Chapter 7: Character Separation

February, 1996

          DinoRed flew through the air, landed on his side and stumbled to push himself up.  ShellShock, Rita's newest creature, blasted Zhane again before he could get back on his feet.  The blast hurled DinoRed down the side of a steep hill.  Trying to avoid sharp rocks and stumps, the Red DinoRanger clawed at the hill, but the force of gravity beat him.  Surrounded by red light, the teen powered down automatically.  The concussive blasts of ShellShock had been too much for him.  DinoRed had landed on his stomach at the bottom of the hill.  He struggled to get up, but his arms were shaky.  ShellShock peered down the incline and laughed.  Leaping off the cliff, ShellShock landed at Zhane's feet, and bent over to pick up the ranger by the throat.  With his feet kicking off the ground, Zhane struggled for air.  Gripping ShellShock's arms, the teenager attempted to free himself from the mutant's grip.  ShellShock then placed the palm of his 'hand' onto Zhane's head, and twisted it...breaking his neck.  ShellShock dropped Zhane into a pile at his feet, then turned and walked away. . .

          Zhane awoke with a start, gasping for air.  Sweat was pouring down the sides of his face.  Wiping his brow with his sweat soaked sheets, he stood up and got out of bed.  Looking outside, he watched the first rays of sun peek over the horizon.  The clouds were a brilliant shade of orange and pink...they looked as if they were on fire.  Grabbing the towel that was draped over his desk chair, Zhane walked to the bathroom.  Zhane looked in the mirror.  His face was pale and his eyes were bloodshot.  His brown hair looked like a bird's nest.  Zhane splashed some cool water on his face in an attempt to calm his nerves.  He thought about Ali again, and began sobbing.  In his bedroom, Zhane slowly got dressed.  While putting on his shoes, Zhane glanced at the alarm clock that was on his night was 6:47 in the morning.  After putting on his jacket and pocketing his morpher that rested by the alarm clock, he stood in the middle of the room and pulled his jacket sleeve back, revealing his communicator.  He pressed the buttons that would teleport him to the Power Chamber.

          Zhane appeared in the chamber in a wash of red, and looked around at the darkness.  Zordon's tube was empty and Alpha 5 rested in a little booth on the left side of the chamber by the hall door.  A green monitor above Alpha displayed the word 'Standby' in a light green tint.  Zhane turned and looked at the ranger uniforms in their cases in the back of the chamber.  Seven different cases were there.  One for each ranger, and one for the ranger's weapons.  Zhane sat down on the steps that lead to the display cases and rested his head in his hands, waiting for Zordon or Alpha to wake up. 

          In the Dark Palace, Rita stood by her library of books.  They were filled with chants, spells, and potions to conjure evil at her will.  The Sorceress turned her head toward the doorway of her chamber, making sure no one was watching her.  She then hastily reached for a book and pulled it out.  The instant the book was removed, a panel slid away, revealing a worn book.  Human skin, bone, and sinew formed the cover's material and binding.  Taking the book in her hand, her eyes turned a deep violet.  She then sat down on her chair and began flipping through the pages, searching for a spell that would destroy the rangers once and for all. . .

          At seven o' clock, Alpha's visor flashed on and the humanoid robot shuffled out of his resting cycle chamber.  Zhane slowly stood and Alpha turned to greet Zhane.  "Ai yi yi, hello Zhane," the robot said.  "What brings you to the Power Chamber this early in the morning?"  Zhane ran his hand through his hair and then pulled  the back of it into a ponytail.  Strands of brown hair hung in his face as he looked at Alpha.  "I've been having strange dreams Alpha..." Zhane said cautiously.  The teenager would much rather speak to Zordon about this, but at least Alpha was there, which was better then nothing.  At the whim of his thought, Zordon appeared in his tube and looked down at his Red Ranger.  "Zhane, what seems to be troubling you?" Zordon asked with a kind face.  "Zordon, I have been having dreams...nightmares really..."  Zhane's voice trailed, but then he resumed talking.  "In these dreams, a random mutant appears and we battle, but the mutant is too strong and I am forced to 'power down.'  Then the mutant picks me up and breaks my neck every time." Zhane finished.  He was rubbing the back of his neck while speaking, like he could feel it happening.  "Zhane," Zordon spoke cautiously,  "How did Allison die?"  Zhane looked up at Zordon with widened eyes, "How did you know?"  "Zhane, I have been monitoring your life since your birth." Zordon responded, "When some people are born, their life-road is preplanned and they have no control over it.  This is called 'fate'...."  Zhane's eyes closed, he now had a grasp and understanding of what Zordon meant.  He looked up at his mentor, with a slight grin on his face.  "Allison died in a car wreck...she broke her neck."  "Zhane, I am not a dreamsayer...but I imagine your dreams represent your desire to take her place.  You dying instead of her.  The forced power-down symbolizes you are willing to fight for her, and your burning desire to take her place, either with or without the power."  Zhane hung his head, knowing that his mentor was right.  He looked up at Zordon and with a smile of understanding and a nod, he tapped his communicator to teleport himself to the Youth Center. 

          He appeared in the broken down photo booth.   The booth had never been used since Zhane had moved to Angel Grove.  It had been damaged in the earthquake that Zedd had used in his first attack on earth.  The photo booth was Zhane's 'phone booth'.  He had laughed at the irony of using it the first time he had morphed in it.  It had made him feel very much like a mild-mannered teenager turning into a world famous superhero in an instant.  Pulling the curtain back, he stepped from
his 'phone booth' and turned to walk down the hall
toward the main room at the youth center.  He
headed to the Juice Bar and ordered a hot chocolate.
Ernie, the Youth Center's owner, handed Zhane the
warm beverage.  With a hurried nod, Ernie turned to
help the other teens that had lined up for something
warm to drink.  Seating himself at the table that he
and his friends frequented, Zhane sipped his hot
cocoa alone.  Everyone was commenting that it was
unusually cold for February in Angel Grove.  Of
course, anything less then 80 degrees was too cold
for him, being that he is from Florida.  Holding the warm beverage in his hands, Zhane's mind drifted to the past few months.  He thought back to when he first received his power and how he and his teammates brought David back to the side of good.  "Humph," said Zhane, as his thoughts drifted to the Green Ranger.  David would battle rather quickly and only come to aid the team when absolutely necessary.  When David would fight, he would try to do what he could to finish the battle as quickly as possible.  Zhane wondered why that was and came to the conclusion that David was afraid he would become evil again.  He decided he would talk to David about everything as soon as possible.  Zhane looked up at the doorway of the Youth Center.  David walked in, then Kat, Billy, Ashley, and finally Adam.  Kat stopped at the bar to order a hot chocolate, while the others took a seat at the table.  Adam turned his chair around and leaned his arms on the back of the chair.  Without even a hello to Zhane, he continued to play his hand-held video game.  The teen's love for video games was only surpassed by soccer.  Adam taught soccer to the under twelve kids in the recreational league.  A star player and captain of the high school team, Adam shined when he had the black and white ball in his possession.  Rumors had been circulating that Adam was to be named All-District forward, but the truth of that remained to be seen.  Adam brushed the black hair out of his eyes, which were fixed on the video game.  Convinced that Adam wouldn't take his eyes off the game unless a mutant attacked the planet...and with a grin, Zhane wasn't even sure if that would break Adam's concentration.  Zhane then turned to Ashley.  The fifteen year old girl had long brown hair, which was usually fixed in a 'unique' style.  Her clothes said a lot about her, as she designed them herself.  An aspiring artist and future fashion designer, Ash was never far from her sketchpad.  Zhane had guessed that she had fallen for Adam He had questioned Kat about it and his theory proved true.  But alas, Adam's princess was 'in another castle.'  Kat walked over with her hot chocolate and pulled up a chair next to Zhane.  Sipping the cocoa, she looked over at Zhane, as she often did.  Zhane turned to the beautiful blonde sixteen, Kat looked more like twenty-one.  Her blue eyes twinkled at Zhane.  Her cheeks turned a shade red, and then she absorbed herself in her drink.  An accomplished gymnast and a varsity swimmer, Kat was the All-American girl from Australia.  Never far from Zhane, she would always try to spend time with him.  The two had gone on several dates, but Zhane was hesitant about taking things to the next level...his thoughts still dwelled on Allison.  For the moment, Zhane only wanted to be friends.  Kat on the other hand felt differently.  She still hovered around him, writing him notes and always ending each one with 'I love you.'   Zhane didn't mind this and he truly did like Kat, but he wasn't ready to give up Ali's memory yet, despite what Zordon had told him.  Zhane turned to Billy, the brains of the team.  Billy had invented the communicators that the rangers wore on their wrists.  Disguised as watches, the communicators also had the ability to teleport the rangers to and from the Power Chamber.  Billy hadn't been himself lately...not since his return from Aquatar.  Right after David joined the ranger team, Billy had asked Kat if she would teach him to swim.  This was very odd because Billy never showed any interest in water sports as long as Zhane had known him.  Zhane wondered if there was something Billy hadn't mentioned about his brief visit to Aquatar.  Zhane didn't know the answer, but he was glad to see that his friend now had a smile on his face all the time.  Zhane then turned to David.  Mysterious and quiet, though clumsy, David was at the awkward age of sixteen.  He was an excellent martial artist, even better than Zhane.  Zhane was glad to have some competition while sparring.  "So this is the team of chosen ones that will bring balance to good and evil," Zhane thought.  Zhane smiled, Zordon did choose the team correctly, he thought, and then his mind trailed to what Zordon had told him earlier that morning.  "When some people are born, their life-road is preplanned and they have no control over it.  This is called 'fate'..." Zordon's words echoed in Zhane's mind as he looked around at each one of his friends.  Zhane then turned to David, "Hey David, wanna spar?"  David replied, "Sure, let's go," he said as the two stood up.  Zhane decided that this would be a good time to talk to David, out of earshot from the other rangers.

To be continued. . .