Wind and Thunder: Chapter Fifteen

Many Faces

 

The Dark Man Akuma sat in a dimly-lit chamber far beneath the streets of Demon City. He watched two holographic viewscreens that displayed two different battles on opposite sides of Angel Grove.

 

One viewscreen showed the Jet Task Force Aero Rangers battling a giant monster that resembled an armadillo. The other viewscreen showed the Hurricane Task Force Power Rangers and Hidden Task Force Thunder Rangers teaming up against a masked, feminine monster with scaled, dark-purple skin and an intricate black body suit decorated with lines of white and silver. The monster’s name was Masked Poison.

 

Akuma paid particular attention to the Power Rangers and Thunder Rangers. “The pattern…” he whispered to himself. “What is the new pattern…”

 

It had taken him countless millennia to develop his previous plan, which Tommy Oliver had ruined. The villain needed to come up with a new plan in a considerably less amount of time. He already had several plots in motion, but he needed a way to link those plots together. He needed to know exactly how Fate was moving.

 

Akuma’s eyes stayed fix on Hurricane Red. “It all seems centered around you now, little hawk…but to what end?”

 

***

 

Simon could not catch a break. He rushed to work at the docks as soon as the monster retreated, but he showed up five minutes late. His supervisor was not happy.

 

“You’re fired, Kaden, go home,” the scruffy man said.

 

“Oh come on,” Simon said. Part of him was relieved, because he hated his job. But his parents would likely kill him. “I’m only five minutes late. Hunter and Blake aren’t even here yet!”

 

“I’m not their supervisor, kid, I’m yours,” he said. “Well…used to be yours. You know what I mean. Get out of here.”

 

Simon scoffed, rolled his hands into fists, and stormed off. Expelled and fired within a couple months…I’m on a roll. He wished he could work full time as a Ranger; then trivial things like work and school would not get in the way of defending the planet. Maybe Billy was right to make his Rangers part of a business. He quickly shook his head at the thought. No...what Billy’s doing is wrong.

 

A strange man suddenly walked towards Simon from behind. “Hey, kiddo!” The man shouted. “Can I ask you a few questions?”

 

Simon turned towards the man, who wore a black suit jacket over a red shirt and tie. The teen arced an eyebrow at the man’s odd appearance. “That depends…who are you?”

 

“The name’s Cardenas. Stephen Cardenas.” He handed his business card to Simon. “I’m a private investigator.”

 

“Great.” Simon showed no enthusiasm. He handed the card back to Cardenas. “But I just got fired, so I’m not exactly in the mood. Whatever questions you have, ask the people who still actually work here.”

 

“Hey pal, as long as you’ve worked here recently, that’s good enough,” Cardenas said. “What can you tell me about all the attacks that have happened here in the past few weeks.”

 

Simon felt like he was punched in the gut. He quickly recovered. “It’s Angel Grove. If you haven’t gotten used to it by now, you never will.”

 

“I hear they’re thinking about making that the city’s official slogan,” Cardenas joked. “Now seriously, what can you tell me? A lot’s been going around here lately, specifically around these docks.”

 

Simon waved his hand dismissively. “Talk about it with someone else.” He started to walk away. “I have things to do.”

 

Cardenas wrinkled his brow and watched Simon walk off. The detective waited until Simon was almost out of sight before following.

 

***

 

Masked Poison reappeared in the Starr Financial District in Angel Grove West. People ran and screamed with panic as the monster stalked across the streets. She was searching for subjects of particular blood types and DNA patterns to use for creating a wide array of biological weapons.

 

The villain spat a trio of darts that struck three men in their necks. The men collapsed into unconsciousness and teleported away with blurs of light.

 

“Jakanja!” a voice shouted from nearby. The villain turned to see Simon and the other four rangers run onto the scene. 

 

Simon pointed at the villain. “You should have stayed gone.”

 

The rangers armed their morphers.

 

“Senpu…”

 

“Gorai…”

 

“Ninjetti Change! Ha!” Energy twirled and lashed around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms. They snapped into fighting stances.

 

“Power of Air…Hurricane Red!”

 

“Power of Earth…Hurricane Yellow!”

 

“Power of Water…Hurricane Blue!”

 

Together they shouted: “Hurricane Task Force…Power Rangers!”

 

“Power of Shadow…Crimson Thunder!”

 

“Power of Lightning…Navy Thunder!”

 

Together they shouted: “Hidden Task Force…Thunder Rangers!”

 

Masked Poison swung out her arm to summon reinforcements. “Kelzaks!” The grunts appeared with flashes of dark light and charged into battle. Several of the soldiers carried bladed tonfa.

 

Masked Poison stayed back to watch the battle. And she was not the only one. Keeping his distance, Detective Cardenas hid behind a bush and watched the fight with a look of shock on his face.

 

“Those…kids?” He shook his head. “You’ve got to be kidding me…” A smile crossed his face. “Although…I did know that blonde kid knew something. I was right!”

 

A pair of Kelzaks spotted Cardenas and stalked towards him.

 

The detective opened his eyes wide with fear and stumbled backward. “I don’t suppose we could talk about this…or that you can even understand what I’m saying…” The grunts continued their advance. “Yeah, I kinda thought not.”

 

Nearby, Hurricane Red twisted a grunt’s arm down and front kicked another soldier upside the head. The Red Ranger looked to see the soldiers stalk towards Detective Cardenas. “Guys, it’s that stupid detective from before!” He released the grunt and kicked it down. “He’s about to get jumped!”

 

Crimson Thunder moved to help, but a wave of Kelzaks blocked him.

 

A grunt swung its blade towards Crimson Thunder, and the Ranger blocked the blow. Crimson Thunder slammed a kick against the grunt’s gut and smashed an elbow strike against the back of the soldier’s neck. The grunt dropped to the ground. 

 

Crimson Thunder moved to help the detective, but a wave of pain suddenly shot through the Ranger’s chest and forced him to his knees. He screamed through his clenched jaw.

 

“Hunter!” Navy Thunder ran to his brother’s side and kneeled down next to him. “You okay? What happened?”

 

“I’m fine.” Crimson Thunder rose to his feet as if everything was okay. 

 

Meanwhile, Cardenas turned to run from the Kelzaks. In his haste, he tripped over a fallen shovel, fell through construction tape, and screamed as he plummeted down an open manhole.

 

The Kelzaks scattered and kept the Rangers apart before they could run to help the detective. The Power Rangers unsheathed their sabers and slashed through the grunts. The Thunder Rangers armed their staffs and struck down several of the soldiers.

 

Detective Cardenas suddenly leapt from the manhole, somersaulted through the air, and slammed a flying sidekick against a grunt before landing. A soldier snapped a kick at the detective, but he blocked the blow and slammed an elbow against the grunt’s face.

 

The grunts dashed away and regrouped around Masked Poison. Cardenas flashed them a mocking smile. “Aw come on, that’s no fun. I was just getting started!”

 

Masked Poison looked to the Kelzaks. “We have what we came for. Fall back.”

 

The villains leapt away in blurs of motion, but not before Cardenas managed to toss a tracer onto Masked Poison’s body.

 

Cardenas pulled a palm-pilot out from his jacket. “Come on, we can follow her this way.”

 

We?” Hurricane Red shook his head. “Listen, I don’t know what got into you, but-”

 

Cardenas ran after the monster.

 

***

 

The detective led the Rangers to a nearby warehouse district. They entered a warehouse that had recently vacated following a nearby monster attack.

 

Cardenas kept his eyes on his data pad. “She’s in here, which means her victims are too.” He pointed to Hurricane Yellow and Hurricane Blue without looking at them. “You two find the people she kidnapped. We’ll keep tracking her.”

 

Hurricane Yellow looked to his leader. “Is this guy for real?”

 

“Apparently.” Hurricane Red hesitated. “Splitting up may not be a bad idea. We can cover more ground that way.”

 

The Rangers split up.

 

***

 

Thirty minutes passed, and the Rangers had found nothing. Hurricane Red and the Thunder Rangers followed Detective Cardenas through another turn inside the warehouse.

 

Navy Thunder was visibly agitated. “This is crazy! We’ve been following this kook forever. He’s getting us nowhere. We‘re just walking in circles.”

 

Hurricane Red lifted his communicator to his faceplate. “Guys, you find anything yet?” No one answered. “Guys…?” Still nothing. “Something’s wrong.”

 

Explosions suddenly sparked around them and knocked them off their feet.

 

Masked Poison appeared and stalked towards Cardenas and the fallen Rangers. “Welcome to my lab, little humans.”

 

Cardenas rose to his feet and pointed at the villain. “Thanks, but we won’t be staying.” He looked to the Rangers. “You guys stay back.”

 

Cardenas launched forward, somersaulted through the air, and slammed a flying sidekick against the monster. The villain crashed against a nearby wall and slid against the ground.

 

The detective landed in front of the monster and pulled a sphere-shaped object from his jacket. The sphere was green and lined with gold. Cardenas pulled the sphere in towards his chest, and a small panel on the sphere opened to reveal a Power Disc.

 

“Tenku…Ninjetti Change! Ha!” Green energy twirled around him like a cyclone as he morphed into Shurikenger. He snapped into a fighting stance. “Midori no Kodan! Tenkuninja, Shurikenja! Sanjo!

 

Hurricane Red opened his eyes wide beneath his helmet. “He’s Shurikenger?”

 

Masked Poison snapped a volley of flaming throwing stars that streaked towards Shurikenger. The Green Ranger unsheathed his sword and slashed the spinning blades of fire from the air.

 

Shurikenger swung his sword and fired a jade energy blast that exploded against Masked Poison with a burst of spark that knocked her several steps backward.

 

Crimson Thunder and Navy Thunder dashed forward and chopped their staffs towards Masked Poison. The villain’s saber clashed against the staffs and slashed the Rangers across their chests with bursts of spark.

 

Shurikenger moved in from behind, and Masked Poison whipped around while swinging her blade towards the Green Ranger’s head. Shurikenger blocked the blow and swung his blade through a butterfly pattern that sparked against her armor.

 

Hurricane Red moved in with a spinning sidekick that smashed against her head.

 

Masked Poison moved backward to recover. She opened her mouth and spat a torrent of flame that sparked against the four Rangers’ armor and whipped them off their feet.

 

The villain laughed at the fallen Rangers. “Did you really think you could interrupt my work?” She looked over her shoulder. “Kelzaks! Show them the results of their meddling.”

 

A group of Kelzaks scurried into the room. They carried Justin and Rachel, who were unconscious and covered with strange rashes. The grunts tossed the rangers to the ground, and Masked Poison laughed.

 

“No!” Hurricane Red shouted. “What did you do to them! I swear to god, I’ll-”

 

Masked Poison spat another torrent of flame that exploded against the Rangers and surrounded them with walls of fire.

 

Shurikenger climbed to his feet and rolled his hands into fists. “Yamero!” he shouted. He pressed down on his belt buckle to unhook his golden vest, which crashed against the ground. “Face Changee!” The top of his helmet twisted around and changed his visor. His unique voice became deeper. “Shurikenja: Faiya Modo!

 

Masked Poison tilted her head. “Fire mode?”

 

Shurikenger swung his arms about as he shifted fighting stances. “I’m stronger, faster, and a snappier dresser!” He pulled a small sphere out from behind his back. “Sonic Style! Sound Barrage Jutsu!”

 

Shurikenger charged the ball with jade-tinted energy and hurled it at the villain. The spinning ball produced 12 sonic duplicates that exploded against the monster with massive bursts of sparks that tore across her armor. The ball exploded against her chest and sent her crashing through the nearby wall.

 

The villain crashed against the pavement outside and tumbled backward. Slowly, she rose to her feet.

 

“Ha!“ Shurikenger somersaulted through the air and  slashed the villain across the chest while landing. He spun forward, slashed across her chest, and slammed a spinning sidekick against her body.

 

The villain crashed backward and rolled back to her feet. She swung her hand forward and fired a stream of flame from her palm.

 

Shurikenger holstered his sword into his club-like scabbard and used the weapon like a bat. He spun around like a tornado and twirled the bat to dissipate the flames.

 

Shurikenger stopped spinning and turned to face the monster. The Green Ranger pulled another ball out from behind his back. “Sonic Style! Spinning Barrage Jutsu!”

 

He tossed the ball upward as he would a baseball, and the ball created dozens of sonic echoes that dropped in front of Shurikenger. Shurikenger spun like a tornado and swung his bat to knock the spheres towards Masked Poison. The sonic spheres exploded against the monster with massive bursts of spark that punctured her body.

 

Sayonara!” Shurikenger swung his bat over his shoulder and stood in a victory pose. The monster crashed downward and exploded.

 

The rash disappeared from Justin and Rachel. Their eyes opened, and they slowly climbed to their feet.

 

Justin moaned and grabbed his stomach. “Still feeling a little woozy…but that means I‘m alive, so I can‘t complain.”

 

“What happened?” Hurricane Red asked. He powered down his armor, and the Thunder Rangers did the same.

 

“We freed the people who were kidnapped,” Rachel said, “but the Jakanja surprised us. They hit us with some kind of…virus they were using the people to develop.”

 

Hai,” Shurikenger said. Green light flashed around him again, and he resumed the form of Detective Cardenas. “But the virus was connected to her, so when she died, the virus did too.”

 

“Hey!” a voice shouted from nearby. It was another Detective Cardenas.

 

Justin shook his head. “Okay…why are there two of them?”

 

The newly arrived Detective Cardenas ran towards Simon. “I knew it! I knew you were hiding something and now…” He stopped when he noticed his duplicate. “Hey…what the…” He shook his head. “What are you, some kind of body snatcher?” He took a step back. “You’re going to kill me aren’t you?”

 

The other Cardenas declined his head. “Gomennasi.” Green energy flashed around him as he returned to his Shurikenger form. “I had to…borrow…your look after you fell into that manhole. Assuming your appearance helped me to help the Rangers.”

 

Cardenas shook his head. “That doesn’t even make any sense.” He looked to Simon and the others. “All I know is, I finally know who you guys are! And I’m going to expose you all for-”

 

Shurikenger snapped his fingers, and Cardenas passed out onto the ground. “He won’t remember a thing about this when he wakes up.”

 

Rachel looked to Shurikenger. “So who are you really? Why bother copying this guy’s appearance?”

 

“I am the Ninja of Many Faces,” Shurikenger said. “It’s what I do.”

 

***

 

The Dark Man watched Masked Poison’s destruction through his viewscreen. “Another victory for your followers, Tommy…”

 

He zoomed his viewscreen in for a view of Simon. “What surprise does Fate have in store for you? Has the mantle of the Dragon passed on to you from your mentor Tommy, or are you something different? Something more?”

 

He shifted his viewscreen to the image of Shurikenger departing in Tenkuujin. “And you…the Ninja of Many Faces. I know who you were. I know who you are. And I know the power your secrets would reveal.”

 

A twisted smile crossed his face. “Perhaps you are the key to unlocking Fate’s mystery.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 16