Author’s note: This story begins in 2008 shortly after the start of Book One: Wind and Thunder. Jet Force and Wind and Thunder take place concurrently.
Jet Force: Chapter One
The Fall of J-Force
Dr. William “Billy” Cranston walked down the corridor of INET’s J-Force space station in high orbit above the Earth. He paid the Silver Guardian soldiers and lab technicians little notice as he walked past them.
Dr. Cranston was about to bring online his first Ranger team since the end of the Mogralord battles, which left Earth’s Rangers powerless. He planned to name his new team the Jet Task Force Aero Rangers, or J-Force for short.
The J-Force project was one of many initiatives developed through Dr. Cranston’s INET company. J-Force would serve under the ISIS Defense Initiative to combat any villains on a cosmic or demonic scale.
Cranston entered the station’s main lab and walked towards his assistant, Miss Fairweather. She stood near the center of the room, where a massive probe extended from the ceiling, just above a metallic chair with arm and leg straps. The probe was called the Spire.
“Everything’s almost ready,” Fairweather said. “We should be able to bring the Spire online by the end of the day.”
Dr. Cranston nodded. “Excellent.” Billy walked over to the Spire and traced his fingers along its edges. “Contact Naxx.”
The ISIS Defense Initiative drafted Christopher Naxx straight out of high school. Afterward, he trained a year to become leader of the J-Force team.
Naxx stood in front of a mirror in his quarters and straightened his uniform, which was nothing more than a gray flight suit and black undershirt. His lover and teammate, Marie, stepped behind him and wrapped her arms around his chest.
“Ready for your big day, soldier boy?” she kissed him on the cheek.
He looked at her reflection and smiled. “As ready as I’ll ever be, beautiful.”
“I’m so proud of you, Christopher…you’ve worked so hard for this,” she said.
“We’ve worked hard.” He turned and wrapped his arms around her. “If this works, you’ll be a ranger right there alongside me. It‘s you and me, all the way.”
“I know, but…” her gaze drifted off. “I’m just not sure if I’m really cut out for this.”
He kissed her forehead. “I know you are. You’re so much stronger than I am. Without you, I would have dropped out of this months ago. You’re what keeps me going.”
Technicians strapped Christopher to the chair beneath the Spire. The probe hummed with power. Christopher couldn’t help but feel a little nervous. Then he thought of Marie. The image of her comforting smile eased his anxiety.
“You’ll feel some discomfort,” Cranston said. “What you’ll be experiencing is energy from the Morphin Grid being grafted over your Life Force, similar to how other rangers have bonded with the Grid by mystical means.”
The chair leaned back so the Spire was over Christopher’s chest. The Spire powered on and fired a crimson energy beam that washed across Christopher’s body. He tightened his eyes and clenched his jaw to keep from screaming. It felt like someone was pouring boiling water over his skin, and that the water was seeping through his every pore and deep into his body.
A small explosion suddenly tore open the side of the Spire. The Spire wailed with a loud hissing noise and started to shake. Another explosion nearly blasted the Spire from the ceiling.
Cranston ran over to Miss Fairweather at her station. “What’s happening?”
“An energy overload,” she said. “I can’t explain it…”
A larger explosion tore the Spire from the ceiling with a shockwave that smashed Billy and Miss Fairweather off their feet.
The Spire’s malfunction tore open a dimensional vortex in space. The vortex crackled with tendrils of violent energy that lashed out against the station, ripping apart pieces of its hull.
A dark energy rippled from within the vortex. The energy stirred like a torrent of black seawater, and from within, an eye glanced into Earth’s reality.
Smoke filled the lab room while Billy climbed to his feet and leaned against a console to steady himself. “Report.”
Miss Fairweather had stumbled over to Christopher and was unstrapping him from the chair. His eyes were closed, and he had suffered second-degree burns. “He’s alive, but unconscious. We need to get him medical attention.”
Billy shook his head. “I meant report on the Spire.” He walked towards the Spire while secondary explosions rocked the station, nearly knocking him back off his feet. “What the hell was that?”
A voice came from the intercom. “Dr. Cranston, the base is under attack.”
Billy knitted his brow and walked closer to the comm. “Attack? From who?”
“We don’t know, sir. Some sort of dimensional…” the comm buzzed with static. “…tendrils of energy…losing hull integrity…evacuation…”
Cranston turned towards Fairweather. “Download data from the Spire and head to the nearest escape pod.” He activated a wrist communicator that was connected to the ship’s main computer. “Sound the alarm to abandon the station.”
The lab’s computer monitors suddenly flashed with static. The static cleared, and the same being appeared on every screen. He appeared human except for his pale-blue skin and elfish features. His eyes narrowed with a fury and hate that had grown for ages.
“We are the Vyram. You have violated our dimension,” the being said. “You will be punished…severely.”
The monitors blinked out.
Christopher’s vision slowly blurred back into focus. The first thing he noticed was crew members rushing down the corridor, which was filled with smoke. The deck plating trembled beneath his feet.
He looked up to see two medics carrying him by the shoulders. Miss Fairweather walked in front of them.
“What…” he coughed.
“There’s no time to explain right now,” Miss Fairweather said. “We have to get to the escape pods.”
Christopher slid his arms away from the medics and stood on his own. “Are we under attack?”
“Yes,” Fairweather said.
“Christopher!” He turned to see Marie running towards him from down the corridor. She wrapped her arms around him. “I heard there was an explosion in the lab…I thought you were-”
“There’s no time,” Miss Fairweather said. “We have to get moving. The station is falling apart.”
A violent explosion rocked the station. A wall nearby tore from the corridor and into space, sucking out atmosphere with surprising force. Christopher and Miss Fairweather grabbed onto railing to keep from getting sucked out of the station.
The medics were not so lucky, and the decompression sucked them into space. Marie was nearly pulled out of the station as well, but Christopher grabbed hold of her wrist just in time.
The suction threatened to tear Marie from his grasp, and he felt his grip on her weakening. “Hang on Marie!”
She didn’t even have time to scream. The breach tore her from Christopher and sucked her out into the vacuum of space.
Emergency force fields shimmered into place to seal the breach, and the ventilation system cycled more atmosphere back into the corridor.
“Marie!” he slammed his hands against the force field.
Fairweather grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away. “Christopher we have to leave. You’re too important…”
“Marie!” His face was pale with terror.
Another explosion shook the station.
“Come on!” Fairweather pulled harder, but Christopher would not move.
“No…just leave me here.”
“Christopher Naxx I am giving you an order,” Fairweather said. “You’re a Ranger now. If you don’t come, more people will die. We need you.”
Christopher clenched his jaw and rolled his hands into fists. He followed Fairweather towards the escape pods.
A final tendril of energy tore through the center of the space station, ripping through armor and hull plating. The station’s power grid overloaded with a final explosion that consumed the station with a ball of flame that quickly evaporated in the vacuum of space.
Four spears of multi-colored energy shot from the station’s wreckage and streaked towards the Earth.
Hours later, Billy walked into one of his high-rise INET offices in Angel Grove. He activated a control on his desk to power up the interactive computer system, named MINT.
“MINT, what’s the status of the energy waves discharged from the station during its explosion?” he asked.
“The energy waves impacted four civilians within Angel Grove city limits,” MINT said.
“To what effect?” He already suspected the answer.
MINT paused before answering. “The energy waves bonded the civilians to the Morphing Grid.”
“Get me their locations,” Billy said. “And contact Miss Fairweather. Tell her she has an assignment.”
Christopher sat with his head hung low. His gaze drifted aimlessly from Miss Fairweather to the floor. She was briefing him on the Vyram situation and energy charges released from the station. But he could barely focus to listen.
Marie was gone, just like that, ripped from his life forever. They would never marry. Never have children. Never hold each other again.
“Christopher,” Miss Fairweather put an edge to her voice that grabbed Christopher’s attention. “I know you’re hurting. But remember what I told you…you’re a Ranger now. And with the Vyram out there…the world needs you.”
“I can’t do this alone,” Christopher whispered.
“You won’t be alone,” Fairweather said. She turned a small computer monitor on her desk to face Christopher. The screen showed four points on a map of Angel Grove. “These points represent areas the energy discharges struck the Earth. We can use this information.”
Fairweather smiled. “Recruiting.”
Christopher sat alongside Miss. Fairweather in the back of an INET limo headed towards Silver Hills. The teen narrowed his eyes and looked to the sky. He imagined the blackness of space on the other side of the clouds. In his mind, he pictured the black void where he last saw Marie and the villains who took her from him.
Christopher rolled his hands into fists. He may not have Marie at his side anymore, but her memory lived on inside of him. He made a silent vow to fight on in her memory, and bring justice to those who took her from him.
“We’re almost there,” Fairweather said.
“Where is it exactly we’re going again?” he asked for the second time.
“The Worthington Estate,” she said. Fairweather held a portable data pad in her left hand. “One of the energy waves impacted on his property. Someone there has bonded with the Morphing Grid. A young woman.”
Christopher nodded. “So how do we approach this?”
“I haven’t quite figured that out yet,” Fairweather said. “We’ll just improvise.”
Kristin Worthington found her life dull. She was the only daughter of one of Angel Grove’s richest men, and as such, led a life of privilege. Unfortunately such a life was void of any challenge or excitement.
The 19-year-old had received top grades in high school, was accepted into Harvard, and was pursued by every bachelor - all because of her father’s money. At one point in her senior year she stopped going to school, but still managed a 4.0 GPA because of her father’s influence.
For this reason, Fairweather’s offer appealed to her.
“So what you’re saying…” Kristin brushed her dark bangs from her forehead. “…is you want me to become a Ranger…”
“What I’m saying, is that on one level, you already have,” Fairweather said. “That’s why we need you.”
“To fight these…Vyram?” Kristin asked. “Why me?”
“Because there’s no one else,” Christopher said.
Fairweather nodded. “I know this is a lot to take in all at once,” she explained. “But as of now, we have no way of reversing the energy pulse’s effect on your body.”
“So without me you’re a ranger short?” she asked.
A hesitant smile crossed Kristin’s face. “Sounds fun.”
Kristin joined Christopher and Miss Fairweather on a trip to their next recruit, an 18-year-old named Matthew Long who’s family owned a ranch between Angel Grove and Stone Canyon to the south.
Matthew was in Angel Grove when the bolt of energy from J-Force infused him with power. Miss Fairweather managed to track him down to his family’s ranch. But he was far less receptive than Kristin had been.
Matthew tied a horse down to a stable outside and did his best to pretend he had not heard a word of what he was told. “Look, maybe you could come back here another time.” He did not even look at them. “Like maybe this winter. When I’m in Florida.”
“Matthew, I know this is a lot to take in,” Miss Fairweather said. “But you don’t understand. We need you. You’ve already been bonded-”
“I haven’t been bonded to anything, I feel fine.” He walked back towards his house. His gaze lingered as he looked past Kristin. Their eyes met, his cheeks turned slightly red, and he looked away quickly.
“Matthew…” Miss Fairweather called after Matthew, but he went inside and slammed his door shut.
Kristin looked to Miss Fairweather. “Let me stay and talk with him,” she said. “You two can go ahead and find your next recruit.”
“You sure?” Christopher asked.
“Yeah.” Kristin smiled. “I think he likes me.”
It only took a few minutes for Matthew to warm up to Kristin. She tried to keep the conversation completely away from Rangers to gain his trust. She couldn’t help but enjoy herself in the meantime.
He showed her around his private greenhouse in the back of the ranch. “It’s always been a hobby,” he said of his gardening. “I don’t know…some people think it’s stupid…but I always thought it was cool. To create like this.”
Kristin smiled. Matthew was cute, in a dorky kind of way. “I think you have quite a talent. I could never do anything like this.”
“Why’s that?” Matthew asked.
Kristin shrugged. “All my life…people have just done things for me. I can’t do much on my own.”
Matthew smiled. “I’m sure you could do anything.” He blushed. “Anyway…come outside. I’ll show you the garden I planted.”
Matthew led Kristin outside towards his vegetable garden. “This is where I-”
The sky suddenly tore open as a rift formed. A giant hand extended from the rift, and drops of energy dripped from its fingertips. The energy drops splashed against the ground and formed an army of grunts called Voids. The Voids were solid black with splashes of orange across their bodies and faces.
Kristin gasped with fear, and Matthew stood in front of her protectively. “What the heck are those things?”
“Vyram,” Kristin said. “They’re after us.”
The INET limo drove through the streets of Angel Grove South. A communications monitor blinked within the limo, and Fairweather answered the call. It was Dr. Cranston. “Miss Fairweather,” he said. “We have a situation. The Vyram have tracked down Kristin and Matthew. They’re under attack.”
Christopher leaned forward on his seat. “I have to go back for them.”
“Agreed,” Cranston said. “But you’ll never make it back in time. You’re not too far away from the Defense Initiative headquarters. Return to base and go airborne.”
The limo swerved around and drove towards the ISIS Defense Initiative headquarters. The pyramid-shaped building was just south of Demon City in the Angel Grove Reconstruction Zone, an area of intense rebuilding established after the Mogralord battles.
The limo pulled into a garage, and Christopher hopped out. He ran to an elevator that took him up to the building’s top floor hanger bay.
He ran to his zord, the Jet Hawk, and took off.
The Voids chased Matthew and Kristin to the mountains just outside of Angel Grove. Kristin tripped and nearly fell, but Matthew grabbed her hand and helped her keep her balance.
“Come on,” he said. “We have to keep running.”
“To where?” Kristin asked.
“I…” Matthew shook his head. “I don’t know.”
An engine’s whine suddenly cut through the air above. Matthew and Kristin looked up to see Jet Hawk fly through the air.
Christopher swooped his zord downward and triggered a volley of pulse blasts that exploded around the Voids with massive bursts of spark that scattered their formation. He swung his zord’s nose upward and started a climb.
Here goes nothing…He opened his cockpit and ejected. Christopher plummeted towards the ground below at frightening speeds. The wind rushed against his face while he straightened his body, arms against his side, to dive downward.
A part of him wanted to just keep diving and splatter against the ground below. But he had to go on. He had to fight Marie’s killers and save these new Rangers. He had to keep what happened to Marie from happening to anyone again. She would have wanted that.
Christopher waited several seconds before slapping his morphers activation panel.
“Jet Force!” He triggered a wave of energy that washed over him and transformed him into Aero Red. He snapped open wing-like gliders beneath his arms and swooped down towards the ranks of Voids.
Aero Red dove through the group of Voids and punctured through their formation with massive force that hurled them backward. The Red Ranger climbed upward several meters, somersaulted through the air, and landed back on the ground.
Aero Red dashed past a Void while knocking its blade aside and slamming a punch across another Void’s head.
The Red Ranger turned towards Matthew and tossed a morpher at him. The morpher automatically attached to his wrist. “It’s your morpher. Use it to suit up.”
A Void swung a curved blade that Aero Red ducked under while slamming an uppercut against the grunt’s midsection. He turned to his left and smashed a sidekick against another Void’s face.
Through the corner of his visor, Aero Red saw a group of Voids charge towards Kristin and Matthew. They hadn’t morphed yet. They were helpless.
Aero Red snapped into a bird-like fighting stance, crouched down, and leapt through the air to their aide. But a tentacle wrapped around the Ranger’s neck and snapped him backward.
The Red Ranger crashed to the ground as the tentacle tightened, nearly choking off his air supply. Aero Red rose to his feet and struggled to break from the tentacle, which appeared to be connected to an energy rift. The Wyrm monster stepped through the rift.
Wyrm resembled a walking worm with a gaping maw lined with fangs, and bony spikes along the sides of its body. The tentacle was the creature’s tongue.
Aero Red was helpless as a group of Voids chased Kristin and Matthew. The Voids cornered the teens against the edge of a cliff.
Matthew stood protectively in front of Kristin even though his body trembled with fear. He kept backing up, not realizing how close they were to the cliff’s edge.
“Matthew, be careful, we-” her feet slipped, and she fell backward, pulling Matthew down with her. They screamed as they plummeted downward.
“No!” Aero Red shouted. He activated his communicator. “Guys, suit up and use your gliders now! Just slap your bracers’ activation panels!”
Kristin could barely hear over the rush of air as she plummeted towards her death.
To be continued…Chapter 02