Feathers:- Chapter 2
POWER RANGERS :- Demon Wars
Tommy met him outside the Centre. "Hello Zedd." he said, still a little tense around his old enemy. It was hard to put aside years of distrust, especially when it came to the once Emperor of Evil.
The robe wearing old man stood up from the boulder he'd sat on. "Tommy! glad to see you using the old place again. I have to admit to be surprised by your call." Zedd swapped his staff over and shook the former Rangers hand. Unlike his old silver Z staff this one was aged wood, someone had carved all sorts of runes and symbols into the shaft and surmounted it with a cluster of purple and red crystals.
He nodded. "It's an emergency, I don't think I could have brought myself to call you otherwise."
"I fully understand." Tommy tried not to notice the hurt that flickered across Zedd's face. "Shall we?" He asked picking up what looked like a travel bag.
Not trusting himself to speak Tommy took the bag for him and lead his old foe into the rebuilt Command Centre. "I see you've done your best to recreate the original design." Zedd observed, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
"Alpha's done most of the work. I don't know where I'd be without him, but we never expected for it to be a working base again. Truth is we haven't got anywhere near the resources we had back in the day." Tommy explained. It wasn't any secret they were making do with what they had and it was getting more difficult.
"That's not surprising," Zedd noted. "You've done a fantastic job with what you had, I know Zordon would approve."
"You knew each other very well, didn't you?" Tommy asked, genuinely curious. The records his old mentor had left were suspiciously quiet on Zedd and his history. Zordon had said very little about their past when he was alive too, other than the bare bones of their relationship.
"It has often been observed, by greater men than me, that lifelong enemies can be as close as brothers." Zedd said, a mocking laugh in his voice. "We fought each other across the galaxies and back again for centuries. In some ways I knew him better than he knew himself, and Zordon could have said the same about me. We had our battles, but in the end it was his sacrifice that saved me. I still wonder I would do the same. He was a great man. I think, above it all, my greatest crime was not respecting him while I had the chance."
Tommy gave Zedd a sharp look, he actually regretted it. To think of all the damage he was responsible for and to regret it, it was so small of Tommy to still hold it against the frail, erratic, old man he had become. "I better warn you, some of the Rangers are a little, shall we say, young. As well as being high spirited."
"Young rambunctious girls with Ranger powers. I thought I was supposed to be the evil one." With that they turned the final corner and went through a door of light into the Centre proper.
"Don't say or do anything." Dawn ordered the terrified young man she'd forced to come with her. "The only reason you're here is because Cassie is too out of it to help and you're the only other person that can ID the demon."
Marcus nodded mutely, Tommy couldn't blame Dawn for being angry with him but he could also see how much it hurt him.
Sari picked up one of the books the current Green Ranger had carted back and flicked through it. "So what are we looking for?"
At Dawn's black look Marcus gave a quick description, "Erm; feathers, a bit taller than me, I guess, but with a hunch back. No beak, but sounded like it did. Oh and multicoloured scales on it's belly."
"No beak?" Dawn asked.
"No, but it did have a long nose, like a snout."
"Hum." Zedd rubbed his chin, as everyone turned to them. "Certainly doesn't sound like a Tengu Warrior, and by no means a native of this reality. That could make research a problem."
"Everyone, I'd like you to meet Zedd, formerly Lord Zedd. I've asked him to help, if he can."
Before any of the others could speak he was on the move. "Research books, for trans-dimensional creatures?" Zedd asked picking two up. "Ohh, a Tobens Spirit Guide and an original Dante's Inferno, before they sanitised it for the masses." He sounded impressed. "Are you branching out Tommy?"
"They're mine." Dawn pointed out. "Tobens has some of the bigger nasties out there and Dante's…"
"…Is in fact a true story the poet's journey through several of the darker realities available." Zedd finished. "Very good, I take it you're familiar with this sort of thing?"
"I grew up with it. Just who are you?" She asked, weary of the virtual stranger that had just jumped amongst the Rangers.
A'Zores paced. He was getting closer everyday, leapfrogging realities others had to struggle to pass.
The Warlord was coming, he needed something to keep his position or end up like Tretrax. Scrambling for vengeance as he is forced to govern, but a handful of realities.
A'Zores lived for the thill of the fight, the eternal battle. Proving just how much better he was than his rivals, fortunately he had the very thing.
His latest project was reaching fruition, their conversion was almost complete. Soon the training would begin and not even the Rangers could win this one.
"This is your big plan?" Sari exploded when he'd finished giving their latest guest's backstory. She couldn't believe that Dr Oliver had invited his own worst enemy to help. It would be like Prime calling Megatron over, or Dawn inviting A'Zores around for lunch. "Asking the guy that wanted to destroy the world to help save Cassie's life."
"It's not that simple." Dr Oliver tried to say.
"Oh right, he's reformed." Sari threw her hands into the air. "Okay Faith going nuts I can understand but this? No way."
Dawn looked carefully at the old man, former super villain, whatever. "Dark magics huh?" she asked. "Got a bit carried away with them and before you knew it bam you were evil?"
Zedd looked back, with a frown. "Yes, the magics I called upon did corrupt me. I was, how do you say, no saint before…"
"…But in your search for power the lie between right and wrong didn't matter. You cared less and less." She finished, a sad tone in her voice. "Same thing happened to a friend of mine, well my sister's. She started playing with the dark magics until she almost burnt the world."
"It is a very careful line those in my profession must walk down." He nodded sagely, "Many fall along the way. I, I must admit, fell further than most."
"We're buying this?" Sari asked.
Dawn nodded, "Redemption's a good motivator, besides I'd make a deal with all the devils in Hell if it saved Cassie."
Zedd gave her a sharp look, "I wouldn't suggest doing that, I suspect even if you do know the price you'd pay it and she'd never forgive you."
Dawn shrugged. "Good thing we've got you then isn't it." She threw a book to him. "Lets get to work."
Tommy watched how the newest Green Ranger accepted Zedd. She didn't dismiss his past, but saw through it. General O'Neill had pointed out these girls had seen a lot in their short lives. He was right and while part of Tommy was tempted to say she was projecting too much of her friend's plight on to Zedd he had to admit there was a similarity.
"This one." Sari asked, holding up a book. Since Dawn had accepted Zedd the lively half robot had been unusually quiet.
"It didn't have a mohawk." Marcus told her.
A few minutes later Dawn held up another book. "This one."
Marcus looked closely, obviously avoiding eye contact with her. "I didn't see a tail." he said eventually.
Tommy picked up one of the discarded books. It was thick, like the others, the pages yellowing with age and written in a language he didn't recognise. flicking through it he saw drawings of what could only be described as hell on earth. In one men and women were eating each other, one was eating themselves. A few pages later it showed a winged creature with three heads battling a what looked like a group of native americans.
Quickly closing it Tommy looked back at the pile he'd picked it from. They were all books Dawn had rifled through, keeping them far way from Sari. She looked up from the book she had at that moment and nodded. That was exactly what she had done.
"How about this one." Sari asked, bringing them back to the problem.
Marcus looked at it, taking his time. "Yes, that's it. I'm certain." he announced.
Everyone leapt to see the book. "Not much to go on." Tommy commented on. There was a short paragraph, in English thankfully, that named the creature something unpronounceable and mentioned that the last nest had been found and destroyed in the 1800's.
"Look here," Sari pointed at the next part And read aloud:- "Known to breed by infecting victims with a curse, transmitted by the root's of their feathers."
"No mention of a cure though." Dawn growled. "Useless. At least we have a name."
Zedd shook his head and hefted his bag. "That's all I need." Inside was the same book he had back at his library. "All that is known of the…," he said, what Tommy guessed, was the demon's name. There was no way a human mouth could make the sort of sounds Zedd did. It was somewhere between strangling a cat with a guitar string and gargling marbles.
He opened the large, leather bound, book and words appeared on the paper. "I've seen that sort of thing before." Dawn said. "That's a template isn't it? Enchanted to become any book you summon. Weren't they all destroyed?"
"Yes, well not all. I think there's three left, maybe four, but I wouldn't want to them in wrong hands." He said scanning down the book's contents. "I admit carting it around in the outside world was a little daunting, but fortunately no one else knew what I had."
"A little daunt… that thing probably cost more than Bill Gates makes in a year!" Dawn exclaimed. "Heck, Ten years! Giles would kill to get hold of one."
"A good reason not to tell… ah ha!" Zedd cried out, jumping a handful of pages. "Cure:- blah, blah, blah… here we go. We need to pierce it's heart with an ash sapling. Simple really."
"An ash sapling, that's just great. Where the heck do we get one of those?" Sari asked.
"It's not that hard." Zedd told them. "I can have Rita send us some." he read on. "Ahh, the difficulty, according to this, is hitting it. Apparently the creature never touches the ground and is incredibly fast. With sharp eyesight and fantastic reactions." He said gravely. "And we only have one chance of hitting it. Ash is like poison to it and unless you get it in the heart it will die, without curing her. Turns out it might be a bit tricky after all.
"Not to worry though I can have a Mystic Knight here in just a few hours."
Sari looked down at the unconscious Cassie. "In just a few hours she won't be human any longer and it will be too late." You didn't need to be an expert to tell she was right. There were two giant patches of feathers growing to cover the young woman, her skin was pale and flushed with great bags under her eyes. Tommy could even see her face was changing, almost pushing out into the snout of the whatever-it-was-called.
"My turn to call on some help." Dawn said. "I can have an archer here in two minutes."
"And I can have a bow ready," Tommy announced. It was going to be a rush job but he could do it.
"That's good," Sari pointed out. "But how are we going to find this thing? It could be anywhere?"
Marcus coughed uncomfortably. "I think I might have an idea."
Faith looked up from the counter she had been cleaning. It had been a quiet day and she was inventing things to do. She had already mopped the floor, stacked the chairs and was now just incredibly bored. "Hi D. Thought you'd have better things to do than turn up here. How's things?" Word was there had been a demon attack at the College. It had taken all of Faith's self control not to run there at full speed, but Dawn was a Power Ranger. She could handle herself and after the last time she wouldn't be here if they hadn't dealt with it by now
Then she said three words. "Cassie's been hurt."
That got the former Rangers attention. "What how?"
"There was an attack, the demon infected her with something, you're our only chance of curing her."
"How?" Faith asked, Dawn wouldn't have come for her if it wasn't desperate. The sort of desperate that worried her.
"We need you to take a shot with an arrow, straight through the demon's heart."
Faith pulled back. "No, I… the last time I used a bow. Dawn, you and I both know what I did. I haven't touched one since, it's not like riding a bike. I can't just click my fingers."
"You're scared." Dawn spat. "You're scared and because of that you'll let Cassie die. No, not die. Something worse."
"Dawn. They don't trust me. Not anymore. Why would they, now they know who I am?"
"Because you're one of us. Faith, that General, he's cleared you. Even with Willow's whitewash. the records are sealed and you've been pardoned."
"You think that matters?" Faith spat, Dawn thought that a few pieces of paper was all that was needed to sooth her conscious.
Dawn suddenly changed, Faith had seen her grow and knew she wasn't the same brat she knew in Sunnydale but the girl in front of her wasn't even that Dawn. It was someone else. Someone angry, hurt and really honked off. Faith had seen Buffy in the same mood before, not much survived. "It might not matter to you, but it does matter to them. They've forgiven you, it took them all of two minutes. The only one pushing you away, is you. Goddamn it Faith, you're not the only person that's killed people. Just because I haven't got blood on my hands doesn't mean I haven't waded through oceans."
"Dee, you couldn't hurt a fly."
She laughed, it was bitter. So full of hurt and pain as it mocked herself. A sound Faith had heard coming from herself all too often. "Who said I had to do it myself. Haven't you noticed how everyone around me gets a bad case of dead? Mom, Buffy, Tara even Anya? How many Slayers died in Sunnydale?"
"That wasn't your…"
"… Fault? Do you blame the lightning rod for the storm? No. Doesn't mean it didn't bring the world down around your ears."
Faith pulled back, she believed that. "Dawn just because people around you get hurt."
"They die." Suddenly whatever hight advantage Faith had over her was gone. Dawn was angry. "Everyone I care about either dies or leaves and if you don't help me save just one of them I swear I'll make sure you're next."
Faith took a breath, willing Dawn to calm down. "I'm not going to argue with you. If you believe that I don't think I can change you mind, but believe me it's not all you're fault."
"I'm not here for me, or you. I'm here for Cassie. If we can't save ourselves we can help her."
Faith knew it was a waste of time arguing, time Cassie didn't have. "I'm in."
"Are we sure this is a good idea?" Sari asked. She was really, really not liking this plan. They had dropped her off just outside the City, in the middle of one of the mines and quarries that surrounded Amethyst.
Bait. She didn't know much about fishing, but was fairly sure the bait got eaten. Being eaten was not her idea of fun. "I don't see a better one, do you?" Dawn growled over the communicator.
She and Faith were hiding, hopefully not to far away. By the time the Green Ranger had gotten back with Faith Zedd had the arrow and Dr Oliver had recharged the Pink Power Coin with Faith's Black one.
She might have been a good shot, but the range, the accuracy. Cassie depended on it, let alone Sari and as good as Faith probably was it was still a risk.
The plan was stupid, really stupid. Have Sari wander around waiting for this thing to attack and ambush it. They only had Marcus's word that it was even looking for her.
Sari concentrated on listening, hoping that if she did it might improve something. Give her that micro-second of warning she needed. The techno-organic Yellow Ranger was so busy listening she wasn't looking and completely missed the shadow that passed over her.
"Sari, get down!" Dawn practically screamed over the watch. She reacted with out thinking, throwing herself to the ground. A feather, just like the ones in Cassie, flew where she had just been.
Sari rolled with her momentum, she wasn't even going to take half a chance. Scrambling for any sort of cover she could find as more feathers came flying at her by the handful. Above, perched on the lip of the mine,the demon squawked, screaming for her blood.
Then, thankfully, Faith came to her rescue. In one smooth move she stood up, drew back the string and realised. Sari had heard that, when things got like this, people were supposed to be able to slow everything down. Seconds take forever, you can't move any faster but you're supposed to see and notice everything.
It might have been her Cybertronian side, but that moment was frozen in place for her. Everything relied on this one lucky shot. The arrow flew, straight into the demon's heart.
It worked, the creature never saw the arrow coming and was sent catapulting back. Sari got back to her feet, brushing the dust off her dress. "You got it!" she shouted up at their returned teammate.
"You bet I did!" Faith called back as she and Dawn got up from their hiding places and came down to meet her. Sari had to admit she was still a bit wary about Faith, but understood what happened.
She'd made on bad mistake after another, until she couldn't find a way out of the hole she'd dug. Sari could see how it had happened and knew enough now not to make the same mistakes. Not that she would.
"You killed it, I was told it would be all but impossible!" A demon Sari only half recognised shouted at them. "How?"
"Tretrax!" Dawn bellowed back. "I thought it was you! A'Zores's plans usually work!"
"You bitch!" he growled back, shocking Sari. "You've cost me everything! I will be avenged and with one Ranger down you can't summon your titan! By the powers of Darkness, arise and grow!"
He threw his arm out at the fallen bird, lizard, demon thing. Whatever it was was suddenly covered in a familiar black cloud of inky night. She'd seen it all too often in her home reality. Demons growing to a gigantic size, each time Prime and his Autobots had to pull back. Let Omega Supreme deal with them. It was the only Autobot big enough to take them on, at their own level.
Now they had another option, the Zords. She only hoped Cassie was cured, it wasn't going to be easy with out her.
End Chapter 2
Sorry about how late this one was, put it down to a very busy week. It doesn't look like it's going to slow down, so I can't be sure I'll have it up on time either.