Disclaimer- Saban, not me, yada yada. This fanfic is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. It contains bad language, violence, and some all-around scary stuff.

Shadow of Fear
by: Ellen Brand

"I don't know, Aisha," Kimberly sighed. "I just feel so helpless!" She shifted the phone to her other ear, leaning back on her bed. "I feel really awful saying this, but sometimes I miss Tommy being the Green Ranger. I don't miss him losing his powers, of course, but ever since he became the White Ranger, it seems that all I ever do is play the part of the damsel in distress!"

"Kim, you know you're as much a part of the team as any of us," Aisha consoled her. "I mean, come on. We couldn't make the Power Blaster without you, couldn't hold the Thunder Cannon, and you kick some major putty and monster butt."

"You think? I looked at myself the other day, and all I saw was a long string of screaming 'Tommy, help me!"' Some asset," she snorted.

Aisha sighed. "It's no use talking to you in this mood. Just remember, the Power Rangers are a team. We all need to work together if we're going to win."

"Yeah, thanks, Aisha," Kim replied. "I'd better go. It's getting late. Goodnight." Hanging up the phone, Kimberly rose and changed into her nightgown. Brushing out her hair, she looked at the reflection in the mirror and sighed. "Good night, wimp," she mumbled, heading back to the bed. That night, her sleep was fitful and full of dreams, but she could not have said what they were.

"Rocky! Turn out your light! It's ten o'clock, and you have school tomorrow!"

Rolling his eyes, Rocky yelled back, "Sf, Mama. I'm on it." He stretched, put his homework into his backpack, and began to change into his pajamas. He turned out the light, and was headed for his bed, when a sound behind him made him whirl.

"Who's there?" he called. At first, he suspected that one of his siblings was playing a prank on him, not an uncommon happening in the De Santos household. He remembered, though, that they were all in bed, asleep, and had been for hours. His hand slowly crept behind his back, searching for the dimensional pocket that housed his morpher, but he didn't summon it yet. If by some chance the noise was not caused by one of Zedd's goons, he didn't want to give away his identity.

Suddenly, to Rocky's horror, one of the shadows on the ground began to bubble, slowly rising into a form that seemed almost human, although it lacked detail. Even in the darkness, Rocky could see that it was simply a shiny, featureless black. "What do you want?" he croaked, unable to take his eyes off the thing in front of him. The creature cocked its head, then without warning, it launched itself at him.

In the time that he'd been a Ranger, Rocky had fought many enemies that were faster than he was, but nothing like this. Despite the thing's speed, Rocky managed to get his hands up into a guard position right before the thing plowed into him. It wasn't enough. The creature's hands flowed through his guard as if it wasn't there, locking around his throat. Rocky began to punch, kick, anything to break the creature's grip, but he couldn't connect. He began to grow weaker, and stars swam before his eyes. As the utter cold of the thing's touch sank into him, he watched it change form again. This time, his eyes bugged out in surprise, and then everything went dark.

Maria De Santos frowned, making her way slowly up the stairs. She had heard thumping from Rocky's room, and as she had come to investigate, it had stopped. Maria had attended enough De Santos family functions to be familiar with the sounds of a free-for-all, and she was beginning to worry. If Rocky had been fighting, there should have been shouts, ki-yahs, and lots of Spanish cursing. Instead, the whole fight had been silent. That worried her.

Opening the door to her sons' room, she flipped on the light. For just a second, she thought she saw a dark shape fleeing, but she could spare it no attention. Her eyes were riveted on her son's body, which lay unmoving in the center of the floor, a handprint burned into the skin of his neck. After a long moment, Maria De Santos began to scream.

"Morning, Kim," Aisha greeted her friend. The Pink Ranger waved.

"Morning. Are the guys here yet?" she replied, leaning against her locker. Aisha scanned the hallway.

"Here they come, but- where's Rocky?" Kim stood up straight. Not only was Rocky missing, but Adam looked awful, pale, with a tell-tale redness in his eyes. Noting the grim expressions on Tommy and Billy's faces, Kimberly felt an awful feeling blooming in the pit of her stomach.

"What's wrong?" she asked quietly, slipping an arm around Tommy's waist. The gesture was as much to comfort him as it was for herself, and she could tell that he had needed the reassurance by the way he clamped onto her.

Adam took a deep breath. "I was woken up at about eleven last night by the phone ringing. My dad was called out to investigate an attempted murder."

Aisha gasped. "Attempted- Rocky?" Adam nodded painfully.

"He's in the hospital, in the ICU. He's in a coma, and they're not sure if he's ever going to wake up."

"What happened to him?" Kim asked. The three boys traded looks.

"No one knows," Billy said quietly. "Mrs. De Santos heard the sounds of fighting, came upstairs, and found Rocky out cold on the floor of his room. There isn't a mark on his body, except-" Billy broke off, unable to go on.

"Except?" Aisha prompted.

Tommy finished for his friend. "A handprint, burned into the skin of his throat. The doctors say it'll heal, and it couldn't have caused his condition. The weird thing is, tissue analysis shows that it was made by an application of extreme COLD."

Kim shivered. "That is weird. Do you think it might be Zedd? Ever since he took over for Rita, the stakes have definitely been going up."

Adam shook his head. "We asked Zordon about that. He said that no monsters or evil magic were detected anywhere on Earth that night. And there's something else that makes it almost certainly not Zedd's handiwork. They lifted a set of prints from the burn on Rocky's neck and ran them."

"What did they come up with?" inquired Aisha.

"Nothing. The prints don't belong to any known felons. Then Dad got a brainstorm, and matched the prints against those found in the room. He got a match, too. Trouble is, the prints belong to Rocky."

The rest of the day was unusually quiet for the five teens. Not only was one of their friends in the hospital, fighting for his life, but the mystery of his condition was eating at each of them. After school, Kimberly waited by Tommy's locker for her boyfriend to appear. The whole group was going to visit Rocky after school. Billy was going to attempt to sneak some of the Command Center's more sensitive equipment in to try and take some readings from the unconscious Red Ranger, but everyone knew that was a long shot.

Kimberly was jolted from her thoughts by Tommy's voice. "Hey, beautiful," he greeted her. "You look like you're a million miles away. Are you okay?"

She nodded. "Yeah, I'm just scared. I mean, sure, we've faced Zedd a hundred times in battle as Rangers, but then we knew what we were dealing with. This- we don't know what happened to Rocky, and we don't even know if he's going to live!"

Tommy sighed, and she could suddenly see something dark flit across his face. He pushed it away, but not in time. "What's bothering you?" she asked bluntly. "It's not just Rocky's condition. I've seen you worried before, and this isn't it, not quite. What is it?"

Looking around for onlookers, Tommy quickly retrieved the rest of his books, took her wrist, and drew her outside. In one of the more secluded areas of the school lawn, he turned back to her. "Sorry, but I didn't want to be overheard. I'm worried, but what's bothering me isn't that I'm worried about Rocky. I mean, I am worried about him, but that's not the problem. The problem is that all day, I've been thinking about what we're going to do if Zedd tries anything, now that one Ranger is out of commission." At the sight of her puzzled expression, he shook his head in frustration. "Don't you get it? I shouldn't be thinking about the damn team at a time like this! I should be thinking about my friend, not how to cut the Power Rangers' losses."

Kimberly laid a hand on his shoulder. "You're the leader of the Power Rangers, Tommy, and a very good one. You can't just set that aside. The fact that it bothers you at all is proof that you're not a bad person. Despite Rocky's condition, you still have a responsibility to the people of Earth, and a part of you recognizes that."

Tommy looked at her a long moment, then smiled. "You're right, Kim. What would I ever do without you?"

She smiled back. "Luckily for you, you won't have to find out." Hand in hand, the two of them headed back to the school to meet the rest of the team.

Billy sighed in disgust, looking over his readings again. Still nothing. He'd run every test and scan he could think of, and had gotten nowhere near explaining Rocky's condition. With a frustrated oath, he slammed his fist into the table, then massaged the pain away.

Rubbing his eyes, the exhausted Blue Ranger looked around his dimly lit lab. He had always kept it like this, lit just enough to avoid eyestrain. The dim ambience was most conducive to his thoughts. When his friends came by, he would turn the lights up in deference to their reactions, but this was how he liked it most of the time. Now, however, the sight of the stark shadows thrown on the floor and walls roused a sense of disquiet in him that he couldn't understand. Rising, he headed for the light switch on one wall, and so never saw the black form rising out of the shadows behind him.

"Billy," a cold voice hissed. Billy whirled, and suddenly found a pair of cold hands locked around his throat, and a shifting, amorphous form in his face. Billy struggled, but he could still feel the life draining out of him. Adrenaline hit his bloodstream, and his phenomenal mind snapped into overdrive. Suddenly he realized exactly what he was facing. His hand slipped out, reaching, reaching- and dropped to his side in numbed shock as the creature changed again. Then it was over, and Billy slumped to the ground.

"What? Oh, shit," Trevor Park sighed. "He's what? Well, sedate him. I don't think he'd be of much help anyway. Yeah, I'll be right over." Trevor hung up the phone. He thought for a minute, then stepped to the foot of the stairs. "Adam!" he called.

"Yeah, Dad?" a voice replied from behind him. Trevor jumped, whirling to see his older son leaning against the side of the living room doorway, a small smile on his face.

"Don't DO that!" Trevor scolded, clutching at his chest in mock startlement. Then he sobered. "Adam, I have some bad news. Your friend Billy was just attacked. Looks like the same MO as the attack on Rocky, except this time, the fingerprints aren't Rocky's. They're Billy's. He's been taken to the hospital, and his father's on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I guess he found the kid, and he took it pretty hard."

"I'm not surprised," Adam murmured absently, still trying to process the information he had received. "Billy's all Mr. Cranston has left, ever since his wife died. Are you going over there?"

Trevor nodded. "Yeah, and I'd like you to come. You probably spend almost as much time in Billy's lab as Billy does, and you'd know better than any of us if something was out of place."

"Let me get my jacket," was all Adam said.

"No sign of a break-in," Adam noted, examining the windows of the garage laboratory carefully. Trevor grinned with fatherly pride, and nodded.

"Yeah. They figure that he either knew his assailant, or whoever it was teleported in." Trevor made a face. "Teleported. They never trained us to deal with that in the police academy."

Adam shook his head. His gaze was drawn to the table next to Billy's computer, which was in disarray. In the neat-as-a-pin laboratory, this was instantly noticeable. Crossing over to it, Adam frowned. "Dad, where did they find him?"

"Right where you're standing," Trevor said dryly. "His hand was out, like he was trying to grab something from the table, maybe to use as a weapon."

"Hmm." Adam examined the contents of the table thoroughly. "A pencil jar, a small statue of- which Muse is this? He's got a flashlight, and a graphing calculator and a slide rule here, too."

"The statue would have made a good bludgeon, I suppose," Trevor offered, knowing better than to say too much. Adam was wearing the look that came when he was involved in a complicated problem, and Trevor didn't want to risk screwing him up by saying too much.

Adam did not reply. He was already lost in thought.

"God, this is scary," Aisha muttered. "First Rocky, then Billy. Zordon says Zedd's not behind this, but it sure seems like somebody's targeting the Power Rangers to me." Sighing, she looked back at her homework, but she couldn't seem to concentrate. Her mind kept going back to that day at school, when Adam had told them about Billy's accident. He had seemed distracted, like he had something else on his mind. Poor Adam. Of all the Rangers, he had probably been the closest to Rocky and Billy. Rocky and Adam had been friends for most of their lives, and Adam and Billy were just kindred spirits. Aisha was afraid that if something happened, and Rocky or Billy was lost to them for good, they might also lose Adam.

She shivered, again assailed with a sense of unspecified menace. Only her desk lamp lighted her room, and while she normally found the effect warm and comforting, the shadows now seemed to loom like monsters waiting to pounce. Shaking her head, she snorted at her own foolishness. "Aren't you a little old to be afraid of the dark?" "No one is too old to be afraid of the dark," a strange voice hissed. It sounded- familiar almost, yet strange, as if two people were talking at once, overlaid with some lousy static. Turning, Aisha paled, turning an unattractive shade of gray. Behind her stood a being made entirely of shadow. Backing up, she knocked over her lamp. The bulb struck the floor and exploded, throwing the room into sudden darkness. Temporarily blinded, Aisha never had a chance to avoid the thing as it attacked. Its hands closed around her throat, and she felt a piercing, paralyzing cold seeping into her bones. Her sight cleared just in time to see the creature change again. Aisha gasped, and then everything went black.

Beside her, Kimberly felt Tommy go rigid. "Yeah, Adam, I understand. Shit. We'll be there immediately." Tommy hung up the pay phone and turned back to her. "Aisha's in the hospital. Same as the others, unconscious in her room with her own fingerprints cold-burned into her throat."

Kimberly closed her eyes. The two of them had gone to Ernie's for a dinner date that the older man had graciously offered to cater for them, but in the middle of it, Ernie had come out telling Tommy that Adam was on the phone. "Come on," she said, threading her arm through his. "We have to get to the hospital."

Once there, Tommy and Kimberly could see that Adam was close to snapping. Kim couldn't blame him. His three best friends in the world were lying in the ICU, close to death. "Zordon says it's still not Zedd, but damn it, whoever it is obviously is targeting the Rangers," Tommy growled. "Who else could be doing this?"

"Adam," Kim said gently, "could Zedd be shielding himself from our sensors somehow?"

The Black Ranger startled. "What? Oh, no," he replied, shaking his head. "Well, he could, but even so, we'd pick up traces of his energy signature on the- the others," he amended hastily. "No, whatever it is, it's not a villain like anything we're used to."

"Damn!" Tommy hissed. "Whatever it is, it's obviously stalking us. That's both good and bad. Good because it won't attack any civilians, at least as far as we know. Bad, because if it gets us all, Earth will be at Zedd's mercy."

Kimberly patted his shoulder. "Forget who," she addressed Adam. "Have you and Zordon been able to determine WHAT happened to them?"

Adam nodded. "As far as I can tell, they've been drained of all but the most basic energies in their body. They've got enough life force to power their vital functions, but not enough to maintain consciousness. Also, I found something else, but I'm not sure I want to believe it."

"What?" Tommy asked, leaning forward.

Swallowing, Adam looked at his friend with eyes that reflected concern and fear. "Their energies are identical, and completely basic. All traces of the individualization that makes up a basic energy signature are completely stripped away."

"WHAT?" Kim and Tommy gasped in unison. "What does that mean?" Kim continued.

"Whatever it was that stole their energy," Adam replied grimly, "it stole more than that. It took away the things that make them Billy, Rocky, and Aisha. For lack of a better term, it stole their souls."

Kim turned dead white, but that was nothing compared to Tommy's reaction. The White Ranger spun away, stumbled to the trashcan beside the nearest nurse's station, and threw up. Instantly, Kimberly was by his side, holding him until he finished, and handing him a tissue to wipe his mouth with. He accepted it with a nod of thanks.

"Shit, Tommy, are you all right?" Adam whispered, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. The taller boy nodded wearily.

"Yeah. I just- had a really bad reaction to that idea. I mean, the idea of them being in a coma is bad enough, but to have their souls stolen, to think that their essence is imprisoned somewhere, it just hit me really badly."

"Green Ranger flashback?" Kimberly asked quietly. Tommy nodded.

"Yeah. When Rita had me under that spell, it was something similar. All of me, what was really me, was locked away in one corner of my mind, and I couldn't get out." Tommy shook his head, flashing Kim a slight smile as she took his arm.

"Well, we're going to have to be on guard," Adam replied. "It could go after any one of us next."

"Adam, are you all right?" Trevor Park asked his son quietly. The two of them were sitting down to dinner alone. Franklin was spending the night with Fred Kelman, one of his best friends, and Eileen was at a meeting. All evening, Adam had been listless, and he had picked at his meal all through dinner.

"Hmm? Oh, I'm sorry, Dad. What did you say?"

Trevor raised an eyebrow. "I asked if you were all right. You don't say much normally, I'll admit, especially to me, but tonight you've been positively silent. Plus, you haven't eaten any of your spaghetti. Now I know my cooking isn't on a par with your mother's, but it's not THAT bad."

Adam chuckled. "It's fine, Dad. I'm just not hungry."

"Uh-huh." Trevor's face softened. "Adam, I know we fight a lot, which usually results in us not talking about anything at all. Still, I am your father, and I do care about you. I know that this is hard for you, with your friends in the hospital. If you want to talk, I'm more than willing to listen." A small smile played around the older man's lips. "I even promise not to bad-mouth the Power Rangers."

That brought an outright laugh from Adam. Before he could say anything else, however, the lights in the room flickered and died. "What the hell?" Trevor asked. "There's no storm tonight."

The room was lit only by the streetlights that shone in the windows. Looking around, Adam felt an unreasonable chill of fear run down his spine. So the lights were out. That was no reason to believe that anything was wrong.

"Adam." The voice that cut through the silence in the kitchen was as light as a breeze. Both masculine and feminine, it sounded very familiar to Adam, but he couldn't place it. "I'm here, Adam. Come to me."

"What the hell?" Trevor Park reached inside the jacket that hung over a nearby chair, pulling his .45 from the holster inside. His breath caught in his throat as he saw, in the shadows, the shifting, amorphous black form that was speaking.

"We're in here, Adam. Come to us. Be at peace," the creature was saying. Trevor spared a look at his son. Adam's eyes were blank and empty, with no life in them whatsoever. Raising his pistol, Trevor sighted, his eyes narrowing in concentration.

"Like hell," he muttered, pulling the trigger. Three slugs slammed into the shadowy intruder, and very slowly, it turned towards Trevor. Suddenly, in a burst of blinding speed, it slammed into him, knocking him to the linoleum, dazed. Then it turned back to Adam.

"Come to us," the creature crooned. From his vantage point on the floor, Trevor watched with blurred vision as Adam stepped closer to the thing, which suddenly reached out, locking a hand around his throat. As if that broke the spell, Adam suddenly began to struggle, but it was no use. Father and son watched as the creature shifted form once more, and then Adam dropped to the ground, unconscious, while the shadow slithered back into the darkness and was gone.

White Ranger swallowed. Zordon had called Tommy and Kim about Adam's condition, and the two of them had decided that the only way to get answers about this was to morph. Neither of them particularly liked the idea of talking to Detective Park, but it would have been too hard to explain why Tommy and Kimberly knew about the incident.

Screwing up his courage, White Ranger stepped forward, his eyes fixed on the tall man pacing outside Adam's hospital room. "Detective Park," he said quietly, drawing the man's attention. Looking up, Trevor saw the Ranger, and his eyes flashed.

"What the HELL are you doing here?" the policeman snarled, taking a step forward. "You costumed idiots are always poking your noses in where you're not wanted, and when you MIGHT make a difference, you're nowhere to be found! What is going on here?" When neither White nor Pink Ranger responded, his mouth grew tighter. "I want some answers!"

"So do we," White Ranger replied. "Frankly, we don't have any idea what this thing is or what it's doing. But it's still our job to stop it."

"Well, you're obviously not doing a very good job," Trevor sneered. Pink Ranger saw White Ranger's hands clenching and unclenching, and she decided to step in.

"White Ranger, go talk to the doctors. Maybe they can give you some of the information that you're looking for. I'll talk to Detective Park." Her tone of voice brooked no contradiction, and after a long moment, White Ranger nodded. He stalked towards the nurse's station, tension written in every line of his body.

"Now," Pink Ranger said, turning back to Trevor, who was looking at her with a combination of interest and suspicion. "I know that you are very worried about your son, but you don't have to push him. Whether you like it or not, we are here, and we have a job to do. We need to know what that thing is if we're going to have a prayer of stopping it. I need you to tell me what happened tonight." He simply regarded her in silence. She sighed. "I'm going to level with you, which is more than White Ranger would do. He's this close to snapping. Didn't you wonder why only two of us came to interview you? This is all the Rangers we have left!"

That got a response. "What?" Trevor asked, leaning forward.

"That- thing is hunting us, too. We've lost Black Ranger, Blue Ranger, Red Ranger, and Yellow Ranger. White Ranger blames himself, of course. He feels responsible for the safety of the others, and he always has. Please, you have to help us. If we can stop this thing, we can get them all back, including your son. But we can't do it alone. Please." She sounded close to tears, and Trevor sighed.

"All right. Sit down."

"I don't like this, Tommy," Kim sighed. The two of them had been asked to help set up the costumes and scenery for the school play, which meant that they were now alone in the school after dark. All evening, as they worked, they both had been jumping at the slightest little sound.

"Kim, that thing will come after us no matter where we are. The only defense we have is to stay together," he told her seriously. She nodded.

"I know, but I still don't like it." The two of them continued moving the boxes of costumes into the auditorium, never moving quite out of the other's sight. They were almost done, with Tommy picking up the last box, when all the lights in the school went out. After a second, the emergency spots on the walls flickered to life, bathing the staff lounge and hallway in soft, dim light.

"Tommy?" Kimberly called. There was no answer. A chill flickered up and down her spine. The shadows suddenly seemed to loom like monsters, each one looking like it was about to pounce. "Tommy?" she called again, a note of hysteria beginning to creep into her voice. Suddenly a sound behind her made her whirl, dropping instinctively into a defensive position.

"Whoa!" Tommy cried, raising his hands defensively. "Calm down, Kim. It's just me." She stood up slowly.

"Geez, Tommy, you scared the crap out of me," she growled.

"Sorry. The door swung shut in the dark, and I guess you couldn't hear me calling you." He smiled. "Come on. With the lights out, we can't get much work done. Let's go get our coats and leave."

"I'm with you," she replied fervently. They re-entered the auditorium, gingerly groping between the seats for their jackets. As Tommy helped Kim into hers, his fingers brushed her neck, and she shivered.

"Tommy, your hands are freezing!" she cried. "Are you all right?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, I'm fine."

The two of them headed out to Tommy's car, and Kim was startled as he suddenly spun her around and gave her a deep kiss. She kissed back for a second, then broke away. There had been something- not quite right in Tommy's kiss. Suddenly her eyes widened as a stream of memories flashed through her. Billy mentioning that the handprints had been made by extreme cold. Tommy's freezing hands. The business with the lights, exactly like what Detective Park had told her about the creature's attack in the kitchen. He had also said that the creature was a shape-shifter, although he couldn't tell what it had turned into in the kitchen. Kim knew, though.

"Oh my God," she whispered, backing up. "It's you. You're that- thing, the one that attacked the others."

The creature didn't even try to reply. It simply straightened up, smirking. "Very good, beautiful," it replied, still holding onto Tommy's form.

"That's why the others all had their own fingerprints in the burns on their necks. When you stole their energy signatures, you took on their forms. Like you did to Tommy."

"You get the gold star, Kimberly. They're in me, a part of me."

"WHY?" All of Kimberly's fear and anguish was poured into that sentence. "Why did you do this to us?"

"I have to." It stepped closer again. "It's how I live. I feed upon the life-energies of Rangers. I'm a predator, just like humans, only Rangers are my prey. But don't worry. I would never hurt you."

Kim took another step backwards, towards the school. "What do you mean?"

In a flash, the shape-shifter had grabbed Kim by the shoulders, pulling her close. "When I took their energies, I read their thoughts, their feelings. I can feel them inside me now. They all have very strong feelings for you, especially the Blue and White ones. So you see, beautiful, I could never hurt you," it repeated, tracing her cheek with one finger.

"No," she replied fiercely. "Just my friends." Jerking her knee up, she hit the creature in a sensitive spot, causing it to double over, releasing her as it did so. Turning, she ran back to the school, throwing open the door. The shape-shifter was right behind her, making better time with Tommy's long legs.

"Give it up, Kimberly. Without the other Rangers, you're helpless. Nothing but a damsel in distress," it chuckled. She ignored it, running down the hall to the auditorium. She threw open the door and ran inside.

"Very nice," the creature chuckled, following. "Don't you get it? I'm most at home in the dark. I'll find you, Kimberly, and then you're mine." The creature's tone left no doubt in Kimberly's mind what it intended for her.

Backstage, Kimberly leaned against a wall, her fist shoved in her mouth to keep from screaming. How could she beat this thing? It was Tommy, not to mention Rocky and Adam. Even if she could bring herself to fight it, it had three times the martial arts ability that she did at its command.

~ THINK!~ she scolded herself. ~ There has to be some way to beat it! All right. What is it? Detective Park said it was a shadow, right? A creature made entirely of darkness. How do you beat something like that?~

Suddenly a smile crossed Kimberly's face. She suddenly remembered that the auditorium had its own generator, and had ever since Billy had blown out the school fuses in ninth grade while installing the new lighting system. If she could just get to it...

"Give it up, Kimberly. You'll never escape me," the shape-shifter called. "Without your friends, you're helpless."

"You're wrong!" she cried. "The Power Rangers are a team, and my friends are always with me!"

A wicked smile played across Tommy's handsome features as the creature oriented on Kim's voice and slowly made its way towards her.

Backstage, Kimberly was frantically pulling on the generator cord, praying quietly to herself. She continued to pull, even as she heard the shape-shifter approach the stage.

Even as it climbed the stairs.

Even as it walked slowly across the stage towards her.

Suddenly the generator caught, roaring to life. The creature stopped, suddenly wary. With an ecstatic cry, Kimberly leapt to her feet, turning to the light board at her right. "This is for my friends, you son of a bitch!" she cried, yanking down the master lever with all her might.

Every light on the stage blazed into brilliant life, including the six spotlights used to illuminate soloists. All six were focused directly on the shape-shifter. Caught in the bright light, with nowhere to go, it began to scream and then to bubble. Kimberly watched, unable to tear her eyes away, as Tommy's features began to shift and change. The creature's voice changed as well. Listening to its cries, Kim was able to hear the voices of her other four friends as well. Slowly, the creature lost form and definition, melting into a puddle of noxious black goo. Suddenly five lights, red, blue, yellow, white, and a blackish-gray, burst from the puddle, zooming past her. Ignoring the rapidly evaporating puddle, Kim ran out of the auditorium, following the white light back to the teacher's lounge, which was now lit as brightly as before. She watched in silent awe as the light merged with Tommy's unconscious form, which lay on the floor where the shape-shifter had dropped it. As she watched, the handprint on his neck disappeared, and Tommy sat up slowly.

"TOMMY!" Kim cried, throwing her arms around his neck. "You're all right."

"Thanks to you, beautiful," he replied, holding her tightly. "You saved us all."

She smiled. "Yeah, I guess I did."

"I'm very proud to have you as a friend and a teammate," Tommy told her seriously. Then he grinned. "Oh, and I love you, too," he chuckled, kissing her. She kissed back, any doubts that she might have about her status on the team put to rest at last.


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