Author’s note: The following story takes place in 2005, shortly after the events of Ultimate Zeo Rangers and Ultimate Turbo Rangers in Books Eight and Nine.  

 

Rangers in Space: Chapter One

Install! Astro Rangers!

 

“…the five Terrans were about to embark upon a journey unlike any in Earth’s history. They would become the first to explore the vastness of space. The first to encounter numerous species. The first to learn the galaxy is a dangerous place for the unprepared.”

 

-- H.T. Covington, 2110

“The Rise and Fall of INET Vol. 3:

Flight of the Galaxy Mega”

 

At first glance, the Samarian Planet seemed nothing more than a backwater world of little significance at the edge of the galaxy. Their atmosphere was damaged and rendered uninhabitable, the soils were barren, and the rock faces were treacherous. The inhabitants, the Samarians, were a pre-industrial culture residing underground.

 

The Samarian planet went unnoticed for centuries, until a group of colonists discovered the planet’s hidden potential: veins upon veins of spice, a find of untold value.

 

The colonists enslaved the Samarians and turned them into spice minors, quickly establishing a productive business that spread across the entire galaxy. The more profitable the business became, the more corrupt the colonists turned.

 

The current ruling family of Samaria started out half a century ago in the lowest caste possible on the colony world. That was until they gathered enough support from the Samarian natives and business partners to overthrow the ruling family.

 

The Morthanx family had ruled ever since, and the current leader of the planet was the most vile of the batch. His name was Triezen.

 

His office was at the top level of a jagged stone pillar that extended from the barren surface of the Samarian Planet like a jagged needle.

 

His desk was crafted of polished black wood that matched the floor of black marble. The ceiling and walls were made of natural dark stone. Behind Triezen was a wide window that looked out upon the ash-desert planet below as it stretched to the mountainous horizon, where the planet’s two suns were setting.

 

Two guards stood on either side of the window, each a simian warrior, from the planet Titan, dressed in bronze colored armor.

 

Triezen himself wore intricate robes of black highlighted with dark purple. He was bald, and had a white stone in place of his right eye.

 

He sat back in his chair in a relaxed posture as the doors to his office opened and a young woman who appeared human walked inside. She was dressed in a black leather body suit covered with light plates of gray armor that matched the color and texture of her long staff. Her hair was dyed jet black and braided as it fell over her shoulders.

 

The way she stood suggested an aura of tremendous power. Her name was Astronema, and she was the right hand general of Sauron.

 

Triezen smiled respectfully at Astronema. “Quite a gathering you’ve assembled here, princess. Every warlord, black mage, and scum bag from the entire known universe. I’m impressed.”

 

“As you should be,” Astronema said in a chilling voice Triezen might have found seductive under different terms.

 

“Do you find our facilities to your liking?” Triezen asked. “Perhaps I can arrange a private tour.”

 

“Don’t bother with small talk,” she said. “I’m not known for my patience.”

 

Triezen leaned forward. “I’m afraid you’re not known at all, princess. The galaxy is of course quite large, but for someone of your power and apparent influence to suddenly appear as if from no where is quite unheard of.”

 

“I speak for Sauron,” she said. “That’s all you need to know.”

 

“Of course,” Triezen said as he leaned back in his chair. “How can I trust that you’ll honor your end of the bargain in compensating me for my gracious hospitality?”

 

“Sauron always keeps his word,” Astronema said.

 

The doors to Triezen’s office opened again, and an android of polished black metal with a neon-green grid covering his body walked in.

 

“Astronema,” the android known as Eclipter said in a deep metal voice. “The sub-craft is ready for departure. It’s time.”

 

“Excellent,” Astronema said. “Was Zordon secured on board?”

 

“Yes, princess,” Eclipter answered.

 

Astronema looked to Triezen. “We’ll be going now…”

 

She turned to leave as Triezen called after her. “Wait…what about my payment? Sauron always keeps his word, remember?”

 

Astronema turned to face him as a lopsided grin spread across her face. “Yes…but I’m not Sauron…”

 

She aimed her staff at Triezen and fired a jagged beam of violet energy that tore through his chest before vaporizing him. The two Titans readied their swords to attack, but Eclipter cut them down with a pair of crimson optic blasts.

 

Eclipter looked at Astronema with pride. “Well done, princess.”

 

“You’ve taught me well, Eclipter,” she said as they left the office.

 

***

 

A slab of polished concrete extended from the palace spire, serving as a docking port for various ships. The vessel parked on the port carried a rather important individual: the recently kidnapped Zordon of Eltar.

 

Astronema and Eclipter walked onto the balcony as lines of armored aquatic soldiers known as Piranatrons walked towards the amphibious-type ship’s boarding ramp.

 

Above the platform, an ornate overhang protruded from the tower. A cloaked figure was hiding himself on top of the overhang while blending in with the shadows.

 

Eclipter stopped in his tracks as he tightened his grip on his sword.

 

“What is it, Eclipter?” Astronema asked.

 

“We’re being watched,” the android said.

 

Eclipter acted with cold, calculated precision as he looked up towards the overhang and fired a pair of crimson optic blasts that shattered the stone structure.

 

The cloaked man leapt clear from the explosion and landed on the docking platform as he darted towards the sub-craft.

 

“Stop him!” Astronema yelled.

 

The Piranatrons swarmed around the stranger as he armed a spiral-bladed weapon and began hacking through them with ease.

 

The boarding ramp to the sub-craft slammed shut as its thrusters fired, lifting the ship into the air as it blasted towards the sky.

 

The cloaked figure flipped a Piranatron over his shoulder before sprinting towards the edge of the platform. He flipped forward out into the open as his cloak fell from his body, revealing the armor of a Red Ranger.

 

“Cyber Slider!” the Red Ranger shouted as he plummeted towards the ground. A sleek hover board suddenly appeared streaking through the skies. The Ranger landed on the board and shot after the sub-craft.

 

Astronema wrinkled her brow as she watched the trail left behind by the Ranger. “Ready my ship…I want him found and destroyed.”

 

***

 

http://www.rangercentral.com/images/ship1.jpgThe Astro Megashuttle floated aimlessly through space as the five former Zeo Rangers manned their controls in the central cockpit.

 

“So…” Tommy Oliver said from the central station. “Exactly how lost are we?”

 

“That depends,” Justin Kase said as he sat at the forward starboard station.

 

“On what?” Chris asked. He sat at the forward port station.

 

“Mostly on where we are,” Justin said. “And I have no idea where that is.”

 

Kat shook her head from her station. She sat at the aft starboard console. “It would have been nice for the Shi'ar to let us know where they’d be dropping us off.”

 

“Apparently it’s not their style,” Justin said.

 

“Ashley,” Tommy said as he looked to her station at the aft port side of the cockpit. “Do you think you can boost the sensors on this thing? Try to get a sense of where we are?”

 

A lopsided grin spread across Ashley’s face. “Sure. I could spend all day fiddling with this ship’s systems.”

 

Tommy smiled. “The sensors will be fine. One thing at a time.”

 

***

 

The shuttle floated aimlessly through space on impulse power as the teens sat restlessly within the cockpit.

 

Ashley suddenly sat upright in her chair as her eyes opened wide. “I’ve got something…it’s a ship. We’re picking it up on long range sensors.”

 

Tommy breathed a sigh of relief. They had been searching almost the entire day for anything more than a piece of space debris or hunk of floating rock.

 

“Good work, Ashley,” Tommy said. “Can you get a hold of them?”

 

Ashley shook her head. “Either they’re not answering or I’m not using this right.”

 

Justin turned around from his station. “Let’s go check it out anyway. Beats just sitting around here.”

 

The shuttle fired its thrusters and blasted towards the ship their sensors had registered.

 

http://www.rangercentral.com/images/ship2.jpgAfter a few minutes, the ship came into visual range. Its hull was deep blue and saucer shaped with red trimming. The forward bow extended, forming a sort of nose for the vessel.

 

Tommy looked back to Ashley. “Anything?”

 

Before she could answer, the shuttle jerked as the rangers were nearly thrown from their seats.

 

Chris clung on to the side of his chair. “What was that?”

 

“A tractor beam,” Ashley said. “That ship is pulling us in.”

 

Tommy watched through the viewport as the bow of the ship split opened and drew closer at an alarming rate. The five rangers were helpless as the shuttle was pulled in between the bow. The hull then slammed back shut, trapping the shuttle inside.

 

The rangers were silent for a moment as the shuttle settled.

 

“Now what?” Kat asked.

 

“Well,” Tommy said. “Let’s go take a look around…”

 

Justin shook his head as he opened his eyes in disbelief. “Have you ever seen Event Horizon?

 

Tommy shook his head as he rose from his station. “Can’t say that I have.”

 

“Thought not…” Justin said as he and the others followed Tommy through the cockpit’s exit.

 

***

 

The five rangers walked through a narrow corridor lined with steel-gray wall plating.

 

“Colorful,” Justin said sarcastically.

 

Tommy spotted something on a bulk head that immediately caught his attention.

 

“It can’t be,” he said as he shook his head and walked towards the bulkhead, where a small logo read INET. “INET…that’s Billy’s digital company…What the hell is something INET built doing all the way out here?”

 

They heard a clanging noise around a corner in front of them as they snapped to attention, senses ready for a possible threat.

 

“Come on,” Tommy said as he led his team around the corner.

 

They stopped dead in their tracks at what they saw: It was a Red Ranger. The Ranger lunged forward at the sight of the five Terrans.

 

Tommy held up his hands in a non-defensive manner. “Wait…”

 

The Ranger ignored Tommy and launched forward with a jump kick. Tommy blocked the kick and moved forward as the Red Ranger swung a punch forward. Tommy grabbed the Ranger’s arm and twisted it behind his back before slamming him face-first against a bulkhead and holding him there.

 

“We’re rangers too,” Tommy said. “From Earth. Your ship pulled us in here so…”

 

The deck suddenly shook as the rangers were nearly thrown to the ground. They regained their balance just in time for the deck plating to shake again.

 

A computerized voice spoke from the ship’s communications’ speakers.

 

“Astronema’s flagship is attacking.”

 

The Red Ranger ran down the corridor. “Polarize the hull plating.”

 

The ship shook again as the rangers followed the stranger into a large bridge area lined with high-tech panels. Another blast struck the ship as the rangers looked ahead through the viewscreen to see a bulky ship with a bow resembling the head of a demonic bull coming towards them. A sandy-colored planet was visible  at the bottom corner of the viewscreen.

 

“The main engines are offline,” the ship’s computer reported. “Auxiliary and backup systems not responding.”

 

The flagship continued to blast the Red Ranger’s vessel as it plummeted towards the barren world below. The deep blue hull began to superheat as the ship started plummeting through the planet’s outer atmosphere.

 

“DECA,” the Red Ranger said, speaking to the ship’s computer. “Prepare for emergency landing.”

 

Power conduits on the bridge overloaded and exploded as the lights dimmed and the ship’s deck plating started to shake. Through the viewscreen, the surface of the planet grew dangerously close.

 

***

 

Astronema smiled wickedly from the bridge of her flagship as she watched the Red Ranger’s vessel crash towards the planet below.

 

“Excellent,” she said as she turned to Eclipter. “Send a group of Quantrons to the crash site. They’re to kill anything left alive.”

 

“Yes princess,” Eclipter said with a slight bow as he moved off to carry out her orders.

 

***

 

Tommy pulled himself up from the bridge’s deck as he looked around to see the others slowly coming to. The Red Ranger was already on his feet and at his station.

 

“Oh man,” Justin mumbled as he rose to his feet. “Even my bruises have bruises…”

 

“Is everyone okay?” Tommy asked, and he received less than enthusiastic reassurances.

 

DECA’s voice came online once again. “A group of Quantrons is approaching the Megaship.”

 

“Quantrons?” Chris asked. “What are Quantrons?”

 

The Red Ranger turned and headed towards the turbolift as he answered. “Astronema’s high guard. I can handle them.”

 

The Red Ranger entered the turbolift as the doors started to shut, but Tommy’s hand reached out and stopped the doors.

 

“We’re coming with you,” he said as he and the others stepped inside.

 

***

 

A dozen Quantrons walked across the barren surface of the mountainous and rocky planet as they approached the fallen Megaship.

 

Tommy and his group ran outside of the ship alongside the Red Ranger as they charged towards the Quantrons.

 

The Red Ranger pulled a sidearm from his belt and aimed the weapon forward.

 

“Astro Sniper!” he shouted as he fired lances of blue energy that cut down a pair of Quantrons, blasting through their armor.

 

Tommy flipped through the air while launching a flying sidekick against a Quantron’s chest. He turned to his right while slamming his fist against another soldier’s face plate.

 

Justin flipped backwards while kicking a Quantron upside the head. He then spun forward while slamming a backfist across that soldier.

 

Chris slammed his elbow across a soldier’s head before snapping off a round kick that connected with the soldier’s midsection.

 

Ashley jump kicked a soldier, following with a reverse side kick that slammed against the Quantron’s chest armor.

 

Kat slammed a palm-heel blow against a soldier’s faceplate before snapping an outer crescent kick across the soldier’s head.

 

Tommy snapped the last soldier’s neck and let the body crumble to the ground as he looked around the battle scene and regrouped with the others.

 

The Red Ranger flashed with energy as his armor powered down. He wore a gray jump suit with pockets along both sides of the chest, arms, and legs, making it look like something a mechanic would wear. The top half of the suit was zipped down halfway, revealing a white undershirt. His hair was brown with streaks of blonde tied back in a pony tail.

 

He walked past the rangers and made his way towards the hull of the ship.

 

“Don’t mention it,” Justin said sarcastically.

 

The young man named Cy opened a panel on the outer hull of the ship and examined a readout. “Your shuttle was badly damaged, but I can make enough repairs to get you back to Earth.”

 

Tommy stepped forward. “We’re not going to Earth. We’re rangers from Earth…we were on our way to the Samarian planet to find Zordon. He was captured by…”

 

“Zordon’s not on the Samarian planet,” Cy said, not taking his eyes off the panel in front of him.

 

Tommy took a step closer. “How do you know?”

 

“I was just there,” Cy said as he shut the panel and nearly shoved Tommy aside on his way into the Megaship.

 

Tommy looked to his friends before following. “Anyone else really starting to like this guy?”

 

They followed Cy into the ship and down a corridor.

 

“You don’t understand…” Tommy started to say.

 

Cy stopped at a turbolift and turned to face them. “No, you don’t understand. I’ve been tracking down Zordon. I’ll find him, and I’ll do it alone.”

 

 “We should be working together,” Tommy said.

 

Cy gave them a look of disbelief. “You’re planetary rangers. From Earth. One of the most backwater worlds in the galaxy. What would you know about space?”

 

He entered the turbolift as it closed behind him.

 

Tommy rolled his hands up into fists. “I really don’t like that guy…”

 

Kat shook her head as she crossed her arms in front of her chest, a thoughtful look in her eyes. “There’s something he’s not telling us,” Kat said. “Something bad has happened to him.”

 

Tommy sighed with frustration. “That’s no reason for him to be rude…”

 

The others looked at him and each raised an eyebrow.

 

“What…?” Tommy said defensively. “…Oh come on, I wasn’t that bad at first…right guys…guys…?”

 

***

 

Cy was on his back while working on a panel above him in the engine room when Kat walked in.

 

“Your shuttle’s almost ready,” Cy said.

 

“And then what?” Kat asked.

 

“I thought I made that clear,” Cy said as he manipulated a wire. “You’ll go to Earth, and I’ll find Zordon.”

 

“No,” Kat said. “I meant then what for you? Just keep going around like this for the rest of your life?”

 

Cy wrinkled his brow as he turned his head to look at Kat. “Don’t pretend like you know me.”

 

“I don’t know you, Cy,” Kat said. “But it’s obvious what you’re doing. Something bad happened. Something terrible…and you think by trying to wage a one-man war you can make things right…make up for whatever it is that happened.”

 

Cy shook his head as he continued working. “You’re wrong.”

 

“I don’t think so,” Kat said. “You can’t undo whatever happened. And by trying to, all you’re doing is making things harder on everyone.”

 

Cy closed the panel as he rose from the ground.

 

“Your shuttle’s ready,” he said as he walked past Kat and left the engine room.

 

***

 

Justin and Chris were leaning outside the Megaship while looking across the alien landscape before them.

 

“Ya know…” Justin said. “Is it just me, or does every time we think this Ranger thing can’t get any weirder, something even more surreal happens?”

 

Chris smiled. “This definitely tops everything we’ve been through so far…”

 

A small pebble rolled to the ground from a cliff besides the Megaship as Chris’s eyes darted up.

 

“What is it?” Justin asked.

 

“I thought I saw something…” Chris said. “Up on that cliff.”

 

“Probably just the wind,” Justin said.

 

“Yeah,” Chris said sarcastically. “Just like that Machine Empire fighter-mech was just a cloud.”

 

***

 

Cy dismissed Chris’s possible sighting as a mild hallucination and left the planet on board the Megaship without saying another word. The rangers gathered around the shuttle as they planned their next move.

 

“So now what?” Ashley asked.

 

“I’m not sure,” Tommy said. “First things first, though. Let’s get the shuttle into orbit.”

 

The rangers heard a rock slide off to the side and snapped their heads to attention, but before they could see what made the noise, streaks of purple lightning slammed against them.

 

They lost consciousness before they hit the ground.

 

***

 

Tommy slowly awoke to find himself in a dark cavern along with his teammates. They were each chained to a jagged stone wall with their arms bound above their heads.

 

A young, frail woman was kneeling besides a fire in the center of the cave. She had mangled dark hair to match her deep black eyes, and she wore a vest of onyx scales over her chest. A ragged cloak was wrapped around her back.

 

She looked at the tied-up rangers and smiled with delight. Her face was painted chalk white, with gray, demonic patterns etched across her cheeks. “You’re awake, finally…mother will be pleased.”

 

“Who are you, witch?” Tommy asked as he struggled against his chains.

 

“Don’t bother,” the girl said as she rose and walked towards him. “Those chains are laced with an intricate spell. The more you struggle against them, the stronger they will become. You can’t break free.”

 

Tommy glared at her. “We’ll see about that…”

 

The girl laughed with amusement as she walked back towards her fire.

 

Justin struggled against his chains, his face turning red with anger. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with, lady. When we get free we’re going to whip your butt so bad you’ll…”

 

A powerfully framed woman entered the cave and cut off Justin. “Spare my daughter your bravado, rangers. We know who you are. That’s why you’re here.”

 

NightsisterThe woman also wore a vest of black scales, but it was covered with a loose-fitting vest of dark-gray silk. The same material was wrapped around her legs and forearms. Her head was covered with a wide hat that fanned upward, and two strips of cloth hung down from the brim. The cloth had the same gray, demonic markings that were drawn across her chalk-white face.

 

The woman placed her hands on her daughter’s shoulders. “You’ve done well, Synthi.”

 

“Thank you, mother,” Synthi said with a gleam of pride in her eye.

 

“Who are you?” Tommy asked again.

 

“I am Rayveyn,” she said. “Member of a powerful coven of witches here on Hayden. The Night Sisters.”

 

“We’re not impressed,” Ashley said.

 

Synthi extended her pale hand and fired a pulse of purple lightning that slammed against Ashley.

 

“Stop!” Tommy yelled. “Do that again and the hand comes off.”

 

Synthi laughed as she walked towards Tommy. “Can I keep him, mother? He amuses me…”

 

Rayveyn smiled as she shook her head. “I am afraid not. You know their fate…”

 

Three more Night Sisters entered the room, and the five of them circled around the flame. One of them began whispering an incantation as Rayveyn looked to the rangers and smiled.

 

“This planet has a rather unique circle of life and power,” she said. “The natives of this world, the Slithanshi, are bound to the planet’s energy. What strengthens them, strengthens the planet, which in turn strengthens us.”

 

Justin shook his head. “I don’t like where this is going,” he said quietly.

http://a131.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/32/l_a860ad51287533fd9f3541c7a0ee9a8a.gif 

A hole in the side of the cave opened and three massive man/snake creatures slithered forth. The bottom half of their bodies were serpent tails, each thicker than three human bodies. The tails melded seamlessly with the chests of the creatures. They were covered in tan scales, and their bald heads had short spikes on top. Their eyes were yellow with black slits, and their lipless mouths had columns of yellow fangs.

 

Rayveyn continued. “You five will give this planet a considerable amount of energy. I have already contacted Astronema. When she arrives and sees that I have killed you and used your power for our own, we will be handsomely rewarded and given the highest regard in the circle of Sauron.”

 

One of the Slithanshi moved towards Kat as saliva dripped from its fangs.

 

“Hey!” Justin shouted at the creature. “You don’t want her, she’s all skin and bone. Come over here!”

 

Another creature slowly slithered towards Ashley. It moved in close enough for her to snap a kick upside the creature’s head.

 

“You want some more, try coming at me again…” she said defiantly.

 

Tommy thought fast. The chains were laced with a spell, which meant he could summon all his strength and it would do no good. Unless…

 

Throughout Tommy’s four years as a ranger, he had been told that his powers were magick-based. Maybe he could use his powers to counteract the spell.

 

He closed his eyes and reached out with his mind across the chain. He could feel the spell wrapped around the bindings. It was cold and dark. It was almost like thread. He applied fire energy against the cold threads of magick, causing them to expand. He slowly worked the spell with his mind, unraveling it with a surprising amount of ease.

 

Tommy snapped his eyes open as he glared at one of the Slithanshi.

 

“Hey ugly,” he shouted to one of the creatures. “What are you waiting for?”

 

The Slithanshi hissed as it pounced towards Tommy with its claws outstretched and its jaw opened.

 

Tommy pulled the chains from the wall and whipped them around the creature’s neck as it cried out in surprise. He flipped over and landed on the creature’s back as he pulled the chains tighter around the creature’s throat.

 

The other Slithanshi turned just in time to see Tommy snap the creature’s neck as its lifeless body dropped to the ground.

 

Tommy flipped off of the Slithanshi and ran towards the Night Sisters. Synthi extended her hand and fired a pulse of purple electricity as Tommy purposely fell backwards and let the blast extend over him. The bolt slammed against one of the Slithanshi as it howled in pain.

 

The two creatures turned their attention towards the Night Sisters and slithered towards them while hissing a hideous war cry.

 

“Foolish child!” Rayveyn shouted as the Night Sisters backed away from the incoming Slithanshi.

 

While the Night Sisters were distracted, Tommy ran over to his teammates and pulled them free from their chains while unwinding the spells.

 

The Night Sisters were backing away towards the cave exit while firing bursts of purple lightning. The only other way out was the hole the Slithanshi came through.

 

“We’ll have to go this way,” Tommy said as he ran towards the hole.

 

“Uh, Tommy,” Chris said. “That’s where the man-eating snakes came from…”

 

Ashley placed a hand on Chris’s shoulder. “It’ll be fine…now what are we waiting for?”

 

The five rangers leapt through the hole.

 

***

 

The Megaship blasted through hyperspace as Cy stood alone on the bridge.

 

“Cy,” DECA said, “your mission was to deliver the Digitizers and Galaxy Mega to the rangers.”

 

“I know what I’m doing, DECA,” Cy said.

 

“The mission entrusted to you by Zordon was to deliver the Digitizers and Galaxy Mega to the rangers,” DECA said again.

 

Cy wrinkled his brow as he tightened his grip on the forward controls.

 

***

 

The rangers slid through the hole and landed in a dimly-lit tunnel that extended three stories up. They rose to their feet and brushed themselves off as they looked around the rocky tunnel, large slabs of stone lying beneath their feet.

 

“Let’s get moving,” Tommy said as they started walking forward through the tunnel.

 

They stayed alert as the tunnel widened around them with every step they took. A Slithanshi suddenly slid down the wall and landed in front of Ashley as it hissed at the top of its lungs.

 

She instinctively leapt to the side wall and pushed off while slamming a spin kick across the creature’s face.

 

All around the rangers, the snake-like creatures slithered from the walls and surrounded them.

 

“This was a bad, bad plan,” Justin said as he assumed a fighting stance, and the Slithanshi circled around their prey.

 

Tommy rolled his hands up into fists as he felt the fire rise inside of him. It had been a year since he’d used his Kiryoku in such a situation. He was fearful of the potential corruption his own energy would bring, but he knew he didn’t have a choice.

 

“I’m going to clear a path,” Tommy said. “Then start running. I’ll cover you…”

 

Tommy slammed his fist against the ground as he shouted “Fire Wave!”

 

A massive energy pulse tore through the ground and exploded beneath the rear group of Slithanshi, clearing a path as the other four rangers started to run.

 

Tommy turned towards the other Slithanshi, a feral grin spreading across his face. He hated to admit it, but letting loose again felt good…a sensation only matched by another quite enjoyable experience.

 

Four Slithanshi slithered towards him. One sprang forward while opening its jaws wide to bite down at the ranger.

 

“Burn Knuckle!” Tommy shouted as his fist energized and slammed the Slithanshi in the face. The ranger followed through with a leaping sidekick that crashed against the creature’s chest.

 

Tommy jumped off of the monster while extending his hands and shouting “Fire Wave!”

 

A stream of fiery energy shot forth as a wall of fire erupted, cutting across the corridor and separating Tommy from the creatures.

 

He tried to catch his breath, calm himself after the use of power as he ran back towards his friends.

 

Tommy joined the others by a light at the start of the tunnel. It was a steep downward slope that seemed to lead outside.

 

Ashley took notice of the stone slabs beneath their feet.

 

“We could slide down,” she said. “Using these slabs like boards.”

 

“Sounds like a plan,” Tommy said.

 

A scarred and burnt Slithanshi suddenly sprang forward from behind the rangers and tackled against Tommy. The two fell onto the slope and began sliding downward.

 

“Tommy!” Ashley shouted.

 

Tommy rolled the creature underneath him to protect himself as they plummeted at high speeds down the slope. The creature howled as the stone slabs cut through his back. Tommy slammed a hook punch across the creature’s face to lessen its resistance as the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter.

 

Back at the top of the slope, Ashley tossed a stone slab down. “What are we waiting for? Let’s go…”

 

The rangers each used their slab as a board and began sliding down the slope in an impressive display of balance as they picked up speed.

 

Tommy struck the creature again as the two sped towards the end of the tunnel. Tommy opened his eyes wide with shock when he realized the slope ended at a drop off point at the edge of a high cliff.

 

“Great,” he said as he slid towards the drop. He pushed off of the Slithanshi as the two slid off the edge and dropped towards the chasm. He used his push to jump up and grab hold of the edge of the cliff as the creature howled to its death, plummeting towards the unseen ground below.

 

The other rangers slid to a stop as Tommy climbed up to the ledge.

 

“That was one hell of a ride,” Justin said as he tried to catch his breath.

 

“You’re telling me,” Tommy said as he stared across the chasm to a flat-surfaced mountain across from them.

 

“Did you guys keep your chains?” Tommy asked, pleased to find they had in case they were needed as weapons.

 

“Okay,” he said, “here’s the plan…I’ll use my Ki to jump to the other side of the mountain after I link our chains together. Then you can climb the chain across.

 

The sound of more Slithanshi at the top of the slope motivated them to work quickly. Tommy used his power to wield the chain together as he bent his legs and leapt off of the cliff, flipping through the air before landing in a crouched position on the other side.

 

Ashley smiled. “Show off…”

 

The rangers climbed over on the chain just in time to look over their shoulders and see three Slithanshi slide out of control and plummet towards their doom.

 

“Not too bright,” Justin said.

 

The rangers turned and ran across the surface of the flat mountain until suddenly, explosions danced around them, and they dove for cover.

 

mega-nb-stingraynejireThe rangers regrouped while rising to their knees and looked ahead to see a teleportation beam strike the ground in front of them. From the beam stepped a Sting Ray-type monster and a group of foot soldiers with twisted purple-and-gold bodies. It was one of Astronema’s genetic creations and a group of her Craterite soldiers.

 

“Looks like Astronema’s back,” Justin said.

 

“We’ll have to fight through ‘em,” Tommy said. “Let’s go!”

 

The rangers charged forward as the Craterites rushed towards them with their jagged sabers raised.

 

Tommy flipped forward through the air as he flying sidekicked the monster against the chest. The others fought against the Craterites, their time as Zeo Rangers making them experienced in fighting large groups of grunts, but the task was significantly harder without their powers.

 

The Sting Ray grabbed Tommy by the throat and kneed him in the chest, knocking him backward. Every cell in Tommy’s body was crying out to launch a Hell Fire attack and incinerate the monster, but he didn’t want to risk it.

 

The others ran to his side and helped Tommy to his feet as the Craterites regrouped.

 

“There’s too many to face without our powers,” Kat said.

 

The Sting Ray fired optic blasts that exploded around the rangers as they leapt for cover, but the shockwave knocked them to the ground.

 

The bruised and battered rangers regrouped as the monster and Craterites continued their advance. The Sting Ray growled as it narrowed its blood-red eyes.

 

Then as if from no where, blaster bolts exploded against the monster and soldiers.

 

The rangers looked to their right to see Cy running towards them with a silver plated blaster in each hand. He snapped off a few more plasma bursts before moving over to the rangers.

 

Cy pulled four black rectangular wrist braces from his jump suit and handed them to Chris, Justin, Ashley, and Kat.

 

“Put these on,” he said to them as they strapped the devices around their left wrists. “To install the Astro Ranger program, input code ‘3-3-5-Enter.’”

 

Cy unstrapped the brace he wore over his own wrist and hesitated briefly before handing it to Tommy.

 

“This was meant for you…” Cy said.

 

Tommy nodded. “Thank you.”

 

The five rangers stepped forward as they readied their Digitizers.

 

“Alright guys,” Tommy said. “Let’s take care of business…it’s morphin time!”

 

“Install…Astro Ranger!” they shouted as they input the code, and digital energy formed around them as they morphed into their new Ranger forms.

 

“Astro Red!” Tommy shouted.

 

“Astro Black!” Chris yelled.

 

“Astro Blue!” Justin called.

 

“Astro Yellow!” Ashley shouted.

 

“Astro Pink!” Kat called.

 

“Digital Task Force…Astro Rangers!” they shouted together.

 

Cy looked to the Rangers with a look of sorrow in his eyes as they started to crash against the Craterites. A group of the soldiers moved in from behind him, and Cy armed his blasters while running forward and firing at them.

 

Astro Yellow jump reverse-hook kicked a soldier against the collar bone and skipped forward with a jump kick against a soldier’s face.

 

Astro Black ducked under a soldier’s blade while slamming an uppercut against the Craterite’s midsection, then elbowed the soldier in the back.

 

“Astro Sniper!” Astro Pink shouted as she readied her sidearm and fired lances of blue energy that cut through a trio of soldiers in front of her.

 

Astro Blue jumped while crashing his heels against a soldier’s temples. He landed on the ground and rolled under a soldier’s saber before rising to his knees and flipping that soldier to the ground.

 

Astro Red roundhoused a Craterite to the ground before side stepping and slamming a hook kick across another soldier’s head. A soldier swung a blade down towards his helmet, but he grabbed the Craterite by the arm and flipped the soldier to the ground.

 

The monster charged forward while the Rangers were distracted and began slamming against them one by one. Red, Black, Blue, Yellow…

 

When he reached Astro Pink, he grabbed her by the throat and tossed her over his shoulder. She hit the ground hard as the Rangers grouped around her and helped her to her feet.

 

The Sting Ray lashed out with its tail, striking the Rangers backward as explosions sparked against their armor.

 

Cy blasted a Craterite aside as he looked to the team. “Use your helmets’ systems…”

 

The Rangers rose to their feet as the icons on their helmets flashed to life.

 

Astro Yellow smiled beneath her face plate. “Just the thing…”

 

The digital camera icon on her helmet produced a flash of yellow energy that teleported herself, the monster, and the Rangers into an artificially created digital pocket dimension.

 

The monster crashed on the ground of a black void surrounded by a jagged neon-green grid.

 

The Rangers leapt out from the void and attacked. Astro Yellow and Astro Pink slammed knifehand blows against him, Astro Blue and Astro Black flying sidekicked the creature, and Astro Red leapt forward with his hands in an ‘x’ pattern as he struck the monster beneath its face.

 

The Sting Ray quickly recovered from the attacks and sprang forward while gliding through the Rangers’ formation and striking them across their armor in one swoop.

 

The monster angled around and went in for another attack as he tackled against Astro Black, but the Black Ranger held his ground and grabbed onto the monster while swinging him around and tossing him through the air.

 

The Rangers regrouped.

 

“Weapons, guys,” Astro Red shouted as the Rangers used their visor menus to select their weapons.

 

The Sting Ray fired a pair of optic blasts that exploded around the Rangers, but they charged through the shower of sparks to attack their opponent.

 

Astro Pink leapt to the side while shouting “Astro Capture!”

 

Her satellite weapon fired rings of pink energy that exploded against the monster.

 

Astro Blue downloaded his Astro Tomahawk as he shouted “Tomahawk Hurricane!”

 

He spun forward like a tornado while holding his blade out and slashing against the Sting Ray.

 

“Astro Rod!” Astro Black shouted as he armed his staff and speared it against the monster, using his hold to lift the creature off its feet.

 

Astro Yellow took aim with her weapon as Astro Black held the creature with his staff.

 

“Astro Sling!” she shouted as she fired lances of golden energy that exploded against the monster.

 

Astro Red moved in next with his Drill Saber as he activated the weapon, and the drill began to spin.

 

“Saber Slash!” he shouted. The blade energized and cut across the monster diagonally and then horizontally. Explosions sparked across the monster as he was thrown from the pocket dimension.

 

The Rangers slowly walked across the rocky ground as the injured monster struggled to rise to its feet. The Sting Ray breathed a final gasp of pain before collapsing to the ground, and the energy contained inside of him overloaded and exploded.

 

***

 

Astronema was standing on the bridge of her Dark Fortress when Eclipter approached her. He stood behind her and declined his head. “Princess…” he said. “We have received word that the attack group sent to Hayden has been destroyed by the band of Earth Rangers.”

 

She turned to face her warrior as her grip tightened along her staff. “I thought they were powerless…”

 

“They’ve become Astro Rangers,” Eclipter said, unable to meet Astronema’s eyes.

 

“Very well,” Astronema said as she turned to her forward viewport. “I want their ship found and destroyed. This time…we’ll make sure a more appropriate force is sent to deal with them.”

 

“Yes, princess,” Eclipter said as he backed away.

 

***

 

Synthi watched from the highest of cliffs as the Megaship streaked through the sky and left the planet’s atmosphere. A cold smile crept across her face.

 

“We’ll meet again, Rangers…” she said. “Next time we won’t underestimate you…”

 

***

 

Cy was leading the rangers through the halls of the Megaship, finishing a preliminary tour of the ship’s systems. The rangers were dressed in gray jumpsuits that matched Cy’s, only their undershirts were their primary colors.

 

“If we’re going to do this,” Cy was saying. “We’ll need supplies, weapons, anything we can get our hands on. The ship also needs more extensive repairs.”

 

“We could go to Earth,” Ashley said. “INET can help us out…”

 

Cy shook his head. “Returning to Earth would be out of our way.”

 

“You said yourself,” Kat said. “We need supplies and repairs, and since INET built this ship…”

 

Cy breathed a sigh of defeat. “Fine…we’ll go to Earth…”

 

The rangers entered the bridge and assumed their stations.

 

“And after Earth,” Tommy said. “We go find Zordon.”

 

Cy nodded as he placed his hands on the control lever in front of him. “DECA, maximum hyper-rush velocity…”

 

The Megaship blasted through hyperspace in burst of a light.

 

To be continued…Chapter 02