Rangers in Space: Chapter Eleven

Rigel Campaign: Part Two

 

The Coalition managed to reclaim the outpost Nerata with few casualties. Nerata was in the mid-rim of the Expanse and crucial to supplying materials needed for hyperspace travel. Jakanja chose this location for their fourth attack in the Rigel system.

 

A creature resembling a scorpion-and-beetle hybrid stalked across the outpost, its black shell armor revealing slight patches of red, twisted muscle. A group of soldiers accompanied the creature. They were black with red stitches across their bodies. They were known as Kelzaks.

 

The outpost rested near the base of a volcano, the ground covered with steel armor plating and dotted with small, metal hut-like structures. The scorpion extended its tail over its head and fired venom blasts that exploded across the compound.

 

Troops tried to shoot the creatures down, but their conventional weapons were nearly ineffective.

 

The Kelzaks split up and attacked, slashing through troops with crimson blades.

 

The scorpion hissed as it prepared to strike again, its mandibles primed and tail raised into the air. It never got the chance.

 

A powerful gust of wind blew across the air, knocking the creature to the ground as it skid backward.

 

The creature looked up to the roof a nearby building to see a young man in red and white standing with his arms crossed. He wore the symbol of the Falcon on his chest.

 

“Go back to your hole, bug eyes,” Tommy said.

 

Two blurs of motion, one black and one blue, slammed against the Kelzaks.

 

Chris, in blue garments with the symbol of the Shark, somersaulted through the air and slammed his fists against a Kelzak’s chest. That soldier was knocked backward and crashed against a small group of soldiers. He turned to his right and extended his hand, his palm pulsing with cyan energy as a trio of water discs sprung out.

 

The discs became razor sharp as they hacked through a group of Kelzaks.

 

A lopsided grin spread across Chris’s face as he watched the soldiers fall to his water attack. “Sweet…”

 

Chris and the other Astro Rangers, besides Tommy, weren’t used to a direct link to The Power. The experience was new to them, and they couldn’t help but enjoy it to a degree.

 

Justin stood in a fighting stance as a group of Kelzaks rushed towards him, his black uniform bearing the symbol of the Panther.

 

“Who wants some?” Justin asked as the Kelzaks continued their advance.

 

The ranger spun forward with a reverse sidekick that slammed against a soldier’s face. He followed by spinning around that Kelzak and slamming his fist against the ground, producing a small shockwave that knocked several of the soldiers off their feet.

 

A Kelzak leapt towards Justin’s back with a sword aimed downward to strike. The blade would have driven through the ranger if not for a jagged shadow blast that exploded against the soldier and knocked it backwards.

 

“Whoa,” Justin said as he looked back to see who had saved him from impalement.

 

It was Cy, his crimson garbs donned with the symbol of a Kerovian insect called the Jahvin.

 

“Thanks,” Justin said.

 

“Don’t mention it,” Cy said as he turned and slammed a hook kick across an oncoming soldier’s head.

 

Ashley stood ready in her golden robes as a group of Kelzaks rushed towards her. She placed her hands in front of her chest, where she wore a scarab symbol, and lightning danced between her palms.

 

She snapped her hand forward and hurled a lightning bolt that scorched through a soldier as energy tentacles snaked and exploded against another group of Kelzaks.

 

Nearby, Kat flipped forward and brought her heal crashing down against a soldier’s collar bone. She wore green garments and the symbol of an Eagle.

 

Kat turned to her left and extended her palm, launching a jagged beam of jade-tinted sonic energy that ripped through a group of soldiers.

 

The monster whipped its tail around and aimed at the green-robed ranger while firing a venom blast. Kat managed to jump clear, but the blast’s shockwave sent her flailing out of control.

 

“Kat!” Justin shouted as he leapt to her aide. Cy sprang forward as well.

 

Justin grabbed Kat and rolled across the ground with her in his arms as they narrowly missed another venom blast. Cy leapt towards the creature with a jump kick aimed to the head, but the monster grabbed the ranger’s ankle and tossed him aside like a rag doll.

 

Tommy somersaulted forward through the air and landed in a crouched position in front of the monster while assuming a fighting stance. The two opponents started circling around each other, probing for weaknesses.

 

The creature charged forward first with its claws extended to strike at Tommy’s head. The ranger leapt forward with a spinning heel kick that slammed across the monster’s skull. Tommy landed and snapped his left leg around in a hook kick that smashed across the creature’s head a second time.

 

Tommy turned to face the creature as flames circled around his fist.

 

“Blazing Cyclone!” he shouted as he punched forward, creating a straight line whirlwind of flame that ripped through the monster.

 

The energy inside the creature overloaded as its body exploded.

 

***

 

The outpost’s main command bunker was hexagonal and reinforced with several layers of armor plating. The set up inside was simple, with chairs set up around a single triangular table with a holo-projector at its center.

 

The six rangers sat along one triangle arm with Spriggan representatives on the other side. Fleet command officials sat at the base of the triangle.

 

The admiral of fleet command was a member of the feline Fray’loth race, whose homeworld was in between Edenoi and Aquitar. The Fray’loth were recruited to join the resistance by Prince Trey and were known for their political prowess and cunning.

 

The white-furred Admiral Trefli’ah sat forward. “There is a problem with this new proposed action, Rangers. Sauron’s forces have laid hyperspace mines along the Rigel System, allowing only two entry points. We haven’t gained a sufficient foothold in the Expanse to push down either of these routes.”

 

Tommy shook his head. “I realize what you’re saying is true, but the real threat to this Expanse isn’t Sauron anymore. It’s Jakanja.”

 

The admiral’s fur shifted backward as he gave the ranger a skeptical look. “That is irrelevant. Regardless of who possess Rigel, we must advance further before the system is to be liberated.”

 

“Besides,” one of the admiral’s aids spoke up. He was Triforian. “This Jakanja hasn’t proved a significant threat.”

 

Justin shook his head. “I think the people in the infirmary might disagree with that, commander…”

 

Ashley nodded. “They’re spreading, and we can’t be everywhere to stop them.”

 

The admiral was aghast as he looked to Cy. “Surely you can talk some sense into these Terrans. If you have half the tactical ability as your late older brother, you must realize that what they’re asking is not possible…”

 

Cy’s brother was an active commander of the Kerovian navy before KO-35 fell to Sauron and he lost his life.

 

Cy shook his head. “Jakanja doesn’t follow conventional space-war tactics. Their presence here confirms that.”

 

“We just need to break through Sauron’s perimeter, get to Rigel, and stop Jakanja,” Tommy said. “Then you can take as much time setting up an occupation force as you want.”

 

Trefli’ah shook his head. “We can’t afford to throw away ships for such an endeavor.”

 

“You wouldn’t be throwing them away,” Tommy said. “I’m sure Prince Trey would agree with me.”

 

Trefli’ah tilted his head. “What are you saying?”

 

Tommy looked to Kat. “Head back to the Megaship and open a channel to Trey. Tell him Trefli’ah-”

 

“Wait,” the admiral said with a look of defeat on his face, not wanting to suffer the embarrassment of Triforian ships being stripped from his command. “What is your plan, Terran?”

 

“Chris,” Tommy said as he looked to his friend.

 

Chris pulled out a small data pad and took a deep breath to calm his nerves. He activated the holo-projector as an image of the circular expanse hovered above the table.

 

“I think there’s a way we can punch through a section of the mine field and head to Rigel through the Maramarey corridor,” Chris said.

 

“Ha,” Trefli’ah said. “Now I know you are mad…even if you somehow managed to bring down a section of the mine field, the Maramarey corridor is dotted with gravimetric anomalies. No ship could make it through the corridor in one piece.”

 

“We could do it,” Chris said. “We could stage the attack from the planet Memnon, which is already under your control. The mine field is regulated by a pair of control stations: one on Rigel itself and another just outside the core. Both stations need to be taken out to collapse the mine field.”

 

Justin nodded in agreement. “Since the Maramarey corridor is full of these anomalies, we won’t have much resistance. A small flotilla will be enough to punch through their lines.”

 

Trefli’ah hissed through his nose. “I don’t even know where to begin pointing out the errors of this so-called plan. How do you purpose we navigate the gravitational anomalies? How can you possibly bring down both relay stations when the mines stand between you and the primary station?”

 

“Think creatively, Trefli’ah,” Justin said with a sly grin.

 

Ashley pulled out her data pad before Trefli’ah could speak back. “A computer virus injected into the secondary station on our side of the mine field should clear our entry corridor. As for navigating through the gravitational anomalies…that’s a little trickier.”

 

Ashley activated a holographic image of the small fold gate array along the bottom of the Megaship. “This fold gate is highly experimental, and fatal to anything living. However…we think we can modify our hyperspace engines for a similar effect.”

 

Trefli’ah tilted his head, and it was obvious he had little knowledge of complex subspace mechanics.

 

“The fold system itself operates on a co-axial subspace system that, in a literal sense, folds space and hyperspace for near instantaneous travel,” Ashley continued. “I’ve been studying the co-axial drive and think we can use it as a template for a new type of hyperspace travel that would allow us to move in between space and hyperspace. Wedge through the two.”

 

Trefli’ah shook his head. “That’s ludicrous.”

 

Cy spoke up in Ashley’s defense. “It’s not…scientists on KO-35 were experimenting with something similar before the invasion. The results were promising.”

 

“While Ashley’s working on engine upgrades for the flotilla,” Tommy said, “the rest of the fleet can continue its push towards the Expanse’s core.”

 

Trefli’ah leaned backward with a skeptical look in his eyes. “How long would these modifications take?”

 

“A day with an engineering crew,” Ashley said.

 

The Fray’loth native’s fur wrinkled as he considered the rangers’ proposal. “Very well…on one condition.”

 

“And what’s that?” Tommy asked.

 

“I will lead the flotilla,” Trefli’ah said.

 

Tommy’s first instinct was to refuse, then he remembers he had no experience commanding space battle groups.

 

“Fine,” Tommy said. “But I’ll be on your bridge alongside you.”

 

The feline nodded, and Tommy wished he could read the fur on the alien’s face.

 

***

 

Raisik stood on the balcony extending from his towering obsidian castle on Rigel. The make-shift palace speared from the center of the world’s capital like a jagged dagger. Sauron’s occupation forces lied dead below, and every life taken had added to Jakanja’s strength.

 

A small ant-like creature clung to the side of the wall. He was nearly 6-inches tall and spoke in a high, squeaky voice.

 

“The Rock Heads tried to attack us again this morning,” the creature said with amusement, referring to the remaining Sedementarians on the planet.

 

Raisik smiled. “It’s amusing that Sauron thinks he can rule this galaxy through such conventional means…ships, soldiers, blasters…his legends are overrated.” He turned to face the ant. “What word from Nerata, Zergain?”

 

The ant, Zergain, answered. “The rangers destroyed your creation. They’re on their way.”

 

Raisik turned back towards the balcony opening as a predatory grin spread across his face. “Let them come…”

 

His thoughts drifted back to his first encounter with the rangers in the mage praxium on Eltar…

 

“Well, well,” a voice said from behind Tommy and Rocky. They turned to see someone their age wearing a dark red robe standing amongst friends. “If it isn’t the ‘Rangers.’ ”

 

“Can we help you?” Rocky asked.

 

The adept laughed. “My name is Raisik. Perhaps you’ve heard the others speak of me.”

 

“Can’t say we have,” Tommy said.

 

Raisik wrinkled his brow. “I don’t like your attitude, human.”

 

Tommy shook his head. “We don’t want any trouble.”

 

The two rangers turned to leave, but Raisik fired a sphere of arcane energy that blasted the door in front of them. “I’m not through with you yet.”

 

The two rangers turned.

 

“What do you want?” Tommy asked.

 

“To see what you’re made of, ‘Dragon Ranger,’” he said. “I hear you’re the strongest Ranger ever. Even killed DaiSatan.”

 

“That’s right,” Tommy said.

 

“Don’t forget the Gorma,” Rocky said.

 

“Don’t worry,” the adept said. “I’m not talking about a duel to the death. I just want to test your skill. We have places here for just that.”

 

Tommy looked to Rocky. Rocky shrugged. “It’s not like we have anything better to do.”

 

“You’re on,” Tommy said.

 

***

 

Tommy and Raisik faced off in a small area fenced off by a force-field. Rocky watched outside the field with a handful of adepts and apprentices.

 

Raisik tossed Tommy a golden cylinder similar to the one he carried.

 

Raisik held the cylinder and it activated, producing a blade of energy.

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Tommy said as he fumbled with the device.

 

Raisik laughed. “It doesn’t have an on switch. You have to channel your energy through it.”

 

Tommy did so and produced a blade.

 

Tommy stood in a fighting stance as Raisik charged towards him.

 

With two fluid motions, Tommy knocked Raisik’s blade away and smacked him in the chest with the end of the handle. He then fired a Ki blast that struck Raisik hard and sent him crashing into the field.

 

“Have you ever actually been in a fight before?” Tommy asked.

 

Raisik glared at the teen and whispered an incantation. A sphere of arcane energy appeared in his hands, and he hurled the blast towards Tommy. Tommy effortlessly dodged the blast.

 

“You’re trying too hard,” Tommy said.

 

Raisik launched at Tommy with a flurry of punches and kicks that the ranger dodged.

 

“Try by not trying,” Tommy said as he backfisted Raisik in the face.

 

“Do by not doing,” Tommy said as he reverse sidekicked the adept, sending him crashing against the field. “Something my sensei Kaku taught me that you should try.”

 

“He sounds like a loser.”

 

Rocky shook his head. “He should not have said that.”

 

Tommy launched at the adept and pounded him with kicks and punches. He then gathered a sphere of energy and shouted “Kiryoku bomber!” as he slammed the sphere against the adept and sent him slamming against the field.

 

“Have I proven enough yet?” Tommy asked.

 

Raisik nodded, and the field disappeared.

 

Tommy turned and walked away, and then he was hit in the back by an arcane blast.

 

Raisik then jumpkicked Tommy to the ground.

 

“Not fair!” Rocky shouted. He went to help his friend, but the other adepts held him back.

 

Raisik kicked Tommy while he lay on the ground.

 

“Get up Dragon Ra-”

 

He was cut off as Tommy leapt up, grabbed him by the throat, and pushed him against a column. “Don’t they teach you about a thing called honor in this little school?”

 

The adept was silent.

 

“Let me tell you the most important lesson you’ll ever hear. Something Zordon and Kaku both told me. You’ve been given this power, and you have to use it responsibly. This is not a game.”

 

The adept nodded. Tommy dropped him on the ground and walked off with Rocky.

 

“What he said,” Rocky said as he joined his leader.

 

***

 

Admiral Trefli’ah stood tall, while on the bridge of his battle cruiser, with his arms crossed around his back. The Fray’loth looked out his wide, narrow viewport as Tommy stood by his right side.

 

“Opposition will be fierce,” Trefli’ah said while keeping his gaze forward. “They are not likely to let their relay station fall so easily.”

 

Tommy nodded as he saw the rest of the flotilla fall into formation through the battle cruiser’s viewport. The warship itself was a Talvoth-class Fray'loth Warbird.

 

Two gold-and-black armored Triforian cruisers formed up ahead of the Fray’loth war ship. The two cruisers, Gizia-class Battle Dragons, were brimmed with plasma cannons.

 

Two gunships fell into position in between the Triforian vessels. Each gunship was a Triforian Nova Cruiser, which had a long neck and wings swooping down from the aft section of the hull.

 

“We’ll be ready,” Tommy said.

 

Trefli’ah’s group was leading the attack towards the relay station. Once at the station, Tommy, Chris, Ashley, and a Spriggan unit would enter and take down a section of the mine field.

 

The ranger looked to the crew pit off to his right. “Is the Megaship’s group in position?”

 

“Affirmative,” a creature resembling a humanoid Doberman said.

 

Cy, Justin, and Kat were taking the Megaship, along with a smaller vessel contingent, to divert attention away from the relay station. The two flotillas would regroup before pushing through the minefield.

 

“All hands,” Trefli’ah said. “Battle stations…”

 

***

 

The Megaship throttled between subspace and real-space like a wedge on its way through the Maramarey corridor. The ship’s hull seemed to fade in and out as if shifting back and forth between reality.

 

The decks shook violently on the Megaship’s bridge as the vessel’s structural integrity fields were pushed to the limits.

 

Justin’s knuckles were turning white from clutching onto his console. Kat was besides him at her station, eyes wide looking ahead at the viewport. The lines of space were twisting and fluctuating at indescribable intervals and patterns.

 

Justin managed to place a hand on her shoulder to let her know it would be okay. She managed a weak smile in return.

 

Cy wrinkled his brow as he watched the exchange. He quickly shook his head to clear his mind.

 

This isn’t the time for jealousy, he thought as he looked back down to his console.

 

The engine modifications were running smoothly, despite the fact it felt like the ship was shaking apart at the seams. An fleet engineering team was monitoring the Mega Accelerator in case any adjustments were needed. Cy didn’t like having them on board, but without Ashley, he guessed he needed them.

 

“We’re approaching the mine field,” Justin reported.

 

Cy looked to Kat. “Order the ships to veer off to sector theta-nine of the mine field. Attack formation Hammer.”

 

“Right,” Kat said as her fingers danced across the control panel.

 

The Megaship speared into real-space along with the Delta Mega and a small task force: two Rigelian Spear-class gunships and a wing of V-Fighters. Their goal was to make the enemy think they were trying to punch through the field by force. This would hopefully divert attention away from the relay station itself.

 

The mines stretched as far as the eye could see, each resembling a bulky disc with several prongs extending from it. Besides the ability to detonate against any ship traveling by through real-space or hyperspace, they were armed with high-yield particle beam cannons and heavy shielding.

 

“The mines are coming online,” Justin reported.

 

“Fire the Mega-lasers,” Cy commanded. “Full spread. Polarize the hull plating.”

 

The Coalition group opened fire, splintering darts of plasma and energy blasts against the mines’ heavy armor. The mines rotated and locked onto the ships while arming their particle beam cannons.

 

“Hold on,” Cy said as he grabbed the pilot’s yoke in front of him.

 

Cy throttled the ship forward through a nose dive while rolling to port as lances of fiery particle beams stabbed from the mines. Cy brought the ship through evasive maneuvers while some of the blasts exploded against the ship’s hull.

 

The Delta Mega corkscrewed forward while blazing its cannons. Two of the gunships fell into formation alongside the Delta Mega and opened fire on the mines with a volley of concussion torpedoes and proton missiles.

 

“Kat,” Cy said as he flipped the Megaship to starboard to avoid a particle beam volley. “Send the package.”

 

“Opening frequencies,” she said while activating her controls.

 

The rangers had devised a method of interfering with the mine’s frequencies. This would cause the mines to target each other, but only for a short time. The mines each had separate countermeasures, such as frequency modulation and signal disruption, that could disrupt the Megaship’s attempts at control.

 

However, the enemy would be alerted when the mines started to turn on each other, and they would respond in force.

 

The Megaship’s signal disrupted a few clusters of mines and caused them to go berserk. The mines targeted each other and ripped against each others’ armor plating with massive volleys of particle beams and disrupters.

 

***

 

The relay station hung in space, bristling with armor plating and weaponry. A small fleet flew around the giant station. The enemy flotilla consisted of four Sedementarian Grokgrn-class battle cruisers, five Vingian Killik-class battle cruisers, eight Vingian Nieav-class assault ships, and ten narrow Sedementarian Grokgok-class frigate gunships. A swarm of fighters covered the flotilla.

 

A small unmarked freighter entered the outskirts of the system and limped towards the station on half power. The cruiser was bottle shaped with a bulky twin-engine assembly.

 

Two of the narrow frigates broke formation and moved forward to investigate the craft. The rest of the group held back in attack formation, suspecting a trap.

 

The gunships opened fire on the small craft after it denied answering hails. The ship exploded into a burst of flames, but not before shooting off an undetected volley of transporter beams towards the station.

 

***

 

Trefli’ah’s battle group blasted from hyperspace near the relay station and immediately launched fighters. The enemy fighters launched to intercept.

 

Trefli’ah wrinkled his fur as he stared through his viewport at the incoming fighter craft.

 

“They want captors,” the commander said. He looked down to the crew pit. “Dispatch fighter groups A and B to counter attack. Pattern starburst. Lure them into position of our gunships’ firing range.”

 

Tommy shook his head. “You’d be leaving us wide open…how can you be sure they want captives?”

 

Trefli’ah continued to look forward as the fighters broke formation to attack.

 

“The Vingian are commanding this fleet,” he said. “The Sedementarians would attack in one swoop with full force. They lack creativity.”

 

“Still…” Tommy started to say.

 

“The Vingians believe we are attacking in desperation,” Trefli’ah continued. “That our plans failed. They want to learn more about our forces. More specifically…more about you and your Rangers. They plan to lure us out and disable one of our craft.”

 

Trefli’ah pointed a clawed finger towards the viewport at the enemy formation. “Look at their positioning. What does it tell you?”

 

Tommy looked closely at the enemy ships. The Sedementarian ships were holding back in tight formation while the saucer-shaped Vingian craft were moving forward. He’d seen the approach used before, when monsters sent grunts forward into battle.

 

“The Vingian aren’t really in control,” Tommy said.

 

Trefli’ah nodded. “Division in the alliance between their two peoples.” He looked down into the crew pit. “Order all cruisers to form up around our vessel. We will move forward, past their front lines and attack the Sedementarian cruisers.”

 

***

 

A group of Vingians walked through the dimly-lit relay station corridors towards the turbolift. They were assuming battle stations in the midst of the Coalition’s attack.

 

The turbolift doors slid open as a pair of heels suddenly slammed upside the lead insect’s head. A volley of plasma fire quickly mowed down the remaining soldiers as a group of four Spriggan entered the hallway behind them.

 

Chris and Ashley were among the Spriggan with their blasters drawn, and Ashley held a small data pad in her hand. The pad had a diagram of the station’s interior.

 

“This way,” she said as they started to sprint down the hall.

 

***

 

The mines suddenly stopped blasting at each other, their countermeasures allowing the return of control.

 

A long and jagged Sedementarian battle cruiser entered the system along with an escort of four Vingian frigates. The enemy task force closed in on the Coalition’s flank.

 

“We’ve got company,” Justin reported on the Megaship’s bridge.

 

“We were expecting them,” Cy reminded as he commanded the Delta Mega to move in and attack the new arrivals.

 

The Delta Mega turned hard to port and shot towards the enemy group while firing darts of yellow energy. The blasts exploded against the main cruiser, pounding against its shields and rattling its hull plating.

 

***

 

Trefli’ah’s ship flew through the front lines of Vingian saucer craft while hurling volleys of disrupter discs from its prongs. The cruisers were no match for the Fray’loth battle ship.

 

 “Port gunners,” Trefli’ah commanded. “Increase firing strength to full yield. Starboard gunners, focus fire on the frigate analogues.”

 

“That will leave our right side open to those Vingian Cruisers,” Tommy said.

 

“Precisely,” Trefli’ah said.

 

Tommy watched as the Vingian saucer craft arced towards the Battle Cruiser’s port side. The enemy ships opened fire with blasts aimed to cripple, not destroy.

 

The deck shook with each impact, and Tommy looked to Trefli’ah with concern. “We might want to fire back…”

 

The Vingian craft loomed closer as Trefli’ah lifted a clawed hand. “Wait.”

 

The saucer ships continued their advance unchallenged, firing away with disrupters and plasma charges. They tightened their formation as they continued their push towards the Battle Cruiser’s port side.

 

“Now,” Trefli’ah said. “Port cannons to lowest setting. Maximum spread.”

 

With the port cannons at their lowest setting, they blasted a rapid-fire spray of plasma. The shower of energy did little damage, but exploded against the vessel’s hulls just the same. The ships were distracted by the sudden onslaught of fire and immediately shifted most of their deflector shield energy to front, not realizing how ineffective the blasts actually were.

 

A Triforian battle cruiser and two gunship escorts suddenly throttled towards the Vingian saucers’ flank. They opened fire with lances of red-and-gold energy that tore through the Vingian ships’ unprotected hulls.

 

The saucers exploded in fiery bursts of destructive power, creating an opening in the enemy lines that Trefli’ah’s ship pushed through.

 

Tommy watched the Triforian ships and gunships break off and attack the enemy group, taking them off guard. Trefli’ah turned to him.

 

“The Vingian are not capable of countering such a maneuver,” he told the ranger.

 

“How did you know?” Tommy asked.

 

“I have seen Vingian art. Listened to Vingian music,” Trefli’ah said. “Know your enemies, ranger, if you expect to survive in space.”

 

***

 

Vingian and Sedementarian soldiers manned their posts in a rectangular control room on B-deck. They were locking the station down and bringing its weapon systems online to attack the incoming Coalition fleet. They didn’t notice a small spherical object roll across the metal deck until it was too late.

 

The object flashed a brilliant pulse of light that knocked out most of the soldiers. The others were dazed as Ashley, Chris, and the Spriggan burst into the room with guns blazing.

 

Ashley picked off the Vingian nearest the main control terminal with two quick shots, while Chris watched her back and blasted a Sedementarian straight through the chest.

 

The Spriggan moved in and fanned out, securing the area as Ashley and Chris hurried to the main control console.

 

“I’m accessing the main turbolift shaft,” Ashley said as she pulled up a 3-D holographic schematic of the station’s interior. The main shaft ran through the station’s center.

 

Chris reviewed the station’s internal sensors to review troop deployments.

 

“We should take this junction here,” he said while stabbing his finger at the holographic map. “To C Deck, then along this stretch. Less will be in our way.”

 

“Well,” Ashley said as she downloaded the info into her data pad. “What are we waiting for?”

 

***

 

The Sedementarian battle cruiser and its frigate escorts opened fire with torpedoes, missiles, and plasma blasts aimed for the Megaship and Delta Mega.

 

Cy guided the Megaship through evasive loops and turns while the firing density increased.

 

“Hey Cy,” Justin said as he was nearly knocked to the deck. “Think it’s time we left this party?”

 

Cy nodded, focusing his eyes on the instruments in front of him.

 

“Kat,” he said. “Have the V-Fighters cover us while we pull back.”

 

The squadron of V-Fighters fell back and regrouped before launching everything they had against the enemy battle cruisers and frigates. Blasts of plasma and disrupters slammed against the enemy’s weapon emplacements while the Megaship, Delta Mega, and Coalition vessels blasted along their exit vectors.

 

“DECA,” Cy said, his hand ready to throttle the ship forward into hyperspace. “Hyper-rush nine.”

 

Before the ship’s computer could respond, a trio of Vingian saucer ships speared into real-space along the Megaship’s exit vector and immediately opened fire with full cannon barrages.

 

Plasma discs exploded against the Megaship’s hull, and the enemy vessels launched a wing of fighters.

 

“We’re boxed in,” Justin said while frantically firing the ship’s Mega-lasers.

 

The Megaship climbed and looped backward away from the newly arrived cruisers, only to be met by a small squadron of Sedementarian fighter craft. The Megaship showered the fighters with laser blasts while rolling to port, directly towards the mine field.

 

“Uh, Cy,” Justin said as the mines grew closer in the viewscreen.

 

The mines opened fire with streams of particle weapons that illuminated the darkness of space.

 

***

 

Intruder alert sirens blared throughout the relay station as Sedementarians and Vingian soldiers rushed through the corridors in search of their prey.

 

Ashley and Chris crouched in the shadows of a dark corner as the soldiers ran by. The two rangers and Spriggan  managed to move significantly close to the central shaft before the alarm was sounded. They still had a few more meters to go however.

 

Ashley looked over her data pad. “We can’t just make a break for it…they could seal us in the central shaft.”

 

“We could just break through and climb up,” Chris recommended.

 

Ashley shook her head. “That’s not a good idea either…there has to be something we could do...”

 

One of the Spriggan cocked his rifle. “Think faster.”

 

“Faster…” Ashley said with a grin. She looked to Chris. “Come on. We’re going for a ride…”

 

“It’s always bad when you get that look,” Chris said as he followed her.

 

Ashley turned around a corner and saw the backs of several Sedementarians walking down the corridor.

 

“Get ready,” she said as she aimed her blaster.

 

“Actually,” Chris said. “We should probably just try to sneak-”

 

Ashley opened fire with her blaster. Shots of plasma ripped through the backs of several soldiers. The other Sedementarians turned with their blaster rifles level and opened fire. Lances of blue energy stabbed from their blasters as the rangers and Spriggan leapt for cover.

 

A crossfire erupted in the corridor as the Spriggan returned fire with their own energy rifles.

 

Ashley grabbed the sleeve of Chris’s jumpsuit and pulled him backward. “Come on…”

 

Chris reluctantly followed, along with a trio of Spriggan. “The central lift is that way…behind the soldiers…”

 

“I know,” Ashley said as they started to head in the opposite direction. “That’s why we’re going this way…”

 

Chris simply shook his head and followed.

 

***

 

Chris thanked The Maker he wasn’t claustrophobic as he followed Ashley through a tight ventilation shaft barely large enough for him and the Spriggan to squeeze through.

 

“Ya know,” Chris said. “Remind me sometime to ask you how ‘faster’ made you think of this particular plan.”

 

“Oh, we’re getting to that,” Ashley said as they continued to crawl.

 

***

 

The Megaship continued to blast forward towards the mine field as rays of particle-beam cannons illuminated the forward viewport and scorched the ship’s hull.

 

The Sedementarian and Vingian fighters didn’t break off their tight pursuit of the Megaship. As a result, particle beams speared through them with fiery explosions. A group of around a dozen mines activated their thrusters and started to shoot towards the Megaship. The mine cloud increased speed as the Megaship looped backward and fired its afterburners, streaming towards the opposite direction.

 

Justin looked over his sensor display. “Thos mines are still on our tail…”

 

“I know,” Cy said calmly while staring through the viewport at the Sedementarian cruiser loomingahead.

 

The Megaship weaved in and out through the cruiser’s firing pattern. The giant vessel hurled plasma discs at the Megaship, but Cy did his best to avoid the blasts. The cruisers’ weapons were better suited for defending against capital ships.

 

Cy poured on the speed.

 

“DECA,” he commanded. “Transfer auxiliary and emergency power to thrusters.”

 

The deck shook violently as the Megaship jolted forward.

 

“Warning,” DECA said. “Collision course.”

 

The enemy fire intensified and filled the forward viewscreen as the Megaship shook from the impact.

 

“Warning,” DECA chimed again. The three rangers could see the detailed groves of the cruiser as its bow filled their forward viewscreen.

 

“Hold on,” Cy said.

 

Cy drove the ship downwards through a tight barrel row meters away from the ship’s bow.

 

The mines arced their course to follow the ship downward but they weren’t maneuverable enough to pull off the turn. The cloud of mines slammed against the Sedementarian cruiser, ripping its bow to shreds in a series of bright explosions.

 

The explosion opened a gap in the enemy formation, and Cy was quick to lead the small Coalition group through it.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” he said. “Maximum hyper-rush.”

 

He pushed forward on his console’s control levers as the Megaship blasted towards the safety of hyperspace.

 

***

 

Two Vingian soldiers protected the main turbolift shaft. Ashley and Chris hopped onto them from the ceiling above, tackling the soldiers to the ground. The Spriggan aimed their rifles towards the corridor and started spraying blaster fire to cover the two rangers and three Spriggan that entered the lift.

 

Once the lift doors shut, Ashley smashed open its control panel with her blaster’s handle.

 

“Going up,” she said as she keyed a sequence into her data pad that overloaded the turbolift systems.

 

The lift shot upward like a bullet, nearly knocking its passengers to the floor in the process. Metal screeched against metal as the lift blasted upward, out of control.

 

***

 

Tommy came to a realization during the battle surrounding the relay station: Trefli’ah’s vessel wasn’t just a ship. It was a fortress.

 

The vessel barreled ahead while firing a stunning variety of disrupters, plasma cannons, and particle beam cannons. The battle ship launched multi-phasic torpedoes into formations of enemy fighters, tearing them apart by causing ripples in space.

 

The ranger was glad Fray’loth was on the good guys’ side.

 

“Starboard guns,” Trefli’ah commanded, “Concentrate fire on the Vingian frigate off our bow.”

 

Tommy looked over a hovering holo-diagram.

 

“A fighter wing just dropped in system,” Tommy said. “Looks like they’re trying for some kind of pincer movement.”

 

“And?” Trefli’ah asked.

 

Tommy looked at the diagram closer. “It’s a feint…” he looked down into the crew pits. “Have fighter wings three and four form up on flank. One and two, move against those incoming fighters.”

 

Trefli’ah flashed a toothy grin of approval.

 

***

 

The relay station’s central command room was circular and lined with holographic displays and control panels. The central turbolift shaft protruded from the center of the room. The shaft started to screech as the Sedementarian and Vingian soldiers turned their attention to it.

 

They reached for their blasters in alarm as the lift doors opened and blue lances of blaster fire erupted out, striking most of the soldiers down in the first sweep.

 

A Spriggan rolled across the deck and rose to his knees while aiming his rifle forward towards a trio of Sedementarians. He opened fire with a volley of shots that ripped through the soldiers with cold precision.

 

Ashley ducked and leapt to her side while extending her metallic blaster forward and firing a lance of red energy through a Vingian head.

 

Chris dropped to his knees and opened fire on the doorway controls to the room, locking them in so no more soldiers could enter.

 

The smoke cleared as the Spriggan secured the room. Ashley and Chris ran to the main station.

 

“Okay,” she said as she downloaded the virus program from her data pad. “This should do the trick…”

 

Her fingers danced across her data pad as she fed the virus string into the stations’ systems. She guided the virus around twists and turns of code, helping it creep past firewalls and spread like a cancer.

 

“It’s working,” she said.

 

Alarms suddenly started to blare throughout the control room as slabs of armor slid along the walls and slid across the turbolift shaft. The air vents opened, and a hissing noise filled the chamber as gases started to leak in.

 

“Not good,” Chris said while holding his scanner. “It’s some kind of poison gas. We’re locked in.”

 

Ashley looked to the three Spriggan with concern. She saw no fear through their military hardness.

 

“Okay,” Ashley said. “You and I will morph. I’ll hold them in a digital pocket dimension using my icon.”

 

They opened their Digi-morphers and input code 3-3-5-enter as their armor shimmered to life around them.

 

“Hold still,” Astro Yellow said while looking to the Spriggan. She activated her helmet icon and sucked them into a digital pocket dimension where they’d be safe from the toxic gas. “I won’t be able to hold them for long. We need out of here…

 

“Astro Snipers,” Astro Yellow said to Astro Black as they pulled out their sidearms.

 

The Rangers blasted lances of blue energy at the lift’s armor. The blasts reflected back at the Rangers and sparked against their chests.

 

“Blast,” Astro Yellow said.

 

Astro Black activated his helmet icon.

 

“Satellite scan,” he said. His helmet and visor scanned the room and armor plates for any weak points or escape routes.

 

Astro Yellow noticed steam rising from her armor while Astro Black surveyed the room.

 

“Chris…” she said. “That gas is eating through our armor!”

 

Astro Black looked down at his hands and noticed steam rising from his gloves. The surrounding control consoles started to crack and sizzle as the gas ate through them as well.

 

That was the least of their problems. Astro Yellow noticed a small side effect of the virus she inserted into the main computer. The relay station was about to explode.

 

***

 

“Admiral,” one of Trefli’ah’s techs called from the crew pit. “Strange energy fluctuations from the relay station.”

 

Trefli’ah wrinkled his fur with annoyance. “A better explanation is needed, crewman.”

 

Tommy shook his head as he looked at one of the holo readings above the forward viewport. “The station is going to explode…”

 

Ashley…

 

***

 

“Satellite Search,” Astro Black commanded as his visor flashed him warning because of the corrosive gas. His eyes darted across the room while frantically searching for a way out.

 

He pointed off to his right. “Over there…a weak point in the armor plating…”

 

“Good,” Astro Yellow said as they started to combine their weapons with their Astro Snipers to form more powerful sidearms. “I can’t sustain this pocket dimension for the Spriggan much longer.”

 

The two Rangers aimed and fired blasts of black and yellow energy that shot through an unseen seam in the reflective armor plating. The plating shattered as the circuitry behind it exploded.

 

“There’s still gas leaking on the other side,” Astro Black said.

 

The deck plating started to shake, as if reminding the Rangers about the core overload in progress.

 

“Then we better hurry,” Astro Yellow said.

 

***

 

The deck plating shook from another blast to Trefli’ah’s ship. Tommy stood firm.

 

“Send a gunship and V-Fighter escort to punch through their defense screen bearing 3-8-mark-1,” he said, directing the fighters towards the station’s main docking ring.

 

He knew Ashley and Chris would find a way out before the station exploded. They had to. Tommy held onto his hope even while watching a series of explosions erupt around the relay station.

 

***

 

Astro Black and Astro Yellow ran through a long stretching corridor as the sound of screeching metal followed them. Their armor sizzled from the corrosive gases as the air started to super heat around them. Deck plates trembled as a series of explosions started booming from behind them.

 

“Just up ahead,” Astro Black said.

 

They approached a large metallic door and opened fire with their weapon/sniper combos. Their blasts tore open the doors and led into a small docking area.

 

The Rangers quickly entered a small freighter while a geyser of flame erupted into the docking port. Astro Black and Astro Yellow fell to the deck plating, their armor shimmering offline before they could reach the cockpit.

 

***

 

Tommy’s heart sank as he watched the relay station go up in flames.

 

“No…” he said quietly as he rolled his hands up into fists. “Not her too…”

 

“Admiral,” one of the sensor officers called. “The Vingian and Sedementarians are falling back.”

 

Trefli’ah nodded. “Navigation, move ahead to our rendezvous point.”

 

“No,” Tommy said as he glared at Trefli’ah. “They may have gotten out. We can’t be sure-”

 

Other Spriggan units had reached escape pods in time. Surely Ashley and Chris had. He wouldn’t allow himself to believe otherwise. He couldn’t.

 

“Sir!” a different sensor officer said from the crew pit. “A small Vingian freighter just emerged from the wreckage. It’s emitting a friendly signal. Heavily damaged.”

 

“Life signs?” Tommy asked.

 

“Two human, three Rigelian,” the officer said. “All faint.”

 

“Send a flight to escort them in,” Tommy said. “Have a medical team standing by.”

 

The officer looked to Trefli’ah.

 

“Do it,” Trefli’ah said.

 

***

 

Ashley slowly stirred as her eyes opened. She was on a bio bed on the Fray’loth cruiser’s medical deck. Tommy was standing over her, fiercely gripping her hand. She smiled weakly at him.

 

“Hey,” she said.

 

He squeezed her hand. “Hi.”

 

“How did we…” she started to ask, but her voice trailed off.

 

“The Spriggan were released from your pocket dimension when your armor powered down,” Tommy said. “They piloted the freighter away while the docking port literally crumbled around them.”

 

“Is Chris okay?” she asked.

 

Tommy nodded. “You two will both be fine. There’s a medic here called a…a Thrycie. Their bodies naturally secrete chemicals like those Tensian spores. Only better.”

 

She nodded. “Good.”

 

Tommy leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “Get some rest…”

 

He turned and walked away, leaving Ashley’s mind a cloud of confusion.

 

The two rangers had kissed during their Christmas gathering on board the Megaship. Things turned odd for the two of them almost immediately after. At first she told herself it was just because of the mission. The Rigel Campaign. But Ashley knew better.

 

He’s been avoiding me…he’s scared…she turned to her side and slowly drifted off to sleep.

 

***

 

Raisik stood on the balcony of his obsidian castle and looked up into space, a glimmer of predatory delight shining in his eye.

 

“He’s here,” Raisik said.

 

The small ant creature Zergain clung to a nearby wall.

 

“Allow me to test out my prototype battle armor,” Zergain said. “To distract the others while you kill Tommy.”

 

“No,” Raisik said as he shook his head. “I have something better in mind…”

 

***

 

The Coalition battle groups entered Rigel’s orbit and immediately launched drop ships and troop transports.

 

Tommy and the five other rangers were in a small stealth shuttle pod descending towards the main continent.

 

Cy manned the pod’s forward helm station while Chris sat behind him at navigation. The rest were in rows behind the two.

 

Justin shook his head as he shifted his shoulders. “This thing makes the ZeoMegazord cockpit look spacious.”

 

“We’re almost there,” Tommy said. He could see the dark spiraling castle in the distance.

 

The shuttle pod set down on a mountainous pile of rubble that used to be a tall, magnificent city. The five rangers disembarked and looked around for any signs of immediate danger.

 

“Alright,” Tommy said. “Remember the plan. We sneak in using the Rigelian’s underground network of chambers. We free Macus, then we take out Raisik.”

 

Kat’s communicator blinked. She flipped the device open. “Go head.”

 

“This is Spriggan group beta. We have a situation…”

 

***

 

The slave pen outside the main city held hundreds of captives, both Rigelian, Sedementarian, and Vingian. The pen was in an artificially created crater spanning several miles.

 

A dark creature stood in the center of the pen along with a group of Kelzaks. The monster resembled a humanoid mass of twisted organic wires coated with dark slime. He wore red-trimmed dark silver armor over his body. His helmet was demonic and horned.

 

The six rangers crouched at the edge of the crater along with the Spriggan unit.

 

“There are hundreds of them,” the Spriggan commander beside Tommy said. “They’re to be executed immediately.”

 

Tommy wrinkled his brow. “We’ll have to split up then…”

 

He looked to his teammates. “Cy, Chris, Kat…you stay here with the Spriggan. You’re better suited for stealth. Take them by surprise. Justin and Ashley…you’re with me. We’re heading towards Jakanja’s castle.”

 

***

 

The pen’s execution chamber was in the crater’s center. A dozen slaves entered the chamber and walked down a wedge-shaped corridor to the center room. Inside was a group of Kelzaks armed with various bladed weapons. If the creatures had mouths, they would have smiled with delight.

 

A Sedementarian tried to break away from the group and charged towards the Kelzaks, but a blade entered his back, cutting through his vital organs.

 

“Now, now,” the assailant said tauntingly as he leaned towards the back of the slave’s head. “No rough play is allowed in the execution chamber.”

 

The assailant removed his blade. He was dressed in brightly colored armor and garments that flowed across his body as if alive. His blade was slender and sparkling except where stained by the fallen slave’s blade. He appeared human with short fiery red hair, but his eyes were solid green.

 

His name was Satora’kura.

 

He removed his blade from the rock-fleshed slave and let him slide to the ground.

 

“Now please,” he said with a grin while looking across the group of slaves. “Let’s do our best to be civil, shall we?”

 

The Kelzaks readied their blades.

 

***

 

A cloud covered the slave pen outside as a gentle rain fall started to spread across the crater like a blanket. The Kelzaks seemed unaffected by the water. That was until several drops took razor-sharp qualities and started randomly ripping through them.

 

Chris was crouched behind a rock in his blue Ninjetti uniform with his eyes closed tightly as he concentrated on manipulated the falling water.

 

***

 

Satora’kura casually swung his blade over his shoulder while pacing back and forth across the lines of slaves.

 

“Well, I’m afraid your time is up. It has been fun, and I wish you all the best,” he said mockingly as he nodded at the Kelzaks.

 

The soldiers raised their blades.

 

Before the Kelzaks could strike, a shadow passed along the ground, sucking the soldiers inside like a void.

 

Satora’kura wrinkled his brow with concern while taking a step backwards. “I detest when these things happen.”

 

A shadow passed along the wall behind Satora’kura. Cy leapt from the shadow while in his crimson Ninjetti uniform and double side kicked the villain in the back. Satora’kura fell face first and skid across the ground.

 

The villain rolled to a crouched position and swung his blade around towards Cy’s mid-section. Cy hopped backward, letting the blade pass through midair before kicking the weapon from the villain’s hand.

 

***

 

Tommy, Justin, and Ashley crept through an underground corridor on their way towards the Jakanja castle. The passage was dimly lit by a strange glowing moss that coated the walls. They were dressed in their jumpsuits still, not wanting to alert Jakanja through their presence in The Power.

 

Tommy led them forward while each held their portable scanners.

 

“It shouldn’t be too much farther,” Tommy said.

 

“How can you tell?” Ashley asked. “I can’t read anything through this…moss stuff.”

 

“Trust me,” Tommy said.

 

The corridor suddenly started to quake, and the rangers were almost thrown to the ground.

 

“What the hell’s going on?” Justin asked as his scanner dropped to the ground.

 

The corridor started to rumble even more intensely. They looked back to see a rushing destructive wave of dark water crashing towards them.

 

***

 

A shadow blast exploded against Satora’kura’s chest and sent him crashing outside the main complex, skidding across the gravel floor. He slowly rose to his knees and looked up to find bodies of dead Kelzaks scattered across the ground.

 

Cy, Kat, and Chris surrounded the villain.

 

“My, my,” Satora’kura said with a twisted grin as he rose to his feet. “I was hoping to run into you…”

 

“Careful what you wish for,” Chris said as he slammed his fist to the ground.

 

The blue-robed ranger produced a geyser that erupted from the ground and knocked the villain backwards. The creature flipped through midair and landed on his feet while unsheathing his blade.

 

“Please continue,” he said tauntingly. The rangers charged forward.

 

Chris moved in first as the villain swung towards the ranger’s head. Chris grabbed Satora’kura by the wrist and stepped inward while slamming a hook punch across the villain’s face. The ranger followed by spinning forward and slamming a reverse sidekick against the creature’s chest.

 

Satora’kura spun along with the blow to soften its impact and slammed the handle of his blade against Chris’s temple. The blue-robed ranger fell backwards.

 

Satora’kura leapt into the air and angled his descent so his blade was pointed down towards Chris’s chest.

 

Cy quickly sprang through the air and slammed a flying sidekick against the villain. Ranger and Jakanja slammed against the ground and rolled around, kicking up dust while each struggled to gain the upper hand.

 

The crimson-robed ranger rolled backwards while grabbing onto the villain’s shoulders. The ranger placed his feet against the villain’s chest and rolled backward while kicking off.

 

Satora’kura flew backwards and slammed against the ground. The villain slowly rose to his feet and looked up to see Kat charging towards him.

 

The green-robed ranger struck with a spinning palm heel blow that crashed across the villain’s jaw. She followed with a reverse crescent kick that slammed against his collar bone and forced him to the ground.

 

***

 

Raisik narrowed his eyes while standing on his balcony, a viewscreen of fire showing him the rangers’ battle with Satora’kura.

 

He looked to the ant Zergain. “Send another contingent of Kelzaks to support my foolish classmate Satora’kura.”

 

Zergain looked to his master with concern. “You only have one contingent left. The other hatchlings haven’t matured to-”

 

“Send them,” Raisik said while glaring at his henchman. “Lest you feel the sting of my boot squashing you like a bug.”

 

A voice came from behind them. “Now who talks like that, really?”

 

Raisik turned, and his glare turned ice-cold. “Tommy…”

 

Tommy was standing alongside Ashley and Justin. Their robes and hair were drenched.

 

“Glad to see your powers of observation are as keen as ever,” Tommy said.

 

Raisik flashed Tommy a blood-thirsty grin. “I’m going to look forward to this…”

 

The villain snapped his fingers, and a group of red Kelzaks dropped to the ground. They were Raisik’s “royal guard.”

 

Tommy looked to his two teammates. “Go find Macus and the others. I’ll handle this clown.”

 

“Be careful,” Justin said.

 

“Give him hell,” Ashley said as she and Justin ran off.

 

Raisik tilted his head as he assumed a rough fighting stance. “She’s certainly more spunky than that pink twit you used to hang out with.”

 

“Glad you approve,” Tommy said as he fell into a fighting stance.

 

“Crush him,” Raisik said. The Kelzaks charged forward at his command.

 

Tommy spun forward with a reverse hook kick that slammed across a soldier’s head. He followed by round kicking another Kelzak in the gut, then he slammed a knife-hand chop against the soldier’s back.

 

Raisik wrinkled his brow with anger as he watched Tommy dispatch the red-tinted soldiers with precision and strength that came only with nearly five years of experience.

 

Tommy reached around the last soldier’s neck from behind and snapped its spine in two, letting the creature drop to the floor.

 

“No more bugs to hide behind,” Tommy said as he snapped into a defensive stance. “It’s just you and me.

 

Raisik snarled at the ranger. “Fine by me, Dragon Ranger.”

 

The villain launched his fist forward while hurling a bolt of violet arcane energy.

 

Tommy extended his hand to erect a fiery wind barrier. The arcane blast slammed against the barrier with enough force to slam the ranger backward and send him crashing through a wall.

 

Tommy went skidding across his back for several feet before rolling backward and rising to his feet. He looked up in time to see Raisik charging towards him.

 

Raisik leapt forward with a jump kick that Tommy blocked. The ranger countered with a jump-reverse sidekick that slammed against Raisik’s ribs. The villain started to fall backward but used a back flip to regain his footing.

 

“I see you’ve been practicing,” Tommy said.

 

“With much better teachers,” Raisik said while extending his hand.

 

The villain launched another arcane stream that Tommy leapt to the side to avoid. The ranger extended his own fists and launched a streamline whirlwind of fire that slammed against Raisik and knocked the villain all the way back towards his balcony.

 

***

 

Macus was tired of waiting in the castle dungeons. The time to act was now.

 

The Spriggan had managed to pry his chained bindings after days of digging. They were now weapons instead of restraints.

 

A group of red Kelzaks walked past him on patrol. He snapped forward.

 

Macus whipped one of the chains around a Kelzak’s neck and pulled as hard as he could, swinging the soldier and slamming it against the dungeon wall.

 

The Spriggan whipped the other chain around and smashed it across the second Kelzak’s head.

 

Before the Spriggan could move forward, a wave of red Kelzaks stormed into the dungeon area. Macus held his ground.

 

“What are you waiting for,” he said as he twirled his chains in a defensive manner. “I’ll gladly meet death as long as all of you come along for the ride.”

 

The Kelzaks started to charge forward, but a powerful quake wave split through their ranks. The soldiers stumbled towards the ground as golden lightning struck them down one-by-one.

 

The Spriggan looked through the smoke from the attack to see Justin and Ashley step forward.

 

“You can thank us later,” Ashley said. “Now, what are we waiting for?”

 

***

 

Satora’kura sprang to his feet and slammed a backfist blow across Kat’s face. The green-robed ranger went crashing to the ground.

 

“No!” Cy shouted as he fired a jagged shadow beam that exploded against the villain and knocked him backward.

 

Chris leapt forward and tackled the villain back with an elbow blow.

 

Cy knelt down by Kat and lifted her up with his arms. Kat moaned as she rubbed the side of her head.

 

“I’ll be okay,” she said, placing her hand on his arm.

 

His eyes lingered on her as his heart caught in his throat. He couldn’t speak. Could barely move. How is it she has this effect on me…?

 

Kat caught his stare and recognized it too well.

 

“Cy,” she said as she gently pushed his arms away.

 

“Ri…right,” he said as his face turned slightly red.

 

Chris landed an uppercut against the villain’s gut, then connected a hook punch across his opponent’s face. The ranger slammed his knee into Satora’kura’s chest, and followed by slamming his elbow against the back of the villain’s neck.

 

Satora’kura crumbled to the ground. He spat green-colored blood before raising to his knees. He tilted his head as if listening to an unseen voice.

 

“Not bad, not bad,” he said with a demented smile while pulling himself to his feet. “But as much fun as this is…I suppose I should be leaving now…”

 

The villain vanished in a puff of green smoke.

 

***

 

Tommy and Raisik exchanged a flurry of kicks and punches, each sizing up their opponent while on the balcony.

 

“You’ve lost your edge,” Raisik said while leaning back, letting a blow pass over him, and striking a spear-hand blow against Tommy’s chest. The villain followed with a reverse hook kick across the face.

 

Tommy rolled with the blow and slammed a spinning bottom fist across Raisik’s jaw.

 

“Not at all,” Tommy said.

 

Raisik snarled as he pounced forward and tackled into Tommy, sending the two falling off the balcony. They hit the side of the steep castle and began tumbling down its slope, falling while exchanging blows.

 

Tommy summoned a tornado of fiery energy that enveloped the two and sent them spiraling through the air.

 

Raisik was strong. Stronger than Tommy thought possible.

 

It’s not just him…Tommy thought. Someone’s infused Raisik with this power. Someone’s been teaching him…

 

Tommy dove towards Raisik and slammed both his fists against the villain’s chest. He plowed Raisik into the ground, creating a shock-wave that rocked the earth beneath them.

 

Tommy rose off Raisik to catch his breath.

 

“I don’t know what you’ve done to yourself, Raisik,” Tommy said, “but it’s not too late. You can still turn back.”

 

Raisik tilted his head as if listening to an unseen voice, but he quickly dismissed it and focused back towards Tommy.

 

“No,” he said with a glare. “There is no turning, Dragon Ranger. This is not about good and evil. This is about power, plain and simple. Power I will have.”

 

“To what end?” Tommy asked.

 

“It doesn’t matter,” Raisik said. “Do you remember what you told me? About how this isn’t a game?”

 

Tommy nodded.

 

“It is,” Raisik said with a psychotic glimmer in his eye. “And I-”

 

He looked back towards the unseen voice before vanishing in a puff of black smoke.

 

***

 

Tommy regrouped with the Spriggan and five other rangers, each back in their jumpsuits, on top of a Rigel mountain.

 

 “Most of the remaining Sedementarian and Vingian forces can be easily mopped up now,” Macus said. “We thank you for all your help.”

 

“So what now?” Tommy asked.

 

“We will fight in whatever way we can,” Macus said. “As always.”

 

“Have you considered a more active role?” Tommy asked. “One that would take you outside the expanse?”

 

“To what extent?” Macus asked with peaked interest.

 

“I’ve been thinking about this war with Sauron. The way it’s been moving…” Tommy started to explain. “We have Trey organizing fleets and soldiers for hit-and-run attacks and sometimes even occupation forces, although rarely.

 

“What we could really use,” Tommy said, “is an underground resistance movement. Setting up cells inside Sauron’s territory on the worlds he’s holding. That kind of thing.”

 

Macus nodded. “It would be plausible. One or two troops per planet could organize local movements…”

 

Tommy nodded, and the group started discussing plans. Such a network would also allow for an intelligence network and “underground railroad” for refugees fleeing worlds devastated by Sauron’s forces. This would theoretically free up the rangers some time to focus on their primary goal: finding Zordon.

 

***

 

The rangers gathered on the Megaship’s bridge while still in orbit around Rigel.

 

“So…” Justin said. “I’m still not sure what exactly happened down there. With Raisik and that green-eyed…freak guy.”

 

Tommy felt a nagging in the back of his mind as if The Power itself was trying to speak to him. “We’ve stopped them for now,” Tommy said as he shook his head. “We kept him from expanding his power.”

 

“What about that Gozen lady?” Chris asked. “It seems like she’d be a big help to us.”

 

Tommy shook his head. “This isn’t her war…”

 

The rangers turned their attention to the viewscreen and watched as the ship entered hyperspace.

 

To be continued…Chapter 12