Wind and Thunder: Chapter 20

Outbreak: The Scourge

 

The animated corpses had lost patches of their hair, and their eyes were either solid black or solid red. Jagged teeth had grown from their jaws, and their nails were like claws. Patches of skin had rotted away from their bodies, and what remained of their skin had hardened tougher than leather.

 

The zombies tore apart the bodies of Dr. Murphy and the nurses and fled into the hallways of the hospital.

 

***

 

“Everyone, just calm down!” one of the security officers shouted in the hospital lobby. “Nobody’s leaving anytime soon, so the best thing to do is just stay-”

 

The group of undead ran into the lobby, which was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people. Most people screamed and ran in panic, trampling over the guards and bolting out the doors. Other stood frozen in fear until the moment they were tackled by the zombies.

 

The zombies pulled down dozens of people, and undead teeth and nails tore into the flesh of the living with a shower of blood.

 

***

 

Outside, police and riot control officers tried to push back the crowd that fled from the hospital, until they noticed the group of undead rush from the building with their backs hunched and teeth snarling.

 

The officers frantically opened fire at the undead, but their bullets were harmless against the zombies.

 

One of the cops, a rookie, was too frozen with fear to flee with the rest of the officers. The rookie, eyes wide open with panic, stood his ground and fired repeatedly at a zombie that charged towards him.

 

The zombie snarled and pounced at the rookie, who screamed until his windpipe was ripped from his neck by the zombie’s teeth.

 

The undead scattered around the deserted street, now littered with fresh corpses. Six of the zombies stayed behind, while the others spread through the streets and alleyways.

 

Zombies that stayed behind bent down on all fours and wiped their hands in the blood of the fallen. The undead used the blood to smear drawings of demonic runes across the pavement.

 

***

 

Television reporter Lynn Holtkamp stood outside a quarantine boundary in Angel Grove North. Behind her, yellow police tape crossed the street, which was blocked with police cars, fire engines, ambulances, and Center for Disease Control vehicles.

 

CDC officers dressed in gray decontamination suits carried cases of medical equipment and moved further into the area, rounding a corner and heading out of sight.

 

Lynn held her microphone and stood in front of her cameraman, who was shaking with fear. “Pull it together, Parkinson. Angel Grove wasn’t the place to start working if you scare easy.”

 

“It, it-” he stuttered. “It was the only place hiring.”

 

“Now you know why,” Holtkamp said. “Start rolling.”

 

Holtkamp didn’t bother straightening her hair or redoing her makeup. The types of stories she’d covered in Angel Grove for eight years didn’t afford her that luxury. “This is Lynn Holtkamp, outside the Haven’s Grove Hospital quarantine area, the latest of nine quarantine zones across Angel Grove City. The death toll continues to climb as Center for Disease Control officials try to determine the cause of this outbreak and how to stop it. We’ve-”

 

A shrill scream cut through the air, and Holtkamp’s head snapped around by instinct. CDC officers fled from around a corner within the quarantine area, and some of them tripped over their own feet and equipment and fell to the street.

 

A group of zombies followed them from around the corner. Several of the zombies pounced onto the fallen officers, tore open their suits, and bit down into their chests and guts, tearing out entrails.

 

Parkinson screamed, dropped the camera, and fled.

 

***

 

In Ops, Tommy and Ashley watched the newscast as the camera view dropped and the screen fizzled to static. The view was too erratic for them to have caught a glimpse of what had happened.

 

“What was that about?” Ashley asked.

 

Tommy shook his head. “I don’t know, but something panicked those disease control guys, and I doubt it was just rioters.”

 

Tommy’s cellphone rang, and he quickly pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open. It was his sister. “Chelsea, where have you been, I’ve been trying to call for-”

 

“Tommy we need help,” she said quickly. “I’m with Tyler, we’re hiding in the back of the dollar store at Haven’s Grove Plaza with a few other people. We-”

 

Her signal started to cut out. The color slightly drained from Tommy‘s face. “Chelsea, say that again, you’re breaking up…hiding from what…Chelsea? Chel-”

 

The signal disconnected. Tommy slapped his phone shut. “Chelsea’s stuck in the Haven’s Grove quarantine area. She has Tyler with her. She said they were hiding, something’s going on there, and we need to find out what.”

 

Ashley turned back to her computer. She pulled up a few windows with various scanning results. “The more this virus breaks out, the harder it is to get readings in each quarantine area,” she said. “The shadow energy in the virus is giving off interference, kind of like the interference in Demon City.”

 

Tommy nodded. “Just goes to show again that this virus is probably connected to that hell hole somehow. We need to find out what’s going on, and we need to get Chelsea and my son out of there now.”

 

***

 

Dr. William “Billy” Cranston walked into his private office within one of the many INET skyscrapers across Angel Grove. The former Power Ranger had a private suite in each building.

 

The former ranger sat behind his black, polished desk and activated a holographic communications channel. An image of Miss. Fairweather appeared over his desk. 

 

Dr. Cranston didn’t bother with the pleasantry of saying hi. “I’ve been off the planet for only a couple months, and now there’s a disease outbreak and zombies on the loose? Really?”

 

“It happened within the last three days,” Fairweather said. “People started getting sick and dying. But after they died, they were brought back…as these undead.”

 

“Fascinating,” Cranston said. “Upload all the information you have on the virus to my private server.”

 

“Should I send in the Silver Guardians?” Fairweather asked.

 

You shouldn’t, no,” Cranston said. “SPD is online effective now. The Silver Guardians are being transferred to the SPD Earth branch. They’ll handle it. Keep the Defense Initiative on standby in case the Vyram take advantage of the situation and Jet Force is needed.”

 

Dr. Cranston cut off the comm channel and opened another comm line on his desk. “Kruger, send Silver Guardian assets to the quarantine zones…”

 

***

 

Chelsea paced back and forth in a dollar store storage room and tried to get a better signal on her cellphone, but she couldn’t. She held Tommy’s son Tyler by the hand, and the 4-year-old boy kept up with her pacing.

 

About ten other people were spread out in the room. A young woman was curled up in a corner and clinging protectively onto her son, who was no older than 12. The store owner was still moving boxes in front of the door to create a barrier to keep out the undead. And the others sat on the floor with looks of fear in their eyes.

 

Chelsea kept trying to call back her brother. “I knew I should’ve switched to Verizon…” she muttered.

 

The doors suddenly jarred with a bang, shaking the pile of boxes, and everyone squirmed back, too frightened to scream.

 

***

 

Justin leapt onto a rooftop within the inner ring of the St. Ethelbert Hospital quarantine zone. He looked down and spotted the line of police, fire, and CDC vehicles that blocked off the entrances and exits into the area.

 

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He was afraid. Ashley had contacted him again to tell him about the virus; the virus that killed Phillip. Justin had likely contracted the sickness from the boy if the virus was as contagious as Ashley said. But the real source of Justin’s fear was for the youth shelter and the kids. Would they die too?

 

His communicator toned. It was Tommy. “Justin, what’s the situation where you are?”

 

“Nothing’s changed, really,” Justin said. “The CDC is here. They have two perimeter lines, one to hold back the people trying to escape, and another further back.”

 

“Then morph and meet up with Simon, Rachel, and the Thunder Rangers at the Haven’s Grove quarantine zone in Angel Grove North,” Tommy said. “Something’s going on there but we can’t tell what.”

 

Justin hesitated. “But what if I’m…”

 

“Think of your armor as a quarantine suit,” Tommy said. “You’ll be fine…everything is going to be fine.”

 

For the first time ever, Justin sensed doubt in Tommy’s voice.

 

***

 

The Silver Guardian’s black SUVs pulled up to the border of the St. Ethelbert Hospital quarantine zone. The vehicles skid to a halt, the doors opened, and soldiers piled out into the streets.

 

Wes Collins, the leader of the Silver Guardians, walked towards the nearest police officer. “We’re taking control of this zone,” he said, offering no further explanation. He looked to his men. “Okay everyone, fan out. Groups one and two, containment formation alpha. Groups three and four, equip your quarantine armor and move in, search pattern gamma.”

 

“Whoa, whoa,” the officer said. “No one goes in there. No one. I‘ve got my order-”

 

“My orders supercede yours in matters like this,” Wes said.

 

“Matters like this?” the cop asked. “I know what you Silver Guardians do, and I don’t see any monsters.”

 

“Then you obviously haven’t been looking,” Wes said.

 

***

 

Tommy’s son tried to step towards the door, but Chelsea held him back. “No, Tyler, no…”

 

The door pushed open hard, and the piles of boxes crashed to the ground with a bang that was drowned out by the screams of the men and women in the room.

 

Tyler was the only one who didn’t flinch when the door burst open. Everyone else screamed, until they noticed a man step inside and hold out his hands in an effort to calm them. He was in his mid 20’s and dressed in a black police uniform.

 

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he said. “I’m officer Walter Jones, I’m here to get you to safety. Just stay calm and follow me.”

 

“What’s going on?” Chelsea asked as she, Tyler, and the others followed Jones out of the storage room. “This isn’t just another attack. Something’s different.”

 

“Aren’t you a clever one,” Jones said as he led them onto the streets. Police officers, firefighters, and CDC officers scrambled from building to building while leading civilians into CDC vans. Jones appeared to be the only emergency responder not wearing a decontamination suit. “There’s an outbreak. We’re rounding everyone we can into-”

 

A van suddenly tipped onto its side and skid across the street, metal screeching against the pavement as a wave of zombies moved from behind the toppled vehicle.

 

Civilians scattered and screamed with panic as the zombies pounced and tackled several people to the ground. Chelsea lifted Tyler into her arms to run, but she noticed a wave of undead approach from the other end of the street as well. She cursed beneath her breath and turned towards the buildings across the street, hoping to find a place to hide, but the undead surrounded the emergency responders, cutting off all avenues of escape. They were surrounded.

 

Jones stood protectively in front of Chelsea and Tyler as the zombies closed in around them and attacked everyone they could get their undead hands on.

 

Five of the zombies dashed towards Jones, Chelsea, and Tyler from ahead, and another six undead charged towards them from all around. Chelsea narrowed her eyes and held tightly onto Tyler.

 

Jones reached from behind his back and pulled out a green, sphere-shaped device. He 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.

 

Shurikenger unsheathed his sword and dashed past the first five zombies with a flurry of swings from his sword that cut through their undead flesh, but the blows didn’t seem to effect the zombies. Three of the zombies grabbed onto Shurikenger and tried to bite through his legs and neck while the other two undead tried to tear off his chest shield.

 

The Green Ranger twisted free from their grasp and twirled his blade through an intricate pattern that sliced the head off a zombie, and the undead corpse slumped to the ground.

 

Catching on, the Green Ranger sidekicked a zombie away and swung his sword to decapitate the undead. The Green Ranger spun around with a diagonal slash to decapitate another undead and stepped forward with another swing to slice off the head of the next zombie.

 

Nearby, Chelsea screamed and tried to run from an undead that grabbed her arm. She turned to slam a backfist across the creature, but another undead tugged her back by the hair, and she dropped Tyler to the ground. 

 

Shurikenger snapped around and hurled his sword like a spear. The blade punctured through the head of the undead grabbing Chelsea’s hair.

 

The undead started to fall backward, and the Green Ranger leapt forward, leapt against the undead’s body and pulled his blade free, and pushed off while swinging his blade through the head of the undead grabbing Chelsea by the arm, freeing the girl.

 

Chelsea immediately crouched down to Tyler and lifted the boy, who was surprisingly not crying. The young child had his eyes narrowed in a grim look that mirrored his father. He wasn’t sad or scared. He was angry.

 

***

 

The five Rangers used their Ki to leap from rooftop to rooftop in the Haven’s Grove quarantine zone. Hurricane Red was silent as he surveyed the streets below. He could not believe the city was under siege again, and this time from a far more elusive threat than the Mogralord.

 

His empathic senses could feel the fear that permeated the city, and he could practically sense the stench of death all around.

 

“Something is definitely wrong,” Hurricane Red said as he landed on a rooftop. The others joined him and spread out across the building. They were near Haven’s Grove Plaza.

 

“You can say that again, Red,” Hurricane Yellow said from the other end of the roof. “Down there!”

 

The Rangers looked to the other side of the block and saw at least a hundred undead surround Shurikenger, Chelsea, and young Tyler in the middle of the street. The bodies of dead CDC officers, police, and firemen littered the streets.

 

Navy Thunder cursed beneath his breath. “Those look like zombies. Tell me those aren’t zombies.”

 

Crimson Thunder unsheathed his staff. “We’ll figure out what they are later.”

 

Hurricane Red unsheathed his sword. “Let’s go!”

 

The five Rangers leapt to street level.

 

***

 

Tommy and Ashley continued to monitor the situation from Ops. Ashley had two of her computer monitors tuned into different news broadcasts, and her main monitor was scanning each of the quarantine areas.

 

Ashley scanned the data from the Power and Thunder Rangers’ battle and finished explaining to Tommy. “…after a virus kills its victim, the victim is resurrected as an undead.”

 

Tommy’s body tensed. “So there’s an army of these things in each quarantine zone.” He shook his head. “We don’t have enough manpower to respond to each zone.”

 

“It looks like emergency responders in the St. Ethelbert and Haven’s Grove zones are running into the most trouble. The undead are breaking through the perimeters…of course things could be just as bad in each zone. With all this interference, it‘s too hard to tell.”

 

“We’ll have to work with what we know,” Tommy said. “Have the Thunders break off from Haven’s Grove and head to the St. Ethelbert area.”

 

“Wait…” Ashley said. “There’s something else…I think I zeroed in on where the virus originated.”

 

“Where?” Tommy asked.

 

She looked over her shoulder towards Tommy. “It was the children’s shelter. Justin’s.”

 

***

 

Hurricane Red sliced through the neck of a zombie and roundhouse kicked the undead’s head off. He turned to his right with an upward swing that slashed through a zombie’s chest, and he chopped the blade back down through the undead’s head.

 

Tommy’s voice came through their communicators. “Guys, we need you to split up. These zombies are popping up in each quarantine zone. Thunders, head to the St. Ethelbert area. Simon, we think we found the place where the virus originated. I need you to check it out.”

 

Hurricane Red spinning heel kicked a zombie across the head. “Where?”

 

“The children’s shelter,” Tommy said.

 

“What?” Hurricane Yellow overheard, and the distraction let a group of five undead pounce on top of him.

 

The Yellow Ranger armed his Lion Hammer and spun around to bash the zombies off of him. “Simon, let me go…”

 

“Justin…” Hurricane Red roundkicked an undead and sliced off the zombie’s head. “Just let me go. It’ll be too hard. I can tell, you’re practically-”

 

“Simon, I have to go,” Hurricane Yellow said.

 

Hurricane Red ducked beneath a zombie’s arm swing and stabbed his blade through the undead’s gut. He pulled the blade free and slashed through the zombie’s neck. “Fine, go. Just be careful.”

 

Hurricane Yellow kicked off a zombie and leapt towards the rooftops, and Crimson Thunder followed. Navy Thunder hesitated, glanced over his shoulder at Hurricane Blue, and leapt towards the rooftops.

 

Hurricane Red, Hurricane Blue, and Shurikenger formed a protective circle around Chelsea and Tyler and hacked away at any undead that approached. And there were many.

 

***

 

An army of undead rushed towards the Silver Guardian perimeter around the St. Ethelbert quarantine zone.

 

Wes took cover behind a toppled police car and fired a burst of rounds at the approaching zombies. Most of his men were already dead. And Wes noticed some of the zombies use the blood of the fallen to paint demonic symbols on the pavement.

 

The former Time Ranger ducked behind the car to reload and spoke into his wrist communicator. “We need reinforcements out here now.”

 

“We can’t sir, we’re under-” static burst through the comm line.

 

Wes cursed beneath his breath and swung his weapon over the cop car to open fire, but instead, an undead tackled him to the ground. Wes grabbed the creature and rolled back while kicking the undead upward through the air.

 

Wes rolled back to his feet to see five Zombies within arm’s reach.

 

He blasted one undead through the head at point-blank range and slammed the handle of his weapon across a second zombie’s skull.

 

But a third undead tackled Wes back-first onto the ground. The zombie’s saliva-dripping jaw lunged to bite off Wes’s face, but Wes used one hand to grab the zombie’s forehead and used his other hand to put his gun barrel beneath the zombie’s chin and open fire, shooting a bullet upward through the undead’s skull.

 

Wes rolled out from beneath the corpse and swept the legs out from an undead, but a zombie grabbed him by the throat and lifted him off his feet with surprising strength as two more zombies pounced towards him.

 

A bolt of navy lightning tore the zombie’s arm in half, and Wes dropped to the ground just as two bolts of crimson-tinted shadow blasted through the skulls of the two other undead.

 

Navy Thunder and Crimson Thunder flipped onto the ground.

 

Wes rose to his feet and knitted his brow at the Rangers. “Aren’t you supposed to be bad guys?”

 

“It’s complicated,” Navy Thunder said as he unsheathed his staff. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

 

Crimson Thunder faced further down the street. “Blake, look.”

 

About two dozen zombies gathered around demonic runes they had used blood to paint on the pavement. The runes started to glow with purple-tinted shadow energy as faint streams of power arced upward from the pavement. The runes were painted in a circular formation, so the faint streams of power curved above the center of the circle.

 

The eyes of the undead started to glow with purple light.

 

Crimson Thunder looked to Wes. “Go regroup with whatever men you have left.”

 

Wes activated his communicator. “Sit-rep.”

 

“They broke through our northern perimeter,” a panicked voice answered. “Not many of them made it through, but they scattered. We’re trying to regroup.”

 

“Fall back to 90th Street and set up a new perimeter,” Wes said. “Send ZECT teams to track and take out the undead that broke through. I’ll be there shortly.”

 

Wes glanced at the Thunder Rangers. “Good luck.”

 

The former Time Ranger dashed towards a fallen police motorcycle, lifted it from the ground, and hopped on. He opened the throttle to full and sped down the street. 

 

The Thunders turned their attention back towards the zombies. The hunched undead seemed captivated by the dancing flickers of energy that rose from the runic symbols of blood that pulsed with shadow energy.

 

Crimson Thunder looked to his brother. “Contact Oliver and tell him what we see.”

 

Navy Thunder hesitated.

 

Bolts of shadow energy suddenly sparked against the Thunder Rangers and knocked them to the ground. They rolled into crouched fighting stances and looked up to see the resurrected Centhrax, who stood on a ledge looking down at them.

 

“Crimson Thunder…” Centhrax said. “I told you…not even death would keep me from my revenge.”

 

Crimson Thunder rolled his hands into fists. “You…how is that possible. I killed you.”

 

“I am an offspring of Centhrax, and I possess all of his memories,” Centhrax said. “I saw a vision of my demise and planned accordingly.”

 

“Plan for this…” Crimson Thunder shouted. “Shadow bolt!” He hurled a bolt of crimson-tinted shadow energy that Centhrax casually swatted aside.

 

“Hmph.” Centhrax crossed his arms over his chest. “Your attacks are useless. I have become a master of all unholy and shadow energies. Don’t you see…” He looked out into the distance. “The wave of undeath that has swept through this city, it is all by my power. Soon even you will-”

 

“Lightning bolt!” Navy Thunder hurled a bolt of navy lightning at the villain.

 

Centhrax leapt away as the blast exploded through the ledge beneath him. The villain somersaulted through the air and slammed against the ground while bashing his fist against the street with a burst of shadow energy that knocked the Thunder Rangers off their feet.

 

Crimson Thunder used his staff for balance to rise back to his knees. He looked to his brother. “Centhrax is mine. Take out the undead.”

 

Navy Thunder nodded and unsheathed his staff. He sprinted towards the zombies standing around the demonic runes.

 

The Navy Thunder Ranger spun past a zombie with a swing of his staff that cut off the undead’s head. He continued his spin to knock the legs out from an undead. The zombie crashed to the ground, and Navy Thunder speared his staff through the undead’s head.

 

An undead charged at Navy Thunder from the side, and Navy Thunder slammed a sidekick against the zombie’s face. Three zombies charged at Navy Thunder, and the Ranger swung his blade through an x-shaped pattern that slashed them back. He spun with a horizontal swing to decapitate each zombie with a single blow.

 

Meanwhile, Crimson Thunder charged at Centhrax and swung his staff through a flurry of swings that the villain dodged. Centhrax grabbed the staff, held on tight, and slammed a series of roundkicks that sparked against Crimson Thunder’s side.

 

Centhrax released his grasp on the staff and spinkicked Crimson Thunder across the head with a blow that knocked the Ranger to the ground. Crimson Thunder rolled into a crouched fighting stance and swung his hand towards the villain. His palm fired a crimson-tinted shadow bolt that Centhrax swatted aside.

 

“You have trouble listening, Crimson Thunder,” Centhrax said. “I am a master of shadow energies.” Centhrax tightened his fist, and strands of shadow energy surrounded Crimson Thunder and nearly crushed him. “My exposure to Demon City has heightened my powers a thousand fold.”

 

Centhrax used his shadow grasp to hurl Crimson Thunder across the street and slam him against a building, which cracked upon impact.

 

***

 

Hurricane Yellow stepped into the deserted Angel’s Haven Children’s Shelter, the place where he grew up and called home for almost all his life. The site of the empty shelter panged him with sadness.

 

He shook his head and walked further into the building. “Okay, snap out of it, Justin,” He said to himself. “You have a job to do…I have to find whatever it is I’m looking for…”

 

He opened the door to the basement and walked downstairs, which mostly served as a storage area for the shelter. He stopped about halfway down the steps when he noticed strands of webbing that covered the basement.

 

“Okay…” he said to himself. “I know the cleaning staff here wasn’t that great, but still…”

 

Countless bugs scattered across the basement floor.

 

Hurricane Yellow lifted his morpher to his faceplate. “Tommy, I found something here that-”

 

A monstrous insect creature leapt from the shadows and opened its gaping jaws, which could have easily swallowed the Yellow Ranger.

 

***

 

Dr. William “Billy” Cranston’s desk displayed 10 holographic monitors, one for each quarantine zone. His Silver Guardians were barely able to contain each area. And the civilians trying to flee Angel Grove were growing restless at the city’s borders, which were blocked off by the National Guard.

 

Cranston opened a commline to INET’s newest think tank, the ISIS Research and Education Initiative. “What’s the status of your research on the virus?”

 

“It’s going slowly, sir,” a voice answered. “Although we have made a new discovery. Each of the undead is more than a reanimated corpse. Once the body is reanimated, the virus mutates and grows into…well, we believe into small egg sacks of some sort.”

 

“Egg sacks?” Cranston asked.

 

Another monitor on his desk appeared to his side. It was a text report from one of his field agents. Another outbreak had been reported in the White Oak Memorial Hospital area. Cranston narrowed his eyes and opened a comm line with Miss Fairweather at the ISIS Defense Initiative.

 

“Miss Fairweather, it turns out we’ll need Jet Force after all,” he said.

 

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Good, things are getting out of control…”

 

“I agree,” Cranston said. “Which is why I want them to use their zords and bombard the White Oak Memorial Hospital area. An outbreak’s just been reported. We can’t afford any more undead awakening.”

 

“But sir,” Miss Fairweather said. “That area hasn’t even been evacuated.”

 

“There’s no time,” Cranston said. “We can’t afford to let the undead grow in numbers. Send in J-Force, I want the ten-square-mile area purged.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 21