Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to Saban. Kevin
and Shariss belong to me. All real-world places belong to themselves.
Author's Notes: Fair warning. This is a dark and sometimes bloody story. It's the fifth story in the Aftermath series, following Aftermath itself. As usual, all feedback is appreciated.
Master Vile rose. "I would, Mr. President."
Vile cleared his throats-all three of them-and looked around the meeting room. "I began my analysis by noting that we are in a position of weakness like never before. We have no magic. We can't teleport. We can make monsters, using Finster's machine, but we can't make them grow."
Rygog growled impatiently. "We know all that. Get to the point!"
Dark Specter banged his fist on the table. "Order! You're out of line, Rygog. Please continue, Master Vile."
Kevin had to pretend a coughing fit in order to cover his smirk. It had just struck him how surreal the image of thirteen fierce villains using Robert's Rules of Order was. He recovered quickly, however. After all, it had been his idea.
Vile continued. "I simply wished to make it obvious how much our position has changed. Clearly, the old ways will not suffice. New tactics and new ideas are needed. Therefore, I move that we attack Earth."
This time even Dark Specter's fist banging couldn't restore order. Everyone tried to talk at once. Finally, however, Shariss's calm, flat voice rose above the turmoil. "You have confused me, Vile. You say that we need new tactics, and in the same breath propose one that has been tried to the point of insanity."
Master Vile smiled tightly, in triplicate. "You didn't let me finish. There are several differences between my plan and those that have gone before. First, though, let me illustrate why we should attack Earth. One, it is incredibly wealthy in terms of natural resources...resources we're going to need to rebuild our empires. Two, it has a large population...slaves that will also be needed. And three, it is no longer protected by Rangers."
Again murmurs ran around the room. "We may have lost our powers, but so have all the known Rangers. The destruction of the Morphing Grid cuts both ways. There will be no one to stop us this time."
"An intriguing proposal, Master Vile," Dark Specter commented. "But the people of Earth should not be underestimated. According to the holomedia reports, the citizens of Angel Grove were willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the Rangers. The humans will fight back."
"Not only that, but new heroes will inevitably rise up," Goldar growled. "Every time Zedd and Rita thought we had beaten the Rangers, they gained new powers. Besides, that is the nature of things. Wherever evil rises, so does good."
"Both of you have good points. However, I have already taken them into account. First, we have Serpenterra. I realize that it's low on power, but that can be easily solved by transferring my fortress's power reserves to it. Once it is fully powered, it will be unstoppable...at least to anything the humans can throw against it. And as for whatever new heroes may oppose us, I plan to turn our previous strategy on it's head. Instead of trying to destroy the heroes so we can take over the world, we should take over the world and then destroy the heroes. With the resources of all of Earth at our backs, we will succeed.
"There is another reason to attack Earth first." All six of Master Vile's eyes dilated in fury. "Revenge. Revenge on all the various former Rangers who humiliated us. Everyone in this room, with the exception of Kevin and Shariss, have reasons to hate them."
Kevin rose from his seat. This time he was wearing his battle armor. He had realized early on that, compared to other species, humans were a fragile lot. Thus, he had used his earnings to commission a suit of armor. It covered his body from head to foot and was dyed a deep midnight blue. Micro-motors in the joints doubled his strength. The helmet was in the shape of a howling wolf, with the faceplate inside the wolf's open mouth. "I must disagree with you there, Vile. Revenge is bad for business and a waste of time. You're letting your emotions run away with you."
"On the contrary, Kevin, I believe I'm planning ahead. If some power does rise to combat us, the former Rangers would be the most likely choices for avatars. If we kill them off, we will end up facing inexperienced enemies, and inexperienced enemies are easy-to-kill enemies. The fact that it will be eminently satisfying as well is just a bonus."
"A good point, Vile." Kevin sat back and frowned thoughtfully.
Dark Spectre looked around the room. Most of the other villains seemed convinced, and he knew from conversations prior to the meeting that no one had any better ideas. He, for one, had no intention of going quietly into that good night. "Is there any further discussion?"
Scorpina stood. "Mr. President, I move that we vote on Master Vile's proposal."
"I second," Orbus said.
"All those in favor, raise your right hand." One by one, all the hands went up, including Kevin's. Orbus had no hands to raise, so Klank raised him up in his left hand.
Dark Specter smiled, a frightening sight. "It is unanimous, then. Our future begins...on Earth."
C'mon, c'mon, where are they? Rito thought to himself as he pulled the lid off yet another metal crate and rummaged through it. He was in one of the fortress's cavernous storage rooms. There were several such rooms in the lower levels, each one crammed with crated trophies, mementos, loot, and odds and ends that Master Vile had accumulated during his 600,000 year life-span. Supposedly, each crate was labeled and it's contents entered into the central database. However, since it had been Tengas doing the organizing, Rito was finding that he had to take the system with a grain of salt.
At least no one would be suspicious about him being here. Now that Serpenterra had been fully recharged, the zord had been landed and was in the process of being filled with the villains' various personal items. There were even several Putties in another part of this very room, looking for some tidbit Vile wanted. He couldn't take everything, of course, so he was taking only what he thought would be useful. Rito was fairly certain, however, that what he was looking for did not fall under the category of "useful". At least, not to Vile...
There. At the very bottom of the crate, a small case, made out of what looked like leather, but was in fact ten times more durable. Gingerly, he reached down and picked it up. He had not seen it since he was just a child, but he remembered.
Bracing himself, he opened the box.
It took two weeks for Serpenterra to cross the vast distance from M-51 to Earth. The villains spent the time in various ways. The fighters honed their skills, trying to get used to not being able to use energy blasts. Master Vile and Dark Spectre put together a detailed, multi-phase plan for conquering the Earth. They were aided by Kevin, Goldar, Klank, Orbus and Scorpina, since they had the only prolonged first-hand knowledge of the planet, even though in Kevin's case the information was thirty years out of date. The scientists labored in their converted laboratory, trying to replace with science what the lack of magic had taken away. By the time they reached Earth, they had not only come up with a cloaking device for Serpenterra (by modifying one of the scanners to project what appeared to be ordinary space), but a way to teleport as well.
"We've made up belts for each of you," Finster announced in the conference room, holding up a belt made of silvery-gray metal. "They work by accessing Serpenterra's computer, downloading coordinates from the scanners, and then beaming you to those coordinates. The coordinates can be a place, or you can set the scanners to folllow a certain being and teleport to that being's location at any time."
"Thank you, Finster." Dark Spectre said. "Thank you also for the cloaking device. Thanks to it, the humans are unaware of our presence. Rest assured, however, that will not be the case for long. Master Vile and myself will take this Zord and announce ourselves in a very, shall we say, public way. As for the rest of you, the scientists have done their work, now it's time to do yours.
"Scans have located eleven of the Rangers. William Cranston is on Aquitar according to last report, and the former Space Rangers are on KO-35, trying to hide from the media. Payment is delayed only for them, however. The rest of our accounts will be settled now.
"Here are your assignments. Rygog and Elgar, you two are used to working together, so you will be sent after the largest concentration of Rangers. Jason Scott, Trini Kwan, and Zack Taylor are in Geneva, Switzerland. Scorpina, I understand you have a score to settle with Adam Park. He and his girlfriend, Tanya Sloane, are in the city of Los Angeles. Rito, you've fought against Aisha Campbell before, so I think you can handle her now. She's in the country of Kenya. Kevin and Shariss, you both pull double duty. Kevin, you take Rocky DeSantos and Justin Stewart. They're in the cities of Stone Canyon and Angel Grove, respectively. Shariss, you get Kimberly Hart and Katherine Hilliard, in Miami and London. And Goldar," here Dark Spectre paused and smiled, "I think we all know who you're going after."
Goldar nodded once. His face might as well have been carved from stone.
"Any questions? Good. Then go. And may the darkness be with you."
Shariss materialized just outside Kimberly's door. She had never been one for subtlety, so she simply charged the door, easily knocking it off it's hinges. The room beyond was dark, but her reptilian eyes could still see well. Two girls in two beds were sitting up, staring with wide eyes. The one on the left had blond hair and blue eyes. Shariss ignored her completely and concentrated on the one who matched Kimberly's description. She was just opening her mouth to scream when Shariss opened her own mouth.
Quickly, efficiently, calmly, she bit Kimberly's head off.
Shariss swallowed and, ignoring the other's girl's screams, teleported.
Rocky sighed with pleasure as he wiped the sweat off of his face. It had been a productive day. He had taught three men and one women's classes in his dojo, and his students were doing well. It hadn't been easy managing his own business, but he hadn't had much of a choice. He knew he wasn't cut out for college. That's why he moved back home to Stone Canyon and opened shop. The insurance rates were much cheaper than in Angel Grove, and martial arts were just as much the local craze. Now, after almost a year of hard work, Rocky's Dojo and Gymnasium was prospering.
Just as he was about to go upstairs to his apartment, someone knocked on his door. "Sorry, we're closed," he yelled in the general direction of the doors. He wasn't prepared for the left door to suddenly be propelled inward, ripped off it's hinges by a powerful kick, or for the armor-clad figure that entered through the opening. "Who the hell are you?!"
"The name's Kevin. I'm here to kill you." The formalities over with, Kevin pulled both laser pistols out of their holsters and fired.
Combat instincts Rocky hadn't need in over a year kicked in, and he somersaulted forward and down, the twin shots passing overhead and slamming into the wall behind him, blowing out large chunks. Kevin immediately shifted his aim, but Rocky kept moving. Cartwheeling, flipping, and ducking, he gave no pattern for Kevin to lock on to. However, the flurry of shots prevented Rocky from closing with his opponent.
Frustrated, Kevin noticed that the wall behind Rocky now bore a distinct resemblance to swiss cheese. Smiling under his helmet, he shifted his fire to the now-exposed studs. A handful of more shots and-
With a loud rumble, the wall and half the ceiling caved in, burying Rocky.
Kevin waited for the dust to settle, then strode forward. He zeroed in on the sound of coughing, and found Rocky half-pinned beneath a large metal beam. His legs were undoubtedly broken, and perhaps his previously-damaged back as well. Still, when Rocky looked up at him, Kevin could see no fear, only anger.
Rocky coughed again. "You know," he rasped, "if you kill me now, it's not a fight, it's murder."
Kevin kneeled in front of Rocky and gently pressed his right pistol against Rocky's head, directly between his eyes. "'Murder most foul, as in the best it is'," he quoted softly. "Don't worry, warrior. I'll make this quick."
He pulled the trigger.
Tommy was practicing katas in the Juice Bar. The building had technically closed an hour ago, but Stone trusted Tommy, and merely reminded him to lock the door shut behind him. Tommy was grateful, for he had a lot of adrenaline to burn off. That very day he had won his first major race while driving for his uncle and he was still excited. Next to morphing, racing was the greatest thrill he had ever had, and he knew he could become a major force in the racing world.
He was just finishing a particularly complicated set of moves when the darkened room lit up with a golden flash.
Even before he turned around, he knew.
He looked much as he had since the last time Tommy had seen him almost two years ago, except for the silvery belt around his waist. Six and half feet of armor-plated muscle. Wings spread to their full width. Most of all, the glowing red eyes that burned with hatred and haunted his dreams.
"It's been a long time, Goldar."
"If I have my way, it will be much longer before we meet again, Tommy." Goldar unlatched the belt and let it fall to the floor. "This is our final battle. One of us will not leave here alive. Defend yourself, Thomas Oliver!" With that, Goldar lunged forward, sword outstretched.
Tommy quickly stepped to the side, grabbing Goldar's sword arm and pulling down, using his hip as a pivot. This caused the already overbalanced monster to do a half-flip and fall towards the floor on his back. However, he got his other arm down and used it to swing around, sweeping Tommy's legs out from under him. It was Tommy's turn to fall to the floor. He quickly rolled backward to his feet, as Goldar scrambled up.
Tommy had accomplished his goal, however. Goldar was no longer between him and the door. He had no intention of trying to fight Goldar without any powers. He'd done that before, and knew better. So he turned and ran.
Goldar hurled his sword like a boomerang, sending it scything toward Tommy's legs. The sword connected with Tommy's left hamstring, severing it. The former Ranger went down hard, and before he could do anything beside roll over onto his back, Goldar was on him, kneeling on his chest. Tommy grunted in pain as several ribs cracked, refusing to give his enemy any enjoyment.
Goldar put his face right in front of Tommy's. "That was pathetic, boy. You were more of a challenge when you were a Ranger. Like this, you're not even a worthy opponent. In fact, I think the only thing you deserve is a slow dea-"CRACK! Tommy headbutted Goldar. The monster sat up, growling in pain as black blood seeped out of his broken snout. Enraged, he raised his recovered sword and brought it down through Tommy's heart.
Tommy jerked once, then was still.
Goldar slowly stood up, blood dripping down onto the floor, his face a study in conflicting emotions. For a few seconds he stared at the body. Then he threw his head back and let loose a Titan victory howl.
All over the block, people's blood froze.
All over the neighborhood, babies woke up screaming.
And just a few yards away, one figure heard the noise and did something that startled even himself.
He ran toward it.
Aisha blinked and sat up on her cot. Something had woken her up. She looked around the room of the small grass hut, trying to see if anything looked out of place. She yawned and stretched, then wrinkled her nose. What was that stench?
She remembered that particular smell just as one of the shadows moved, and a bony hand clamped over her face. She immediately started struggling, but her strength was no match for Rito's. This realization, coupled with the sudden gleam of moonlight off of his sword, made her stop.
"If I let you go," Rito whispered, "will you keep quiet?"
Aisha nodded. That was the first rule drilled into every ranger: never endanger civilians. She didn't want Rito unleashing his wrath upon the entire village.
Rito released her, and she immediately spun to face him, dropping into a combat stance. She had a pretty good idea of what he was here for, and she had no intention of making it easy for him.
To her shock, he dropped his sword and instead picked up a box that had been lying by his feet. "Aisha, you've got to listen to me. I'm here to help you!"
Aisha didn't burst out laughing, but it was a near thing. "If you expect me to believe that, you're even dumber that I thought!"
"But it's the truth! Oh, forget it. Maybe this will convince you." He opened the box.
Immediately, a rainbow of light dazzled Aisha's eyes. As they adjusted, however, she could see five glowing jewels lying in slots in the box. A diamond, a pearl, a ruby, an emerald, and a sapphire. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the ruby . It seemed to be calling her. Hypnotically, she reached out and touched it. There was a blinding flash of red light. Rito's "eyes" didn't need to adjust, however, and he saw what happened. The ruby sank into her palm as the light washed over her. When it faded, Aisha was still standing there-only with glowing red eyes and red streaks in her black hair.
"Wow," Rito whispered to himself. "It worked."
Aisha shook her head. "What-what just happened? I feel so energized!"
"You've just become a Gem Warrior."
"There's no time. Your friends are in trouble! The others are going to kill them unless we hurry!"
"What to you mean, others? And what makes you think I trust you?!"
"I just gave you a new set of powers! What more do you want?! Doesn't that count as a good deed??"
Aisha stared at him for a second. Then she made her decision. "All right, but if you're lying to me, I will personally kick your butt."
"Deal." Rito grabbed her arm and, with his other hand, set them teleporting away to the second set of coordinates he had downloaded.
Kevin materialized in front of a split-level house not too different from the ones he remembered. He looked around. This suburb looked pretty much the same, too, except for the much sleeker cars parked in front of the houses. He'd have to test-drive one sometime.
Returning his attention to the house, he realized with surprise that his arrival had been seen. A young boy hung half-way out of a second-story window, staring at him with wide eyes. "Are you with the Power Rangers?" Justin called out.
Kevin raised his laser pistol and fired a single shot. Then he turned his back on the house to take one last look around, ignoring the corpse and the smoking hole in it's head. Sometimes you have to work for it, and sometimes it walks right up to you.
He teleported out.
Adam and Tanya had been working hard lately, as stuntman and costume designer respectively, and he had decided that they needed a break. So he had pulled out all the stops for a romantic dinner at home. Candles. Champagne. Ridiculously expensive food. Tanya had been thrilled, and the evening had been a complete success. They were just leaning toward each other over the table for a kiss when the romantic mood was rather spoiled by the large, boomerang-shaped sword that crashed down between them onto the table, shattering it.
Scorpina grinned at the stunned couple. "Hi." Then she leaped up into a double kick, sending them flying in opposite directions.
Scorpina turned towards Adam, who was lying stunned against the sofa. "News flash, lover boy. You chose the wrong woman." She raised her sword.
She had, however, made the mistake of turning her back on Tanya. The former Yellow Ranger slammed into Scorpina's back with a flying kick, sending her staggering. She quickly recovered, however, and grabbed Tanya around the neck, hoisting her up into the air. Tanya's face started to pale as she gasped for breath, and Scorpina tightened her grip, fully intending to break the girl's neck.
It was at this point that Adam kicked her in the back of her knees, sending her and Tanya to the floor. Scorpina did a backwards somersault, slamming her armored feet into Adam's temple. Dazed, he lay motionless as Scorpina once again raised her sword. He did nothing to stop it.
That did not prevent it from being stopped.
As the sword came down, Tanya threw herself in front of it. The sword tore through her, killing her instantly. Her body hit the floor just as a double-flash of orange and red lit up the room.
`NOOO!!!" Aisha screamed. Without thinking, she raised her right hand, and flames shot from it. Scorpina screamed in pain as the skin of her bare back was scorched and blackened. Without turning around to see who had attacked her, she desperately scrabbled at her belt and teleported away.
Aisha ran over to Tanya's body and stared at her replacement in shock. Her expression was mirrored by Adam, who sat up and stared at his girlfriend's body in silence, tears streaming down his cheeks. Rito shifted uncomfortably. He had seen death, hell, had been the cause of death many times in his life, and so he was in much better shape mentally. He was still new at this being "good" stuff, and while he sympathized with the humans, they really didn't have time for this.
Finally, he cleared his throat. "Uh, I hate to intrude, but..."
"Shut up, Rito," Adam said dully, not even questioning the villain's presence.
"If you want me to shut up, I will. If, on the other hand, you have any interest in saving the rest of your friends, not to mention the rest of the world, you'll listen to me. We're on a tight schedule here, so will you just grab the sapphire already!"
"I don't want a sapphire," Adam responded in the same dead voice.
"That doesn't matter. It wants you." As Rito spoke, he opened the box. The sapphire floated over to Adam and hovered in front of him. He stared at it for a moment, then tentatively reached out a hand. In a flash, he was sporting glowing blue eyes and blue hair streaks.
Aisha looked over at Rito. "The jewels chose us?"
"I'll explain later. Next stop, Switzerland."
Rygog lay crouched in the bushes, waiting patiently for his targets to approach. Sensors had shown them walking along a remote path on their way back to their dorm from a late-night party, and he had chosen this spot to ambush them. On the other side of the path, Elgar was also hidden, though the clumsier monster kept shifting and making noise. Rygog was just preparing to whisper a reprimand when he saw the three silhouettes, walking side by side down the path. He braced himself and then, at exactly the right moment, leaped out, swinging his sword.
Zack never even had a chance to scream. He was instantly decapitated.
On the other side, Elgar had tripped over his own feet, causing his swing to miss. Trini kicked the sword from his hand and proceeded to start whaling on him.
Rygog, meanwhile, had his hands full with Jason. He had never battled the former Red Ranger, but had seen him in action on Muranthias. He therefore had some idea of what his opponent was capable of, and was finding out that being on the receiving end was not fun. The odds were still in his favor, however. Jason's best blows bounced off Rygog's thick armor. All he had to do was wait for Jason to zig when he should have zagged, and then he'd have him.
He was still thinking this when several things happened at once. Jason sweep-kicked his legs out from under him. Trini knocked out Elgar with a spin-kick to the head and turned to help Jason. Finally, the black night lit up with three teleportation flashes.
From his position on the ground, Rygog assessed the situation. His ally was knocked out, he now had two opponents instead of one, and Rito had for some reason just arrived with two more humans, both whom were advancing on him with murder in their eyes. Rygog instantly decided to apply two of the maxims of villainy: if you're losing, cheat, and if then you're still losing, run like hell.
In one smooth motion he leaped up and threw a handful of dirt in Jason's eyes, blinding him. He then shoved his sword through Jason's chest and shoved Jason himself into Trini, knocking them both down. Finally he ran over to Elgar and hit the "return" button on his belt, doing the same to his.
They left behind them one dead man and one dying one. Trini held Jason in her arms, crying softly as his life slipped away and his eyes closed. He tried to say something to her, but she couldn't make it out. The others watched silently, Rito not having known either boy and Adam and Aisha still too shell-shocked to react.
Trini visibly pulled herself together, shoving her grief down inside until it could be properly expressed later. She stood up and took in the sight of Rito. She had never known him, but had read about him in the letters Kimberly had written her. "I assume you have a reason for being with him?" she asked Aisha and Adam calmly.
Before they could answer, Rito made his sales pitch once again. Trini listened quietly, and, after reassurances from the other two, accepted the emerald. After the transformation, the group teleported again.
Katherine staggered to her flat, having drunk slightly too much champagne at the class party. It was understandable, though. The class had just performed their final night of The Nutcracker, and it had been a smashing success. They had been given a standing ovation.
Fumbling with her keys a little, Kat unlocked her door and stepped inside, flicking on her light as she did so. A six-foot tall raptor stared back at her from the middle of the living room. "Took you long enough," was Shariss's only comment.
Kat only had time to gasp before Rito and company appeared between her and Shariss. For once they had arrived on time and in the right position.
Shariss took in the humans glowing eyes and hair streaks, then shifted her gaze to Rito. "Traitor," she hissed.
"Look, lady, you so do not want to mess with me." Aisha held up her hands threateningly. "I have had a shitty night. Give me an excuse."
Shariss glared at Rito again. "You will pay, Rito Revolto," she promised. Then she disappeared in a flash of green light.
"Uh, guys?" Kat whispered from behind them. "What's going on?"
Rito sighed, and began to explain again.
The group materialized inside the Youth Center. The humans didn't notice Rito's start of surprise. All their attention was drawn to the body on the floor, and the lanky, dark-haired boy standing over it.
"TOMMY!!!" Kat cried, running over to what was left of her boyfriend. She didn't cry, just dropped to knees and cradled his head in her lap.
"What happened?" Trini asked the boy.
Eugene Skullovitch had been staring at Kat, whose eyes were now perfectly clear and pupilless. He started at Trini's question. "Goldar happened. I was jogging past the Youth Center when I heard this really creepy roar. I ran inside just in time to see him teleport out. There, there wasn't anything I could do."
"I know," Trini soothed. "But you ran toward the sound instead of away from it?"
Skull blushed. "Old junior policeman reflex."
Rito again had to play the role of interrupter. "Now that we've found the last Gem Warrior, we have to see what we can do about rescuing the rest of your friends."
"But Tommy's dead," Adam protested.
"I wasn't looking for Tommy. I was looking for Skull."
"WHAT??!!" everyone said at once, except for Kat, who was still staring at Tommy's corpse.
Without answering, Rito opened the box one last time. The pearl floated out and over to Skull. Like the others, he seemed entranced by it, and reached out to it. When the flash faded, he was sporting glowing white eyes and white hair streaks.
"C'mon," he said with new confidence. "There's people to save, right?"
Kat stood up. "You guys go ahead without me."
Everyone stared at her. "What are you going to be doing?" Aisha asked.
"I'm going to walk around Angel Grove until Goldar shows his cowardly face again. Then I'm going to kill him."
The cold hatred in her voice was the antithesis of everything Katherine Hilliard normally was, and a very worried Skull tried to exchange glances with Adam. What he saw there scared him even more, however: hot rage.
"Don't you think I want to hunt down Scorpina and tear her into itty-bitty pieces!!?" Adam exploded at Kat. "I know how you feel! But killing them won't bring them back! And right now we have a job to do! Being a Ranger, or whatever the hell we are now, means putting others above ourselves!"
For a long moment, Kat matched Adam's glare. Then her face softened, and she looked down. "I know," she said softly.
~*~They went to Rocky's first, then Kimberly's, and finally Justin's, whose Dad apparently wasn't home. In each place the found the corpse, and in each place Rito watched their anger and sorrow grow. It bothered him a little that he wasn't really feeling those emotions, but then all of these people had been his enemies not too long ago. "Good" was still largely an academic exercise for him.
Skull had wandered downstairs when they discovered Justin's body, unable to bear the sight of a little boy so ruthlessly murdered. More to distract himself than anything else, he flipped the TV on.
His yells brought everyone downstairs on the double. They ran in to see a news anchor with tears running down her face on the TV.
When they heard what she had to say, they began crying as well.
While all the killing, rescuing, and persuading had been going on, Dark Specter and Vile had been busy with Serpenterra. With Dark Specter in the command chair and Vile at the gunnery station, they had descended into Earth's atmosphere, destroying several satellites in the process. They then dropped the cloak, the better to terrorize with, and shifted to Battle Mode. Their inspection of Earth had quickly shown them which nation was the most powerful, and Dark Specter had chosen that nation to make his point. The fact that nation's government was in a special late-night session was icing on the cake.
Serpenterra touched down in Washington, D.C., crushing the White House beneath it's gigantic feet. The President and his staff were killed instantly.
That was only the beginning, however. Vile slammed his fist down on the largest button on his board. This was the planet-killer, a weapon capable of destroying a world. However, since the villains wanted Earth largely intact, and since the planet-killer would have drained almost all of the zord's power, Porto had scaled it back. Now it would destroy only, say, a city.
A red circle appeared around Serpenterra and quickly spread out, destroying Washington and it's suburbs. The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and all the other landmarks, as well as the other buildings were wiped off the face of the Earth.
In less time than it takes to tell, one million people died.
Still, this wasn't enough for Dark Specter. He touched a button on his chair, and every TV and radio station on the planet was overridden by Serpenterra's communication signal. He sat up straight and addressed the viewscreen.
"Greeting, humans. I am Dark Specter, Monarch of Evil. As your own medias will soon confirm, I have just destroyed Washington, D.C. the capital of the most powerful nation on this pathetic planet. Each nation's government has twenty-four of your hours to proclaim your complete surrender to me. Just announce it to your citizens, and I will be able to hear it. Resist, and you will be destroyed. Surrender, and you will be allowed to live...as my slaves. The choice is yours, but I urge you to think carefully." Dark Specter ended the communication.
"Bravo," Vile said. "I couldn't have said it better myself."
"No, you couldn't have. Are our shields at full strength?
"Good. I don't really expect the humans to give up, and I want to be prepared." He grinned. "This should be fun."
After much persuading, Rito had convinced the Gem Warriors to teleport with him one last time. His final destination was a cave in the Alps. The rock around it was impregnated with selonite, which shielded them from Serpenterra's sensors. It was cold and clammy, but it was safe. Once there, the humans had demanded an full explanation from Rito, and he obliged them.
"The original Gem Warriors took on my father 3,000 years ago. They lost, and were destroyed. However, their powers were...unique. They didn't draw from the Morphing Grid. Each gem was a self-contained power source. My father was fascinated by this, but when he realized that the jewels couldn't be used for evil, he lost interest. The jewels were packed away and forgotten about, until now."
He gestured to Kat. "The Diamond Warrior was the leader, with the power of telepathy and a sword for a weapon. For the Pearl Warrior, the ability to create a reflective shield, and nunchucks. For Ruby, fire and katanas. For Emerald, control over plant life and a boomerang. And for Sapphire, water and a staff."
Adam raised his hand. "Will people be able to recognize us?"
"Yeah. These aren't Ranger powers. Anybody who knows you will recognize you, so there won't be any secret identity stuff this time."
"That's fine by me," Kat said. There was a hardness in her voice that had never been there before. One might almost have said it was as hard as a diamond. "The bad guys have taken things to a new level, with new rules. We're going to make them regret it."