Jet Force: Chapter Three

The Race

 

Dr. William “Billy” Cranston was not pleased. He leaned back behind his black, polished desk and tapped his fingers together while looking at Miss. Fairweather and Christopher Naxx. They had just delivered the latest status report on the J-Force team, and their news was disappointing.

 

“Let me see if I’m following you correctly…” Cranston said. “Vince hit you, and then he just took off. He punched you, and then ran.”

 

Naxx nodded. “Technically he rode off on his motorcycle, but yes sir.”

 

“We need him,” Cranston said.

 

Christopher shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Sir…maybe we’re better off without him. He has no sense of responsibility. No sense of teamwork. He doesn’t even seem to care about the danger these Vyram represent. In my opinion, he’s dangerous. There has to be a way to find another-”

 

“There is no other way,” Cranston said. “The Spire was destroyed, so there’s no way to create another Aero Ranger at this point. We need Vince Carter. And from what I saw, he’s the only one of your new teammates who can actually fight.”

 

Miss. Fairweather spoke up before Christopher had the chance. “I’ll track him back down and try to speak with him.”

 

“No,” Cranston said. “I need you to give the new rangers a crash course in martial arts.” He looked to Christopher. “Naxx, I want you to track down Carter and bring him in.”

 

“But sir,” Christopher said. “Maybe one of the others should go. Vince and I don’t exactly get along. Maybe-”

 

“You’ll go,” Cranston said. “And if he refuses to come back with you, bring him by force.”

 

***

 

A man slept alone in his city apartment that night. The sound of dripping water stirred him awake, so he grumbled and pulled himself out of bed. “Stupid building…falling apart…stupid landlord…son of a…”

 

He stumbled into the kitchen and tightened the sink knobs. The water stopped dripping. He breathed a grunt of satisfaction and dragged himself back to bed. The man was just about to doze off when the sink started dripping again.

 

“Son of  a…” the man tossed off his covers and walked back to the kitchen.

 

He reached towards the sink knob, and suddenly, the kitchen pipe sprang out like a snake and wrapped around the man’s body.

 

“What the hell! Ah!” He screamed until the pipe crushed his chest and lungs. The faucet opened like the jaws of a beast and swallowed the man whole.

 

The pipe slithered back into the kitchen sink and returned to normal. Blood dripped from the faucet and splattered onto the drain.

 

The transparent image of the Vyram boy Toran floated nearby and laughed.

 

***

 

Miss Fairweather set up a sparring mat in the woods the next day. Kristin, Matthew, and Amy joined her for sparring lessons, which they started regretting as soon as their bodies started slamming against the mat.

 

Miss Fairweather flipped Matthew over her shoulder, and he slammed down next to Kristin and Amy on the mat.

 

Matthew moaned while rubbing his tailbone and sitting up. “So why isn’t Christopher here getting his butt kicked too?”

 

“Two reasons,” Fairweather said. “One, he’s already been trained. Two, he’s out looking for Vince.”

 

Kristin’s face lit up. “We can go help him.”

 

Amy nodded in agreement. “That’s such a great idea.”

 

Miss Fairweather couldn’t help but smile. “I’m sure Christopher would appreciate the assistance…but right now, you need to train.”

 

Amy sighed. “This is so not how I wanted to spend my weekend.”

 

***

 

Vince chalked up a pool cue while in a club in Angel Grove East’s Party City. He saw Christopher sitting at a bar nearby, but the leader of J-Force had his back turned and pretended not to notice Vince.

 

Christopher had followed Vince all day while keeping his distance, but Vince had been on to him every step of the way.

 

Vince leaned over the pool table and set up his shot. He angled his cue and struck the ball so it flew off the table and towards Christopher’s head. Christopher leaned to the side and caught the ball without turning around.

 

Vince set the cue aside. “Clumsy me.”

 

Christopher got up, walked towards Vince, and tossed the ball back onto the table. “Clearly.”

 

“Any reason you’ve been following me, slick?” Vince flashed a mocking grin. “Do you think I’m pretty?”

 

Christopher narrowed his eyes. “You know damn well why I’m following you.”

 

“So you do think I’m pretty.”

 

“Knock it off,” Christopher said. “I know you don’t like me, and frankly, I don’t like you very much either. What matters is, the world is under attack and needs us. All five of us. Together.”

 

Vince placed his hand over his heart in a mocking gesture. “Great speech, slick. I am truly inspired. Give me back my bird tights so I can defend the world.”

 

“Do you take anything seriously?”

 

“Get over yourself.” Vince shoved Christopher aside and walked out of the club.

 

Christopher followed Vince to the curb. “You can’t just turn your back on this. I won’t let you.”

 

Vince hopped onto his motorcycle. “Is that a threat?”

 

Christopher hopped onto his red motorcycle, which was parked behind Vince’s. “It’s a promise.”

 

Vince arced an eyebrow at the sight of Christopher’s bike. “You ride that thing?”

 

“Yeah…you got a problem with that?”

 

Vince snorted and shook his head. “You’d be better off riding a big wheel.”

 

“It’s not about the bike, it’s about the rider,” Christopher said. 

 

Vince scoffed. “I could ride circles around you.”

 

“Christopher smiled. “Let’s make a bet then, hot shot. We race. If I win, you join the team. If you win, I leave you alone, you never see me again.”

 

Vince smiled. “Bring it on, bird boy.”

 

***

 

Matthew, Kristin, and Amy had ropes tied around their waists as they climbed up a hill. The trick was that each rope was tied to several tires that weighed the rangers down and made their climb harder.

 

Matthew breathed more heavily with each step. “This is so not fair…I didn’t sign up for this…abuse.”

 

“Technically,” Amy said. “You did.”

 

Matthew shook his head. “Not this specifically.”

 

Matthew kept complaining, but Amy stopped listening. Instead, she noticed that Matthew was slightly ahead of her and Kristin on the hill. And she realized how easy it would be to take her string of tires and wrap them around Matthew’s rope.

 

A mischievous grin crossed Amy’s face. She untied the rope from her waist and wrapped it around Matthew’s rope.

 

Kristin noticed, and she had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing. Amy silently waved for Kristin to do the same. So she did. Kristin untied the rope from around her waist and wrapped it around Matthew’s rope.

 

Matthew struggled with each step. “Is it just me…or do these things…keep getting heavier?”

 

Kristin and Amy exchanged silent giggles.

 

***

 

Christopher and Vince sat on motorbikes on top of a hill that led down through a motor cross track. 

 

Vince fastened his helmet over his head. “Let’s get this over with. I’ve got a date tonight.”

 

“No, you’ll have a mission briefing,” Christopher said. “And some paperwork to fill out. Lots of paperwork.”

 

“Date,” Vince said.

 

“Paperwork. Three,” Christopher started the countdown.

 

“Two,” Vince said.

 

Together they shouted: “One!”

 

Their bikes throttled down the hill and onto the track while kicking up a cloud of dirt. The rangers swerved around the first bend in the track and stayed neck-in-neck while throttling forward.

 

Nearby, a group of preteen boys stopped while on their way to the nearby skate park. They noticed the race and couldn’t help but stop to watch. The race was impressive on account of the two skillful riders, neither of which could gain a significant advantage for more than a second.

 

The boys were too busy watching the race to notice a nearby water fountain twist and coil up from the ground. The piping lashed out and wrapped around one of the boy’s arms. He screamed and tried to pull away, but he couldn’t, even with his friends’ help.

 

Christopher heard the boys’ screams and skid his bike to a halt. The ranger dropped the bike and dashed to help the boys.

 

But Vince kept racing and throttled past the finish line. He skid his bike to a halt and looked towards Christopher with a smug grin. “What unfortunate timing…”

 

“You idiot!” Christopher shouted as he pulled the boy free from the piping. But the pipes wrapped around Christopher and pushed him to the ground. The ranger looked to Vince. “Don’t just stand there!”

 

Vince shook his head and turned his bike around to leave. “I don’t deal with crazy. That’s your job. Besides, we had a-”

 

“Don’t you realize there are bigger things in this world than me and you!” Christopher shouted. “Screw the bet, you have a responsibility! Are you that selfish?!”

 

Vince looked over his shoulder. “Try not to follow me this time…although it looks like that won’t be a problem.”

 

Vince sped off.

 

***

 

ISIS Defense Initiative headquarters was a pyramid-shaped building just south of Demon City in the Angel Grove Reconstruction Zone, an area of intense rebuilding established after the Mogralord battles.

 

Miss Fairweather had returned to headquarters for only a few minutes when the alarms started blaring in the command room. Several monitors showed the same image. A monster, VyPipe, had erupted from the ground and was grabbing hold of Christopher, keeping him from morphing.

 

Fairweather activated the communications terminal. “Matthew, Amy, Kristin…training’s over for the day. It’s time for the real thing.”

 

***

 

Vince throttled away from the motor cross track, but his mind wandered. Christopher’s words were stuck in his head. Vince tried to think about something else, but he couldn’t.

 

What was worse was that he felt connected to Christopher through their powers, and Vince could feel the sense of Christopher’s danger. More so, Vince could feel Christopher’s burning desire to fight and protect.

 

“Don’t you realize there are bigger things in this world than me and you!” Christopher shouted. “Screw the bet, you have a responsibility! Are you that selfish?!”

 

“Knock it off,” Christopher said. “I know you don’t like me, and frankly, I don’t like you very much either. What matters is, the world is under attack and needs us. All five of us. Together.”

 

“Do you take anything seriously?”

 

Before Vince realized what he was doing, he had turned around and sped back onto the motor cross track. Vince opened his throttle to full and sped towards VyPipe, which had a tight hold on Christopher and was bashing the ranger to the ground.

 

Vince popped a wheelie and slammed against VyPipe, knocking the monster backward and releasing Christopher from its hold.

 

“Vince!” Christopher shouted with surprise. He ran to his reluctant teammate.

 

The other rangers ran to the scene nearby, and they were just as surprised to see Vince. They shouted his name and ran towards him.

 

Vince did his best to stay casual and act nonchalant.

 

Christopher pulled out a morphing brace and held it towards Vince. “This is yours.”

 

Vince silently grabbed the morpher and strapped it to his wrist as naturally as he would a watch.

 

Nearby, VyPipe rose back to its feet.

 

Vince narrowed his eyes at the monster. “You dented my bike.”

 

The rangers stood in formation, with Christopher at the center, and squared off with the monster. For the first time, they transformed together.

 

“Suit up!” They slapped their braces’ activation panels and morphed into their Ranger forms with bursts of light and energy. 

 

“Aero Saber!” Red Hawk unsheathed his sword and leapt towards the monster to attack.

 

The Red Ranger chopped his blade across the monster with a burst of spark and pressed forward with a trio of strikes that sparked against the creature’s armor. The blows forced VyPipe back several steps and took him off guard.

 

Before the monster could defend itself, Aero Blue and Aero White somersaulted through the air. Blue Swallow and White Swan snapped double kicks that knocked the monster over and sent him tumbling across the ground.

 

VyPipe rose to its feet and looked up to see Aero Yellow leap forward. Yellow Owl hurled a boulder that bashed against the creature. VyPipe struggled to keep his balance and stumbled across the dirt.

 

“Vince!” Aero Red shouted. “Use your Wing Gauntlet!”

 

Aero Black armed a gauntlet that strapped around his right forearm and fist. “Wing Gauntlet!”

 

Black Condor leapt through the air and slammed a punch against the villain that sparked on impact. Aero Black pressed forward with a volley of rapid punches, and each jab and cross punch sparked against the creature’s armor and forced the monster back a step.

 

Aero Black pulled his fist back and swung a final punch that sparked on impact and sent the monster flying through the air.

 

The five Jet Force Rangers regrouped.

 

“Aero Rifles!” Red Hawk shouted.

 

The Rangers combined their blasters and swords to form high-powered rifle weapons.

 

“Fire!” Aero Red shouted.

 

The rifles fired beams of energy that combined into a single bolt of power. The energy bolt punctured through the center of the monster with a massive explosion that tore its armor apart and ripped up its body. The monster’s energy overloaded and exploded with a final burst of flame.

 

***

 

The rangers regrouped after the battle.

 

Christopher walked over to Vince and extended a hand. “Welcome to the team.”

 

Vince arced an eyebrow at Christopher. He ignored his new leader and looked to Kristin and Amy. He flashed them both a grin, turned on his charisma, and stepped closer to them.

 

“I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced,” he said. “My name’s Vince…it’s a pleasure to meet you both.”

 

The girls smiled as they introduced themselves to Vince.

 

Matthew watched from nearby, crossed his arms over his chest, and shook his head. He stepped closer to Christopher. “Can you believe that guy?”

 

***

 

Dr. Cranston deactivated the holographic monitor on his desk after watching the battle’s conclusion. He leaned back and pressed the communications button on his chair‘s arm. “Cranston to the mecha hanger. Prep the Jet-zords. It’s time for a test flight.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 04