Disclaimer: The Power Rangers are the property of Saban Entertainment and I lay no claim to them. The character of Mackenzie Dekalb is property of Karilee who can be contacted at kajwr@twcny.rr.com. The character of Cassandra Jensen(the Emerald Ranger) belongs to Helen who can be contacted at helen0724@yahoo.com. Jeffrey Kincaid, Lord Crucible, and all other characters relating to them are mine. Should anyone wish to use my characters contact me at foi72@yahoo.com.

Note: The song "The Gambler" is sung by Kenny Rodgers.

The Gamble
by John Chubb

The maulers were making their way revaging Mirinoi. All the trees and forests were being mowed down as land was cleared and dirt was being excavated. The guardsmen manning the equipment were so focused on their tasks that they did not notice the Quasar sabre flying through the air towards the cockpit. Or the red ranger thet flew up and crashed through the window taking out the guardsmen. Soon the bodies of deactivated guardsmen were flying out the window.

Leo Corbett looked around and saw four other excavators have similar problems with guardsmen flying out the window. The remaining three turned to face those excavators that were commendeered and the Galaxy Rangers faced the excavators.

"Do these things have weapons?", Damon asked. Just as he asked laser fire from the three excavators shot through the sky and hit the commendeered excavators.

"I'd say yes Damon.", Kai said.

"Where are the weapons here?", Maya said.

"Far right panel. Second of three red switches.", Karone called out. And laser fire shot out of her excavator cannons.

"All right guys let's follow her lead.", Leo said and soon all cannons fired. The only thing left of the last three excavators was smoking burning metal.

"Well three down, thousands to go.", Kai said.

"Karone how did you know where the weapons were?", Damon asked.

"I was a prisoner of the Luciferian Empire at one time. I got a little bit familiar with their equipment during my time with them.", Karone explained.

"Now the big question, what are they doing here?", Maya asked.

"These things have computer logs on them that tell of the missions they have. I'm going to see if I can access it.", Karone said as she started working as the data scrolled down she saw the secondary mission requirement.

"Maya what is the Heart of Mirinoi?", Karone asked.

Maya was shocked. "That's a myth. It's said to be an object of great power that helps strengthen the natural forces of Mirinoi.

"Well whatever this heart is this Imperator is tearing the planet apart trying to find it.", Leo said. "We have to stop him."

"Guys, that was only the secondary mission requirement not the first one.", Karone said.

"Then what's he really after?", Kai asked.

Karone couldn't believe what she saw. "He's holding this planet hostage…to get at Jeff Kincaid. He's destroying this whole planet just to get at one man."

Harper stood on the pbservation platform of the flagship looking down at the cleared ground of Mirinoi waiting for a sign. "FX9, what are the data results?"

The robot came up to his master and addressed the situation. "We are monitoring the planet for the natural forces my lord. So far we have not detected anything."

"Keep monitoring.", Harper ordered. "My benefactor wants the Heart of Mirinoi for his own use."

"Sir.", FX9 asked. "What exactly is the heart of Mirinoi?"

Harper turned to face his robotic second. "Over one year ago this whole planet was turned to stone. Not just the people, but the trees, the grass, the water, everything. Then Terra Venture landed here one year later and with the exception of the people and some villiage dwellings the oceans and vegitation were changed back. This was the doing of the Heart of Mirinoi, an object of great power that works in tandem with the natural forces of this planet. It changed the vegitation and water back to it's natural state, and the Quasar sabers finished the job by changing the people and dwellings back."

"I fail to see the point of pursuing an artifact if all it did was change the plants and water back to it's natural state.", FX9 said.

"You fool. The point is nothing should have been changed back at all.", Harper said. "Natural forces aren't strong enough by themselves to undo magic. Mirinoi's natural forces are the exception, and the key to those forces is the Heart of Mirinoi. Remove that heart, and the natural forces revert back to their normal flow.

"May I ask what your benefactor hopes to do with that heart?", FX9 asked.

"No, because I do not know myself.", Harper said. "Is there any news about…that other matter?"

FX9 nodded, "Last I heard a squadron of Varox were dealing with it.

"So this is how Trey must have felt when the Varox were after him.", Adam said as he buckled from the last shot from the laser cannons of three pursuing Varox ships.

Defiance received a distress call saying that a pleasure vessel was under heavy attack and Kincaid changed course to see what they could do to help. They saw Varox ships blasting at the ship but when Defiance approached the Varox turned around and headed for Defiance. A ruse, Kincaid thought. They were hoping we'd come to the rescue and then capture us so they could get Harper's bounty.

"Shields down to 53%.", Mackenzie said.

"Options.", Kincaid said. Everyone was trying to rack their brains for some way to fight back. Then Cassandra had an idea.

"What about the EMP detonators? We launch one at the Varox, then we shut down all our systems so we're not affected by the wave so when the Varox are knocked out we can knock out their engines so they can't follow."

"That's crazy.", Andros said. "There would still be at least a two second window of opportunity for them to get in a crippling shot, if not destroy us."

"But right now it's the only option we've got.", Kincaid said. "Let's do it."

The lead Varox ship had Defiance in its sights. "Target acquired.", the leader said. "Ready to fire."

Before it knew what happened next a capsule was launched and the carrierzord came to a dead stop. The Varox ships whizzed by not expecting the zord to stop.

When the Varox turned back around one of the wingmen said that there was no power to the zord. That all systems were dead. "What about the capsule that was launched?", the leader asked.

"Probably a log buoy that will record our triumph.", the lieutenant said.

"Then press forward the attack. Our prize is helpless.", the leader said. And the Varox ships launched forward.

"Weapons at the ready sir.", the wingmen said.

"Good, fi…"

The leader didn't complete the order as the explosion from the log buoy knocked out all his systems. As well as his own internal circuitry. The other Varox felt the same way.

"All right we did it!!!", Ashley shouted.

Kincaid went back to the power terminal and reactivated the zord systems, including Hardrive. "Hardrive is there any damage to your systems?"

Hardrive waited for a moment before answering in an impression of WWF Wrestler Triple H, "I have no damage for I am the game, and I am that damn good."

"Well He's fine.", Justin said.

"No power signatures, Kincaid. The ships are dead.", Cassandra reported.

"Knock out their engines just to be safe.", Kincaid ordered. And Defiance's weapons came to bear on the engines and they were knocked out with the weapons fire.

"Okay let's check out that cruise ship.", Kincaid ordered.

After searching the ship they only found wreckage and a few scattered escape pods. The pods had life forms, but no life signs inside. Kincaid couldn't help but feel remorse for what happened.

"You okay Jeff?", Mackenzie asked her fiancee'.

Kincaid just turned and looked at her. "I just can't find the words to say right now."

"How about 'I want Harper's head on a plate?'", Cassandra said. "Seems fitting with all he's doing just to get his licks in at you."

Kincaid smiled meekly. "Thanks for the cheer up Cassandra. I'll be in my quarters." And with that Kincaid left the bridge.

"Where's he going?", Kendrix asked. "Shouldn't he be thinking of a plan to free Mirinoi?"

Adam came forward and placed a hand on Kendrix's shoulder. "Trust me he is.", he said. I hope he mentally added.

Kincaid sat in his quarters looking out at the stars wondering what the next move would be. He didn't have any ideas now and no one else did either.

What all do we have?, Kincaid thought. We've got zords. We've got ranger powers. We've even got two former rangers on hand to help out. Who knows what Harper's got.

Tired of racking his brain he realized he did have an ace up his sleeve. He still had the book of Zordon. And with that thought he went to a safe in the wall opened it and looked for an advantage to use. An old Kenny Rodgers song played in the background.

On a warm summer's evening
On a train bound for nowhere
Met up with a gambler
We we're both to tired to sleep.

So we took turns a starin
Out the window at the darkness
Till boredom overtook us and he began to speak

He said Son I've made a life
out of readin' people's faces
and knowin' what the cards were
by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don't mind my sayin
I can see you're out of aces
For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice.

So I handed him my bottle,
And he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette
And asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet,
And his face lost all expression.
Said, "If you're gonna play the game,
Boy, you gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.
You never count your money
when you're sittin at the table
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin what to throw away,
And knowin' what to keep.
'Cause every hand's a winner.
And every hand's a loser.
And the best that you can hope for
is to die in your sleep.

And when he finished speakin'
He turned back toward the window.
Crushed out his cigarette
And faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness
The gambler he broke even.
But in his final words I found
An ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

After the song was concluded Kincaid found the edge he was looking for. "Hardrive round up the usual suspects at the briefing room. I've just got an idea.

Harper looked over the destroyed landscape ahead of him. The science drones were monitoring the growth rates of any plants that may appear in the destroyed areas. Wherever the plants grow the fastest must be the area where the Heart of Mirinoi is., he thought.

His concentration was broken when FX9 spoke on the comlink. "Imperator, the carrierzord Defiance has entered the airspace. They are setting down in the Northern part of the Western Hemisphere."

Harper smiled. At last Kincaid is within my grasp., he thought. "Deploy a guardsman patrol at once.", he ordered and signed off.

Soon Kincaid you will be mine, Harper thought.

The Galaxy Rangers were moving up the hill after they had abandoned the commendeered Maulers. They were not going to destroy any of Mirinoi if they could help it. "You sure you saw something go down?", Leo asked Damon.

"Positive Leo.", Damon said. "It looked like a red and black spaceship."

"Red and black?", Karone asked. "The only ship I know of that is remotely like that is Kincaid's carrierzord Defiance."

"Which means wh have to get there before the guardsmen do.", Leo said.

A guardsmen patrol was making its way to the landing site of Defiance. They had their weapons at the ready when they saw some movement in the bushes.

They moved to investigate.

Harper sat on his temporary throne overseeing the 'progress' his maulers were making when the comm beeped again.

"Imperator. We have found the Night Ranger that you are looking for, as well as the hunters who have captured him." The guardsman turned to see a morphed red Night Ranger as well as six unsavory looking individuals.

"Excellent. Bring them to me immediately.", Harper ordered. Then he signed off. At last Kincaid you will know your place in life., he thought.

Leo and the Galaxy Rangers were approaching the landing area where Defiance set down. "We must be too late.", Kai had said.

"Guys look.", Maya said as she saw two mechanical looking skeletons. What the…?"

Just then the other Galaxy Rangers heard a crack behind them. They turned around and saw…

Harper had orderer all the captured citizens of the colony to rally together. And they did thanks to the 'urging' of serveral guardsmen platoons. When all were rallied together Harper made the motion for the hunters and guardsmen to bring forth their prisoner and to collect their prize.

Two guardsmen had escorted six hunters and the red Night Ranger. They made their way down the podium to where Harper stood. They brought the red Night Ranger down to the kness and Harper looked down with a wicked smile. Then he turned to the six hunters.

"I am grateful to you for delivering my ultimate triumph.", he said to the hunters. "Who might I be addressing?"

A tall one in a turban and many layers of clothing came forward and said. "My name is Insane Wayne, and this is my posse. Peco Bob, Vixey the vixen, Shooter Sam, Dead aim Annie, and Raphella the ravager."

Harper looked over the motley crew. 'Peco Bob' looked like some sort of bandit that had been wandering the desert too long with his dirty hat and leather jacket. 'Vixey' had on an outfit that looked like it revealed more than it covered and she had a jeweled whip chain by her side, 'Shooter Sam' looked like he had his hands always ready to grab his guns that were kept at his side. 'Dead aim Annie' cradled her shotgun like it was some sort of child, and 'Raphella' the ravager looked like she had always kept her claws sharp.

"What happened to the Varox?", Harper asked. "Why couldn't they catch Kincaid?"

"EMP wave knocked em out. We just picked up the leftovers and left them high and dry.", 'Insane Wayne' said.

Harper thought for a moment. "Were there any others there? Six others who were with him?"

"Yeah they tried to stop us but we toasted 'em before they could get to their morphers.", Dead aim Annie said.

"Annie exaggerates.", Raphella said. "They are currently on board their ship in cryo tubes. If it's all right we'd like to have some fun with 'em."

Harper's evil smile spread ear to ear. "Yery well the Nightfighters are yours. I have what I want."

Elder Jara then came up to the podium. "All right monster. You have what you want. Now you leave our world in peace."

Harper then turned to face Jara. "But I haven't found the Heart of Mirinoi yet."

Jara was outraged "You promised that you would leave our world if you had the man you wanted. Quit destroying our world and leave."

Harper fired an energy bolt at Jara and threw him back into the crowd. "Don't presume to give me orders old man." Harper then turned his attention to the bound 'Kincaid'.

"Well Jeff, as soon as I get this helmet off of you I am going to have some fun with you. Now let's see what shall I do first?"

"You can start by getting real humble. Real fast.", said a voice behind him. Harper turned around and saw one of his guardsmen pull his blaster on Harper.

"I'm glad you turned around. I'd hate to shoot someone in the back.", the guardsman said then he fired the blaster into Harper and sent him staggering back.

The other guardsmen patrols tried to move in but five sabers flew through the air cutting them down as the weapons flew by. They soon reached the hands of the Galaxy Rangers as they stood on the hill. "Everybody this way.", the Red Ranger said as he and the other Galaxy rangers led the people to the safety of the forest.

"Kendrix, you and Andros go help Leo out with the people.", the guardsman said. And with that the other guardsman and the bound 'Kincaid' removed their helmets to reveal Kendrix and Andros respectively. They both went out to the people and helped move them along to safety. Then the guardsman turned back to Harper.

"Red Night Ranger activate.", the Guardsman said as he morphed into the Red Night Ranger uniform. "I don't think there is any need for the disguises any more.", the Red Night Ranger said in a voice that Harper recognized as the real Jeff Kincaid's. "And I'm sure you remember my friends here."

"Mountain Blaster Turbo Power.", said Insane Wayne.

"Let's Rocket.", Dead aim Annie said as she morphed into the White Astro Ranger.

"Emerald Ranger Power.", said Raphella the Ravager, as the uniform of the Emerald Ranger appeared around her.

"BlackGold Ranger.", said Vixey the Vixen as she morphed into her black and gold ranger uniform.

"Silver Centurion activate.", said Peco Bob as the Silver Centurion appeared before Harper.

"Dragon Ranger Power.", Shooter Sam said as he morphed into the Dragon Ranger.

"Do you remember us now?", Kincaid said.

"Yes I do and I've been prepared for you.", Harper said. He then raised his hands and six monsters appeared. One white, one emerald green, one black and green, one blue, one black and gold, and one silver.

"Let me guess twisted versions of ourselves right?", Mackenzie said in her White Astro uniform. "Not very original."

"Probably the best he could do on short notice.", Adam said.

"Oh well, let's kick their asses and be done with it.", Cassandra said as the other Nightfighters tore into the monsters leaving Kincaid to face Harper.

"Well that'll keep them busy.", Harper said. "Allowing us to tend to our business."

"What business is that? Do you want me to appear on Love Connection with you? Because I already have a fiancee'."

"No, the business is your defeat and my victory.", then Harper raised his hand and fired an energy blast from his arm.

Kincaid jumped up into the air and did a forward roll avoiding the blast. Then he landed on his feet just infront of Harper and delivered a side kick to his face. Harper was sent staggering back.

Harper recollected himself and brought out a whip that cracked with energy. Harper raised the whip and prepared to drop it on Kincaid, but Kincaid dodged it. Harper tried to use the whip again which wrapped around Kincaid's arm. Harper then brought the whip forward ready to punch Kincaid with an uppercut until Kincaid came back with an elbow to the face. "you snooze, you lose.", Kincaid said.

"That's right you do.", Harper said as he fired a flash into the visor of Kincaid's helmet temporarily blinding him, but giving Harper enough time to grab his whip. It wasn't long before Harper cracked the whip across Kincaid's back repeatedly. Kincaid lay sprawling on the ground as Harper stood over him much to his delight.

"I told you that you were pathetic.", he said looking down at Kincaid. "You know you belong down there all sprawled on the ground kissing the dirt, and me looking down on you like the winner I am and the loser you are.

"Don't you get it? I'm better than you. I'm a winner. I'm somebody. You're a loser. You're a nobody. And that's how it's going to stay."

Harper continued the taunting until Kincaid made it to his hands and knees but Harper was ready to drop the whip on him again. Kincaid however didn't give Harper the chance to bring the whip down due to the kick to the groin Kincaid had given.

Kincaid then got back up and if Harper could have seen beneath the Red Night Ranger helmet then he would have seen the angry face that was ready for blood. Harper tried to get control again. "You can't call on your spirits anymore they'e gone. Besides, it's not night yet. Night is still a good five hours away."

Harper smiled gloatingly but Kincaid wasn't moved. "You're right night is a ways away,", he had said. "But there's something else you should worry about." And before Harper knew it the sky had gone dark.

"Had you forgotten there was an eclipse today?", Then Kincaid raised his hands into the air. "Aura of the night. Fill me with your power!!!", and before Imperator Robert Harper stood the Red Night Ranger in full armor ready to fight.

"NOOOOO!!!", Harper said as he lunged for Kincaid but then a force of wind threw Harper back towards a nearby mountain wall. Kincaid then hovered over there and proceeded to battle hand to hand with Harper. And tricks Harper tried to pull Kincaid immediately deflected, until it was all over and Harper fell at Kincaid's feet.

"Who's the loser now?", Kincaid said as he turned away. Harper then struggled to get up and lunged for Kincaid while his back was turned.

"Get Down!", said the Red Galaxy Ranger with his teams Quasar launchers ready. Kincaid ducked and Leo ordered "Quasar Launchers Fire!!!". Five bolts of energy shot shot out and struck Harper dead on. There was an explosion as the power he had received left him and scattered across the planet.

Maya removed her helmet and looked down at Robert Harper: unconscious, out of power, and dressed in tatters. "That was for Mirinoi.", she said.

Kincaid got a clean bill of health from the colonist doctors. Due to the ranger healing the injuries healed pretty quickly. The other Nightfighters appeared and congratulated him for beating Harper.

"So how'd you guys do?", he asked.

"It really was same old same old.", Ashley said. "Nothing to write home about." The other rangers agreed. They then turned to look at the large space that used to be forest on Mirinoi. All there was was cleared land and gaping holes where the trees used to be. And where Ranger settlement was now stood a lot of rubble and debris.

"The people can use the butchered trees to rebuild the settlement.", Ashley stated. "But what about the rest of the forest?"

"Do not worry about that.", Jara said as he approached the Nightfighters. The Galaxy Rangers weren't far behind. "The Heart of Mirinoi shall heal our world's wounds."

Maya turned to face the elder. "But isn't that a myth?"

Jara explained, "No my young one. It exists. It's real. It has strengthened our world for so long. When Furio turned our whole planet to stone the heart worked to change it back. When you returned you completed the heart's task and brought the people back so Mirinoi could flourish again."

"So where is this heart?", Leo asked.

"It's in here.", Jara said pointing at his own heart. He then pointed to Maya's heart and said, "And here." Then to Leo's heart, then Kai's, then Damon's, and so on.

"It's everywhere in all of us. And now that our friends from the sky have come the heart can grow stronger. And now it is time to nuture and build our new world." Jara then asked all the colonists, native Mirinoians, and former slaves to join hands. The Nightfighters and Galaxy Rangers joined in as well.

"This seems like Hands Across America.", Cassandra said.

"Well let's see whar happens.", Kincaid said.

"Everyone close your eyes and focus inside.", Jara said. His voice reaching the minds of all those joined together. "See our world as you wish to see it. Green, beautiful, full of life."

Everyone turned their thoughts inward towards their imaginations and they saw green foliage, plants and vegitation emerge. Life formed in their minds and hearts and they were breathtaken by its beauty. Everyone was like this for a few minutes that seemed like forever until they all finally opened their eyes.

Where the clearing was stood a brand new forest teeming with life. What was imagined became real. The cries of the people were deafening as many had hugged one another in thanks for the return of the new world.

"Our home has been returned to us.", Jara said to Kincaid. "Thank you for helping us."

"It was our pleasure.", Kincaid said as the Nightfighters and Andros went back to Defiance. "Hey hold up guys I'm coming too.", Andros turned around to see Karone come with her carry-on bag over her shoulder.

"My job here is done. Kendrix is back, so I'm not needed here. I guess it's time for me to head back to Earth.", she said.

"Is it ever? Zhane has been worried sick about you. He's been doing nothing but watching the 48 hour Three's Company marathon he recorded five months ago over and over again.", Andros said.

"Then I guess I'd better get back there quick.", Karone then thanked Leo, Kai, Damon, Mike, Maya, and Kendrix for their hospitality. "I'll be back again someday.", she said.

"We'll be waiting for you.", Leo said. Then Mike appeared. "Everything's all set. The ships have been scrapped and the guardsmen deactivated."

"Good. By the way I've got something for you.", Kincaid said. "Hardrive teleport it in." In front of Mike was a box and inside the box were bottles and bottles of drinks.

"Orange, pineapple, strawberry, bannana?", Mike asked.

"Lite.", Kincaid said. Mike wasted no time sharing the drink with his friends and brother.

After all was said and done the Nightfighters picked up Harper and took him back with them to Defiance, which took off shortly after everyone boarded.

Kincaid looked down at Harper bound by shackles in his prison cell. "I had you.", the former Imperator said. "I had you."

Kincaid looked at the sight before him and just said, "You're not worth my time." Kincaid then turned to walk away leaving a ranting and raving Robert Harper.

"Harper turned his thoughts inward and said to someone only he could hear Master I failed you.

He heard the thought. He heard the message.

In actuality he had expected no less of his new servant. But he was the first visitor he had received in a long time. The door had been opened but no one came through it. Those on the other side couldn't bear what was on the other side.

Harper's master looked around his prison. He saw all the worlds and possibilities open to him. Only now was he able to touch one and use it to empower the weakling Robert Harper. Soon he would reach into another world and grab not only the power, but warriors as well.

All reality would fall by his feet.

But for now he would bide his time.

He turned around and watched as the myriad of universes swam by him.