DECA Rangers: Chapter Four
Erin’s vision blurred slowly into focus. The Sulvani girl found herself in a cramped white room. She tried to move, but realized a rope tied her hands and feet to a chair. She breathed deep.
“At least I’m still alive…” she whispered.
The Rikomoian criminal named Kevka laughed softly as he stepped in front of her.
“Only because I can’t relax until I sell this…” He stroked the Wellness Stone in his hand. “…Until I have a new partner to move my little home.”
Erin arced an eyebrow. “Your home?”
She had no way of knowing Kevka had her trapped as data within an alien computer server, contained in a laptop.
“Right, right,” Kevka said. “For a while I masqueraded as you, and visited the outside world. Now…now I have returned.”
He lifted his hand and activated a holographic monitor. The monitor displayed several images in an alien language, which Kevka touched with his palm.
The screen sent a signal to Kevka’s contact: Aburera.
The DECA team returned to base and met in the situation room, where they sat around their circular briefing table. Commander Kruger stood nearby and activated the holographic monitor at the center of the table, which displayed a rotating image of the alien who captured the Sulvani girl known as Erin.
“His name is Kevka,” Kruger said. “A Rikomoian from the planet Rikomo.”
“How do we find him?” Nat leaned forward impatiently.
“He uses nano-tech to convert his body matter into data,” Kruger explained. “We’ll need to track him using the city’s data networks, and try to find his home port. The good news is he’ll be stuck there for at least another 20 hours. His nano-tech will need to recharge before letting his body jump to another location on the net, or revert to matter in the real world.”
“So if we find his home port, we catch him,” Nat said. “He has nowhere to run.”
“Catch him how?” Syd asked. “It’s not like we can just jump into the internet…”
The situation room doors opened, and Swan walked inside while carrying a tray of two high-tech gadgets. She smiled with pride.
“You can jump in…so to speak,” she said. “These devices should be enough to convert your body matter into data. They’re based on some of INET’s earliest research with digital energy.”
“So we can break into his base online?” Syd asked.
“That’s right,” Swan said.
“How soon can we go in?” Z asked.
“Just a little while longer,” Swan said. “I want to run a few more tests first. If something goes wrong…Well, that would be rather embarrassing.”
Kruger nodded. “While we wait, we’ll need to capture the computer with Kevka’s home port. Z, see what you can learn on the street. Nat, Bridge, Syd, use her findings to track the computer. Sky, you handle sweeping the web. Look for his digital footprints.”
Sky said nothing. He sat at the table, staring ahead.
“Sky?” Kruger asked. “What is it?”
“Maybe I should sit this one out,” Sky said.
Z knitted her brow. “I don’t know that I’ve ever heard you say anything remotely close to that before.”
“Come on, partner,” Nat said. “You messed up. Doesn’t mean you have to bow out.”
“I didn’t just mess up…” Sky said. “I failed.”
“So now what?” Nat asked. “Now you sulk? Pull it together.”
Sky stood. Saying nothing, he walked past his teammates and left the briefing room.
Nat started to follow, but Kruger held him back.
“Wait, Nat,” Kruger said. “Let him go. He’ll come around. The rest of you, you have your mission. Move out.”
Nat, Bridge, Syd and Z moved to the scene of the crime, where Kevka fled.
Z pulled off her right glove, knelt down and pressed her palm to the pavement. A psychic, Z could detect sensory impressions left by others through handling objects or places they touched.
She closed her eyes. “This is…different. I’m seeing a dome…starry sky…a tower…water…the number one…and a zero?”
“Now I know why you kept your ability a secret at first,” Nat said. “It’s not helpful.”
Syd nudged him in the ribs. “Nat, be nice.”
Z nearly fainted, but Syd caught her. Using her power exhausted her.
“I’m sorry…” Z said.
“No, that’s good,” Bridge said. “Not great, but good. Any hint is a hint as long as it’s…a hint. And not…not a hint.”
“Stars…and a dome…” Syd said.
“A planetarium?” Bridge asked.
“By a tower or lake…” Nat said.
Z said. “Let’s split up and search…It’s all we have to go on for now.”
Sky stayed at DECA Base and sat at one of the side terminals in the Situation Room. He started to search for Kevka within the city’s data network.
Error messages flashed across the screen in front of him. He sighed with frustration and kept working.
Swan walked into the room and notice’s Sky’s agitation through his typically cold demeanor.
“Don’t feel bad,” she said. “Even I get lost when searching the city’s data net sometimes…INET’s made things needlessly complicated.”
Sky said nothing.
Swan stepped closer to him and smiled reassuringly. “Sky…even experts make mistakes. It happens to the best of us. Just do your best, and when you fall, learn from it and pick yourself back up.”
She squeezed his shoulder and walked off.
Swan ran into Kruger in the corridor outside the Situation Room.
“Well?” Kruger asked.
“He’s still beating himself up,” she said. “He’s harder on himself than he is his teammates…I’ve never seen him like this.”
“He’s never made a mistake like this,” Kruger said. “Ever. His track record’s always been perfect.”
“But he was discharged from the army…” Swan said.
“Not because of a mistake…” Kruger said. “He refused to take part in a raid against an alien settlement. Most of them were civilians. He would have faced a military tribunal if I hadn’t drafted him. He may act cold and distant on the outside…but he cares about justice, and the lives of the innocent. He’ll pull through this, Swan. I believe in him.”
An SPD patrol car pulled to a stop near a planetarium. Nat and Z gout out and walk towards the building.
“There,” Z said. “A planetarium next to a tower.”
“And the pond is…” Nat said. “Nowhere. No pond.”
Bridge and Syd ran towards the base of a planetarium.
“Here it is,” Syd said. “A planetarium, and a tower.”
“And there’s a retention pond,” Bridge said. “Busy retaining.”
“But there’s no ‘one’ or ‘zero’…” Syd said.
Bridge knitted his brow thoughtfully. “Wait just a second…”
The teen ran towards a nearby tree and stood — in a handstand.
Syd tilted her head. “Bridge…what are you doing?”
“This is my thinking pose…” Bridge said. “It gets the blood rushing to your head. Helps you focus.”
“I don’t…” Syd shook her head. “I don’t even know what to say to that.”
Bridge looked back and forth across the plaza with his upside down view. He didn’t need long to realize the answer. “Got it.”
He dropped to his feet and ran towards the side entrance.
“Hey, wait!” Syd shouted as she ran after him.
Bridge dashed up the building’s fire escape and ran to the rooftop.
Syd followed him to the edge. “What are you doing?”
“Look,” Bridge said as he pointed to the plaza below.
Syd looked and noticed a thick pathway leading from the plaza. A sphere-shaped sculpture sat next to the pathway.
Bridge smiled. “See. A ‘one’ and a ‘zero’. Sort of. That’s probably what Z saw.”
“That means this is the right spot,” Syd said. “Bridge…I don’t know if you’re crazy, or a genius.”
“Perhaps a crazy genius?” Bridge asked. “I don’t know that I like either option.”
Bridge pulled out his badge to call HQ, but Syd stopped him.
“Wait, look…” Syd said.
They looked down to see a trio of hooded figures walk towards the building’s entrance. Bridge held out his badge and scanned the strangers.
“I can’t get a reading…” he said.
“They’re probably here for Kevka’s computer,” Syd said.
Bridge activated his badge’s communicator. “Commander, we found their base.”
“There are some strange looking people here. We think they’re after the computer,” Syd added. “We’re going in.”
Kruger opened a commline to Nat, who drove an SPD patrol car with Z in the passenger seat.
“Bridge and Syd found Kevka’s home port,” Kruger said “Head to their location right away.”
Nat nodded. “We’re on our way,” he said. “What about Sky?”
“He still hasn’t found Kevka’s location on the net,” Kruger said.
Nat narrowed his eyes. “Is he even trying?”
Z shook her head. “If he was acting like himself…he would have Kevka arrested by now.”
Nat skid the car to a halt. “Z, take the wheel and go ahead. I’m heading back to base.”
“You’re what?” she asked, but Nat was already out the door.
The three cloaked figures entered the vacant planetarium. They moved towards the rear of the wide lobby, and the leader lifted a laptop from a reception desk.
“Hold it right there!” Syd shouted as she and Bridge ran into the lobby.
The strangers threw off their cloaks, revealing themselves as one Blue-head Krybot and two standard Krybots.
The Krybots pounced to attack.
A grunt tried to tackle Syd. But she dodged while kicking the soldier’s gut. The other robot lunged towards Bridge. But he dodged and kicked the grunt aside.
The two rangers pulled out their morphers.
“SPD! Emergency!” Energy flashed around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.
DECA Pink elbowed a grunt in the chest and flipped him to the floor.
DECA Green snapped a roundhouse kick that whipped a Krybot off its feet.
They turned their attention to the Blue-head, who ran towards the nearest exit.
“Wait!” DECA Pink shouted as she and the Green Ranger ran towards the soldier.
Nat ran into the Situation Room to find Sky sitting at a side terminal.
“What are you doing, partner?” Nat asked.
Sky shook his head. “I’m sorry…”
Nat knitted his brow. “Sorry? You’re not sorry.”
Nat spun Sky’s chair around and punched the teen to the floor. “Say ‘don’t call me partner.’ Get mad.” He leaned down and grabbed Sky by the jacket. “Stop being so pathetic. It was one mistake. At least no one died. Not yet. My last mistake? Two girls died. I couldn’t save them. But I keep going, to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.”
Nat dropped Sky and moved to the terminal. He took a seat and started pulling up readouts of the data scans. “I’ve screwed up. But I’ve never let myself sulk all day because of it.”
Sky sat up and knitted his brow. “What are you doing?”
“Your job,” Nat said. “Since you’re so caught up in your depression thing.”
Sky narrowed his eyes. He rolled his hands into fists, sprang to his feet, and knocked Nat to the floor.
“You’re completely naïve. What is it you think you can possibly do?” Sky asked. “Even if I’m not perfect…I’m still better than you.”
Sky sat at the terminal and started sifting through the data scans.
Nat smirked and stood as he watched. “That’s better…”
Sky’s fingers danced across the control panel. He sifted through columns of data and traced the digital footprints of Kevka. Minutes passed, and he found a match.
The monitor opened a second browser window, which showed Erin confined to a chair. “That’s her…”
The Situation Room doors opened, and Sawn walked in while pushing a computer terminal. “It’s finished…” she said. “The digital conversion machine.”
Sky nodded and stood. “Digitize me.”
“I’m going too,” Nat said.
“You’re not coming,” Sky said. “You’ll just hold me back.”
“I doubt that,” Nat said.
The two rangers argued back and forth.
Swan sighed, lifted a control node, and scanned the teens. The node transformed Nat and Sky into data and uploaded them to the net.
Nat and Sky materialized in the white room along with Erin and Kevka.
Kevka gasped and took cover behind Erin. “What are you…? Leave,” he said as he pulled out a blaster and aimed at Erin’s head. “Or I’ll finish her off.”
“Hiding behind a girl?” Nat asked. “You digital bastard.”
Kevka growled with announce and pounced at the teens.
Sky dove aside, pulled out his blaster and opened fire. The blasts sparked against Kevka and knocked the weapon from the criminal’s hand.
Nat sprang forward with a jumpkick upside the villain’s head, and followed with a reverse sidekick that bashed him to the floor.
Sky blasted the restraints from Erin, and Nat helped her stand.
“We’re getting you out of here,” Nat said.
Kevka grumbled and rose to his feet. “You whelps!”
Nat and Sky stood between the criminal and Erin.
“Wanna make a bet?” Nat asked.
“Loser buys shawarma for three.”
“It’s a bet.”
They armed their morphers.
“SPD! Emergency!” Energy shimmered around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms. They snapped into fighting stances.
Kevka charged at the two Rangers, and they returned the charge.
The villain armed a baton and swung a flurry of slashes. The Red Ranger and Blue Ranger blocked and dodged as they circled around the criminal.
DECA Red moved in, punched Kevka in the gut, and sidekicked his chest. The blow sent the villain staggering backward.
DECA Red and DECA Blue lunged to attack.
But Kevka activated a control panel on his gauntlet. The panel flashed and shifted them to a different part of the net.
DECA Red materialized in midair and fell, grabbing hold of a ledge to keep from plummeting towards the digital street, dozens of stories below.
“What the hell…”
Kevka chopped a bladed staff towards the Red Ranger. But DECA Blue stepped between them and used his shoulder to block the blow.
The Blue Ranger grabbed the weapon, knocked it aside, and spun forward while elbowing the villain in the chest. He spun with a backfist across the villain’s head, and spun again with a roundkick that knocked the criminal off his feet.
DECA Blue ran to the ledge and helped the Red Ranger onto the roof. “Idiot…beaten already?”
“Way too early for that,” DECA Red said.
Kevka climbed to his feet and leaned on his staff for support.
The Red Ranger somersaulted through the air and scissor-kicked the criminal backward.
Kruger and Swan watched the battle from the Situation Room. They saw Kevka swing his staff back and forth as the two Rangers dodged and struck back with punches and kicks.
Swan knitted her brow as the screen started to flicker with static. “This was a bad idea…”
“What is it?” Kruger asked.
The console overloaded and sparked, startling the commander and his chief technician. Swan waved through the smoke and reactivated the control panel.
“They can’t exit through here,” she said. “The only way is through Kevka’s computer.”
Kruger growled and lifted his badge. He activated its communicator. “Bridge. Syd. Do you have the computer?”
“Not yet!” Syd shouted. “We could use some backup!”
The Blue-head thrust its antenna arm and fired energy bursts. The blasts sparked against DECA Green and DECA Pink, whipping them backward.
DECA Yellow ran to the scene as the Pink Ranger and Green Ranger climbed to their feet. “Are you guys okay?”
“We will be now,” DECA Pink said as she faced the Blue-head. “It’s three against one.”
“It was two against one before,” DECA Green said. “So, technically, the odds still should have been in our favor, but we kept getting blasted. So I don’t think-”
More than a dozen Krybots leapt to the plaza and scattered to attack.
The Pink Ranger sighed with disappointment. “That’s just not fair…”
The three Rangers charged to attack. They smashed through the grunts with a flurry of kicks and punches. They practiced special-ops fighting techniques, quick and powerful moves meant to take their opponents down.
DECA Yellow and DECA Pink armed their D-Batons. They slashed through grunts with bursts of spark, ripping them apart.
DECA Green armed his D-Blaster and fired lances of energy that stabbed through several soldiers.
DECA Red and DECA Blue aimed flying sidekicks towards Kevka.
The villain activated his gauntlet and shifted them to a different part of the net.
DECA Red and DECA Blue materialized on a train track. And a train smashed into them.
On board the train, Kevka laughed softly. “Those little-”
The train car doors opened, and DECA Red and DECA Blue rushed in to charge at Kevka.
“You thought that would work?” DECA Red asked as he snapped a roundkick.
The criminal dodged. But DECA Blue moved in with a kick that bashed Kevka several steps backward.
Kevka twirled his staff and bashed the Red Ranger’s gut, smashing him against the benches. The Red Ranger knocked the weapon aside, grabbed the upper bars, and lifted himself up while kicking the villain.
DECA Blue somersaulted underneath the Red Ranger and sprang forward with a kick that bashed the villain backward.
Kevka activated his gauntlet and shifted them onto the top of a semi throttling across the interstate.
The villain thrust his staff, which fired a burst of energy that knocked the Rangers off their feet. They rolled into crouched stances just as Kevka charged towards them.
The villain swung his staff through wide and powerful arcs as the two Rangers dodged and blocked.
Kevka slashed them aside one by one with bursts of spark, then swung a wide blow that hurled them backward.
The two Rangers fell from the top of the semi but grabbed its side to keep from crashing to the street.
Kevka laughed. “Shall we finish this?”
DECA Red looked to the Blue Ranger. “That device on his hand…”
“Right,” DECA Blue said. “When he gives an opening, take him.”
The villain leaned over the edge of the semi and lifted his staff to strike.
DECA Blue pulled out his blaster and fired an energy burst that sparked against the villain’s weapon and knocked him back a step.
The two Rangers leapt onto the semi.
“D-Magnums!” The Red Ranger pulled out his blasters and fired explosive rounds that sparked against the villain’s gauntlet, destroying his device.
DECA Red kept firing, his bullets blasting the criminal with a shower of sparks.
The digital landscape shifted, and the Rangers found themselves back in the white room. Kevka staggered backward as smoke hissed from his armor.
“Give up,” DECA Blue said.
“I’ll never forget this…you bastards…” the villain said as he clutched his chest.
The Blue Ranger pulled out his badge. “Rikomoian Kevka. You’re wanted for kidnapping, cyber terrorism, and theft.” He thrust the badge towards Kevka and flipped it open. “Judgment!”
The badge flashed back and forth between a blue circle and red ‘x’, and then stopped on the ‘x’.
“Guilty,” the Blue Ranger said.
The Red Ranger combined his two blasters into a short rifle. “D-Magnum 01, D-Magnum 02, set!” he shouted as he armed the weapon. “Hybrid Magnum!”
DECA Blue combined his D-Knuckle and D-Baton. “D-Blaster!”
They aimed their weapons and shouted together: “Fire!”
The Red Ranger triggered a fiery energy burst, and the Blue Ranger triggered lances of blue-tinted energy. The blasts tore through the criminal with massive bursts of spark as his energy overloaded and exploded.
Nearby, Erin crawled out of hiding from a corner. DECA Red helped to her to her feet.
“It’s okay now,” the Red Ranger said.
“The Wellness Stone…” DECA Blue said as he lifted the stone from the ground. He handed the stone to Erin. “Here…This is yours.”
“It’s time to go,” DECA Red said.
Suddenly, the room shook with enough force to nearly knock the Rangers and Erin off their feet. Walls unraveled into lines of digital code that spread across the floor and ceiling.
“This place is collapsing…” DECA Blue said.
Swan grabbed Kruger’s badge and opened a commline to the other Rangers. “We’re out of time. Get the computer.”
DECA Pink and DECA Yellow leapt through their air and triggered energy blasts that sparked through Krybots.
The Blue-head fired its beam canon at DECA Green. The Green Ranger somersaulted as the blasts sparked around him.
DECA Green rolled to his knees and blasted the computer from the Blue-head’s hands. The Green Ranger leapt through the air, grabbed the laptop, and landed near DECA Pink and DECA Yellow.
The Pink Ranger and Yellow Ranger blasted the Blue-head with bursts of spark that tore him apart as he exploded.
The Green Ranger set the laptop down and opened it. The monitor flashed, and the Red Ranger and Blue Ranger rematerialized along with Erin.
“Guys!” DECA Pink shouted with excitement as she ran towards them. “You did it.”
DECA Red nodded. “Our partner’s back to his disagreeable self…”
“Don’t call me-”
The ground shook as a massive robo appeared on the streets ahead. The giant mecha looked like a modified version of the Devil Capture model. Its name: Devil Capture Mk. 2.
Kevka laughed from within the robo. His remaining data had bonded with the machine.
Devil Capture fired jagged energy bursts that exploded around the Rangers, hurling them backward. Kevka cackled with insanity. “Unforgiveable…those who defeated me…are unforgiveable!”
The Rangers climbed to their feet. DECA Red flipped open his badge. “Delta Runners! Mobilize!”
The five Delta Runners blared their sirens and raced to the scene. The Rangers leapt into their cockpits.
The Red Ranger attached his badge to his console. “Delta Runners assemble! DECA fusion!”
Patrol Striker extended two arms and lined up with Patrol Armor and Patrol Signer. The three zords continued to drive forward, and at the same time, the Patrol Striker arms latched onto Patrol Armor and Patrol Signer.
Patrol Gyro and Patrol Trailer maneuvered into formation and formed a pair of legs, and the other three zords linked up with the two. The fusion program completed, and the five zords formed a giant robo that stood tall on the streets.
“Gear up!” the Rangers shouted. “DECA Megazord!”
The Patrol Trailer leg opened a side panel and popped out the Signal Cannon, which the Megazord caught in its right hand.
Devil Capture charged at the Megazord and slashed its armor with bursts of spark. The Megazord swung its blaster, but Devil Capture blocked and kicked the Megazord.
The blow sent the Megazord staggering backward.
Devil Capture lunged and used its pincer claws to latch onto the Megazord’s head. The pincers squeezed, and the pressure caused bursts of spark.
DECA Blue tightened his grip on his controls. “We’ve come this far…It’s not over. Judgment Sword!”
The Megazord armed its blade and swung wide, slashing the robo with a burst of spark.
The evil robo swung its pincers. But the Megazord slashed upward and sliced the pincers off with bursts of spark.
“Signal Cannon,” DECA Red said. “Full charge!”
The Delta Runners’ power cells channeled energy into the blaster, which whined with power as it powered up.
“Fire!” DECA Red shouted.
The blaster fired a volley of explosive energy blasts that ripped through the enemy mecha’s armor with bursts of spark. The evil robo exploded into shrapnel.
The villain Aburera hung upside down from a building ledge nearby the Rangers’ battle. The bat-like creature covered himself in a black cape and wore a glass dome over his head.
“Damn you, DECA Rangers…” he said. “You’ve ruined yet another one of my jobs…”
The villain dropped and unfolded his cape, which he used like a pair of wings to fly away.
The DECA team met with Erin and her parents outside her apartment. Sky held a metal box that contained the Wellness Stone.
“We’ll keep the stone in our custody, where it’ll be safe,” Sky said. “You won’t be in anymore danger.”
Nat smirked and looked to Erin. “So now that everyone’s safe…how about we go out to dinner? My partner’s buying.”
Sky knitted his brow. “Don’t call me partner. And I’m not buying.”
“You lost the bet,” Nat said. “I finished Kevka off.”
“No, I did,” Sky said.
They argued back and forth. Erin’s mother ignored them and smiled at the other three rangers. “Would you like to come inside? I’ve just made dinner…it’s the least I can do.”
Syd smiled. “That sounds great.”
Z nodded. “Any break we can get from the real world? We’ll take.”
They followed Erin’s family inside, leaving Nat and Sky to argue.
To be continued…Chapter 05