Crysis smiled. It was always a pleasure to have one truly insane being by his side.

"My Lord, what of the Rune? Surely an attack force will be sent here?" Thanos inquired.

Standing before the Earth below, Crysis felt the tide of fate shifting his way. This was his ultimate destiny. His revenge, long thought impossible, now at hand. "We are more than a match for them. I look forward to besting them in battle, and then sending their broken bodies back to the Eltarian. After all..."

"... It is the sins of the father that inspires such heartlessness in the son."

******

The End of Chapter 1

Final Chapter: Nothing goes according to plan as war is raged above the Earth. Heartbreaking sacrifices are made.