Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to Saban Brands and will soon belong to Hasbro. No profit is being made from this fanwork.
Aftershock: Forgiveness and Redemption
Trini didn't remember her death. She didn't recall most of the things she did before she died for that matter. She did know that her final acts had been horrific, that she had betrayed her friends and lost the protection of the Power. Hadn't she?
Death was not a simple thing for a Full Aspect Morphin Ranger. When Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Zack, Billy, Tanya, Samoht and David had quested for their powers, they had been told that the powers would be bound to them forever. Some of them had heard that before only to find it was not true. But this time the words had been true. The powers had bonded with them in ways that their previous powers had not. And those bonds did not depend on biological functions of the flesh. The only thing that could break them was an ancient ritual or betrayal of the values those powers represented.
Trini had betrayed those principles. She didn't deny it, didn't try to explain it or justify her actions. She was ashamed by what she had done and was prepared to suffer for her crimes. The Power however seemed to have other ideas. For despite recognising the frozen tundra as a part of Hell - and by Hell she meant the supposed dimension where humans are punished for their wickedness - reserved for sinners, she did not feel the cold. Nor was she trapped within the ice, just left to walk upon its surface.
She had been surprised when she had felt her powers for the first time. Not the evil powers that Kali had revealed buried deep within her family's bloodline, but the powers she had earned while trying to save the Earth from Minion. She had been reluctant to reach out and touch it in fear that it would reject her, but when she had finally mustered the courage, a cleansing pulse of yellow energy had bathed her body, eradicating the darkness in a mind and soul
"You're being foolish," a voice said, not for the first time. "Why do you cling to hope when you know that there is no way to take back the things you have done? Your friends will never forgive you, Zordon will never forgive you; how can you consider forgiving yourself. You are evil! Accept it and you will be set free."
"I am not evil!" she retorted. "I have done things that are wicked, unforgivable and evil. I can never call myself good, but I will not be evil any longer."
"It's too late. Once you set foot upon the dark path it is impossible to return to the light. Do you think anybody will understand the things you've done? Your only choice now is to serve the darkness. Kali is gone, but there is always room for a new demon assassin."
"I'd rather stay here," she answered.
Her mind was her own again, she realised. She hadn't even recognised before how corrupted her thoughts had been. They had seemed like her own and she had accepted them as her own, and freely acted upon them. But now she could see that they had been altered, forced to the surface. That she had accepted them without question meant that she was just a guilty as if they had originated in her mind, but she was starting to see the difference. She was starting to understand that there was still a choice, and it had to be hers.
"Here? You think that a traitor like you deserves to be here? This is just a place where we can talk; you foolish child. Should you accept the role I am offering you, we will leave this place and you will begin the task of hunting down your targets. If you defy me then you will be placed with the other traitors, seven feet under ice... No, even you accept that your sin was so great that there is only one fate suitable for you: You will join the worst traitors in history as they are devoured by the Beast of Judecca."
A loud roar was heard, and Trini looked up into the sky toward the giant beast's head. It was frozen in ice below the waist and had three heads, and multiple wings that created an icy blast each time they flapped.
"Traitor, murderer, assassin... Accept my offer, become my Ranger Slayer... fulfil your destiny. Or remain here as eternal food for the beast. The choice is yours... make it!"
Trini hung her head. She had done enough, hurt too many. Her crimes were unforgivable, but she did not need to make them worse by giving in to the demands for her service. If that meant that she was to suffer for the rest of eternity, she would have to learn to endure it.
"So be it, Ranger."
The voice vanished, the presence she had not realised was pressing down on her faded with it. The beast gave a howl and snapped in her direction. She narrowly dodged its massive teeth.
It lunged again, and she dodged the other way, horrified by the realisation that it had arms as well as a huge mouth. A closed fist smashed into the tundra, sending her flying into the air where it tried to snap her with its mouth. She kicked at it with little effect, but it allowed her to fall back to the ground before slamming its palm down.
It was playing with her. She knew that it had the size and the speed despite its size to catch her. And when it did she would be eaten. For some reason though it had chosen to extend her torment by playing a twisted game of cat and mouse. If she had had her powers she would have stood a chance, but they were gone forever, and, in her heart, this was the fate she had accepted.
"Do you think that this is fair?"
The voice was back again as she was swatted away by the giant hand.
"How many others have turned to evil before now. What about Kiim and Kaat? They were made to be evil, yet the Rangers forgave them. Others chose to give their loyalty to the darkness and how were they punished? To live as cat. Tommy tried to destroy the Power Rangers and nearly killed Zordon in his first day on the job! Are they punishing you for treachery or for succeeding where the Green Ranger failed? Tell me Trini, is that fair?"
"They are not punishing me!" she replied, her voice filled with conviction. "I am here because I deserve this. I betrayed my friends and Zordon. The Rangers didn't put me here. I'm where I belong. I accept that." Her voice turned hard. "I was the one that made the wrong choice. I will never serve evil again."
She cried out as the beast grabbed her and lifted her into the air between thumb and forefinger. It dangled her above its central mouth.
"You will choose to serve me, whether you decide now or after some persuasion, you will serve."
And a part of her feared that the words were true. It was not so much the pain, but how long her mind would be able to cope before she could no longer fight her instincts to just surrender. For now, she recognised just how easy it would be to surrender to its will and how hard she would need to fight not to follow her instincts and surrender.
"Never again!" she hissed at herself as she was rewarded by a mocking chuckle. "I will never be that weak again."
In answer the beast tightened the grip causing her screams to echo across the frozen wasteland.
"Defiance and will power will only last so long and then you will be mine. You are powerless here, Ranger."
Ranger. He had called her a Ranger. It had not been a mocking acknowledgement that she had lost her power. He had spoken in the same way he would have called her human or female. Why had he done that if she was now powerless?
~Am I powerless?~
For the first time she questioned her assumption that her powers were gone. She had betrayed the Light side of the Morphin Grid, but Zordon had given the impression that while there were no dark Rangers, there were those that could draw upon the same spirits and use them to become something similar. Could she call upon her powers through the Dark Side of the Morphin Grid and use them to escape?
"Nice try," she whispered as the pain subsided. "You knew how I would react and wanted me to call on the Power."
"I underestimated your resolve," came the reply. "I thought that you had endured enough that you would react without question. It looks like we will need to try harder."
She was slammed into the ground and released from the beast's grip. The monstrous hand lifted into the sky and descended toward her. Unbidden the Sabretooth Tiger roared in her mind, following by the Griffin and the Bear. She could feel the powers reaching out, tempting her to call on them. She refused. Even as the palm landed upon her and she was pushed deep into the ice she resisted the urge to embrace the Power; she didn't know where those powers came from and couldn't trust herself not to take the dark powers by mistake.
And then she felt something else. It didn't reach out for her to draw upon, it surrounded her without her effort. She felt it protect her, warm her and grant her strength. When she opened her mouth, a growl escaped that caused the beast to withdrawal its hand.
"What are you doing?" the voice asked, but she got the impression it was talking to her. "No, she is mine! I claimed her!"
A second roar, louder than before. And as she growled, Trini realised that the Power had made the decision for her. She was along for the ride.
The hand descended yet again. She dodged easily. It tried again to pulverise her, she blocked it with her fist and realised she was glowing. She could feel the Power coursing through her, cleansing her of the darkness within. Before it could put back she had leapt onto the top of its hand and started to run up its arm. She avoided the attempts to swat her away as she raced towards the beast's head.
At the top of its shoulder she withdrew a pair of swords and dove toward its right face. The beast brushed her off by she angled her descent, driving one sword into a wing and was rewarded by the creature's howl of pain.
She landed and rolled around to the right, ducking behind the beast where it could not turn. Then using one sword as a pivot to haul herself up its back, seeking the junction where its wings met. She drove the other sword into the spot, slicing at its wings. It bucked in response and she was thrown off.
The swords vanished and were replaced by a large crossbow. She loaded a heavy bolt and fired, damaging another wing and clipping the left head. One bolt entered the eye, exploding to take out the top of its head. She followed up with the right head and along the arms. As the beast toppled forward, she raised a sword ready to cleave its centre head. And then she stopped.
There was no need to continue. The Beast of Judecca was at her mercy, but she realised that it was no longer a threat. Destroying it would serve no purpose.
"You have the power, use it to destroy the beast and I will release you from this place."
"I will not escalate a battle unless forced to do so," she replied. The glow had vanished but there was a sense of calm in her voice.
"Still following Zordon's rules even after you murdered him," the voice hissed. Although now the beast had been defeated, the winds it had blasted across the tundra no longer helped to disguise where the voice came from. She turned to face the shaded creature, aware that it might have once been vaguely human. Any such resemblance was long gone given its ruined visage. "You are mine Trini Kwan. You were mine on the day you were conceived, bound by the blood that flows through your veins. I command you to serve me!"
She raised a sword in response, defying his words. As it swept toward her she lowered the blade so that the point would impale him if he continued. Yet she made no move to close the distance between them, leaving the decision his to make.
"How can this be?" It had stopped its advance. "It doesn't matter. Given time you will realise that there is no leaving this place except through me."
Trini could sense the truth in his words. If she failed to obey him she would never leave this frozen hell. But she had already made the decision that she would stay and endure her eternal punishment. If the only way out was to succumb to darkness, to make the same mistakes that had led her there in the first place, she would remain where she was.
"Do you think that this is as bad as it can become?" he demanded. "This is my dominium, I shape this plane. Perhaps if the idea of walking through Hell does not persuade you, eternity in ice will do so."
Walls of ice rose around her, threatening to entomb her. He sword glowed with red light and she instinctively turned in a circle, melting the ice and breaking the walls.
"You have no power here, you foolish child!" he insisted. "Only the power granted to you through blood matter here."
"Oh pish!" said a familiar voice.
Andros looked at the four morphers, pondering whether he should begin a search for new Rangers. Alison had been the first to return the Green Astro Morpher. Their mission was over and she had decided to move on. Cyane and Daniel had been next. When Sabrina had followed, stating relationship problems with Adam, the four had decided to borrow a ship and head out to see the universe as it slowly rebuilt. To be fair it was a better option than being called in to face monster remnants on whatever world had a problem.
TJ, Cassie and Carlos had returned to duty after a short vacation. They had found life on Earth slow after their time on board the Astro Megaship. It was a relief as along with Zhane he knew the six of them could handle any missions they were assigned.
"DECA, open the Power Vault!" he commanded.
DECA obeyed and he wordlessly placed the morphers onto their charging brackets. If they were needed again they would be ready for action. Until then they could rest.
Ninjor was dead. She knew he was dead although she was not sure if he had died before or after her own death. Something deep inside her had recognised the passing of the so-called Aspect Masters. She had felt it like an echo through the Power of not only loss, but great elation - for in moving beyond life they had ascended to a new level.
"As if a creature like you could stop the will of the Power," he said before turning his attention to Trini. "It is I, Ninjor! You looked like you could use a little help."
"How can you be here, I..."
"Oh Trini, did you not listen when I told you that the powers you possess would always connect us?"
"But I... I betrayed them," she started, unable to get the words out. "I murdered Zordon."
She had expected shock, anger or outrage. She was prepared for him to turn on her and walk away in disgust. Instead he laughed.
"Oh Trini, do you really think Zordon didn't know? He is a White Master... a great sage with the gift of prophecy. Zordon knew that one of his children would be responsible for his death. He prepared for it."
There was hope in her voice that perhaps she had not destroyed the Earth's guardian. It did nothing to lessen her guilt, but the thought that the Earth was protected...
"Zordon died at your hands," Ninjor told her bluntly. "But his gift gave him the chance to prepare for his passing. The Rangers have a new mentor and I have a message for you... You are forgiven, Trini. For all that you have done in so far as it is within his power, Zordon forgives you. We all do."
"There are villains that have done far committed crimes more terrible than you could believe possible, young Ranger. There are some who claim to fight purely for light that have committed untold atrocities. And when the time came, and they faced their crimes and recognised their mistakes, and accepted... truly accepted their responsibility for what they had done, they were forgiven too."
The ruined creature had backed up at Ninjor's words but was not ready to concede defeat.
"So, what if Zordon forgives here? Do you think the Rangers will forgive her? Will Cassie forgive her? If she is forgiven, why is she here?"
"I'm here because I deserve to be," Trini answered.
"You are here because I want you here!" it snapped back. "You have no say in this Trini. Forgiven or not the blood that flows through you binds you to me."
It moved toward her, but Ninjor blocked the advance.
"No, you don't!" he warned. "You seem to have forgotten a few things... Firstly, you are not being that Kali and her family served."
The creature looked around nervously. "I am next in line to its power," came the response.
"Really, does the being you serve know that? Secondly: blood or no blood you can only command those that choose to serve."
The creature drew back a little. "She will choose to obey me. Given time, she will decide. Now give your third reason and depart. You have no place in this, Morphin Master."
"Oh, the third reason is something you can't change: Trini died!"
She could see the sudden panic in its face but couldn't work out why that was so important.
"The Power will remain with you so long as you chose to embrace it, Ranger," Ninjor told her. "Nothing can change that unless YOU decide. I have told you everything you need. I'll be waiting with the other when you decide to join us."
With that Ninjor departed, leaving Trini alone. A part of her wanted to call him back but she sensed that this was her battle and that Ninjor's intervention had been to let her know that she was not alone.
"What a fool, leaving you to fail again," the creature said.
"You have no power over me," she realised.
Suddenly it didn't seem so powerful or frightening. It was an opportunist that sought to use her.
"Of course, I do," it replied. "The blood in your veins gives me power. With every beat of your heart my hold upon you grows stronger."
Trini died! Ninjor's words echoed in her mind.
"I died," she repeated.
She could see him shift nervously when she said that. But why was that statement so important?
"You can live again," it offered.
"I died..." she repeated, her eyes widening as she understood. "How can your hold on me grow stronger with each beat of my if my heart stopped beating? My blood stopped flowing when I died. I have no blood for you to claim. You have no power over me!"
It hissed in protest. "Stop saying that!"
"You have no claim on my blood, you never did!" she realised. "What you, exactly?"
She recalled something she had once been told about demons. She gathered all the command that she could muster in her voice and barked out a command.
The power behind the words pushed him to comply and she grasped his identity. He was nothing, a low-level shape shifter in service to the UAE that had ended up on the losing side of a battle with the Power Rangers. He had survived by escaping to another dimension and from there had somehow managed to intercept her spirit at the moment of death, creating an illusionary world where it could convince her to serve it. It had wanted to take advantage of the power that had once flowed in her blood but had not counted on her link to the Power surviving beyond death - she would need to ponder how the link had survived her actions later -, nor had it predicted that Ninjor would decide to drop in on them.
The beast, the ice... it was all a part of the same pitiful creature. And now that she knew she realised that the injuries it had sustained had been caused by her fight with the beast.
"If I cannot have you," it said, shifting its body. Its voice turned feminine. "Nobody shall."
Trini blinked as she found herself looking at her own face. It had decided to take on her appearance in some twisted game. But Trini was done playing. The two fighters engaged, and Trini was surprised that it could match her move for move. Soon though the Power started to flow through her body and it was clear that the creature was growing weaker.
"It is time to end this!" it said, summoning a pair of daggers.
Trini nodded and drew a summoned a pair of her own. They charged, and it lunged. Trini ducked left inside its guard and drove the dagger into its heart. She pulled away as it staggered, looking at her with disbelief. Then it exploded, leaving Trini alone.
"I would like you to consider this request," the councillor told the assembled Hana Rangers. "We cannot force you to accept this task, the terms of your probation are unfortunately very clear as to what is expected of you."
Many on the council had not been pleased to find that variation of those terms required the agreement of both the council and the Hana Rangers. There had been some that had tried to insist that failing to accept the change in terms be accepted as a breach of those conditions. Those voices had been quickly silenced when it was pointed out that doing so would trigger the safety clauses put in to protect the Hana Rangers from politicians that might seek to use them in such a way, and that they would be instantly released from their probation early.
"What's in it for us?" Mei Chen asked.
The Hana Rangers had complied with the terms of their probation, but were no about to give up the relative comfort of Mirinoi for a fools errand unless it was in their interests.
"I'm sure that we could arrange some time off your sentence," a councillor offered. "A few months maybe in return for a successful mission."
"I was thinking of something more generous," Mei purred. The effects of the spell had started to take their toll on all the Hana Rangers, with the exception of Kimberly and Kat. "You are asking us to undertake a mission that would lead to an almost immediate death, after all."
"We cannot offer you that. Three months maximum when you have returned and we have reviewed your actions."
The Hana Rangers exchanged a glance. They didn't speak but their collective answer was clear for all to see.
"No. Good bye, Councillor."
"Wait!" There was panic in the voice. "All remaining time counted as served for all those that return."
Kat and Kimberly seemed to be considering the ideas, but the other continued to walk.
"What do you want then?"
Mei smiled as her feline form would regard a mouse. They had them.
"Upon completion of this mission you will release all collective spells upon us. You can keep the monitoring spells in place and punish any of us that break them, but those who stick to their probation will not be punished. You will remove restriction on where we can go... Mirinoi is nice, but I want to travel. Oh and you will release the spells on Kimberly and Kat immediately."
Those spells should never have been placed on the to Rangers anyway. The council knew that, but at the time they had been caught up in sending a signal to the rest of Galactic Society and had not considered their actions. Once it had been done there had been no legal grounds for them to lift the spells. They realised that along with their rather twisted interpretation of Brother's Keeper, they had been dangerously close to breaking the laws with the punishments they handed down.
"And you will immediately recognise Kendrix as a part of the Galaxy Rangers," Shondra added.
When Karone And Tracy had left Mirinoi following the breakdown of Karone's marriage to Leo, Kendrix had been chosen by the Pink Quasar Saber as a replacement; Tracy's Quasar Saber had been returned to the stone and not even Sabrina had been able to remove it again. There was some suggestion that Kendrix had always been destined to hold the blade and that the forces of evil had intervened so that the blade had rejected her the first time. Not that Karone was not a valid candidate for the role, her assumption of the Pink powers had proven that she too had been destined for the role. It seemed fate had finally gotten its way.
However, Kendrix had been unable to take up her new role because the Hana Ranger powers prevented it. She could not hold two sets of powers at the same time and during the period of her probation, her Hana Ranger powers were deemed as being permanently activated.
"This mission requires all of you."
"And it will have all of us. Recognising Kendrix as Pink Galaxy allows her to use that power, which may help our success."
"Unacceptable. She should pass on the Quasar Saber to somebody else."
"Maybe she should," Kimberly agreed. "But she won't. The Power has chosen her and now you need to ask yourselves one question: how badly do you need our cooperation?"
With that the group walked out. There was no doubt they were going to take the mission, but they were going to make sure that the council didn't take advantage of them. And if that meant playing hardball - for they would have settled for a lot less had the council not tried to force them to comply - they were willing to do so.
"Undertaking missions for a government in return for a reduced sentence," Angela grumbled. "It sounds like the sort of thing they put in a television show."
The others laughed as they teleported away. The council knew how to find them when they made up their minds. They didn't think it would take long.
"Well done!" Ninjor said as Trini became aware of her surroundings.
"Ninjor, what happened? That thing wasn't what it claimed to be."
Ninjor chuckled. "Of course not, young Ranger. Evil cannot come to this place, only the darkness we carry. You were carrying a lot."
"That was my dark side?"
"What remained of it," Ninjor answered. "That was the darkness you carried in your blood that took shape when you joined forces with Kali."
"Is it gone now?" she asked, hoping that perhaps this was the last she would see of the cursed blood of her family.
"It will always be a part of you," Ninjor answered. "Just as it was a part of you before you learned of it, before Kali hatched her plans. But just because it exists does not mean that it holds any power over you. Your body, mind and spirit are yours again Trini."
"So, what now?" She was still dead after all.
"Now you get the chance to make amends," Ninjor told her.
"How, I only had one life..."
As Ninjor started to explain she had thought him insane. The as she thought about his plan she realised that it was her best chance to make up for her mistakes among those most likely to understand her need to do so.
Author's Note: This marks the end of the Aftershocks.