The Dragon’s Rise: Chapter Sixteen

Young Dragon

 

Tommy unsheathed his sword, and the shining katana reflected the moon light. He moved through a slow pattern of moves and strikes, twirling his blade through the forest air around him.

 

Sword practice helped clear Tommy’s mind. Especially while in the wilderness.

 

But Tommy was finding it harder and harder to find calm. More difficult to find peace. He had his mind back, but his life was an entirely different story. His life was not his own.

 

***

 

Earlier in the day, a monster resembling a mutant snap turtle crouched in the bushes and watched the six rangers walk by. They exchanged stories of little significance to the creature. He didn’t care about what they had to say or what they were doing. All he cared about was their death.

 

The creature, which the media would later dub ShellShock, leapt out from the bushes and glared at the rangers. The monster armed a pair of fist blades and hissed at the team. “Rangers!” the creature shouted. “I will rip the flesh from your bones!”

 

The teens snapped into fighting stances.

 

“At least he gets straight to the point,” Zack said as he and the other rangers pulled out their transformation devices.

 

“Dino Buckler!” they shouted as energy shimmered around them and they transformed into their Ranger forms. They snapped into their individual fighting stances.

 

Tyranno Ranger, Red!”

 

“Dragon Ranger, Green!”

 

“Mammoth Ranger, Black!”

 

Tricera Ranger, Blue!”

 

“Tiger Ranger, Yellow!”

 

Ptera Ranger, Pink!”

 

“Battle Task Force…” They shouted together: “Power Rangers!”

 

ShellShock opened his jaws and spat a flurry of energy blasts that exploded around the Rangers, sparking against their armor.

 

Tyranno Ranger somersaulted forward through the explosion while rising to his knees and drawing his sidearm. “Blade Blaster!” he shouted while firing lances of red energy that exploded against the turtle monster.

 

The creature was taken aback by the blasts’ impact, giving the six Rangers time to regroup.

 

“Weapons, guys,” Tyranno Ranger commanded.

 

But before the Rangers armed themselves, two bubble-shaped crystals emerged in the monster’s shoulders. They were ruby red and sparkling with power. The lights flashed, and rays of crimson energy shot towards the Rangers. Dragon Ranger and Tyranno Rangers leapt to the sides, somersaulting across the ground to avoid the blasts.

 

But the rays struck Tricera Ranger, Tiger Ranger, Mammoth Ranger, and Ptera Ranger. The beams of light formed an energy shell around the four Rangers that kept them from moving.

 

Tyranno Ranger rose back to his feet, stood alongside Dragon Ranger, and aimed his double-edged sword at the monster. “What have you done to them!

 

The creature snarled. “Just making it easier to do this…”

 

ShellShock pulled in his right arm and extended a new arm, tipped with an organic tri-barreled cannon. He aimed at the four frozen Rangers and fired.

 

“No!” Tyranno Ranger and Dragon Ranger shouted. They threw themselves in front of their four teammates. Blasts exploded against the two Rangers’ armor and tossed them backward.

 

Dragon Ranger rose to his knees and pulled out his Dragon Dagger. “He’s mine,” Dragon Ranger said while charging forward to attack.

 

“Tommy, wait!” Tyranno Ranger shouted.

 

Dragon Ranger leapt forward, launching a flying reverse hook kick towards the villain. ShellShock ducked under the blow and turned to face the Ranger. The monster armed its fists blades and swung a hook punch towards Dragon Ranger’s head.

 

Dragon Ranger sidestepped away from the blow and hopped to the side, bringing down his dagger in a hard diagonal strike. He followed with a quick upward strike that knocked the monster backward.

 

ShellShock stumbled across the ground as Tyranno Ranger and Dragon Ranger regrouped.

 

“Change my friends back!” Tyranno Ranger shouted.

 

The monster retaliated with a crimson energy pulse that exploded against the two Rangers.

 

***

 

The battle moved downtown, and the monster grew giant. Dragon Ranger and Tyranno Ranger summoned their zords. The Dragonzord and Tyrannosaurus stomped through the streets towards their opponent.

 

Dragon Ranger armed his dagger. “Dragonzord missiles!” he shouted before playing a battle tune that echoed across the rooftops.

 

Dragonzord launched a flurry of missiles that exploded against the monster. The creature was taken aback by the barrage as Tyranno moved in and slammed its tail across the creature’s chest.

 

The monster crashed backward and slid across the street, tearing through pavement and roads as his giant shell ripped across concrete and steel. The two Rangers overpowered and destroyed the monster, breaking the energy shell that was freezing the other Rangers in place.

 

***

 

Tommy slammed his locker shut, taking out the frustration of his sore shoulder on the metal door. The pain itself didn’t bother him. It was what the pain signified. It was a minor injury from ShellShock, and a constant, nagging reminder that he was the Dragon Ranger. A killer.

 

He had done so many evil things while working for Bandora. Unspeakable acts of carnage and terror. How would he ever recover?

 

The halls around him were filled with kids his own age. Their words betrayed far  simpler thoughts: A girl’s boyfriend cheating on her - with two girls at the same time no less, trouble with math classes, the latest music craze, the occasional mention of “baseball,” a less-than-clever code word for pot.

 

He walked into a classroom. The walls were trimmed with green. Tommy had never noticed the colors before. He rolled his eyes and took a seat in the back of the room. The teacher started class. Mrs. Applebee gave a lecture on some political topic. It was all the same. All irrelevant.

 

Tommy’s mind wandered as his eyes stared ahead at the green trimming on the walls. He felt trapped.

 

“Tommy?” Mrs. Applebee called, breaking Tommy out of his daze. “Would you care to answer the question?”

 

Tommy looked to his teacher. What was the question? Which class was this anyway? Everyone stared. Tommy - who had killed three of Bandora’s warlords, battled the Rangers to a stand still, and killed innocents - knew fear.

 

Before he could answer, his communicator toned. The class snickered.

 

Mrs. Applebee crossed her arms over her chest. “Would you turn your pager off and answer the question?”

 

“I, uh…” Tommy stammered and rose to his feet. “I don’t feel so well…”

 

Mrs. Applebee started to protest, but Tommy was already out the door and dashing down the hallway.

 

***

The media called it the SpitFlower: a plant monster capable of spitting venomous and flesh-eating flowers that had already killed dozens in the city.

 

SpitFlower had the Power Rangers at his will. The five Rangers were struggling to stay on their feet as small biting flowers covered their armor. The flowers bit down hard, weakening the Rangers despite their best efforts to fight back.

 

SpitFlower licked its lips. The creature was  pleased with its handiwork and excited about the meal of Ranger meat he was about to ingest. He leaned forward, and his two antenna fired yellow energy blasts that exploded against the Rangers’ armor with bursts of spark.

 

SpitFlower darted forward with his pincer hands to attack the fallen Rangers. Tyranno Ranger managed to rise to his knees and hold his sword forward, but the monster knocked the Red Ranger away. SpitFlower moved to Tricera Ranger next and slashed its claws across the Blue Ranger’s armor. The creature beat back the rest of the Rangers one by one, its claws and pincers slashing against their armor.

 

The monster licked its lips again as he watched the Rangers squirm on their bellies like helpless animals. He opened his jaws wide, revealing a mouth full of fangs.

 

Nearby, Tommy was running to the scene as fast as he could. Legs pumping, he would not let the rangers down. He could not let them die. Not after all the harm he’d cause. He pulled out his buckler.

 

“Dino Buckler!” he shouted while morphing into his Ranger form and jumping through the air towards SpitFlower.

 

Dragon Ranger slammed a flying sidekick against the monster that sent the creature stumbling backward. SpitFlower snapped back and swung its pincers towards the Green Ranger’s head. Dragon Ranger blocked the blow and slammed a roundkick against the monster’s side.

 

Dragon Ranger followed by swinging upward with a diagonal strike that slashed across the monster’s body with a burst of spark. The Green Ranger chopped his blade back down for another strike that cut against the creature.

 

Dragon Ranger skipped forward with a jump kick that knocked the monster backward. The creature stumbled off its feet and rolled out of control over the ground.

 

Dragon Ranger turned and ran to the Rangers. He helped them remove the fanged flowers from their armor and get back to their feet.

 

A streak of light shot through the sky and speared against the monster’s body. Dark light enveloped the monster, and it expanded to giant size with a thundering boom.

 

“Tommy,” Tyranno Ranger said. “We need the Dragonzord.”

 

image003“Right,” Dragon Ranger said. He unsheathed his Dragon Dagger and played the battle melody that summoned his zord from the sea.

 

Dragonzord stomped forward and charged towards SpitFlower while Mammoth Ranger, Tricera Ranger, and Tiger Ranger raised their hands towards the sky and summoned their beasts. “Dinozords, arise!”

 

The three Dinozords dashed forward and joined the stampede towards the SpitFlower.

 

Dragonzord fusion!” Tyranno Ranger commanded from below. The four zords reshaped and merged together into one giant Megazord. The core five Rangers leapt upward and joined in the MegaDragonzord’s cockpit.

 

SpitFlower leaned forward and fired twin yellow-energy lances that exploded against MegaDragonzord’s armor. The Megazord was taken aback as the SpitFlower moved in for another attack. The creature swung its pincers towards the Megazord’s head.

 

MegaDragonzord blocked the blow, stepped forward, and swung its other fist hard against the creature’s body with a burst of spark. MegaDragonzord stepped forward again and slammed a pair of backfist blows against the monster.

 

SpitFlower retaliated by hacking a wad of piranha flowers that latched against the zord and bit down hard against its armor. Explosions sparked against MegaDragonzord, forcing the zord a few steps back as the SpitFlower advanced.

 

Zordon’s voice came through the Rangers’ communicators. “Rangers, focus your attack on the creature’s pollen sack. The sack is his most vulnerable weak point.”

 

“Alright, Zordon,” Tyranno Ranger answered. “Mega Spear Crash!”

 

The drill spear crackled with energy as it started to spin. MegaDragonzord thrust the spear forward. The spear bore through the monster, causing a gaping hole in its chest, as its energy overloaded and exploded.

 

***

 

That night, Tommy walked through the back streets of downtown Angel Grove North. Street lights cast a pale glow across the area. Tommy hand his hands in his pockets and his shoulders slumped down, as if he bore the weight of the world.

 

He moved through a block of 12-story tall apartment buildings. Tommy stopped in front of a brick building to his right. Shannon had lived there.

 

Tommy closed his eyes and sighed. He could still hear her voice. Smell the scent of her hair. Feel the touch of her skin. God, he missed her. She had been so vibrant and full of life. She found excitement and joy in the simplest of things. And she was a brilliant musician on the piano. The piano had been her escape.

 

Shannon’s father had been an abusive drunk. Her mother stood by and did nothing, pretending that all was right with the world. Pretending that her husband didn’t cheat on her weekly or make her daughter cry.

 

Shannon had lived a hard life. She didn’t deserve to die. Tommy was going to take her away. Far away from all her problems. They were going to start a life together. Raise a family. But they never had chance.

 

Tommy walked over and sat on the steps leading up to the apartment building. His mind flashed back to when he and Shannon had started dating…

 

Shannon leaned on her knees while sitting on the steps next to Tommy. She moved to her left, resting her head on Tommy’s shoulder. A smile crossed her face. “Do you ever wonder what we’re supposed to be doing?”

 

“It depends on who you ask,” Tommy said. He placed a hand over her shoulder. “What do you mean, anyway? You-and-me we or we in-the grand-cosmic-sense we?”

 

She smiled and shrugged. “Both.”

 

“Well,” Tommy said. “You-and-me-we are supposed to be reading about the exploits of our forefathers for history.”

 

She playfully shrugged him in the shoulder. “Don’t be a dork, Tom.”

 

“My bad,” he said. “Now…as to your question…ready for the serious answer?”

 

“Yeah,” she said, readjusting herself to look up into his eyes.

 

“Well,” Tommy said, “I think that some people have destinies…fate decides what they‘ll do. Other people, like you and me, we make our own destines. We’re above all that fate crap.”

 

“How so?” she asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Tommy said, his face turning slightly red.

 

“Oh…come on,” she said, giving him another playful nudge. “Tell me.”

 

“Well…it’s almost like we’re out of place, ya know. The life we’re on now, the track we’re on now, doesn’t fit us. So we can branch off, and make our own track.”

 

“Where would the track take us?” she asked.

 

“Wherever we wanted it to,” Tommy said. “To the east coast, where you could start your own recital hall, and I could open a martial arts school. Maybe over to Europe and do some traveling. I love traveling…although I’ve never actually left the city…so I guess I should say I would like to travel.”

 

She smiled and nudged him playfully again. “If we’re making our own destinies we need to think bigger.”

 

“How much bigger?” Tommy asked.

 

Shannon shrugged and leaned back, looking up into the sky. The city glow blocked out a view of the stars that shone above. “As cliché as it sounds…I want to see the stars. Up close, not from this blotted up view.”

 

“How come?” Tommy asked.

 

“Because,” she answered. “The stars make me realize that…there’s more to life than what happens in this city. Or even the world. There’s more to life than you, me, or anyone. There’s something greater out there.”

 

“You mean like God?” Tommy asked.

 

She shrugged. “I don’t know…I just know that…if we ever really want to find ourselves…we have to reach for the stars.”

 

Tommy’s communicator toned. It was morning. He had fallen asleep on the steps. The communicator toned again. He rolled his hands into fists. The tone was a reminder. Now and forever, the tone was a reminder.

 

***

 

DoraGourd had a body of twisted plant vines and a rotting pumpkin for a head. The creature had the five Rangers wrapped in a thick vine. DoraGourd sent charges of jade-tinted energy along the vine, and each pulse exploded against the Rangers’ armor with a series of ripping sparks.

image005

The Rangers struggled to break free. But blasts of energy stopped each attempt to escape from the vine.

 

Dragon Ranger suddenly somersaulted through the air. The Green Ranger chopped his dagger through the vine, cutting it in half, and setting the Rangers free. The monster fell backward and stumbled across the ground.

 

The rest of the Rangers regrouped behind Dragon Ranger as he snapped into a fighting stance while holding his Dragon Dagger forward.

 

“Thanks, Tommy,” Tyranno Ranger said.

 

Dragon Ranger simply nodded. His mind was filled with anger. Bandora’s monster had attacked at a really bad time.

 

“I’ll hold him down while you guys get the Power Blaster ready,” Dragon Ranger said. He didn’t wait for them to answer. Dragon Ranger held his Dagger high and charged towards the monster.

 

image007DoraGourd rose back to its feet and fired an optic blast from its eye socket. Blasts exploded around Dragon Ranger, but he continued his advance, determined to vent his rage against the monster.

 

Dragon Ranger dashed forward and slashed his blade diagonally across the monster’s body. He followed by slamming the end of his dagger against the creature’s head. Dragon Ranger pushed forward and slammed a roundkick against the creature’s side. The Green Ranger followed with a hook kick against the monster’s head.

 

Dragon Ranger grabbed hold of the monster, despite its struggling, and held the creature still while he looked back at the Rangers. “Do it now, guys.”

 

The Rangers brought their five weapons together to form the Power Blaster. “Fire!” they shouted as they launched a massive burst of concentrated energy.

 

Dragon Ranger glared at the monster. “Later, squash brain.” He kicked the creature aside as the energy blast ripped through its body. The monster fell backward and exploded.

 

Dragon Ranger lowered his dagger. One more down…how many more to go?

 

***

 

image008Bandora sent DoraApe to attack the next day. The white-furred primate had metal spikes running down its head and blood-red eyes.

 

The Rangers snapped into fighting stances and faced off with the creature.

 

Tyranno Ranger, Red!”

 

“Dragon Rangers, Green!”

 

“Mammoth Ranger, Black!”

 

Tricera Ranger, Blue!”

 

“Tiger Ranger, Yellow!”

 

Ptera Ranger, Pink!”

 

“Battle Task Force…” They shouted together: “Power Rangers!”

 

DoraApe armed a double-edged spear and charged to attack the six Rangers. Tyranno Ranger and Dragon Ranger moved in to attack first. Tyranno Ranger swung his sword downward, but DoraApe parried the blow and slashed across the Ranger’s chest.

 

Dragon Ranger moved in low and slashed his dagger across the monster’s chest. He turned and slammed a roundkick against the creature’s back. DoraApe snapped his body around and cut across the Ranger’s armor.

 

Mammoth Ranger chopped down with his axe. The monster deflected the blow and slashed the Black Ranger across the chest. Tricera Ranger speared his lance against DoraApe, knocking the monster backward.

 

Ptera Ranger dropped into a crouched position and launched a trio of arrows that exploded against DoraApe. Tiger Ranger leapt downward and slashed her twin daggers across the monster’s body.

 

DoraApe leaned down and launched a volley of head spikes that shot out and exploded against the six Rangers’ armor with a flurry of sparks and explosions. The Rangers were still worn down from a battle earlier in the day…

 

***

 

Earlier that day, a creature resembling a heavily-armored armadillo tore through the city streets of Angel Grove North while firing energy spikes that exploded against nearby buildings and cars. Tommy was walking nearby with his 9-year-old brother Teddy when the attack happened.

 

Tommy held his kid brother by the arm and ran across a walkway arched by concrete pillars covered with vines. Citizens were running in panic towards the nearest shelter.

 

“Tommy…” Teddy said as they hurried along the walkway. “What’s going on? Is it one of those monsters on the news?”

 

“Yes,” Tommy answered. “But you’ll be fine. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Not like what happened to Shannon, he thought to himself.

 

Tommy led his younger brother inside the nearest shelter. “Stay here. I’ll be back for you.”

 

Tommy turned to leave, but Teddy called to him. “Tommy wait!” He grabbed onto his brother’s arm. “You can’t just leave me here…”

 

Tommy’s heart sank. Could he really abandon his little brother? Did he even have a choice? “I’ll be back, Teddy. I’m going to just find a phone and call mom. To tell her we’re okay. I’ll be back for you.”

 

Tommy ran towards the shelter’s exit. A guard blocked his path. “Hold on, kid. Just sit tight here until things calm down.”

 

Tommy narrowed his eyes at the guard. “I have to leave. It’s an emergency.”

 

“Of course it’s an emergency, kid.” He placed a hand on Tommy’s arm. “That’s why you’re here.”

 

Tommy grabbed the guard’s wrist and twisted while knocking the man’s feet out from beneath him. The guard slammed against the ground, and Tommy sprinted off.

 

***

 

image011DoraMadillo crossed his arms over his chest while aiming his forearm spikes outward. A volley of energy spikes shot forward and cut through the air towards the five Rangers. The spikes exploded against their armor and knocked them off their feet. They  slammed through parked cars and crashed against nearby buildings.

 

The Rangers rose to their feet and slowly regrouped as the monster stalked towards them. The creature was prepared to strike again with another volley of explosive spikes.

 

A green blur of motion streaked down from the air. It was Dragon Ranger. He slammed a flying sidekick against the monster, and the creature stumbled backward across the ground. Dragon Ranger landed in a fighting stance as the monster rolled back to his feet.

 

Dragon Ranger armed his Dragon Dagger and charged towards the monster. He moved in close and slashed downward, his blade sparking while cutting across the creature’s armor. He slashed horizontally and jump kicked the monster against the chest.

 

Dragon Ranger moved forward to slam an elbow against the monster, but the creature retaliated by swiping its razor-sharp nails against the Green Ranger’s armor.

 

The other five Rangers armed their Blade Blasters and fired lances of crimson energy at the creature. The monster rolled up into an armored sphere while the blasts exploded harmlessly against the creature’s shell.

 

The monster bounced off the streets and started to ricochet across the roof tops.

 

“After him!” Tyranno Ranger shouted as he and the other Rangers jumped towards the rooftops.

 

***

 

Teddy paced back and forth across the shelter floor. What was taking his brother so long? Tommy started acting strange after Shannon’s death, but recently, it almost seemed like a different kind of strange. Teddy couldn’t quite think of a better way to say it.

 

His mind flashed back…

 

Teddy sat in front of his television. A control held firmly in both hands, he played the recent version of a Playstation Final Fantasy game. His parents were in the adjoining dining room, quietly discussing their fears about the previous day’s attacks, the same attacks that had killed Shannon and injured their son.

 

The living room door slowly opened. Tommy stepped in. The teenager’s hair was disheveled. His eyes constantly narrowed. His hands clenched into fists.

 

Teddy raised his gaze up towards his older brother. “Tommy, are you-”

 

Tommy used his leg to shove his younger brother aside.

 

“Tommy!” his mother by adoption scolded. “I know you’re upset, but that’s no way to treat your brother…”

 

“Upset?” His voice was like ice as he narrowed his eyes at his parents. “You know nothing…don’t pretend to understand.”

 

Tommy turned away from the living room and headed upstairs towards his bedroom. His parents were stunned silent.

 

Teddy shivered at the memory. Tommy had seemed so dark after Shannon died. He almost seemed scary at the time. But things were different now…

 

Teddy knocked on Tommy’s door again. His older brother had not left the room all day. “Tommy! You missed school. Mom is going to kill you dead.”

 

Teddy knocked again. He knew it was a futile effort. But he loved his brother. He worried for him. “Tommy, come on…” He leaned his forehead against the door.

 

“Leave me alone, Teddy…” Tommy said quietly, his voice shaky.

 

“Come on, big brother,” Teddy said as he knocked again.

 

Tommy swung the door open. He leaned down and placed his hands on his younger brother’s shoulders. “You don’t understand, Teddy. I need to be left alone. My life…my whole life…is gone. Turned upside down and shaken so hard that it’s shattered. I need to be left alone.”

 

Tommy let go of Teddy and shut the door.

 

***

 

Teddy’s eyes slowly opened. He had fallen asleep in the shelter. He looked up to see Tommy reach his hand down. “It’s okay, little brother…it’s safe now.”

 

***

 

Dragon Ranger swung his dagger upward, breaking DoraApe’s blade in half. He followed with a sidekick that slammed against the monster’s chest, causing DoraApe to stumble over his own feet and collapse to the ground.

 

The Rangers regrouped around Dragon Ranger as a streak of dark light struck the monster’s fallen body. Bandora’s card infused DoraApe with energy, causing the monster to expand into giant size.

 

The five Rangers raised their hands into the air. “Dinozords, arise!”

 

The five armored beasts charged towards their opponent. The Rangers leapt into their cockpits.

 

Dragonzord!” Dragon Ranger used his dagger to play a battle melody that summoned his zord from the sea.

 

He stood alone, playing his dagger while his teammates battled above. He watched through his visor as the battle started to unfold. He was removed from it. The five Rangers were fighting as a team.

 

But Dragon Ranger stood alone.

 

To be continued…Chapter 17