On Eagle's Wings
Alexis yawned deeply, stretching her limbs to work the tension from her muscles.
She winced when her hand slammed into unyielding stone.
The pain that shot up her arm forced her to full consciousness. Panic-stricken green eyes darted through the dark surroundings.
She shrieked when she perceived the freakish stone chamber she was captive in.
Trembling like a leaf, she gathered herself atop the stone slab that served as a makeshift bed. She stared into the darkness, gazing wonderingly at the glowing gray smoke that gathered along the ground, climbing up the walls like serpents.
Just how far down was the floor, anyway?
And where was the door?
And how the hell did she wind up here???
"So you're finally awake," a deep voice thundered from the darkness. Alexis jumped again, frantically turning in the direction from which the voice seemed to emanate.
The spooky fog suddenly began to brighten the darkness, making out a tall, powerful being at the other end of the circular chamber. The faint light glimmered against his dazzling gold armor, and slowly illuminated his feral face as he approached.
Alexis gasped fearfully, leaning against the wall beside the stone bed. "You!"
Goldar smirked, thoroughly loving the taste of fear that dripped from the petrified girl. No, there was absolutely no sign of the awesome power she had yielded during their first encounter.
But then again... there was never a sign of that power until she wielded it.
The humor left Goldar' smile, and a low growl left his throat.
"Wh... what do you want with me?" Alexis demanded, gathering up a small measure of bravado. "Where am I? Where's Jason?"
"I will ask the questions," he grumbled. "What is the last thing you remember, girl?"
What a weird question! Alexis mused, staring into the fathomless ruby eyes of her interrogator.
But, why couldn't she answer?
Everything was jumbled. The last clear memory was seeing this nightmare pummel Jason to the ground. Then, she faintly remembered being in her bedroom, and taking hold of the eagle talisman her Nana had given her.
But there was something else... something dreamlike. She remembered panicked chocolate-brown eyes staring at her. She remembered falling into an ocean of long green grass, watching the Power Rangers rush to a young man's aid.
She remembered finding herself sprawled on the grass, wearing the Purple Ranger armor she'd seen in her dreams.
Her eyes widened even more, and she hastily glanced at her appearance.
No... nothing abnormal. She was simply wearing the clothes she had worn to school.
She swallowed, glancing up at the alien once again. While he was a terrifying figure, the fear he could inspire in her paled in comparison to the fear she felt at her own confusing situation.
What was happening to her?
"Are..." she whispered, her voice weak from terror, "are my eyes... black?"
Goldar stared at the puzzling human. What kind of answer was that?
"No," he growled, his anger rising, "and stop trying to buy time! The other Rangers will never find you before Lord Zedd has finished you off!"
Alexis shuddered at the fearful roar, as well as the message he carried. There was no doubt in her mind... she was going to die. She was going to die alone, in this freakish gray room, with absolutely no idea why.
Wait a second... what did he say about the Rangers?
The OTHER Rangers?!?!
I'm the Purple Ranger, she marveled, looking at her limp palm. The black line of the eagle sat on her skin, contrasting sharply to her pale complexion.
Goldar growled low, following her gaze to the black brand. "I don't know how you managed it," he admitted, "but it won't save you."
With that, he favored the girl with another blood-freezing smirk, and turned to leave.
"Wait!" she demanded, surprised at her own forwardness, "What have you done with Jason?"
She still had no idea what had become of her friend, and her last clear memory of him was not too comforting.
When the seven-foot beast failed to respond, she quickly leapt off the raised platform, her feet landing upon the fogged ground.
At the sound of her footfall, Goldar turned back to her with a knowing smirk.
Alexis gasped as the fog snaked around her, swirling in a column around her body. She shrieked, waving her arms in a feeble attempt to dissipate the assaulting smoke. She felt her skin burning with unnatural heat.
"Fool," he cackled, folding his arms, "You are in Lord Zedd's Dark Dimension! The focused location of his magical power! And this fog has been especially designed for you, to eat away your defenses until there is nothing left but a corpse."
Tears welled in Alexis' eyes as Goldar's hideous laugh echoed in her mind. But the tears weren't a result of pain.
In fact... she no longer felt pain. How... odd.
Goldar's laughter soon died, replaced by a wicked growl of frustration. He glared at the weak girl, watching the smoky cocoon first tinge with purple energy, and then vanish into nothingness.
For some inexplicable reason, she was still protected by that aura.
That magical force was the only thing that saved her from a speedy death. Lord Zedd didn't want to imprison the mysterious Purple Ranger... he wanted her dealt with permanently, rather than risk another Power Ranger to contend with. But the magical aura around her was strong enough to prevent even Zedd's mightiest magic from outright destroying her. So, he decided on teleporting her to the palace for further study.
The fog was designed to dispel whatever magical protection she seemed to possess. But impossibly, despite being inside the chamber for several hours, little was accomplished.
The smoke had at first flooded the chamber, but it seemed to flee from the unconscious girl as if she actually hurt it. To both Goldar and Zedd's astonishment, the power sleeping within her was potent enough to fight against Zedd's most powerful spells.
What was she?
Goldar continued growling, watching impatiently at the scene before him. Once the gathered smoke had abandoned the girl completely, she scrambled back onto the stone slab, as if she felt protected by its elevation. She trembled, staring down at the ocean of baneful gas, squeezing her knees to her chest.
She didn't even notice the purple aura that surrounded her body. Was it out of her visual field, perhaps?
Pathetic humans. They can't even detect magic. But... how can she manipulate it if she doesn't know of its existence? If she knew of the protective field around her body, she wouldn't be so afraid. Unless... could someone else have constructed the aura?
The idea puzzled Goldar. While he was certainly no expert in subjects magical, he knew for a fact that no one could penetrate Zedd's Dark Dimension magically.
There was no way Zordon could send a protection spell to the girl here... even if he were able to wield magic in such a manner.
The girl was a complete mystery. Somehow, an incredible power slept within her... a power that threatened not only Goldar, but perhaps Lord Zedd himself.
Such a threat could not be permitted to exist.
* * *
The gathered moisture had long since reddened the whites of her eyes. But after two hours of silent vigil, the tears that had trickled down her flushed cheek had long since dried.
Kimberly stared at Tommy, who still lay prone on a flat bed just to the side of the main hub of the Command Center. She pressed her lips tightly, stroking his tightened fist as if to soothe him. From the scowl on his face, she knew his slumber was in no sense restful.
What was wrong with him? What had Alexis... or Kreia... done to him?
The energy field that had built around him had long since dissipated, but he never regained consciousness. From the monitors, the Rangers were able to keep strict watch over his vital functions. He was breathing normally, and there was no sign of REM sleep. He certainly wasn't dreaming.
But why was he frowning? Could he be in pain?
Kim continued to watch him, tentatively reaching forward to stroke his forehead and smooth dark hair.
How many times had he been in this condition? Stripped of his power, attacked when he was down? How many times was he brought to the Command Center unconscious, fighting for his life?
He wasn't even a Power Ranger anymore, but his life was still in jeopardy.
Some friends we are, she mused bitterly. We let her do this to you. How could we let her hurt you?
The Red Ranger watched Kimberly and Tommy from a slight distance, leaning against a console. Unlike the others, who had long since de-Morphed, he had chosen to remain in his armor.
His helmet was firmly planted beneath his arm, and a scowl of pure determination wrinkled his face.
Zedd wouldn't get away with this. He wouldn't be allowed the upper hand.
The Power Rangers never let one of their own down. And in some weird way, Alexis was one of their own.
The entire situation was a complex puzzle, with pieces clearly missing from the picture. No one really understood what had happened, either to Kreia ten thousand years ago, or to Alexis.
But one thing was certain. Alexis was alive... for now.
After some research, Zordon was able to pinpoint the Purple energies again. That gave ample evidence that the Purple Ranger was alive, and somehow tapping into her power.
But she wasn't Morphed... that could be determined by the power readout. Some other outlet was being used for that power... but what?
"Anything?" he spoke.
"Scanners haven't detected a thing," Trini reported, "Alexis is definitely not on Earth, and she's nowhere on the moon that's scannable from here. So she's either in a shielded area, or somewhere else."
"If she's on the moon, she'll be in some kinda a holding cell," Zack noted.
Jason frowned thoughtfully. "When Rita kidnapped me, she held me in a Dark Dimension. It wasn't actually part of the palace, though. You had to teleport into it. A completely separate plane of existence."
Zack nodded. "Right. That was also where she had the Green Candle! But... that was Rita's dimension. Does Zedd pull the same trick?"
Billy then spoke up. "It's unlikely that Lord Zedd is using Rita's Dark Dimension. From what we know of them, Zedd is by far the more powerful sorcerer. Therefore, it follows to assume that he has his own Dark Dimension, or something like that, that is superior to Rita's. And if it's a different dimension, our knowledge of Rita's will do us no good in determining its location."
"THAT IS CORRECT, BILLY," Zordon affirmed, "BUT THERE MAY BE ANOTHER MEANS OF LOCATING ALEXIS."
Zack, Trini, Jason, Billy, and Alpha assembled beneath the looming cylinder. Kimberly turned to face her mentor, her hand still resting atop Tommy's.
"What do you mean?" Trini inquired, "Have you figured something out?"
"FROM WHAT WE HAD OBSERVED NEAR THE LAKE, IT APPEARS THAT KREIA IS CAPABLE OF ASSUMING ALEXIS' BODY," he explained, "HOWEVER, WHILE KREIA IS SOMETIMES CONSCIOUS, IT SEEMS THAT SOMETIMES ALEXIS' CONSCIOUSNESS RESURFACES. THAT IS WHAT OCCURRED AFTER THE BATTLE BETWEEN GOLDAR AND JASON, AND THAT IS ALSO WHAT SEEMED TO HAPPEN AFTER KREIA KISSED TOMMY."
"She was trying to reach Erol," Billy recalled, "I don't know how exactly, but her intention was to probe Tommy's consciousness, and find some trace of Erol."
"I'm pretty sure it was Alexis who let him go, though," Zack mentioned, "Her eyes went back to green. So from the look of it, when she's Kreia, her eyes are black. But when she's Alexis, her eyes are green."
"If I remember right, Kreia did have black eyes," Alpha contributed.
Jason shook his head. "But she was Alexis all the time, until the fight with Goldar. Even when her eyes were black."
Kimberly groaned, withdrawing her hand from Tommy to bury her face in it. "This is so complicated..."
"INDEED IT IS, KIMBERLY. BUT SLOWLY, WE ARE CONSTRUCTING A HYPOTHESIS ON WHAT IS OCCURRING. ALEXIS HAS UNWITTINGLY TAKEN NOT ONLY THE POWER OF THE PURPLE RANGER, BUT HER CONSCIOUSNESS AS WELL. KREIA'S SOUL EXISTS IN THE PURPLE COIN, AND NOW THAT ALEXIS HAS TAKEN THE COIN AS HER OWN, KREIA IS ABLE TO EXERT HERSELF INTO ALEXIS' MIND, AND USE THE BODY AS HER OWN."
Trini frowned skeptically. "So when Kreia died, her soul was trapped inside the Purple Coin? How is that possible?"
Zordon shook his head. "THERE IS MUCH I HAVE NEVER KNOWN OF KREIA'S ULTIMATE ABILITIES. HER MAGICAL TRAINER, REGITA, ALWAYS HAD GREAT FAITH THAT SHE WOULD BE POWERFUL ENOUGH TO DEFEAT RITA'S FORCES ALONE. HER USE OF THE PURPLE ENERGIES AT HER DISPOSAL IS DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER RANGER BEFORE HER, AND AFTER HER AS WELL. I HAVE NEVER SEEN SUCH A COMBINATION OF MAGICAL PROWESS AND A POWER COIN. BUT I AM SURE OF ONE THING: KREIA WAS ABLE TO TAP INTO HER OWN MAGICAL ABILITIES AND THE POWER COIN AT ONCE, USING THEM IN TANDEM TO CREATE MORE POWERFUL ATTACK SPELLS. PERHAPS IN THIS MANNER, BOTH SOURCES OF POWER CROSSED, LEAVING A BIT OF KREIA IN THE POWER COIN ITSELF."
Trini sighed tiredly, leaning against a console and staring down at the various control screens on it. "All we have to work with are tons of guesses as to what's going on," she pointed out. "No real facts."
"NOT QUITE," Zordon countered, "WE DO HAVE ONE UNDISPUTED FACT TO WORK WITH. SOMEHOW, ON SOME PLANE OF EXISTENCE, SOMETHING OF THE YOUNG WOMAN WHO WAS KREIA IS ALIVE. THAT CONSCIOUSNESS MAY BE REACHED."
As his image faded from the Transdimension Cylinder, Zordon met the puzzled stares of his five "children." And indeed, that's who they were. Brave, beautiful children, so young and new to the universe. Unlike their various predecessors, they never knew the true extent of power... wielded by either good or evil. Contemporary human society had no knowledge of the complexities of the universe. They didn't comprehend the existence of pocket dimensions, worlds within worlds, and dimensions between worlds.
The Rangers, even including brilliant Billy, had a hard enough time conceiving Rita's Dark Dimension, which was only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, reality was far more complex than a single plane of existence. It was more of a maze... a collection of interlocking and woven universes.
One such universe was the material, where all human beings, as well as any other corporeal form, lived. Most such beings had no ability to reach beyond that physical existence.
Another such universe was the whirling system of energies that compose the physical universe. That was where the Power truly existed... in a realm free of true matter. The Morphin' Grid itself, a material construct hidden within the Power Chamber, was only a device used to safely channel the Power. The Green and Purple Rangers' energies came from the Inochi Pool, a source of energy different from the Morphin' Grid's source, but nonetheless compatible.
Yet another was the universe of consciousness, where thought became, more or less, material. A realm populated only by those with intense mental discipline, who managed to transcend physical existence to experience a world where thought was truly mightier than any muscle.
That realm was the Astral Plane, the domain of the mind.
And as Zordon mentally separated himself from the material universe, allowing his consciousness to return to the dimension that had been his true home for over ten thousand years, he truly felt whole again.
His eyes fluttered open, gazing at the brilliant dance of vibrant energies that swirled in the sky. Of course, the sky and ground were constructed of the same energies as the people, meaning they, like the projected bodies of the resident consciousnesses, were subject to manipulation.
Zordon marveled as he stared at his astral body. It was merely a projection of his former physical body, except clothed in a strangely luminescent white armor that symbolized the telepathic defenses he had developed over the millennia of his existence.
Then, once he fully recovered his bearings, Zordon leapt into the liquid sky, opening up his very being in a desperate search.
His plan hinged on one crucial possibility: that Kreia, the young sorceress whose true potential was never quite realized, had developed the mental capacity required to reach the Astral Plane.
Such an achievement was painfully rare among humans. Some humans did try to clear their consciousnesses through meditation and prayer, reaching for the reality of pure thought. But so few truly succeeded.
The overwhelming majority of beings who could access the Astral Plane were those who had telepathic ability. The ability to use the force of thought and effect the physical world. Usually, this included mind-to-mind communication, but not always. Some minds actually manipulated physical objects, and proved telekinetic in nature.
Kreia was not a telepath, nor a telekinetic. She was a sorceress, and they tapped into the magical weave of energy. That was a different realm than the Astral Plane.
But years of intense training under Regita could have developed the mental discipline necessary to reach this higher realm.
Zordon was certain he recalled some measure of empathic ability with Kreia. She could feel others' minds and thoughts, at least to a limited degree. She felt danger, and on some level, she was bound to Erol. And it wasn't just love for him, either. She had connected to him.
And with every fiber of his non-corporeal being, Zordon hoped that those small abilities were evidence of something far greater.
The possibility wasn't great, but it did exist. Perhaps Kreia really was able to reach the Astral Plane. And if her mind could ascend to that level of awareness, then she could be reached. Not in the Physical Plane, where her whereabouts were shielded, but in the Mental Plane, where physical space had no meaning.
* * *
Goldar stared off the edge of a deep crater, dug centuries ago into the face of the murky gray Moon by a passing meteor. It reached nearly a quarter mile in depth, leaving the very bottom obscured in darkness.
But his intensely keen eyesight was able to detect the burning sanguine light that smoldered in the epicenter of the pit.
Swallowing hard with dread, Goldar cast a single glance behind him. The towering palace of Lord Zedd was still visible in the distance, shining vibrantly in the light cast by the radiant sun that hovered over the blue jewel of Earth.
Goldar sighed inwardly. There was no use delaying the inevitable. Hopefully, the dreaded Lord was too busy working on his newest scheme to properly punish him.
So, he nimbly leapt into the darkness. After several seconds of slow descension, thanks to the limited gravity of the Moon, he landed on the dusty ground that ringed Zedd's workstation.
Goldar's ruby eyes widened when he saw the Emperor's staff dug into the ground, moving in a circular motion to stir a pit of quicksand. But unlike any other form of quicksand, this one sparkled with red dust, which littered the gray mud like the stars do the heavens.
Zedd didn't even bother looking up at Goldar. His visor remained fixed upon a large scroll, hanging in the air and illuminated by the light that flashed from Zedd's eyes.
"M...master," Goldar stuttered, his tone mirroring the fear in his heart, "The Imlit Fog has no effect."
Zedd glanced up, turning on his heel to fix the Titan with an incredulous gaze. "Impossible!" he scoffed, "No magical defense can withstand the Imlit Fog for so long! And certainly not an Earthling."
"But she is unharmed," Goldar protested, very carefully, "I probably couldn't even touch her."
"Did you try?" Zedd demanded. Goldar cringed, staring down at the ground again.
"I thought not," Zedd growled, turning back to the scroll. His silver-tipped finger passed along text, and his eyes then rose to the sky, where the Earth swallowed nearly a quarter of the space visible from the bottom of the deep pit.
"What... are you doing, Lord?"
Zedd lifted his thumb to measure the view above him. "Summoning a creature that will certainly destroy the Power Rangers." He would have smirked, if his face were visible beneath his iron mask.
Goldar frowned thoughtfully, first following his Emperor's gaze to the heavens, and then looking back down at the pit of swirling, thick mud. His eyes widened in realization.
"The... the Erebus?" he gasped, stepping back timidly, "The beast that razed the temple of Phaedos? But, we are so far from its power source. Can the creature be summoned?"
Zedd folded his arms. "I didn't think so," he admitted, "but I spent some time calculating just how distant we are from the Great Tear. This night is the closest this solar system shall be to that epicenter of power for the next eight thousand years, so now is the time to try. The positioning of the planets will be able to reflect some of the Chaos energy this direction, magnifying the radiation Erebus can feed upon."
Zedd then looked down at the swirling pit, extending his hand. The staff obeyed his command, flying into his grasp. The pit continued to stir without the mixing rod, moving on its own volition. "If I do manage to raise Erebus, he will doubtless have only a fraction of the might he wielded on Phaedos. However, he should be powerful enough to destroy the Power Rangers."
His ruby stare fell onto Goldar once again. "He would have surely destroyed the four Rangers, if you hadn't been so inept as to let Jason live! Twice!"
Goldar scowled, but his face was invisible to Zedd, as it was bowed in submission.
Zedd calmed, turning his back to Goldar once again. "It is nearly complete," he decided, "So long as the Moon is high in the sky of Angel Grove, enough Chaos energy should be reflected to maintain his manifestation."
Zedd's hands stretched over the pool, crackling lightning flying between his fingers. "I don't have time to deal with the Purple Ranger now," he growled, his voice heavy with exertion, "This spell must be cast perfectly, and I won't have another chance. If you can't destroy the girl, just keep her imprisoned for now. Make sure she doesn't somehow get back to Earth to help the Rangers. I want Earth's forces to be destroyed this night."
Goldar watched, completely mesmerized, as the flashing lightning dove into the center of the whirlpool. At the touch of Lord Zedd's energy manifestation, the reddish-gray mud flashed into an angry red, which swirled throughout the puddle with the slow motion of the thickening mud.
Black lightning then leapt from the center of the abyss. Goldar pushed himself against the furthest wall of the pit, wide eyes staring in terrified wonder at the creature that lumbered out of the pit.
Of all of Earthly creation and imagination, it mostly resembled something of a wiry dinosaur, its skin covered with sharp scales that glistened in the red light of Zedd's magic. It stood on its two hind legs, allowing four equally-versatile limbs to hover in the air, stretching to flex the mighty, lean muscles corded beneath its oil-toned skin. Empty pits served for its eyes, three in all, that sat above the elongated snout with saber teeth peaking out from beneath its black lips.
Finally, a mighty tail swung behind it, connected to the small of its back and elevating above its head like a scorpion's stinger.
The creature blinked empty eye sockets, turning its attention to Lord Zedd. The Emperor stood undaunted as the creature's sockets flared with steady red energy that hovered in the empty pits and focused on him alone.
"YOU DARE SUMMON EREBUS, CHILD OF CHAOS, TO THE REALM OF MATTER?" the beast growled, its voice pulsing within a person like one's own heartbeat.
"Yes, I dare," Zedd growled defiantly. He lifted his staff threateningly, the platinum metal glistening with inner energy. "You may be a mighty beast of Chaos, but you are too far from the Tear to manifest your full power. I have the power to control you, if you dare defy me."
After a few moments of silence, the beast smiled, revealing the full length of its numerous fangs.
"YOUR POWER PALES IN COMPARISON TO MY MASTER," he recognized with a mocking chuckle. "YOU ARE NO MATCH FOR THE SHADOW LORD, NOR FOR ME."
Zedd's visor flared. "Umbriel is dead, Destroyer. And those responsible for his demise are there!" He pointed his index finger to the Earth, which hovered ominously above them.
Despite the surprising news, the beast continued to smile. "THE LORD OF SHADOW IS NOT DEAD," he revealed.
Zedd clenched his fists furiously. "Don't toy with me," he hissed, on the very brink of outrage, "The Empire has collapsed beyond repair, and your precious god is history. Now, obey me, and annihilate the Power Rangers!"
The monster's smile stretched into a curious smirk as he turned his pulsing jeweled gaze to the globe hovering above. "THE POWER RANGERS," he repeated with interest, "ZORDON OF ELTAR'S LITTLE EXPERIMENT?"
Zedd smiled beneath his mask. "Yes. The very same Zordon you were ordered to kill on Phaedos. Not only did you not kill him or the Blacksmith, but you even let them finish the mission of creating the Power Rangers."
Erebus' ruby eyes tilted slightly toward Zedd, who remained standing defiantly under the twelve-foot beast. It then folded both sets of arms, glancing again at the Earth.
"MY LAST MISSION WAS NEVER COMPLETED," he admitted, "BUT I DID DESTROY THE NINJETTI CULT ONCE AND FOR ALL. AND TONIGHT, I SHALL FINISH THAT MISSION BY ANNIHILATING ZORDON AND THOSE WHO WOULD PROTECT HIM."
Once again, cold rubies fell toward Zedd. "REMEMBER, THIS MISSION IS FULFILLED ONLY BECAUSE MY MASTER HAD WILLED IT. I SERVE NO WEAKLING MORTAL PRINCELING. YOU CANNOT TEMPER THE BLACK FLAMES OF CHAOS."
"You certainly spent a great deal of time talking," Zedd grumbled scornfully, "Now... be GONE!"
The beast frowned at the impudent monarch, and arched his back. Huge leathery wings sprouted from his back just above his thick tail, and stretched to the sky. With one powerful thrust, he hurled his body upwards.
Goldar slowly released the breath he was holding, and inched out of the wall he had practically dug himself into. Awed, his eyes followed the monster as it vanished from sight.
"You... you controlled the god of Chaos!" Goldar marveled.
Zedd chuckled, leaning heavily against his staff. "Don't be so dramatic. He is no god... only a manifestation of primordial energies. He is created from the First Realm, and he despises being summoned into the material world by anyone weaker than himself."
He then held his scepter tightly, lightning flashing about his body. "See to the girl. I must rest... the spell has exhausted me."
Goldar watched his monarch vanish.
* * *
Billy's puzzled green gaze fixed upon the tremendous blue column that reached to the high ceiling of the Command Center.
About fifteen minutes ago, their mentor's visage had dissipated, leaving behind gaseous fumes and sparks of energy.
"How is he planning on reaching a consciousness?" he mused. He then turned to Alpha, who had returned to Tommy's side to conduct another quick status check.
"Alpha, does Zordon have... telepathic ability?" he proposed.
Alpha nodded his saucer-shaped cranium. "Before his body was destroyed, Zordon was a sorcerer as well as a telepath. Therefore, he has access to both the Astral Plane, the reality of pure thought, and the Magical Plane, where the energies of the universe can be manipulated."
Kimberly cocked an eyebrow, watching Alpha work. "Uh... come again?"
"Think of reality as... your Firebird viewscreen," Alpha suggested. "Now, the default setting is Optical Lens, which lets you see your surroundings as if you were looking through a window. That's the Material or Physical Plane."
Kim nodded, following the illustration. Alpha noticed the other Rangers gather around, their brows furrowed with interest.
"The Optical Lens only allows you to see what you could see with your naked eye, but you all know there is much more out there than the visible," Alpha resumed. "You can switch the visual to an Infrared view, X-Ray, Heatscan, Metal Detection, and Density scan, just to name a few. Each screen looks different, and makes visible different aspects of the environment. But they all exist, and take up the same space. That's how reality is structured... different layers that essentially occupy the same area. There are layers... or dimensions, to the universe. The Physical is only one."
Trini's almond eyes widened. "And Zordon is on the Mental Plane only?"
"Right. Without his body, he lost his link to the Physical Plane. But with this technology, he can interact with this reality, to a limited degree."
Zack scratched his head, clearly overwhelmed. "Wow... this is all so complicated!"
Alpha giggled. "Hey, give it time! You've only been Rangers for a year now. It took decades of programming to turn me into the encyclopedia I am today!"
With that, the cheerful robot tilted his head, his version of a smile, and moved to the small computer at the base of Zordon's cylinder.
"This scanner is our only access to the Astral Plane, where Zordon is," he explained, "We can't exactly explore it, but we can home in on Zordon, so we know if he's okay, and so we can re-establish connection if he's ever involuntarily separated-"
Suddenly, alarms screamed to life, jarring the unprepared Rangers. All five teens assembled tightly before the Viewing Globe, Jason looming behind his team with his arms crossed.
His dark eyes, which had been narrowed in preparation for Leader Mode, widened in absolute horror at the grotesque creature the Globe revealed.
He swallowed hard, turning to Alpha incredulously. "Please tell me that's some kind of hologram."
"We're getting an energy reading," Alpha reported, his voice trembling, "and... aye yi yi! Its power is incredible!"
"What is it?" Trini wondered, "Zedd didn't make this monster out of a household appliance."
"Finster?" Kim proposed.
"No, the energy readings aren't compatible with the Monster-Baking signature. It's... a summoned creature!"
"A what-now?" Zack muttered with a scowl.
"Monsters can be created magically, like Zedd and Finster do. But they can also be summoned, by casting spells that cut into the folds of reality to pull out different energies and give them life. This one is pulsing with energy from the Chaotic, the very first layer of Reality from which all else was formed. The energies in the Chaotic are... as the name suggests, wild!"
The small robot shuddered fearfully. "...and capable of terrible destruction."
Alpha looked to the Viewing Globe, almost dazed. "I didn't know Lord Zedd was able to control a Chaotic beast. No one has been able to do that, except..."
His voice died, panic nearly blowing a fuse.
Jason's terrified expression hardened. "Alpha, keep conducting scans," he ordered, "Try and find a weak point of some kind. Figure out how we can beat it." He then turned to his team. "Let's move."
Kim bit her lip, casting a hesitant glance at their sixth member. Jason noticed. "Alpha, let us know the moment there's any change in Tommy's condition."
Alpha snapped out of his daze, and straightened. "You've got it! But be careful, Rangers! That monster is different from everything you've ever faced!"
Jason nodded, striding to the console that carried his helmet. "Back to Action!"
* * *
The tiny form shivered with sobs, rocking her entire frame and weakening the flickering power within.
She hovered like a helpless puppet on invisible strings, surrounded by a strange matrix of liquid color. In fact, for some reason, she was the only object in view that wasn't awesomely vibrant.
Her skin was a pallid gray, as well as her hair that fluttered about her fetal-positioned body as if she were immersed in water.
Nothing... she wept, Not even a flicker of Erol! In all that boy's being, no sign of him. He is gone... completely...
Despair had claimed her completely, and she cared not that her achromatic body slowly dissolved into a formless, nearly invisible mist.
The shuddering stopped. Hollow eyes looked up from her knees, turning toward the gentle voice. The voice seemed to pulse in her mind, but she was able to detect its location on the Astral Plane as well.
It was almost ironic. She had always marveled of the layers of reality, especially the Astral Plane, which was always out of her reach. And now, it would be her grave.
A figure, covered in a protective pearly armor, hovered closer to her. While his manifestation was impossible to recognize, the energy he exuded was quite familiar.
*Zordon,* she whispered, her mind-voice as soft as a weak spring breeze.
Zordon floated to her side, gazing at the manifestation fearfully.
Yes... it was certainly Kreia. The Astral projection resembled her physical body, as it nearly always did. But, something was terribly wrong.
She wore no protective armor, meaning she was completely vulnerable to psychic assault. She almost seemed to flutter, like a weak leaf lost in a current of wind. Her limbs were far slimmer than he recalled, and the rich colors of the mental plane were absent. She was gray, and nearly translucent.
Kreia nodded weakly, stretching out of her fetal position. She bowed her head slowly, folding her hands before her. *I'm... fading.*
Zordon couldn't contain his discomfort at the emptiness he sensed. She was almost a ghost of an astral form. He had never encountered such a being.
Did she even realize the danger she was in? How frightfully weak she had become? *You aren't fading, Child... you are dying!*
She shrugged impotently. *I am already dead. Or, I was never alive. It all depends on how you look at it.*
Zordon frowned, removing his psychic helmet to help open up his senses to her pain. *I don't understand. What is happening to you, Kreia?*
She sighed deeply, unfolding her hands and staring at her fading palms. *I'm... I'm not Kreia,* she revealed, *Not really. The girl Kreia died not long after she Ascended. I am just a Shade.*
The ancient sage's eyes widened. *A Shade?*
*I am just a reflection of Kreia, caught between Realities by the energies she manifested when she died. I am her thoughts and feelings, given consciousness by the Power she wielded. When the Purple Coin was found, and brought close enough to the Command Center, I was awakened.*
She closed her eyes tiredly. *The familiarity,* she confessed. *I have been in limbo, my only connection to the Physical Plane being the coin in which Kreia focused her life energy for the Ascension. When the coin came so close to the Command Center, I could... feel that I had come home. The energies of the Morphin' Grid are active now, and that warmth reached me.*
She shivered again, wrapping her arms around her too-slim body. *I was so confused... lost. My thoughts mingled with the girl who awoke me, and when she accepted the coin, I fused with her. I didn't mean it... I didn't mean to hurt anyone. But... when I touched the new Green Ranger... it was so clear...*
Her voice faded.
*When I use my power, I weaken. I used so much when I touched Tommy, when I searched for Erol. I could no longer hold the Physical Plane, and I regressed here, into the realm of Thought. After I spent some time here, fully conscious, I... I realized what I was.*
After a few more moments of silence, she gazed back at Zordon. As always, he wore the most tender, remorseful expression.
*I'm so sorry, Kreia.*
She shook her head. *You couldn't help me, Zordon. You couldn't stop me... stop her, from sacrificing herself.* She inhaled a steadying breath. *How... long?*
*Nine-thousand, nine hundred and thirty six years,* he responded. With a slight grin he added, *Ten months, and twelve days.*
Kreia's shade blinked. *Gods...* she breathed, stunned. Then, she sighed. *Then it's all for the best that I am fading. There is nothing left in this world for me. The Earth I swore to protect is long gone.*
Zordon was solemn, watching the mists increasingly waft into the Astral Plane. With each passing moment, Kreia became less and less substantial.
*Fight it!* he pleaded, stung that she didn't even seem to care about her imminent demise. *You are strong, Kreia. You have the willpower to sustain yourself here! I am trapped on the Astral Plane too, with no body to return to. But I didn't let myself melt into oblivion!*
Kreia looked up again, smiling mildly at the compassion in her mentor astral eyes. *You know the difference, Zordon. You are Zordon, in heart, mind, and spirit. You've only lost your body. I am a figment of the imagination. A dying thought. A final breath. I am not a person... I couldn't last long. How long does a single breath exist?*
Zordon watched helplessly as the last vestiges of the young Purple Ranger disappeared from existence. But before she faded completely, an alarming thought came to the sage's mind.
*Kreia, wait!* he pleaded, *What of Alexis? Where is she?*
The mist crawling up Kreia's image slowed, and faded. Her expression was thoughtful. *I do not know. I haven't seen the Physical Plane since I touched Tommy.* She then closed her eyes, her body trembling as she exerted her will to the Physical Plane. After several moments, her eyes widened in panic. *She is greatly alarmed, Zordon. I cannot see from her eyes unless I exert myself over her consciousness, but she is in danger.*
She frowned. *I can still feel the connection between us. So long as she holds the Purple Coin, and I still exist, she is protected by all my remaining power. However... she doesn't know how to use it. Her only protection is the involuntary protective spells. She doesn't know how to escape.*
Zordon nodded. *Thank you, Kreia, for your help in solving this dilemma. The Rangers will rescue her.* He smiled tenderly, reaching out and taking her hand. *Safe journey, my Child.*
Kreia hovered slightly away from his hand, startling the wizard. *Not yet,* she determined, *The Rangers may not find the girl in time to be of any use. The last action I will perform will be heroic. I am the one who pulled the innocent girl into our world of fierce battles. She will not be harmed so long as I exist.*
And with that, Kreia vanished from the Astral Plane in a faint flash of energy.
* * *
Alexis took a moment to wipe away some of the cold sweat that had broken out over her face. It certainly wasn't particularly warm in the Dark Dimension, but the mind-numbing terror that assaulted her senses was more than enough stress to trigger the response.
She exhaled deeply, pushing away from the wall she had examined. Her feet were firmly planted on the ground, despite the snaking mists that had previously attacked her. She was quick to realize that somehow, the smoke was repelled by her. Therefore, she could safely traverse the clouded ground.
She was safe from the smoke, so it seemed... but certainly not from the gold monster. At some point, she was certain he'd come back to finish the job he started.
If she sat still, she was going to die.
Her first instinct was to sit and wait, like a child who wandered away from her parents at a mall. Sit and wait, and someone would find you.
But who would find her? If she waited too long, some bloodthirsty alien surely would.
What of the Power Rangers? The saviors of Angel Grove?
Well, technically, wasn't she a Power Ranger? She didn't know how to don the armor, or summon the Power. She didn't even know what being a Power Ranger really meant. But if she really were a Power Ranger, then she'd be saving others, not vice versa.
Screw this damsel in distress crap. I'm getting outta here!
After over an hour of various attempts, Alexis was forced to accept the truth: easier said than done.
"No doors, no loose tiles, no windows," she recounted, sitting back down on the raised slab of stone she at first found herself on. "In fact, the floor is completely seamless... like pure marble or something. And none of the pillars lining the room are loose... they're just as much a part of the room as the ground. Nothing moves in this damn room."
She sighed, folding her legs beneath her to sit Indian style, and leaning her elbows on her knees. She glanced at the eagle design on her hand.
"Eagle!" she cried, for the fiftieth time since her capture. She recalled from her dreams how Kreia had transformed, but for some reason, the same command didn't work for her.
Alexis grimaced, folding her hands tightly. She absolutely refused to cry, or to give up.
Nana said I was strong... that's why she gave me the coin. Now I've gotta prove she was right.
*You are strong, Alexis.*
Her eyes widened to nearly impossible proportions. For some reason, she knew that voice. That voice rang in her dreams, screaming in horror, or whispering softly to the man she loved. That voice even tore through her own throat, calling upon magical power to save Jason's life.
Alexis swallowed fearfully. Kreia.
*You know me.* The mind voice almost amused. *I suppose I've made myself all too comfortable in your body if you can recognize me so easily.*
What's going on, Kreia? What's happening to me? Her eyes darted around the chamber. Where are you, anyway?
*I promise you, Alexis, I will answer your every question... but not at the moment. Now, I must ask you one more favor.*
Alexis bit her lip. From her dreams, she knew what kind of person Kreia was. Trustworthy, compassionate, powerful... if not a bit of a loose cannon. But, she was also the one who got her into her current situation, by manipulating her mind and body.
Could she really trust this mind-voice?
After a short deliberation, Alexis decided her chances were better with Kreia in her corner.
Okay, what do you have to do?
*I must free you, but I can only do it through your body. Just relax, and I will do the rest.*
Alexis shuddered slightly, but conceded. She stretched her body over the stone slab, and closed her eyes.
After nearly twenty minutes, her eyes opened once again... black as the darkest night.
Kreia blinked rapidly, trying to bring the occluded world into focus. A shudder ran down her spine as she noted the deep grooves etched into the high, ashy black ceiling.
A Dark Dimension...
She frowned, her emotions folding the smooth face that wasn't even her own. Slowly, she rose to a sitting position, adjusting herself once again to the Physical Plane.
"So, you aren't dead after all."
A cold smirk played on her lips. This should be fun...
She tried to put on some semblance of fear, and turned to Goldar with wide eyes. "You're back!"
Goldar smirked at her, striding deeper into the chamber. "Obviously. I've been here for ten minutes already, and you have barely breathed. I figured you just scared yourself to death!"
Kreia frowned thoughtfully. Ten minutes? How did so much time elapse? Unless... I'm getting too weak. It took me a while to channel myself into this body. I had better save Alexis immediately... I can only guess how long I have until my energies fade completely.
She sighed quietly, jumping onto the ground. Goldar frowned slightly at the resignation in her eyes.
"So, you've given up?" he growled, a bit disappointed. "And I was hoping I'd get a few more screams out of you."
Kreia frowned slightly, shaking her head. "Sorry, Goldar. I don't have time to play."
Goldar shivered, noticing the drop in voice. Before, the girl had a high pitch, but now, it was cold and low.
Just like in the park, when...
Kreia smirked, as if reading his thoughts through the expression on his face. "Well done, Goldar. You're not as slow as we always thought."
Despite the fear pulsing through his entire body, Goldar stood firm, grasping his sword at the hilt.
He would not run. He would not behave so shamefully... Purple Ranger or no.
Kreia responded to his proud stance by letting her arms hang at her sides. She lifted her eyes, staring at the ceiling.
The weave of magic responded. Even within the Dark Dimension, created by Lord Zedd himself and obedient to his every whim, her magical power was impressive. Winds gathered, tossing aside the remaining fog as easily as the sun chased away darkness. Purple bolts of energy crackled from her body, catching the current of the cyclone and wrapping her in a whirling vortex of purple-hued power.
"I never actually had a chance to name this attack," she mused, more to herself than to the terrified Titan who stood before her. She then shrugged her shoulders. "How about... Eagle Storm? Or Thunder Cyclone?"
Her lips stretched into a ferocious smirk, as eyes as cold and black as space fell upon the trembling warrior. "I guess Goldar-Whacker will do."
The energy tornado leapt from her, encasing Goldar in a funnel of dynamic energy. Various shades of purple lasers and bolts struck the warrior from all directions, pummeling him with enough magical power to light the night sky.
By the time the cyclone ebbed, the screams of agony had long since ceased.
Kreia fell to her hands and knees as she released the spell. She struggled to catch her breath, sweat dripping from a forehead not her own.
"I... I must be more conservative," she realized, pushing herself to sit on her legs, "I can't afford using that kind of power."
She remained seated for another ten minutes, slowly regaining control over the host body. The dizziness eventually parted, allowing her clear sight once again.
Her balance restored, Kreia rose to her feet, leaning heavily against the stone platform. Her eyes fell upon Goldar, who lay perfectly still on the marble ground. His armor was covered with tears and dents, and brown blood poured from numerous wounds.
Kreia smirked coldly. "That brings back memories."