Thrill of the Night

Disclaimer: The Power Rangers are the property of Saban Entertainment and I lay no claim to them. Jeffrey Kincaid, Lord Crucible, and all other characters relating to them are the property of John Chubb. This is a COE retelling of the Night Rangers’ story.

Thrill of the Night

Leroy’s Dojo and Shootfighting Arena, Port Clinton

The two teens circled each other. It had been a gruelling fight, but neither man was willing to back down. While both sported bumps and more than one bruise, they were too stubborn to say the two words: “I quit!”

Jeff Kincaid and Pat Kinkle had been fighting for twenty minutes when when Jeff’s friend Bruce Greene walked in. He didn’t say anything as he observed the fight. Jeff was on the defensive and he didn’t want to distract him; he knew the young man well enough to know that he would be getting a second wind before too long.

Bruce’s prediction was right on the money when Jeff managed a leg sweep that knocked Pat down. Jeff was back on his feet in an instant, his foot on pressed against Pat’s throat. To his credit Pat managed to hold on for a few seconds before conceding defeat.

“I quit.”

Jeff nodded and removed his foot, shaking Pat’s hand as he got up. The two embraced briefly before Jeff spotted Bruce and walked over to him.

“Hey what’s up?” Jeff asked his friend.

“Not much,” Bruce replied. He seemed to study Jeff for a moment, deciding whether or not it was any of his business. “You seemed to really cut into Pat back there.”

“I have a lot on my mind,” Jeff answered. “Pat just agreed to spar with me and I took him up on the offer; I had a lot of aggression to work out.”

Bruce didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. He knew Jeff well enough by now to know that the boy would talk to him, assuming he was ready to talk. And if he wasn’t ready to talk then Bruce knew better than to try and force him.

“My mother got in touch with her lawyer,” Jeff told him. “She’s trying to ramrod a judge into getting visitation rights to see me.”

“And the problem is?” Bruce prompted.

“I can’t stand her, even small doses of her,” Jeff told him, his face taking on a darker aspect. “I can barely handle being around her for the hearings; do you have any idea what it would be like if I had to live with her?” He paused for a moment before he continued. “And I would end up living with her Bruce. This is just a stepping stone for her, a way to get my life under her control again. She knows my grandmother won’t be around forever and although the court sees Leroy as a suitable guardian – and he is like a father to me – she’d do everything in her power to change that. She’d use everything to make him appear unfit for the task; she’d probably arrange things so he could never go near children again just to be sure.”

“My dad’s a good man!” defended Bruce.

“We both know that,” Jeff agreed. “But my mother would turn every screw to convince a judge that he was a monster. She’d use every bit of dirt she could dig up… she’d even use the shoot-fighting thing as an excuse. You know how scared my grandmother is when I do it.”

“Do you think you should stop?”

“Hey I love doing it. Why should I stop?”

“Well if you find yourself living with mom again…” said Bruce.

“Good point, I’ll think about it.” Jeff took a pause before he spoke again. “So what’s up?”

“We got a new member. I need someone to show him the ropes.”

It was obvious that that was not what Bruce had wanted to begin with. The contract stashed in his jeans was evidence of that. But clearly he wanted something to keep Jeff’s mind off of his current problems. Usually Jeff would have been annoyed, but today he appreciated the effort.

“No problem. Who is it?” Jeff asked, looking around. “Where is he?”

“Over there. His name is Mark Kinega.”

Jeff saw an olive skinned man with brown hair on the far side of the training area, looking at a few of the old flyers. At a guess, Jeff was willing to bet he was seventeen.

“Okay, I’ll do it. You owe me one for this.”

That was how minutes later Jeff stood in the ring awaiting the newcomer Mark Kinega, hoping that he was not wasting his time and that the newcomer had some sort of fighting ability. Otherwise he was in for a long day. Luckily he didn’t have to wait long as Mark made his way to the ring.

Jeff and Mark sized each other up without saying a word. When they had had enough, they faced off, bowed and fell into fighting stances.

Mark lunged forward with three punches followed by a front kick which Jeff backed away from. Jeff then ducked down and tried a leg sweep which Mark jumped to avoid. From there they worked their way through a series of amateur moves with neither making contact.

~This guy has got fast reflexes,~ Jeff though as threw a punch. Jeff considered himself fast; this guy was… sudden.

Mark grabbed his arm and spun him over, causing Jeff to hit the ground hard. Jeff’s response as to try to force Mark forward to relive the pressure on his arm. When that didn’t work he opted for a guaranteed method of forcing a release, and hit his opponent with a low blow. Mark retaliated with a low blow of his own, which while expected, proved to Jeff that his opponent had the desire to win. Of course Jeff was too stubborn to allow himself to be taken down so easily. The fight went on from there with neither fighter besting the other until they both collapsed in the middle of the ring.

“You’re pretty good Kincaid,” Kinega said after a while.

Jeff looked at his opponent. Usually he didn’t like to be called by his last name. It reminded him of the bullies that had made his life hell. In this case though he had the feeling that the name was a sign of respect. He also had a feeling the other man had been holding back. “You’re not too shabby there either Kinega,” he said finally, wondering where he could learn to fight like that.

Then they both got up to tend to their bruises and they hit the showers.

Mark left the gym and made his way to a side alley. Once there, hidden from the native population, he pulled back the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a metal brace.

“Engage orbital bounce!” he commanded.

At Mark’s command the device glowed briefly. Then he was transformed into a column of red light and was teleported up to where a red and black ship waited in orbit.

Mark rematerialized on the bridge of a spaceship, his spaceship. It was one of the fastest ships in the galaxy, but its ability to flee was one of its least important features.

“Hello Hardrive, status report.”

“You have one new message,” the computer responded, causing Mark to shake his head. The computer was state-of-the-art, but had been patched together so often that it had picked up a few quirks. One of which was its need to convey information by quoting television. “Big giant head on line one!”

Mark guessed who the ‘the big giant head’ was as he activated his main viewer and found Zordon looking at him.

“Hello Mark, how goes the mission?”

Simple and to the point. Zordon knew better than to waste time with niceties. The difference between Zordon and others Mark had encountered though was that Zordon kept contact brief out of respect for Mark’s work. The others did so because they either feared or despised everything that Mark and his companions represented.

“I hate to say it Master Zordon, but you were right. I may be the first to find a suitable candidate on Earth.”

“Excellent news Mark,” the ancient being replied. “I will relay your success to the other masters.”

“He has the skills we need. I’ll need more time to make sure he has the attitude,” Mark told him. He could sense the reply and added: “He has potential, I’m not denying that. If I were looking for Power Rangers he’d be a likely candidate in an emergency. But you know that’s not what we’re trying to find here and if he isn’t strong enough he’ll be killed… or worse.”

“I can see that leadership is starting to agree with you Mark,” Zordon said. “And I am pleased you have taken your responsibilities seriously. What is the candidates name?”

“Jeff Kincaid,” said Mark.

Zordon paused for a moment as if in deep thought although Mark knew that the White Master was trying to sense Jeff within the Morphin Grid. “I believe your instincts are correct and he will make a fine addition to your team. While he would not be my first choice for a Ranger, he would make an excellent Night Ranger. However, you are the leader and it is your right to proceed as you see fit. If you decide to recruit him I must insist that you do not train him on Earth; he will benefit from the guidance of the elders.”

Zordon broke contact and Mark started to review Kincaid’s file. His computer had pulled records from sources across the planet to allow him to build a profile on his potential recruit. It would take time – for he was determined that he would make certain that he chose the correct candidate-, but his team didn’t have to deal with the constant threat of alien invasions so there was no urgency.

A few weeks later

Jeff left the gym and started to make his way home. His thoughts were back to being a jumble again as he thought about his mother’s renewed fight for visitation rights. It seemed that the lawyers she had hired had found a way to shift the hearing to another court and that the judge was likely to grant her requests. Jeff didn’t want to be put through the emotional cyclone of dealing with her again.

Suddenly he felt a tingle throughout his body as he then felt himself being pulled across the sky. He materialized and after looking around wondered if he had hit his head a bit too hard during a sparring session. Either that or he was on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

“Where the hell am I?” he wondered.

“Toto you’re not in Kansas anymore,” said a voice.

Jeff spun around to see who was speaking, but there was nobody there. “Who said that?”

“That was my computer Hardrive,” said the voice of Mark Kinega as he entered the bridge.

Jeff had gotten to know Mark quite well in recent weeks. The other man had been a regular at Bruce’s place and the two had trained together. Kincaid still had the feeling that Mark was holding mark during their practices.

“Why’d he call me Toto?” he asked.

There were so many questions that had needed asking, but for Jeff, that seemed the most important.

“It’s his way,” Mark said fondly. “We crash landed on a planet a few years ago and some of his circuit boards were damaged. We replaced them, but since then he’s been picking up transmissions from all over the galaxy; even television signals. Over time his language banks have been filled with television jingles.”

“Can’t you fix it?” asked Jeff.

“Yes we can!” Hardrive called out.

“But I don’t really want to,” Mark said, ignoring the latest outburst. Hardrive’s communication hub was one of the most advanced systems on the ship. The computer intercepted and rerouted signals from across known space giving Kinega and his comrades access to a spectacular amount of raw data, which proved invaluable in their line of work. Unfortunately Hardrive lacked the ability to filter the signals he received until he processed them and due to memory leakage some of those signals worked their way into his vocabulary; why they had designed Hardrive’s language centre to share runtime with his signal processing was unclear, but Kinega had to admit that it worked. He also wasn’t sure why the computer had been spending time watching children’s television. “It gives him a personality. These computers can be pretty stuffy it they don’t have something to occupy themselves.”

“All right, enough about the computer,” Jeff said, remembering where he was. “Where am I and what am I doing here? What are you doing here?”

“Okay, well where do I start?” Mark pondered “First in case you haven’t guess, I’m not from this planet. My home is a long way away and I have no intention of going back there. I’m human with a few minor differences. As for why I’m here, well the answer have to be: you. I take it you have heard about the Power Rangers?”

“The super heroes who trash monsters in California, yeah I’ve heard of them,” Jeff said. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Well… I’m sort of a Power Ranger.”

Jeff could not believe his ears as the next second he broke out laughing. “Oh that’s a good one. First this ship and then you’re telling me that you are a Power Ranger. No offence, but I think I know you well enough to know you are not Power Ranger material. Now what’s really going on?”

Mark decided that it was easier to prove that he was telling the truth with a little demonstration and pulled back his sleeve, revealing a bracelet. He ran his fingers over the metallic surface, causing it to light up. “Red Night Ranger, activate!” By the time he had finished talking, his clothing had changed into a black and red costume with a blood red helmet. The face on the helmet was scowling.

Jeff was shocked at this turn of events and more than a little confused. “Hold on, Power Rangers don’t have costumes like — that.”

“Of course they do,” Mark countered, then thought about it. “Well, I do anyway.”

He deactivated his powers. It was too early in the day to waste them on demonstrations.

“Most Rangers don’t look like that of course, but then I’m not exactly a normal Ranger. I’m part of a very different team that’s not limited to this planet.”

“Not limited to Earth?” Jeff was growing more and more confused.

“I’m a Night Ranger, Jeff,” Mark told him. “Despite what others might say.”

“And what is a Night Ranger?”

Mark sighed. He really hated having to tell this story. Doing so meant he had to confess something about himself. Still if he wanted Jeff to join him he needed to explain.

“When the universe was in its infancy there was only good and evil. The fight was one of survival between two opposing forces. Everything was in balance. Although primitive it was a simple war. Then there came the shadows, those who either didn’t want to fight or chose to fight only to suit their own aims. The clear line between good and evil became distorted by shades of grey. And when the great beings left and the lesser creatures were entrusted to continue the fight, the discovery of magic meant that the line between good and evil barely existed.

“In the new war, many chose to serve the side of good, fighting to preserve the rights beliefs and freedoms of the individual as well as focusing on the goal of peace. Those who sought to serve evil were those who were self serving, disrespectful and thought that peace was achieved through oppression, benefiting the select few at the expense of the many. And of course there were always those who looked out purely for themselves, changing sides at a moment’s notice if it served their purposes.

“But the great beings would not be forgotten. Many fought in their name and some went even further. One race sought to become like the greater beings and explored the deepest depths of what it meant to be evil. Even by evil standards they committed unforgivable acts and were thought to be destroyed by the forces they unleashed. Their name has been lost to ages but the beings they unleashed have not.

“The Horde, Horrors, Youkai and Orgs, there are an unlimited number of names for these creatures, creatures of pure evil that prey on the corrupt as well as the innocent. These are creatures that transcend beyond the world as we know it.

“At this time the warriors of good needed a way to counter this new threat and to deal harshly with the ones who sought to create them. Most evil could be fought by the armies filled with noble warriors under the command of skilled leaders. Simple and open warfare of the type that suited a large number of Power Rangers. The new threat was much smaller and less likely to follow a pattern of invading worlds. They were more like predators and their actions were either beneath the notice of Rangers or demanded a different approach. Some hid in plain sight, maintaining images of upstanding citizens while hiding their dark activities.

“And because of their nature, the light-minded beings they encountered were considered easy prey. When confronted by obvious evil, the light would always have a slight advantage. But when that evil was hidden from them, it was able to linger and corrupt those around it. They could strike at the forces of light, taking them by surprise. And trust me, these creatures that dwelled in the darkness knew of no limit to the evil that they could or would do; they were at home in the darkness of the night as well as using the cover of darkness for their evil deeds. Because they hid their natures so well, normal Rangers could not attack them without breaking the rules that governed their powers.

“A new force was needed, one that could fight them on an even playing field without worrying about the restrictions placed on most Rangers. A sect within the Morphin Masters decided that confronting the darkness was more important than following rules about escalation. They vowed to seek out, unmask and eradicate the evil that hid in plain sight as well as the dark spirits that were either above or beneath the notice of the Morphin Masters. They formed the Acexta Order and retreated to a world where nearly every member of the population joined their quest. Over the course of many years their number grew and they were even able to trap some of the creatures within the core of the planet Nocturnea where they could use them to test their warriors.

“Many entered the Pit of Night, only to be destroyed by the evil within. Entering was simple, but required that they wagered their soul in combat against one of the many demons contained within. Those that lost became food for the demons they faced, whereas those that triumphed bound the power of the demon to their will. The first man to emerge from the pit was granted the title of Night Fighter. He would not be the last.”

“So you’re telling me that you’re a Power Ranger who fights evil spirits in a pit?” Kincaid asked sceptically. He was starting to think Kinega was insane.

“I am not mad,” Mark told him, an amused look on his face. “I thought the same thing when I was recruited. Of course I knew about Power Rangers, but this Night Ranger thing — well it is a little bizarre. Besides, I didn’t say he was a Ranger.”

Jeff snorted but didn’t say anything. A part of him wanted to hear the story.

“The Night Fighters were not the champions of the people, but they were their most dedicated protectors. The methods and powers they used could not be condoned by the authorities. Some tried to arrest them, some considered them just as dark as the forces they claimed to fight and vowed to destroy them along with everything they stood for; most just treated them with open hostility.

“The problem was that most of the monks that chose the path of the Night Fighters were human and their bodies were also human. Humans were vulnerable to the side effects of drawing on the darker energies they needed to fight evil. The dark spirits they called upon corrupted those that tried to wield their might even after they had been subjugated. After a decade at most, many Night Fighters showed show signs of the darkness consuming them. And while there were precautions in place to make certain that they did not succumb to the darkness and join the forces of evil, there was a real risk of their bodies being burnt from the inside out. A way was needed to channel the darkness without being destroyed by it.”

“And that solution would be the Night Rangers,” Jeff guessed.

Mark nodded. “Not immediately. Officially only those that draw energy from the Morphin Grid are allowed to call themselves Rangers. There are a few others that have earned the right to use the title; Earth is an exception because their Rangers are recognised as such by their mentor. And then there are the Night Rangers…” He laughed. “The Night Rangers are not really Power Rangers. The Night Fighters didn’t ask to use the name or to rejoin the Morphin Masters. They adopted the name and then invited the Morphin Masters to stop them. That was before my time, but I heard there were plenty of broken bones while the matter was debated.”

In truth the first Night Rangers were a complete accident. A young scientist had been experimenting with some old morphers that had had their connection to the Morphin Grid severed. He unwittingly discovered that even without the Morphin Grid they retained their ability to draw in, alter and then discharge energy. He configured them to empower suits of generic armour that could be used by the Night Fighters in battle. The armour offered protection and solved some of their problems, but was little more than armour. After some thought, the Night Fighters agreed that having a whole planet of generic soldiers was not the same as having a team of Rangers and chose not to label their creations Night Rangers.

“So the Night Fighters created some powers, the Power Rangers disagreed, there was a big fight and after they won the argument the Night Fighters backed down?” Jeff clarified.

“The Morphin Masters didn’t win,” Kinega replied. “The Night Fighters were not villains and the Morphin Masters were limited in what they could do. On the other hand the Night Fighters had no such restrictions and made sure that they left the Morphin Masters bruised and in some cases humiliated. Then when it looked like they could have pushed back, they let the matter drop, leaving the Morphin Masters to look like fools. The Morphin Masters could claim they won the argument, but they would never challenge the Night Fighter again over such petty issues.”

The mass-produced armour of the Night Fighters allowed them some protection and with a few alterations held a constant power supply. Those that used them were not as powerful as Power Rangers, who would always have the advantage that their powers were more than a superficial boost, but they had numbers and the dedication, and that was what they needed to fight the darkness. However, they still sought a way to fight the darkness on an even footing. The creatures they faced were resistant to light; they had no such protection against the darkness. Some tried to capture more demons in the hope that they could force them to give assistance, while others argued there was no need to wield the dark powers at all and that the warnings against doing so were there for a reason.

“So they found a way?”

“Yes, they found a way when a young man joined the Order. He had recently flunked out of the Morphin Academy where he had been trained to be a Ranger; his heart was pure and his intentions were good, but the world had corrupted him and the Morphin Masters refused to allow him to continue his training. They judged him based on the past he had endured without realising his soul remained pure. He was what some would call a Broken Angel.”

“It was a complete accident that the young man stared into the Mirror of Night, a dangerous magical artefact said to contain a dark spirit. The spell upon the mirror was supposed to show the darkness within a person’s soul and amplify it while showing all his desires. If the person looking accepted what was offered, the demon within the mirror would strike and take over his body. Fortunately this man was a good man and while the mirror absorbed the darkness around him and amplified it, it could only twist what was on the outside.

“He had been given one of the generic morphers when he had joined the Order, and when he had sensed the darkness within the mirror, he had used it,” Mark explained, showing Jeff his morpher. “The demon inside the mirror corrupted and disfigured the powers, making him appear evil. It poured its darkness into the morpher, not realising that once it did so a connection was formed that would never be broken. A battle took place as the young warrior fought the demon for control. The spirit lost the battle and knew that the young man had the ability to vanquish it permanently. It begged for mercy and offered to serve him and those that followed him. An agreement was reached and the deal was done. The spirit was trapped within the core of the Power Morpher, but its dark influence was countered by the light within the young man’s heart; he remained a good man.

Over time, the Order was able to recreate the circumstances of that night. They tracked down other artefacts used the same method although they were not always successful; often the spirits chose to be vanquished rather than serving the Order and sometimes the person drawing the spirit out gave in to the darkness and had to be destroyed along with the spirit.

In the end the Order managed to locate and bind twelve powerful spirits of darkness into their service. Their essences were locked within the modified Power Morphers. And when the final morpher was completed, thirteen warriors were empowered by the darkness to lead the Night Fighters. They were dubbed Night Rangers although collectively they were known as the Power Rangers Night Force. And when they demonstrated their power for the first time, nobody dared to complain.

“This morpher is connected to one of those demons and has been passed down from Ranger to Ranger. Each time a new Ranger is selected, the candidate is required to undergo the trials of a Night Fighter. If successful they are given one of the Power Morphers and the opportunity to claim its power. If they can tame the spirit inside the morpher they become the next Night Ranger and the demon they carry within them is added to the morpher’s power; those that fail vanish, although some believe they are turned into energy and locked inside the Night Morpher.”

“And if they don’t take the test?” Jeff asked.

“Then the Night Ranger powers will fall dormant and they will only be able to access the generic armour of a Night Fighter,” Kinega answered. “Although if that happened they would be ‘encouraged’ to surrender the morpher so that a more suitable candidate can use it and they will be given a different transformation device; whether or not they agree to serve as a Night Ranger, passing through the Pit of Night earns them the title of Night Fighter.”

There had only been thirteen Night Morphers. The Order had tried to create more, but it seemed that for most of the dark creatures they encountered, being vanquished was preferable to eternal servitude.

“The Night Ranger is a warrior that can fight the darkest evil on its own terms and match the evil warriors on an equal footing. Night Rangers journey into the darkness to protect people from the evil that lurks there. The evil of greed, lust, pride, gluttony…”

“The seven deadly sins,” Jeff interrupted.

“Yes exactly,” said Mark. “Except the evils they fight rarely fall into a pattern that the villains most Power Rangers face choose. Rarely do they send down a monster to destroy the world. They assume a physical form and spread their corruption. For them the spoils of war can consist of a single soul. And believe me, they have the power to do whatever they want by themselves. Whether it be money, power, people, there is really no limit to the evil that they can accomplish. Over the centuries there have been some mortals that have allied themselves with the spirits of darkness, learning to draw the darkness into themselves and wield it as a weapon. Transformed by the darkness they can take on monstrous and powerful forms. The last lot almost wiped out their entire galaxy.

“The Night Rangers are darker than the average Power Rangers. They are just as dedicated to the defeat of evil, but their methods are those that would normally be associated with the villains they fight. Of the three rules applied to the Power Rangers, the Night Rangers only follow one: never use the power for personal gain. As long as they obey that rule and fight for the greater good, all else is forgiven.”

Jeff took it in for a second. “So what you’re saying is that there are these evil monsters that are actually spirits, some of whom have joined forces with ordinary people. And that you are a member of a team of Power Rangers that have been corrupted by an evil artefact and now fight them on their terms?”

“That’s about it,” Mark said, offering a wry grin. “Hard to believe isn’t it?”

Jeff was silent, thinking. There was no doubt that Mark was telling the truth, or at least the truth as he knew it. That did leave a few questions though. “Okay, say I believe you, what does this have to do with me?”

“Many years ago the Night Rangers engaged a very powerful enemy. He was so powerful that Night Fighters were killed in the battle and even the Night Rangers did not escape unscathed. Several of the Night Rangers died during that battle. Some died from their wounds after the battle was over; some were lost along with the Night Fighters they led. It takes time to rebuild a team after so many losses and for after losing so many friends, the Night Rangers were willing to continue as a smaller group for a time.

“That changed a few decades ago. The Red Night Ranger and two of his comrades were killed in action and a prophecy was uncovered warning about a new threat that would require the Night Rangers to be at full strength. I was chosen from among the Night Fighters to take his place as the new leader of the Night Rangers and my first task was to rebuild our ranks.

“It’s taken a long time to track down potential candidates; normally they would never choose somebody from within the Order, but they needed a leader and the morpher chose me. We’ve lost more Rangers in that time and there are only four of us left, which leaves me with the task of finding six replacements and then tracking down the three morphers that were never recovered. I want you to be the first of those new Night Rangers.”

Jeff took in the news and thought about it for a second. Then he broke out in laughter.

“What’s so funny?” asked Mark.

Jeff tried to calm himself for a second then spoke. “I just can’t believe it. You want me to be a Power Ranger?”

“Night Ranger,” Mark corrected him. “And yes, you would have made an effective Power Ranger. But Night Rangers are very different to Power Rangers. There are less rewards and the dangers are unimaginable. We’re feared and reviled by those that are supposed to be on our side; there are groups dedicated to our destruction because they believe we are evil. The authorities don’t recognise us and do everything they can to hide our existence; we are expected to keep our existence secret even from our fellow Rangers, although we’ve never bothered too much about that. Those that know of us would likely deny having anything to do with us in case they are deemed guilty by association.”

“I’m sorry, but I have enough problems right now without playing super hero. I’m just not cut out to be a Power Ranger, day or night. Now if you don’t mind I’ve got to get back to the hellhole that is my life.”

Mark sighed. He had been told it would not be easy. The analysis of Kincaid had confirmed he would need a lot of convincing. A list had already been made of alternative choices, but Kinega wanted Kincaid. There was something that told him Jeff was destined to be a Night Ranger and he refused to let a simple refusal get in the way of that destiny. “If that’s your decision then fine. But just in case let me give you this.” Mark reached across one of the consoles and gave Jeff a small card. “If you change your mind just fold the top left corner. You’ll be teleported up here to Defiance and the Morpher will be waiting.”

“Defiance?” asked Jeff.

“That’s the name of this ship”

“I thought the ship was named Hardrive.”

“No the computer is named Hardrive; the ship is named Defiance.”

“Whatever, I gotta go, now if you can beam me back down to where I was I’d be happy.”

Mark moved to the controls and beamed Jeff back down.

“He’ll be back,” Kinega said as he stared at the empty spot where Jeff Kincaid once stood. At least he hoped that he would. Mark still had a few weeks before he had to move on to the next possibility. So the question was how to nudge Kincaid in the right direction during that time? “Let me see Kincaid’s file again Hardrive. Looks like you were wrong about just asking. We might need to give him a nudge.”

The next day Jeff was leaving school when he was stopped by Jessica Farrell. She was a lab partner of Jeff’s in theatre class and Jeff had quite the crush on her. Jessica had long stringy blonde hair and dressed in a grunge style. She kind of liked Jeff, but they were pretty much at the ‘just friends’ stage in her mind.

“Hey Jeff, are you going to be ready for the theatre presentation tomorrow that we have to do for class?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’ve been going over the monologue for a while now,” Jeff told her, “I’ll be ready.”

“Great, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jeff was ready to ask her out on a date but the words didn’t come to his mouth. Jessica walked away as Bruce came up to his best friend.

“What happened?”

“I got scared,” Jeff admitted.

“Of what, her saying no? If she does, she’s the one passing up a good thing.”

“Bruce,” Jeff started. He sighed, forcing himself to relax. “I’ve been burned a lot of times in the past. I really don’t want to get shot down again.”

Jeff was about to walk off, just as he had done so many times before, but this time, Bruce had other plans.

When the phone rang at Jessica’s house a few weeks later, she ignored it knowing her parents were home. She was a little surprised when she was told that the phone call was for her.


“Yeah Jessica, this is Bruce Greene I’m a friend of Jeff Kincaid’s.”

“What can I do for you Bruce?” she asked.

“Well my friend Jeff has missed something for the project and I can’t get in contact with him on it. I was wondering if you can pick it up for him?”

Jessica thought about it for a minute.

“Where is it?”

“It’s at Leroy’s Shootfighting Rink on First Street.”

She knew the place, having passed it a few times. She had never stepped foot inside though.

“All right I’ll be right there,” she said before hanging up.

~One down one to go,~ thought Bruce as he searched through his book for Jeff’s number. ~I’m so good at this I ought to have my own television show.~

Jeff ran down to the gym and caught Bruce at the front door.

“All right Bruce what’s the big emergency?”

Bruce had to stall for time, if Jeff was impatient it would be a disaster.

“Yeah well ah…”

He didn’t have to wait long since Jessica was coming. She took a look at Jeff, then at Bruce. “Why didn’t you call and tell me you found him?”

Jeff was confused. “He was supposed to call you?”

“He told me you had left something that we needed for the theatre project tomorrow,” Jessica explained.

Jeff got defensive. “No I didn’t!”

“Then why did your friend call me?”

Both Jessica and Jeff turned to glare at Bruce.

“All right Bruce, what’s going on?”, asked Jeff.

“Look Jeff, you like this girl but…”

“You like me?” interrupted Jessica.

Jeff’s face turned red, but before he could find the courage to answer there was a flash of light and a group of black tuxedo garbed warriors. Their faces were hidden behind half-white, half-black helmets painted with a pair of bright red lips.

“What are these guys?” asked Bruce.

“I don’t know,” Jeff answered as the newcomers moved in to attack. “Bruce get Jessica out of here. I’ll hold them off.”

Jeff fell into a fighting stance and fought the attackers as Bruce escorted Jessica away. Unfortunately just as Bruce thought they were safe enough away another group appeared. Bruce was not a slouch when it came to physical combat and demonstrated how he had gotten to be so respected in the gym as he launched himself into battle.

“Run Jessica. RUN!” he yelled.

Jessica turned to run when two of the faceless goons grabbed her and teleported her away. The remaining attackers teleported soon after, having had enough of Jeff and Bruce.

Jeff looked around. “Where’s Jessica?”

“She was just here,” Bruce answered, looking around. “I told her to run when those red robots appeared. Perhaps she got away.”

“Let’s split up. I’ll look north.”

“I’ll look south,” Bruce replied as they split up.

When Jeff was far enough away, he activated the device Mark had given him teleported himself back up to Defiance.

Mark was sat in the pilot’s chair, reviewing some of the scout reports for other candidates when Jeff teleported on board. Over the last few weeks he had tried to appeal to Jeff’s sense of duty, his need to belong and even his desire to get away from his mother, but nothing had worked. So he had decided to try an alternative form of persuasion. “Have you changed your mind?” he asked without looking up.

“That depends. What can you tell me about black clad freaks with red lips that kidnap teenage girls?” Jeff demanded.

Mark thought about it for a moment before clicking a button. He flicked through the images of known underlings seeking a match. “Black clad freaks… did they look like they were wearing tuxedos?”

“Yeah, do you know them?”

Mark turned back to the controls and ordered Hardrive to scan for any ships in the vicinity.

“Klingon battle cruiser off the port bow,” Hardrive reported.

“You just described a platoon of Hedonian Soldiers,” Mark said.

“Hedonian Soldiers?”

“They are the grunts of the Hedon Empire,” Mark explained. “Part of an old society that studied the ways of the dark powers. Except instead of taking that darkness and turning it into something that evil would learn to fear, like the Night Fighters, they were corrupted and used the darkness for their own pleasure. Their society decayed until they were unable to produce anything for themselves. Of course only the elite could afford to buy the luxuries they needed, the rest had to become soldiers in return for the things they needed to survive. They’re the sort of thing the Night Fighters were created to fight although given their nature we rarely encounter them.”

That wasn’t quite true. Most of the Hedonians could be battled by normal teams of Rangers. It was impossible for such teams to completely defeat the threat, they could only vanquish it for short periods due to the limitations imposed by the rules. Only the Night Rangers had the disposition to permanently end such darkness.

“What are they doing kidnapping a girl from Port Clinton?” Jeff asked.

Mark didn’t answer immediately, contemplating the answer. Why would they pick on a single girl? Unless of course they had taken more than one girl and just happened to select somebody who knew the right people to ask. The Hedonian hierarchy did use souls and blood as part of their rituals although they were not as extensive as other practitioners like the Moabians. In the end he decided it was best not to mention the possibility that the Hedons were simply looking for innocents to corrupt and swell their ranks.

“It’s not like them to target Earth,” he said. “This world isn’t as magically inclined as some others. However some of the hierarchy have some very, very sick tastes. It wouldn’t be beyond them to send soldiers to collect innocents to feed that hunger. You really do not want to know more than that.”

Jeff was starting to get anxious. “So what are you going to do about it?”

Track them down and rescue the girls was the obvious answer, but Kinega knew that this was the opportunity he had been looking for. Finally he had found something Jeff Kincaid cared about enough to consider his offer.

“Well I really can’t spare the time right now, I need to finish putting together my team,” Mark told him. “Once that’s done I can look into it. Might take a while though… unless you want to reconsider of course.”

Jeff thought about it for a moment. He knew Mark would not help him unless he agreed. Night Rangers didn’t have to save every damsel. Given the choice he knew what his decision would be. “All right, I’m in.”

“Great, now all we have to do is find their ship and mount a rescue mission.”

“Just the two of us?”

Mark grinned. “Consider it a test.” He didn’t mention that Hedonian’s were usually handled without the use of powers. He didn’t want Kincaid to change his mind. “When this is over and if we succeed, we’ll see about getting you properly trained, but in the meantime this morpher has enough charge in it to keep you from serious harm.”

He handed Jeff a blue bracelet that had similar decoration to the one Mark had used before. Until Jeff passed the test to claim the powers of a Night Ranger, the morpher would offer some very limited protection.

“When do we get after the ship?” asked Jeff.

“Hardrive, if the linker is still transmitting. Give me a hell yeah!” He looked a bit sheepish when he saw Jeff staring at him. “Sometimes it helps if you know a few lines. Hardrive prefers it.”

“Hell Yeah!” Hardrive replied after performing a quick scan.

“Then set course and let’s go get ’em.”

And before long, Defiance streaked across the cosmos. The signal was apparently easy to track. Defiance made it’s way to it’s destination, a resort planet called Amia.

“The pleasure planet for those whose tastes cannot be met by the usual hives of villainy. Not many use this planet though, it doesn’t cater for those of their persuasion,” Mark explained.

“What’s Jessica doing down there?” Jeff asked.

“Some of the hierarchy enjoy taking something pure and corrupting it,” Mark admitted. “In this case I suspect they wanted them to amuse the troops. Comfort women to amuse the generals and boost the morale of the lower ranks.”

He didn’t mention that they were likely looking for breeding stock rather than prostitutes. An army had have soldiers after all. They needed to concentrate on getting the girl back and for that they needed a way to get in. Mark thought for a moment then came up with an idea.

“We’ll do a frontal decoy. You attack from the front and I’ll take Defiance down there and knock out the internal defences.”

“Uhh, no disrespect here. But what do I attack them with?” Jeff asked.

“Good question. Once you’re fully powered we can see about sorting you out with a Zord. In the meantime if you go down to the landing bay, you’ll find a battle pod waiting. The interface is telepathic so knowledge of how to use it should come naturally.”

Jeff went down to Defiance’s loading bay as instructed. He didn’t stop to question how the knowledge of the ship’s layout had burnt its way into his mind. Nor did he question how he knew instantly where his battle pod was parked.

The craft left Defiance’s landing bay and flew out towards the pleasure base. Jeff kept the defences busy while Mark flew Defiance in and teleported to where the central control computer was located. He activated the intruder control field, rendering all hostiles unconscious in a matter of seconds.

And with that it was over. Jeff never found out who was responsible for the kidnappings, although the rescue did cost the dark forces a considerable number of soldiers. most had fought back the moment they recovered from the stun effect, only to meet the untamed fury of a Night Ranger and a human who wanted to save the woman he loved. The prisoners, and there were a lot of them, were freed and Mark would later ask the Morphin Council to transport them to their respective homelands.

After Jeff returned from space, he and Jessica completed their project together and got a good grade as a result. Jessica for her part showed no signs that she remembered her experience, a result of the relaxants Mark had used.

Deciding that this time he would find the courage, Jeff asked her: “are you doing anything tomorrow afternoon?”

“No,” she answered.

“Well I was wondering if you wanted to go out for lunch tomorrow?”

Jessica thought about it for a second and then agreed. “Sure, why not?”

Jeff’s heart was jumping for joy, but despite his happiness he knew that in the near future Mark Kinega would come seeking his services. And when that happened there would be no turning back. He would become a Night Ranger.


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Loose Ends

Disclaimer: I do not own Power Rangers or any other show. All characters belong to the registered copyright owner.

Author’s Note: This chapter might appear a little confusing and the question might arise why am I writing about these character who have never appeared in this series before in a way that hopefully makes it clear their story is at an end? The answer is that while Oscar and company have not appeared in this version of COE, they were an important part of the original storyline and had a whole series dedicated to their battles against Minion. Unfortunately that series never reached completion as doesn’t fit with the current version of COE. However there was a story set to take place at the end of the Minion of Darkness set during the point where the Rangers unleashed the Great Power and the Universe was reborn where these characters appeared, so this is closing off the left over links to that part of the series (the actual story will be posted in the Offshots since it occurs out of the mainstream reality).

Loose Ends

Castle Twilight
Reality Node:

Long ago an enlightened man who had had a little too much of his favourite beverage, told that the universe as many had come to accept it was just one universe out of an infinite number of possible universes. Where timelines, dimensions and universes combined, the Multiverse would be formed. He declared as he fell off of his bar stool and stared up the dress of some attractive barmaid, that the universe they knew was just a part of a much larger multiverse.

The man had continued as his friends had poured him another drink, to explain that the many universes were joined together by a number of key worlds and that the importance of the universe in the grander scheme of things could be determined by how many of those key worlds could be found within. Of course he had ranted to his friends that the one that held all of those required worlds in their specified locations should be considered the Prime Reality, which impressed them despite the fact he then vomited in his neighbour’s hat.

He told them that in his opinion their universe was not a part of the Prime Reality, something that led to a brawl and the man being barred from the tavern for the rest of his life. However as unpopular as his words were, they were truthful. His universe was unimportant and thanks to the recent happenings in another place, no longer existed.

Castle Twilight stood upon the main continent of the planet Twilight at the centre of reality. If the Multiverse was shaped like the hub of a very poorly shaped wheel, then Twilight was at the centre where the wheel turned. It was the theoretical location of the explosion that had caused the formation of the Multiverse, a place of neutrality, untouched by the battle between good and evil, shielded from the needs of order and the inevitability of chaos.

Twilight was a peaceful world in a peaceful universe where instead of warring, the many factions representing good and evil had remained peaceful. Over time the populace had united for the purpose of maintaining balance within the Multiverse. Rarely were they required to act beyond the scope of their realm and when they were it was usually a nudge to offset some minor imbalance.

And then Minion had used the Sword of Ragnarok and the Multiverse had been destroyed. One universe after another had ceased to existed until only Minion’s universe remained. Then that too was absorbed by the void, which turned inward towards the multiversal hub, only to halt when the final act of the heroes healed the damage and reversed the process.

But a rogue element had involved itself and had sort to remake the Multiverse based on a different design, one which lacked a concept of balance and therefore threatened the existence of the Multiverse. At that point they had no choice but to act.

And act they did, choosing avatars from the last surviving reality, a newly formed universe that had not reached maturity and and would never reach its full potential; they referred to it as the Reality of Lost Stories where the endless possibilities of what remained of existence would continue to play out until it was erased when the wave of destruction hit obliterated them or a way was found to restore all that had been lost.

Ten natives had been chosen and trained within the grounds of Castle Twilight to use the elemental powers of the Multiverse. Though small in number, and though they had lacked experience and had been thrown into a situation far outside of their comfort zone, the ten chosen warriors had triumphed and existence had reformed just how it was supposed to. Unfortunately sacrifices had to be made for such an occurrence and the young heroes who had given their all to prevent the corruption of a world not their own, had lost more than any hero could be asked to lose.

Their reality had been sacrificed to rebuild existence while the powers they had used to stop the corrupt genius who had taken advantage of the situation to rewrite existence in his image had caused untold damage to their minds, bodies and souls. In truth they should have been destroyed; the desperate plan that had led to their recruitment had called for their complete sacrifice to end the battle. Somehow they had survived and the problem had then been what to do with them?

Some have favoured destroying them outright, tossing them aside like the meaningless creatures they were. Others had advocated keeping them in case of future need, using them as puppets wherever intervention was called for. And then there had been a group who had deemed them worthy of joining the other Lords and Ladies of Twilight in their castle, forever nestled between the second after destruction of the first universe and the second before the creation of the Multiverse.

Ultimately a decision was made and only the person who made it would ever claim it was a good idea. Since the ten heroes were from a place that no longer existed, they would be sent to the universe where Minion had triggered the cataclysm which had led to their recruitment. To that end the Lords of Twilight used the reality bending powers of their sacred God Stone to insert the humans into the desired timeline. It had taken many months to build the new identities. The first few times the characters had been deemed too perfect. Despite their lack of special powers and inability to ever hold such powers, they had stood out too much. After that they had tried separating them, but some force continuously drew them back together.

In the end the alterations had been made and the humans had been sent to the Earth where Minion had been created. Whether they would survive was unknown, a matter outside of the control of the Lords and Ladies of Twilight, but if they were destined to do so, they would find a way.

Merlow was a small community that had been popular during the seventies and eighties for parents wanting to raise their children in a safe environment. Crime was not uncommon, but the police force was well funded and efficient. Education and healthcare had been granted a boost due to the influx of high-tech industries led to with a large number of teenagers had a variety of clubs and cliques. Of course there were the school jocks that were worshipped by the school as heroes and the nerd groups that the more academic minded students formed.

Then there was the a group that seemed to circle around Oscar Barrett and his friends. In truth the friends were united by a common attachment to Oscar’s mother, a foster carer and child minder who had looked after the friends as well as her own son for years. Together they formed a team of four good friends, not troublemakers, just friends who enjoyed each other’s company. Oscar was the natural leader, not because of his strength or looks, simply because he knew how to keep the group together and given them a focus.

Having known most of the people in their year group, Oscar’s closest friends were Scott Roarke, Lee Janus, and Helen Croft. Oscar and Lee were the closest. They had been friends since they were toddlers and had practically grown up together. Lee had had a hard life; his mother had died giving birth and his father had turned to drink. For most of his life Lee had been abused and used Oscar’s house as a refuge when time got too bad. As a result he had become an unofficial brother to Oscar and was one of the many people who referred to Dana Barrett as ‘Mom’. Despite all he had been through Lee was a loyal friend that Oscar could count on and the two shared a tight bond. Lee was also captain of the school’s Football team and when he wasn’t with Oscar he could normally be found with the other Jocks.

Helen had joined them shortly after starting school. She was the peacekeeper and enforcer of the group. Even Lee backed down rather than make her angry. Despite the outward appearance she had a big heart and was always there for her friends. At one point she had tried dating Oscar, but after a while it was decided they were soul mates and nothing more. Of course they had been eleven at the time.

Scott was the pretty rich boy of the group and he knew it. His ego was constantly growing from the attention he received. Despite the superficial appearance though Scott was one of the most thoughtful and loyal friends Oscar had ever had. He was also a fitness freak and kept himself in top form through athletics and had a room full of trophies. Unfortunately the abundance of trophies did not make up for the fact his rich parents were constantly away. Like Lee, Scott was almost always with Oscar at his house and had formed a close bond with Oscar’s mother.

“Why don’t we do something tonight?” Lee asked as they drank.

“I can’t,” Oscar replied sullenly. “My mom’s taken in a new foster kid and I’m supposed to be there to meet him.”

“Another one?” Lee asked in surprised. Ms Barrett was well known as the local Good Samaritan. In fact there were rumours she had once tried to adopt an entire orphanage. Lee’s comment brought snickers from Helen and Scott. Soon all four were laughing at the image of Mrs Barrett trying to right the world.

Scott chuckled and turned back to watching the two teens practicing whatever martial art they had decided upon for that day. Bruce Ito and Clyde Darrett were unlikely friends. While they were similar in attitude, their interests were very different. Bruce was best described as a geek, something he was proud to proclaim. He was a member of the science and technology clubs and was one of the school’s top chess players. Clyde preferred music and art; if his ability to wheedle his way out of trouble was an indication, then he did more at Drama Club than adjust the lights as he claimed. Both boys shared an interest in the martial arts, more so than Oscar, Lee, Scott and Helen, who had only taken a basic course at Mrs Barrett’s insistence.

It appeared that today they were fighting using a mixture of styles, Bruce’s Kung-Fu against Clyde’s Capoeira. It wasn’t much of a match though and if he hadn’t seen them trade a few blows early on, Scott might have believed that they were not sparring at all.

A loud bang followed by a groan from Oscar caused Scott to look towards the door. He had to fight his own urge to groan when he saw Shane and his gang enter. Most communities had their bad elements, Shane and his companions were Merlow’s problem. They had been barred from the cafe many times in the past and were usually looking for trouble. Shane used his position on the Football team to keep himself out of serious trouble. The school principal liked the idea of his school winning more than he cared about providing a safe environment for his students.

Instead of making their way to the counter, Shane and his friends walked onto the mats. It seemed the bullies had ‘requested’ Bruce’s help with a homework assignment and the other boy had turned him down. Shane was not known to take rejection lightly, Cassandra Long had made sure that everybody understood that point. Nobody in their right mind turned Shane down unless they were ready to fight or had an escape route.

“Hey, we don’t want any trouble,” Clyde said.

“Well I do!” Shane shouted. “Your little boyfriend there cost me an A on my last test.”

“I told you, I would help you learn the material but I would not take the test for you,” Bruce responded. Neither he nor Clyde had backed down.

Oscar shot a glance at Lee and Scott who both nodded and walked with him to where the confrontation was taking place. At the same time he glanced over at Angelina, the owner of the establishment. It was a well-known fact that if she wanted somebody to leave she would make him or her. By force if necessary.

“Oh look, little Barrett and his big bad friends have come to help,” Shane sneered.

“Hey Bruce, just wanted to thank you for the tutoring,” Oscar smiled, ignoring Shane totally. “Would you two like a drink?”

“Hey!” Shane shouted before Bruce or Clyde could reply. “We’re busy here, so get lost!”

“Well?” Oscar asked. So far Shane had reacted as expected. Now if Bruce accepted Oscar knew things would be all right.

“Yes, thank you,” Bruce said as he and Clyde made their way over to where Helen had already ordered some more drinks.

“On the house,” Angelina whispered as she went back to the bar.

“I’m not done with you Barrett,” Shane said angrily.

Oscar had not expected this. He and Shane had an interesting history and while the bully liked to talk big, he usually avoided an outright confrontation. So he was caught off guard when Shane spun him and tried to punch him. Somehow he missed and overbalanced, knocking the table as he did so.

“I’ll get you Barrett,” Shane swore as he picked himself up. He had lost face, but that was enough to make him dangerous. As much as Oscar hated to admit it, sooner or later the two would come to blows again and he would end up doing something he would hate himself for.

“Thanks,” Bruce said as Oscar sat down.

“Not a problem,” Scott responded. “You two could have taken them, but this way I didn’t risk getting blood on my knuckles.”

“Yeah, I can see you wouldn’t want to ruin your looks,” Cassandra said as she joined the group, giving Clyde and Bruce a disapproving look. It seemed that if she wasn’t around they would land themselves in trouble. “If you did people might start to think you’re human.”

Everybody laughed at the comment. It was a fact the girls like Scott and even better known that Scott knew that they liked him. “Forget the rest, Scott’s the best,” he said trying to keep a straight face.

The seven friends sat together and talked for a couple of hours. Occasionally Angelina would bring them something to eat, but generally they had fun.

Just then Oscar noticed the time. “Oh man, I’ve got to leave. Mom will kill me if I’m late.”

“Good luck with your brother,” Helen called as he left before she returned to talking with Cassandra. They were comparing notes on one of the Swimming team’s rising stars.

“This is your last chance,” his social worker lectured as he stepped out of the car. “If you can’t make it with the Barretts, you’ll probably be in state care until you’re teneen.”

Displaced Dan, that’s what the kids in the last family he had stayed with had called him, gave her a small nod, not really caring. He was an unwanted child with no other family. In short, Daniel Nelson was a problem child. Exactly what he had been through in his young life was unclear, although social workers suspected he had been abused. Whatever the cause he seemed unable to connect with the families that had offered him a home.

“We had to work very hard to find a place for you,” she continued, but Daniel ad stopped listening.

In fact his instincts were screaming at him to step back in the car and return to the orphanage. At least there he knew what to expect. No, starting this latest attempt to find him a home as a challenge, was not the wisest choice. Daniel had been in foster care since he was four years old and had lost all track of his mother. He’d been taken from her because she left him home alone while she plied her wares on the streets of Atlanta, then locked him in a bathroom while she entertained the tricks she brought home. Daniel didn’t even know who his father was, and he doubted that his mother did either, even if he could ask her. Somehow she had ended up in across the country and had asked for his return. That had lasted just a few days before she had moved on, but Daniel had been left behind, moving from one orphanage to another within the state.

Because his mother was still alive, Daniel had not been considered eligible for adoption until he was ten or so, and by then it seemed that no one was interested in a young boy who was at the age where his curiosity, and capacity for trouble were at their peak, while his ability to use common sense, his inclination to bond with a new family, were at their ebb. So Daniel had been placed in several different foster homes throughout the state and had done his time in the Methodist Children’s Home, but both Daniel and those responsible for his care had come to the point where they simply didn’t consider the possibility of his ever having a permanent family. Daniel’s self esteem was at an all time low, and he certainly was not up for any challenges.

It was a few weeks earlier when he’d been called to the Administrator’s office. When he entered there were Mr Dalzell the administrator, Mrs Flewelling his social worker, and a Mr Rowling, a social worker that Daniel did not know.

“We have a placement for you,” Mr Dalzell began after the introductions, “and it sounds like a really good one if you’re interested. But I’ll shut up and let the social workers tell you about it.”

“Tell me Daniel, what do you know about Merlow?” Mr Rowling asked.

Daniel thought about the question. He knew that the town was somewhere in the northern part of the state, but other than that he drew a complete blank. Merlow was not especially important for trade, didn’t have any important industries and rarely appeared on the news. It was just another town, another place to be sent. Yet another grey area in a dull world.

“Perhaps you should tell Daniel more about the placement so he can decide for himself,” Mr Dalzell suggested when he noticed how disinterested Daniel appeared.

Danny shot the administrator an evil stare, his eyes boring into the man’s head. He was surprised when Dalzell seemed to look scared. Everybody knew Danny hated the name Daniel and most were sensible enough to call him Danny. Normally the administrator would have known better, but the appearance of Rowling in his office given him a new opportunity to find the boy a how and in his enthusiasm, he had simply forgotten.

“I appologise for that Danny, I won’t do it again,” he promised and was pleased at the nod and slight smile he received in return.

“Anyway,” Rowling continued. “A local citizen in Merlow is willing to take you for a six month period. She has already got one son called Oscar and is looking for somebody to keep him company. At the same time you will be able to enjoy a family life. Consider it a learning experience.”

So there it was. Danny had been selected to baby-sit for a kid who was unable to make his own friends. Danny had been less than enthusiastic, but his views on the matter were ignored.

“Danny!” His attention was drawn back to the present. “Remember what I said,” Rowling said. “If you behave and do what Ms Barrett tells you there is a small chance you will be able to become part of her family.”

Danny was hardly listening as he began to unpack his bags. He had had so many bad experiences in foster homes that he had decided this latest trip would turn out just as bad.

“Danny, this is Ms Dana Barrett,” Mr Rowling explained as a woman in her late thirties emerged from the house to meet them. “Ms Barrett, may I introduce Danny.”

“Nice to meet you Danny,” Ms Barrett said extending her hand. “I’m sorry Oscar is not here at the moment, but he had to run an errand for me.”

Mr Rowling left quickly after reminding Danny to behave and telling Ms Barrett to contact him if there were any problems. After he had gone Ms Barrett led Danny into the house.

“Don’t let Rowling intimidate you,” she said as she placed his cases down in the hall. “The guy can be a real pain if you let him get to you.” She went on to tell Danny about herself and Oscar whilst preparing him a small snack.

“Thanks Ms Barrett,” Danny said.

“Call me Dana, you’re going to be here for a while,” Dana replied.

“Thanks Ms… I mean Dana,” Danny said.

They talked for a while about Danny and his life, then Dana told him about her family. As he had assumed she was not married, but did maintain a close relationship with Oscar’s father who lived in New York. She told him they rarely visited since Oscar’s ‘uncles’ were a bit eccentric especially his Uncle Lewis. They continued talking for a while about Merlow with Dana filling him in on the various meeting places and the high school.

They spoke for a while longer before he was told to take a look around the town. “There’s a bike in the yard you can use.” And with that, Danny was turned loose to explore the sights that were Merlow.

Oscar Barrett was in no rush to return home and discover his mother’s ‘latest project’. He knew that her idea of fostering was intended to give him some company, but he knew it was really just to satisfy his mother’s overactive conscience. He had once heard his grandmother recounting how his mother had once had a room full of stray cats whilst advertising for their owners to come forward. Now Oscar was on his way home to meet his new foster brother. He just hoped Daniel was worth his mother’s efforts.

“Hey Barrett!” Oscar swore silently as he recognised the voice behind him. Instead of stopping he started to walk faster, choosing the path that would lead him home. The sound of running echoed as his nemesis started to follow. Oscar picked up the speed, determined to get away without a fight. As he rounded the corner his hopes of doing so were dashed.

“I said ‘Hey Barrett!'” Shane shouted as his friends moved in to surround Oscar. They had known where he would go and had taken the opportunity to cut him off. “Why you running Barrett?” Shane asked as he grabbed the smaller boy around the neck. “Did your mummy tell you to come home?”

Oscar looked at the five boys who surrounded him. These guys were tough and intent on hurting him. Shane was the leader, the typical thug who the others followed like brainless sheep. Chris, Brad, Josh and Matt were tough in their own way, but without Shane they wouldn’t have the guts to try anything.

“Look Shane, I don’t want any trouble,” Oscar said, hoping he could talk his way out of it.

“Well that’s a shame because I am,” Shane sneered. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t hit you.”

“I’ll give you two,” Oscar replied, clutching at straws. “First you’d have to live with what you’d done.”

“Ha!” Shane laughed. “And the second reason?”

“Your fly’s undone.”

It was an old trick that even the most stupid kid would not fall for. Oscar had been hoping Shane would laugh long enough for him to run, but when Shane actually looked Oscar took his chance and ran.

“Get him!” Shane shouted.

Oscar ran as fast as he could, hoping to lose the bullies on his way back to the cafe. But luck was not on his side; the bullies were older and faster and he soon found himself on the receiving end of a punch to the stomach.

“Oi! Leave him alone,” a voice called from behind them. The five bullies turned to see a blond haired kid setting his bike down and walking towards them. Ignoring Shane and his cronies he helped Oscar back to his feet.

Nothing was supposed to happen when Nelson and Barrett met. The elemental powers they had been gifted during the crisis had been stripped away during their time in limbo. The link they had once shared, caused by the influence of their powers on each other should have remained dormant. However when they touched, they recognised each other on a different level. It was a bond of camaraderie between survivors, a friendship that had survived a war.

And with the link between them restored, there was a good chance that a similar link between them and Cassandra, Helen, Lee, Scott, Clyde and Bruce would return. Not that it mattered without their powers, but it did cause the Lords and Ladies of Twilight to wonder just how their carefully laid plans had gone even a little awry.

“You’ve got a choice,” Danny told them, suddenly feeling very confident. For some reason he no longer believed that this placement had to end in disaster. “Let us go…”

“Or we’ll go through you,” Oscar finished. Likewise he felt more confident. Just having another person there had changed the odds. He would rather it had been Lee or even Scott, but any help was welcome. He just wished that he could remember his ally’s name, he was certain they had met before.

Shane laughed and threw a punch at Daniel, but Daniel had somehow moved to one side before the fist reached him and grabbed the bully’s wrist. He held the arm, feeling all the momentum drain from Shane before letting go and allowing Shane to collapse on his face.

“Run,” Oscar said.

Both boys ran off, neither aware of who the other was and missing the shocked look on the bullies’ faces. They had just seen two fifteen-year-old run off so fast their movements were a blur. As Danny picked up his bike and pedalled off Oscar ran towards his home.

“You alright?” Oscar asked when they finally stopped running.

“Yeah, who’d have thought I’d be attacked on my first day in Merlow,” Danny replied. “I hope my foster brother is better than those guys.”

Oscar half heard what the other boy had said and looked at him. He realised for the first time he had never seen this boy before and he had always made it his business to know everybody. “Foster brother?”

“Yeah, I’m meant to be staying with Ms Barrett and her son, but I haven’t even met him yet. I think he might be avoiding me.”

They walked on in silence.

“Well, here you are,” Oscar said as he dropped Daniel at the Barrett house. “Hope things go well with your brother, I think you’ll like him.”

The door opened and Dana was waiting for them. “Where have you two been?” she asked.

“Sorry Mom,” Oscar said.

“Well I am glad you two have met at least,” Dana said, ignoring the look Oscar gave her.

“Mom?” Danny asked quietly.

“Well, yeah, um that’s what I call her because, she’s my mom,” Oscar managed.

“You mean you two haven’t met?” Dana asked. She smiled as she saw the recognition dawn on Danny’s face. “Danny, this is Oscar. Oscar meet Danny your new brother.”

“Maybe that should be brothers,” Oscar corrected as he noticed Helen, Scott and Lee making their way towards them.

~Maybe this place won’t be so bad after all,~ Danny thought as introductions were made and the extended Barrett family made their way inside.

The matter had been sorted. The insertion of the ten chosen heroes into a new life was complete. History had been altered and the universe had adapted, the town of Merlow had suddenly appeared and the maps had changed to accept it. The left over pieces had found a home, even if it was not the same as the place they had known before. They were together, they had friends and they were with family. And that was enough.

With the last obstacle removed, the doorway between the Multiverse and the dimensional hub where Twilight resided was starting to close. There was nothing to do regarding Oscar and Daniel’s minor use of their power. It seemed that once gifted even the combined wills of the Lords and Ladies of Twilight could not remove such powers. They would have to be satisfied with the knowledge that for the most part those abilities were blocked.

Time was moving forward, as time was inclined to do. Events were in motion on Earth and in other parts of the cosmos that would test the heroes of that world. But those within Castle Twilight would never involve themselves in such a conflict. They were after all above the notions of good and evil, and forever neutral in protecting the balance.


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Disclaimer: All shows referenced in this nonprofit fanfic belong to their respective copyright owners. Parts of this story were borrowed from Jeremy Ray Logsdon’s Earth Crystals.

Author’s note: This is the final part of the Minion of Darkness storyline and marks the return of the universe to normal.


“Where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here?
The battle’s done, and we kind of won,
So we sound our victory che – er.
Where do we go from here?”

It appeared that the Rangers had failed and that the Universe had paid the price of that failure. Earth, Aquitar, Triforia… it didn’t matter really; all had been sucked into the endless void that was the Dark Dimension. The combined efforts of the heroes of the Earth had managed to destroy the cause of the universe wide destruction. B that time the process had accelerated beyond their control and its complete absorption into the darkness had been inevitable.

At first there was calm as the denizens of the Dark Dimension looked at the fresh souls that had been brought into their domain, hungrily anticipating the torment they would unleash. The Sword of Ragnarok had appeared, supposedly indicating that the process was complete and that the veil between dimensional planes had been sealed forever, and they had celebrated their victory. Then the last heroes of Earth had appeared, weakened from their efforts and ready for the demons to devour. A cry of victory could be heard throughout the realm, until Tommy along with the Green Lantern and the Morphin Rangers had finally appeared. At that point the Great Power, which had been building inside the protection of the Green Lantern’s forcefield had been released.

Whether Jason and the others had planned to reverse the effects of the Sword of Ragnarok by destroying the Dark Dimension, was unclear, but the raw power driven by the pure intentions of the Rangers exploded through the void, bringing light to the darkness and life to a place where only death and misery should have dwelled.

The thin seal that had been created opened, marking the rebirth of the universe. The Earth was restored to its previous location, the Ley Lines flaring with renewed magic. From there the rest of the universe was shaped, the Great Power guiding the process to create a new universe in the image of its predecessor, drawing the extinguished souls back to the planet. Life found a way and as it did so, the Great Power grew in intensity.

It was a slow process at first, but the pace rapidly increased as with an explosive burst of magic, the rest of the Universe was reborn. Where once there was darkness, a speck of light appeared, emerging as a burst of golden energy that raced across the universe, restoring things to how they were before. The damage done by Minion was erased as the Great Power latched onto a previously cast spell and manipulated the flow of time, the planets drawn into the Dark Dimension were renewed; most of the lives lost since the villain had first emerged were restored. There were exceptions, some who would never return to life, their link to the Power having rendered them beyond the reach of even the Great Power; in some cases the Great Power reversed the damage that Minion had caused, but had taken something in return; above all the balance had to be maintained.

Unfortunately the need to balance meant that even as the innocent bystanders, Rangers and other heroes were brought back to life, the villains who had not been created by Minion were also restored. While Minion was gone, drowned in a lava pool of his own making and most likely facing the wrath of thousands of demonic entities who had just had their home torn apart, others who were just as evil as Minion if not more so were resurrected.

On a small island somewhere off the Spanish coast, a small group of survivors appeared. They were the Nega Rangers, barely alive after the shock of losing their connection to Minion. Somehow though they had survived his destruction, but without his power to keep their bodies alive, they were rapidly deteriorating. Minion had given them the ability to absorb the life energy of others, a trait that would allow them to survive. And if they survived, they would return stronger than ever, evolving the Power to suit their needs, ready to engage the Rangers one more time. Without Minion to command them there would also be a clash for control as the more aggressive personalities vied for superiority. The strong would thrive and the weak would perish. That was the way of the universe.

Finally, its job done, the Great Power dissipated, removing the memories of those who remembered dying during the last few days. When all was said and done, only the Rangers, their allies and the villains would remember everything that had happened. Although nobody would ever forget Minion, nor the evil he had caused. In the end the light had won, but the victory would have implications for a long time to come.

Jason opened his eyes. His head was spinning, although he wasn’t in any type of pain. “Where am I?” he asked. He sat up, and the room came into focus. He stood up and saw the collection of computers. “The Power Chamber.”

Billy stood up from the floor as well. “Are we alive?” Billy asked.

“I guess,” Jason answered.

“Man that was some trip,” Zack complained, grinning at his friends.

“Welcome back, Rangers,” a familiar voice said. Alpha Five walked out from a door of light.

“Where are the others?” Jason asked, looking around. Surely they had survived.

“Behold the Viewing Screen,” Zordon said, appearing in his tube.

“Aye-yi-yi!” Alpha cried. “The Earth is back to normal.”

“Indeed, the Great Power undid most of the damage Minion inflicted upon the Universe.”

“But where are the others?” Jason insisted.

“Don’t you remember, Jason?” Alpha asked. “The others were sent to their chambers, but you and Billy insisted on waiting until you were certain that the planet had been restored; Zack passed out as soon as he returned and we didn’t want to move him.”

Billy didn’t hear a single word that Alpha said. He was in tears over the view on the Viewing Screen. The Earth was back to normal. The oceans were blue, the land was green, and the clouds were white. Everyone was still alive.

“So the Great Power did it,” Zack guessed.

“Correct Zachary. It would seem that the Great Power interacted with a number of the Earth’s features, both magical and temporal. It rewrote history, erasing the damage that Minion caused while leaving the memory of those events. I believe you will find that only those involved in the battle will recall everything that happened.”

“So, it’s like it never happened,” Billy said happily.

“That is not entirely accurate, Billy,” Zordon said. “The Great Power has its limits just like any other power. While it managed to ensure many of the consequences never came to pass, it had to rewrite events in such a way that balance was maintained. Those who fell to Minion before the final battle and who held a Ranger power could not be revived. In addition we do not know what occurred during that period when the Great Power was unleashed and the Universe was restored. We do not even know how much time elapsed in that period.”

“I will send a message for the others to join us,” Alpha said.

The fourteen Rangers stood together in the Power Chamber, in front of Zordon’s tube. “First of all,” the White Master said, “the Zeo Crystal has been restored by the Great Power. And using that power, reality has been restored to how it was before Minion used the sword.”

“Everything went back to how it was before?” Trini asked. “No one died?”

“I’m sorry to say that there were some things even the Great Power could not reverse. I have been unable to determine the fate of Travis. I am afraid that it does not appear that the Rangers of Aquitar and Triforia were restored. It is possible their exposure to the Power prevented their restoration. I am still trying to learn the fate of the young Masked Rider and a few others. For some their energy signatures have vanished. While Aquitar was restored, it has already come under attack from several warlords. I do not believe the planet will hold out long enough for assistance to arrive; interplanetary teleportation has been disrupted. While Trent has assumed the throne of Triforia, Terr’s death is no longer a certainty.”

“What about our powers?” Tommy asked.

“The Gem Coin powers may now be retired since the Zeo Crystal has been restored,” Zordon said. “Jason and his team are bound to their powers for life, only turning their backs on the light will remove their powers now.”

“Really?” Billy asked excitedly.

“The world is not yet ready for fourteen Power Rangers,” Zordon said, “nor do I believe we will be able to function with so many Rangers active. Sooner or later you will get in each other’s way.”

“So we can be Rangers, but not all at the same time?” Trini prompted.

“Yes,” Zordon said with a smile. “Although you will only be called into battle during an emergency. For now, the five Zeo Rangers will again resume the Zeo Power.”

“So what do we do?” Zack asked.

“Keep the power,” Zordon said. “Carry it with you always, and you may be called upon in an emergency. The Universe owes you a great debt Rangers. The world is lucky to have you, and so am I. Go now, I will call should the need arise. And may the Power protect you.”

“I must admit,” Trini said, “it’s good to have our full powers back.”

Zack looked nervous. “Shh. Here comes Ernie.”

“He already knows,” Kimberly said.

“No way,” Aisha said.

“Yes way,” Ernie said as he put their Smoothies on the table.

“How long?” Jason demanded.

“Just let me clarify what we’re talking about here,” Ernie said. The Rangers at the table looked at each other warily, except for Kimberly. “You guys being Rangers?” he whispered.

“That’s the one,” Kimberly said, taking a sip of her Strawberry-Kiwi Smoothie.

“Nearly since the beginning,” Ernie said. “You all have paid for much more food than you’ve eaten. Plus those little watches beep all the time. And you change into the Power Rangers out in the hallway all the time. I’m not blind. But I haven’t told anyone.”

“Good,” Zack said, “because then we would have to kill you.” Everyone laughed heartily at his joke.

Minion’s Island

How they had ended up there was beyond them, but given their exceedingly bad luck and a few of the tall tales they had told on Horath, they imagined it was easy to mistake them for heroes.

Farkus Bulkmier and Eugene Skullovitch pulled themselves from the rubble of their cell and wondered what they would do now. The island was dark and silent as they made their way through the corridors, squealing when they saw Arcana, impaled by a scaffold pole.

They followed the maze of passages, relying upon their ability to blunder into just about any situation to guide them. Eventually, they came upon a chamber that Minion had obviously intended as a throne room. Many of the artefacts inside had been destroyed, but some trinkets caught their attention.

“We’re rich Bulkie!” Skull cried, examining the coin.

“Now we just need to get out of here,” Bulk said.

They exchanged glances, realising that they had no way off of the island, and worse, no food. That was when they started to scream.

A few days later

After the excitement was over, the Rangers settled back to their normal routines. The teens returned home, seeing their parents and family for the first time in days. But amid the happiness there was also unease, something that Tommy decided to address at the next opportunity.

“You know why we are here,” he said, looking at the other Zeo Rangers.

Although they had come to terms with what had happened to them long enough to fight Minion, the Zeo Rangers were far from healed, mentally at least. Their future was uncertain and being so close to death had caused them to question their futures.

“When Zordon gave us the chance to be Rangers we were all honoured,” he said. “But the fact remains, we dropped the ball on this one and Minion took advantage of our errors.”

The others nodded. They had been having similar thought about their recent problems. They were seventeen, due to graduate in a few months and when they did so the close ties they had enjoyed as a team would be lost. What would become of them then?

“I spoke to Billy this morning,” Adam told them. “He is looking to redesign the Gem Coin powers, turn them into something else and maybe commission a whole new team.”

“In that case I suggest we talk to Zordon,” Tommy said. “I love being a Ranger, but perhaps the time has come to find some replacements.”

Mount Rushmore

It was an uneasy meeting, but one that was desperately needed. The three groups had been talking for days, but this was the first time they had all gathered together.

“Thank you for coming,” Henry Gyrich said, as he looked at those present. He hated this job, but since he had mixed with some of these costumed freaks before, he was the one recruited to undertake a potentially lethal task.

Before him sat the superheroes of Earth, or at least representatives of the three largest organisations. And heroes they were, even if Gyrich felt they were more trouble than they were worth. Captain America, Goliath, Wasp, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and the weakened Scarlet Witch represented the Avengers. Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Hawk Girl and the Martian Manhunter had appeared for the JLA. Robin, Starfire and Changling had answered the call for the Teen Titans. Finally, at the back of the room, Spider-Man sat suspended on a web hammock. He wasn’t an Avenger although he had been accepted many times.

Batman had not been seen since the restoration although some felt that he would not return to active service and Wally… When the Flash had discovered his regenerated legs he had been ecstatic, until the memories had caught up with him. It would take many hours of therapy before he would be able to put events behind him. Raven had taken an immediate leave of absence, needing to relearn control of her emotions; Vision and Cyborg had not yet been spotted.

“I’ll make this brief since I have other important matters to deal with.” He pulled a file from his pocket. “I have in my hand an order for the groups known as the Justice League, Avengers and Teen Titans to cease and desist all activities within the United States. As of now all security clearance is revoked and your international status is reduced to that of ordinary citizens. Thank you.”

With that he stood and left the room, leaving the now former heroes to debate what to do next.

“He didn’t say we had to retire,” Robin pointed out. “Just that we were not allowed to team up.”

“Yes,” J’Onn agreed, rubbing his chin. “There is something very strange happening here.”

“He left us an opening to continue making a difference, but didn’t want us to do so as a group,” Captain America realised, “Why?”

“Perhaps we are meant to disband,” Wonder Woman said. At the confused looks she received, she continued. “The Power Rangers have proven repeatedly that they are the ones to protect the planet. Perhaps they should be allowed to deal with the aliens while we concentrate on matters closer to home.”

“They’re covering up,” Stark told them. “We failed and the world saw it. The government is trying to distance themselves and by ordering us to disband they hope to kill the story.”

“They’re trying to avoid a panic,” J’Onn agreed.

“So this is it, we just disband?” Spider-Man asked.

“We were brought together through need. Now the benefits of teamwork remain, but the need is gone. And while concentrating on national and world matters, we’re forgetting the people we became heroes to protect.”

“Gotham has been having a little drug’s problem recently,” Robin said thoughtfully. “Perhaps now is the time for us to go our separate ways.”

“Or we could come together under one banner.”

“Avengers League?” Spider-Man asked.

“No dude, we’d be the best of the best,” Changling told him, “The Ultimates.”

The others looked at each other, smiling as they thought the idea over. It was not something they could discuss now, following the order, but perhaps in time it would come to pass.

In the area of California known as the Freak Zone, the other survivors of the recent war were meeting. Ryan Steele, JB Reese, Kaitlyn Starr of the VR Troopers, Drew, Jo, Roland and Josh of the Beetleborgs and Dex, the Masked Rider. Servo it seemed was irretrievable and Jesse, the Rider of Earth was still missing.

It was a short meeting, a declaration of purpose and a promise of alliance. They were survivors and from now on they would be looking out for each other. Assuming of course that they could come to terms with all that had happened.

Far from Earth there was a presence. The Master had tried to take advantage of Minion’s actions and had failed. Now he had realised that his plans to bypass the box and access the Realm of Demons was flawed. Still, all was not lost. He had the box and would solve the puzzle. The Power Rangers had defeated the Minion of Darkness, but there were other threats out there. And in the background, the Master would remain, revising his plans to ensure that when the time came, he would be there to seize control.

The End

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