Five Stars of Heaven: Chapter Three

Soul Stealer

 

A man dressed in black roller-bladed down the night-lit suburbs of Angel Grove. The subdivision he rode through was dotted with trees and high-cost homes with brick-wrapped frontage. The man wore chains of keys all along his body, and he wore a black hat over his head.

 

The man, Kagi Dokeshi, the “Key Jester,” spotted a home with its upstairs window open. He could sense someone sleeping inside. A sly grin crossed his face.

 

***

 

image003An unnatural breeze blew in from the boy’s bedroom window. The young boy, Sam, was asleep with his bed next to the window. The Key Jester appeared in the shadows above the boy and waved a hand over the child’s chest.

 

The strange man whispered to himself. “Secret doors that can’t be opened. Keys that can.” He pulled a key from his chain, a glimmer of insanity in his eyes as he looked down at the boy. “This is a key. I have lots of keys. This key might be the one to open your soul’s door.”

 

Sam’s eyes opened when he noticed the Key Jester waving a key over the bed. The boy shrieked, his face pale with horror.

 

The Key Jester laughed. Energy seeped from Sam’s chest and into the key as his soul was stripped from his body.

 

The Key Jester blinked away.

 

Sam’s sister Kelly burst into the room. Only a few years older at age 10, Kelly was extremely overprotective of her younger brother. “Sam,” she said as she tried to shake him. His eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. “Sam!”

 

***

 

Adam was working at the pet store in Angel Grove East the next afternoon. He finished caging a small parrot when the store door opened, the swinging bells above jingling. Kelly walked into the store.

 

The girl was a frequent visitor of the small shop. She loved animals and wanted a pet of her own, but her parents would not allow it. Adam often let her hang out at the pet store and keep the animals company.

 

Kelly rushed over to the counter. Her face was white with panic. “Adam, you have to come with me! It’s Sam. He’s hurt, and the doctor’s don’t know what’s wrong!”

 

“Where are your parents?” Adam asked in a calm voice, hoping the calm would get Kelly to settle down some.

 

Kelly shook her head. “They’re gone. They left for a few days. I was supposed to watch Sam…when they find out what happened…” Tears swelled up in her eyes. “They’ll be so mad. I’m scared.”

 

Adam narrowed his eyes. Kelly was scared. Adam had a feeling it was as much fear for what her parents would do to her as fear for her younger brother.

 

***

 

Billy sat in his garage lab the next morning. He used his equipment to analyze the Aura Morphers Kaku had given him. “Fascinating…” he said as he looked over the readings. “The Aura Bracers don’t seem to have a power source of their own. They’re designed to focus the natural energy of the wearer.”

 

Billy checked his watch. He was late to meet Rocky. The newest Blue Ranger wanted to meet and talk. Billy was not sure what Rocky wanted to talk about but suspected it had a few things to do with Rangers and Gorma.

 

***

 

Rocky and Billy walked across the western outskirts of Angel Grove Central. That part of the city was a mix of commercial retailers and neighborhood business, as well as starter homes on small lots.

 

“So what is this about?” Billy asked as they walked along a curb.

 

Rocky shrugged, his gaze low. He was obviously embarrassed about something. “I don’t know exactly…you seem to know the most about what’s going on. Rangers, Gorma…I kinda wanted a few straight answers. Sensei is always…vague.”

 

Billy grinned. Kaku had taught them a lot about focusing and using their Kiryoku, but other than that, the sensei provided few pieces of fact.

 

Rocky sighed. “I want to know what exactly we’re fight for. The bigger picture. I mean, I know we save lives, and that’s why I accepted Sensei’s offer to become a Ranger…but this whole thing seems…bigger.”

 

They were unaware of something following them as they walked and spoke. The door of a car parked nearby opened. Something climbed inside. The car’s engine turned over and came to life. The car sped forward, tires screeching across the pavement.

 

Rocky and Billy looked over their shoulders as the car sped towards them. Rocky and Billy sprinted to the side and ducked down an alley. The car made a sharp turn and swerved after them. The car came inches away from them.

 

The teens took three hopping steps up the wall to avoid getting hit. The car screeched its tires and skid to a halt as the rangers landed back on the pavement.

 

“They’ll give anyone a license these days,” Rocky said as the car screeched back in reverse.

 

Rocky hopped up the wall and Billy dove to the side. Billy went crashing into a pile of trash and got stuck with his upper body in an empty garbage can. The car slammed on its brakes. Rocky landed on the pavement and sprinted towards the car.

 

“That’s it,” Rocky said with frustration as he ran to the driver’s side door. “Could I see your license and registration please?”

 

Rocky whipped the car door open. A small gnomish doll sat in the driver’s seat. The doll turned its head and started laughing at Rocky. The teen dropped his jaw. “Chucky?!”

 

“You think I’m a doll, huh?” the doll said mockingly.

 

The doll pounced forward onto Rocky’s face and bit his nose. Rocky stumbled backward and swatted the doll from his face. The gnome tumbled across the ground on impact and scurried away on its short, stubby legs.

 

Billy removed himself from the trash pile and finally stood, not having seen a thing.

 

***

 

The Key Jester roller-bladed back and forth at an empty amphitheater in University Park. The Gorma Triumvirate teleported onto the steps, blinking into visibility as they walked towards the Gorma underling. They did not look pleased. The Key Jester tried to hide his fear as he pulled to stop near them.

 

“What are you up to?” Zydos asked with anger glaring in his eyes.

 

“You are supposed to be collecting the souls,” Gara said before the Key Jester could answer. “Not turning them loose in dolls.”

 

Shadam nodded. “The Rangers should be left out of this for know. They can not find out until it is too late.”

 

Gara took a step closer to him. “Do you understand?” she asked with venom in her voice.

 

The Key Jester swallowed the clump in his throat. “I understand.”

 

***

 

“What do you mean you can’t help her?” Adam pleaded with his Dad. Detective Trevor Park sat behind his desk at the Angel Grove Third Precinct office. Adam stood in front of the desk, his body rigid with anger.

 

Adam and his father rarely got along. Detective Park accused Adam of being a slacker, too busy “playing” with martial arts and daydreaming away his days at the pet store to focus on what really mattered: academics and extracurricular actives. After all, Detective Park had been captain of the football team and a 4.0 student during his high school years.

 

Detective Park sighed and sat back in his chair. “Son, I really don’t have time for this.”

 

“No,” Adam said firmly. “Not this time. You listen. I’m telling you, this girl’s parents just left her and her little brother home alone for days. I think they’re abusive.”

 

“Son,” Detective Park said. “I need a little more to go on than some of your paranoid fantasies. I have a job to do here. I don’t have time for this.”

 

Adam narrowed his eyes. “What else is new…” he said beneath his breath. He turned and left the office, slamming the door on his way out.

 

***

 

Adam left his Dad’s office, his head hung low in defeat. He had never gotten along with his father. But Adam still could not believe his request for help was refused. He met with Kelly on a bench near his pet store. The girl was explaining about a fight she had gotten into with Sam the day before the incident where he became unconscious.

 

“He ran out into the street?” Adam asked.

 

She sighed with guilt. “He got mad at me.”

 

“Why?” Adam asked.

 

Kelly was silent. Her head hung low. “Kids are always making fun of him,” she said. “That’s why he gets upset so easily.”

 

Adam nodded. “I understand. Kids used to make fun of me all the time when I was younger…they still do sometimes.”

 

Kelly looked up to the teen. “How do you put up with it?”

 

“Well,” Adam said with a sigh. The shy teen rarely liked to talk about his own feelings. “There was this Chinese guy I knew, Master Mao, who owned a plant shop down the street from my house. I talked to him a lot, and one day he offered to teach me martial arts. The Kukishin style. It gave me a lot of confidence. For a while I even enrolled at this martial arts school called the Ikkazuchi Way…but it didn‘t work out.”

 

Kelly sighed and nodded. “Sam might like that.” She almost started crying. “Oh Adam, this is all my fault. My parents are on a business trip and I was supposed to look out for him. Now look what happened.”

 

They both heard a boy scream nearby. Adam was on his feet and running in less than a second. He didn’t think to tell Kelly not to follow him. They moved to a path that ran underneath a pedestrian bridge.

 

The Key Jester was in his monster form, a slender gray body with key-motif armor. The creature had a single eye, which was the Gorma trademark. He was leaning over a boy and had just sucked out his soul.

 

“Gorma!” Adam shouted.

 

The Key Jester took one glance at the ranger before turning and running away.

 

“Stop!” Adam shouted as he started to run after the monster. But a dozen dolls dropped from the bridge on ropes, some with knives. The dolls swung onto Adam and Kelly and started attacking. Biting. Clawing. Laughing with child-like madness.

 

Two of the dolls bashed Kelly against the brick base of the bridge and started to tie her up with rope.

 

Adam ripped a doll from the back of his head, threw the doll hard against the ground, and ran to help Kelly. He pulled the dolls from her and threw them hard against the brick bridge, his brow knitted with anger and annoyance at the small critters.

 

“Bye bye!“ the dolls shouted in high-pitched, mocking voices. The dolls regrouped and scattered down the alley. Adam followed. Again, he forgot to make sure that Kelly stayed behind. She ran after him.

 

***

 

Adam tracked the dolls back to a warehouse yard filled with iron bridges spanning above, dirt ground, piles of crates, and cranes. Kelly was at his heels. They ducked behind a large crate. Adam looked back to her. “You stay here.”

 

“No,” Kelly said, grasping onto his shirt.

 

Adam sighed. He didn’t have time to argue. He didn’t plan on starting a fight anyway. He wanted to get information and report back to Sensei and the others. “Alright. But keep quiet.”

 

The two snuck into the warehouse. Tall stacks of crates were arranged like walls in a U-shaped pattern. The Gorma was in his human form within those walls. Dolls wrestled against each other while in the crates. Others laughed and muttered jokes. Adam and Kelly stayed low while watching the Gorma through planks of wood and broken crates.

 

The Key Jester lifted an unmoving doll. “How beautiful,” he said to the doll. Adam could tell the Gorma was clearly insane. The villain reached into his pocket and pulled out a shining sphere of golden energy. It was a soul.

 

Adam rolled his hands into fists and narrowed his eyes. “What is this…” he said under his breath.

 

The soul thinned into a line and slid into the doll’s mouth. The doll’s eyes snapped open. High-pitched maddening laughter erupted from its lips. The Gorma stepped out of sight, the villain’s body hidden from view.

 

Kelly gasped and took a step back when the Key Jester poked his head up between planks and stared at her with eyes wide open.

 

Adam grabbed Kelly by the wrist and turned to run. A fanged doll descended from the air to block the teen’s path, but Adam backhanded the doll from the air with ease.

 

The Key Jester used both hands to lift a cylinder-shaped bin from the ground. He hurled the bin at the running ranger’s back. Adam grabbed Kelly and dove to the side, rolling out of harm’s way as the bin crashed against a pile of crates.

 

Adam rolled onto his knees and looked up. The Key Jester stalked towards the ranger.

 

“It wasn’t very nice of you to intrude on our fun,” the villain said.

 

“Gorma,” Adam cursed as he stood, keeping himself between Kelly and the villain. “What are you up to?”

 

“Collecting souls,” the Key Jester said matter-of-factly. “I would love to add you two to my collection.”

 

“I don’t think so!” Adam shouted as he charged forward to attack.

 

Adam snapped a round kick that Key Jester blocked while sidestepping. The Gorma lunged forward and wrapped his hands around Adam’s throat. Key Jester pulled Adam in a circle, trying to knock the ranger off his feet. But Adam stood his ground.

 

The Key Jester slammed a round kick against Adam’s side, smashing against the teen’s ribs. The Gorma kicked again before lifting the ranger and tossing him through the air. Adam crashed against the ground and stumbled across the concrete floor.

 

Key Jester’s body rippled as he transformed into his monster form, plates of armor growing from beneath his skin with mystical surges of dark Chi energy.

 

Adam sprang to his feet and leapt through the air. The ranger kicked the monster on the back while jumping over him. “Chakra ignite!” Adam shouted as he connected his bracers. Pale green light enveloped him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

Lion Ranger snapped into a defensive stance. Key Jester glared at the Green Ranger. “If you were smart, you’d give up now. You’re spoiling my fun.” The monster thrust his hand forward. “Sting Blades!”

 

The villain shot several key-shaped blades that sparked across Lion Ranger while slashing across his armor. The impact slammed Lion Ranger backward through a pile of crates.

 

Lion Ranger slowly pulled himself up from beneath the fallen crates. He rose to his feet as Key Jester charged forward, the villain’s helmet-mounted pincers snapping away like scissors.

 

Lion Ranger rolled underneath the pincers, which tore through a support beam. The tower crashed against the ground. Lion Ranger hopped backward to avoid getting slammed by the structure.

 

The Key Jester turned to another support tower and slashed through its support beams. The tower tumbled down towards Lion Ranger. The Green Ranger rolled across the ground to avoid the falling structure.

 

The Gorma leapt on top of Lion Ranger and lifted him by the neck. Key Jester slammed a punch against the Ranger’s chest while releasing his grasp. Lion Ranger went flying backward and crashed through a wall. Green Ranger went stumbling across the ground outside near a line of railing.

 

A story-long drop was on the other side of the railing, leading to a lower level of the construction/factory yard area.

 

Lion Ranger rose to his feet. Key Jester charged forward with a jagged key-type sword in hand. The Gorma swung hard towards the Ranger’s neck. Lion Ranger rolled underneath the slash and back onto his feet behind the Gorma.

 

Key Jester twisted backward to swing his saber towards the Ranger’s head. Lion Ranger blocked the blow with his right arm. He spun to his right, ducking beneath the blade. Key Jester twisted the sword back around, swinging upward towards the Ranger. Lion Ranger blocked the blow and slammed the back of his fist across the Gorma’s head, bashing in the side of the villain’s helmet.

 

Lion Ranger pressed forward with another backfist blow, but Key Jester grabbed the Ranger’s wrist. Key Jester kicked the legs out from under Lion Ranger while slamming a punch against his chest. Lion Ranger crashed back-first onto the ground but rolled back into a crouched position. Lion Ranger sprang forward, leaping through the air towards his opponent with a flying sidekick.

 

Key Jester caught the kick and swung Lion Ranger overhead before slamming him onto the ground, concrete cracking upon impact.

 

image007Lion Ranger rose to his feet, leaning against the railing for support. Key Jester pounced at the Ranger and started swinging the jagged blade. Lion Ranger sidestepped the first blow, but the second strike slashed across his chest armor.

 

Below, Kelly screamed as a group of Kyonshi chased her. Lion Ranger looked down to her. Key Jester took advantage of the Ranger’s distraction. The Gorma chopped his blade against the Ranger’s collar bone and pinned him against the railing.

 

“Kelly!” Lion Ranger shouted down to her.

 

The Green Ranger activated his communicator. “Guys! It’s the Gorma!”

 

***

 

Kaku heard Lion Ranger’s signal. He activated the comm system and spoke into a small remote speaker. “Tommy, Rocky, Billy, Kimberly…”

 

***

 

Kelly screamed as she ran from the Kyonshi. She fell over her own feet and stumbled to the ground. The soldiers grabbed her and lifted her from the ground.

 

Lion Ranger used both hands to knock the Gorma’s weapon away, elbowed the villain, and jumped over the railing towards the ground to get to Kelly.

 

Lion Ranger dashed towards Kelly and through the soldiers. He spun past a grunt while knife handing the soldier in the back.

 

The Green Ranger approached another soldier armed with a staff. Lion Ranger low blocked a swing from the staff and swung the same arm up for a backfist strike across the soldier’s head. Lion Ranger turned to his right and blocked another staff before swinging his leg in an outer crescent kick that smashed across the soldier’s head.

 

Lion Ranger kept pushing forward. He rolled across a soldier’s back, landed, and slammed a backfist against the grunt’s face. Green Ranger turned to his left and smashed his fist against the face of a grunt that had moved too close.

 

A soldier chopped its staff towards Lion Ranger’s neck. Lion Ranger caught the weapon inches above his shoulders. Green Ranger flipped the staff backward, slamming upside its holder’s head and twirling through the air to smack against a second soldier.

 

Green Ranger dashed forward and moved in low, swiping the legs out from under a soldier. He rose back up, low blocking a staff strike and chopping a knifehand blow against the soldier’s neck.

 

Lion Ranger dashed closer to Kelly, but a group of four soldier extended their staffs and blocked the Ranger’s path.

 

Lion Ranger held onto a staff while outer crescent kicking its holder across the head. The grunt fell backward, and Lion Ranger swung the staff, spinning forward while bashing the weapon across a soldier’s head. Lion Ranger chopped the staff down on the fallen soldier’s chest.

 

Lion Ranger tossed the staff away and ran towards Kelly’s side. He helped the girl to her feet. Several meters behind the Ranger, the Gorma Triumvirate blinked into view.

 

Shadam and Zydos extended their hands and fired streams of energy from their palms. The energy streams wrapped around the Ranger’s neck and reeled him in towards the villains.

 

Gara caught Lion Ranger in a choke hold. She slapped the back of her hand against the Ranger’s helmet twice. She kicked the legs out from under him and spun him around by the neck. She released her grasp, and Lion Ranger went stumbling across the ground to the feet of Zydos.

 

Zydos kicked the Ranger upside the head. Lion Ranger flipped backward, skidding across the ground as his body went limp. Shadam opened his jaw and spat fiery spheres of blue energy that exploded against the Ranger’s chest with a burst of sparks, knocking the Green Ranger backward.

 

image011Lion Ranger slowly rose to his feet. Several Kyonshi rushed past him, slashing their sabers across his armor. Another group of soldiers surrounded Lion Ranger and used their staffs to hold him by the neck.

 

On the ledge above, Key Jester was holding Kelly by the back of her neck. “Look, Ranger!” the villain shouted.

 

“Kelly!” Lion Ranger shouted. He struggled to break free from the staffs.

 

Key Jester pulled a small key from his belt and waved it across Kelly’s chest. “Now it is time to add another soul to my collection.”

 

“Stop!” Lion Ranger shouted. But it was too late. The Key Jester used his key to drain Kelly’s soul with a stream of yellow light.

 

“You want her so bad!” the Gorma shouted. He tossed the girl’s limp body over the railing. “Here!”

 

Lion Ranger knocked the Kyonshi away with renewed strength, his arms bashing them backward with a wide swing. Lion Ranger sprang forward through the air and caught the girl. He gently laid Kelly on the ground while grabbing her by the shoulders. “Kelly…Kelly!”

 

The other teens arrived at the scene and ran towards Lion Ranger. The Gorma monster laughed as he blurred out of sight, teleporting away along with the Gorma triumvirate and Kyonshi.

 

Adam powered down his armor. He snapped to his feet and turned to the rangers, narrowing his eyes at them. “Where the hell were you when I needed you!”

 

***

 

The five rangers stood in the lair as Kaku paced back and forth. The sensei was agitated with his charges.

 

“I thought you would all work together on this when Rocky was first attacked. I didn’t think I had to say anything.” He stopped and looked across the rangers’ faces, making eye contact with each of them. “You cannot fight them alone. You have to believe in each other. Trust in each other. The Gorma believe you are nothing but little children. Just one mistake at the wrong time, and you’ll be gutted. Who will save the world then?”

 

Rocky shook his head. “Not all of us are good enough at this yet,” Rocky said. “I have the bruises to prove it.”

 

Kaku’s anger faded into disappointment. He looked to each of the rangers: Rocky, who hid his fear and doubt behind a wall of sarcasm and jokes. Tommy, burdened with guilt over the death of Shannon and his past as the Green Ranger. Billy, obsessed with analyzing but not understanding. Adam, withdrawn from the world and filled with an inner anger that caused him to project the doubt of himself onto others. Kimberly, the heart of the group only when she could draw comfort from it herself.

 

Kaku turned and left the lair without saying another word.

 

***

 

Tommy sat at his school desk in Advanced Algebra the next day. On most days, school was more surreal for him than being a Ranger in the battle field. It was almost like school did not fit into the story of his life.

 

Tommy’s mind was fixed on the look Sensei had given them. The look of disappointment. The lecture.

 

The teacher was rambling on about a few x’s and y’s. His chalk was screeching across the board with every line. Tommy sighed and slumped down in his chair. Too much was going on. He did not have time for equations.

 

“Tommy Oliver,” the teacher said. He put his hands on his waist and stalked towards Tommy’s desk. “Are you listening?”

 

Tommy shook his head. “Not really.”

 

The teacher’s face turned red. “Principal. Now.”

 

***

 

Rocky and Billy got together after school at Carnival Café in the city. The café window looked out on a street of three-story businesses and apartment complexes. The area wrapped around a small amusement park.

 

Rocky slouched on his elbows, leaning forward in his booth. He was looking out the window with a glass of coke in his hand. “I’ve been worrying about the kids all day.”

 

Billy nodded. “I’m just not sure if there’s anything we can do.”

 

Rocky sighed. “Well aren’t we a cheerful bunch.”

 

“It could be worse,” Billy said.

 

“You’re right,” Rocky said. “There could be killer Tele-Tubbies.”

 

Something outside caught their attention. Their eyes opened wide. A teddy-bear doll was riding across the sidewalk on a skateboard. The doll laughed with a high-pitched squeal.

 

“One of our little friends…” Rocky said as he and Billy rose to their feet. The teddy bear looked at them and flicked them off. Rocky narrowed his eyes. “Why that little…”

 

The two rangers rushed outside the café. They skid to a halt when they saw the street around them. They could hardly believe their eyes. Dozens of dolls were wreaking havoc around the block.

 

Dolls forced outdoor café patrons to hand over their food. The amusement park was taken over by the rampaging toys. The dolls mostly used knifes as weapons. One of the gnomish dolls had a gun.

 

Rocky and Billy ran against a wave of fleeing civilians and entered the amusement park.

“Knock it off, Gorma!” Rocky shouted.

 

The gnome doll fired its weapon. Billy and Rocky dove to opposite sides as bullets shot against the ground.

 

***

 

Rocky and Billy could not control the dolls alone. They needed help. They entered the city subway system and darted underground towards the lair. The teens entered the lair to find Adam and Kaku sitting in meditative poses.

 

Rocky arced an eyebrow. “Did I miss yoga practice?” he asked sarcastically.

 

Sensei and Adam said nothing. They heard the door to the outer-room stairwell open and close. The door to the lair swung open as Tommy and Kimberly entered.

 

“Sit down,” Kaku said to them while keeping his eyes closed.

 

Tommy was confused. “Guys…what are you doing here? Those dolls are going crazy in the city.”

 

Sensei kept his eyes closed. “You can’t kill them yet, so sit down and listen. Concentrate…You will find a way to win, but for now…sit.”

 

The four teens gathered around Kaku and sat in meditative poses, crossing their legs and closing their eyes.

 

“Focus,” Kaku said to them as they closed their eyes. “Reach inside of yourselves and draw on your Ki.”

 

The five rangers took deep breaths and reached inside themselves. The lair started to vibrate with power. The hovering green sphere shimmered with jade energy. Dishes started to shake. Radio equipment started squealing with feedback.

 

Through their minds’ eyes, a flash of white light nearly blinded them as their astral forms left their bodies and emerged on the barren surface of a China desert. Light fog drifted around them.

 

“China,” Sensei said, “and what remains of the once great Daos civilization.”

 

The fog lifted and images started to unfold.

 

Huts of stone, mud, and wood lined the mountainside, wrapping around a wide stone valley. The Daos temple was at the base of the valley. Two giant stone statues stood at the sides of the temple entrance. Each statue resembled a Chinese priest with its eyes closed and hands folded.

 

Natives moved across the valley, some in bright garments woven from shining fabrics, and others in brown baggy clothes. Some of them fetched pales of water while others painted on leather canvas. On the mountainside opposite the temple, a theater troupe performed a reenactment of the birth of the world.

 

On the mountainside itself, several outcroppings were equipped with wooden tubes of magick and mirrors. Each tube allowed viewers to look out into the stars at night or up close to the clouds at day.

 

“The Daos were a highly advanced and artistic people,” Kaku said. “At their peak, in 6000 BC, they numbered 200,000 strong. There were three tribes that made up the Daos: Members of the Dai tribe were the policy makers, the Shura had no Ki power and were commoners, and then there was the military arm called the Gorma. All tribes lived peacefully for years…that was until 4000 BC, when the Gorma were corrupted by their own power…”

 

In the center of the Daos civilization, a large stone palace towered above the highest hills. It was the palace of the Dai tribe, the ruling body of the civilization.

 

A large group of dark-armored Gorma warriors marched towards the gate, some on foot and some on sleek black horses. The horses’ manes were colored purple. The warriors’ armor was a mix of leathery and metal plating.

 

Each warrior wore a mask of wood over their face, only because they were in the presence of their emperor. They would have insulted him to show their faces otherwise.

 

Takimura, the 14th emperor of the Gorma, floated on a stone pedestal while dressed in white and red robes, contrasting the rest of his men. His face was painted white. Behind him, his most prized warrior Matoi fidgeted.

 

“What troubles you, Matoi?” Takimura asked.

 

Matoi adjusted his mask. “Nothing, my lord.”

 

The emperor laughed, a sound of insanity Matoi was growing sick of. “You are lying to me.”

 

“May I speak freely?” Matoi asked.

 

Takimura grinned and shrugged.

 

Matoi sighed. “It is we who should be ruling the Dai…they are pathetic, and their Kiryoku is inferior to ours.”

 

“They have a different style,” the emperor said. He still carried a grin on his face.

 

“An inferior one,” Matoi said.

 

The emperor shook his head and chuckled. “It has been this way for centuries.”

 

Matoi shook his head as the group continued walking towards the palace. He narrowed his eyes at the commoners gathering around them to watch. He rolled his hands into fists.

 

***

 

The bulk of the emperor’s army waited outside as Matoi, the Gorma chief of staff, and the emperor himself entered the large council chambers where the ruling members of the Dai sat. The council sat behind a large, U-shaped table beneath colorful banners and flags that hung from the ceiling.

 

When Matoi saw that they were wearing no masks, he became angry and raised his voice at them. “How dare you look upon the emperor unmasked?!” Matoi shouted. “Where is your respect!”

 

“Silence!” the leader of the Dai council shouted.

 

“Excuse my subordinate,” the emperor said while placing a hand on his subject‘s shoulder. “He is very…loyal to me.”

 

“I can see that,” the Dai leader said. He wore blood-red garments and had a black beard. “Now let us begin with the matter at hand. As you know, the hunting and gathering tribes to the north, the savages, have not attacked our civilization for 200 years, since the end of the Onslaught, when the savages joined forces to attack our people. So after much deliberation…the council has decided that the services of the Gorma will no longer be needed.”

 

“What?!” Matoi shouted. “How dare you…”

 

The emperor glared at Matoi, a non spoken command for him to be silent.

 

“You can continue to practice your,” the leader hesitated while searching for the right phrase. “Way of life, but you will no longer be given any recognition by this governing body or any of our resources.”

 

Matoi glared at the leader of the Dai while the emperor simply nodded and said, “very well…”

 

The emperor and his men began to leave the chambers, but Matoi stayed behind and didn’t take his eyes off of the leader of the council.

 

“Matoi,” the emperor called for him. “Come.”

 

Matoi spat on the ground and left.

 

***

 

Matoi sat alone in his dark chambers. He pulled an old dusty book out from under his bed. The book was bound in brown leather. A red skull with a black star for an eye was carved onto the cover. He placed the book on his desk and opened it.

 

He grinned to himself as he flipped through the pages. “The time is now…” he said. “With this book, I will unleash the powers of our ancestors…and then I will be able to put the Dai in their place.”

 

“Planning to rebel are we?” a voice said from the shadows.

 

Matoi snapped around. “Who’s there?”

 

The figure stepped out from the shadows. It was one of the emperor’s youngest soldiers. His name was Shadam.

 

“You?” Matoi laughed. “Get out of here before I incinerate you.”

 

Shadam laughed. “Very well…I suppose I could pay a visit to our emperor. I’m sure he’d be interested to know about your little book…”

 

Matoi laughed. “You should learn some respect, young one.”

 

Matoi extended his hand and blasted Shadam with a bolt of crimson energy. Shadam fell to the ground, banging his head on the stone.

 

Matoi walked over to the fallen soldier. Matoi extended his hand towards Shadam’s face. His hand began to radiate with energy. “I should kill you for your insolence…however…you may be of use to me…”

 

Shadam wrinkled his brow.

 

Matoi laughed again. “Such anger in you…oh excellent. I can use that…”

 

“What are you talking about, fool?” Shadam asked.

 

“You dare to talk that way to your future emperor?” Matoi laughed maniacally.

 

***

 

Later that night, Matoi sat within a ring of his own blood with the book open on his lap. The book had belonged to an ancient cult called the Ka’zuul, which worshipped an evil spirit known as DaiSatan.

 

In the early age of the Daos civilization, a member of the Shura named Meduya had stumbled upon the book and used its power to become a warlock that summoned minor demons and spirits to his bidding. The Gorma had slain Meduya and taken the book, which was deemed too dangerous to exist.

 

The Gorma tried to destroy the book, but it withstood even fire. The Dai feared that someone would stumble upon the book if it was simply cast away, so they entrusted its care to the Gorma Tribe to serve as its guardian and ensure its pages were never opened again.

 

Matoi’s family was picked to guard the book, and it was passed along his bloodline from generation to generation. 

 

Matoi couldn’t read the symbols in the book but found he was compelled to speak the words. He reached out with his Kiryoku to speak with this deity called DaiSatan, but he felt nothing. Instead, his mind was drawn to a great lake of fire and a massive beast that lived within its flames. The Great Beast of Hell known as the Mogralord.

 

The Great Beast of Hell stirred, and Matoi was awestruck by the creature’s power. Matoi pleaded with the Mogralord for strength, and the Great Beast of Hell answered the call.

 

“I will make the Gorma my eyes on the mortal plane. And I will teach you new ways to strengthen this Life Force that courses through your veins. This Kiryoku. Through the suffering and despair of others, the flow of Life Force within you will churn into Rinki, power that is born from a heart of hatred and anger. In return, you will spread carnage across the mortal plane, and the slain souls of the damned will be mine to toy with.”

 

Matoi screamed as he felt his Kiryoku ignite within his veins. His own suffering seemed to strengthen him, and he felt a rip open on his forehead, where a third eye emerged. 

 

***

 

“Matoi killed Takimura and became emperor of the Gorma, and Shadam became the emperor’s right-hand general,” Kaku explained. “The Gorma used their dark Kiryoku, their Rinki, to turn themselves into monstrosities. They showed no mercy and sought only to destroy, and they devoured nature.”

 

Fog shifted around the five rangers. The fog fell back, layering across a new image like a blanket before dissipating. The rangers found themselves in the upper level of a wooden tower that extended from the temple.

 

“Members of the Dai and Shura tribes retreated to this chamber, because they believed their gods lived here,” Kaku explained. “The Gorma could not enter this place. It was from here that the Dai launched their first counter-attack against the Gorma.”

 

The teens watched the conflict rage across their eyes with flashes of violence and screams. Blades clashed against blades. Kiryoku blasts tore through flesh. Mountainsides crumbled. Entire villages were demolished.

 

“It was a ruthless and bloody battle that lasted far too long,” Kaku said. “The 500 Year War. In the end, both tribes wiped each other out. Only a few members of the Dai tribe and Shura tribe remained. Before the war ended, I managed to retrieve Ryuseiou and escape.”

 

Kimberly crossed her arms over her chest as a chill crept down her spine. “How horrible.”

 

Kaku nodded. “The Shura scattered the Earth, but the last of the Dai tribe remained in China. Three survivors of the Dai tribe became the Three Culture Heroes of Chinese legend, the first to bring civilization to the rest of the country, around 2800 BC,” Kaku explained. “They were followed by the Three Sage Kings, also survivors of the Dai tribe. These Sage Kings were said to rule with perfect clarity, wisdom, and virtue from 2350 to 2205 BC.”

 

“Fascinating,” Billy whispered.

 

Tommy tilted his head as he noticed five dust-covered paintings on the wall besides them. He moved over to the center painting and reached up towards it. He brushed off a part of the painting’s dust. “Guys, come look at this…” he finished dusting off the picture. It was a Chinese dragon. “It looks like the Red Dragon.”

 

The others moved towards the four remaining paintings.

 

Adam brushed the dust off his painting. “It’s a lion…”

 

Billy did the same. “A kirin…”

 

“It’s my tenma…” Rocky said as he dusted off the painting. “A pegasus.”

 

“A phoenix…” Kimberly said when she uncovered her painting. She looked back to Sensei. “What does this mean?”

 

“The Kidenjuu came to fight against the Gorma in the middle of the war. The five members of the Dai tribe that could control them became the Gosei Sentai Dairanger,” Kaku said

 

“There are more than Ryuseiou?” Tommy asked.

 

Kaku nodded. Fog drifted around them again as the scene vaporized around them. The fog shifted and laid back into the profile of a city rooftop, and the streets spread out several stories below.

 

An image of a post-apocalyptic Angel Grove appeared beneath them. The streets were torn. Flames dotted the landscape. Kyonshi led citizens through the streets by chains. Adam saw Kelly and Sam among the chained.

 

“This is what will happen if you fail,” Kaku said.

 

***

 

The teens ran through the city streets. Having returned to their bodies, they rushed to protect the city and face the Gorma with renewed determination. The dolls were descending upon the people like bugs, spread across several blocks.

 

The teens skid to halt in the midst of the chaos. The four rangers stood on either side of Tommy. “Let’s split up.”

 

The teens broke up and ran into the crowds. Tommy leapt through the air while trying to grab a doll, but it slipped through his grasp. Rocky and Adam tried to jump on a doll, but it slipped out from under them. The gnome doll with a gun fired shots at Billy and Kimberly. The two teens dove aside.

 

Kimberly rolled back onto her knees and extended her hand. “Ki!” she fired an invisible telekinetic pulse that blasted five of the dolls from the ground.

 

Billy reached out and grabbed one of the dolls. That doll sliced his hand with a knife. Billy snapped back his bloody hand as the doll ran off, a hideous laugh escaping its wooden lips.

 

Adam narrowed his eyes as the doll ran off. He recognized the doll somehow. Kelly’s soul was inside it. Adam ran after the doll.

 

***

 

Adam followed the doll into the lobby of a nearby business. The doll ran to a sidewall, trapped with nowhere to go. Adam cornered the doll. “You’re not going anywhere.”

 

“Door!” the doll shouted. A spell rippled across the wall. The doll leapt through the rippled portal and vanished from the lobby.

 

“Wait!” Adam shouted as he jumped through the portal to chase after the doll.

 

Adam landed hard against a rocky shore near the ocean. Key Jester sat back on a large stone, sipping tea and waiting, as if expecting someone. He looked up from his small glass and saw Adam rise to his feet.

 

The insane Gorma smiled. “Ah…you must be the Lion Ranger.”

 

“Gorma…“ Adam cursed beneath his breath. He rose to his feet and stepped back into a fighting stance. “Let’s go.”

 

***

 

The dolls had dispersed. But a group of Kyonshi dropped to the streets and surrounded the teens. The grunts charged forward and swung their staffs at the rangers. The teens split up and attacked.

 

“We have a problem,” Billy said as he ducked forward while slamming a palm-heel strike against a soldier’s gut. “It’s Adam. He’s disappeared.”

 

Tommy swung an outer crescent kick, his heel smashing across a soldier’s head. He skipped forward with a jump kick that slammed upside a grunt’s head. Another Kyonshi swung its staff towards Tommy. Tommy caught the grunt’s wrist and slammed a roundkick against the soldier’s head.

 

He armed his bracers. “Aura Power!” he shouted as he connected the morphers. Red energy flashed around him, forming a shell of power. The shell shattered as Dragon Ranger morphed into his armor.

 

“Red Dragon!” Dragon Ranger shouted as he raised his sword. The zord flew through the air like a giant serpent. Dragon Ranger used his Thunder Blaster to reel himself on top of the zord.

 

Red Dragon flew above the clouds over Angel Grove. “Ryuseiou, find Adam…”

 

***

 

Back at the shore, Key Jester slammed a hook punch across Adam’s face. Adam stumbled backward and fell to the ground. Key Jester reached down and lifted the ranger by the throat. The Gorma dragged Adam a few steps to the side before slamming a punch beneath the ranger’s ribs. The Gorma tossed Adam aside like a pile of rags.

 

Adam rose into a crouched position as the Gorma stalked towards him. Key Jester armed a jagged key-shaped blade while he transformed into his monster form. The Gorma slammed the blade into the ground. The sword emitted a shockwave that tore beneath the ground towards Adam. The blast exploded underneath the ranger’s feet, knocking him backward.

 

Adam rolled onto his feet, dug his heels into the ground, and sprang forward while arming his morpher. “Chakra ignite!” He connected the braces with a flash of pale-green light that wrapped around his body. He morphed into his Ranger form.

 

Key Jester swung his blade and slashed Lion Ranger from the air, explosions sparking across Green Ranger‘s armor. Lion Ranger twisted in midair and bounced back towards the Gorma while swinging a knifehand towards the monster‘s head. Key Jester grabbed the Ranger by the wrist and swung him over to the ground while slashing across his armor.

 

From the skies above, Dragon Ranger and his zord spotted the Gorma stalking towards Lion Ranger. “Red Dragon! Fire Blast!”

 

The zord opened its jaws and launched a torrent of flame that exploded against the shore below, blasting the monster backward with a blinding force of heat.

 

Dragon Ranger leapt to the ground and helped Lion Ranger to his feet. The other Rangers shortly arrived at the scene and regrouped.

 

Tenma Ranger placed a hand on Lion Ranger’s shoulder. “You okay?”

 

Lion Ranger nodded.

 

“Good,” Tenma Ranger said. “Then let’s show this guy who he’s messing with!”

 

“Yeah,” Lion Ranger said as the five Rangers snapped into fighting stances.

 

Kyonshi gathered around Key Jester as the Gorma aimed his blade towards the Rangers. “You’ll be sorry you did that!”

 

“I don’t think so, chrome top!” Dragon Ranger shouted. The five Rangers snapped into fighting stances and announced themselves.

 

“Dragon Ranger! Heaven Fire Star, Red!”

 

“Lion Ranger! Heaven Illusion Star, Green!”

 

“Tenma Ranger! Heaven Gravity Star, Blue!”

 

“Kirin Ranger! Heaven Time Star, Yellow!”

 

“Phoenix Ranger! Heaven Wind Star, Pink!”

 

“Power of the stars,” Dragon Ranger shouted, “brought down…Heaven Star Task Force…” Together, they shouted. “Power Rangers!”

 

“Heh,” Key Jester said. “I’m not impressed…Attack!” Kyonshi rushed into battle at the Gorma’s command.

 

“Let’s go!” Dragon Ranger shouted. Energy flashed around the Rangers as they leapt forward into battle with streaks of power.

 

“Kirin Blade!” Kirin Ranger shouted as he leapt forward. He armed a short blade attached to a rope.

 

Kirin Ranger landed amidst a group of soldiers. He low blocked a soldier’s saber strike and slammed a knifehand blow against the grunt’s neck. He leaned back and slammed his elbow against an approaching Kyonshi’s chest.

 

Two grunts moved in and swung sabers towards the Yellow Ranger’s head. Kirin Ranger ducked underneath the blades and dashed past the soldiers. Kirin Ranger snapped his blade forward. The blade shot out and slammed through the grunt’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

Kirin Ranger pulled the rope, bringing the soldier crashing off his feet and landing hard against his back. Kirin Ranger dropped and slammed his elbow against the fallen soldier’s chest.

 

Nearby, Tenma Ranger armed his twin nunchuku. “Tenma Nunchuks!” He shouted as he twirled his weapons and held them under his arms.

 

Tenma Ranger looked to his left as a group of soldiers rushed towards him. The Ranger brought his right arm around, swung a nunchuk, and bashed the weapon against the back of a grunt’s neck. The Kyonshi went stumbling forward onto the ground.

 

Another soldier charged at the Blue Ranger. Tenma Ranger snapped a tornado kick and slammed his heel across the soldier’s head. The Kyonshi crashed to the ground. Tenma Ranger looked to his left and snapped a high sidekick that bashed against a grunt’s face.

 

Tenma Ranger spun to face another soldier. The Blue Ranger swung both chained weapons in an ‘x’ pattern, crushing the soldier’s collar bones. The grunt collapsed as a second soldier moved in towards the Ranger’s back.

 

Tenma Ranger hopped around and swung both weapons down vertically, crushing the side of the soldier’s head upon impact. The Blue Ranger pressed forward and pounced into the air, slamming a double-jump kick against a soldier’s face.

 

Meanwhile, a group of soldiers surrounded Dragon Ranger. “Twin Dragon Swords!” He shouted while twirling his two blades into a square stance.

 

Dragon Ranger used his left saber to slap a soldier’s blade away before chopping his right sword down through the back of a grunt’s neck. Dragon Ranger spun forward while slamming a reverse sidekick against a grunt’s face.

 

A Kyonshi swung a staff down towards Dragon Ranger’s head. Dragon Ranger used his right blade to high block the blow and spun forward, bringing his left blade across the soldier’s body with a burst of spark.

 

Dragon Ranger pressed forward, twirling his blades to parry a volley of strikes from soldiers. He speared his blade through a soldier’s chest, then swung that sword around, slashing across a second soldier’s chest with a burst of sparks.

 

Phoenix Ranger armed a long spear weapon. “Phoenix Spear!“ She twirled the blade into a high guard position.

 

She speared a soldier with the tip of her weapon. Phoenix Ranger twirled the weapon around and slapped down against a soldier’s staff to parry an attack. Phoenix Ranger swung the spear back upward, bashing the soldier upside the head.

 

Phoenix Ranger leapt forward through the air while spearing her weapon through a soldier’s face.

 

Nearby, Lion Ranger faced the Key Jester.

 

“Lion Staff!“ Lion Ranger dashed forward to attack and swung his staff into a fighting position.

 

Green Ranger swung high and low, but the Gorma blocked both strikes with his blade. The opponents circled around each other, and Lion Ranger speared his staff towards the Gorma. Key Jester parried the blow.

 

The Gorma twisted his wrist and swung his blade sideways towards the Ranger. Lion Ranger held his staff vertically to block the blow. Lion Ranger twisted to the side, forcing the jagged blade downward.

 

Lion Ranger snapped a sidekick against the monster. The Gorma was forced a few steps back as Lion Ranger pressed forward. He spun while slamming the end of his staff across the Gorma’s head. The villain crashed onto the ground and tumbled backward.

 

The Gorma slowly pulled himself back to his feet.

 

Lion Ranger stepped back into a defensive stance. The Green Ranger placed his hand in front of his faceplate. The lion eyes on his helmet pulsed with pale jade light. “Heaven Illusion Star! Mist Concealment Destruction!”

 

Lion Ranger extended his hand and launched a stream of mystic fog that surrounded the Gorma. An illusion of a box of doors surrounded the Gorma.

 

Lion Ranger played off of the villain’s insanity. “I bet you can’t find a key to unlock that door,” the Green Ranger taunted.

 

“Ah, I love a challenge.” Key Jester sized the doors’ locks and pulled out an appropriate key. He inserted the key into a lock and turned. The doors exploded as soon as the latch turned. The explosion sent the Gorma flying backward and skidding across the ground.

 

The other Rangers gathered around Lion Ranger as the Gorma rose

 

“Bomb him,” Dragon Ranger said.

 

The Rangers moved into formation and lifted their hands. They gathered cyan energy between their palms. The energy formed spheres of crackling blue power.

 

“Kiryoku, bomber!” the Rangers shouted as they hurled the energy spheres forward. The five energy spheres combined into a rolling force of golden energy. The golden energy sphere exploded through the Gorma creature with a massive burst of energy. The villain exploded, his ashes scattering in the wind.

 

***

 

Across the city, dolls fell limp. Streaks of golden energy, souls, escaped from the dolls. The lights shot across the city. The souls streaked back towards their bodies and entered with rippling waves of power.

 

Kelly and Sam opened their eyes in their hospital beds.

 

***

 

The next day, Adam had walked by Kelly’s home to check on her and Sam. He made it as far as the door when he heard something crash inside. He heard Kelly’s father yelling with anger. Sam was crying.

 

Adam narrowed his eyes. It was time for a different battle. He knocked on the door. No one answered, but the father stopped yelling. Adam knocked again. The door swung open. Kelly’s father, a large man with a gruff exterior, glared at Adam. “Can I help you with something?”

 

“Do yourself a favor,” Adam said. “Drive to the police station and turn yourself in.”

 

The father laughed and went to shut the door. Adam reached out and stopped the door from closing. The 16-year-old ranger grabbed the father by the shirt and tossed him outside.

 

Sirens sounded from down the street. Adam recognized his father’s sleek black car pull up to the curb. A squad car followed from behind.

 

“Thank god you’re here,” Kelly’s father said as he walked towards the officers. Detective Park walked past them and moved to the home’s door. He looked inside and saw Sam crying. He had a bruise on his face. Kelly was leaning down and hugging him.

 

Detective Park turned to the other officers. “Cuff him. Tight.”

 

The officers tossed Kelly’s dad to the ground and cuffed his arms behind his back. He cursed at the officers, threatening to sue.

 

“Dad,” Adam said. “How did you-”

 

“I came down here to check out what you told me,” Detective Park said. “Turns out we’ve had complaints about this guy before.”

 

Detective Park walked past his son and back towards the car. Adam followed. “But I thought-”

 

Detective Park turned. “You can’t take the law into your own hands,” he said firmly. He turned and started to walk away while looking over his shoulder. “What do you think I hate those Rangers for?”

 

To be continued…Chapter 04