Wind and Thunder: Chapter Twenty-two

Outbreak: Phoenix Heart

 

Red Hawk unsheathed his sword and parried Hurricane Red's blade. The Red Wind Ranger twisted his sword around and slashed upward across Aero Red's chest with a burst of spark. Aero Red was forced back a step but snapped a jumpkick that Hurricane Red easily blocked.

 

The Red Wind Ranger stepped forward, slammed the handle of his weapon against Aero Red's faceplate, and bashed a sidekick against his chest. "You shouldn't have started this," Hurricane Red said as he blocked a roundkick from Aero Red. "You should've just left."

 

Aero Red pulled out his Jet Blaster and leapt backward while facing Hurricane Red. The Red Aero Ranger fired lances of red energy that Hurricane Red deflected with his sword.

 

Red Hawk landed on his feet and stepped back into a defensive stance.

 

Meanwhile, Aero Black armed his Wing Gauntlet and pushed at Navy Thunder with a volley of punches. Navy Thunder was forced several steps back as he blocked each blow.

 

Navy Thunder blocked the last punch with a sidestep as he slammed a roundkick against the Black Ranger's gut. Navy Thunder smashed his leg against the Black Ranger's faceplate and slammed a spinkick across the helmet.

 

Aero Black spun with the blow, ducked low, and slammed his Wing Gauntlet against the Navy Thunder Ranger's chest with a burst of spark.

 

"Stings, doesn't it." Aero Black swung the back of his Wing Gauntlet towards Navy Thunder's helmet.

 

Navy Thunder caught the fist. "I really don't like you." He stepped forward and slammed an elbow against the Black Ranger's faceplate. "No offense."

 

Aero Black slammed his forehead against the Navy Ranger's faceplate. "None taken."

 

Nearby, Hurricane Yellow armed his Lion Hammer as Aero Yellow swooped forward on his wing gliders. The Yellow Wind Ranger swung his hammer and batted Aero Yellow from the air. The Yellow Jet Force Ranger crashed against a nearby building, close to where Hurricane Blue and Blue Swallow circled around each other.

 

"Wing Gauntlet!" Aero Blue armed her gauntlet and leapt through the air towards Hurricane Blue.  

 

The Blue Wind Power Ranger thrust her hands forward. "Hydro Blast!" Hurricane Blue fired a bolt of water energy from between her palms, and the blast sparked against Aero Blue and knocked the Jet Force Ranger from the air.

 

Meanwhile, Aero White unsheathed her sword and swung a series of strikes towards Crimson Thunder, but the Thunder Ranger merely stood his ground and parried each blow with seemingly no effort. White Swan couldn't tell if he was toying with her or showing her pity.

 

Crimson Thunder parried a blow, twisted his staff around, and slashed the White Jet Force Ranger across the chest with a burst of spark that whipped her body backward.

 

Aero Black saw the strike through the corner of his visor. "Kristin!"

 

The Black Jet Force Ranger leapt through the air to attack Crimson Thunder.

 

"Shadow Bolt!" The Thunder Ranger fired a bolt of crimson-tinted shadow energy that exploded against Aero Black with a burst of spark, but the Jet Force Ranger continued his descent towards Crimson Thunder.  

 

Black Condor swung his gauntlet towards Crimson Thunder's faceplate, but the Thunder Ranger used his staff to knock the Black Ranger's arm away and slash the Jet Force Ranger across the chest with a burst of spark. The Thunder Ranger followed with a roundkick that bashed against Aero Black's side.

 

Navy Thunder dashed towards Black Condor and spun past the Jet Force Ranger while slashing him across the chest with a burst of spark.

 

Crimson Thunder pressed forward and swung his staff through an x-shaped pattern that sparked across the Black Ranger's chest and sent him flying off his feet.

 

The Black Jet Force Ranger crashed against the ground and rolled back into a crouched fighting stance while clutching his injured chest.

 

"Vince!" White Swan ran to his side and kneeled down next to him.

 

"I'm fine" Aero Black said as he glared at the Thunder Rangers. "But these guys won't be for long."

 

Navy Thunder scoffed. "This coming from a pretty boy who can't even fight."

 

"How cute," Aero Black said. "You think I'm pretty."

 

"Lightning Bolt!"

 

"Shadow Bolt!"

 

The crimson-tinted shadow blast and bolt of navy lightning exploded against White Swan and Black Condor with a shower of sparks that tore across their armor and the ground around them and knocked them back.

 

***

 

Tommy, Gozen, and Shurikenger teleported into the heart of Demon City with a flash of Holy light. Tommy held his son in his arms, and young Tyler had his arms wrapped around his father's neck.

 

They were only a few blocks away from Central Plaza, the exact center of Angel Grove, where Bandora had first attacked the Earth nearly eight years ago. The landscape brought on a mix of emotions, all of them bad.

 

Goldar had abducted Tommy and his at-the-time girlfriend Shannon during the attack. Bandora had used a spell to warp Tommy's mind and turn him into the Green Dragon Ranger, and he'd believed that Shannon was killed during the attack. Secretly, Bandora had warped Shannon's mind and turned her into the villain named Kyra, who was killed by Goldar shortly after the spell binding her will was broken.

 

The once bustling part of the city was a field of rubble that scattered as far as the eyes could see, with a few skeletal foundations of buildings poking through. Twisted trees of black bark, fueled by demonic energy, had grown from the rubble.

 

A supernatural wind blew dry heat towards the group, but the heat seemed to chill them to the bone. Young Tyler shivered in his father's arms.

 

Tommy looked towards the center of the city. "Let's get moving," he said as he started walking. "I don't want to stay here any longer than we have to."

 

"Agreed," Gozen said.

 

They walked silently across the terrain.

 

Tommy noticed winged shapes in the far distant sky. And several of the war-torn buildings that remained in the distance, as jagged and ruined as they were, had giant tentacles wrapped around like vines. The scenery was not pleasant. 

 

The Rangers' mentor faced Shurikenger to break the silence. "Who are you?" Tommy asked. "Who are you really? Your moves are Hayate moves."

 

Shurikenger lowered his head. "Hai." He looked to Gozen, and she nodded, giving him permission to tell his story. "I was once a member of the Hayate Way. Once a Harrikenjaa. We have met before, you and I, not too long ago."

 

Tommy opened his eyes wide, and suddenly, the realization struck him. "You?" A masked Harrikenjaa had helped Tommy fight against the terrorist group called Hydra in early 2004, shortly after the defeat of Lord Zedd. Tommy had never learned the masked man's true identity. "I don't remember you being a Ranger."

 

"I wasn't," Shurikenger said. "Last year, when the Mogralord's forces invaded the city, I fought against them. And I died in the process. Gozen-sama brought my soul to her by the power of her prayers. She told me she needed a champion, and she asked me to become that champion. I accepted and became Shurikenger. Beneath this mask I am faceless. This is my true form now."

 

Tommy looked to Gozen. "You made Ranger powers...just like mine and Ashley's."

 

Gozen nodded. "You were able to craft your Ranger powers through the secrets of Ninjetti, which I unlocked for you. It was through the powers that you crafted, that I learned how to forge Shurikenger."

 

"Fair enough," Tommy said. "Why does it seem you know a lot more about what's going on than what you're telling?"

 

"Because I do," Gozen said. "The art of Ninjetti. The Phoenix. Forces older than time itself have reawakened. These are all signs that the Dark One's prison is weakening."

 

"The Dark One?" Tommy asked. The last thing he needed was another ancient evil force to fight against. He could only deal with one apocalyptic crisis at a time. His rogue's gallery of villains was already too big for his liking. Akuma. The Dark Warlord, an evil duplicate of Tommy from an alternate Earth. Lothor. The list went on.

 

"The Great Lord of the Dark," Gozen said, "sealed before the Wheel of Time."

 

A gust of wind nearly knocked Tommy and the others off their feet, but they stood their ground as the wind collected swirling clouds of dust and dirt that surrounded them. Tommy held tightly onto his son and cursed beneath his breath. He never should have brought Tyler into Demon City, he thought, as the wind intensified.

 

The wind could have been anything. The terrors in Demon City were too numerous to count, and mostly unknown. Even so, the swirling dust seemed more like a warning than an attack.

 

"Something wants us to go back," Tommy said. He shook his head.

 

Twisted faces took form within the dust and vanished as quickly as they appeared. The wind gave the faces shape and blew them away in a swirling pattern that stretched around Tommy and the others. Most of the faces looked as if in torment, with hollow eyes and mouths opened to scream.

 

Voices whispered from the dust in a unified chorus of death. "Leave...this place...this graveyard...now..."

 

"No," Tommy said. "We can't...as much as we'd like to. We won't be here long, and we don't want to disturb you. We just want-"

 

"We are...disturbed..."

 

Clearly, Tommy thought. The wind intensified, and Tommy saw images of contorted bodies and faces of death dance across the dust. "Tyler, close your eyes," he said as calmly as possible.

 

"Do you feel it?" the voices asked. "We do. Death. Decay. Entropy. The world as you know it is falling into chaos, further and further. We are disturbed."

 

"What are you?" Tommy asked.

 

"Lost souls," the voices said. "We cannot pass, from this world to the next. All is in turmoil. Disturbed."

 

Gozen lowered her gaze and whispered. "The Gears of Fate are breaking."

 

Tommy ignored her. He had to get his son to safety. "If you don't let us pass, things will get worse."

 

"What will pass, will pass, regardless," the voices said. "A new end, of chaos, unwinding, approaches. Feel it, all around you..."

 

Tommy stopped paying attention, and anger welled up inside of him like a fire burning in his chest. Final prophesies. The end of the world. Foreboding evil. Cryptic messages. He was sick of it. And now his son was caught in it. "There's no time for this..." He channeled The Power and created an invisible forcefield around himself, Tyler, Gozen, and Shurikenger. "Ki!"

 

The forcefield expanded with a massive shockwave that shook the ground and scattered the dust with a flash of blinding, fiery light.

 

Gozen gave Tommy a disapproving look, but he ignored her. "Come on," he said. "Those voices thought they were disturbed before? We probably don't want to know how they're feeling now."

 

***

 

Lothor sat on his throne and kept his attention on several viewscreens. Three of the viewscreens were framed with organic wires embedded in the walls, and they displayed images of carnage throughout the city. Shadow energy projected two viewscreens that showed images of Tommy, Tyler, Gozen, and Shurikenger.

 

The villain was initially angry that Centhrax had resurrected only to go rogue. But Lothor couldn't criticize the results.

 

"This will work to our advantage," Lothor whispered into the shadows. He was alone on the bridge. "Rangers fighting Rangers. Tommy and the Green Ranger isolated in Demon City. Zombies everywhere. It's perfect."

 

But Lothor had to find a way to gain control of the chaos, or at least bring the rogue villain back under his influence.

 

"My Dark Spears are divided," he whispered. The Seven Spears of Darkness were to be the instruments of his domination over the Earth, but one had come late, one had been killed, Centhrax had gone rogue, and the final Spear had yet to arrive. Perhaps Lothor had attacked too soon.

 

"No matter," he whispered. "No matter..."

 

***

 

Navy Thunder twisted Black Condor's arm down and smashed a kick against the Black Ranger's chest. The Navy Thunder Ranger released his grasp and smashed the back of his fist across the Black Ranger's helmet. "I could keep this up all day."

 

"That's such a cliché," Aero Black said. "Try coming up with some original material."

 

"Try kissing my ass." Navy Thunder armed his Stag Breaker and slashed across the Black Ranger's chest with a burst of spark.

 

Meanwhile, Hurricane Red snapped a spin kick that knocked Aero Red onto his back and sent the Jet Force Ranger tumbling across the street. "You about done?" Hurricane Red raised his voice. "People are dying, while we're wasting time fighting each other. So back off!"

 

"Then stand down," Aero Red said as he climbed back to his feet. "Get out of our way and let us do our job."

 

Hurricane Red shook his head. "I can't let you do that. Not when your job means getting more people killed."

 

"You have no idea what you're talking about," Aero Red said. "You're just some stupid kid who thinks he can play hero with the big boys. Well guess what, hero? You're out of your league this time."

 

Hurricane Red narrowed his eyes beneath his visor. "I'm done holding back, Big Bird." The Red Ranger thrust his hand forward. "Whirling Flame!"

 

The Red Power Ranger hurled a bolt of fire that twirled with wind energy and exploded against the Red Jet Force Ranger with a massive shower of sparks that knocked him onto his back.

 

Hurricane Red unsheathed his sword, somersaulted through the air, and landed standing above Aero Red.

 

"I'm stopping this now," Hurricane Red said.

 

But a storm of shadow bolts darted from the skies and exploded against the Jet Force and Power Rangers, whipping them backward.

 

The Rangers regrouped with their teams and looked down the street to see Centhrax approaching.

 

***

 

Tommy's group kneeled down behind the cover of a rubble pile and looked towards the center of the city. There, a group of ghouls, patched together with the flesh of the dead, stood around a figure dressed in flowing robes of black and purple. The robes radiated with dark-purple shadow energy and covered the face of the wearer, who's deep-blue, glowing eyes were visible beneath the robe's cowl. Gold, demonic markings were embroidered across the robe's cloth.

 

Laces of energy lashed out like whipping snakes between the ghouls and the robed figure, who whispered an incantation in a demonic language. Human bones were scattered in demonic patterns around his feet. 

 

Tommy made sure that Tyler was crouched low enough that he couldn't see the evil beings below. "That's a necromancer," he said to Gozen. "A demon that animates the dead."

 

Gozen's stare, as emotionless as ever, was directed at the demons. "Yes I know," she said. "They're performing a ritual. A summing ritual, it appears."

 

The necromancer raised his head towards the black, crimson sky and shouted. “Xanatos, ka la muatha kon! Xanatos, murafatta, epsia katta dos!

 

Tommy narrowed his eyes. Xanatos. Tommy recognized the name, one of many titles of the God of Death. The actual God of Death. Mors, Thanatos, Anubis, many names, all based on the same deity.

 

“Xanatos,” Tommy said. “They’re trying to summon him here.”

 

“It would seem so,” Gozen said. Her gaze drifted towards the skies, where dark energy twirled among the clouds like whirlpools. “The spell is too far gone. Even if we destroyed the necromancer and his ghouls, the God of Death would still have enough power to manifest.”

 

“But not fully,” Tommy said. He’d made it a point to study as much of the occult as possible following the final battle against the Mogralord, when he learned about the gods and their role in the battle between good and evil. “He would need an anchor. That would give him a weakness.” He looked to Shurikenger. “We’re taking out spellboy and his ghouls now.” He looked to Tyler and put on his best smile. “I need you to stay brave and wait here with my friend Gozen. She’s…” he struggled for the right word, “nice…and stuff…mostly. Can you do that for me?”

 

Tyler nodded and placed a hand on the sleeve of Gozen’s arm. For the first time ever, Tommy saw Gozen’s expression break into a look of discomfort that lasted for a brief moment only.

 

“Good,” Tommy said. He looked to Shurikenger. “Looks like it’s you and me again. Let’s go.”

 

Yoush,” Shurikenger said.

 

Tommy summoned his golden-hilted sword with a flash of fiery energy and leapt over the rubble pile towards the ghouls and necromancer below. Shurikenger followed with a powerful leap of his own.

 

Tommy landed below and slammed his sword against the ground with a powerful shockwave of fire that hurled back about a dozen ghouls.

 

Shurikenger landed nearby while chopping his sword through the head of a ghoul. He looked over his shoulder to Tommy. “Try to leave one or two for me!”

 

Tommy hurled a bolt of fire that exploded through ten of the ghouls. “No promises."

 

***

 

Centhrax hurled a bolt of shadow energy that exploded against the chest of Black Condor and knocked him to the street.

 

“Ten Rangers or 10,000,” Centhrax said. “You cannot stop me now.” He looked to the skies, where pillars of energy poured into the clouds, which rained down bolts of shadow energy within each of the city’s quarantine zones. “He is coming. Xanatos. Finally, I know the name of my master. My Angel of Death.”

 

A massive bolt of shadow energy lashed down with a burst of power that knocked the Rangers back and struck Centhrax. The villain howled as the energy cracked through his shell and enveloped his soul, his very essence, with a dark shroud of power. The power bloomed and consumed him. Empowered him.

 

His face collapsed into shadow, with wisps of purple-and-black energy and hollow eyes. A fog of power seeped through the cracks of his insectoid armor, which hardened and turned gray. The shadowy fog sculpted the faces of skulls on the villain's shoulders, elbows and knees. And demonic markings were etched across the rest of his body.

 

He howled, two voices as one, a massive echo that shook the city streets.

 

Aero Blue actually dropped her sword as her body froze with fear.

 

Centhrax snapped his head towards the Blue Jet Force Ranger, sensing her fear, and fired a tendril of shadow energy that wrapped around her and reeled her in. The villain grabbed the Ranger by the throat and pinned her back against his chest.

 

"Amy!" White Swan shouted.

 

"No!" Aero Red shouted.

 

Centhrax extended his free hand and blasted the Jet Force Rangers back with a burst of shadow energy.

 

Crimson Thunder stepped forward into a fighting stance. "Centhrax..let her-"

 

"Centhrax is no more," the villain growled. "I am the vessel of Xanatos, the God of Death. His power and essence flow through me, more and more, with each passing second. And soon, his emergence onto your plane will be complete. Until then, you may call me...Cenathos..."

 

Hurricane Yellow looked to his leader. "I'm thinking this God of Death business...not-so-much a good thing."

 

Aero Blue struggled to break free as Cenathos tightened his grasp. "Help me!" she tried to shout, her voice nearly strangled. "Christopher..."

 

Hurricane Red snapped his bracer forward. "Gyro Blade!" A blade shot out and struck Cenathos against the forehead. The villain didn't flinch. "Shit."

 

Cenathos laughed and channeled tendrils of shadow energy that that wrapped around Aero Blue and stabbed into her body. She screamed as her armor flashed with shaded power.

 

"No!" Aero Red shouted as the Jet Force Rangers dashed forward.

 

Cenathos released the Blue Ranger and tossed her at her teammates.

 

Aero Red caught her and slowly lowered her to the ground. "She's barely breathing..." He looked to Hurricane Red. "You idiot!"

 

Hurricane Red shook his head. "I thought..."

 

"Not hard enough!" Aero Red shouted.

 

Cenathos laughed mockingly at the Rangers. "You are all nothing but toys. Fodder to my power. A power older than time."

 

Aero Red looked to his teammates. "Hit 'im hard and fast!"

 

The four Jet Force Rangers assembled their Aero Rifles and fired beams of energy that stabbed against the villain and splashed across his armor with bursts of spark.

 

Hurricane Red looked to his teammates. "Long-range attacks." He channeled a twirling sphere of flame between his palms and hurled the bolt. "Whirling Flame!"

 

"Hydro Blast!" Hurricane Blue fired a pulse of watery energy.

 

"Lightning Bolt!" Navy Thunder fired a crackling burst of navy-tinted energy.

 

"Storm Blaster!" Hurricane Yellow armed his rifle and fired lances of golden energy.

 

"Horn Blaster!" Crimson Thunder armed his cannon and fired blasts of crimson-tinted energy.

 

The blasts exploded against Cenathos with a series of ripping sparks and explosions that knocked him back a step, but his armor was not even scratched.

 

The villain laughed. "Behold my strength. Your attacks are nothing."

 

Aero Yellow took a step back. "Is this the part where we stare silently in awestruck, crippling fear?"

 

Navy Thunder scoffed. "The color yellow suits you."

 

Cenathos hurled a storm of shadow bolts that darted around the Rangers and exploded against their armor with bursts of spark and flashes of shadow energy.

 

***

 

Tommy chopped through a ghoul and spun forward with a kick that bashed another soldier to the ground. He looked over his shoulder to Shurikenger. "Take out the necromancer." He swung a backhand slash that cut through a ghoul with a burst of spark. "I'll cover you."

 

"Hai." The Green Ranger leapt forward and somersaulted through the air towards the necromancer.

 

The villain twirled a whip of shadow energy that sparked against Shurikenger and knocked him to the ground. The Green Ranger quickly rolled to his feet and stepped back into a fighting stance as the villain twirled his whip for another attack.

 

But the Green Ranger didn't give the villain a chance. He pulled a small sphere out from behind his back. “Sonic Style! Sound Barrage Jutsu!”

 

Shurikenger charged the ball with jade-tinted energy and hurled it at the villain. The spinning ball produced 12 sonic duplicates that sparked against the villain and knocked him back.

 

The villain's cloak fell back, revealing a pale-white face, bald head, and shallow, black sockets where eyes should have been. The villain's skin was tight as a snake's and folded inside the hollow sockets.

 

The necromancer hissed and hurled a bolt of shadow energy that Shurikenger used his holstered sword to bat away.

 

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

 

The Green Ranger pulled another ball out from behind his back. “Sonic Style! Spinning Barrage Jutsu!”

 

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

 

The necromancer exploded with a burst of black flame, and the remaining ghouls fell apart and turned to dust.

 

Gozen quickly carried Tyler to the clearing below. "We must hurry," she said. "The conduit to Xanatos is still open. It must be closed before we cleanse the city of the undead plague."

 

"How do we do it?" Tommy asked.

 

"A counter spell," Gozen said. "But the amount of energy I'd need is great. Too great. Maybe even too great for your son."

 

Tommy hesitated. "So if you tried..."

 

"He might die."

 

***

 

Cenathos smashed a knee against Aero Black’s gut and slammed a knife-hand chop against the back of the Black Ranger’s neck, knocking him to the ground.

 

Hurricane Red, Hurricane Blue, and Hurricane Yellow somersaulted through the air and chopped their blades towards the villain, but Cenathos forged a blade of shadow energy and slashed the three Rangers from the air with a single strike that violently sparked across their armor.

 

Navy Thunder and Crimson Thunder spun their staffs towards the villain, but Cenathos slammed his blade against the ground with a burst of shadow energy that sparked against the Thunder Rangers and knocked them back.

 

Aero Red cursed beneath his breath as he watched through his visor while cradling Aero Blue. “We have to fall back and regroup.”

 

Aero Black rolled to his feet nearby and armed his Wing Gauntlet over his left fist and his saber in his right hand. “Fall back? I don’t think so, chief.”

 

The Black Jet Force Ranger leapt at Cenathos and swung his Wing Gauntlet towards the villain’s face.

 

***

 

“Use my power,” Tommy said. “Use me.”

 

Gozen’s face was as expressionless as ever. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to control the energy that flowed through you. It would be too turbulent. Tyler is young. He is still pure, as is his power.”

 

Tommy shook his head. What the hell was he going to do? He couldn’t let a rogue god lead an army of undead across the city, and eventually, the planet. But there was no way he could let anything happen to Tyler. He couldn’t.

 

His gaze lowered. This was why Kimberly never even bothered to tell him about their son. This was why she didn’t want Tommy to have anything to do with their son’s life.

 

“There’s another way,” Tommy said. “There has to be.”

 

“I need his power…” Gozen said.

 

Tommy kneeled down next to Tyler and looked his son in the eyes. Tyler seemed…curious. Not afraid…curious.

 

“It won’t happen,” Tommy said. “Leave the conduit with Xanatos open, but purge the city.”

 

Gozen shook her head. “If Xanatos is allowed to walk this plane…”

 

“We’ll handle it,” Tommy said.

 

“If the conduit is not closed before we weave our spell, he could spread his taint again. Undo our purge.”

 

“He won’t,” Tommy said. “We purge the city, then we take out Xanatos.”

 

Gozen actually looked annoyed. “You oversimplify things.”

 

“It’s how we’ve survived the other apocalypses,” Tommy said. “So go with it.”

 

***

 

Cenathos smashed the back of his fist across Aero Black’s helmet, and the impact shattered his visor.

 

“Vince!” Aero White shouted and ran towards his side.

 

“Kristin, wait!” Aero Red shouted. He muttered beneath his breath and ran to her aide. “Damn it…”

 

Cenathos swiped his blade towards Aero White, and the weapon nearly slashed across her chest. But Aero Red leapt forward and pushed her aside, and the blade slashed against his back with a burst of spark that whipped him aside.

 

Hurricane Red and his team regrouped. “Thunders, use your stars. Long distance. Justin, Rach, we’re going in high.”

 

Hurricane Red, Hurricane Yellow, and Hurricane Blue somersaulted through the air as Crimson Thunder and Navy Thunder armed their staffs in star mode. The Thunder Rangers charged the cross-shaped weapons with energy and hurled the stars towards Cenathos.

 

The blades spun with power, but Cenathos slashed each one from the air as the Wind Power Rangers landed nearby and slashed across his armor with bursts of spark.

 

***

 

Gozen marked symbols in a circular pattern on the dirt ground. Northward, she etched the symbol of the Dragon. Southward, she drew a Phoenix. In the center of the circle, she etched a glyph that symbolized the power of the Earth itself.

 

When she was done, she extended her hand towards Tyler. Tommy clutched tighter onto his son’s hand. Every paternal instinct inside of him was crying out at him to protect his son, to take Tyler and flee. “Just the purge,” he said to Gozen.

 

She nodded. “You have my word.”

 

Tommy let go of his son’s hand, and Gozen led Tyler towards the center of the circle. She kneeled down across from the boy and placed her hands on his temples. Tyler shifted uncomfortably and looked to his father, who tried to put on the best reassuring smile possible.

 

Gozen started her chant. “Halei Phoenai-sa, sa-oon, sa ma. La vo rah too neai. La va rah too ny” Golden energy started to swirl around the ring of symbols. The energy cyclone slowly crept upward towards the sky above. “Va ra soon, Phoenai-hala! Hala!

 

Tyler closed his eyes tightly, and his body tensed as a wave of fiery energy flashed from within him and enveloped Gozen, who opened her eyes wide as the sensation nearly overwhelmed her. She opened her mouth as if to scream, and the pillar of power intensified with enough strength to knock Tommy and Shurikenger off their feet.

 

***

 

Hurricane Red and Crimson Thunder leapt at opposite sides of Cenathos with leaping roundkicks, but Cenathos blocked both blows and double punched the Rangers backward. The two Rangers crashed against the ground and quickly rolled back to their feet. The Red Wind Power Ranger and Crimson Thunder Power Ranger charged at Cenathos with their blades held back to strike. But Cenathos fired a burst of shadow energy that sparked against both Rangers’ armor.

 

The villain dashed forward and slashed both Rangers with bursts of spark and spun forward with a kick that bashed Crimson Thunder across the head. Hurricane Red swung his blade at the villain’s back, but Cenathos turned and slashed upward across Hurricane Red with a burst of spark that whipped his body backward.

 

Hurricane Red landed on his back, and Cenathos placed his foot on the Red Ranger’s chest.

 

Hurricane Yellow, Hurricane Blue, and Navy Thunder charged at the villain, but Cenathos slashed them aside one-by-one.

 

Aero Red and Aero Yellow fired their Jet Blasters from nearby, but Cenathos used his blade to deflect each blast.

 

The villain swung his weapon into a high attack stance and chopped the blade towards the Red Ranger’s head.

 

***

 

The cyclone of golden energy twirled into the sky with a violent force of power.

 

Hala phai-la!” Gozen’s eyes burned with fiery Holy power. “Hala sa!

 

The melodious cry of the Phoenix split through the air as the fiery bird manifested from Tyler in the center of the circle. The Phoenix cry intensified as the bird of Holy light spread its wings and ignited, blanketing the city with a wing span of Holy Power in a matter of seconds.

 

***

 

The Holy light washed away the pillars of shadow energy within each quarantine zone. The blanket of power covered the city and consumed the zombies, as well as the virus.

 

The blinding power wave knocked Cenathos off of Hurricane Red, and the villain slammed hard against the ground and rolled across the pavement. “How…” the villain clutched his smoking chest and staggered to his feet.

 

“Now…” Hurricane Red said as he climbed to his feet. “Hit him now!”

 

"Lightning Bolt!"

 

"Hydro Blast!"

 

The attacks exploded against Cenathos as Crimson Thunder hurled his star blade, and Hurricane Yellow snapped a volley of charged gyro blades. The blades sparked against the villain’s armor as he stumbled to stay on his feet.

 

"Whirling Flame!" Hurricane Red hurled a bolt of twirling, fiery energy that exploded against the villain’s chest, cracking his armor.

 

The five Power Rangers regrouped and assembled their combined weapon. The Power Rangers stood behind the cannon, and the Thunder Rangers kneeled while resting its barrel on their shoulders. “Thunderstorm Striker!” they shouted. “Fire!”

 

The cannon fired a crackling pulse of energy that slammed against the villain's chest with a burst of flame and spark that dented his armor and knocked him onto his knees.

 

Cenathos slowly climbed back to his feet, smoke rising from his armor.  

 

“No way…” Hurricane Yellow said.

 

“This…” Cenathos said weakly. The wave of Holy light, the power of the Phoenix, the combined attacks of the Rangers. He was weakened. “This is not over…”

 

Crimson Thunder swung his staff over his shoulder. “Crawl away and die, Centhrax. It’s what you’re good at.”

 

The villain faded away, teleporting with a rippling wave of shadow energy.

 

***

 

Tyler crawled into a ball on the dirt and screamed as he cried, kicking his feet as he rolled back and forth. The spell had ended, but Tyler was terrified.

 

“Tyler…” Tommy kneeled down next to his son and tried to calm him, but the boy kept screaming and crying. “Tyler, calm down, it’s okay…it’s over now, it’s…Tyler…”

 

The boy screamed. “Mommy, mommy!”

 

Fear, sorrow, and guilt clutched Tommy’s throat. He looked to Gozen. “Get us out of here. Get us home. Now!”

 

***

 

Hurricane Red turned to Aero Red. The leaders stared silently at each other for a moment before the Red Power Ranger spoke. “Now what…”

 

Aero Red shook his head.

 

Aero Black, his body battered and visor still shattered, rose to his feet nearby. “What the hell was that light again?”

 

“That was our boss,” Hurricane Yellow said. “Doing something useful…instead of slaughtering a bunch of innocent people.”

 

“We wouldn’t have done it,” Aero Red said. “We wouldn’t have.”

 

“Could’ve mentioned that,” Hurricane Red said.

 

“We don’t answer to you,” Aero Red said.

 

“Your boss doesn’t answer to anyone but himself,” Hurricane Red said. “That’s part of the problem.”

 

Aero White laid a hand on her leader’s shoulder. “Christopher…Vince and Amy are hurt. They need medical attention.”

 

Aero Black shook his head. “I’m fine.”

 

“Vince,” she said sternly. “You’re hurt.”

 

Aero Red glared at Hurricane Red and turned back towards the zords. “Let’s fall back to base and regroup for new orders.”

 

The Jet Force Rangers returned to their zords and blasted off into the skies.

 

Hurricane Yellow sighed. “It’s always nice to make new friends.”

 

***

 

Tommy quietly stood over his son’s bed at the Hayate Way that night. Tyler had calmed down and fallen asleep after what seemed like countless hours of crying and screaming.

 

Ashley walked besides Tommy and laced her hands around his arm. She leaned her head against his shoulder. “How is he?” she whispered.

 

“Sleeping, finally,” Tommy whispered, his voice thick with sorrow. “I can’t believe I put him through that. What kind of father…” He shook his head. “I was so mad at Kim for not telling me about him. But now…she was right, Ash. Him being in my life…it’s only going to give him pain.”

 

“Tommy, you’re the only family he has. He loves you. He needs you,” Ashley said.

 

Tommy shook his head. “He needs a normal life that I can’t get him. We’re living in a martial arts dojo, for Christ’s sake. And when he’s not here, he’s with my parents. He has no stability. He can’t…I’m not…God, Ashley…I can’t believe I put him through that.”

 

Young Tyler slightly stirred in his bed and breathed deeply as he slept, for the moment, peacefully beneath his father’s roof.

 

***

 

Blake sat on the roof of the Hayate Way dojo as Rachel walked from behind him and took a seat next to him. "I'm surprised you're still here."

 

"Well, you know," he smiled, "as much as I love the whole post-apocalyptic look of the Ikkazuchi Way dojo, it's nice to get away every once and a while. See some trees that aren't rotted husks."

 

"What's on your mind?" she asked.

 

"I miss the zombies," he joked, while trying to sound as serious as possible.

 

Rachel rolled her eyes. "No really, what's on your mind?"

 

"Really, I miss the zombies," he joked. "Well groomed. Polite. Good people. You can't find cordial undead like that anymore these days."

 

She smiled and leaned over, nudging her shoulder against him. "Stop...what is it really?"

 

Blake took a deep breath and looked out across the landscape below them. "I don't know...this whole thing just got me thinking...I don't know..." He shook his head. "Never mind, it's stupid."

 

She placed a hand on his. "Tell me," she asked quietly.

 

"Walking dead. That's what I feel like most of the time. Dead and pissed off. Except..." he looked at Rachel, but his face turned slightly red, and he quickly looked away. "I don't know."

 

Rachel leaned in and ran her hand along the side of his face, turning his gaze to face her. "Let's see what we can do about that."

 

She leaned in and kissed him.

 

***

 

Centhrax was a fool, Lothor thought. An idiot. Even more of a fool was this Gozen-whoever that helped Tommy in Demon City. Wretched woman. "How dare she..." She would be a threat to Jakanja. Lothor knew this. "And I want her dead..."

 

"That can be arranged," a voice said from the shadows, but Lothor was not startled. Well...he was a little startled, but he would never show it. He would never make that known.

 

"Step out where I can see you," Lothor said from his throne.

 

A warrior stepped out in front of the throne. He wore a black-and-gray body suit of armor that was shark-like, matching the motif of his helmet. The villain carried a broad, jagged sword across his back. "I am Vexacus. Your final Dark Spear. Aim me at Gozen. And I will strike."

 

To be continued...Chapter 23