Chapter 3: Lovely To See You

by juniperphoenix

It was a beautiful morning in East Africa when Aisha Campbell awoke. As she dressed in jeans shorts and a yellow T-shirt, Aisha reflected that the morning was much like those in her former town of Angel Grove, California. It was sunny and warm outside, and a gentle breeze was blowing as Aisha stepped out of her family's hut into the midst of the awakening camp.

As on most mornings, she headed for the research clinic: a large green tent on the outskirts of camp. When Aisha had first come to Africa, the clinic had not existed. Its presence was thanks to the Zeo Crystal, which had rewritten history to create a different "now."

Only Aisha and Ishala, the wise matriarch of the camp, knew about the changes. Only they remembered the past in which Aisha Campbell, the Yellow Ranger from Angel Grove, had come to Africa on a quest for the Zeo Crystal. As far as everyone else — including Aisha's parents — was concerned, the Campbells had lived in the camp for years. They all knew Aisha as an assistant at the research clinic, who was helping to save the local animals from a devastating plague.

When Aisha entered the clinic on this particular morning, she found her friend Rachel McCormick already there. The young veterinarian in charge of the clinic was busy examining something through a microscope.

"Hey Rachel," Aisha greeted her. "How's it going?"

"Oh, good morning, Aisha," the veterinarian replied, glancing up. "Fine, I guess." She pushed back a few strands of light brown hair that had come loose from her hasty ponytail. Between that and the rumpled khaki shorts and white shirt Rachel wore, Aisha concluded that she had been working for quite a while.

"What happened?" she asked. "You aren't usually here this early."

"Four infected zebras showed up at about one-thirty this morning," Rachel replied. "I had to check them over and then help get them out of camp."

"They wandered into camp?" Aisha commented. "That's strange."

"Yeah, normally the sick animals would avoid people. I think something spooked them."

"Like what?"

"A few people said they saw something unusual in the sky last night," Rachel explained. "Like a meteor or something."

"You think that's what scared the zebras into camp?"

"It's as good an explanation as any," Rachel said with a shrug. "Not that it really matters, though. The important thing was getting them out of camp before that group arrives."

Aisha did a double take. "What group?" The isolated camp was rarely visited by outsiders.

"You haven't heard about it? I thought everybody knew…" Rachel's hand flew to her mouth. "Whoops!"


"I just remembered… you aren't supposed to know about it yet."

"Why not?"

Rachel shrugged. "Ishala said it was supposed to be a surprise for you. I don't know what the big deal is, though. It's not like you'd actually know any of them."

"Any of who?"

"It's some kind of teen ambassador group," explained Rachel as Aisha's eyes widened. "I guess they go around touring a bunch of different countries or something."

Aisha shrieked excitedly. "I do know them, Rachel! This is amazing! Wow, it's going to be so morphinomenal to see them again…"

" 'Morphin'-what?"

"Never mind," Aisha laughed, practically dancing out of the clinic.

"Hey, where are you going?"

"To see Ishala!" the exuberant girl replied. "This is so awesome!" She skipped off to Ishala's hut, leaving Rachel gazing speculatively after her.

"I take it she liked the surprise."

After nearly two years as a teen ambassador, Zack Taylor had gotten used to sleeping on trains, boats, and a wide variety of airplanes. The bus he was currently riding, however, was an entirely different matter. The farther it traveled through the Kenyan countryside, the worse the ride became.

A particularly nasty bump jolted Zack awake. He looked out the bus window to see that the "road" had narrowed to little more than a dusty path through the savanna. A glance at his wristwatch, which he had fortunately remembered to set for local time, told him that it was nearly two o'clock in the afternoon.

"Are we there yet?" he asked groggily.

"Just about," replied his friend Jason Scott, who was sitting next to him. "There's half a mile to go."

Zack yawned and stretched out as far as the seat would allow. "Still tired?" Jason said disbelievingly. "Didn't you sleep on the plane from Cairo?"

"Man, I don't think I slept at all! I was too freaked out after hearing about all those curses!"

Trini Kwan, sitting across the aisle from the boys, laughed at that. "I don't think they'll be wanting you to endorse Egyptian tourism anytime soon, that's for sure!"

"I just can't believe you were scared of that scarab beetle," Jason remarked. "What did you think it was going to do, anyway?"

Zack rolled his eyes. "Excuuuuuse me! I just overreacted a little bit… Hey, we're here!"

The three friends abandoned their conversation to look out the window. They had arrived at a small village of tents and huts, where a crowd had gathered to welcome them.

"Hey, who's that?" wondered Jason, pointing to someone in the crowd.

"Which one?" asked Zack confusedly.

"The girl in the yellow. She seems really familiar, but…" Trini squinted out at the crowd, trying to make out the girl's features. "It's Aisha!" she realized suddenly. "What's she doing here?"

"Let's go find out," Zack suggested, gesturing towards the front of the bus. He, Trini, and Jason followed the other delegates out into the blinding sunlight. As they paused to let their eyes adjust, Aisha came running up to them, her dark braids flying around her and her eyes dancing with excitement.

"Wow, it really is you guys! I can't believe this!" she exclaimed.

"Neither can we!" replied Jason. "What are you doing in Africa?"

"Working in a veterinary research clinic," she replied, drawing blank looks from her three friends. "It's a long story. How are you guys doing?"

"Great!" said Trini, as the four friends began exchanging hugs. "We've been having a blast. But how's the rest of the team?"

"Well, things weren't so great the last time I saw them, but…"

"The last time you saw them?" echoed Jason.

"Yeah, what happened?" asked Zack.

Aisha laughed. "Boy, have I got a lot to tell you guys…"

The mood in the Machine Skybase was not pleasant. It had not been pleasant for nearly a day.

"You let him get away!" King Mondo was screaming at a group of Cogs. "Do you call yourselves fighter pilots? You retreated when you had a chance to destroy him!"

"The enemy ship was losing life support," the squadron leader said in flat, mechanical tones. "Victory was assured."

"Don't talk back to me, you junkheaps! Thanks to you, that brat managed to escape back to Earth! Now I'll have to start from scratch! A new plan, a new monster…"

"Yer Majesty?" Klank interrupted hesitantly.

"What is it, Klank?" Mondo sighed, frustrated now that his anger was spent.

His confidence slightly improved by the Machine King's change of mood, Klank continued, "Our sensors have detected Billy's escape pod, Yer Majesty, and the Power Rangers dunna even know about it!"

"Excellent!" replied King Mondo, pleased by the surprise. "Send down the Cogs at once to retrieve it."

"But why, Yer Majesty?" Klank asked. "We canna detect any life signs. The Rangers' friend is finished!"

"We must make absolutely sure of that," Mondo said. "We'll never defeat the Rangers if Billy is always there to fix everything for them!"

"And we simply must defeat them," interrupted Queen Machina from across the room. She snapped her fan decisively. "It would be so embarrassing if we couldn't manage to take over this last little planet. What would they think of us back in the Alliance?"

Mondo shuddered. He could just hear what Dregon and Aradon and all the rest would be saying. Who was it again that defeated the Machine Empire? Was it Aquitar? Ihlyra? Oh, no, it was Earth! You know, the planet that's defended by children! He would never, never in a million years be able to live that down.

"Don't worry, my dear," he said to appease Machina. "The Rangers will be taken care of." I hope.

"Can I send a monster down, Dad?" Prince Sprocket begged. "Can I, can I, please?"

"I hardly think that's necessary," Mondo replied. "If Billy survived, he'll be in no condition to defend himself. The Cogs should have no problems capturing him."

"But, Dad…" Sprocket whined.

"The Cogs will handle it," the king said firmly. He turned to the Quadrafighter pilots that were still cowering fearfully in a corner.

"I want you to get down there immediately and find that escape pod," he told them. "If Billy is alive, bring him to me at once. If not… so much the better."

"…so I decided to stay, and Tanya went back with my crystal. I guess it must have worked, because a couple of minutes after she left, I went back to my normal age."

Aisha had spent the past hour updating Jason, Trini, and Zack on everything that had happened in Angel Grove since they left. The four friends had begun their conversation in the village, immediately after the peace delegates' brief tour. By the time Aisha finished her narrative, they had wandered nearly a mile into the savanna.

"So that's what happened," Zack remarked after Aisha had finished telling them about the Zeo quest.

"A couple of weeks ago," Jason explained to Aisha, "something really weird happened to us in England. One minute, we were touring Buckingham Palace, and the next minute, we were sitting in a fifth-grade classroom. The weirdest part was, we couldn't remember how we got there."

Aisha nodded. "My parents don't remember how it was before, either," she said. "As far as they're concerned, we never lived in Angel Grove. The only ones who know the truth are me and Ishala."

"Why?" Trini wondered. "Why didn't everyone notice the changes?"

"It's got something to do with being Rangers," replied Aisha. "When it first happened, Billy said that we retained our memories because of the Power Coins. But I don't know why we didn't lose our memories when the coins were destroyed… or why I still remember, even though I'm not a Ranger anymore."

"Probably because you were close to the situation," speculated Jason. "You already knew what was going on, so you kept your memories."

"No matter why it happened, I'm glad," Aisha said, looking around at the vast grassland. "I love it here, but I wouldn't want to forget Angel Grove."

"I know what you mean," commented Zack. "The peace tour has been morphinomenal, but I still miss the old days." He smiled, a bit ruefully. "Sometimes I think I'd give anything for the chance to beat up a few putties again."

The former Rangers laughed.

"Be careful what you wish for, Zack," Trini warned him jokingly. "You just might…" She cut off abruptly as an unearthly violet glow appeared before them. "What's that?"

Suddenly, a dozen figures emerged from the violet light. They were humanoid in shape, but seemed more like machines than people: they had golden heads and silvery bodies, and walked with robotic stiffness.

"What the…?" Jason instinctively dropped into a defensive stance. "Aisha, what are they?"

"Nothing I've ever seen before!" she exclaimed, shaking her head in bewilderment.

"Well, whatever they are," said Zack, "they're trouble!"

"Right," Jason replied. "Let's get 'em, guys!" The four teenagers charged toward the robots, ready to do battle despite their lack of powers. Most of the robot creatures turned to attack them, but a few wandered off, farther into the savanna.

"It seems like they're looking for something!" shouted Trini as she dodged a blow from one of the robots and delivered one of her own.

"Whatever it is, we've gotta stop them!" Jason yelled back. A powerful kick sent his attacker flying. He had just turned to face another of the robots when a beam of blue light shot from its eyes, catching Jason full in the chest. He dropped to the ground, momentarily dazed.

Aisha kicked a robot's legs out from under it and then rushed to help Jason up.

"Jason, are you all right?" she asked, worried.

He nodded. "I'm okay now. But it's gonna be tough to defeat these things without our powers."

"No kidding. I wonder what they're doing so far from Angel Grove?"

"Who knows? Maybe… Hi-yaah!" A tornado kick made short work of the robot that had been creeping up on them. "Maybe it's because whatever they're looking for is here… Zack! Behind you!"

Zack punched the robot in front of him and then swept into a low kick, knocking down the one behind him. Both attackers shattered into an assortment of springs and gears.

"These things are tough!" Zack exclaimed, rolling to avoid another energy blast like the one that had hit Jason.

Aisha glanced at Trini. "Air attack?"

"Right!" Trini nodded. "Ready, guys?"

The two girls raced toward Zack and Jason, who boosted them into the air. They somersaulted down in two blurs of yellow and landed on the robots, smashing three of them to pieces. As the teens regrouped, the remaining few attackers fled into the grassland. A moment later, the violet light reappeared and swallowed them up.

"What was that all about?" Zack panted after the robots were gone.

"Those were way beyond putties," remarked Jason, wiping sweat from his forehead.

"Or Tengas," Aisha added. "I don't have a clue what those things were."

"I don't get it," said Zack. "I mean, what could they be looking for way out here?"

"Wait a minute!" Aisha exclaimed with sudden realization. "The meteor!"

"What?" asked Zack.

"Some people in camp said they saw a meteor last night. It landed somewhere out here and spooked a bunch of animals."

"Where is it?" Jason asked.

Aisha shrugged.

"Well, some of the robots went over that way," said Trini, pointing to a small rise nearby.

Jason nodded. "Let's go."

The blue flame had dwindled to barely a spark. It flickered weakly, desperately trying to hold on. For fifteen hours, it had managed easily. Now, though, something had happened. Something was different. Needs that for the past day had been suppressed were crying out again. As the icy blackness surrounding the blue flame slowly began to dissipate, those needs became harder and harder to ignore. There was no way to satiate them… and time was running out.

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