Wind and Thunder: Chapter 18

The Sting

 

The shooting stars caught the attention of Shurikenger, who gave up his pursuit of the Wolf Blades to study the phenomenon. He knew the meteors were important. He had seen them before, as had the father of Blake and Hunter.

 

The Green Ranger parked his zord on a cliff that looked out upon the sky at dawn. The meteors weren’t visible, but Shurikenger knew they were out there. He activated a control in his cockpit that would study the shooting stars’ formation, break its code into numerical data, and decipher the code into a message.

 

“Gozen…” he said as he reached out with his mind. “I’m deciphering the message now…”

 

***

 

A Wolf Blade leapt through the air and slashed Hurricane Yellow across the chest with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet. He crashed against the ground and rolled backward into a crouched fighting stance, and Hurricane Blue moved to his side.

 

The three Wolf Blades regrouped and stalked towards the two Rangers.

 

The Wolf Blades leapt through the air to attack. But lances of golden energy exploded against them and knocked them from the air.

 

Hurricane Yellow and Hurricane Blue looked back to see Hurricane Red and Navy Thunder run onto the scene. The Red Ranger had his rifle armed.

 

“Wolf Blades!” Hurricane Red shouted. “Back off my friends!”

 

“Die Jakanja!” Navy Thunder shouted.

 

The Navy Thunder Ranger leapt through the air and slashed his staff across a Wolf Blade with a burst of spark while landing. He swung his weapon through an x-shaped pattern that sparked across the wolf on impact.

 

The Wolf Blade grabbed Navy Thunder by the neck and tightened his grip before the Ranger could attack.

 

Meanwhile Hurricane Red unsheathed his sword and slashed his blade across the other two Wolf Blades with bursts of spark.

 

Hurricane Blue looked to her teammates. “Where’s Hunter?”

 

Hurricane Red and Navy Thunder didn’t answer.

 

The Red Ranger slashed his sword across a Wolf Blade, and a second Wolf Blade reached around Hurricane Red and grabbed him to keep his arms pinned down. The third Wolf Blade tossed Navy Thunder onto the ground, and the Navy Thunder Ranger kicked upward to keep the monster back.

 

“No way…” Hurricane Yellow shook his head. “He can’t be…I don’t believe it…”

 

Maddening laughter suddenly cut through the air.

 

“HAHAHAHAA!” Satora’kura shimmered onto the scene and stood on a nearby bench. “Your friend is dead! HAHAAA! Are you overcome with sadness? Fury? Heartache? Me, I’m ecstatic! HAHAHAHHAAA!”

 

“Bastard!” Navy Thunder shouted.

 

The four Rangers regrouped and charged forward to attack.

 

***

 

Tommy stood next to Dr. Ayuma in front of a medical bed, where unconscious Hunter was hooked up to various monitors and an IV drip. Ayuma’s private medical office was within the heart of Angel Grove’s Chinatown.

 

Tommy had first met Ayuma in 2002, when an assassin named Jinn had nearly killed Tommy by implanting a mystical spider in his chest. Ayuma, a friend of the Power Rangers’ former mentor Master Kaku, had helped Tommy to heal.

 

Ayuma was a Reiki master, as well as a medical practitioner and surgeon.

 

“The boy’s will is strong,” Ayuma said. “The scorpion may have hatched, but even in his condition, he is somehow using his Ki to keep the creature from stinging. But its venom is still seeping into his veins. He has hours, at the most.”

 

“There has to be something we can do,” Tommy said. “Anything.”

 

Ayuma shook his head. “I have to run some more tests. This scorpion is like nothing on Earth.”

 

“All right,” Tommy said. “And thanks again for your help.”

 

Ayuma nodded and left the room. Less than a minute later, Ashley walked in. She walked over to his side. “I’m glad you’re back.”

 

Tommy shook his head. “I’m not sure what good I can do…”

 

“Did you try calling Rocky?” Ashley asked.

 

“I couldn’t reach him,” he said.

 

Rocky DeSantos, the former Blue Tenma Ranger, had amazing healing powers that extended beyond simple Reiki.

 

Ashley wrapped her hands around Tommy’s arm and leaned her head on his shoulder. He placed his arm around her.

 

***

 

Hurricane Red snapped a roundkick that Satora’kura caught. The villain knocked the Ranger onto the ground and slammed a foot against his chest.

 

“I’m going to turn you all into little puppies! AH HAHA HAAA!” Satora’kura shouted.

 

The Wolf Blades had knocked Hurricane Yellow, Hurricane Blue, and Navy Thunder to the ground. The monsters snapped their jaws and clawed at the three Rangers.

 

The Yellow Ranger rolled away, as did Hurricane Blue and Navy Thunder, and they regrouped. They quickly noticed that the Red Ranger was still pinned down by Satora’kura.

 

“Simon!” Hurricane Yellow and the others charged forward to help Hurricane Red.

 

Satora’kura swung his hand and fired a volley of orange energy blasts that exploded against the three Rangers with a shower of sparks  that knocked them off their feet. “Ha HA HAAA!”

 

Satora’kura lifted Hurricane Red by the throat and slammed a backfist across his helmet, knocking him away. The Red Ranger crashed against the others and rose to his feet.

 

Satora’kura swung his hand and fired pulses of orange energy from his palm. The blasts exploded across the ground, and when the sparks cleared, the Rangers were gone. They had leapt away.

 

“What?! Warriors of justice aren’t supposed to run away!”

 

***

 

Shurikenger continued studying the shooting stars for a pattern to decipher their message. The translation matrix on his control console toned as it generated a single sentence: “The three-headed beast will cast a shadow to plunge the world into darkness.”

 

Shurikenger lowered his head thoughtfully. “Nani?”

 

***

 

The teens regrouped at Dr. Ayuma’s medical office in Chinatown. Simon, Justin, and Rachel stood in the hallway while speaking with Ayuma.

 

“Can’t Shurikenger do his freeze slash?” Simon asked. “It worked last time when we were all infected.”

 

Tommy shook his head. “That would kill him. The scorpion is right on top of his heart.”

 

Rachel quietly walked away from the others and stepped into Hunter’s room. Blake was sitting at Hunter‘s bedside and had a hand on his older brother‘s arm. Rachel closed the door behind her and pulled up a chair next to Blake.

 

Blake looked at her through the corner of his eye. “He’s going to be okay,” he said. “He has to be…I can’t…” He looked down to his brother. “He has to be.”

 

Rachel wrapped her hands around Blake’s upper arm and leaned her head against his shoulder. Blake took a deep breath, hesitated, and leaned his head against hers.

 

***

 

Tommy stood over Ayuma’s shoulder in the doctor’s private office. The doctor had images of the scorpion on his computer screen.

 

“An antidote?” Tommy asked. “Is that possible?”

 

“I thought so, at first,” Ayuma said. “If I could extract the venom, I could use it to develop a cure. But I would need to extract the venom while the scorpion was still in its egg. It’s too late for that now, I’m afraid…”

 

“We’ll think of something else,” Tommy said.

 

They didn’t notice Simon eavesdropping outside the door. The teen rolled his hands into fists and narrowed his eyes. He knew what he had to do.

 

***

 

Simon ran across the rocky ocean shore. He looked out towards the waters and shouted. “Hey Centhrax! You might have taken out Hunter, but the rest of us are still here! So come on! Come stop me! Bring on that angel of death of yours!”

 

Centhrax shimmered into view behind Simon. The teen snapped around, and Centhrax slammed a punch across Simon’s head to knock him backward. 

 

Simon crashed against the ground and rolled back to his feet.

 

Centhrax dropped his cloak. “Are you so anxious to join your friend in Hell?”

 

Simon armed his morpher. “Senpu…Ninjetti Change! Ha!” Energy twirled around him, and he snapped into a fighting stance. “Power of Air! Hurricane Red!”

 

The Red Ranger charged forward to attack.

 

***

 

Tommy and Ayuma stepped into Hunter’s room, where Justin, Rachel, and Blake had gathered.

 

Blake looked up and narrowed his eyes at Tommy, and Tommy’s face sank with shame. Tommy was responsible for the death of Hunter and Blake’s mother. If not for Hunter’s condition, Blake would have likely attacked Tommy on sight.

 

Tommy looked away from Hunter and noticed that Simon was missing. “Where’s Simon?”

 

Justin shrugged. “We thought he was with you.”

 

Tommy’s face grew pale. He looked to Ayuma. “He was eavesdropping.”

 

***

 

Hurricane Red swung a backfist that Centhrax caught, and the villain swung a backfist that the Red Ranger caught. Centhrax pulled back and snapped a crescent kick that Hurricane Red ducked under.

 

The Red Ranger snapped a roundkick that Centhrax blocked, and the villain dashed inward and slammed his elbow against Hurricane Red’s gut. Centhrax slammed a knife-hand chop against the back of Hurricane Red’s neck, and the Red Ranger crashed onto the ground.

 

Hurricane Red rolled back and rose back to his feet. “Come on, you freaking insect. Quit fighting like a termite. Show me some real power.”

 

“You want to feel death?” Centhrax stalked towards Hurricane Red. “I’ll grant you your wish…”

 

Centhrax lunged forward and swung an energized punch that slammed against Hurricane Red’s chest. The Red Ranger could feel the sting of the blow penetrate his body, and he collapsed to all fours.

 

Centhrax laughed and stalked closer to the fallen Ranger. “Feel the fate of those who mock me. Feel my angel of death.”

 

Hurricane Red’s vision blurred as he looked up at Centhrax. He felt a burning in his chest that rushed to his head and overwhelmed him with vertigo. For a moment, he feared he had made a fatal mistake.

 

Lances of golden energy suddenly sparked against Centhrax and forced him backward. Hurricane Red looked to see Hurricane Blue, Hurricane Yellow, and Navy Thunder rush onto the scene.

 

“Simon!” Hurricane Blue shouted.

 

“You didn’t!” Hurricane Yellow shouted.

 

They moved around Hurricane Red and helped him to his feet. He staggered and gasped while clutching his chest.

 

Navy Thunder draped the Red Ranger’s arm over his shoulder. “It should’ve been me…you didn‘t have to do this.”

 

Tommy’s voice came through their communicators. “Guys, the Wolf Blades are back.”

 

Hurricane Red looked to his teammates. “I’ll get to Hunter. You guys go…”

 

Navy Thunder shook his head and reluctantly helped Hurricane Red stand on his own. The Thunder Ranger looked to the Yellow Ranger and Blue Ranger. “Let’s go.”

 

Navy Thunder, Hurricane Blue, and Hurricane Yellow dashed off into the distance.

 

Hurricane Red faced Centhrax. “It’s been fun, bug eyes. Thanks for your help!”

 

The Red Ranger turned and leapt towards the distance, leaving a confused Centhrax alone on the shore.

 

The villain’s body tightened with frustration. “What was that about…”

 

***

 

Hurricane Yellow, Navy Thunder, and Hurricane Blue ran to a deserted plaza around Clowes Memorial Hall theater in Angel Grove, but the Wolf Blades weren’t in sight.

 

Hurricane Yellow tilted his head and looked across the plaza. “Is this the right spot?”

 

Navy Thunder rolled his hands into fists. “Empty streets during the busiest time of day? Eerie calm that makes your skin crawl? It’s the right spot.”

 

The Wolf Blades suddenly dashed through blurs of motion that streaked past the Rangers and slashed them across their armor with bursts of spark before they could defend themselves. 

 

One of the wolves grabbed Hurricane Yellow by the back of the neck, leapt through the air, and slammed the Yellow Ranger against the side of a nearby building. The wolf dropped Hurricane Yellow to the ground, and all three Wolf Blades pounced on him and clawed at his armor with bursts of spark.

 

“Justin!” Hurricane Blue armed her rifle and fired lances of energy that exploded against the wolves and knocked them backward.

 

Hurricane Yellow rolled to his feet, and the three Rangers regrouped.

 

“How do we beat these things?” Hurricane Blue shouted.

 

Hurricane Yellow shook his head. “They have to have some weakness.”

 

Navy Thunder swung his staff into a fighting position. “I suggest we stop talking and find out what that weakness is before we all end up short, small, and furry.”

 

“None of the victims have shrunk,” Hurricane Yellow said.

 

“Details,” Navy Thunder said dismissively.

 

***

 

Simon staggered into Hunter’s room and nearly collapsed. He leaned on the wall for support and looked up to face Tommy and Ayuma. Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead. “I’ve got your scorpion egg…” he said weakly. “Extract the venom.”

 

Tommy opened his eyes wide. “Simon, you didn’t…”

 

“I had to,” he snapped.

 

Ayuma walked over to Simon and helped him towards a second medical bed. “You shouldn’t have. Extracting the venom from your body, while its in this state, it could kill you. And your blood would be exposed to the venom during the extraction. You could die before the antidote is ready.”

 

“I don’t care what happens to me,” he said. “I’m a guardian of the Earth. No one else dies. No one.”

 

Tommy recognized the saying “Guardian of the Earth” from Simon’s time as a Gao Ranger. The phrase made Tommy understand why Simon was willing to sacrifice himself. The young teen still blamed himself for the death of the priestess Tetomu and the destruction of the Anamaria sky island. And as a Gao Ranger, Simon had felt the death of every champion that had died during the final battle with the Mogralord. Simon didn’t want anyone else to die.

 

Tommy looked to Ayuma. “He knows what he’s doing. Extract the venom.”

 

***

 

Ayuma put Simon in a medical bed next to Hunter’s. Simon was put to sleep during the procedure. The doctor used a needle to stick into the scorpion egg on Simon’s heart and extract some of the venom. Drops of venom leaked from the egg in the process and flowed through Simon’s body.

 

“Be strong,” he said as he took the venom back to his lab.

 

Simon’s heart rate fluctuated as the poison coursed through his veins, and his breathing became shallow. Tommy felt helpless as he stood by and watched. He reached down and placed a hand on his student’s shoulder. “Hang in there, Simon…”

 

Minutes later, the doctor had the antidote ready. He injected the serum directly into Hunter’s heart. Through the x-ray monitor, Ayuma and Tommy watched as the scorpion faltered until it stopped moving.

 

“It worked!” Ayuma shouted. “The scorpion is dead.”

 

“Now Simon,” Tommy said.

 

Ayuma injected the serum into Simon’s heart, but he did not respond nearly as quickly as Hunter. He barely seemed to respond at all.

 

Tommy knitted his brow with concern. “What is it?”

 

“The venom may be too far along in his system for the antidote to do any good,” Ayuma said. “There’s…there’s nothing more I can do. It’s all up to him now.”

 

***

 

The Wolf Blades surrounded Navy Thunder and slashed against his armor with bursts of spark. The creatures grabbed him by their jaws and claws and hurled the Navy Thunder Ranger through the air.

 

Navy Thunder crashed against the ground and rolled to his feet as Hurricane Yellow and Hurricane Blue regrouped around him. Navy Thunder held his staff back in a fighting stance. 

 

“These guys move together,” Navy Thunder said.

 

“Right,” Hurricane Blue said. “And they only attack when one of us is separated from the others!”

 

“That’s not exactly a weakness,” Hurricane Yellow said.

 

“It’s close enough,” Navy Thunder said. “Come on. Let‘s draw them in.”

 

Navy Thunder and the Rangers ran away from the three Wolf Blades. They turned around the block and fled towards a parking garage next to Clowes Memorial Hall theater. The Wolf Blades closed in at the Rangers’ heels.

 

“Split!” Navy Thunder shouted.

 

The Rangers split up into three different directions, and the Wolf Blades immediately pounced towards Navy Thunder. The monsters tackled the Navy Thunder Ranger back-first against the ground.

 

The Rangers all expected the move.

 

Hurricane Yellow and Hurricane Blue regrouped, armed their blasters, and fired golden energy lances that exploded against the Wolf Blades’ backs with bursts of spark. Navy Thunder swung his staff through a powerful blow that sparked across their chests and whipped them off their feet.

 

Navy Thunder rolled to his feet, and the three Rangers split up again.

 

This time the Wolf Blades pounced towards Hurricane Blue and tackled her to the ground.

 

Hurricane Yellow armed his rifle and fired lances of golden energy, and Navy Thunder switched his staff to star-formation and swung a twirling blade of navy-tinted energy. The blasts exploded against the Wolf Blades and knocked them off their feet.

 

The Wolf Blades regrouped and stumbled backward while bumping against each other. The monsters looked back and forth at the three Rangers as if trying to understand how their enemies had suddenly gained the upper hand.

 

The brown-furred Wolf Blade bumped against the black-furred Wolf Blade, and the black-furred monster swiped his companion away. This didn’t make the brown-furred Wolf Blade happy. The brown Wolf Blade snarled and tackled against his companion.

 

The white Wolf Blade tackled against his companions and tried to pry them apart.  

 

Hurricane Yellow scratched his head while watching. “That’s…unexpected.”

 

Hurricane Blue placed a hand on Navy Thunder’s shoulder. “Now’s the time to hit them!”

 

Navy Thunder nodded. “Right.”

 

The three Rangers leapt forward, somersaulted through the air, and energized their weapons with power. They each swung their weapon through a Wolf Blade with a burst of spark while landing.

 

The Wolf Blades crackled with energy that seeped from their wounds. The monsters crashed onto their backs and exploded with an energy overload that scattered their bodies into dust. 

 

***

 

Hunter stirred awake on his bed. His chest felt sore, but the pain was nothing compared to what he had experienced when the scorpion was alive. He slowly sat up on his bed and rubbed his forehead to try and fight off a wave of vertigo.

 

“What…happened?” he asked.

 

“The scorpion is dead,” Tommy said. “You’re going to live.”

 

Hunter narrowed his eyes. “You…”

 

Tommy said nothing.

 

Hunter’s gaze drifted to Simon. “Simon?” the teen was squirming painfully in his bed. “What happened to him? Did he…” The realization struck him. “He did this to himself, didn’t he. To save me.” Hunter pulled himself from his bed and stepped weakly towards Simon. “Why would he do that. Why…it’s crazy.”

 

“There’s nothing crazy about compassion,” Tommy said.

 

Simon floated in and out of consciousness. “Hunter…” he muttered. “Couldn’t let him…can’t let anyone…we’re not…done…yet…”

 

Hunter narrowed his eyes and gripped Simon by the forearm. “You can’t die. This was supposed to be my fate, not yours. You have to keep fighting. We have to keep fighting.”

 

The other rangers ran into the room. Their shock at seeing Hunter up and about was overshadowed by the sight of Simon dying in bed.

 

“Simon!” Rachel shouted.

 

The heart monitor slowed for several seconds. Then it flatlined. Time seemed to stand still as the sound filled the room. Justin collapsed to his knees. Tears streamed down Rachel’s cheeks as she shook her head. Blake narrowed his eyes and wrapped an arm around her.

 

Hunter tightened his grasp on Simon’s arm. “Open your eyes.” He narrowed his brow. “Open…your…eyes…”

 

Hunter lowered his head.

 

***

 

Simon’s vision slowly took shape. Blurs of color and motion coalesced and took form. He found himself standing on an endless field of grass that extended in every direction. The endless plain seemed disorienting.

 

The image suddenly shifted. The ground spun and morphed into the cityscape of Angel Grove. But the skies of the city were crimson and dotted with black clouds. Bolts of purple lighting randomly lashed out and struck the ground. Chunks of debris and gutted buildings floated through the air as if gravity was irrelevant.

 

Simon stood on the edge of a partially destroyed building. A wave of vertigo struck him as he stepped back to keep from falling. His head felt like it was spinning and nausea crept up his throat. He collapsed to all fours.

 

Chills crept down his spine as cold wind howled through the air. The wind blew dust into his face, stinging his eyes. He covered his face with his arm and slowly rose to his feet.

 

He wiped his watery eyes clean and squinted while looking towards the distance. What he saw shocked him.

 

Bodies littered the ground, but not just any bodies: the bodies of fallen Rangers whose armor he did not recognize.

 

In the far off distance, two points of energy, one red and one green, circled around each other and clashed with bursts of power that made the ground shake and tingle with static-like energy that caused Simon’s hairs stand on end.

 

A cloaked figure stepped besides Simon. The crimson cloak was embroidered with a golden symbol of a hawk with wings that stretched from the chest and around to the back. The cloak’s hood covered the man’s face with darkness.

 

“Hello again, Simon,” the being said.

 

Simon took a step back. “You…I’ve seen you before…”

 

The cloaked being nodded. “Your memory is astonishing.”

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. “Sarcasm? Really?”

 

The being stepped in front of Simon and looked across the landscape. “During your last vision, you saw what was meant to be the End. But your mentor, the Dragon, he changed that. Now…now this is the End.”

 

“When does this happen?” Simon asked.

 

The being shook his head. “It’s too hard to say for certain. What you perceive as the future is in a state of flux. But this is the end result in almost every variation. You are only able to witness this event in such detail because of your connection to an awareness that goes beyond the One Power.”

 

“Awareness?” Simon asked.

 

The being nodded. “You have a rare, cosmic awareness that few mortals possess. It is the source of your empathic abilities. It is how you are witnessing this now. There are ancient forces older than The Power, older than time, and those forces are stirring. It would seem this is the end result.”

 

Simon rolled his hands up into fists. “If I can find out how this happened…I can stop it.”

 

“I’m afraid you won’t remember any of this,” the being said.

 

“What?” Simon asked.

 

“You only stumbled upon this vision by chance as your essence left your mortal shell,” the strange being said.

 

“As…what?” Simon asked. “You mean…”

 

“You died,” the being said. “But don’t worry, your spirit hasn’t crossed over yet. I will return you to your mortal shell. And when you awake, you will remember nothing of what you have seen here.”

 

“Wait!” Simon shouted. “You can’t just send me back without knowing-”

 

***

 

Simon’s body suddenly stirred, and the heart monitor started beeping again. Ayuma dashed towards the nearest medical monitor. “The antidote. It worked…a delayed reaction. Almost too delayed.”

 

Simon’s eyes slowly opened, and he coughed. “Did it…did it work?” He sat up and rubbed the back of his head, which still felt woozy. “Is Hunter okay?”

 

“Simon.” Hunter wrapped his arms around the younger teen. “You idiot.”

 

“Simon!” Rachel and Justin hugged him as well. Blake stood back, but even he couldn’t help but smile.

 

“Guys,” Simon grimaced. “You’re…cutting…off…air…” They leaned back off of him. “What’s the big deal anyway? It’s not like I died.”

 

***

 

The wolf-infected citizens of Angel Grove spread from Clowes Memorial Hall theater and attacked everyone in sight. Men and women screamed in panic and fled from the infected, but few could run fast enough.

 

An elderly woman was tackled against the ground and bit on the arm. A group of three children were pulled by their legs from their parents and bitten on their thighs. And a police officer was surrounded by a group of infected that tackled him and bit him all over his body.

 

Sirens blared as Silver Guardian jeeps pulled into the area. Guardian soldiers fanned out and tried to blockade the area to establish a quarantine. But they were quickly overwhelmed by the infected.

 

***

 

Ashley spoke through the rangers’ communicators. “Guys, we have a problem. It’s the people in the city. You may have destroyed the Wolf Blades, but the people haven’t reverted back to normal.”

 

***

 

Satora’kura laughed as he watched the battle through a viewscreen on the Jakanja bridge. “HA HA HAAA! You see?! You SEE?! HA HA!!”

 

Lothor slightly tilted his head. “I am intrigued. How are they still infected if the Wolf Blades were killed?”

 

“Killed?! HA!” Satora’kura shouted. He turned towards the viewscreen and pulled out his whistle. He blew a high-pitched melody that stretched from the Jakanja ship and across Angel Grove.

 

***

 

The dust of the fallen Wolf Blades stirred in an artificial wind and started to take shape within a towering column of twirling air. Solidifying, the dust formed a giant monster with the three faces of the individual Wolf Blades. The creature opened its jaws and howled, a roaring noise that shook the city for blocks.

 

***

 

The five teens ran to the top of a wide stairwell on a city plaza and looked up at the towering wolf in the distance.

 

Simon looked to Hunter. “Ready?”

 

Hunter nodded and armed his morphing brace.

 

“Senpu…”

 

“Gorai…”

 

“Ninjetti Change! Ha!” Energy twirled and lashed around them as they morphed into their armor.

 

Hurricane Red activated his communicator. “Storm-zords mobilize!”

 

The Storm-zords passed through a trio of holographic entry portals and charged into battle. The Power Rangers leapt into their cockpits. 

 

“Storm-zords assemble!” Hurricane Red shouted. “Whirlwind fusion!” The three zords transformed and started to combine. The lion zord formed the chest, body, left arm, and legs. The dolphin formed the Megazord’s right arm, and the hawk flew in and formed the head.

 

“StormMegazord!” the Power Rangers shouted. “Senpuujin!”

 

The Thunder Rangers lifted their morphers to their face plates. “Thunder-zords, mobilize!”

 

The Crimson Insectazord and Navy Beetlezord rolled into battle, and the Thunder Rangers leapt into their cockpits.

 

“Thunder-zords assemble!” Thunder Crimson shouted. “Thunder fusion!” The zords flashed with lightning and shot through the air while changing shape. The two zords combined into a giant robo. The stag claw formed a piece of chest armor, and the Insectazord’s horn formed a helmet.

 

“ThunderMegazord!” the Thunder Rangers shouted. “Gouraijin!”

 

“Let’s put this dog to sleep,” Hurricane Red said.

 

StormMegazord charged forward and swung its fist towards Wolf Blade. The monster dodged the blow and slashed StormMegazord across the chest with a burst of spark.

 

ThunderMegazord moved in with a backfist swing that Wolf Blade dodged. The wolf monster slashed ThunderMegazord, turned back to its left, and slashed StormMegazord across the chest. 

 

ThunderMegazord moved in and slammed a punch against Wolf Blade’s chest.

 

StormMegazord reached from behind Wolf Blade to grab the monster by the arms, but the monster shrugged StormMegazord back and knocked the robo away.

 

Wolf Blade channeled electrical energy through its claws ands fangs and hurled bolts of lightning at the two Megazords. The blasts exploded against the robos and ripped across the Megazords’ armor with bursts of spark.

 

“Hunter,” Hurricane Red said. “Let’s combine!” The Red Ranger summoned a Power Disc onto his control console. “Power Disc! Lock…and drop.”

 

“Power Disc!” Crimson Thunder inserted his disc into his console. “Lock…and drop.”

 

The Megazords’ chest plates opened and shot our Power Sphere No. 7 and Power Sphere No. 8. The spheres opened and revealed two components, which combined to form a Minizord.

 

The zord placed its left hand against its right fist and spoke a programmed message. “I am Minizord” The zord uploaded streams of data and programming into the two Megazords. “StormMegazord…ThunderMegazord…combine!”

 

“Megazords assemble!” the Rangers shouted. “Thunderstorm fusion!”

 

The lion and dolphin arms of the StormMegazord snapped off. The lion head formed the chest of the Megazord. ThunderMegazord split into four segments that formed new arms and feet with wheels. The dolphin split in two and formed a pair of cannons on the Megazord’s shoulders. Minizord formed a pair of gauntlets and helmet with a bladed crescent moon.

 

“Thunderstorm Megazord!” the Rangers shouted. “GouraiSenpuujin!”

 

Hurricane Red grasped his controls. “Thunder Hurricane!”

 

The lion mane spun and fired a beam of twirling energy, and the shoulder cannons fired pulses of energy that combined with the twirling wave. The wave exploded against Wolf Blade with  a massive sphere of flame and smoke.

 

When the smoke and flames cleared, Wolf Blade was still standing.

 

“Oh come on!” Hurricane Yellow shouted. “That was our best shot! How are we supposed to beat him when he stood up to our best shot?! Sometimes this job really ticks me off.”

 

“We’ll just have to improvise,” Hurricane Red said.

 

“How?” Hurricane Yellow asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Hurricane Red said. “I’m still improvising.”

 

“Improvise faster,” Navy Thunder said.

 

Wolf Blade pounced through the air and tackled Thunderstorm Megazord to the ground. The monster growled with savagery as it leaned down and sliced its claws against the Megazord with a flurry of sparks.

 

***

 

Satora’kura laughed with insanity as he watched from the Jakanja bridge. “Yes, yes! HA HA HAA!!”

 

The villain blew his whistle again to command the creature to continue its attack, but he blew too hard, and the whistle shot against a nearby wall and fell to the ground.

 

“Whoops.” Satora’kura scurried to the ground and lifted up the broken whistle. “Broken?! It’s not like I can just kill another hound master to get a new one!”

 

***

 

Freed from the trance, Wolf Blade lifted its head and howled. The creature pulsed with energy, split into three globes of light, and shot towards the surface. The monster split back into three separate, normal-sized Wolf Blades that landed on the streets.

 

The monsters sniffed for prey and stalked away.

 

The Rangers leapt from their Megazord and landed near Clowes Memorial Hall theater, but they had lost sight of the Wolf Blades.

 

“Damn it,” Navy Thunder said. “Where did they go?”

 

“If we don’t find them soon,” Hurricane Yellow said. “All we’ve have to do is follow the screaming.”

 

Hurricane Blue looked across the deserted streets. “The Silver Guardians have most of this area quarantined and blocked off.”

 

Crimson Thunder shook his head. “A blockade won’t stop them. Or the infected.”

 

“Hunter’s right,” Hurricane Red said. “We need to find the wolves now and figure out how to take them down.”

 

Their communicators toned, and Tommy’s voice came through. “Guys, get back to Ops. We have to talk.”

 

***

 

The rangers regrouped in Ops, although Hunter and Blake lingered by the doorway. They were all surprised to see Shurikenger standing alongside Tommy near Ashley’s computer terminal.

 

“Guys, we have a serious problem,” Tommy said. He looked to Shurikenger. “Tell them what you told me and Ashley.”

 

Hai.” Shurikenger looked to the rangers. “I deciphered a message hidden in the supernatural meteor shower. A prediction, that says ‘men will walk as beasts’ and ‘the three-headed beast will cast a shadow to plunge the world into darkness.’ Then, the Final Prophecy will be revealed.”

 

Justin scoffed. “I’m getting sick of this ‘Final Prophecy’ and ‘Ultimate Secret’ crap.”

 

“The point is Jakanja might be close to getting what it wants,” Tommy said. “That can’t happen. You have to stop it.”

 

“But Tommy,” Rachel said. “Wolf Blade stood up to our strongest attack.”

 

“We’ve been working on something that might help,” Tommy said. “A new weapon. I finished it while I was away searching for the Dark Warlord. The thing is, it will take all six of your Power Discs to unlock.”

 

Shurikenger looked to the rangers. “I will take your Discs to unlock the weapon.”

 

Simon hesitated and looked to his mentor. “What if we need to morph.”

 

“I know it’s risky,” Tommy said. “But it’s a risk we have to take.”

 

Simon sighed and unclipped his Power Disc from his morpher. Justin and Rachel did the same, and they handed the Discs to Shurikenger. The Green Ranger walked over to the doorway and extended his hand to Hunter and Blake. The brothers hesitated, reluctantly unclipped their Power Discs, and handed the medals to Shurikenger.

 

“I better get that back,” Blake said.

 

***

 

Centhrax stormed into his private chambers. His body was tensed with rage. “Crimson Thunder…damn you! How is it you survived…”

 

Images flashed before his mind’s eye. He saw himself get cut down by the Crimson Thunder Ranger’s weapon. He saw himself fall back and explode, disintegrating into dust.

 

“No…” Centhrax hissed with confidence. “He thinks he can kill me? I can see the future. As long as I can see…I can stay one step ahead. Yes…” He laughed. “Even if I die, Crimson Thunder, that will not stop me from killing you.”

 

***

 

Tommy and Ashley were alone in Ops after Shurikenger and the teens left. Ashley sat silently in front of her computer and said nothing.

 

“You didn’t say much,” Tommy said. “Is everything okay?”

 

“No, Tommy.” She turned her chair to face him. “It’s not okay. You didn’t even check in with me while you were gone, but you had time to make a whole new zord? I thought you were trying to track down the Dark Warlord.”

 

“I was,” Tommy said. “He found me once, but afterward…I lost him. It was like the link I felt with him just…vanished.”

 

“Could that mean he died?” Ashley asked.

 

“No, it was different than that,” he said. “It was more like…he changed.”

 

“Why didn’t you come back then,” Ashley said.

 

“I was going to, but then someone approached me,” Tommy said.

 

“Who?” Ashley asked.

 

“Gozen…” Tommy said.

 

***

 

Satora’kura walked through a patch of wooded parkland within the city and fondled his repaired whistle. “Let’s see if it works. Come, my puppies!”

 

Satora’kura blew the whistle, which played a high-pitched melody that spread across the city. It wasn’t long before the Wolf Blades leapt from the trees and obediently surrounded their master.

 

“Excellent!” Satora’kura shouted. “Now, let’s-”

 

The sounds of a helicopter propeller suddenly came from above. Satora’kura looked up to see Tenkuujin fly by towards the mountains outside of Angel Grove City.

 

“Ah, the Green Ranger,” Satora’kura said with amusement. He turned to his Wolf Blades. “Swat him down!”

 

The villain blew his whistle and commanded the Wolf Blades to combine into a single monster that grew giant sized within a cyclone of energy.

 

Wolf Blade swatted Tenkuujin from the air with a burst of spark.

 

The Green Ranger’s zord crashed and skid across the ground, kicking up dirt and trees as Satora’kura laughed.

 

“Now, back to the city!” Satora’kura shouted and blew his whistle.

 

*** 

 

Wolf Blade stomped through the city streets and fired bolts of lightning that exploded through several buildings.

 

The teens ran to the scene below and looked up at the towering monster.

 

“What do we do, Red?” Justin asked.

 

Simon shook his head. “I don’t know.”

 

Ashley’s voice came through their communicators. “You can’t morph, but you can still use your zords. You just won’t be able to activate any of the Megazord programs without your Power Discs.”

 

“What good will that do,” Blake said.

 

“A distraction,” Hunter said.

 

Simon nodded. “We can hold off Wolf Blade and keep him occupied until Shurikenger brings our Power Discs back.” He activated his communicator. “Storm-zords mobilize!”

 

The Storm-zords passed through a trio of holographic entry portals and charged into battle. Simon, Justin, and Rachel leapt into their cockpits.

 

Hunter and Blake lifted their morphers to their mouths. “Thunder-zords, mobilize!”

 

The Crimson Insectazord and Navy Beetlezord rolled into battle, and the brothers leapt into their cockpits.

 

Hurricane Lion moved in first.

 

“Lion Tornado Blast!” Justin shouted.

 

The lion’s mane spun and fired a straight-line cyclone which kicked up debris that slammed against the monster with bursts of spark, forcing the creature back a few steps.

 

Hurricane Dolphin snapped its tail and shot towards the monster. The zord slammed against Wolf Blade and knocked the creature back several steps.

 

The Crimson Insectazord and Navy Beetlezord rolled in while the monster was off balance and distracted.

 

“Thunder Cannons!” Hunter shouted.

 

“Lightning Cannon!” Blake shouted.

 

The Crimson Insectazord unloaded a missile payload and fired gatling guns, and the Navy Beetlezord fired a bolt of lightning from its stag claw. The blasts exploded across the monster with bursts of spark.

 

Hurricane Hawk swooped down from the air.

 

“Hawk Blasters!” Simon shouted. The zord fired lances of red energy that exploded against the monster’s armor.

 

The creature howled, but not with pain. He howled with annoyance. He kicked the two Thunder-zords aside like toys, turned, and swatted Hurricane Hawk from the air.

 

***

 

Shurikenger crawled from the crash site of his zord and ran towards the mountains outside the city. He channeled The Power to the chakra points on his feet to run faster in a burst of speed.

 

The Green Ranger arrived at the mouth of a cave and went inside. He descended the cavern until he saw a pedestal carved from stone that looked polished by flame. The pedestal had six circular slots for the Power Discs.

 

Ya ta,” Shurikenger said. 

 

Shurikenger moved to the pedestal and placed a Power Disc in each slot. The pedestal flashed with the color of each Ranger and vibrated with power.

 

The far wall of the cave suddenly dissolved to reveal the weapon: a three-stringed Japanese guitar called a shamisen. The shamisen was sleek and polished as if made from armor. The body of the guitar almost appeared like the head of an elephant or mammoth, with the neck acting as the trunk.

 

Shurikenger reached out and grabbed the weapon.

 

***

 

Wolf Blade grabbed Hurricane Dolphin and hurled the zord through the air. The dolphin zord crashed through a nearby building and slammed against the streets. The monster turned and fired bolts of lightning that exploded against the Thunder-zords with bursts of spark.

 

“Wing Blade, Ignite!” Simon shouted.

 

Hurricane Hawk’s wings ignited with flame, but Wolf Blade blasted the zord from the air.

 

“Rangers!” Shurikenger shouted as he ran onto a nearby rooftop with the guitar in hand. He slid his blade into the guitar so that his weapon became an extension of the instrument’s neck. “Koi! Carrier Mammoth!”

 

Shurikenger used his Power Disc as a guitar pick to play a melody that made the instrument sound more like an electric guitar than a shamisen.

 

In the distance, a mighty mammoth roared. The massive, armored, Carrier Mammoth zord stomped onto the scene.

 

Ya ta!” Shurikenger shouted. “Rangers, you should be getting your Power Discs back.”

 

The rangers’ Power Discs materialized on their control panels, and they snapped the discs back onto their morphers.

 

“Let’s do it, guys,” Simon said.

 

“Ninjetti Change!” they shouted as they morphed into their armor.

 

“Storm-zords assemble!” Hurricane Red shouted. “Whirlwind fusion!” The three zords transformed and started to combine. The lion zord formed the chest, body, left arm, and legs. The dolphin formed the Megazord’s right arm, and the hawk flew in and formed the head.

 

“StormMegazord!” the Power Rangers shouted. “Senpuujin!”

 

“Thunder-zords assemble!” Thunder Crimson shouted. “Thunder fusion!” The zords flashed with lightning and shot through the air while changing shape. The two zords combined into a giant robo. The stag claw formed a piece of chest armor, and the Insectazord’s horn formed a helmet.

 

“ThunderMegazord!” the Thunder Rangers shouted. “Gouraijin!”

 

The Red Ranger summoned a Power Disc onto his control console. “Power Disc! Lock…and drop.”

 

“Power Disc!” Crimson Thunder inserted his disc into his console. “Lock…and drop.”

 

The Megazords’ chest plates opened and shot our Power Sphere No. 7 and Power Sphere No. 8. The spheres opened and revealed two components, which combined to form a Minizord.

 

The zord placed its left hand against its right fist and spoke a programmed message. “I am Minizord” The zord uploaded streams of data and programming into the two Megazords. “StormMegazord…ThunderMegazord…combine!”

 

“Megazords assemble!” the Rangers shouted. “Thunderstorm fusion!”

 

The lion and dolphin arms of the StormMegazord snapped off. The lion head formed the chest of the Megazord. ThunderMegazord split into four segments that formed new arms and feet with wheels. The dolphin split in two and formed a pair of cannons on the Megazord’s shoulders. Minizord formed a pair of gauntlets and helmet with a bladed crescent moon.

 

“Thunderstorm Megazord!” the Rangers shouted. “GouraiSenpuujin!”

 

Shurikenger strung a series of notes on his guitar. “Carrier Mammoth! Earth Stomp!”

 

The mammoth roared and rose to stand on its hind two legs. The zord stomped down with a massive shockwave that tore across the streets and knocked Wolf Blade from the ground.

 

“Rangers!” Shurikenger shouted. “Command your Megazord and the Carrier Mammoth to gattai!”

 

“Let’s go for a ride, guys,” Hurricane Red said.

 

Thunderstorm Megazord leapt through the air and landed in the back of the massive mammoth. Carrier Mammoth stomped towards Wolf Blade as the monster rose back to its feet.

 

“Rolling Thunder Hurricane!” the Rangers shouted.

 

The lion mane spun and fired a beam of twirling energy, and the shoulder cannons fired pulses of energy that combined with the twirling wave. The mammoth amplified the attack with an energy wave that blasted from its trunk. The combined blast speared through Wolf Blade with a burst of spark that caused the creature to explode into dust. The energy discharge vaporized the dust into nothingness.

 

***

 

Wolf Blade’s destruction caused a chain reaction.

 

The infected across the city collapsed as their bodies convulsed and returned to normal. They all awoke, many in a daze, wondering what exactly had just happened.

 

***

 

Simon, Justin, Rachel, and Blake gathered on the streets below after defeating the Wolf Blade.

 

“That Carrier Mammoth was sick,” Justin said.

 

“Yeah,“ Rachel agreed. “I was a little worried when Shurikenger showed up with just a guitar.”

 

Blake looked over his shoulder and narrowed his eyes when he realized his brother was nowhere in sight. “Hunter…where’d he run off to…”

 

***

 

The sun set in the horizon. Crimson Thunder walked across the beach towards his opponent: Centhrax. The villain had challenged Crimson Thunder with a telepathic message just after the destruction of Wolf Blade.

 

“Crimson Thunder…” the villain lifted his blade towards the Ranger. “You will kill me tonight. I have seen it. But know this…even my death will not prevent me from taking your life.”

 

Crimson Thunder unsheathed his Thunder Staff. He silently stalked towards the villain.

 

“What?” Centhrax asked. “Have you nothing to say? No words of condemnation? No challenge of defiance?”

 

Crimson Thunder said nothing.

 

Centhrax shook with rage and charged forward to attack. The villain swung his blade towards Crimson Thunder, but the Ranger parried the blow and spun past Centhrax while slashing him across the chest with a burst of spark.

 

Crimson Thunder turned and somersaulted through the air. “Thunder Break!”

 

Crimson Thunder slammed his feet against Centhrax’s head, continued the somersault forward, and chopped his staff against the villain’s head while landing. The blow sparked on impact and sent Centhrax stumbling backward.

 

Centhrax collapsed to his knees.

 

Crimson Thunder turned and slowly walked away.

 

“Wait…” Centhrax called out weakly as smoke hissed from the gaping wound in his head. “No words to…ugh…”

 

The villain collapsed, and his body overloaded and exploded.

 

***

 

Rachel talked Blake into joining her, Simon, and Justin at a 24-hour coffee shop in the city. Simon ordered a plain black coffee. Justin ordered a pumpkin spice latte with extra whipped cream, Rachel ordered a small chai latte, and Blake ordered water.

 

“So where’s Hunter?” Justin asked.

 

Blake shook his head. “I don’t know…he ran off right after-”

 

“I’m here,” a voice said from behind. It was Hunter. He pulled up a chair and joined the rangers.

 

“Where’d you run off to?” Blake asked.

 

Hunter shook his head. “I’ll tell you about it later.”

 

Rachel smiled. “Well I’m glad you’re here.” She looked to Blake. “Both of you.”

 

Blake’s face turned slightly blush.

 

***

 

Deep within the Jakanja ship, within the private chambers of Centhrax, a cocoon stirred.

 

To be continued…Chapter 19