|Foreword||One and Two||Three, Four, Five||Interlude I and Six|
|Interlude II, Seven and Eight||Nine, Interlude III, and Ten||Eleven and Twelve||Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen|
Rita Repulsa dreamed.
While her body lay trapped in its tiny prison, her mind drifted lazily through the infinite expanse of her memories to another name, another place, some ten thousand or so years back.
Bandora was young, possessed of terrible power and beauty, a woman to be respected and feared. When Bandora walked through town, the populace deferred to her reverentially--partly because of her mother and the considerable power she wielded, but also because they knew what she was and what she could do.
Men stole glances at her and sighed, entranced by her awesome beauty. Women regarded her with wistful envy that they were not so bountifully blessed as she. Only the children showed no fear of Bandora; they danced around her and begged her to play with them. They adored her. And Bandora would smile, laughing as she allowed them to guide her away from her duties for a time. She played their games, taught them songs and lessons, and wished that she too could have a child. But her mother had warned her that such a thing would weaken her, would diminish her magical abilities with every birth. A virgin witch had no equal, she reminded her daughter constantly. To surrender that gift, to share life and love, was to surrender power. Never forget that, Bandora, she said. Never forget.
And Bandora did not forget, not even when she met the handsome warrior known as the Green Ranger. She did not forget when she began to steal away at night to be with him. She did not forget when they consummated their love in a lush garden beneath the full moon. She did not forget; she simply chose to ignore.
Her mother immediately knew what had happened. And when she sensed the new life within her daughter, her rage was a terrible thing to behold. She summoned the storms, brought forth the nightmares, and spewed every iota of her fury and wrath upon the Green Ranger. She watched, not without admiration, as he fought bravely, like a true warrior, even though he knew that he could not possibly triumph. There was even a tiny piece of pity in her heart when he finally fell.
Bandora screamed and ran to her beloved’s side. She pulled the battered green helmet off and tenderly cradled his head in her lap as her tears cascaded down his bruised and bloody face. There were no words between them as he reached down to his waist and with his dying breath gave her the only token he had left ...the symbol of his power and his oath.
And then the Green Ranger died.
Bandora clenched the coin so tightly in her hand it seemed to sear her skin. She screamed in defiance and anger at her mother, who watched her daughter’s pain impassively. Bandora cursed her over and over, renouncing her family heritage once and for all. From now on, she would walk alone, an outcast by her own choice. And as her first act of independence, she gathered her power together and began to cast a spell. A spell of resurrection.
Do not do this, my daughter, her mother warned. Such spells require far more power than you possess.
Bandora ignored her; power crackled around her as she wove the spell.
Think of the child within you, her mother pleaded. You endanger her existence.
Bandora did not listen. She ignored the pain welling up inside her; it was nothing compared to the pain in her soul.
Think of karma, my love, her mother screamed. You disrupt the balance of things!
Bandora screamed as the spell was cast...
Morning came with its usual warm and sunny demeanor; Egon and Janine had breakfast at a small cafe called McCarthy’s, where the food was tasty and the coffee cups were never empty for long. Afterward they returned to the hotel room and checked the laptop, which Egon had programmed to retrieve their e-mail from TobiNet. Sure enough, Ray had sent a lengthy dissertation on the ‘gargoyles in New York’ topic he’d raved about the night before. Fortunately, it appeared that Winston had managed to calm him down, because there were other notes concerning the PKE readings Egon had sent.
Egon scrolled through the first letter, Janine reading over his shoulder. “So, whattaya think?” she asked. “Is it possible that these things are flying around the city?”
“It’s possible,” Egon conceded, though his mind was more on the assignment at hand. “About a year ago, Ray and I were asked to evaluate an old book of spells that had been purchased by a billionaire. In the back of the book was a long, rambling treatise on a ‘clan’ of gargoyles that had been cursed by the writer. The book was pretty hot when we scanned it on the meter, and we recommended that it be given to us for safekeeping. The owner declined.”
“Oh yeah, I remember that,” Janine nodded. “David Xanatos, wasn’t it? The guy who bought that castle and plopped it on top of his skyscraper?”
“Hmmm-mmm.” Egon was clearly bored by the current topic. “I kept expecting to read about people killed by falling debris. I can’t believe anyone would be insane enough to reconstruct an old, decaying structure so far off the ground. At any rate, it’s possible that Xanatos somehow called forth these creatures. If I remember correctly, the spell that supposedly kept those creatures in check would work until the castle rose about the clouds, or something like that.” He looked up and shrugged. “Perhaps that’s why he put the castle up there.”
“Just to see if the book was right?” Janine whistled. “Pretty expensive way to prove a legend.”
“I’ve noticed that money has a proportional relationship with eccentricity,” Egon replied.
“Well, try not to discourage Ray too much. You know how he gets,” Janine recommended. “So ...what about the other stuff?”
Egon studied the other letters and sighed. “Nothing conclusive ...but based on my suspicion of Piniko, Ray’s been digging up research notes on female Oriental legends. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of them.” He pointed first to the list that had come up on the screen. “And that’s assuming she’s connected to what’s going on here.”
“What about the other frequency?” Janine asked.
“Nothing.” Egon shook his head. “Believe me, we don’t even want to try and narrow that one down at this point. That list would be even longer.” He leaned back and let Janine rub his shoulders and neck. “In addition, Winston’s concerned about the containment unit’s PKE levels. They’re running extremely close to critical capacity.”
“Oboy.” Janine pressed her thumbs into a particularly resistant muscle. “So what are you going to do?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea. Fortunately, business has been slowing down of late, so that could buy us some time to develop a solution.” He closed the e-mail window and sighed. “That feels wonderful, you know.”
“I suspected. You’re practically purring. What now?”
“Why don’t you drive over to the library and go through the local newspaper for the last two years? Find out as much as you can about these ‘Power Rangers’? Dates of appearance, monsters fought, locations--look for trends. I’m going to check Ray’s notes and see I can find anything there.”
“Sounds good. How about I come back around one for lunch? We could have a picnic in the park or something.”
Egon nodded. “That would be excellent. I’m sure by then I’ll want to get out of here for awhile.” Janine kissed him goodbye and headed out the door; he had just connected to the Internet when the phone rang.
“Egon? It’s Red.” The Banzai Institute’s feisty nurse sounded surprisingly chipper for nine in the morning, then Egon remembered to add three hours. “Hey, I asked Rawhide about those Institute grants you’d heard about.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, that’s the interesting thing. They’re apparently legitimate.”
“Apparently?” Egon echoed.
“Well, in that everything looks correct on the computer. The problem is, Mrs. Johnson hasn’t been able to find any grant applications from Angel Grove in her files. And you know how thorough she is.” Red sighed. “Frankly, Egon, Rawhide and Tommy suspect a hacker. You can imagine how that’s gone over with Billy and P.C.” The Ghostbuster nodded to himself; the Institute’s resident computer wizards took such intrusions personally. “We’re still looking into it. The really odd thing, though, is that your relatives have done everything by the book--status reports, research findings, the whole deal. It’s like they really believe they were given the grants.”
“Well, I’ve got to get to work. Give us a call if you need anything, and we’ll let you know what we find.” Egon gave the requisite farewells and hung up the phone. He sat still for a long time, puzzling over the various pieces of the mystery in his mind and trying to put them together...but there were far too many questions going unanswered. More research was required.
He took a sip from his cup of coffee and called up the first web site Ray had provided.
* * * * *
Before she’d gone to the library, Janine had visited the Angel Grove National Bank and obtained two rolls of dimes. From past experience, she knew she’d go through at least one of them and probably both. The teller had smiled brightly at her and wished her a nice day as she left. “Toto, we aren’t in the Big Apple any more,” she said to herself as she headed back to the car.
Janine was impressed by the size and stateliness of the town library. It looked like one of the old Carnegie projects from the turn of the century--two wings, three floors, solid brick construction. As she walked in, she sniffed the air and pleased to detect that certain scent that one found only where lots of older books sat over time. Janine paused long enough to notice a picture of the Power Rangers standing around a young boy and girl; apparently they’d won some sort of reading contest and gotten to meet their heroes. Cute.
The librarian was a pretty redhead whose four-year-old daughter was flipping through Mercer Mayer books with disturbing speed. She called the child over and guided Janine to a back room that contained a microfilm reader, a copier, and piles and piles of newspapers. “The copier’s ten cents a page,” she explained. “I’m sorry that you’re going to have to wade through all this, but we haven’t been able to get these on film yet.”
“No problem,” Janine assured her. “Compared to New York’s libraries, this is a breeze.” She gave the woman’s daughter a peppermint and a smile, then set her purse down, pulled out a notebook, and set to work.
Using Jason’s tale as a reference point, she quickly found the first mention of the Power Rangers. And as she worked, Janine could not help but be incredulous. No one ...no one ...ever protested the property damage these attacks and battles caused. Nothing vital, such as hospitals or fire departments, was ever destroyed. No one ever got seriously hurt or killed. It was as if the battles had been carefully choreographed ahead of time to minimize the dangerous consequences. “Weird,” she muttered under her breath and kept reading, writing, and copying.
The monsters were something else, too. Janine shook her head and wondered what kind of sick mind could even conceive of these things--giant crabs, armadillos, monkey men with wings, and some things that she couldn’t make heads or tails out of. Most of the photos were taken by zoom lens, with good reason--who wanted to get tangled up in those battles? Well, at least most times the monster blew up shortly after being defeated--saved on the clean up, no doubt.
But here was one where someone just happened to have a camera on the scene--the Rangers were battling a strikingly beautiful young Oriental woman in yellow armor. Mean-looking sword she had, too...
Wait a minute.... that face...
Janine quickly made copies of the photo, piled everything in her purse, cleaned up the room as best she could and hurried back to the car.
* * * * *
“EGON!” she cried as she stormed into the hotel room. He was sitting back in his chair, sipping at a cup of coffee and obviously taking a break from his researches. “Egon,” she panted, rummaging through her purse, “you aren’t going to believe what I found! I know who Piniko is...” She thrust the grainy photocopy of the warrior at him.
He studied it for a moment, then leaned forward and set to work on his laptop. Ten minutes later, his features wore a grim smile. “Here we are.”
He turned the laptop around to show her the screen. On it was a color sketch of the golden-armored warrior, and even when artistic license was discounted the resemblance to the photo ...and Piniko ...was unmistakable. “That’s her!” Janine gasped. She grabbed her notebook and flipped through it. “They called her Scorpina in the papers...”
“She’s also known as Lamia,” Egon supplied as he read from the screen. “Some of the older Japanese texts call her ‘The Lady of the Scorpions’.” He punched some keys and watched the text scroll down the screen. “Japanese demigoddess, origins unknown. Extremely fierce warrior in her day, also a very profligate mother--about seven or eight children for every lifetime she’s reported to have had.”
“Hope she had an understanding husband,” Janine whistled. “To say nothing of stamina.”
“There’s supposedly a temple in the western mountains of Honshu dedicated to her,” Egon continued. “No one’s quite sure, though.”
“So what’s she doing in Angel Grove?” Janine demanded.
“I’d rather know what she wants my nephew for,” Egon retorted. “And why she’s suddenly joined the side of the bad guys, too.” He stood up and stretched his arms. “I think it’s time we had a private little talk with Piniko, don’t you?”
“Fine by me,” Janine nodded. “So long as we have some lunch first.”
He blinked at her, confused. “I think this is a bit more important, don’t you?”
“If you think I’m going to confront a Japanese warrior demigoddess on an empty stomach, you’ve got another think coming,” she declared, taking his arm and pulling him out the door. “Let’s find a Kentucky Fried Chicken and eat, already!”
* * * * *
Far away, Lord Zedd rose from his throne and raised his staff high. “Enough of waiting for Zordon’s gambit to begin!” he roared. “Goldar!”
The monkey warrior hurried forward. “Yes, my evil lord and master?”
Zedd whirled around to face his minion. “Gather a battalion of putties and attack those meddlesome brats! Draw them out into the open. Then we shall see what Zordon has planned!”
“Yes, my lord!”
* * * * *
“I refuse to believe they don’t have a KFC here, either,” Janine declared forty-five minutes later.
“It does seem rather odd,” Egon agreed. “Fortunately, there was a delicatessen not far from here.” After a great deal of searching (and under-the-breath cursing from a starving Janine), they’d settled for a small shop called “Bulkie’s” and bought a pair of hero sandwiches. Janine noticed that the owner bore a striking resemblance to the obnoxious teenager who’d tried to give Egon trouble yesterday.
They were now sitting at a picnic table at Angel Grove Park, enjoying the warm summer afternoon. She bit into her sandwich--which was delicious--and looked out across the park. People were sunning themselves, playing Frisbee and volleyball, rollerblading, jogging ...it just seemed so normal, almost too normal, to her. There was just something so clean and wholesome about the entire town that she felt dirty in comparison.
“Over there,” Egon said quietly. Janine followed his gaze to where six teenagers were engaged in a game of “Frisbee keep-away”. She quickly checked out the shirt colors--black, blue, red, pink, yellow and white--and nodded. The faces matched those she’d seen at the juice bar.
“I don’t see Piniko,” she commented.
Suddenly an explosion of light blinded them. When their vision cleared, Egon and Janine could see a huge winged monkey in gold armor standing in front of the kids, slashing at the air with a huge, gleaming sword. Around him crouched an army of gibbering gray creatures that twitched and swayed threateningly. Most of the park population retreated; the six teenagers held their ground.
“Oh my God, Egon! Those have to be those putty things! What’s happening?” Janine turned, but the Ghostbuster was no longer sitting at the table. She whirled around and saw that the trunk of the car was open, and seconds later Egon reappeared. The proton pack was strapped to his back, and his gaze was fixed squarely on the just-started battle between the gray army and the teenagers. “Egon, no!” Janine cried. “You don’t know what you’re getting into!”
“That’s my nephew being threatened,” he replied grimly.
“Great. Hero time.” Janine rolled her eyes, put down her sandwich, and hurried over to join him.
With firm, resolute strides he closed to within sixty yards of the fracas. The kids were doing a pretty good job against the putties; Janine did a quick head count and figured that about three had gone to that big Play-Doh container in the sky. The monkey seemed content to hang back and observe for the moment, and the putties were keeping the kids so busy none of them could get a chance to attack him.
Janine heard a familiar noise and realized Egon had just fired up the pack. He took careful aim at the closest putty and fired. Energy crackled from the thrower and flew across the field, striking the creature square in the back. It cried out briefly, then exploded; the blast made putties, monkey and teenagers pause and turn around to see what had happened.
An acrid odor of burned tires drifted across the air. Egon stood there, thrower in hand, smiling grimly. “Make my day,” he growled, then opened fire again. In seconds the battleground smelled like a tire factory, and the monkey was standing by himself, looking around helplessly. The teenagers he’d been attacking appeared every bit as confused as their foe.
Egon carefully aimed his thrower at the winged monkey. “Next.”
The monkey abruptly vanished. The remains of his putty army followed an instant later.
The six teenagers glanced at one another for a minute or two, looking almost disappointed that their battle had been so rudely interrupted and abruptly concluded. Then Billy came running over, followed by the others at a slightly more reluctant pace.
“Uncle Egon!” he declared proudly. “That was an excellent display of precision firing! You accelerated the friction coefficient of the internal putty metabolism and caused a spontaneous release of heat energy!”
“Huh?” said Rocky, scratching his head.
“He toasted the putties,” Adam translated helpfully.
“Uncle Egon,” Billy continued, turning to his friends. “This is Rocky, Adam, Aisha, Kimberly, and Tommy.” Egon shook each of their hands in turn. “This is my Uncle Egon and his...”
“ ...Faithful companion...” Janine supplied.
“Uhh, yeah ...Janine Melnitz.” She nodded to the kids politely, not missing the consternation on their faces, especially the displeasure on Tommy’s face. If they knew that Egon had the thrower on its lowest setting, they’d be even more upset, she thought to herself.
Tommy was making an effort to be polite. “Uhhh, thanks for taking care of those things, Dr. Spengler,” he said tightly. “We, uhh, don’t know what we would have done without your help.”
“You appeared to be holding your own quite well,” Egon replied. “I was worried about Billy, though, and since I had the pack handy...” He switched it off and holstered the thrower.
Tommy was glancing nervously at the others, especially Kimberly. Yeah, Janine thought, how do you get out of this one without any troublesome questions, such as why was Monkey Boy picking on you? Fortunately, he was saved from talking further as six wrist beepers went off simultaneously. “Ohh, geez, there’s a ...a...” he began.
“That, like, umm...” Kim snapped her fingers. “That youth program we volunteered for at Ernie’s!” she cried triumphantly.
“Oh, yeah,” Tommy nodded. “We gotta get going, Dr. Spengler. Nice meeting you two.”
“I’m sure,” Janine replied, trying to hide her grin.
“Actually,” Egon interrupted, “I was hoping to talk to you, Billy. Do you think you could spare a little time? It’s important.” His nephew glanced at Tommy and the others; they looked distinctly unhappy that he was even considering the request.
Finally he said, “Sure, Uncle Egon.” He turned to the others. “I’ll be there in a bit.”
“Don’t be too long,” Tommy ordered, then nodded to the others. They hurried off toward the nearest building, which was odd, because Ernie’s was in the opposite direction. Janine turned away so that Billy couldn’t see her giggling.
“What’s wrong?” Billy asked his uncle.
“William,” Egon said sternly. “I cannot believe you would have willingly exposed yourself to an unknown energy source without any prior research to determine the effects it might have on your body. I’m very disappointed in you.”
The young man blanched at the stinging rebuke ...and at the meaning behind it. “What ...what do you mean?”
“Morphing energy,” Egon replied. “You and your friends are the Power Rangers ...aren’t you?”
Billy’s face went chalk white.
* * * * *
“FOOL!” Zedd’s staff smashed into Goldar’s helmet; the warrior staggered back and continued to cower and plead for mercy from his dread lord. “THRICE-CURSED IDIOT! I order you to engage the Rangers, keep them busy long enough to discover Zordon’s ultimate plan, and you RETURN AFTER FIVE MINUTES?????”
“Please, my Lord Zedd!” Goldar begged. “It wasn’t my fault! The Rangers had help from a stranger! He had some sort of weapon that vaporized the putties! I had to return to warn you!”
“And save your own skin, no doubt,” Zedd retorted angrily, but this news intrigued him. He sat back down upon his throne and activated his viewing globe, watching the replay of the battle with interest. “Interesting. Perhaps this is the new factor Zordon wishes to introduce. Perhaps the return of the original Rangers was merely a ruse...”
“Or perhaps the second phase of his plan?” Goldar foolishly offered.
“SILENCE!” Zedd leaned back in his throne and pondered the possibilities. “You left too soon, Goldar,” he finally declared. “We are still unsure of our enemy’s true motives. Since you have failed me, I will give the Rangers something more difficult to face...”
* * * * *
“What’s up, Zordon?” Tommy asked upon materializing in the Command Center. Alpha was busy fiddling with the controls to the display console; the face of the Rangers’ mentor flickered once or twice, then settled into its usual blurred appearance. “We ran into Goldar and some putties,” Tommy added.
“Yeah, and Billy’s uncle turned them into putty pies,” Adam said with a grin. “Man, that was something!”
“Hey, he could have fried us by accident,” Tommy retorted, giving his teammate a glare for emphasis; Adam shut up and stopped smiling. “Zordon, Billy’s talking to his uncle. He should be here in a minute.”
“I’M AFRAID THAT BILLY HAS BEEN DECEIVED,” Zordon said sadly. “BEHOLD THE VIEWING GLOBE.” The Rangers circled the sphere, which showed their friend talking to Egon and Janine. Abruptly the picture flickered angrily, and the teenagers gasped as they saw two putties standing there instead. “THIS IS ANOTHER PIECE OF ZEDD’S INSIDIOUS PLOT TO DEFEAT YOU FROM WITHIN,” their mentor informed them. “NOT CONTENT TO ENSLAVE THE FORMER RANGERS AGAINST YOU, HE HAS NOW TRICKED BILLY BY SENDING HIS MINIONS IN FORMS THAT THE BLUE RANGER WOULD TRUST.”
“Oh man,” Adam sighed, shaking his head in disbelief.
“You mean that whole battle was just a set-up to trick us?” Aisha turned to look up at Zordon, steel determination shining in her eyes. “What do we do? Take the putty imposters down?”
Suddenly the alarms began wailing throughout the dark chamber; Alpha cut loose with an “Ay-yi-yi” and hurried over to another console. The viewing globe faded for a moment, then refocused on a monster running wild in the Angel Grove warehouse district. It looked something akin to Godzilla running rampant through a fabric store. “ZEDD’S NEWEST MONSTER IS ATTACKING. YOU MUST GO TO BATTLE, RANGERS.”
“But like, what about Billy?” Kim said uncertainly.
“WE WILL SUMMON BILLY AND SEND HIM TO YOU. YOU MUST GO NOW AND HOLD THE KIMONO DRAGON UNTIL HE CAN JOIN YOU.”
“Right!” cried Tommy. “It’s Morphin’ Time!”
* * * * *
“No,” Billy said, shaking his head furiously. “It’s not possible. It can’t be...” He looked up at Egon. “How did you find out about ...you know?”
“Your friends told us,” he replied.
“Tommy and the others ...we were all sworn to secrecy,” he protested weakly.
“Not them,” Janine said gently. “Jason? Trini? Zack?”
“Oh.” Billy sat down at a nearby bench and cradled his head in his hands. “They aren’t really what you could call friends anymore,” he explained. “We had a sort of falling out with them. About two months after they’d gone to the Peace Conference, we received a number of letters that were extremely vehement in nature. Tommy and Kimberly were most upset from the missives they got from Jason.”
“Jason claims he got nasty notes from them,” Janine told him. She fished around in her purse and retrieved the copies of those letters, thanking her stars that she’d thought to keep them handy. Billy unfolded them and read them carefully; his eyes widening as he read the final letter, which Trini had supposedly received from him.
“No,” he whispered softly. “I never ...I could never say those things. I could never think those things. She was my friend.”
“She still is,” Janine said quietly.
He looked up at Egon, his eyes moist. “Uncle Egon ...what’s going on? Why is all this happening? Is it a plot of Zedd’s?”
“I don’t know,” Egon conceded. “But I think we need to find the answers ...and fast. I’d suggest we talk to Piniko Soga first.”
“Piniko?” Now Billy was truly confused. “What does she have to do with...?” Before he could finish his question, his beeper went off again, this time in more demanding tones. He lifted the wrist device to his mouth and murmured something under his breath, then listened to the reply. “Uncle Egon ...Janine ...I have to go,” he said a moment later. “The others need me.”
“Where are they right now?” Egon demanded.
“Warehouse district ...I have to go.” Billy pressed a button on his beeper and vanished in a blue blur that ascended heavenward.
Egon glanced at Janine. “Well,” she said, “if he thinks that’s something, wait till we tell him who his girlfriend really is.”
“Come on,” he said tightly, turning toward the car. “Let’s get going.”
“Let me guess,” she said with a sigh as she hurried to catch up with him. “The warehouse district?”
“Exactly. I want to see these ‘Power Rangers’ in action.”
* * * * *
Despite recent history, Zack, Trini and Jason had returned to the juice bar for a war council. Of course, it had helped that Zack had called ahead to make sure their former friends weren’t there. A bit of caution never hurt anybody.
Trini informed them of her phone conversation with Kim. “It was like she couldn’t wait to hang up,” she finished sadly. “I thought that maybe, just maybe I could straighten things out with her, but I guess I was wrong.”
“Man, this sucks big time,” Jason said softly, shaking his head.
“Well, try sucking on this,” Ernie suggested as he handed Jason his order, a mango shake. “Might leave a better taste in your mouth.”
“Thanks, Ernie,” Jason replied, sipping the cool beverage. The peace conference had nothing that compared to this masterpiece.
Zack smiled slyly. “So, Ernie,” he said casually, “you got anything to offer about this whole situation?”
The chubby proprietor shrugged. “Dunno. Everything was fine until they got those letters from you. Kim really went bananas...” He handed Trini her banana-papaya shake. “No pun intended.”
“Whatever those letters said, we didn’t write them,” Trini declared. “And I still have a hard time believing they wrote the ones we received.”
Ernie frowned. “Hmmm. Someone got a vested interest in keeping you all apart? You guys made one heckuva team...almost as good as the Power Rangers.”
Jason suddenly choked on his shake; Zack slapped him roughly on the back until his friend had recovered. Fortunately, at that moment Ernie’s attention was focused on the TV set by his counter; a news reporter was talking about the sudden appearance of a rampaging dragon-monster in the Angel Grove warehouse district.
“Here we go again,” Ernie sighed, shaking his head tiredly. “Good thing we’ve got the Power Rangers, huh, guys?” He looked around, but Zack, Trini and Jason had vanished, leaving their shakes and some money on the table. He shrugged again and scooped the money up in his big hands. “Well, some things never change,” he said to himself as he headed for the cash register.
* * * * *
By the time Egon and Janine arrived on the scene, the police had cordoned off the main battle zone. Fortunately, Egon had learned the fine art of finesse from Peter Venkman. “Ghostbusters,” he said firmly to the police officer who was trying to bar his way. The proton pack was strapped to his back for added emphasis.
“No kidding?,” the cop retorted. “I thought Halloween had come early. Now get back.”
Egon grabbed his thrower and fired at a pile of garbage sitting in a nearby alley; the refuse exploded into a small shower of burning rain. The cop stared at the display for a moment, then shut up and got out of Egon’s way.
“So where are they?” Janine asked, glad that she’d been wearing sneakers all day. Working for the Ghostbusters made one practical about footwear.
Egon consulted his PKE meter. “Over there,” he said, pointing to the north. They hurried down the sidewalk and turned left at the corner. Sure enough, the Power Rangers were there, struggling for their lives against what appeared to be a giant dragon dressed in traditional Japanese clothing.
“What the heck is it?” Janine asked, bewildered.
“A kimono dragon, of course,” Egon replied. Janine made a face and groaned. As they watched, colorful tentacles shot from the monster’s arms and wrapped around the Rangers’ arms, legs and neck, binding them securely and slowly strangling the life out of them.
“Egon!” Janine cried in alarm as she spotted the Blue Ranger flailing helplessly in mid-air; the Ghostbuster nodded grimly and opened fire. The energy blast hit the creature dead center and ignited it. As the fire blazed upon its chest, the monster recalled its bindings and fell to the ground, rolling on its belly to put the fire out. The Rangers fell to the ground, but quickly rose to their feet and regrouped. The Blue Ranger turned around, saw Egon and Janine, and nodded once.
The Red Ranger yelled something, and the others quickly assembled their individual weapons into one mean-looking gun, which Red fired at the monster. It screamed ...no, laughed, and sent a long tentacle at his foes. It slammed into the gun and shattered it, sending an energy feedback ripping through the Rangers and stunning them. Only the White Ranger was still standing, and with a cry of rage he leaped into the air at the monster, his saber flashing in the afternoon sunlight. He slashed and hacked at the monster, slicing the cloth wrappings that tried to bind him.
“Wow,” breathed Janine.
“Fascinating,” Egon agreed.
Finally the creature got in a lucky shot, spewing hot fire from his mouth. The White Ranger went flying backwards toward his friends. He hit the pavement hard, and the Pink Ranger hurried over to his side while the others flanked their leader. He slowly rose to his feet and shouted angrily at his enemy, who laughed derisively and taunted them to attack again.
Janine heard something behind her and turned around; Jason, Trini and Zack were running up to join them. “We miss much?” Jason asked breathlessly.
“Stalemate right now,” Janine replied. “How’s the cheek?”
“I’ll live,” he shrugged. “Jeez,” he said upon seeing the Rangers’ foe. “A kimono dragon. How lame can you get?”
“Were they all that dumb looking?” Zack asked, incredulous.
“Didn’t seem that way at the time,” Trini added. Suddenly she gasped as the creature attacked again, catching the Rangers flat-footed and ensnaring them once more in his multi-colored bindings. It laughed evilly as it dragged them closer to where he stood.
“Aw, geez, Tommy,” Jason said despairingly. “Use that damn sword and cut yourself free!”
“His arm is pinned. He can’t,” Trini said, shaking her head.
“Egon...” Janine said warningly, but he had already taken aim. The shot sizzled through the air and burned through several of the strips keeping the Rangers prisoner; the next shot set the monster on fire again. The third shot, this time aimed for the head, caused it to scream and run wildly around in circles.
“Nice shooting, Tex,” Janine said in admiration. Egon smiled back.
A small metal globe suddenly soared down from the sky. The monster caught it in one hand and popped the lid off. There was a muffled explosion, and before their eyes it began to grow, easily topping fifteen feet before it was done. Now its laughter boomed like afternoon thunder as it stormed forward, trying to crush his tiny enemies.
“Come on, Tommy,” Jason pleaded. “Call the damned Zords!” And as if he’d been heard, the Rangers raised their arms and called out the names of their mystical totems. One by one the Zords appeared: the Lion, the Unicorn, the Griffin, the Firebird, and the magnificent Red Dragon. From the opposite direction came a growing rumble, and in moments the Tigerzord came into view, roaring its defiance and racing into battle.
“Fascinating,” murmured Egon.
Before their eyes the five Zords came together, forming the Thundermegazord. As they merged, the White Ranger shifted his own Zord into battle mode, creating a white warrior to stand beside the Samurai-style conglomeration. The monster roared with laughter and attacked the Thundermegazord, which struggled to keep its balance against the onslaught.
“That’s ridiculous!” Egon snapped. “That’s not strategy! A far better plan would have been to keep the Zords separated and attack the thing from different directions! This way they’re one big target to center on! What on Earth are they thinking?”
Jason and Zack traded uneasy glances at each other, but said nothing.
The White Tigerzord fired a volley of energy bursts at the monster, which staggered backwards and fell, crushing six warehouses under its weight. The bindings around the Thundermegazord snapped back to their master, leaving the construct free. It reached for its samurai energy sword and withdrew it from the sheath, then raised it high into the air, poised to strike.
And the monster inexplicably charged forward ...straight into the sword’s descending arc. The blade sliced through the creature like a knife through cream, and the creature fell to the ground, then exploded with an impressive display of smoke, fire and thunder. The Thundermegazord stood with its back to its fallen foe, sheathed its sword, and vanished seconds later, along with the Tigerzord.
“I do not believe this,” Egon said, shaking his head in disgust. “I cannot believe this.”
“Neither can I,” Jason said softly from nearby, his eyes riveted on the battle site. “And I used to be in the middle of it!”
“How could we have been so stupid?” Zack groaned. “Why didn’t we see?” He looked at Jason and grinned. “You know, thinking back, you could have saved us a heckuva lot of trouble if you’d called for the stupid power sword right off the bat!”
Jason shrugged. “I dunno. At the time, it didn’t seem ...right, somehow. Not fair. I can’t explain it.”
Trini sighed. “Well, they’re probably off to the Command Center to celebrate their victory. What do we do?”
Egon turned to the teenagers. “Well, you could come with us to visit Piniko Soga.”
“Why?” Trini asked, curious. “What does Piniko have to do with this?”
“I’m not sure at the moment,” Egon replied. “But I’m fairly certain that she can provide us with some answers at the very least.”
* * * * *
The Power Rangers returned triumphantly to the Command Center.
“Aw-right!” Rocky and Aisha, still clad in their Ranger uniforms, gave each other a high-five. Kimberly and Tommy set their helmets down on a convenient console and smiled at one another; Billy hurried over to the console where Alpha was working and set to work with the robot, while Adam watched over their shoulders.
“I guess we showed Zedd who’s still tops, huh?” Rocky beamed.
“YOU HAVE DONE WELL, RANGERS, AND SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR VICTORY. BUT I FEAR YOUR WORK IS NOT OVER YET. BEHOLD THE VIEWING GLOBE.” The Rangers hurried over to the shimmering sphere, which was focusing on Angel Grove High School. Seconds later, the team saw Egon, Janine and the former Rangers heading through the front door. “THE DISGUISED PUTTIES AND YOUR FORMER FRIENDS ARE PREPARING TO KIDNAP PINIKO SOGA.”
Billy whirled around, the color draining from his face. “What disguised putties? Why would they want Piniko, Zordon? What’s going on?”
Tommy and Kim came over; the White Ranger put a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “That’s not your uncle, Billy. Zedd’s sent some putties down to trick you into helping him, somehow.”
“Like, Zordon showed us a little while ago, while you were talking to them in the park,” Kim said, her eyes sorrowful. “I’m really sorry, Billy.”
“No.” Billy’s head shook back and forth. “That’s insane. That’s my Uncle Egon. I know it.”
Kim winced. “Billy ...I’m sorry...”
He shook his head. “No,” he whispered. “It can’t be...”
“RANGERS, THERE IS MORE YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO RESCUE YOUR FRIEND.”
“Like, what else could we possibly need to know?” Kim retorted, a trace of peevishness in her voice. “So now they’re going to try and grab Piniko. We’ve gotta stop ‘em. So, like, what else?”
“BEHOLD THE VIEWING GLOBE.”
“Sometimes I think I ‘behold the viewing globe’ more than I watch TV,” Aisha grumbled as they circled the sphere again. Piniko Soga appeared; she was sitting in the library, ostensibly reading one of her textbooks. On closer examination, however, it turned out that a romance novel was wedged inside the book.
“ZEDD PLANS TO USE HER TO CAPTURE THE SIX OF YOU ALONG WITH YOUR FORMER FELLOW RANGERS,” Zordon explained.
“PINIKO! NO!” Without warning, the Blue Ranger activated his teleport device and vanished from the command center. Kim and Tommy looked at each other a bit sheepishly, then glanced up at Zordon.
“YOU MUST HURRY, RANGERS. BRING THEM ALL HERE. PERHAPS ALPHA AND I CAN FIND A WAY TO CURE THEM OF ZEDD’S EVIL TAINT.”
Tommy glanced around at his friends. “Let’s do it.”
* * * * *
Piniko Soga stared at the five people around her. Instinctively, she pressed a little closer to the wall behind her. “I ...do not understand, Dr. Spengler. What questions of yours could I possibly answer?”
Egon’s stare could melt titanium. “I know who you are. I want to know why you’re here, what your connection to this entire scenario is, and what Billy’s role in it is as well.”
The girl trembled slightly, cowering before the angry Ghostbuster. Janine would have felt sorry for her had she not known that this frightened little bird could probably slide and dice them all into cutlets if it suited her. “Piniko,” she said as gently as she could, “if you care for Billy like I think you do, you’ll understand why we’re worried, and you’ll help us understand what’s going on so we can help.”
Zack nudged Jason and Trini. “This is weird.”
“Tell me about it,” Jason muttered.
“I am sorry,” Piniko pleaded tearfully, “but I do not understand what you are talking about, Dr. Spengler. Please, you are frightening me.”
“Hardly,” he snorted.
“Egon.” The tone in Janine’s voice made him pause. She shook her head curtly at him, then returned her attention to the trembling girl. “Piniko ...we know who you really are.”
“I ...I...” She shook her head wildly.
“Uhh, Dr. Spengler, I think you really are scaring her,” Jason interjected.
“I don’t think anything short of Lord Zen would frighten her,” the Ghostbuster retorted.
“Zedd,” Jason automatically corrected; the glare he received from the scientist made him shut up.
“Zack?” The former Ranger whirled around to find Angela approaching him. Her eyes were wide with concern. “What’s going on? Is something wrong with Piniko?”
Zack’s mind raced for an appropriate explanation and came up with nothing. And the hell of it was, he didn’t want to lie to her any longer. He wanted her to trust him. Unfortunately, the truth would sound more deceptive than any creative falsehood he could muster.
He glanced over at Trini and Jason, who weren’t doing much better than he was, and took a deep breath. “Angela . . .”
Just then Billy appeared from around the corner. He hurried over to join the group, concern and anger fighting for control. “What’s going on here?” he demanded. “Uncle Egon, why are you bothering Piniko?” His gaze softened somewhat when it fell upon his friends. “Trini ...Jason ...Zack ...something odd is going on here...”
“Hi, Billy,” Trini began, then all hell broke loose.
Without warning the Power Rangers materialized around the small group. The White and Pink Rangers grabbed Jason and dragged him kicking and yelling backwards away from Egon and Janine. The Yellow Ranger grabbed Trini, and the Red Ranger Zack.
“Damn it, Rocky, let go!” Zack screamed as the Red Ranger secured his grip on his captive. He glanced over at Angela; she had pressed herself against the lockers, hands tightly clenched against her mouth and eyes wide with disbelief and panic. Zack squirmed and writhed furiously, but Rocky’s grip was far too solid. He was helpless.
The Black Ranger lunged for Billy, who barely managed to sidestep his opponent. But the Ranger’s left hand managed to snag Billy’s morpher and send it flying across the floor, well out of reach. Adam rolled back onto his feet and prepared to try again...
Piniko Soga’s right arm plunged downward. Her hand wrapped itself around an unseen object and pulled it free. A blinding explosion of light flashed momentarily, and suddenly Scorpina stood among them, her sword poised to strike.
“Scorpina,” the Pink Ranger gasped. “Oh my gosh, Tommy, Billy’s been snogging with Scorpina!”
The golden-clad warrior stepped forward, blocking the Black Ranger’s path to Billy. Her sword traced small circles in the air as she swayed back and forth; her eyes burned with obsidian fury. “Go away, Ranger,” she warned in a low tone. “You will not capture my beloved or his kin.”
The Black Ranger paused, unsure of what to do--he had expected some resistance from Billy, but Scorpina was another thing entirely. She took advantage of his hesitation, slamming the flat of her blade against his chest and knocking him down to the floor.
“Quickly!” she cried to Billy, Egon and Janine. “We must leave immediately!”
Egon grabbed Janine and Billy and pulled them beside Scorpina. “If you’ve got a plan, I’d suggest you implement it now!” he yelled.
“We are gone!” There was one final burst of bright light and fury, and the Power Rangers found themselves circling empty air. Nearby, Angela gave up trying to understand what had happened and slowly slid to the floor in a dead faint.
And of course, no one noticed the janitor standing nearby, leaning heavily on his mop and staring at the assembled Rangers with his bright crimson eyes.
|Foreword||One and Two||Three, Four, Five||Interlude I and Six|
|Interlude II, Seven and Eight||Nine, Interlude III, and Ten||Eleven and Twelve||Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen|