Jet Force: Chapter Five

Human Shell

 

Fear clutched his throat. He was awake...but where was he? The ceiling above was unfamiliar. And...he was unfamiliar. He had no memory of his life as the villain known as Radiege. In fact, he had no memory at all.

 

He shifted on the soft bed beneath him and tried to sit up, but a hand gently laid across his chest and pushed him back down. He looked up to see a young woman with dark hair, dark almond-shaped eyes, and tan skin.

 

"You're awake..." she said with relief. "Rest though. You almost died."

 

"Where..." Radiege coughed. His throat felt like sandpaper. "Where am I?" He opened his eyes wide with panic. "Where?!"

 

"Try to stay calm," the young woman said. "The doctor just left...you're going to be okay. You-"

 

"Please." He desperately grabbed hold of her forearm. "Tell me. Tell me who I am..."

 

***

 

Vince ran as fast as he could, wanting nothing to do with the other Rangers. He couldn't bare for them to see him so weak and helpless, so full of pain. Especially Kristin. His legs ached with each stride as he felt the diamonds within him shift and puncture through his flesh.

 

The teen stumbled and braced himself against a tree to keep from falling. The break gave Kristin the moment she needed to catch up with him.

 

"Vince!" she called as she ran towards him from behind.

 

"Go away!" he shouted, although he couldn't bring himself to look at her. "Just leave me alone."

 

"No..." she caught up with him and draped her arms around his shoulders to help him stay on his feet. "I'm staying with you. You need help."

 

Vince shrugged her off. "Pity? Really?" He clenched his teeth to keep from screaming in pain. "I don't want you being nice because you feel sorry for me."

 

A diamond punctured through his neck, and he screamed with pain as he clutched the wound and collapsed to his knees.

 

"Vince!" Kristin shouted.

 

***

 

Radiege sat on the beach next to the home of Saki, the woman who had rescued him. He watched her play in the surf, the waves splashing against her body, dressed in a tight blue bathing suit. The man felt a strange yearning inside of himself that he could not explain.

 

Saki walked out of the water and sat next to Radiege while drying herself off. The young woman looked to him and smiled. "See...you're looking better already. I told you a little fresh air would do you some good."

 

Radiege had never felt so confused. At least he didn't think so. "Please..." he whispered. "Tell me about myself. I'm not...I have no idea who I am, or what I'm feeling."

 

Saki lowered her gaze and shook her head. "I told you...this is where I found you, on this beach. I'm not sure who you are."

 

The young woman's eyes slightly sparkled when she noticed a lump in the sand nearby. She dug through the sand and pulled out a seashell that shined as if polished. "Look..."

 

Radiege narrowed his eyes with curiosity. "What is it?"

 

"A seashell. A perfect seashell," she said. "My friend told me, that when you find a perfect seashell and make a wish, it comes true."

 

She looked to the water and gently tossed the shell towards the ocean. "There."

 

"What did you wish for?"

 

"For you," she said. "For you to get your memories back."

 

Saki's eyes slowly fluttered, and Radiege was about to ask her what was wrong, but she tipped over and collapsed to the sand.

 

***

 

This time Saki was the one in bed, and Radiege sat at her side while clasping her hand. A doctor hovered over her while flipping through pages attached to a clipboard. "Even with modern medicine, she only has weeks to live, at the most," the doctor was saying. "I'm sorry..."

 

Radiege tightened his grip on her hand. He barely knew her. He barely knew himself. But he couldn't lose her. She was his anchor. She was the only thing making him feel. She was the only thing making him feel human.

 

***

 

Citizens ran and screamed with panic as diamonds punctured through their skin and tore through their flesh and bone. Empress Juza watched and laughed while stroking the egg of the Semimaru wrapped around her arm.

 

"Yes..." she whispered as she traced her fingers across the creature. "Consume the pain and suffering of these humans."

 

"Vyram!" Juza looked to see Christopher, Matthew, and Amy run to the scene.

 

The teens snapped into fighting stances, and Christopher pointed at the villainous woman. "Turn Vince and the others back to normal, now!"

 

"Guys!" Kristin ran towards her teammates while helping Vince along, his arm around her shoulder. He had heard Miss Fairweather contact Kristin through her communicator and refused to be left behind. 

 

Juza narrowed her eyes as she watched the five rangers regroup.

 

"Damn fools." She extended her staff and fired a beam of orange-tinted energy that exploded around the rangers with bursts of spark and smoke.

 

Vince screamed to mask his pain and dashed through the smoke towards the Vyram empress. He leapt through the air and swung a flying punch towards Juza, who swung her staff and batted him from the air.

 

Vince crashed against the grass and tumbled away while clutching his injured chest, where another diamond was starting to push its way out of his skin. The teen slowly rose into a crouched position, and when he looked up, he saw a civilian leaning against a tree and screaming.

 

Diamonds had punctured through the civilian's chest, arms, and neck, and as he screamed, the diamonds started to pulse with energy that ebbed across his broken body. With a final scream, the civilian was surrounded in a pillar of crystal. Or maybe he had become the crystal. Vince wasn't sure. But for once, his own fear silenced him.

 

He ran.

 

***

 

Radiege stayed at Saki's side and watched her life ebb away. He held onto her hand tightly and watched as her eyes slowly flutter open. She was awake.

 

"Why...?" he whispered. "Why did you waste that wish on me? Why not wish for yourself?"

 

She gently squeezed his hand. "If I'd wished for myself..." Her voice was trembling and weak. "It wouldn't have come true."

 

Her eyes slowly closed.

 

"No..." Panic swelled in his chest. She was his anchor. "Don't die...you have to live!"

 

Radiege was too consumed with grief to notice the pale-blue energy flow from his body and wash across Saki.

 

***

 

Kristin found Vince sitting on the ground while leaning against a tree. His breathing was heavy, and his forehead was dripping with sweat.

 

She leaned down next to him and placed a hand on his arm. "Vince..."

 

"Don't," he said between breaths. "If I'm going to die...I'm going to die alone."

 

"What are you talking about?" She tried to be strong for him, but her voice trembled. "Don't say things like that. You can't give up."

 

Vince leaned his head back, and a smug grin managed to cross his face. "Don't be so dramatic. Even after I'm gone...the sky will still be blue. The Earth will still turn. Everything will be fine."

 

His mind flashed back to the man he saw earlier, the man who had turned into crystal. Vince couldn't bare the thought any longer. Intense fear inched through his gut and exploded through his tough exterior. He bit back his tears.

 

"Vince..." Kristin whispered.

 

"I'm scared," he whispered with pain. "I can't help it anymore. I don't...I don't want to die."

 

His pain nearly toppled him over, but Kristin caught him and cradled him. This time, he let her, and through the pain, he felt the comfort of her hand stroking through his hair.

 

Searing pain erupted in his body as he screamed. He knew what was about to happen.

 

He laid his hands on Kristin's shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Kristin..." he said with an intense whisper. He said nothing further. He didn't need to. He could tell by the look of sadness in her beautiful eyes that she understood.

 

The pain throbbed again, and he cringed, standing and moving off as the feeling overwhelmed him. The last thing he heard was Kristin shouting his name as his body ebbed with energy that encased him in crystal.

 

***

 

Myra paced back and forth across the Vyram ship while firmly grasping the handle of her whip. Her fellow Vyram sat nearby, doing nothing, which made her furious. Radiege was gone. And this Juza...

 

"What are you going to do?" she practically shouted at the villains. "Obey Juza forever? She's mad!"

 

Toran looked towards her with the slightest trace of fear across his boyish face. "She's powerful too, Myra..."

 

***

 

Saki's doctor stood on a balcony and looked down as Radiege and Saki played tennis. He was beyond amazed. The girl should have been dead, and yet, she lived. She played tennis, as if nothing had happened, as if she had never been ill at all.

 

Saki's maid was nearby, a look of amazement and joy on her face. The doctor turned to her. "It's a real mystery. Her sickness is totally gone."

 

Below, Saki scrambled after a tennis ball she failed to hit, and she accidentally fell, but she laughed. She had scraped her knee, but still, she couldn't stop from smiling. Neither could Radiege. He bent down next to her and helped her sit up on the court.

 

"Let's take a break," he told her. "You shouldn't push yourself too hard."

 

"I'm okay..." she said as she rubbed her hand against his. She looked into his eyes and lost herself. "You know...you may not know who you are, but I do. You are a kind, gentle man. You lived a wonderful life. If I'm wrong, you wouldn't have had this...you gave me life." 

 

Radiege felt emotion swell in his chest, and he wrapped Saki in his embrace. "I don't care about the past anymore. I-"

 

He winced and nearly toppled over. Pain drilled into his skull with a frightening intensity. Somehow, he could feel the source of the pain, a power that beckoned him. Something inside of him stirred to act. To run. Into the city. And a name burned across his mind. The name was Juza.

 

***

 

Empress Juza stood on a crate at the docks and watched workers scramble about while screaming. Diamonds tore through their bodies and snapped their bones to pieces.

 

"Feel the pain..." she whispered as she stroked the creature growing on her arm. "Feel the pain, my Beast of Destruction..."

 

"Vyram!" Christopher, Matthew, Amy, and Kristin ran to the docks to face off with the Vyram Empress again.

 

The Vyram narrowed her eyes at the teens. "Come, you vermin. You cannot stop me."

 

She swung her hand and fired blasts of energy that exploded around the rangers.

 

Christopher rolled across the pavement, jumped up, and leapt through the air with a flying sidekick aimed towards Juza's head. But the villain blew a wave of fire that singed the air with a shockwave that knocked Christopher aside. Christopher crashed against the ground and rolled to his feet as his teammates gathered around them. 

 

Nearby, Radiege stumbled to the docks and looked to see Juza facing off with the rangers. Just the sight of her filled him with anger that burned with a flaring pain that threatened to tear his insides apart. His confusion was just as agonizing, like ice-hot needles stabbing into his brain. Who was the woman, and why did he want to snap her pathetic neck?

 

"Wait!" a voice called from behind him. Saki had followed him. "Wait..." She caught up with him and placed her arms around his shoulders. "What's wrong? You just..."

 

Then she noticed the odd scene, Empress Juza using her staff to swat the four teens aside.

 

Radiege narrowed his eyes. The pain. He shrugged Saki aside, and she fell to the ground.

 

Meanwhile ,Christopher leapt through the air towards Juza and armed his morpher. "Suit up!"

 

Energy flashed around him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

Radiege's eyes opened wide with madness at the sight of the Red Ranger. The villain's memories washed over his mind like sandpaper and brought him to his knees. He remembered fighting the Red Ranger. He remembered Juza. He remembered everything.

 

Eyes wide and maddened, he rose to his feet and flexed his muscles while feeling his energy surge through his body. He was no frail human.

 

"I am Radiege, of the Vyram Elite!" he shouted.

 

Meanwhile, sparks ignited against Aero Red and knocked him to the ground, where he rolled across the pavement before skidding to a halt.

 

The other Rangers regrouped around him just as Empress Juza aimed her staff and fired orange-tinted energy darts that exploded against their armor and knocked them off their feet.

 

Juza swung her staff back into a fighting stance to attack again, but Radiege leapt through the air with a flying sidekick that knocked her aside. Radiege landed as cyan fire washed across his body and transformed him back into his Vyram armor and pale-blue skin.

 

Radiege leapt through the air and chopped his blade towards Juza while landing, but the empress vanished in the blink of an eye and reappeared behind him. Radiege snapped around and swung his sword through a wide arc that Juza used her staff to block. She twisted her staff to hold her opponent's weapon in place, and she narrowed her eyes at her former underling. 

 

"Damn you Radiege!" she spat.

 

Radiege pulled his sword free, twisted his wrists, and slashed his sword across Juza with a burst of spark that whipped her body backward.

 

Nearby, the four Rangers regrouped, and Aero Yellow tilted his head at the sight of the Vyram fighting the Vyram. "Okay, what exactly is going on here?"

 

Radiege held back his blade, howled a war cry, and charged at Juza to attack.

 

***

 

On the Vyram ship, Myra snapped her eyes open. She could feel his power. Radiege was back. "Yes...now is the perfect time to beat Juza."

 

***

 

Juza swung her staff and knocked Radiege aside with a burst of spark, but Radiege quickly rolled into a crouched fighting stance, swung his hand, and fired pulses of blue-tinted energy that exploded around the empress with bursts of spark.

 

Empress Juza dropped her staff and stumbled backward, and Radiege clutched his chest, still winded by his horrifying transformation.

 

The villain looked to the Ranges. "Jet Force, shoot the crystal on her forehead, now!"

 

The Rangers were slightly taken aback by the orders shouted from their enemy, but they knew better than to waste an opportunity to defeat an even greater foe.

 

“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 exploded against Juza's head, and she howled with pain as explosions sparked and tore around her. The crystal on her head was dented, but not destroyed.

 

White Swan detached her rifle and armed her saber. The White Ranger thought of Vince, leapt through the air, and chopped her saber against the villain's forehead with a massive burst of spark that sent her stumbling backward, the gem on her forehead shattered.

 

***

 

Energy flashed around a human-sized crystal in the park, and the crystal dissolved, freeing Vince. Startled, he felt around his body and immediately noticed that all the crystals were gone. So was the pain. He felt fine. A little tired, but fine. And pissed off.

 

***

 

Juza clutched her injured head, which was blackened and simmering from the wound. The villain glared at the Rangers as her body started to stir. "You..." Energy ebbed across her body as her skin started to shimmer. "You!"

 

Her body rippled and transformed into a hideous monstrosity of twisted black and white flesh, with beady-red eyes and a jaw full of fangs. White hair covered the lower half of her body like a tattered dress, that ended just above her newly-sprouted hooves. 

 

Juza breathed a gust of flame that exploded around Radiege and the Rangers with a violent force that hurled them through the air.

 

Distorted beyond recognition, Juza snarled with delight and stalked towards her former underling and the fools called Rangers.

 

But explosions sparked against her body and nearly knocked her off balance. She looked to see Myra, Toran, and Grai standing to face her. The child Toran had fired at her with a wrist mounted blaster, and Grai armed a cannon over his shoulder and aimed towards the empress.

 

Juza snarled with disgust. "Damn you!" she shouted with a deep, gurgling voice. "Damn you too!"

 

Above, the sound of a jet pierced through the air, and the Rangers looked up to see Jet Condor fly through the sky.

 

"Vince!" White Swan shouted.

 

Jet Condor's bay doors opened, and Vince leapt from the zord while arming his morpher. "Suit up!"

 

Energy flashed around his body as he morphed into his Ranger form, snapped open his arm gliders, and flew downward towards the Vyram empress.

 

"Aero Saber!" Aero Black unsheathed his sword and stabbed the weapon through the monster's gut while landing.

 

Juza growled with pain. Aero Black pulled his weapon free, jumped, and slammed a scissor kick across her head with enough force to knock her backward. The Black Ranger pushed forward and swung his blade through an x-shaped pattern that sparked across her body and sent her stumbling backward, as secondary explosions ripped across her hideous form.

 

"Vince!" White Swan shouted as the Rangers gathered around him. "You're back to normal."

 

"Yep." Aero Black looked to his leader. "Time to bust out the big guns."

 

Aero Red activated his communicator. "Jet Striker!"

 

A bazooka materialized in the air above the Rangers and floated down towards them. Aero Red grasped the weapon from behind, and the other Rangers stood at the sides of the bazooka.

 

"Scope lock," Aero Red said as the weapon locked onto its target. "Fire!"

 

The cannon fired a bird-shaped blast of energy that shot through the air and slammed through Juza with a massive explosion that shook the earth beneath their feet. 

 

***

 

The blast had been powerful enough to hurl Juza into the ocean. Her body broken and back to its normal, human-like form, she pulled herself onto a rocky beach despite her injuries, which had left gashes and scars across her entire body. But she persisted.

 

"I will not die," she whispered as she crawled to her feet and stroked the egg attached to her arm. "Semimaru will be born. He will, he-"

 

The egg detached and dropped to the shore, and Juza opened her eyes wide with wonder. The egg had matured. It was about to hatch. She lifted the large egg and cradled it against her broken chest. Her creature would be born.

 

"Juza!" a voice shouted from the distance. The empress looked to see Radiege standing with his sword in hand and eyes burning with hate. 

 

" Radiege..." she hissed.

 

"Die!" He hurled his sword at the empress like a spear.

 

The sword glowed with cyan-tinted power and stabbed through her body with a burst of spark. The energy exploded and tore her body apart, vaporizing her remains into nothingness.

 

Satisfied, Radiege walked towards the scorched earth where Juza had stood and lifted her precious egg from the shore. Through the corner of his vision, he saw Saki watching him. She was frightened and keeping her distance.

 

He looked towards her, and she took a step back.

 

"Please..." she whispered. "Please be human again."

 

Radiege looked away, and his face almost seemed to turn back into a tan complexion.

 

"I know you're a man who's gentle," she pleaded, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I know you know how to love."

 

Radiege closed his eyes, and his skin burned blue as emotions swirled in his gut. He tightened his hands into fists. "Love?!" he turned to face her. "Do you think I, Radiege, am really capable of suck foolish feelings?"

 

He swung his hand towards her and fired a pulse of energy. A part of him screamed and died, as did she.

 

***

 

Radiege sat on the rocky shore and held the egg as it stirred. The shell slowly cracked, and a larva crawled out. The bug was no bigger than the villain's hand, but ripe with power.

 

The villain traced his fingers across the creature's leathery skin. "Grow faster. "You are the king. The Ultimate Beast of Destruction."

 

To be continued...Chapter 06