On Eagle's Wings
"Okay, okay... I am hopelessly lost here!" Kimberly complained, pulling off her helmet. Her exasperated gaze scanned the entire Command Center, quickly noting each of her teammates as they also removed their helmets. Her stare settled on Jason as Trini eased him onto a seat. Alpha immediately rushed to him, carrying a medical scanner.
"You're not the only one who's confused, Kim," Jason forced through clenched teeth, as Alpha cautiously probed his wounds.
"Sorry," Alpha whispered, holding Jason's arm above his head despite the tremors of pain that ailed the Red Ranger, "But I've got to assess how bad the damage is."
"And how bad is it?" Trini asked.
"Not too bad, all things considered," Alpha revealed. A general sigh escaped the worried Rangers. "Cuts and bruises, cracked bones, but nothing's broken. Looks like Goldar was just having some fun."
Jason frowned pensively at that. It hurt to admit it, but Alpha was right... he had been at Goldar's mercy from the moment he had arrived in the park. It was all he could do to keep away as Goldar launched attack after attack.
But with Alexis there, what could he do?
"Guys, we need to figure out what happened back there," Jason determined, his voice adopting the authoritative "leader tone" that all but demanded attention.
"Who is she?" Trini wondered.
"I think it was Alexis Darling," Zack offered, a small frown on his face.
"What do you mean, you think?" Kim inquired.
Zack shrugged. "It looked like her, but... I don't know; she was creepy back there. She looked like her as far as features go, but she acted really weird."
"AND HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW ALEXIS DARLING?" Zordon questioned, speaking for the first time since his Rangers appeared.
"Not all that well personally, but I know her through Angela. They're pretty good friends."
"It was Alexis," Jason confirmed, running his hand through his disheveled hair, "I was walking her home after school when Goldar attacked."
"And then what happened?" Billy asked.
"I'm not sure. I was fighting Goldar, and Alexis was still there. I couldn't Morph with her standing there, and Goldar knew it. He cast this... energy bubble on her, freezing her in place so she couldn't run. But somehow, she broke free, and fired an energy sphere at Goldar."
Jason shook his head at the recollection. "It was so weird. Goldar was terrified, and with good reason. Suddenly, Alexis... generated an incredible power. I could feel the hairs on my arms standing up. She stood in the center of a cyclone of power, and then she shot Goldar with something she called an Eagleheart Pulse... almost casually, like she could cream him in her sleep."
The Rangers didn't notice, but at the mention of the Eagleheart Pulse, Alpha dropped his scanner, shaking his head slowly with amazed denial.
Zordon remained silent.
"Then you guys showed up," Jason concluded. "That blast knocked Goldar into the basketball court. Alexis was frozen for a bit, but she finally seemed to snap out of it."
Zack nodded. "Yeah, that's when she screamed. And somehow, she took off into the sky. She flew, Man... like a rocket or something. What are we dealing with here?"
"WE ARE DEALING WITH THE PURPLE RANGER."
The Rangers jumped at the startling announcement Zordon had delivered. All five turned to him, gazing up at their trusted leader with mutually incredulous expressions.
Zordon nodded slowly, to affirm the stricken Rangers that they heard correctly.
"Another Ranger?" Kimberly repeated.
Zack was thunderstruck. "First the Green Ranger, and now a Purple one? How many Rangers are there, anyway?"
Despite the gravity of the situation, Zordon spared a smile at Zack's slightly irritated question. But his smile fell quickly, as he prepared himself to enlighten his Rangers of the grim past.
"AS YOU KNOW, YOU WERE NOT THE FIRST TO BE POWER RANGERS. THERE HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN MANY TEAMS OF RANGERS BEFORE YOU."
"Many?" Billy repeated. "How many?"
Zordon would have winced if he were able. "VERY MANY. YOU KNEW THAT RITA REPULSA HAD BATTLED A TEAM OF RANGERS NEARLY TEN THOUSAND YEARS AGO, BEFORE SHE WAS TRAPPED IN HER DUMPSTER. BUT BEFORE RITA WERE OTHER, EVEN MORE DEADLY MONSTERS. THE EARTH HAS BEEN A SITE OF ALIEN INVASION FOR CENTURIES PRIOR TO HER ARRIVAL. I WAS GIVEN THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CREATING A POWER STRONG ENOUGH TO DEFEAT THE ULTIMATE EVIL. BUT I WAS SO YOUNG AND INEXPERIENCED... I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT. SO I WAS GIVEN TWO POWER COINS... THE DRAGON AND THE EAGLE."
Kimberly gasped quietly. "The Dragon? As in... the Green Ranger?"
Zordon nodded. "THE PURPLE AND GREEN RANGERS WERE THE FIRST, AND FROM THEIR TEMPLATE AND SOME HELP FROM MY ALLIES I MANAGED TO CREATE THE MORPHIN' GRID, AND FIVE OTHER COINS THAT FORM THE CORE RANGERS. FOR MANY CENTURIES, SEVEN POWER RANGERS SERVED WITH ME. UNFORTUNATELY, SOME..." He was silent for a moment, struggling for words... "DIED IN BATTLE, AND WERE REPLACED BY OTHERS. BUT THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SALVATION OF THE UNIVERSE CONTINUED FOR SO LONG, IT FELT LIKE AN ETERNITY."
Zordon sighed sullenly, as the memories of the Shadow Era returned. Still, he pushed back his guilt and shame, and continued.
"EVENTUALLY, RITA CAME TO EARTH TO CONQUER IT IN THE NAME OF LORD ZEDD. THIS OCCURRED AFTER A GENERATION OF PEACE, SO A NEW TEAM OF RANGERS WAS CHOSEN. SEVEN IN ALL.
"THE BATTLE WAS FIERCE AS ALWAYS, BUT IT SOURED TERRIBLY, AND THE SCALES TIPPED AGAINST US. RITA HAD CAPTURED EROL, THE GREEN RANGER, AND CORRUPTED HIS HEART. DEEP DOWN, EROL RESENTED THE SACRIFICE HE HAD MADE IN BECOMING A RANGER, AND THAT RESENTMENT OPENED THE DOOR TO RITA'S EVIL. HE BECAME THE EVIL GREEN RANGER."
A chill crept down Kim's spine as she recalled the cruelty and brutality Tommy had been capable of as the Evil Green Ranger. Faintly, she wondered if the goodness in his predecessor's heart had been so horribly twisted.
"THE PURPLE RANGER, KREIA, LOVED EROL DEEPLY," Zordon resumed, "AND DESPITE ALL THE WARNINGS OF CAUTION I COULD GIVE, SHE LEFT FOR THE MOON PALACE TO SAVE HIM ALONE. I DO NOT KNOW ALL THE DETAILS, BUT SOMEHOW KREIA DESTROYED THE MOON PALACE, AND WOUNDED RITA AND HER HENCHMEN TO THE BRINK OF DEATH."
Silence fell, as the Rangers tried to imagine it. Rita hanging on by a thread? Defeated by a single Power Ranger?
"THE OTHER RANGERS TRAVELED TO THE MOON, AND TRAPPED RITA AND HER PARTY IN THE SPACE DUMPSTER. BUT THERE WAS NO SIGN OF KREIA OR EROL. SO WE CONCLUDED THAT THE ENERGY BLAST THAT DECIMATED THE MOON PALACE VAPORIZED THEM AND THEIR COINS. BUT IT IS CLEAR TO ME THAT WE WERE WRONG TO MAKE THAT CONCLUSION."
"Right," Billy mused, "It is only logical that the Purple Coin survived the explosion. After all, the Green Coin did. Rita must have had it on her person when she was captured, and she kept it until she used it to draft Tommy as her Green Ranger."
"But how did the Purple Coin get to Earth?" Trini asked, "And why didn't anyone know about it?"
"THOSE ARE EXCELLENT QUESTIONS, TRINI, BUT I MUST CONFESS... I DID KNOW ABOUT IT."
"You knew?" Zack repeated, incredulously.
"I SENSED THE PURPLE ENERGIES PHASE BACK TO LIFE YESTERDAY," Zordon confessed, "I DIDN'T WANT TO ALARM YOU UNTIL WE HAD FOUND THE SOURCE OF THAT ENERGY. NOW WE HAVE."
Jason scowled. "Somehow, Alexis got a hold of the Purple Coin."
Billy chewed his lip thoughtfully. "Actually, that doesn't fit our scenario. Something much more must have happened. Merely holding a Power Coin doesn't result in infusing that person with power. How was Alexis able to manifest such power without Morphin'?"
Jason raked his memory for any clues. "She's been a little sick ever since she got back."
"She went to England for her grandmother's birthday," Zack explained, "She just got back yesterday."
"The same time Zordon sensed the Purple Power!" Alpha realized.
"Coincidence?" Billy posed, "I think not."
"What were her symptoms, Jase?" Trini pressed.
"She seemed kinda dazed, like she wasn't completely attentive to what was going on around her. And she said she had a killer headache."
He sighed again. "But the thing is, there was something about her eyes that seemed almost... spooky. I don't know; it doesn't make sense. Her eyes were black. That's not so unusual, but somehow, they looked wrong on-"
"Hold up," Zack interrupted, a puzzled scowl on his brow, "You said her eyes were black?"
"Then something is definitely wrong," he decided, folding his arms. "Alexis' eyes are green, guys."
"Are you sure?" Kim demanded.
"Absolutely. Angela once told me that she wished her eyes were green like Alexis' were. So I'm sure her eyes are green."
"Maybe she wears colored contact lenses?" Trini proposed.
"I guess that's not impossible," Zack conceded, "but I don't think so."
Jason then rose from his seat, despite the shots of pain that accompanied his movement, and began pacing. "We won't have any answers until we find Alexis," he decided, "We can't pick up that energy any longer?"
Alpha shook his head. "The power exploded at the park, and overloaded our sensors. By the time we were back online, it was gone."
"Overloaded?" Trini gasped. "How is that possible?"
"I had adjusted the scanners to detect even the faintest blurb of purple energy. We were trying to pinpoint the coin's exact location at rest. It doesn't emit too much power, so we had to adjust our scanners to find it."
"I see," Billy realized, "It's like flashing a light on someone wearing night-goggles. It intensifies the light, blinding the person temporarily."
"Exactly," Alpha commented.
Suddenly, the sensors screamed as the Viewing Globe flashed to life.
"What's going on?" Trini called over the alarms.
"The sensors found something," Billy answered, staring at the readout in awe, "The location is on the Viewing Globe."
"A house," Zack realized, "So the coin's there?"
Billy frowned in concern. "The Purple power is building... slowly, but-"
At that moment, a flash of pure, blinding lavender energy filled the Viewing Globe.
* * *
"This is terrific!"
The Purple Ranger squealed in delight, stretching her arms as she streaked through the early evening sky. Of all the incredible abilities the Purple Coin had given her, flying had easily been her favorite. She could still recall the few joyrides she had taken, when Regita had begrudgingly given her a moment free from her rigorous training in the magical arts.
It was always such a shame that Erol couldn't fly. He couldn't enjoy the same thrill of ascending high into the sky, where the air grew thin, only to plummet towards the sea like a stone, turning up at the last moment and watching the ocean splash in response to the force that had so nearly hit it.
Still, Erol did fly with her on occasion... and she doubted he minded having to hold onto her arm to join her.
A small sigh escaped her at the thought. Just how long ago had it been since she had flown with Erol? It felt like forever... but she could remember it as if it were yesterday.
Strange... her memories were slightly juggled. It was as if she had just woke from a dream, and still fluttered between the dream and full consciousness. It was hard to tell exactly what was real, and what was still only a dream.
She paused her flight, hanging above what seemed like a castle beneath her. The structure amazed her... rocks as white as ivory, smooth as a calm pond and shaped into perfect walls. And hundreds of humans, walking in and out of strange metallic boxes whose roar reminded her of the Rangers' Zords.
"I've never seen anything quite like this," she realized, a frown forming on her face. Her eyes followed the Zord-like machines as they rolled along long, winding roads, made out of black rock just as smooth and flawless as the white rock of the building.
A world filled with perfect structures and buzzing with life. Intriguing...
"Where am I?" she asked, dread slowly rising in her heart. "Who am I?"
An odd question to ask, but she couldn't help it. Curious, she further inspected her appearance.
Her uniform was unchanged; smooth, luminescent purple armor accented with white boots and gloves, gold shield, and gold trimmings. Golden ankle wings fluttered, holding her aloft magically. Still, for some reason her body looked, and felt wrong. The legs seemed longer, and thinner, as well as her arms. And there was just a... feeling inside her. A feeling of distance. Her body felt foreign, in some inexplicable way.
The Purple Ranger tried to shake off the odd inkling. "I'm only upset because I feel so out of place," she told herself, "All I need is a familiar face to make things right again."
And there was one face she longed to see.
A grin pulling her lips, she ascended higher into the air, closing her eyes to focus her attention. Slowly, she reached out, searching the web of energy around her for the familiar green gleam she missed so much.
* * *
Goldar groaned, his ruby eyes dull as he forced them open. He gazed dazedly at the clammy stone ceiling above him, blinking to recover his bearings.
That was when he felt a sharp pain driving from his gut throughout his entire frame.
A low growl erupted from his throat as he painfully rose to a sitting position. A true warrior of Titan would never show such weakness.
"Goldar! You're awake."
Goldar grunted at the short scientist, who was busy dripping the contents of a steaming vial into a larger flask. He snarled.
"A science experiment?"
"Hardly," Finster responded, offering the flask to Goldar, "Lord Zedd has little need of my... particular talents. So, I seem to serve only in a medical capacity, which is quite limited, considering the Power Rangers don't usually leave our monsters in any state needing medical care."
Goldar didn't answer as he swallowed the rancid potion in a single swig. He then wiped the moisture off his mouth with the back of his hand, and put down the vial. "What happened?"
Finster blinked in surprise. "You don't remember?"
"Well, it seemed you were knocked unconscious by an unidentified human girl."
Goldar's fists clenched furiously. Yes... that was what he had thought...
"If you're feeling better, Lord Zedd would like to see you," Finster announced, before leaving the lab. Goldar shuddered as he rose to his feet.
* * *
"You wished to see me, Lord?"
Lord Zedd turned from his balcony, his telescopic eyebeam flashing out of existence as he gazed at his right-hand warrior. He chuckled slightly, much to Goldar's consternation.
"Well, you seem none the worse for wear," he mocked, leaning against his Z-staff casually, "You were in much worse shape when I transported you back here. Lucky for you the Rangers were so distracted, otherwise you might not have survived this fight."
Goldar seethed quietly, infuriated by this most recent humiliation.
"What do you know of that girl?"
Goldar blinked in surprise at the question. "Nothing, Lord. I had never seen her before."
Zedd nodded slowly. "Well, perhaps you will recognize her newest transformation."
"Transformation?" Goldar repeated incredulously.
"Take a look."
Goldar moved to obey, staring into the one object from Rita's throne room that Zedd had kept intact. It made sense, considering none but the dreaded Lord himself had the ability to scan the Earth with the naked eye. The telescope was already set, and the sight that hit Goldar's eye triggered a profound realization.
"The Purple Ranger!" he shrieked, lifting his gaze to his master, "Of course! That's why she seemed so familiar... and that attack she used. It's the same attack she had ten thousand years ago!"
Zedd folded his arms, and moved back to his throne. "So, my suspicions are correct. There was a seventh Power Ranger, with abilities similar to the Green Ranger."
Goldar nodded. "Yes. When we first came to Earth, there were seven Rangers. But it seemed that the Purple Ranger had died in the same blast that led to our capture. She had come to save the Green Ranger, who Rita had turned evil with her magic."
Zedd slowly began tapping his fingers against his armrest once again. "Well, she may have died, but apparently the girl that trounced you in the park has become the new Purple Ranger. But I have yet to determine what her agenda is..."
"Are you thinking of converting her to our side?" Goldar questioned.
Zedd chuckled. "How many times do you think I'm going to try that? Evil spells only work temporarily, and the last thing I want to do is resurrect a Purple Ranger just to join Zordon and even further postpone my victory over Earth. No, Goldar... we must terminate this Purple Ranger before she becomes a problem."
The Emperor then rose to his feet, creating a surprisingly intimidating figure. "We are running out of time. Soon, it will be time to implement my ultimate plan. Unfortunately, circumstances are no longer ideal- the Red Ranger still lives, and now we have this... anomaly to contend with."
Goldar stepped back as a field of powerful lightning crackled along Zedd's silver staff.
"Considering your latest embarrassing defeat, I think I shall handle this personally."
* * *
"Now what's going on?" Kim queried.
"Just a second," Billy answered, madly pressing buttons on the console, "I've adjusted the scanners, and they're coming back online. That massive energy burst has dissipated, but it's still a very powerful focus of purple energy. And it's on the move."
"Can you bring up an image?" Trini suggested, falling to Billy's side and watching him work.
"Bringing it up... now."
The five Rangers turned their attention to the Viewing Globe, and all five suffered similar shock.
"The Purple Ranger?" Zack whispered, "But how?"
"Is it Alexis?" Jason wondered.
"Well, who else could it be?" Trini pointed out.
Kimberly frowned deeply. "But how would she know how to Morph? Did she even have the Morpher?"
"The ancient Power Ranger teams didn't use Morphers," Alpha revealed, "Instead, they absorbed their Power Coins into their bodies, and Morphed that way."
Zack cringed. "Absorbed? Whoa..."
"Why do we use Morphers then?" Billy inquired, "Logically, direct connection to our outlet of power is better, for utilizing the external Morpher makes it possible for our enemies to separate us from our power sources."
"TRUE, BILLY. HOWEVER, AFTER KREIA'S DEATH I REDESIGNED THE MORPHIN' GRID SO IT COULD ONLY BE TAPPED THROUGH A MORPHIN' DEVICE. IT IS A SAFETY PRECAUTION, SO YOU RANGERS WOULD NOT ACCIDENTALLY TAP INTO THE INTENSE POWER THAT KREIA DESTROYED THE LUNAR PALACE WITH."
Zordon frowned thoughtfully. "SOMEHOW, ALEXIS KNOWS HOW TO USE THE PURPLE COIN AS KREIA DID. THAT EXPLAINS HOW SHE WAS ABLE TO GENERATE THE EAGLEHEART PULSE."
Trini's face folded into a confused scowl. "But it still doesn't make sense," she protested, "How could Alexis manifest the Eagleheart Pulse without Morphin'? Even if she did somehow become the Purple Ranger, Morphin' is an essential step to summoning any aspect of the Power."
"KREIA WAS A SPECIAL CASE, TRINI. SHE WAS A MAGE, TAUGHT TO MANIPULATE THE MAGICAL ENERGIES WOVEN THROUGHOUT THE INVISIBLE UNIVERSE. OVER TIME, SHE DEVELOPED TECHNIQUES THAT ALLOWED HER TO TAP INTO THE PURPLE ENERGIES THAT FED THE EAGLE COIN WITHOUT UNDERGOING THE PHYSICAL TRANSFORMATION."
"Wow, this is too much!" Zack moaned.
"We'd better get out there," Jason decided, reaching for his Morpher, "Where is she now?"
Billy squinted through his wire-frame glasses. "It looks like she's hovering over Angel Grove Plaza... no wait, now she's on the move again, flying much faster than before. She's moving northwest."
Billy turned his pale green eyes to Jason. "Before she was flying at a cruising speed, but now, she's definitely moving with a specific goal in mind. Her speed is approaching... three hundred miles per hour!"
Trini blinked in astonishment. "What? That's... incredible."
Jason scowled. "She'll be hard to catch up with now," he realized, gazing at the Morpher that sat in his palm. "We'll wait until she lands. Her destination might give us some clue to what's going on it that head of hers."
* * *
A young man stretched his arms lazily and fell back into the long, swaying green grass. The cool evening breeze rustled the wild grass, causing it to wave like an emerald ocean. The grass was so tall someone gazing in his direction from the lake wouldn't even notice his presence.
He grinned, a look of utter calm smoothing his tan face as he gazed at the stars that just managed to twinkle in the sunset.
It was always peaceful in his uncle's wooden retreat. A rustic cabin perched in a forest clearing, a stone's throw from a peaceful lake. A perfect escape from the hectic world of racing that earned John Rush his living. And when John was busy touring the United States at various races, it was available for his favorite nephew to take advantage of.
And how Tommy Oliver had needed such a refuge!
His life hadn't been "normal" for some time. His emotions were on a constant roller-coaster ride since his family's hasty move to Angel Grove.
Moving to a new city. Finally facing a martial artist he honestly couldn't best. Meeting a cheerful, beautiful girl so eager to make his acquaintance...
Being kidnapped by a diabolical alien sorceress to be molded into the perfect killing machine.
His hand blindly reached into his pocket and retrieved a small golden coin. Even in the dim light, he could make out the embossed three-toed footprint on its face.
It was a curse. It brought incredible suffering to Angel Grove, as the Green Ranger and his mighty Dragonzord laid waste to the downtown district and the harbor. Its power nearly murdered Zordon, destroyed the Command Center, and annihilated the Power Rangers, Earth's only defense against powers beyond human imagining.
But, it was also a blessing. The coin gave him a place amongst five of the most noble, wonderful... unforgettable people he'd ever met.
Billy... so mild-mannered, but with a unique genius that would make Albert Einstein green with envy.
Trini... the perfect blend of a peaceful spirit and a mighty body.
Zack... an inspiringly joyful young man with the determination to move mountains.
Kimberly... a beautiful young woman with a sterling, loving heart.
Jason... the absolute personification of courage and strength.
They were the kind of people he really wanted to emulate. As Rita's toy, he learned their strengths and weaknesses. He was created to be their downfall. But they gave him the precious opportunity to make amends, to join their noble cause and ascend to their level.
He became their ally. And more than that, he became their friend.
When that very coin was wrenched from his hands, when Rita lit the Green Candle, he had desperately needed to escape. He had disappeared for weeks, avoiding Angel Grove like the plague. He didn't want to be reminded of all he had lost. He didn't want to face that loss every day, watching his friends disappear every time a monster attacked. He so desperately hated feeling helpless.
But, he bounced back. Slowly, he realized that Rita may have been able to extinguish his powers, but she could never take away all he had gained. She could strip away armor and weapons, but the friendships he had forged were permanent. He had a place amongst the Rangers, coin or no coin. So he ventured back to the fold, once to participate in the honor Angel Grove bestowed upon their heroes on the first annual Power Ranger Day, and a second time to celebrate Parent's Day with them.
The second time brought about more than a return of an old friend. It brought back the Green Ranger. Not to full fighting ability, but definitely back to action.
Weeks of excitement, mixed with a seething fear that kept him awake many nights. He knew his powers were only temporary. How long would they last? How much abuse could his powers take, before he became more of a liability than an asset?
He learned the answer when Lord Zedd arrived, and pounded the Green Ranger mercilessly until there was nothing left.
Nothing left... except Tommy Oliver.
But that wasn't so bad. Tommy Oliver was more than he had been one year ago when he first moved to Angel Grove. He wasn't a Power Ranger in strength or speed, but definitely in heart.
And that heart gave him the courage to stand up to Zedd, to save the Dark Rangers and stop the Emperor of Evil's latest deadly scheme.
He had the last laugh.
And he had grown much wiser.
His uncle's cabin was no longer an escape, as it had been all his life. He wasn't running away from Zedd, from his friends, or even from the bittersweet memories of his last days as the Green Ranger.
He was much too strong to run from his past, or cower in fear of his future.
He just wanted to relax for a while. And his last letter to Jason and the others had made that perfectly clear.
Sure, he'd miss being a Power Ranger. But he was also happy to just lie back in the long, cool grass. To enjoy the simple things that he didn't seem to have time for with his communicator constantly buzzing.
With a lopsided grin, he rested his coin atop his thumb, and flipped it into the air. It rolled, the moonlight glinting off its polished surface as it descended back into his waiting palm.
His fist clenched over the coin, and his hand rested atop his stomach. His eyelids lowered lazily.
This time, he'd keep the coin. Treasure the memories it carried.
"You know, you really should keep your guard up, Erol."
Tommy blinked in astonishment, his dark eyes focusing on the form above him. A Power Ranger... a Purple Power Ranger, floated about a foot above him, her pose mimicking his own.
He gasped, rolling out from under the stranger. In one deft motion, he flipped onto his feet, and assumed a fierce defensive stance.
The Purple Ranger laughed languidly, twisting so she could watch him. She leaned her helmeted head against her palm, and continued lying on a bed of air.
Tommy stared at the figure in open-mouthed shock. With the exception of the design of the helmet, the primary color of the costume, and the odd glowing ankle wings... she was the very picture of the Green Ranger.
Same golden shield, perched proudly across her chest. Same gold armbands, belt, and trim atop the gloves and boots. But where the Dragon Dagger would be nestled at his hip, a coiled whip hung.
"P... Purple Ranger?" he breathed, once he recovered enough of his senses to speak.
Her soft laughter chimed again, and slowly her body rose from the ground and turned clockwise. In moments, her boots were firmly planted on the thick glade.
"Very good," she cooed, amusement evident in her voice. Her hands fell to her hips and her head bobbed slowly, clearly studying him from a distance.
"Are you planning on fighting me?" she inquired.
Tommy's stance relaxed slightly. "Only if you're planning on attacking."
She cocked her head to one side. "I don't feel like sparring tonight, Erol. It's too beautiful a night, and if there's one thing you tried to teach me, it's never to waste a beautiful night."
His arms fell to his sides. "Who's Erol?"
The Purple Ranger froze for a moment, obviously thrown by the odd question. Then, she laughed again, shaking her head in disbelief. "You're certainly acting strangely," she commented, "Hiding out so far from the Command Center, sleeping out in the woods... did Sener put you up to this?"
"Sener?" Tommy whispered.
"Some kind of practical joke?" Her tone switched from amusement to mild exasperation. "I'm sorry I've been so busy... I don't even remember the last night we spent together..."
Eyes wide with alarm Tommy backed away, stumbling over a lounge chair as he neared the lake. He hastily recovered his bearings, throwing up his hands as if in surrender.
The Purple Ranger's words died on her lips, and she stared at the retreating figure.
"Look," Tommy said, an awkward chuckle in his voice, "I don't know who you think I am, but I don't know you. My name's not Erol, and I don't know anyone named Sener."
"Enough, Erol," she sigh. "I'm really not in the mood for this. Something... strange is going on." Her hand rose to her helmet. "There's... so much I don't remember clearly. I need... your help."
She sounded so tired... so very tired. And nearly as confused as he was. His gut instinct was to flee, to get to the cabin and find his communicator, to summon the Power Rangers. After all, this could easily have been one of Zedd's tricks, to trap him and use him against the others. Again.
But something else rooted him to the ground. Compassion.
He'd been confused and alone before. He knew how it felt. And hers seemed too genuine to be a ploy.
He may no longer be the Green Ranger, but he could still try and help.
"Okay," he conceded, stepping cautiously toward her, "Maybe we should slow down, and take this one step at a time. You're obviously a Power Ranger-"
He cut his sentence short when the helmeted girl's head leapt up. "Obviously," she muttered, frustrated. "Are you honestly trying to tell me that you don't know who I am?"
Tommy shrugged helplessly.
With a deep sigh, she reached up and unlatched her helmet. Shoulder-length red hair spilled out of confinement, framing her pale face and only emphasizing the darkness of her ebony eyes.
Tommy's eyes widened. Yes, the face was familiar... though he couldn't place it. He knew her. But surely he didn't know her as intimately as she claimed to know him.
She read the recognition in his eyes, and frowned as he shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry, Miss. You do look familiar, but I can't say I know you."
She quickly closed the space between them, dropped her helmet, and gazed deeply into Tommy's dark brown eyes.
"Something... is wrong," she realized, her voice the barest whisper.
She couldn't deny it. In fact, it surprised her that she didn't take note of the difference earlier. He was taller and slightly broader in frame. Instead of a silken curtain of pitch-black hair, soft brown waves tumbled past the nape of his neck. His face was darker, softer in shape.
And his eyes... deep and dark. Where were the emerald jewels that always managed to peer into her deepest soul, and read her very heart?
The woman in purple shivered, a gasp pulling air in like a sob.
Tommy frowned, disturbed by the distress that had overtaken the girl before him. He had decided she was completely harmless... only confused.
Slowly, he reached his hands to her shoulders, touching her as gently as he could. "I'm really sorry."
Her glassy eyes sealed tightly, her face twisting with rage. "No!" she rasped, "This is a trick! It has to be! Rita... Rita did something."
She opened her eyes again, desperately searching those foreign dark eyes for some hint of the man she knew. Of the man she loved.
"It's me... Kreia," she whispered, laying her hands atop his. Tommy jumped, startled by the grip that tightened over his fingers. While it didn't hurt, her Power Ranger strength was evident. He couldn't fight her hold.
"You have to know me," she stated, "You have to! You've loved me your whole life! And I've loved you!" Her voice began to tremble, tears beginning to gather. "I know it's you, Erol! I searched for you! As soon as I woke up, I searched for you. And I followed your power... it's you!"
Her eyes fell from his frightened gaze, and locked upon his jeans. An invisible force rustled in Tommy's pocket, forcing the Green Power Coin into the air.
Tommy blinked in surprise, and watched as the woman who called herself Kreia released his hands, and held out her palm. The coin obediently fell into her glove.
"It's your coin," she whispered, "Erol's coin. It's Erol's." Her gaze then lifted again to Tommy's. "You are Erol. You have to be!"
Tommy's face was the very picture of confusion, laced with a significant measure of fear at the erratic behavior the Purple Ranger displayed. He stood stiffly, watching as she took his hand, and laid his coin in his palm.
Slowly, she closed his fingers over the coin, and cradled his fist between both her hands.
"I'll find you, Erol," she whispered. "I promise."
Tommy opened his mouth to reason with her, but all words were lost as Kreia suddenly stood upon her toes, and crushed her lips against his.
* * *
"Humph!" Kimberly grumbled, furiously spinning on her heel. Her arms folded tightly over her chest as she took short breaths in rapid succession.
A hand gripped her shoulder. "You okay, Kim?"
"Sure, Jase," she droned, "I just love seeing my boyfriend lip-locked with that psycho!"
She groaned inwardly, looking up at her trusted friend. "And just when are we going to do something? When she sucks his head off?"
"She's not hurting him, nor has she tried to," the Blue Ranger stated. "By watching their interaction, we'll better understand what's going on."
Trini cast a consoling look at her best friend. "I think we've seen and heard enough to come to a reasonable conclusion," she decided, "Alexis got her hands on the Purple Coin, and somehow, she has become Kreia, the last Purple Ranger. She thinks she's Kreia, and apparently has at least some of Kreia's abilities."
"That makes her dangerous," Kim protested, "and Tommy's defenseless!"
"But if she thinks Tommy is her lover, I doubt she'll harm him." Billy winced when the Pink Ranger's head turned in his direction. He couldn't see the glare the petite gymnast threw at him, but he could certainly feel it. "Uh... sorry, Kim."
"Hey guys!" Zack shouted, pointing at the display by the lake, "Check it out. Something's happening!"
"What?" Kim demanded, as the other Rangers returned their attention to the lip-locked pair. Flashes of purple energy seemed to spark along the Purple Ranger's body, assaulting Tommy like electricity.
* * *
Emerald eyes opened slowly, as if awakening from a dream. But instead of opening her eyes to the sight of her alarm clock, Alexis found the terrified gaze of a stranger.
She tried to gasp in a breath, only then realizing that her lips were crushed against his. Terror and confusion flooding her, she pushed away.
The young man in front of her slid to the ground, his panic-stricken eyes staring blindly into the night sky. And to add to her astonishment, his body seemed to glow with purple electricity.
"TOMMY!" a horrified voice shrieked. Alexis whirled, and watched in astonishment as the five Power Rangers dashed toward her.
Panic settling in, Alexis began to back away from her apparent victim. She soon stumbled over an object, falling clumsily to the thick grass beneath her.
Brushing her wayward hair out of her eyes, Alexis noticed the object she had fallen over. A purple and white helmet.
She reached over cautiously, marveling at the white gloves that covered her arms. She picked up the helmet, and stared at it in wonder.
Slowly, her eyes lifted again, to where the Rangers crowded around the young man on the grass.
Her uncomprehending gaze slowly took it all in: the helmet in her arms, the strange clothing she wore, the five Power Rangers wearing uniforms that looked a great deal like her own.
Her mouth suddenly became dry as a startling thought occurred to her. Slowly, she turned her eyes to her trembling palm.
The black brand of the eagle stared back at her.
That was the last sight she saw before every ounce of strength left her body. Darkness overwhelmed her senses, and she no longer had the power to sit up.
* * *
"Tommy!" Kim cried, tears spilling down her cheeks, "Please say something!"
She stared at his wide-open eyes, falling to her knees beside his too-still body. She reached out to touch him, but a hand quickly grabbed her arm.
"Don't," Billy advised, "He's still channeling that energy Alexis... I mean Kreia... infused him with. It might be dangerous. Remember what happened to Trini when she touched Alexis?"
Kim fought her friend's grip. "But if it'll harm a Power Ranger, then it'll kill Tommy!"
Jason turned from his stunned best friend to the stricken Pink Ranger. His wrist rose to his helmet. "Alpha, can you teleport Tommy to the Command Center?"
After several moments of silence, the response came through. ^I can't get a lock on Tommy's coordinates. There's something interfering with the teleport!^
Trini scowled. "Whatever that purple energy is, it's cloaking Tommy from the transporter. And if he's not safe to touch, we can't do anything until that energy fades."
A flash of purple energy drew the Rangers' attention to a few yards distance. Lying on the grass was Alexis, sprawled out in the dense grass.
Jason was quick to check on her. Hesitantly, he touched his gloved hand to her cheek. "She de-Morphed, and there's no energy field around her," he realized, with a small measure of relief.
"Is she okay?" Zack asked, crouching beside his friend.
Jason leaning closer. Tenderly, he set his fingers on her face, and slowly forced her eye open.
He breathed a sigh of relief at the unseeing emerald eyes revealed.
"She's out cold, but at least she's back to normal."
"I wouldn't say that," Zack countered, taking her hand. He pointed to the black brand on her palm. "If that means she's still got the Purple Coin in her body, then she's definitely not back to normal."
"Jason! Zack!" Trini called urgently, "Something's happening to Tommy!"
The two young men quickly raced to the rest of the team, who hovered around Tommy. Before he was lying still, but now his whole body convulsed madly.
"What's wrong with him?" Kim whispered, her voice trembling.
"Billy?" Jason demanded.
The Blue Ranger shrugged helplessly. "He was in a state of shock before, but now something else is going on. The purple energy has stopped flashing..."
Jason's eyes narrowed beneath his helmet, and he stared at Tommy's tightly clenched fist. Without hesitation, he reached for his best friend's hand.
"Jason, no!" Trini protested, but her warning was unheeded.
Jason gripped Tommy's hand, and nothing happened to him.
"The energy field is gone," Billy hypothesized, "It should be safe to teleport him back to the Command Center. There we have the equipment needed to properly treat him."
Kimberly gingerly reached her hand to her convulsing boyfriend, her fingers wiping the sweat that beaded on his forehead. "Hold on, Tommy..." she pleaded.
Suddenly, the dark skies flashed with unnatural lightning. The Rangers all leapt to their feet, circling the former Green Ranger protectively.
"Silly Rangers," a deep voice cackled, "What could I possibly want from the Power-less Ranger? I've already milked his energies dry."
A bolt of lightning then struck the ground where Alexis lie helpless.
Jason's eyes widened. "No..."
The Red Ranger was quick to react, the Yellow and Black Rangers hot on his heels. But when they reached the spot where the young woman had been, all that remained was singed, smoking grass and dirt.
Trini clenched her fists furiously. "Zedd's handiwork."
"But, did he just teleport Alexis somewhere, or...?"
Zack left the rest of the question unspoken.
Jason stood rigid, staring at the charred ground for a moment. He then activated his communicator. "Alpha, bring us all in," he commanded woodenly.
After a brief silence, the robot responded. ^I'm... only picking up six in the-^
"That's right, Alpha," Jason interrupted, "Just six."