Chapter 09: Ultimate Mystics

Scorched Memories

 

PRELUDE: Hidden

 

WolKaiser landed in Hell, just outside Denzoberranzan. The villain clutched his chest and felt the Mystic Fusion power within his body.

 

“Magicians of the Five Colors…” he whispered with a deep, rumbling voice. “I can feel your fusion magick…and will put it to good use…”

 

The villain didn’t notice Necrolai spy from a distance.

 

***

 

Morticon faced Koragg and growled with anger. “Why didn’t you finish them off?!” He lifted his blade and stomped towards the knight. “Open your circle again, so I can return to the surface!”

 

“The Magician of the Red’s power sealed that ability,” Koragg said. With his power boost gone, he could no longer send anything stronger than a Hades Beast to the surface. “We must continue to search for the Gate Key: The Silver Crystal. I have already sent a Hades Beast to the surface.”

 

Morticon shook with rage. “How dare you act without my orders?!”

 

Koragg said nothing.

 

Morticon trembled with rage and stormed towards the nearest tunnel, slashing at shadows.

 

Necrolai waited until Morticon left before landing next to Koragg. “What are you up to, Koragg?”

 

“What do you mean?” Koragg asked.

 

“I saw you…” she said as she traced her hand across his chest. “You have something pretty inside of you.”

 

He swatted her hand away. “You’re seeing things.”

 

“And you’re hiding magick,” Necrolai said. She walked towards Morticon’s throne and took a seat. “Don’t worry. I won’t say anything. For now…”

 

Her body rippled with shadow energy and split into her dual forms.

 

“In exchange for a favor,” Nai said.

 

“A favor,” Mare said.

 

***

 

PART ONE: Vida

 

Vida attacked before her teammates could stop her. She bit deep into the neck of a Silver Guardian and tossed him aside. Bloodlust and hunger drove her to madness as she pounced at Nash.

 

Nash blasted a volley of bullets that tore through Vida’s chest. But she didn’t slow.

 

The bounty hunter cursed beneath his breath and armed a knife tinted with vervain. He swung wide. The blade slashed Vida’s chest and sizzled on contact.

 

The ranger slammed against the hunter and tackled him to the ground.

 

“V!” Xander shouted as they ran to help.

 

But Riot Troopers blocked their path.

 

The four teens flipped open their morphers. Even though they felt exhausted, they knew they had to help their friend.

 

“Magical Source! Mystic Force!” They morphed into their armor, unsheathed their staffs and slashed past the Riot Troopers.

 

“Vida, what are you doing?” Mystic Blue shouted.

 

“They’re the good guys!” Mystic Yellow shouted.

 

“Good guys wouldn’t try to shoot us, Chip,” Mystic Green said.

 

Mystic Yellow slashed a Trooper aside. “That doesn’t mean we should bite them.”

 

Vida rolled into a crouched stance and pounced at Nash. He kicked her upside the head, shot her chest, and bashed his gun across her face.

 

The vampire staggered backward, hissed with pain, and pounced again. But Mystic Blue and Mystic Green jumped and grabbed her arms to hold her back.

 

“V, what happened to you?” Mystic Green asked.

 

Nash grunted and pulled a stake from his jacket. “She’s a vampire, you stupid shits. Now hold her still.”

 

“What?” Mystic Blue said as she stepped in front of Vida to protect her. “No!”

 

Vida grabbed Mystic Blue from behind and bit her neck, but the vampire’s fangs didn’t penetrate the Ranger’s armor.

 

“Vida!” Mystic Blue shouted.

 

Nash blasted Mystic Blue and Mystic Green to knock them aside. Then he shifted his aim and shot Vida. Bullets tore through her chest and dropped her to the ground.

 

Mystic Red slashed a Riot Trooper aside and leapt next to Vida.

 

“Leave her alone!” the Red Ranger shouted at Nash.

 

Mystic Red thrust his hand with a burst of Ki that knocked the bounty hunter off his feet.

 

The Riot Troopers regrouped and charged towards Vida and the Rangers. Mystic Red tightened his grip on his sword.

 

“That’s enough!”

 

He flared with fiery energy that smashed the Riot Troopers with massive bursts of spark. The energy wave hurled them off their feet and tossed them several meters through the air.

 

Power flooded through the Red Ranger’s body — until his exhaustion overwhelmed him. Mystic Red’s flare dimmed, his armor powered down, and he passed out from the energy drain.

 

Smoke and steam sizzled across the ground.

 

Slowly, Vida climbed to her feet, hissed with pain, and leapt into the distance to escape.

 

Nash stood and tossed off his coat, burnt from the Red Ranger’s blast. He looked to the Riot Troopers and Silver Guardians, who started to stand.

 

“Keep the Rangers back,” he said. “I’m going after the vampire brat.”

 

Nash ran into the distance.

 

Mystic Green lifted Nick by the arm. “We’ve got to get out of here…”

 

Mystic Yellow grasped his staff. “Lightning cover, coming up!”

 

He lifted his staff and summoned a bolt of yellow lightning that burst around them with showers of sparks. When the sparks cleared, the Rangers were gone.

 

***

 

The teens regrouped in Root Core. They set Nick on a chair and let his head rest.

 

Xander sighed.

 

“Stupid hot-head…” he said with a mix of annoyance and concern.

 

Kuro hopped onto the nearest bookshelf and looked down at Nick. “What happened?

 

“We were hoping you could tell us,” Xander said.

 

“One minute everything was fine…mostly,” Madison said.

 

Chip nodded. “Then these Silver Guardians show up, Vida vamps out, and Nick does this super flare thing to keep them back.” He smirked. “It was sweet…”

 

“He passed out,” Xander said.

 

He must have pushed his power past its limits,” Kuro said as he hopped onto Nick’s lap and propped his front paws onto his chest, as if to inspect him. “The fight with Koragg already took a lot out of you. That energy flare must have been too much!

 

“Guys,” Madison said. She placed a hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Nick will be OK…I know he will…but we’re forgetting the important thing. Vida.”

 

“Oh, I didn’t forget,” Chip said. “What was that? Vida’s a vampire?!”

 

“It must have been some kind of spell,” Xander said. “Like the monster that turned people to stone. Maybe something did this to her.”

 

Madison nodded. “And if we find out what, and stop it...”

 

“We change her back,” Xander said. He snapped his fingers. “It’s that simple.”

 

It’s not!” Kuro said as he hopped onto the Viewing Globe. “If Vida’s a vampire…there’s no changing her back. She was probably already a vampire when Udonna brought her here.

 

“That bounty hunter wanker did seem to recognize her…” Xander said.

 

Chip shook his head. “Wait a minute, if she was really a vampire, how did she move around during the day without bursting into flames?”

 

I can explain that!” Kuro said as he circled the Viewing Globe. The sphere showed an image of Necrolai. “Necrolai spawned all the vampires, but there are different kinds. Different vampire races. Each have different strengths and weaknesses. That’s why so many vampire myths are different!

 

“Do any of them sparkle in the sunlight?” Chip asked.

 

Kuro tilted his head. “Why would they do that? Be serious, Chip.

 

The Viewing Globe showed images of different vampires. Some had mouths filled with fangs, others looked monstrous with contorted foreheads, and a few looked human except for solid black eyes as if possessed by demons.

 

All the vampire races died out hundreds of years ago,” Kuro said. “Hunted down and slaughtered! If Vida’s a vampire now, that means…I don’t know what that means!

 

“As helpful as always, Kuro,” Xander said.

 

Hey!” Kuro said defensively.

 

“He’s just joking, Kuro,” Madison said as she petted the cat spirit’s neck. Kuro leaned into her hand and purred on reflex. “We need to find out about Vida’s past if we’re going to help her.”

 

“We need to start by finding her,” Xander said. 

 

Suddenly, Nick winced. Still unconscious, his eyes closed, he shifted with pain.

 

“Nick!” Madison said as she moved to him.

 

Kuro hopped onto his lap and propped his paws onto his chest. “This isn’t good. It’s worse than I thought!

 

“What is?” Madison said.

 

He’s stuck in his dream world!” Kuro said. “It’s a side effect of using his magick past his level.

 

“How do we wake him?” Madison asked.

 

“That I can help with! Kuro said as he hopped onto a bookshelf and jumped onto a supply closet. “The Magician of the Yellow was an alchemist! You can use that power, Chip, and make a potion to wake him up. Everything you need to know is here…

 

Chip’s face lit up. “I can make potions? Sweet!”

 

“Now’s not the time to go fan-boy,” Xander said. “We need to-”

 

Suddenly, the Viewing Globe twirled with dark mist and revealed an attack within the city. The images showed Vida attacking a group of civilians in the park.

 

“Vida…” Madison whispered.

 

“Looks like we don’t have to worry about finding her,” Xander said.

 

Kuro hopped onto the Viewing Globe. “Xander and Madison, you go stop Vida! Chip…I’ll help you make the potion to wake up Nick. He doesn’t have much time.

 

Xander nodded.

 

“Let’s go,” he said as he and Madison rushed from Root Core.

 

***

 

Nash followed the trail of Vida. He felt her tinted spiritual pressure, which triggered memories of the first time he saw her, years ago. He remembered her standing over the bloody corpses of his son and wife. And he remembered the look on her face. The look of evil.

 

***

 

Denver, three years ago

 

A bully pushed 13-year-old Vida into the lockers. “What’s with the hair?” he taunted. “You freak-show…”

 

The bully, Jackson, laughed as he walked off with his cheerleader friends.

 

Vida narrowed her eyes. She always hated Jackson. But now she felt something new and unfamiliar when she looked at him. Hunger.

 

***

 

Vida sat alone during lunch, as always. She took quick bites of her pizza and gulped down her milk. But she still felt starving. More like ravenously hungry. And thirsty.

 

She glanced across the lunchroom and saw Jackson sitting with his friends. He laughed when he noticed her stare.

 

She narrowed her eyes and gripped her tray so tightly, she broke it.

 

***

 

Vida followed Jackson home that night. She wanted to confront him. She wanted to make him feel afraid and weak. And she finally had the courage to do it.

 

She felt more awake and alert than ever, like a hunter stalking her prey. And she liked it. God, she liked it.

 

She walked up to Jackson’s door and knocked. No one answered, so she knocked again. This time, the door opened, slowly.

 

Vida stepped into the dark house. “Jackson…? Hey, Jackson!”

 

A voice laughed from the darkness. “In here…”

 

She stepped into the dining room to find a pale man holding Jackson by the neck. His mom lay on the floor in a pool of blood.

 

The stranger smiled wickedly. “I’ve been watching you, Vida. And waiting for you to awaken…”

 

Vida narrowed her eyes. “Who are you…?”

 

“I am like you,” he said. “A vampire.”

 

“A what?” Vida asked. “That’s insane?”

 

The stranger licked Jackson’s neck. “Is it? Tell me you don’t look at this boy and feel hunger. Hunger for blood.”

 

Jackson quivered with fear. “Let me…” he pleaded, his voice high pitched. “Let me go!”

 

The stranger laughed. “See how they squeal like pigs? That’s all they are. Food. Prey. That’s why you came here, isn’t it?”

 

“I…” Vida stammered.

 

The stranger bit Jackson’s neck. Jackson screamed with pain and lost consciousness.

 

The vampire smiled and looked at Vida. “Your turn. Have a drink….”

 

Vida shook her head. “You’re…you’re insane…I’m…I’m calling the…”

 

“Police?” the vampire asked with a laugh. “Yes, you do that. I could use some walking jelly donuts.”

 

He tossed Jackson onto the floor. “Don’t you feel what’s happening, Vida? The time of man is ending. The time of the vampire…is beginning, once again. We are being reborn. All of us. A new generation of the Children of the Night.”

 

The stranger stepped back into the shadows. “I will see you again…” he whispered. “When you are ready to learn more about your fate…and your heritage.”

 

Vida stood still as a statue. Shivers crept down her spine. She couldn’t take her eyes off Jackson or his mom, both dead on the floor. She couldn’t take her eyes off the blood. Red. Thick. Like a glazed sauce. Delicious.

 

Vida found herself wiping the blood from the floor and licking her hands before she realized it. She crouched next to the bodies and smeared her palms through their blood. Veins rippled around her eyes, which tinted red. 

 

Suddenly, the doors swung open, and a man stepped into the room. Nash.

 

On instinct, Vida hissed at him, bearing her fangs.

 

Nash pulled out his gun and fired, blasting Vida in the upper chest and shoulder. The blasts knocked her off her feet and sent her crashing through a wooden chair.

 

Slowly, she climbed to her feet and leapt through a window, which shattered on impact.

 

Nash ran to the window and opened fire as Vida fled into the night.

 

Tears streamed down her blood-soaked cheeks. “What’s…What’s wrong with me…?”

 

***

 

Xander and Madison ran to the park. They stopped in their tracks when they noticed dead and injured bodies scattered across the grass. The victims’ necks dripped with blood.

 

Madison covered her mouth and shook her head. “This can’t be happening…”

 

Someone stepped from the trees. “What’s the matter, kid?” Nash asked. “Weak stomach? Then you’re in the wrong line of work.”

 

Xander and Madison snapped into fighting stances. But Nash waved his hand dismissively.

 

“Not now, brats,” he said. “I’m after that friend of yours. The vampire.”

 

“You said…” Madison said. “You said she killed your family?”

 

Nash nodded. “Three years ago. Until then, I thought the same as every other hunter: That vampires were myths. But there she was, fangs and all.”

 

“We won’t let you hurt her,” Xander said.

 

“You don’t have much of a choice, kid,” Nash said.

 

Suddenly, they heard screams, and they ran to the other side of the park. There, they saw Vida crouched over a young couple, sucking the blood from the neck of the man, as the woman lay motionless.

 

“V!” Xander shouted.

 

Nash lifted his gun.

 

Xander leapt onto his arm. “Don’t!”

 

Nash swatted him aside. “You stupid shit.”

 

Xander slapped his hands against the ground. He felt the ebb and flow of the earth, and he called upon that power. Vines and roots sprouted from the ground and wrapped around Nash, pinning his arms against his sides and holding him in place.

 

The teen smirked. “Stay right there, mate.”

 

Madison ran to Vida. “Vida…God, Vida, what did you-”

 

Vida turned and pounced at Madison.

 

Maddie acted without thinking. She thrust her hand with a TK burst that blasted Vida off her feet. Vida smashed against a tree and crashed to the ground.

 

Madison and Xander ran towards her.

 

“Maybe we should have thought this out a bit…” Xander said.

 

Vida pounced at the teens, and they leapt aside to dodge her.

 

Xander rolled into a crouched stance. “I don’t suppose you brought any garlic?”

 

“Vervain!” Nash shouted as he struggled against the roots that held him in place.

 

Xander flipped open his wand and aimed at the ground. The wand pulsed with green energy that washed across the soil and grass. White herbs sprouted around his feet. Vervain.

 

Nearby, Madison scrambled to her feet just in time to see Vida charge towards her.

 

Vida tackled Madison to the ground and pinned her arms down.

 

“Vida, stop!” Madison shouted. “Please, don’t do this!”

 

Vida opened her mouth and hissed, her fangs red with blood, and her eyes tinted red. Veins rippled beneath her eyes.

 

“Vida, please!” Madison pleaded. “I’m your friend!”

 

Vida hesitated. She knitted her brow and backed away, grasping her head. She breathed heavily, shoulders rising and falling with each breath.

 

Xander grabbed his wand. “Magi…” He couldn’t think of the right spell, so he tossed his wand aside. “Screw it.”

 

He gripped the vervain, which pulsed with green energy. He spread his hand, and the vervain pedals pealed apart, hovering in midair.

 

The ranger thrust his hand. The pedals blasted Vida, slashing through her body and whipping her off her feet. She crashed and skid across the dirt. Her wounds sizzled as she writhed with agony.

 

“Vida!” Madison shouted as she ran towards her friend.

 

Xander plucked another stem of vervain and tightened his grip on the herb. Its pedals flashed with green light.

 

The ranger tossed the vervain at Vida. It glowed with green energy, extended, and wrapped around her body from her shoulders to her feet.

 

Vida struggled to break free, but the vervain burnt her skin. Slowly, her face returned to normal, and her look of anger turned into a look of panic.

 

“Xander…Maddie…What…?” Her eyes closed, and she slid from consciousness.

 

Xander sighed with relief and walked towards her. “Come on…Let’s get her back to Root Core.”

 

***

 

PART TWO: Nick

 

Chip grasped his newly crafted potion capsule. The teen shifted uncomfortably. “So all I have to do is enter his dream and bring him back, right? It’s that easy?”

 

Of course not! Kuro said. “If a stranger enters his dream world, it will start to collapse!

 

“Seriously?” Chip asked. He sighed. “I knew I should have slept in today.”

 

Be serious, Chip! If his dream world collapses before you return…you’ll be lost forever.

 

Chip sat next to Nick and grasped the spell capsule. “OK, Chip,” he whispered to himself. “You can do this. It’s just like Inception…”

 

He swallowed the pill.

 

“Although I never did understand…the ending…” he whispered as he drifted off to sleep.

 

***

 

Chip stumbled into a desolate landscape. The sky looked red and scorched, and sands covered the streets of a ruined city. Gutted buildings and piles of rubble dotted the landscape.

 

“OK…” Chip said. “Nick must have read the Scorch Trials recently…”

 

The teen heard Nick scream in the distance. The ranger darted down the block, turned a corner, and spotted Nick on the ground. Koragg stood nearby, with his sword and shield in hand.

 

Nick looked scruffy, dressed in a brown cloak that covered ragged clothes.

 

“Nick!” Chip shouted as he ran to his friend. The teen leaned down and helped Nick sit up. “Come on, Nick, it’s time to wake up. Not that this post-apocalyptic dream of yours isn’t fun…”

 

“Dream?” Nick said as he shoved Chip away. “You think this is a dream?!”

 

“It’s all in your head…”

 

Nick climbed to his feet. “That doesn’t mean it’s a dream. I’m not leaving here until I stop him. I won’t let him win this time!”

 

The teen rolled his hands into fists and charged towards Koragg.

 

Koragg thrust his shield. Zazado.

 

The shield snapped open and fired bursts of energy that sparked against Nick and whipped him off his feet.

 

Chip ran to Nick and helped him stand. “Nick, that’s not really him. Come on, this is just a dream!”

 

“It’s not a dream!” Nick shouted. “Don’t you get it?! This is a memory!”

 

Koragg thrust his shield. “Douza Uru Zazado!

 

The villain fired waves of energy shaped like the heads of wolves.

 

Explosions burst around the two rangers and hurled them off their feet. They crashed and tumbled across the ground.

 

Slowly, Chip climbed to his feet. “You’re not thinking straight. This can’t be a memory. Just calm down and think!”

 

“When you want people to calm down, don’t shout at them!” Nick said as he climbed to his feet.

 

“OK, OK,” Chip said. “Just wake up already. We have real bad guys to fight, not imaginary ones.”

 

Koragg fired again; Nick and Chip dove for cover.

 

Chip rolled into a crouched stance, tightened his fists and smirked. “Imaginary. This isn’t real…so we can’t fight like it is.”

 

Chip looked over his shoulder at his friend. “Once I beat him…you’ll see this is fake.”

 

Koragg thrust his shield. “Douza Uru Zazado!

 

The villain fired waves of energy shaped like the heads of wolves.

 

Chip stood his ground, caught the blasts, and ignited them into a sphere of yellow energy. He hurled the bolt of power, which exploded against Koragg and hurled him through the air.

 

“Sweet!” Chip shouted with a smile.

 

He dashed through a blur of yellow energy, which stabbed past Koragg with massive bursts of flame and spark.

 

Chip landed and snapped his fingers. “Checkmate.”

 

Koragg collapsed and exploded into a sphere of flame.

 

Nick ran to his teammate’s side. “You were…You were right,” he said as he struggled to catch his breath. “We are in a dream.”

 

“Your dream,” Chip said. “So you have to wake up.”

 

Nick shook his head. “But what…is this place? It may be a dream, but it is a memory. I’m sure of it. I’ve been here before. I’ve fought Koragg here before…”

 

Suddenly, the dreamscape shifted to black and started to peal apart. The dream unraveled like a tidal wave that stormed towards the teens.

 

Chip opened his eyes wide with panic. He grabbed Nick by the arm.

 

“Come on!” Chip shouted as they ran through the dreamscape.

 

The dream unraveled around them like twisted images that tore to shreds. The scattered pieces twirled with a vortex of energy that nearly swept the teens away. They felt their astral bodies start to pull, stretch, and contort.

 

“Chip!” Nick shouted. “What’s happening?!”

 

Chip didn’t answer. He thrust his wand with a burst of yellow light.

 

***

 

Nick and Chip snapped their eyes open and gasped for air.

 

Chip leaned forward and breathed deeply. “Intense…”

 

You’re back!” Kuro shouted with excitement as he leapt onto Nick’s lap.

 

“What happened?” Nick asked.

 

You pushed your power past its limit!” Kuro said. “You fell into-

 

“No,” Nick said. “I meant with Vida and the others. The last thing I remember before the dream…Vida…”

 

“Perfect timing,” Xander said as he walked into Root Core. He carried Vida and set her onto a chair.

 

Madison followed them inside and smiled at the sight of Nick. “You’re awake…”

 

Nick nodded. “Thanks to Chip.” He grasped his friend’s shoulder. “You did good work in there.”

 

Xander sighed. “Yes, everyone is brilliant,” he said. “Now, what do we do about our Vampire Ranger here?”

 

***

 

PART THREE: Unite

 

Nai and Mare hopped towards Morticon. Nai draped her arm around the villain’s shoulders and leaned towards his ear.

 

“My lord…” she whispered. “There’s something we have to tell you.”

 

“Tell you,” Mare echoed.

 

Nai leaned closer and whispered Koragg’s secret: He contained the Mystic Rangers’ fusion power — power that could possibly break Morticon from Hell.

 

Morticon stood, growled with rage, and stabbed the ground. The impact sparked a shockwave that shook all of Denzoberranzan.

 

“Curse you, Koragg! You traitor!” He looked to Nai and Mare. “Necrolai!”

 

Nai and Mare flashed with shadow energy and combined. Necrolai bowed her head. “Yes, my master.”

 

Morticon grunted and handed her a black crossbow.

 

Necrolai took the weapon. “What is this?”

 

The crossbow ebbed with dark, tainted power.

 

***

 

Vida stirred awake. Still bound by strands of vervain, she lifted her head. “What…What happened?” The memories burst in her mind. Her attack against Nash and the Silver Guardians. Her slaughter in the park. “Oh god…Oh god…”

 

Madison crouched next to her friend and placed a hand on her knee. “It’s OK, V. You weren’t yourself. We’ll figure out a way to fix this.”

 

Vida shook her head. “But I was myself. That was me.” She breathed deeply. “I’m a…”

 

“Kuro,” Madison said. “What can we do to help her?”

 

“Maybe I can make some kind of potion,” Chip said.

 

That won’t work, Chip,” Kuro said. “We can’t cure her. She’s a vampire. That’s who she is!

 

“Then what do we do?” Madison asked. “She’s our friend. We can’t just leave her tied up like this.”

 

Vida narrowed her eyes. “Can you please stop talking about me like I’m not here.

 

“OK, V,” Xander said. “Just don’t vamp out.”

 

Chip shook his head. “She seems fine now.”

 

Vida glared at him. “What did I just say?”

 

You,” Chip stammered defensively. “You seem fine now.”

 

“Thank you,” Vida said with a sigh. “I think it’s this plant. First it burned. Now it almost makes me feel…calm.”

 

Vervain! Kuro said as he hopped onto the back of her chair. “That must be vervain!

 

“Right,” Xander said with a nod. “Courtesy of Xander.”

 

Some of the vampire races were allergic to vervain,” Kuro explained. “After the initial allergic reaction, the vervain actually weakened their powers into a dormant state!

 

“That’s great,” Xander said. “But we can’t keep her tied up with plants forever.”

 

One strand should do,” Kuro said. Maybe a nice bracelet. Or a necklace!

 

Vida lowered her head, her brow wrinkled with anger and shame. “How did this happen to me…?”

 

I…I don’t know, Vida. I’m sorry…” Kuro said.   

 

Madison looked over her shoulder towards Nick. “You’ve been awfully quiet, Nick.”

 

“Yeah, well…” Nick said. “This is just a lot to process in one day.”

 

“You’re not the one who just found out they’re a vampire,” Vida said.

 

“No…” Nick said. “But I’m pretty sure I’m-”

 

Suddenly, the Viewing Globe twirled with blurred shadows. The images cleared to show people fleeing from Briarwood’s outdoor mall.

 

“Looks like trouble,” Nick said. “Let’s go...”

 

“Let me come too,” Vida said as she leaned forward. “I can’t stay tied up like this. I need to fight. I…need to hit something.”

 

Nick sighed. “OK. Try the vervain bracelet. Let’s go…”

 

***

 

The teens ran to the streets to face another Hades Beast Troll.

 

“One of these blokes again?” Xander said as the rangers flipped open their morphers.

 

Nick narrowed his eyes. “We’ve got this.”

 

“Heavenly Saints! Grant us the power of magick! Magical Source! Mystic Force!” Energy slid around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

The monster swatted the back of his hand at the Rangers. They leapt backward to avoid the blow, somersaulted, and launched flying sidekicks.

 

“Mystic Surge!” Mystic Red shouted.

 

The Rangers pulsed with energy and bashed flying sidekicks against Hades Beast Troll. The impact hurled the creature of its feet with massive bursts of spark.

 

Hades Beast Troll crashed and exploded into pieces of debris.

 

The Rangers landed and snapped their capes.

 

Suddenly, the skies darkened. Koragg’s voice echoed through the air. “To defeat a Troll with one hit…You’ve become stronger again, cursed magicians…”

 

The Rangers looked to see the Wolf Knight step from the darkness.

 

Mystic Red rolled his hands into fists. “Koragg…”

 

Koragg looked to the skies and extended his hand. “Come forth! Dark Steed Barikion! Uru Uru Zazare!

 

The villain summoned a magick circle that spawned the Dark Steed Barikion.

 

Koragg leapt through the air and passed through a magick circle as he grew giant. “Uuza Uru Ugaro!

 

The knight angled his decent towards his giant zord. “Uuza Douza Uru Zanga!

 

Barikion shifted shape and formed a suit of armor. Koragg slid into the suit, which clamped around him.

 

“Wolf Centaurus Megazord!” Koragg shouted. “WolKaiser!”

 

The Rangers flipped open their morphers. Mahou Dai Henshin! Maagi Magi Magika!

 

They grew giant and morphed into Majin.

 

Mystic Minotaur’s chest glowed with green light. “Let’s form the dragon!”

 

Together, Mystic Minotaur, Mystic Mermaid, Mystic Sprite and Mystic Garuda chanted their spell: “Maagi Giruma Jinga!

 

The four Majin leapt upward, shifted shape, and combined into the Mystic Dragon. Mystic Phoenix leapt into the air and landed on the zord.

 

He aimed his sword at Koragg. “Take him down! Now!”

 

Mystic Dragon opened his jaw and fired torrents of fire. The blasts exploded around WolKaiser with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

The dragon circled the villain and swooped down. Mystic Phoenix chopped his sword, and WolKaiser blocked with a burst of spark. Mystic Phoenix twisted his grip and slashed, but WolKaiser parried.

 

The villain stepped back and energized his bladed staff. He spun the weapon, forming a magick circle.

 

“Bari Javelin!” he shouted. “Madou Slash!”

 

Morticon swung through a streak of violet energy, slashing Mystic Dragon with massive bursts of spark. The impact scattered the zords, sending the Majin hurtling through the air.

 

WolKaiser stalked towards the fallen Majin. “Now…The time has come to end you cursed magicians.”

 

Suddenly, an arrow shot through the air and stabbed WolKaiser in the back. The villain winced with surprise and staggered forward.

 

“What…?”

 

From several rooftops behind, Necrolai lowered her crossbow. “Don’t think poorly of me,” she said with amusement. “OK?”

 

WolKaiser snapped around to face her. “Necrolai…you wench!”

 

Necrolai traced her fingers across her crossbow. “It seems that arrow possesses a powerful curse. You will be dead soon, by Lord Morticon’s orders. My condolences.”

 

“Morticon…” Koragg grumbled as he stepped backward. The villain lifted his staff vertically. “Uuza Ujira.

 

A purple magick circle formed beneath him. The villain started to sink through the circle.

 

“No!” Mystic Phoenix shouted as he scrambled to his feet and leapt at his opponent.

 

Mystic Phoenix landed against WolKaiser, and the opponents struggled, disrupting the magick circle. The circle burst with dark energy, blasting Koragg away from Barikion.

 

Mystic Phoenix grasped the Dark Steed, and they sank through the magick circle, which vanished with a puff of dark light.

 

“Nick!” Mystic Mermaid shouted.

 

Koragg climbed to his feet and gripped his shield. “Uuza Ujira.

 

The villain stepped into a magick circle and vanished.

 

***

 

The other rangers regrouped in Root Core with Kuro.

 

“What happened to Nick?” Xander asked.

 

Vida looked to Madison, who waved her wand over the Viewing Globe. “Anything?”

 

Madison shook her head. “It’s no good…I can’t pick up a trace.”

 

Kuro hopped next to the Viewing Globe. “The interference from the magick circle probably blew him into another dimension! Nick…and the Dark Steed Barikion.

 

“The Dark Steed…” Xander said. “What’s the deal with that horse, anyway?”

 

I don’t know…” Kuro said. “He’s as much a mystery as Koragg!

 

Vida sighed. “So Nick is stuck in another dimension with a mysterious monster horse…Can this week just end…?”

 

***

 

Nick’s vision blurred into focus. Slowly, he pushed himself up onto the gold-and-white sand of a strange dimension. The sand seemed to extend infinitely in every direction.

 

“What…” he whispered. “What is this place?”

 

He flipped open his morpher and tried to open a comm-line to the other rangers. But no one answered.

 

“I can’t get a signal…”

 

He turned around, and noticed a black horse in the distance. The horse stood with an arrow stuck in his back. The animal’s eyes flashed green.

 

“It can’t be…” Nick said. “Barikion?”

 

The horse whined and stomped with pain. Nick noticed green blood seep from the wound inflicted by the crossbow.

 

“You’re hurt…” Nick said as he walked towards the horse. In this form, the horse seemed familiar. He couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the animal.

 

“It’s OK…” Nick said as he walked towards the horse. “I won’t hurt you.”

 

***

 

Wolf-shaped energy blasts slammed Morticon with massive bursts of spark. The general crashed and skid across the floor, and Koragg landed near the villain.

 

Nai and Mare cowered backward. “Koragg…” Nai said. “You’re alive…?”

 

“Alive…?” Mare echoed.

 

“I would never fall to such a weak curse.” Koragg unsheathed his sword and lifted the blade at Morticon. “But my partner, the Dark Steed Barikion, has disappeared.”

 

Koragg pounced and chopped at Morticon. Morticon stood and blocked the blow with a burst of spark.

 

The Wolf Knight pressed his blade against the general’s throat. “Morticon…what were you trying to do?”

 

“You deceived me!” Morticon shouted. “The magicians’ power…You hid it from me!”

 

Morticon pulled back and lifted his blade to strike. But before he could, the portal of N’Ma ebbed with crimson light.

 

The villain grunted and lowered his blade. “Very well…In deference to N’Ma…I will spare your life. However…you will give me the Rangers’ fusion magick.”

 

“You are too late,” Koragg said. “I have already given it…to Hades Beast Troll.” The villain lifted his hand to his faceplate. “Touza Uzara.

 

***

 

A magick circle formed beneath Hades Beast Troll. The Troll’s remains glowed with purple light, reformed, and grew giant. The Fusion Magick ignited within Hades Beast Troll, and he shifted into a new form: Hades Beast Rock Troll.

 

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/powerrangers/images/d/db/Prmf-Stone_Troll.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130424003206

 

Kuro noticed the disturbance through the Viewing Globe and sent Xander, Vida, Chip and Madison to the scene. They quickly morphed into their armor.

 

Mystic Green rolled his hands into fists. “Let’s morph into Majin.”

 

The Rangers flipped open their morphers. Mahou Dai Henshin! Maagi Magi Magika!

 

They grew giant and morphed into Majin.

 

***

 

Nick stepped closer to the horse. “Your name’s Barikion, right? But…that’s not your real name. Is it?”

 

No. Nick recognized this horse. And he knew the horse by a different name. He just didn’t know what.

 

The teen moved closer and lifted his hand, slowly. Barikion stepped closer to Nick and rested his head against the ranger’s palm.

 

Nick smirked. “There you go. You see? Now…let’s get this arrow out of you.”

 

Nick touched the arrow; it discharged electricity that singed his hand, and he winced.

 

“That worked well…” he said sarcastically. He flipped open his morpher. “Let’s try this.”

 

He waved the wand at the arrow. “Giruma Magiro.

 

The arrow shimmered with red energy, but stayed in place.

 

Nick cursed beneath his breath. “One more time…Giruma Magiro!

 

He thrust his wand with a burst of red light. But the arrow stayed in place. He tried again. “Giruma Magiro!And again.Giruma Magiro!

 

The arrow remained.

 

***

 

Mystic Minotaur chopped his axe. The Rock Troll swung his club, parried, and knocked the zord aside.

 

The other Majin moved in to attack. But the Rock Troll swung wide, bashing the zords with bursts of spark.

 

Hades Beast Rock Troll swung his club through a circle, creating a ring of magick energy. Pieces of rock and debris rose from the ring and shot at the Majin. The projectiles bashed the zords and hurled them through the air.

 

***

 

Nick breathed heavily and lowered his wand.

 

“What am I doing…?” he whispered. “You’re the enemy. Why should I try so hard to help you…?”

 

He paused, as if he expected the horse to answer. The animal neighed and stomped his front hoof.

 

The sound triggered a memory within Nick. That’s when he realized: This horse used to belong to him.

 

“How is that possible…?” Nick whispered.

 

He swung his wand at the arrow. “Giruma Magiro!

 

***

 

Rock Troll stomped towards the fallen Majin.

 

Koragg stood on a rooftop nearby. “Cursed magicians…Die by your own helplessness.”

 

***

 

Barikion stumbled and collapsed.

 

“No!” Nick shouted as he ran to the fallen beast. “Don’t you die on me…Get up! Brightstar…Your real name is Brightstar…”

 

Nick stood and tightened his grip on his morpher.  He swung the wand with both hands. Giruma! Magiro!

 

The arrow shimmered with red energy and teleported away from the horse. Barikion neighed with relief and climbed to his feet.

 

“I did it!” Nick shouted as he pet the horse on the head. “You’re OK…”

 

Barikion leaned his head into Nick’s hands.

 

“Good boy…” Nick said.

 

The horse lowered his head and bent down, asking silently for Nick to hop on.

 

“OK…” Nick said as he climbed onto the beast. “Let’s go…”

 

Nick rode the horse into the distance. Combined, their magick flared and burst through the dimension.

 

***

 

Rock Troll swung his club, forming a magick circle, and prepared to strike the fallen Majin.

 

But before he could, Nick and Barikion burst onto the scene. They passed through a magick circle and grew giant, Nick assuming his Mystic Phoenix form, and Barikion assuming his armored form.

 

Barikion leapt past Rock Troll as Mystic Phoenix slashed the monster with a burst of spark.

 

“Nick!” Mystic Mermaid shouted.

 

“Is he riding Barikion?!” Mystic Garuda shouted.

 

Mystic Phoenix lifted his sword. Giruma Maagi Magi Jinga!

 

Mystic Phoenix leapt upward as he and Barikion ignited with fiery energy. Barikion separated and formed a suit of armor, and Mystic Phoenix slid into the zord.

 

“Centaurus Phoenix Megazord!” he shouted. “Fire Kaiser!”

 

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/powerrangers/images/2/22/FireKaiser.png/revision/latest?cb=20140516080730

 

Fire Kaiser armed his double-bladed staff and stepped into a defensive position. Fiery energy burned through his body and ignited the weapon with flames.

 

Rock Troll charged and swung his club through a flurry of strikes and chops. Fire Kaiser twirled his staff and blocked the blows with bursts of spark. The blowback sent the monster staggering backward.

 

The monster recovered and swung his club through a circle, creating a ring of magick energy. Pieces of rock and debris rose from the ring and shot at Fire Kaiser.

 

“Fire Braid!” Fire Kaiser shouted.

 

He ignited his braid and swung it like a whip, pulverizing the rocks from the air. The massive zord swung again, and the whip slashed through the monster’s midsection, tearing the creature in half.

 

Fire Kaiser lifted his staff over his shoulder. “Checkmate.”

 

Rock Troll crumbled and exploded into ash and debris.

 

Upon the monster’s destruction, the Rangers’ fusion magick rose from his remains within a globe of golden light. The light formed a magick circle etched with the Rangers’ individual symbols. The emblems glowed with the Rangers’ colors, separated, and shot towards the Majin.

 

Energy splashed through the zords as they regained their fusion magick.

 

Fire Kaiser lowered his staff. “We did it, Brightstar…”

 

Barikion neighed, pulsed with shadow power and blasted Mystic Phoenix away. The evil zord folded back into its armored horse form and ran across the streets towards Koragg.

 

Koragg leapt into the air. “Uuza Uru Ugaro.” He passed through a magick circle and grew giant. “Uuza Douza Zanga.

 

Koragg combined with Barikion and took the form of a giant centaur. The villain armed a massive, double-bladed staff. “Wolf Centaurus!”

 

Mystic Phoenix climbed to his feet as his teammates regrouped around him. “Brightstar…Why?”

 

Koragg stood with his sword and shield in hand. “It’s true that Barikion acknowledges you as a warrior, and his former master. But now…he has repaid his debt to you. And he belongs to me once more. My Dark Steed.”

 

The villain stepped backward. “Uuza Ujira.

 

Purple light flashed around him as he teleported away.

 

***

 

PART FOUR: Homeless

 

Nash pried himself loose from Xander’s vines. The bounty hunter grunted with anger, grabbed his guns and joined the Silver Guardians deep within the city.

 

The Guardians fanned out to search for the Mystic Rangers, as INET’s Lightspeed Rescue workers cleaned up the damage left by the latest monster battle. The Lightspeed Rescue task force didn’t come with a Ranger team, but INET equipped the group with armored workers called Rescue Heroes. The Rescue Heroes and their machines dug through rubble and saved as many civilians as they could.

 

Nash reached out with his heightened awareness. But he sensed no sign of the vampire’s spiritual pressure.

 

He narrowed his eyes and stared into the distance. “I’ll find you, vampire girl…and I will kill you…”

 

***

 

Vida sat outside Root Core. She pulled her knees to her chest and looked towards the sky.

 

Madison walked outside and sat next to her. “Hey….” she said. “The others are inside. Are you coming?”

 

Vida shook her head. “I think I’ll stay out here. Besides…I’m not even sure how any of you can stand to be around me.”

 

“You’re still the same person,” Madison said. “You just…found out something new about yourself.”

 

“I’m a killer,” Vida said.

 

Madison started to speak, but then closed her mouth. She didn’t know what to say.

 

Vida lowered her head. “See…Not much to say to that, is there?”

 

“No…” Madison said. “But as long as you wear that vervain bracelet…you’re under control. You’re our friend.”

 

“I just wish I could find out more about what happened to me,” Vida said. “Who did this to me…

 

“We’ll find a way,” Madison said. “We’ll learn the truth…”

 

Vida traced her fingers across the bracelet around her left wrist. “You know what this means, right? I can’t stay here. Not with Nash and the Silver Guardians looking for me. I have to leave Briarwood.”

 

“Not just you…” Madison said as she took Vida by the hand. “We all do…after what happened with that bounty hunter. And the Silver Guardians. They’re looking for us. So we need to leave. All of us.”

 

***

 

Nick crossed his arms over his chest and paced within Root Core.

 

Xander arced his eyebrow, skeptically. “So you’re saying Barikion was your horse…?”

 

“I know it sounds crazy,” Nick said. “But I recognized him. His name used to be Brightstar.”

 

“Brightstar?” Xander asked.

 

Nick nodded. “And that’s not all. When I was stuck in my dreams, I had a memory of fighting Koragg. I didn’t recognize the place at first. But now I do. It was the future. I think I’m from the same future as Udonna. And so is Koragg.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 10