Wind and Thunder: Chapter Fourteen
The Ultimate Secret
His name was Tommy Oliver, but he was not the Tommy of our world. Tommy, the Dark Warlord of Cruelty, came from a parallel reality called Demon World Earth, where evil ruled, and humanity was in danger of becoming extinct. He preferred that evil world to the Earth he was trapped on.
I hate this wretched place more and more with each passing day, he thought while he climbed a mountain range outside of Angel Grove.
The Dark Warlord entered a small cave on the side of the mountain and walked through its dark tunnel. Small red lights cast a dim hue from the sides of the cave wall, and Tommy followed the lights through winding corridors that extended deeper into the mountain. The stench of stale air nearly choked him. He loved it.
Tommy walked up to a large metal door and placed his palm onto a control panel next to the entrance. The panel flashed with red light, and the door opened with enough power to rumble the cave floor.
The Dark Warlord walked into a dim laboratory that was not his own. The lab was cluttered with various pieces of equipment and machinery that seemed cobbled together from various pieces of scrap.
A young man sat in front of a computer cluster of various monitors and display screens. His name was Dr. William Cranston, the Shaper, Demon World Earth’s version of Billy Cranston. The same accident that had pulled the Dark Warlord from Demon World Earth had also snagged the Shaper.
“You’ve been gone for weeks,” Dr. Cranston said. “I was starting to think you got lost.”
Tommy narrowed his eyes. “I was-”
“Sulking,” Dr. Cranston said. “You were off sulking like a child.”
Tommy snarled. “The Thunder Rangers betrayed me.”
Dr. Cranston waved his hand dismissively while watching his computer displays. “It’s hardly even a setback. I only helped you create the Thunder powers to see if such a thing was possible. In that respect, the Thunder project was a complete success.”
“Success?!” Tommy snapped. “I was in a trance for months developing those powers. I looked into my counterpart’s mind, exploited our connection, and for what? To boost his little Ranger team with two more members?”
Billy sighed and lowered his head while rubbing his eyes. “Now that you’ve learned how to weave The Power to create Rangers, we can make more.”
Tommy hurled a jade-tinted arcane blast that exploded through a nearby piece of machinery. “I don’t care about making rangers! I want Tommy Oliver dead!”
Dr. Cranston shook his head. “It seems you fail to comprehend the severity of our situation. You and I are nothing but echoes. This world is Earth Prime, of the main reality. Every parallel reality, including our home, is nothing but a shadow of this one. As such, we are not as powerful as our counterparts here.”
Tommy rolled his hands into fists. “Not yet.”
“And you never will be,” Cranston said. “Unless you stop blowing up my equipment and start following my instructions. My master plan is fool proof.”
“What plan?” Tommy asked.
“It’s too complex for you to understand,” Cranston said. “You’re just a warlord. So start acting like one.”
The real Tommy walked through the woods between Angel Grove and Stone Canyon. He was led by a teenage boy of Japanese descent named Ryuuta.
“It’s right up this way,” Ryuuta said.
Tommy shook his head with amazement. “I’m not sure how you can ever find this place. It feels like we’ve been walking in circles.”
Ryuuta smiled. “It’s all part of the enchantment guarding the forest,” he said. “I hardly even notice it anymore. I’ve been coming here for five years now.”
Tommy and Ryuuta stepped through a magical barrier and entered the Ginga Forest, a pocket dimension untouched by the modern world. The tribes of the Ginga Forest were made up of simple people who lived off the land. Tommy became aware of their presence in 2003, when five members of the Ginga Tribe became the Galaxy Rangers to fight against the space pirates Balban.
“This way,” Ryuuta said as he led Tommy towards the main camp. The forest around him was untouched by pollution, and Tommy was taken aback by its beauty. The land had quickly healed from the war against the Mogralord nearly a year previously.
The former Red Galaxy Ranger Ryouma met Tommy and Ryuuta near the border of the Ginga Forest. The former ranger wore baggy linen slacks, a white wool shirt, and a red silk vest with intricate patterns of black and gold. Ryouma smiled and extended his hand to greet Tommy. “Welcome to the tribe, Tommy.”
Tommy shook the young man’s hand. “Thanks. It’s good to see you again.” They had only met a few times, normally when the fate of the world was in the balance. “Did Ryuuta tell you why I was here?”
Ryouma nodded. “Elder Ohghi is this way.”
Ryouma led Tommy to a small cluster of tents that surrounded a pile of firewood. Images of various animals were painted across the canvas of each tent.
Ohghi stepped out of the largest tent and smiled at the sight of Tommy. The old man had long white hair and a white beard that matched the color of his long robes. The Wise Man stepped closer to Tommy. “You must be Tommy of the Heaven Fire Star. The Dragon. I always thought you’d be taller.”
Tommy sniffed a laugh. “Thanks.”
Ohghi was a Shaman of the Ginga Tribe. Classifications for wielders of the One Power varied from world to world, but Shaman were typically known for using totems and artifacts to channel The Power in order to commune with the ancient forces of nature. A Shaman could use these forces to enter the Astral Plane and experience visions.
Ohghi extended his hand towards the ground in front of the firewood. “Please sit…and tell me why you are here.”
“I’m trying to find someone,” Tommy said as he took a seat. “He’s a dark version of myself. Every time I try to meditate on it…I come up with nothing.”
Ohghi sat on the ground next to Tommy, and Ryouma and Ryuuta joined them. “Have you ever had a Vision before, Tommy?”
“Yes, but they normally just come to me,” Tommy said. “I’ve never been able to induce one. That’s why I’m here.”
“To find this evil you?” Ohghi asked. Tommy nodded. “And nothing more?” Tommy hesitated, and Ohghi smiled thoughtfully. “You are in a rather…odd situation, Tommy. Since the dawn of time, prophecy has guided us. Fate painted us onto the Tapestry of Existence eons before we were born. But that tapestry has been completed, by you, the Dragon, and now…” He waved his hands. “Fate is silent. The brush strokes continue, but to what end? The tapestry continues a new, for a new generation, and not even the Painter knows how the tapestry will appear. You must have many questions.”
Tommy nodded. “That’s an understatement.”
Ohghi smiled. “I will guide you.”
Ohghi laid a totem on each side of Tommy. One was a fire totem with the symbol of a dragon, and the other was a wind totem with the symbol of a falcon, Tommy’s Animal Spirit.
“Focus on the totems,” Ohghi said. “Feel their power. Reach out with your Aasu.”
Tommy closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He reached out with his Aasu, what the Ginga Tribe called chi, and felt the two totems. Their powers connected Tommy with the ancient spirits of the earth, which were in turmoil. Tommy felt his soul dragged through the totems and hurled onto the Astral Plane.
Tommy appeared in spirit form on top of a flat rock that floated through white clouds topped with palaces of crystal and gold.
A flare of golden, fiery light erupted in the sky above Tommy. He looked up to see a humanoid figure covered with golden flame. Wings of golden fire extended from his back, and he carried a double-edged blazing sword with a golden hilt. Small tendrils of fire wisped from the being’s golden eyes.
Tommy opened his eyes wide with awe. “Who are you? And where am I?”
“I am Mikhail,” the strange being said. “And you, mortal, are on the Astral Plane.”
“I know I’m on the Astral Plane, but what is it I’m seeing?” Tommy asked.
“The Kingdom of Heaven,” Mikhail said.
Tommy’s breath caught in his throat. He had to remind himself that he had been to Hell, so Heaven shouldn’t have been that big of a shock. “So are you…some kind of angel?”
“I am the Heavenly Saint of Fire,” he said. “We Heavenly Saints watch over the mortal realm.”
“And do what exactly?” Tommy asked.
Mikhail narrowed his eyes. “I will pretend I did not just hear a mortal question a Heavenly Saint. Why are you here?”
“I need answers,” Tommy said. “I…I don’t know if what I’m doing is right.”
“It is not our place to question the gods,” Mikhail said.
“That’s not what I mean,” Tommy said.
“Then explain,” Mikhail said. He casually swung his blade over his shoulder.
Tommy took a deep breath. Where did he start? “I’ve basically been told that the world was supposed to end, but I broke free from Fate and stopped it from happening. But just because I stopped it doesn’t mean Fate is going to stop trying to end the world again.”
“Correct,” Mikhail said. “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and go. You have prolonged your world’s existence, but not forever. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and it wills for your world’s existence to end so the cycle of time can begin anew. What has happened before, will happen again, time without end.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Tommy said.
“The gods forged the mystical Wheel at the beginning of time as a means to bring order to all of creation,” Mikhail explained. “Although not a physical object, the Wheel has seven spokes, and each spoke represents an Age. As the Wheel turns, Ages come and go, and Fate weaves its pattern. Each life is a thread in this pattern. You were essentially powerful enough to break your string. So now, it seems, Fate will weave a new pattern from the one you ruined.”
Tommy shook his head. Maybe he was asking the wrong questions. “I was told the gods use reality as a gaming board, and that they essentially wipe out the board and start over by wiping out reality each time.”
Mikhail tilted his head. “That is a crude way of putting it, but yes. However, the gods do not control the Wheel. The currents of the One Power turn the Wheel of Time. Fate comes from The Power, and The Power seeks balance.”
“Am I still a part of the pattern or not?” Tommy asked.
“You are an enigma,” Mikhail said. “In the infinite eons since the Wheel of Time began, no one has ever broken free from the strings of Fate. Except for you. You are still a part of the pattern, but are, in a sense, a loose thread that is throwing off the grand design of Fate and prolonging the pattern of your Age. And yet a new Age has started. A new generation.”
“I won’t let the universe be destroyed,” Tommy said.
“You won’t have a choice,” Mikhail said. “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. Your cycle of time began eons ago, during the First Age, when Sauron ruled the universe, and it was meant to end months ago, during the Seventh Age. The universe would have been shrouded in darkness, as it was when Sauron ruled, and the First Age would have begun anew. And a champion would have arisen, as had Jestin, to challenge the darkness. What has happened before was meant to happen again. Time without end.
“You may have prolonged your Age, you may have delayed the inevitable, but you have not stopped it. Nothing can,” Mikhail said.
Tommy narrowed his eyes. “I can try.”
Mikhail sighed in frustration. “Stop speaking to me as you would a villain. I love humanity. I love your world, your universe, as much as I loved the universe before it, and the one before it. I have seen Ages come and go, and start again, and loved them all. But I can not stop the nature of things. No one can, not even you, Dragon.”
“If you could, would you?” Tommy asked.
Mikhail hesitated. “It is not my place to question the nature of things. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.”
“How will it happen?” Tommy asked. “Fate brought the Mogralord last time it tried to wipe out existence, how will it happen this time?”
“There is only one prophecy that remains in the mortal realm, but this prophecy does not come from the One Power, it comes from the Power Cosmic, the power of creation.”
“The Final Prophecy?” Tommy asked.
Mikhail nodded. “The path to the Ultimate Secret, the Ultimate Truth to all of creation and reality. This truth is enough to drive the mortal mind mad.”
“So what is the Final Prophecy?” Tommy asked.
“It is constantly changing and consistently vague,” Mikhail said. “But once the Ultimate Secret is revealed, your reality will end, and a new cycle of time, a new pattern, will begin. The Ultimate Secret is the final outcome, but the path to that outcome is unclear, because of you. What your mortal mind conceives as the future is in a state of flux.”
“I’ve had this vision,” Tommy said. “It was right after the final battle with the Mogralord.”
He described the vision:
He saw a wide plain of tall yellow grass and three giant beasts fly across it. He had seen the animals in visions before: a hawk, a lion, and a dolphin.
Flames suddenly consumed the field of grass and stretched to the skies. From the flames, a mighty Kirin stepped forth and spat a torrent of fire that distorted the vision into a twirling vortex of chaos.
Faceless minions joined alongside the Kirin, as god-like beings above laughed.
The hawk, dolphin, and lion charged through the chaos and dashed towards the Kirin. From within the chaos, a tyrannosaurus, pterodactyl, and triceratops charged forth as well, and moved in alongside the original three animals.
Chaos in the vortex intensified, giving birth to five more animals of power: a phoenix, garuda, bull, mermaid, and fairy.
The resulting battle created a shockwave that ripped the vortex apart, tearing it to shreds, until only two stars remained. One of the stars sizzled with crimson power, and the other star was a dark jade.
Mikhail tilted his head. The Saint appeared genuinely surprised, but reluctant to admit it. “You are…an enigma.”
Tommy sighed and shook his head. “What about Billy? What role does he have to play in all this?”
“I am not a prophet,” Mikhail said. “But I will say this…we believe that when the time does come again for your cycle to end, Billy is how Fate will bring that end about.”
“How?” Tommy asked.
“I am not a prophet,” Mikhail said again. “I have already told you more than a mortal should know. Why are you here?”
“There’s another me out there,” Tommy said. “A dark version of myself from a parallel reality. I need to find him.”
“Then look inside yourself,” Mikhail said. “There is only one true reality, your reality, the Prime Reality. Each alternate universe is nothing but a shadow of the pattern, the way the pattern could have woven if Fate had chosen differently. This ‘other you’ is an echo. The two of you are connected.”
“So how can I use that connection to find him?” Tommy asked.
“Look inside yourself,” Mikhail said again.
Tommy suddenly felt himself pulled from the Astral Plane. His mind snapped back into his body with a bang of intense vertigo that nearly tipped him over. The former ranger opened his eyes to see several dozen people scurry about in panic.
Ryouma had risen to his feet and unsheathed a slender, double-edged blade. The former Galaxy Ranger had his eyes narrowed and stood protectively in front of Ohghi.
“What’s going on?” Tommy asked.
Ryouma tightened his grip on his sword. “We have company.”
A jade-tinted energy blast shot through the trees and exploded against the nearby firewood with a massive shockwave that knocked Tommy, Ryouma, Ryuuta, and Ohghi off their feet. Ryouma crashed through a tent, and the others slammed against the ground and skid backward.
Tommy rolled onto his feet and looked up to see a darker version of himself stalk through the woods. The Dark Warlord had an evil grin across his pale face.
Dark Tommy tilted his head and smiled at his mirror version. “I felt you looking for me…so I thought I’d save you the trouble. It’s good to see you again, by the way.”
Tommy stepped back into a fighting stance. “Yeah, I’m sure you’re just thrilled,” he said sarcastically. “Let’s take this out of the forest. This is between you and me. No one needs to get hurt.”
Dark Tommy rolled his eyes. “Well of course no one needs to get hurt. It’s just always more fun that way.” He saw Ryuuta climb to his feet nearby Tommy. The villain formed a bolt of green energy between his palms and hurled the blast forward. “Dragon’s Fang!”
Tommy dove aside and pushed Ryuuta away while emitting an invisible Ki barrier that blocked the explosion with a burst of spark.
The Dark Warlord’s insane laughter echoed through the trees.
Ryouma suddenly leapt from the fallen tent and lunged at the Dark Warlord from behind. Dark Tommy snapped around with a hook kick that smashed across Ryouma’s head and knocked the former ranger backward.
Ryouma crashed against the dirt and rolled into a crouched fighting stance. He held his hands together and thrust his palms towards the villain. “Mane of Flame!” A stream of fire shot from his palm towards Dark Tommy.
Dark Tommy fired a burst of jade energy that exploded against the fire and disbursed the flames.
Tommy moved in from besides his doppelganger and snapped a jumpkick towards the villain’s head. Dark Tommy blocked the blow and swung the back of his fist towards Tommy’s face. Tommy caught the fist and smashed a roundkick against Dark Tommy’s side. Tommy followed with a jump roundkick that smashed against Dark Tommy’s face.
Dark Tommy clutched his injured nose and stumbled backward, while Tommy pressed forward with his attack.
“Burn Knuckle!” Tommy’s fiery fist slammed against Dark Tommy and knocked him from his feet. The blow sent the Dark Warlord flying backward and crashing against a tree before slumping to the ground.
The villain conjured a bolt of jade energy between his palms and hurled the blast through the air. Tommy and Ryouma dove aside to avoid the blast, which exploded through a nearby tree while shattering it into splinters.
The combatants did not take notice of Ohghi climbing back to his feet near the firewood. The shaman had a grim look on his face as he looked at the damaged landscape around him. “This forest has known enough pain,” he whispered.
The shaman dropped three totems onto the ground around him. A totem with the symbol of water increased the flow of Ohghi’s Life Force and strengthened his connection with The Power. A second totem marked with the symbol of earth increased the strength of his Body to withstand the power he was about to channel. A third totem marked with the symbol of fire allowed Ohghi to tap into the power of the earth itself.
“Forest!” Ohghi shouted. He extended his arms and gripped tightly onto his staff. His robes flapped in an artificial breeze. “Ancient spirits of nature, come to my aide!”
Lightning shot from the skies and electrified his staff with a thundering boom that shook the ground. Ohghi swung the staff forward and fired a string of lightning that slammed against Dark Tommy and sent him flying backward. The villain smashed through trees and flew backwards for miles, and then, he was blasted outside of the Ginga Forest boundaries.
Ohghi nearly collapsed but leaned on his staff for support.
“Elder!” Ryouma shouted as he ran to the shaman’s side. Tommy followed.
Ryouma tried to help the shaman up, but Ohghi waved him off. “I am alright.” The shaman stood on his own and leaned on his staff to keep his balance. “I did what had to be done. This forest has seen enough suffering.”
Ryuuta stared at the elder with eyes wide open in shock. “That was…wow. I didn’t know you had that kind of power.”
“I am a conduit of the ancient forces of nature, and nature is truly powerful,” Ohghi said. He turned to Tommy. “That man. That Dark Warlord. He is an abomination.”
Tommy nodded. “I know…and I have to go after him.”
Ryouma stepped forward. “I’ll go with you.”
“No.” Tommy shook his head. “I’ve already caused you enough trouble. This is my fight. And I intend to finish it.”
The Dark Warlord’s arms wobbled as he rose to all fours and spat up blood. The lightning bolt had nearly killed him without the protection of any Ranger armor.
The villain heard footsteps and looked up to see a man dressed in a dark trench coat. The man stared down at Dark Tommy with the strangest of smiles. The Dark Warlord glared at the stranger. “Stare any longer, and I’ll gouge out your eyes.”
The stranger chuckled. “You can barely move, boy. Instead of making empty threats, why not listen…” The stranger knelt downward to Dark Tommy’s level. “I have been watching you, Thomas. I know what you are feeling. No longer a Ranger. No longer able to morph. You can channel, this is true…but channeling The Power is like using a pipe to suck water from behind a dam. Morphing…morphing is like blowing up the dam.”
Dark Tommy narrowed his eyes. “What do you want?”
“To make you strong again,” the stranger said.
“Who are you?”
A sly grin crossed the stranger’s face. “I have been called many things. Your counterpart called me the Dark Man. I am Akuma.”
To be continued…Chapter 15