Wind and Thunder: Chapter Twenty-one
Hurricane Yellow swung a tornado kick that the insect creature caught between its jaws. The monster bit down hard and swung the Yellow Ranger against the wall, cracking the concrete on impact. The Yellow Ranger unsheathed his sword and slashed the creature with a burst of spark, and the monster jerked back, releasing its grasp, and the Yellow Ranger crashed against the stairs.
Hurricane Yellow got his first good look at the monster. The creature’s body was an elongated insect head on legs, with tentacles for arms and bulbous eyes. Its gaping mouth took up most of its body. The creature had pincer-like mandibles and a ridge of exoskeleton segments that stretched from its forehead to its back. Its exoskeleton was dark bronze.
Normally the Yellow Ranger would have snapped off a quip to hide his nervousness and fear. But nothing funny came to mind. The shelter, the one place he knew as home throughout his entire life, was in shambles. His home, his safety zone, was gone, and the creature before him was somehow responsible.
Hurricane Yellow shouted, energized his blade with yellow-tinted energy, and swung the weapon through a powerful arc.
But the monster merely bit down on the sword and snapped its blade in two.
Centhrax tightened his fist, and the strands of shadow energy surrounding Crimson Thunder restricted even tighter, sparking against the Ranger’s armor and making it nearly impossible for him to breathe.
The villain used the energy strands to whip Crimson Thunder backward and slam him against another building, which cracked upon impact.
“You see, Crimson Thunder,” Centhrax taunted. “You are helpless.”
Nearby, Navy Thunder slashed through the necks of the last two undead and spin kicked their heads off. He snapped around towards Centhrax and Crimson Thunder in the near distance, but another wave of undead poured from the alleys and blocked the Navy Thunder Ranger’s path.
The Ranger cursed beneath his breath and charged towards the zombies. Nothing was going to stand in the way of helping his brother, the one person in all his life who had ever cared for him. Nothing.
Hurricane Red spun to slash down three undead that had moved dangerously close to Chelsea, who cradled her young nephew Tyler in her arms.
"Chelsea." He kicked back an undead. "You have to take Tyler and get out of here, now!"
"Gee, don't you think I've tried that?"
Hurricane Red spin kicked a zombie aside and chopped off its head. He took a moment to glance across the battlefield. Shurikenger and Hurricane Blue were trying to help him hold the undead off, but too many of the rotting zombies spilled into the streets from every alley. And some of the undead were using blood to etch demonic symbols across the pavement, and the symbols pulsed with shadow energy.
"New plan." Hurricane Red slashed off the head of a zombie and stepped closer to Chelsea and Tyler. He grabbed them in his arms and leapt towards the rooftops.
The Red Ranger landed on the ledge of a nearby building and stepped down onto the roof. "There." He set Chelsea and Tyler back onto their feet. "They can't reach you up here. I'm going to take a-"
The ground suddenly shook with a violent tremor that nearly knocked Hurricane Red, Chelsea, and Tyler off their feet. A torrent of shadow energy erupted from one of the rings of demonic symbols on the streets below.
The energy pulse stabbed into the skies, and in the distance, Hurricane Red noticed similar pillars of shadow energy shoot up from across the city.
Shurikenger slashed upward with a burst of spark that sliced open an undead's chest, and he chopped off the zombie's head. He looked over his shoulder at the pillar of shadow that had erupted from the street. Several zombies stood around the pillar, and their eyes were pulsing with shadow energy.
"Hidoi," he said quietly.
The Green Ranger kicked a soldier away and slightly lowered his head while reaching out with his mind for his master. "Gozen-sama..."
Ashley's computer displayed a map of Angel Grove City, and each quarantine zone on the map started blinking purple.
"Eruptions of shadow power," Ashley said as her fingers danced across her keyboard. "In each quarantine zone."
Tommy glanced over one of the computer windows that had a reading of the shadow energies. "We've seen this before...gateways. Those undead are trying to open gateways."
"Probably into Demon City," Ashley said.
Tommy nodded. The demons, evil spirits, and monstrosities that lurked in Demon City were confined to its soil and couldn't leave by natural means. But mystical gateways charged with shadow energy were capable of pulling the creatures outside of the demonic zone.
"See if you can get in touch with Simon or the others," Tommy said. "We have to-"
One of Ashley's side monitors started beeping and displayed a scrolling message. The message was a data stream from INET's ISIS Defense Initiative. Tommy had asked Ashley to hack into INET's computer systems in cases of emergency only.
She looked to the monitor. "Oh my god, Tommy..." She maximized the message on her monitor. "This is an order to the Jet Task Force, the Aero Rangers. They've been ordered to use their zords to bombard the White Oak Memorial Hospital quarantine area."
"Has that area been evacuated yet?" Tommy asked.
Ashley shook her head. "No, the outbreak there was just reported."
Tommy cursed beneath his breath. "See, this is why I wanted to know what Billy was up to. We can't let that happen. All those people..." He shook his head. "We need to get a hold of Simon and the others."
"Even if we did..." her voice trailed off.
But Tommy knew what she had been thinking. Their six Rangers were spread too thin. If they left to intercept J-Force, people would die. Including Tommy's sister and son. But if they didn't leave, even more people would die. Tommy wished he was back on the field. It always seemed simpler in the thick of the fight.
"Just try to reach them so we can see what's going on," Tommy said. "Without knowing, or even being able to talk to them, we can't-"
A blinding flash of light suddenly erupted in the center of Ops, and Tommy instinctively summoned his golden-hilted sword.
Wes Collins pulled his motorcycle to a halt when he noticed the pillars of shadow energy erupt into the skies in the distance. "Oh great..."
Shadows scurried in the alleyways and made clicking noises that caught Wes's attention. He turned just in time to see four humanoid insects rush towards him. The creatures had green exoskeletons and shells that covered their heads like hoods. Green, slimy tendrils laced down from their empty eye sockets, and their narrow mouths were lined with sharp teeth.
Wes pulled out his sidearm and opened fire. His bullets sparked against the insect creatures but didn't slow them down.
If the Silver Guardians were like a police force, ZECT was like their SWAT team. Each soldier wore black Kevlar and black armor over their chests, forearms, and legs. Their faceplates were insect-like, with large black eyes and antenna. Each soldier carried a machine gun that wrapped around their right forearm.
They moved along the streets in a tight formation and searched for the undead that had broken free from the nearest quarantine zone.
The ZECT unit turned a corner and noticed the group of insect creatures surround Wes further down the street.
"Weapons free!" the lead ZECT soldier shouted.
The soldiers opened fire with weapons that sounded like chainsaws. The rapid blasts sparked against the insects and knocked them back, ichor spraying from each bullet's puncture.
ZECT soldiers moved in and snapped out small blades from their sidearms. The soldiers slashed at the insects with bursts of spark and knocked them backward. But they overestimated the brute strength of the creatures.
One of the insects grabbed a ZECT soldier by the back of the neck and hurled him across the street. The soldier went shattering through a window. A second insect opened its jaw and bit down against a weak spot in a soldier's neck armor.
Wes dashed forward and kicked the insect off of the soldier, but the creature snapped around with a swing of its tendril hand that knocked the former Time Ranger off his feet. The Silver Guardian crashed against the ground hard enough to knock the wind from his lungs. One of the insect creatures grabbed him by the back of the neck and hurled him across the street.
The light faded in Ops, and Tommy kept his sword held in a fighting stance. He slowly lowered the blade when he saw who stood in the middle of the floor.
She appeared Asian and was dressed in white robes laces with red. Long dark hair flowed down her back. Her features were soft, yet cold, and her face was slightly pale, making her red lips seem even more bright.
"Gozen..." Tommy whispered her name. "What are you doing here?"
Tommy and Ashley had met Gozen during their time in space as Astro Rangers nearly four years ago. She had taught them about Ninjetti and their Animal Spirits while in the Rigel Expanse, and they hadn't seen or heard from her since.
"A plague of undeath is threatening to consume your planet," she said.
"We noticed," Tommy said, harsher than he meant to. "But...why come now. We haven't seen you since the Rigel Expanse."
"There is no time to explain," she said. "The Holy energies I weave from the One Power can heal this sickness, but my strength is limited. There is, however, a way to increase my power."
"How?" Tommy asked.
She looked him directly in the eyes. "Your son."
"Tyler?" Tommy asked with disbelief. "How?"
"The boy is powerful," Gozen said. "He has your blood, which is the blood of Sauron, the first evil of recorded time, and the blood of Jestin, the first Ranger of recorded time. And his mother, the Phoenix Ranger, was host to the Power Cosmic of the Phoenix Force. He is a child of the Heaven Fire Star and the Phoenix. A child of the One Power and Power Cosmic."
"He's four," Tommy said. "Leave him out of this." He was not about to let another loved one get dragged into a seemingly never-ending struggle against evil. He couldn't bare it.
"He is already involved," Gozen said. "Fate is weaving him into the pattern-"
"Stop," Tommy said. "I don't-" He hesitated. Ashley walked up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. He reached up and placed his hand on hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. Tommy took a deep breath. "How will this work."
"First we must bring him here," Gozen said. "Then we must go to the center of the city. The exact center, where its power is strongest."
Tommy narrowed his eyes. "That's in Demon City."
Gozen nodded. "I will rally the Rangers and the boy for the journey."
"The interference..." Ashley started to say.
"Will not be an issue," Gozen said. "The Holy energies I channel from the One Power can break through."
Gozen vanished with a twirl of fiery, golden power.
Hurricane Red's eyes opened wide with horror at the sight of the shadowy spears stabbing into the skies. "That can't be good..."
Hurricane Red stepped onto the ledge of the building and looked down to Shurikenger and Hurricane Blue, who were fighting against another wave of zombies on the streets below. "Guys!" he shouted. "Fall back up here. We need to regroup and find out what the hell is going on!"
Below, the Green Ranger hacked away a zombie and leapt towards the rooftops. The Blue Ranger crescent kicked an undead out of her way and followed. They regrouped on the rooftop.
"Okay," Hurricane Red said. "Here's what we do-"
A flash of light suddenly erupted on the rooftop as Gozen appeared. Hurricane Red and Hurricane Blue unsheathed their swords, but Shurikenger bowed down on his knees and lowered his head.
"Gozen-sama," he whispered.
Hurricane Red tilted his head. "...what?"
"She is Gozen-sama," Shurikenger said. "My majesty."
"Stand," she said, her face expressionless. Shurikenger rose to his feet, and Gozen looked to Hurricane Red. "I am an ally to your mentor. Where are your other Rangers?"
"Spread thin," Shurikenger answered. The others noticed that the Green Ranger could not bring himself to meet his master's gaze.
Gozen looked off into the distance and searched for the other Rangers with her mind, as she had done to find the Green Ranger. "Come," she whispered. "I have them."
The Rangers, Chelsea, Tyler, and Gozen teleported away with a swirl of golden, Holy light.
Navy Thunder slashed a zombie away, leapt towards Centhrax, and chopped his staff towards the villain's head.
Centhrax fired a bolt of shadow energy that knocked Navy Thunder from the air with a burst of spark. The Navy Thunder Ranger crashed to the street. Centhrax stepped onto the Ranger's chest and summoned his own bladed weapon with a burst of shadow energy. Centhrax held the blade next to the fallen Ranger's throat.
Suddenly, a twirling burst of Holy light exploded against the villain's chest and knocked him back. The villain clutched his smoking wound and looked up to see Gozen standing alongside Hurricane Red, Hurricane Blue, and Shurikenger. Chelsea stood behind them with Tyler in her arms.
Centhrax merely laughed. "Fools. I have-"
The Thunder Rangers teleported away with flashes of golden light. Gozen and the others followed.
Centhrax stood silently. He slowly lowered his blade. "Hmph."
Hurricane Yellow went flailing through the window of the children's shelter and crashed against the street outside. He skid across the pavement and rolled to a stop as the insect creature leapt through the shattered window.
The Yellow Ranger, legs wobbling, rose to his feet. He was tired and battered, but he couldn't stop fighting. The creature standing before him had destroyed his home and had to pay.
Hurricane Yellow dashed forward with a spin kick that bashed against the monster's eye. He followed with a tornado kick that the monster swatted aside with its tentacle arm.
Flashes of golden light suddenly erupted across the street as Gozen and the others teleported to the scene.
"Justin!" Hurricane Blue called out as she and the others regrouped around the Yellow Ranger.
Gozen stared ahead at the monster. Her face was a blank slate, but her eyes glared fire. She looked to Shurikenger. "I will take the boy to safety. Dispose of this monster and return to me after."
Shurikenger inclined his head. "Hai, Gozen-sama."
Gozen placed her hands on Tyler and Chelsea, and they teleported away with flashes of golden light.
Navy Thunder had his eyes fixed on the monster. "What is that thing?"
"The carrier," Hurricane Yellow said. "That has to be what brought on the virus."
Crimson Thunder tightened his grip on his staff. "That means Centhrax created it."
"Speaking of which," Hurricane Red said. "I thought you killed him?"
"I did," Crimson Thunder said. "He didn't stay dead."
The monster opened its gaping jaw and charged towards the Rangers, but then, it stopped in its tracks. The creature convulsed as its body expanded with a thundering boom and grew giant.
The Rangers stepped back and looked up at the monster.
Hurricane Yellow looked to his leader. "Red, you think the interference is too strong to call our zords?"
"Only one way to find out." 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 faceplates. “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!”
The monster lashed out with its tentacle arms, which wrapped around the two Megazords. The tentacles tightened and nearly crushed the Megazords as bursts of spark tore across their armor.
Below, Shurikenger raised the pommel of his sword towards his faceplate. "Tenkuujin!"
The helicopter zord flew through the skies, and the Green Ranger leapt into his cockpit.
“Tenkuujin!” Shurikenger commanded. “Hisho Henkei!”
The zord rolled hard to port and changed shape. The engines became a pair of legs, the bow split open into a pair of arms, and the four-point propeller formed chest armor. The star-shaped propeller’s top point flipped down to become the helmet of the zord’s head.
“Tenkuujin!” Shurikenger shouted. “Frisan!”
Tommy wrapped his arms around Chelsea and Tyler. "Thank god you're okay."
"Tommy," Ashley said from her computer. "The interference near the children's shelter cleared when Gozen teleported there. We can monitor the fight..." She pulled up an image of the giant monster, which was bashing against the two Megazords. "That monster was the carrier of the virus...its energy readings are off the charts."
"Is that new fusion program ready?" Tommy asked.
Ashley nodded. "I finished a few days before the outbreak."
"Good," Tommy said. "Let's bust it out."
StormMegazord chopped its blade towards the monster, but the creature swatted the sword away and bit against the Megazord's arm with a burst of spark.
Tenkuujin moved in and punched the monster away from the Megazord.
"Guys," Tommy said through their communicators. "We're sending you new Power Discs. Use them to unlock a new fusion program to bring all your zords together.
A Power Disc materialized in the cockpits of Hurricane Red, Crimson Thunder, and Shurikenger.
"Power Disc!" They called out as they inserted the discs into their control consoles. "Lock...and drop!"
StormMegazord summoned Power Sphere No. 15, ThunderMegazord summoned Power Sphere No. 16, and Tenkuujin summoned Power Sphere No. 17. Each sphere cracked open to reveal a separate component, and the three components combined to form a miniature zord called the Tri Condor. Tri Condor uploaded the new fusion program into each zord.
"Let's do it," Hurricane Red said. "Megazords assemble...Hurricane Fusion!"
The zords crackled with energy and started to change shape. ThunderMegazord split into separate components and formed the arms and feet of the new Megazord. Tenkuujin split, and its helicopter propeller formed a star-shaped piece of armor across the new Megazord's chest. Tri Condor formed a helmet around the Megazord that slid into place.
The six Rangers joined in a cockpit within the Tri Condor. "Hurricane Megazord!"
The monster lashed out with its tentacle arm, but Hurricane Megazord grabbed the tentacles and pulled forward. The creature stumbled closer to the Megazord, and the robo bashed a punch against the creature, shattering parts of its exoskeleton.
Hurricane Red and the others activated their finishing move. "Gale-Force, Tempest Hurricane!"
The star-shaped chest armor started spinning like a helicopter propeller. The armor fired a twirling vortex of energy that splashed across the monster with bursts of spark that chipped away at its body. The creature howled as the hurricane blast tore apart his armor and limbs, and his body exploded with a final burst of flames and smoke.
ISIS Defense Initiative headquarters was a stepped-pyramid shaped building just south of Demon City in the Angel Grove Reconstruction Zone, an area of intense rebuilding established after the Mogralord battles.
The building's hanger bay, at the upper most level, slid open as the five Jet-zords zoomed out into the skies.
Christopher Naxx, leader of Jet Force, opened a commline to his team.
"We have our orders," he said to them. "Let's make this quick."
"This doesn't feel right," said Kristin Worthington, the White Swan Ranger. "Has the area even been evacuated?"
Christopher shook his head. "I don't know..."
"Which probably means no," said Vince Carter, the Black Condor Ranger. "Which probably means we're on our way to air bomb a bunch of civilians."
"We can't do that!" said Amy Ness, the Blue Swallow Ranger.
Christopher narrowed his brow. He tightened his grip on his control stick. He knew Amy was right, but what choice did he have?
The Power Rangers regrouped in Ops, and they all powered down their armor except for Hurricane Yellow and Shurikenger. The teens looked to the Yellow Ranger.
"Justin..." Rachel said.
"I might be infected..." he said.
"Gozen stepped to the Yellow Ranger and placed a hand on his chest. She closed her eyes. "You are, but I can heal you..."
Gozen channeled Holy energy from the One Power and weaved a healing spell. An aura of golden light shimmered around the Yellow Ranger and penetrated his body. Hurricane Yellow felt a wave of vertigo nearly knock him off his feet, and the aura of power vanished.
"The virus is gone," Gozen said. "You may power down your armor."
Justin demorphed. "Thanks...so who are you?"
"There's no time for explanations," she said. "Destroying that monster has cost us enough time."
"She's right," Tommy said. "At least now we-"
One of the monitors on Ashley's desk started beeping. She pulled up a computer window. "Jet Force is en route to the White Oak Memorial Hospital quarantine area in their zords."
Tommy cursed beneath his breath. "I almost forgot about them" He looked to Simon. "New plan," he said. "I'll go alone with Gozen and Tyler to Demon City. You guys take your zords and stop Jet Force from killing all those people."
Justin wrinkled his brow. "You want us to fight other Rangers?"
"Foolish," Gozen said. "You'd risk our plans to save a handful of people?"
"We'll save everyone we can," Tommy said. "It's our responsibility."
Simon nodded in agreement. "Maybe if we split up again."
Tommy shook his head. "No, they have five zords, you'll need five." He looked to Shurikenger. "Shurikenger, you'll come with me and Gozen."
"As he would have regardless," Gozen said.
Tommy looked to Simon. "Go. And may The Power protect you."
"Christopher," Kristin said. "We can't do this..."
Christopher closed his eyes. Kristin was right. He opened his eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm picking up something strange in my engines," he lied. "It might be a Vyram trick...let's set down."
The Jet-zords dove downward and swooped into landing positions on the deserted streets below. The zords' cockpits opened, and Christopher and his team climbed down onto the ground. They regrouped.
"Okay," Christopher said. "Dr. Cranston's right about one thing, we can't let-"
They heard a booming noise come from further down the block. The Jet Force team looked to see the Storm-zords and Thunder-zords pull to a stop nearby. The Power Rangers and Thunder Rangers leapt from their zords, landed on the streets, and powered down their armor.
"Jet Force," Simon said. "Get back into your zords and go home. We don't want a fight, but we're not letting you anywhere close to the quarantine zone."
Christopher narrowed his eyes at the other rangers. "You realize you have no official standing. We do. So I suggest you get out of our way."
"Official standing or not," Simon said, "we're not letting you do this."
"Your boss has crossed the line this time," Christopher said.
"And your boss is psycho," Simon said. "Cold-blooded psycho."
"Without Dr. Cranston, the Vyram would have-"
"Oh my god," Vince interrupted. He looked towards Simon. "Is every Red Ranger annoying? Is it some sort of prerequisite, that to wear red spandex, you have to be an annoying prick?"
Blake stepped forward. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite understand that,” he said. “You see, I don’t speak Dumb Ass.”
Vince narrowed his eyes. "Oh, you bitch."
Vince dashed towards Blake, who stood his ground and stepped back into a fighting stance. Vince swung a fist towards the ranger, but Blake grabbed Vince by the wrist and smashed a roundkick against his ribs, knocking him back.
Vince stumbled back but managed to stay on his feet as his team regrouped around him. Christopher narrowed his eyes at Simon and the others, who stepped back into loose defensive stances.
Christopher and his team armed their bracers.
“Really?” Justin said. “It’s the freaking zombie apocalypse and these guys want to fight?”
“Suit up!” They slapped their bracers’ activation panels and morphed into their armor. They snapped into fighting stances.
“Jet Task Force,” the Red Ranger called. They shouted together: “Aero Rangers!”
Simon and his team armed their bracers.
“Ninjetti change! Ha!”
Energy twirled and crackled 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!”
“Power of Shadow…Crimson Thunder!”
“Power of Lightning…Navy Thunder!”
“Hurricane Task Force…” the Red Ranger called. They shouted together for the first time: “Power Rangers!”
Aero Black scoffed at the team. He pulled out his blaster and fired lances of black energy that sparked around the Power Rangers. But as the sparks cleared, their uniforms crumpled onto the ground as if the Rangers had shed their armor and disappeared.
“Ha!” Hurricane Red and the Power Rangers leapt at Jet Force from behind with their weapons held high.
To be continued…Chapter 22