Wind and Thunder: Chapter Twenty-four

Arrow of the Gods

 

Vexacus dashed across the rooftops of Angel Grove and landed on top of a 12-story building that looked down upon a plaza area. The villain snapped open a fan that summoned a giant monster from the skies.

 

The monster landed with a thundering boom. Its head and body resembled a two-legged Chinese dragon. The creature was covered with neon green and purple colors, and tendrils grew back from its face like a fiery mane.

 

"Come, Rangers," Vexacus said. "Come to your final battle."

 

***

 

Shurikenger and the rangers gathered outside of Gozen's hut within the pocket dimension she had created. The dimension would fade now that Gozen was dead, but Shurikenger assured the Rangers that she would want to be buried there.

 

The Green Ranger's body trembled with rage. "We should have been stronger...faster. We..." He shook his head. "We failed her!"

 

Rachel stepped closer to the Green Ranger to place a hand on his shoulder, but he snapped around before she had a chance. "Morph," Shurikenger said. "We must get the medal back from Vexacus. And then we will kill him."

 

Simon's communicator toned, and he answered. "This is Simon, go ahead."

 

"Simon," Tommy said. "Vexacus has sent down a monster. It's already giant, so you better hurry."

 

"We're on it," Simon said.

 

***

 

The Power Rangers morphed and ran across the streets towards the giant Dragon Fan Beast. From above, they heard Vexacus' laughter echo across the rooftops. The villain leapt down to street level and faced his opponents. He casually swung his blade over his shoulder. "What's the matter, Rangers? No snappy banter? Has something got you down?"

 

Shurikenger tightened his hands into fists. He looked to the Power Rangers. "To your zords," he said. "This kaijin is mine."

 

Hurricane Red knew better than to argue. He had never seen the Green Ranger as fiery and determined.

 

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

 

The Storm-zords passed through a trio of holographic entry portals and charged into battle. The Wind 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 Power 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 Dragon Fan Beast opened its jaws and spat a torrent of twirling jade flame towards the two Megazords. ThunderMegazord armed its stag claw and used the weapon like a shield, as the flames splashed and sparked across its surface.

 

StormMegazord stepped aside.

 

“Power Disc!” Hurricane Red inserted a disc into his console. “Lock…and drop.”

 

StormMegazord’s chest plate opened and shot out Power Sphere No. 5. The sphere opened and released a gatling cannon shaped like a lion.

 

“Gatling Lion!” Hurricane Red shouted.

 

He called for another disc and inserted it into his console. StormMegazord’s chest plate opened and shot out Power Sphere No. 6. The sphere opened and released a squid-shaped drill.

 

“Squid Attacker!” he shouted.

 

 The Squid Attacker attached to the barrels of the Gatling Lion and formed a drill-shaped cannon.

 

“Gatling Turbine!” Hurricane Red shouted. “Hurricane Spiral!”

 

The cannon rotated the drill and fired a volley of pulse blasts within a twirling torrent of energy. The pulse blasts exploded against the Fan Beast with ripping sparks, knocking the creature back several steps as the ThunderMegazord moved in to attack.

 

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

 

ThunderMegazord’s chest plate flipped down and shot out Power Sphere No. 4. The sphere opened and released the Spin Blade, an axe that resembled a flower with razor-sharp petals that could spin like a saw.

 

ThunderMegazord swung the blade and fired a spinning saw of energy that exploded against the Fan Beast, thrashing its armor with a massive burst of sparks. 

 

Gouraijin moved in and slashed against the monster with a series of strikes that sparked on impact. The ThunderMegazord was relentless in its attack and gave the Fan Beast no time to defend itself.

 

“Spin Blade!” Crimson Thunder shouted. “Whirling Strike!”

 

The Spin Blade spun and crackled with energy. ThunderMegazord chopped the blade down a long arc that exploded against the Fan Beast with a series of sparks and explosions. But the monster stood its ground.

 

“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!”

 

The Fan Beast fired a massive torrent of flame at the ground to create a shockwave, which tore across the streets and knocked the Megazord off its feet. The Megazord crashed through two nearby buildings and slid across the ground while tearing up pavement.

 

Hurricane Red pulled out the shamisen. "Time for some back up." He strung a melody on the guitar. "Carrier Mammoth!"

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

 

Hurricane Red 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 the Fan Beast from the ground. The attack gave the Rangers time to regroup and pull the Megazord back to its feet.

 

Thunderstorm Megazord leapt through the air and landed in the back of the massive mammoth. Carrier Mammoth stomped towards Fan Dragon 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 Fan Dragon with a burst of spark that caused the creature to explode into dust. The energy discharge vaporized the dust into nothingness.

 

Another giant monster suddenly swooped down through the smoke on black wings and slashed past the Megazord with a burst of spark. The crow-like Fan Beast landed, turned towards the Megazord, and fired twirling optic blasts that exploded against the Megazord's armor, knocking the robo from the Carrier Mammoth.

 

Below, Shurikenger and Vexacus continued their battle.

 

"Heeya!" Shurikenger leapt through the air and slammed a flying sidekick against the villain's chest.

 

Vexacus stumbled back several steps but managed to stay on his feet. The villain twisted his sword to step back into a defensive stance, but before he could do so, Shurikenger spun past the villain and slashed against his armor with a burst of spark. The Green Ranger turned and slashed against Vexacus with an x-shaped pattern, and each strike sparked on impact.

 

The Green Ranger chopped his sword towards the villain's head, but Vexacus used his broadsword to block the blow, knock the Green Ranger's sword aside, and slash against the Green Ranger's chest with a burst of spark. The blow whipped Shurikenger off his feet, and he tumbled across the street.

 

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

 

Vexacus used his artificial eye to fire darts of blue energy at Shurikenger. The Green Ranger ran forward and ignored the bursts as they exploded against his armor with flashes of spark.

 

Shurikenger somersaulted through the air, energized his blade, and swung the weapon towards the villain's head. "Sonic Slash!"

 

The energized weapon streaked with green power and slashed across Vexacus with a burst of spark that knocked him off his feet. Vexacus crashed against the ground, tumbled backward, and suddenly blinked from sight.

 

Shurikenger snapped into a defensive stance and looked around for any sign of his opponent. He knew Vexacus couldn't have gone far, and he knew the villain would attack again.

 

The ground suddenly shook, and a seven-foot-tall fin suddenly cut upward from the ground, sliced across the surface, and slashed past Shurikenger with massive bursts of spark that tore across his armor.

 

Vexacus leapt from the surface and turned to face the Green Ranger. "Are you even trying? No wonder the woman you were charged to protect is dead."

 

The Green Ranger climbed to his feet and pulled a small sphere 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 Vexacus. The sonic spheres exploded against the villain with massive bursts of spark.

 

Vexacus staggered backward and glared at the Green Ranger. "You are a formidable opponent. We will battle again soon, Rangers."

 

The villain leapt to the rooftops and disappeared from sight.

 

The Green Ranger waited until Vexacus was gone and collapsed to his knees. He would have fallen completely if he didn't have his sword to lean on like a crutch. He clutched his chest and breathed deeply. He didn't have much time.

 

The Green Ranger looked up to where the Thunderstorm Megazord battled the Fan Beast. The Megazord was clearly weakened by the previous Fan Beast and in need of help.  

 

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!”

 

ThunderMegazord disassembled and formed the StormMegazord and ThunderMegazord. And 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 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 Rangers 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 its feathers and limbs, and its body exploded with a final burst of flames and smoke.

 

The Power Rangers leapt from their cockpit, landed on the streets below, and powered down their armor. Shurikenger followed them down, but when he landed on the street, he staggered weakly and collapsed while clutching his chest.

 

"Shurikenger!" Rachel shouted as she and the others ran towards the Green Ranger.

 

Simon leaned down to help Shurikenger up, but the Green Ranger shrugged off his hand. "Leave me lie," the Green Ranger said. "I am...dying."

 

"No way," Simon said as he leaned down next to Shurikenger. "No way you're dying. Now come on, let's get you to Ops. Tommy can-"

 

"There is nothing to be done," Shurikenger said. "Without Gozen's power...my soul cannot be sustained here, in this form. I would have had more time if not for my battle with Vexacus." The Green Ranger looked to Simon. "Red Ranger...I need to speak with you for a moment...alone..."

 

Simon looked to his teammates. "Guys...could you..."

 

Rachel nodded, and the other rangers stepped away from Simon and the Green Ranger.

 

"Red Ranger," Shurikenger said. "I regret I don't have time to tell you everything...but you need to have this..." The Green Ranger held out his palm, and a golden ring appeared in his hand with a flash of jade light. The ring had an engraving of the Earth being circled by a Chinese dragon. "This ring, belonged to your father...your birth father."

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. "...what?"

 

"Hai," Shurikenger said. "I knew your birth father, and shortly after you were born, when I still had my human form, it was I who took you to your foster family..."

 

Simon shook his head. "How did you...how?"

 

The Green Ranger gasped and clutched his chest. "My time is shorter than I thought." He grabbed hold of Simon's shirt and pulled the teen closer. "Avenge Gozen-sama and free her medal from the clutches of Jakanja. I made sure that one of my energy spheres lodged into the armor of Vexacus. Track him back to the Jakanja ship. After Jakanja are defeated...that ring will lead you to the answers you seek."

 

The Green Ranger's body started to pulse with dull-green light. Simon stood and took a step away from the Green Ranger, and his teammates gathered around him.

 

Shurikenger's body started to dissolve into particles of green energy that flickered into the wind and blew into the skies. Soon all that remained was his sphere-shaped morpher and Power Disc.

 

Simon leaned down and lifted the morpher. He had sworn, after the Mogralord War, that he would never let another person die. But now Gozen was gone. And so was her Green Ranger. He had failed. Again. He tightened his hand around the Green Ranger's morpher.

 

Simon looked to his teammates. "No more playing defense. We're taking my zord to the Jakanja ship."

 

***

 

Hurricane Hawk flew over the ocean towards the Jakanja ship, which floated in the waters like a buoy. The rangers were crammed in the zord's small cockpit, and they weren't morphed. They'd have a better chance of being undetected if they entered the ship without their armor.

 

The zord swooped down onto the top of the ship and landed on its insectoid hull. Hunter and Blake knew of a few openings along the hull that the rangers could use to easily get inside the vessel.

 

The rangers used grappling lines to scale down the side of the ship to an airlock, which Hunter managed to open by using his shadow power.

 

Once inside, Hunter and Blake took the lead since they were the most familiar with the inside of the ship. They moved through winding corridors and entered the deck of the ship where they'd find the bridge.     

 

They stopped in shock at what they saw. The fallen, broken bodies of Marah, Kapri, and Satora'kura were scattered across the deck of the main corridor. Zergain's armor was torn to pieces, and the hand-sized, ant-like pilot was squashed on the floor.

 

Rachel's face became pale. "They're all dead."

 

"The phrase 'good riddance' comes to mind," Blake said.

 

"But think, Blake," Hunter said. "Who could've been strong enough to wipe out four of the Seven Spears of Darkness."

 

Justin snorted. "No one I wanna meet."

 

"Let's find Vexacus and the medal," Simon said. "We'll figure this out later."

 

A swarm of Kelzaks suddenly ran into the corridor up ahead and charged towards the rangers. The villains were armed with their standard, bladed tonfa.

 

"So much for a surprise visit," Justin said.

 

"Let's move," Simon said.

 

The teens dashed forward and started slamming through the grunts with a flurry of kicks and punches. They moved slowly down the hall, step by step, as the sounds of their kicks and punches, slamming against Kelzaks, echoed down the corridor. 

 

Simon smashed a flying-double sidekick against the last Kelzak, and the blow knocked the grunt from the corridor and into the bridge, where the lowly soldier slammed against the deck and skid to a halt.

 

The teens moved into the bridge, and they looked up from the fallen grunt to see a bulky, insectoid creature sitting on the throne. The creature had multiple arms crossed over its body like a centipede. His white face was like a mask, painted with evil lines of red, and above the face were two, bulbous, yellow, bug-like eyes.   

 

The teens stepped back into defensive stances and faced the villain.

 

Justin raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Is that thing Lothor?"

 

"I am Lothor no more," the villain said. "I am Tao Zento, made flesh." The bug-like eyes on the villain seemed to glow brighter. "All I wanted was power...we didn't have to wage this pointless, fruitless war for so long. I would have left your world, after laying waste to the surface to reveal the Ultimate Secret."

 

"Gee, that's reassuring," Justin said.

 

"Where's the medal?" Simon asked.

 

Tao Zento extended one of his hands, which held the medal. Simon immediately dashed forward to grab it, but an invisible wall of energy slammed against him and hurled him backward. He slid against the deck and skid on his back. The villain laughed. "Its energy is mine..." Tendrils of golden energy lashed from the medal and danced across the villain's skin. "I wanted you to see this, Rangers...wanted you to see me take a form suitable to harnessing the powers of the Ultimate Secret."

 

The energy flashed with a pulse of golden light that knocked all five of the rangers off their feet. When the light faded, they saw Tao Zento standing in a new form. He had only two arms, and his entire body was covered with insectoid armor. A black cape of organic material hung from his back.

 

Blake groaned with pain and rose to his feet. "Can we please kill him now?"

 

Simon armed his bracer. "Morph."

 

Tao Zento dashed so fast he appeared as a blur of shadow that knocked past the rangers and through the corridor.  

 

The deck of the bridge started to shake before the rangers could follow. And bursts of spark exploded from the walls.

 

Justin looked to his leader as the shaking intensified. "Something tells me this place is about to fall apart."

 

"Let's move," Simon said.

 

***

 

The rangers loaded into Hurricane Hawk and blasted away from the Jakanja ship just as its hull buckled with massive bursts of spark and flame. The dark ship of the Jakanja tilted, and smoke rose from the battered hull, as the ship sank beneath the sea.

 

***

 

Tao Zento's physical form landed in the streets of Angel Grove. He looked along a street that was deserted, cluttered with vacated cars whose drivers and passengers had fled from the quarantine zone.

 

A window smashed to his left, and he looked to see a group of about five looters break into an electronics store. Tao Zento extended his hand and blasted a bolt of shadow energy that incinerated the five men.  

 

***

 

Ashley opened a commline to Simon and the others. "Guys, Lothor's in some kind of monster form. He's attacking the city."

 

"We're on our way, Ashley," Simon said.

 

***

 

Tao Zento tightened his fist around the medal, which enveloped him with golden light. He used the energy from the medal to grow giant and tower over the city streets as a dull-gold bow appeared in his hands. The bow was armed with an arrow that had a broad blade like an anchor.

 

Below, the Power Rangers had morphed into their armor and run onto the scene. They looked up at the towering villain and Arrow of Althai'lael.

 

The villain looked down at the Rangers and laughed with a thundering voice that echoed across the streets. "You're too late...This, the Arrow of Althai'lael, is the final key to revealing the Final Prophecy...I have seen it, Rangers."

 

Crimson Thunder looked to Hurricane Red. "He'll need to move to the shore. Part of the Final Prophecy involves a pool of water. It's why Blake and I fought Amphibidor when you and I were enemies."

 

"That's not far. We'll have to get in his way," Hurricane Red said. He activated his communicator. “Storm-zords mobilize!”

 

The Storm-zords passed through a trio of holographic entry portals and charged into battle. The Wind 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 Power 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!”

 

Tao Zento laughed mockingly at the Power Rangers. "This arrow is said to have the power to kill the gods. Do you honestly think you are protected by your walking machines?"

 

Tao Zento cocked the arrow and fired. The arrow stabbed through the air through a lance of golden energy that punctured through the center of the ThunderMegazord with a massive burst of spark and flame. Secondary explosions tore across the Megazord, and the robo exploded with a violent sphere of flame and smoke.

 

"Blake!" Hurricane Blue shouted. "No!"

 

"Guys!" Hurricane Yellow shouted.

 

Hurricane Red narrowed his eyes beneath his faceplate and stared out his viewport towards Tao Zento.

 

Tao Zento extended his hand, and the arrow reappeared in his palm with a flash of golden light. "I believe I've made my point."

 

Tao Zento turned towards the shore, cocked the arrow, aimed high, and fired. The arrow streaked across the city with a stream of light for several miles before it arced downward, past the shore, and splashed into the ocean.

 

An energy vortex erupted from the ocean and twirled into the skies with a cyclone of water. The cyclone tore open a vortex of multi-colored light that twirled around a black hole. The water cyclone died down and splashed back into the ocean, but the twirling vortex remained.

 

“The Final Prophecy,” Tao Zento said. “Written in the sky. The path to the Ultimate Secret is open!”

 

The giant villain leapt through the air within a wave of shadow that plunged into the darkness of the vortex.

 

Hurricane Red tightened his grip on his controls. “We have to go after him.”

 

“No way,” Hurricane Yellow said. “We have no idea what’s in there.”

 

“Yes we do,” Hurricane Red said. “Tao Zento. Lothor. The bastard responsible for the deaths of Gozen, Shurikenger, Hunter, and Blake. He’s in there.”

 

Tommy's voice spoke through their communicator. "Guys, whatever that arrow was...Ashley says it ripped through space/time. You'll have to go into the vortex and shoot the arrow back out to seal the vortex before it expands."

 

"How will shooting the arrow out of the vortex accomplish anything?" Hurricane Red said.

 

"Just trust me," Tommy said. "The energy output of the arrow was strong enough to punch open the vortex, and the energy when the arrow shoots out will be like using a needle to sew up a wound. At least that's the theory. Either way, you need to move fast."

 

The Red Ranger shifted the Megazord’s controls. “StormMegazord, lightening up!”

 

The Megazord’s armor retracted and folded back, decreasing its density to form a slender, humanoid robo.

 

“Senpuujin, Lightening Mode!” the Rangers shouted.

 

The trimmed Megazord dashed across the street with a burst of speed, leapt through the air, and dove into the vortex.

 

StormMegazord plunged through the darkness and into the vortex itself, which was an endless sea of twirling, neon colors. The Megazord floated in the vortex, which crackled with energy.

 

“What now?” Hurricane Yellow asked.

 

Hurricane Red looked through his viewport, and in the distance, he saw the Arrow of Althai’lael floating in the vortex.

 

“There it is,” Hurricane Red said. “Thrusters.”

 

The Megazord burst with speed and glided towards the arrow, but a bolt of shadow energy exploded against the Megazord with bursts of spark and knocked the robo backward.

 

Tao Zento’s laughter surrounded them.

 

“You are too late,” Tao Zento said. “I am one with this place…this place of power! I am omnipresent! And expanding by the moment!”

 

“And getting more annoying too,” Hurricane Yellow said.

 

"Thrusters!" Hurricane Red shouted.

 

The Megazord burst towards the arrow, but bolts of shadow lashed out and blasted against the Megazord with bursts of spark that tore into its light armor. The robo tilted as explosions sparked in the Rangers' cockpits.

 

StormMegazord reverted back to its normal, armored mode.

 

"One more dive," Hurricane Red said as he tightened his grip on his controls. Hunter and Blake were gone. Shurikenger was gone. Gozen was gone. "Full power. Go!"

 

The Megazord burst towards the arrow. Bolts of shadow lashed out and sparked across the Megazord, but the robo kept forward, despite its buckling armor. Secondary sparks tore across the Megazord's armor and ripped into its interior.

 

"We're ripping apart!" Hurricane Yellow shouted.

 

"Then we rip apart!" Hurricane Red said.

 

An explosion tore the left arm from the Megazord with a massive burst of spark and flame. StormMegazord spun out of control, but by that time, the robo was close enough to the arrow to reach out and grab it.

 

StormMegazord grabbed the arrow, spun to face the exit of the vortex, and hurled the weapon like a spear.

 

The arrow punctured through the opening with a flash of blinding light that shattered the vortex, and Tao Zento screamed with agony.

 

StormMegazord fell back into the city, crashed, and skid across the streets as explosions tore through the Megazord. The Wind Power Rangers leapt from their cockpits just as the Megazord exploded with a massive sphere of flame that shook the city for miles.

 

The Rangers landed and fell to the ground, and their armor powered down from the impact. They crawled back to their feet and looked to see Tao Zento stagger towards them.

 

"I was everything..." Tao Zento growled with rage. "I was all...I was powerful. And you..."

 

The villain fired a bolt of shadow energy that exploded around the rangers as they dove and rolled for cover.

 

"You children!" Tao Zento fired another bolt of shadow energy that exploded against the street with a shockwave that sent the rangers flying through the air and crashing against the walls of nearby buildings.

 

Tao Zento powered up another bolt of shadow power, but before he could hurl the bolt, energy blasts exploded against his back with bursts of spark that knocked him off balance. The villain turned to see his attackers: Hunter and Blake.

 

Rachel pulled herself back to her feet and opened her eyes wide with disbelief. "Blake! Hunter! You're alive!"

 

"We noticed," Blake said with a smile.

 

Simon and the rangers regrouped around Hunter and Blake, and the five teammates started defiantly at Tao Zento. Simon narrowed his eyes. "This is it...after all this time...you're finished. Finally."

 

The teens armed their bracers.

 

“Senpu…”

 

“Gorai…”

 

“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: “Power Rangers!”

 

Tao Zento tilted his head quizzically while staring at the Rangers. "I see you so differently now...like insects."

 

"Right, we're the bugs," Hurricane Yellow said sarcastically.

 

Tao Zento's shoulders fired jagged bolts of shadow energy that sparked around the Rangers as they dove aside and rolled for cover. Hurricane Yellow and Hurricane Blue rolled into crouched positions, held their blades at the ready, and leapt through the air to attack the villain.

 

The Blue Ranger and Yellow Ranger chopped their swords down towards Tao Zento, but their blades clashed harmlessly against his body. The villain swiped his hand and slashed both Rangers away with bursts of spark. Their bodies whipped backward and crashed against the ground.

 

Tao Zento stalked towards the two fallen Rangers, but Crimson Thunder, Navy Thunder and Hurricane Red leapt in front of his path. The villain stalked forward and didn't even need to break his stride as he blocked a blow from Crimson Thunder, knocked the Ranger away, blocked a strike from Navy Thunder, and knocked the Ranger away.

 

Hurricane Red twirled his blade through an intricate pattern that slashed across Tao Zento with bursts of spark. But the villain fired jagged optic blasts that wrapped around the Red Ranger and forced him to the ground. The jagged blasts wrapped around the Red Ranger like leashes and skid him across the ground, pushing him backward as explosions sparked and tore across his armor.

 

Tao Zento released his grasp, and Hurricane Red quickly rose into a crouched position, using his blade as support, while the other Rangers regrouped around him.

 

Before the Rangers could strike back, Tao Zento leaned forward and fired jagged optic bursts that exploded around the Rangers with massive bursts of flame and spark that sent them flying off their feet.

 

"Our war ends today," Tao Zento said. "Finally."

 

Hurricane Red tightened his grasp on his sword. He'd heard it all before. And he was sick of it. The Red Ranger stabbed his sword against the ground for balance and climbed back to his feet as steam hissed from his armor, an after effect of the violent attack by Tao Zento.

 

"Do you really think you're going to win, you deluded, arrogant, bastard?" Hurricane Red asked. Tendrils of red energy lashed from his hands and wrapped around his blade, which started to glow with red power. "For eight years this planet has stood up to creeps like you. You honestly think you're any better? You honestly think you're any different?"

 

"I know I am," Tao Zento said. "I-"

 

"Fire Blade!" Hurricane Red swung his sword and emitted a fiery blade of energy that exploded against Tao Zento with massive bursts of spark that forced him to his knees. The Red Ranger's teammates rose back to their feet behind their leader, and Hurricane Red held his sword forward in an attack stance towards the villain. "I'll ask again...what...in the freaking world...makes you think you are any different?"

 

"Foolish child!" Tao Zeno said.

 

"That's what they all say," Hurricane Red said. "Before they die."

 

"Damn," Navy Thunder said. "Since when do you try to be bad-ass?"

 

"Hit him with everything you got, Rangers," Hurricane Red said. He charged his blade with another flare of fire, intensified by wind energy. "Fire Blade!"

 

He swung his sword and emitted an energy blade that spun through the air towards Tao Zento. The blast exploded against the villain with massive bursts of flame.

 

Hurricane Blue placed her right fist against her left palm and summoned a twirling vortex of hydro energy and water that circled around her like a tornado. She thrust her hands forward. "Tempest Wave!"

 

The hydro cyclone spun forward and surrounded Tao Zento, hacking against his armor with bursts of spark. The cyclone hurled the villain off his feet, and he crashed against the ground and rolled backward.

 

Hurricane Yellow placed his right fist against his left palm as the ground rumbled beneath his feet. "Seismic Storm!" The Yellow Ranger thrust his hand forward and fired a jagged burst of yellow energy that streaked through the air with a shockwave that tore apart the ground and slammed against Tao Zento with massive bursts of spark that ripped into his body.

 

Navy Thunder placed his right fist against his left palm. "Elemental Crisis!" He thrust his hand forward and blasted a thick bolt of lightning that snapped through the air with a thundering boom and rippled the fabric of space/time itself. The blast exploded against Tao Zento with a massive explosion of fire.

 

Crimson Thunder placed his right fist against his left palm. "Shadow Crisis!" He thrust his hand forward and fired a bolt of twirling shadow energy that punctured through Tao Zento's chest with a burst of spark, knocking the villain back down into a crouched position as he used his hand to cover his gaping, smoking wound.

 

"Weapons," Hurricane Red said.

 

The five Rangers assembled their cannon. "Thunderstorm Striker!" they shouted. "Fire!"

 

The blaster fired a bolt of twirling energy that crackled with lightning, pulsed with shadow, and burned with flame. The blast rumbled the streets, and parted the air, while ebbing with power and shooting towards the villain through a comet of energy that left a trail of vapor in its wake.

 

The blast exploded against Tao Zento's injury with bursts of spark that tore through him from the inside, ripping his body into scraps before a final, massive explosion that shook the entire city block. The smoke from the explosion blew away into the wind as residual flames crackled and snapped along the concrete of the ruined landscape.

 

Tao Zento was gone.

 

The Rangers powered down their armor and collapsed from fatigue.

 

"Guys..." Justin said. "Let's not do this again for a while, k?"

 

***

 

Ashley breathed a sigh of relief and sat back in her chair. "They did it...Lothor's gone." Tommy was still leaning forward in his chair and staring at the computer monitor with a grim look on his face. Ashley was familiar with the look all too well. "What is it?"

 

"It's not over," Tommy said. "I think Jakanja was reading the signals wrong."

 

"What do you mean?" Ashley asked.

 

"The Final Prophecy," Tommy said. "I don't think that vortex had anything to do with it. I think it was just another dimension."

 

"How can you be sure?" Ashley said.

 

"I can't," he said. "It's just a feeling."

 

"So if that vortex wasn't the Ultimate Secret Lothor was after...what is?" Ashley asked.

 

Tommy shook his head. "I don't know," Tommy said. "But I'm sure I don't have to tell you that we'll find out eventually."

 

***

 

The Dark Man, Akuma, stood silently within a dark laboratory cluttered with computer terminals, test tubes, and beakers.

 

One of his Marauders, Shadow Blade, kneeled behind him.

 

"Tao Zento is dead," the black-armored warrior said, his voice a demonic whisper. 

 

"And the Rangers?" Akuma asked.

 

"They've become even stronger." Shadow Blade's voice was thick with resentment.

 

"Does that bother you?" Akuma asked.

 

"Yes...it does," Shadow Blade said. "This is not why I joined you."

 

"No..." Akuma said. "You joined me for power...which I have given you. I have turned you into a weapon. In exchange, your life is mine...until you decide to betray me, of course, but that day is a long time coming, I would imagine."

 

"You would hope." Shadow Blade tilted his head up towards his master.

 

Akuma smirked. "You're as defiant as your counterpart in this reality, aren't you...Tommy of Demon World Earth."

 

***

 

Akuma hadn't allowed Tao Zento to take control of Lothor's body; he had freed Tao Zento, separated him from Lothor's mind and placed him into a physical form.

 

The Dark Man had discarded Lothor afterward. Tossed him into Demon City.

 

Lothor's power was practically drained as a result of the process. His body broken, his robes tattered, he crawled across the ruined landscape of Demon City and used his anger to hide his pain. He would have shouted, but his lungs were too weak. His breathing too shallow. The Dark Man had used much of Lothor's energy and blood to give Tao Zento physical form.

 

The villain could feel his broken bones rubbing against his muscles with every movement. "Damn...damn them all...I am..."

 

He opened his mouth wide to howl, but all that escaped was a desperate, angry wheeze that shook his entire body.

 

The villain heard laughter, and he looked up to see Cenathos staring down at him. The insectoid villain looked like his entire body was falling apart. In fact, pieces of his exoskeleton cracked and fell to the ground in front of Lothor with each of the villain's tiniest of movements.

 

"It seems we are both beaten..." Cenathos said. "At least separately." Cenathos kneeled onto the ground next to Lothor. "This body is no longer a suitable vessel...and yours is breaking...perhaps a union of sorts."

 

Cenathos didn't ask permission. He reached out, grabbed Lothor by the sides of the head, and poured his energy into the villain. They both screamed with torment as shadow and unholy energy flashed and twirled with an angry storm that reached into the crimson skies and caused black lightning to dance across the gray clouds.

 

They fused.

 

The armor of Centhrax, fueled by the powers of the God of Death, burned across Lothor and meshed with his body, soul, and mind. Lothor wore the exoskeleton of Centhrax like a suit of armor. The armor was dull gray, with skulls sculpted on the forearms, elbows, knees and shoulders. A helmet had an open faceplate that covered his face with darkness, so that only his eyes, glowing slits of blue, were visible. A small skull was sculpted on the forehead, above the visor.

 

Centhrax was gone.

 

Lothor was gone.

 

In their place was Xanathor.

 

END